Quotidian Update 42.iv.b

While I was taking my siesta this morning, aka as sleeping in, the little elves at the supermarket were busy filling the order that I will go pick up too soon because, you know, sleeping in. I think I’m about to shake off the shackles of this virus and start shopping for myself. Wait a minute, I hate that.

In other news…there isn’t any but here’s a cool photo of me talking to the kids. Bear is taking a polite sip from the cat’s water bowl. The wall there supports the 9th hole of the golf course. You can see the tennis court and, in the distance, the weeds along the ditch.

I think today Bear will get a similar walk because it is really her favorite. It’s safe for her to stick her nose into bushes and I think that the scenery dogs crave is that which appeals more to the olfactory than the visual. The scents out at the Refuge are now rather stale and few and far between. The water birds have finished nesting and are hanging out in the water more of the time, so far less goose poop. The carnivores have to work harder for a meal. The deer are seeking shade, the elk have gone to higher elevations. What a drag for Bear!!!

Meanwhile, under the category, “The Passing Parade,” when I moved to San Diego I started listening to a radio station that was all about marketing itself as rebellious alternative music. 91X. The DJ I heard the most was a British guy named Steve West. He came on the air the very moment I was driving home from teaching morning classes. I drove home, ate lunch and graded papers, his voice and playlist in the background. I liked most of the music. He introduced me to my “anthem” because it also often happened in winter that as soon as I got home I leashed the dogs and headed out for a hike. The song is Running Up that Hill by Kate Bush. I’m a radio person and throughout my life it’s been a “thing” in my life’s background.

Decades passed and Steve West moved to another radio station when 91X sold out or something. I kept listening to him. On Sunday mornings he started doing an “oldies” show comprising the music of the 1980s (oldies?? wtf?) and I listened to it even after I moved back to Colorado. He took requests and always played mine. “This is for Martha in the Back-of-Beyond!” he would say, or “For Martha freezing in Colorado!”

During this interval, he fought prostate cancer. One of the things he did on his radio show was a benefit for research. The big prize was going on air with him. In the past year or so he showed up with pancreatic cancer and lost his fight about a month ago. I didn’t know this guy yet he’d had a (pleasant) role in my life for more than 30 years. That’s a pretty long time. I was truly affected by his death as were a lot of other people who, like me, had listened to him for decades — actually I listened to him for more than half my life. His music choices influenced the music I like. Now, the station has rebuilt his very popular Sunday morning show employing an equally “seasoned” (old) DJ. It’s still good and time marches on.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/14/rdp-sunday-siesta/

Intensity

The protests against the police brutality that killed George Floyd have gone on for 9 days? 10 days? Yesterday I found myself wondering what the goal is. When will protestors know they are finished or is it a thing now that will go on and on and on and on?

Last night is the first night I’ve slept since the protests started. If their goal was to make white people think about things they haven’t thought about before, it worked here. I wrote one blog post about (now set to private) and a letter to Obama (never sent).

There are things related to it that I haven’t thought of for decades, one of which is Louis Farrakhan. It’s a fact that not all white people are racist and not all black people are NOT racist. Farrakhan, who is an extremely angry man — has claimed that it’s impossible for black people to be racists. Any anger they feel toward the white oppressor is justified and any action taken against whites is legitimate. The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies Farrakhan — and his organization — as black nationalist and black supremacist.

He spoke once at the university where I was teaching. It was a hate fueled speech. It made the work of ordinary people — I’ll say ordinary white people — seem hopeless. The next day, when I got to school, I found the ground littered with 4 x 5 inch black and white flyers, printed with swastikas and the words, “White men built this country.”

One extreme brought out the other.

I picked up a couple of those flyers and took them home and stuck them in a drawer imagining a future collage that never happened. “It’s never going to work,” I remember thinking, “as long as entire groups of people categorically hate each other.”

~~~

In other news, the hike I’d planned with my friends yesterday didn’t happen. I texted everyone at 5 am yesterday and said, “I haven’t been sleeping. I’m going to keep trying.” or something. I finally went to sleep and woke up at 8:30 to see their texts. They answered immediately planning between them an alternative way that we could get together. It turned out to be a “Bring your own cuppa'” tea party in Elizabeth’s beautiful back yard.

The other thing on my phone when I woke up was a voicemail from the Good-X. I listened and then I screamed. He’d had a major heart attack and was in the hospital but he said, “They fixed me up.” I called him back after I’d had some coffee and got the whole story and answered some questions he had for me. As we were saying goodbye, I had to hold myself back from saying, “I love you.” How would he understand those words? Two people can have a terrible marriage and yet form a functional and mostly happy life together. We did for 12 years. His younger son is “my” son and between his family and me all the “I love you’s” are said often. In the “I love you” that I did not say are all the experiences we shared — China being one of them. Part of it, also, is “I get who you are now.” Instead of “I love you,” I said, “Come back and visit me. That was fun last time.” He and his step-grandson came through Monte Vista a few years ago on their way to Durango to meet his wife who was at a dahlia conference.

“I will. That was fun,” he said.

I told my friends about it at the tea party later. When I told them about wanting to tell my ex “I love you,” they understood. We talked about C-19, our encounters with people during this time, the weirdness, the beauty.. We laughed and did all the things that make friendships and, I think, for all of us, it was an incredible relief. None of us has been sleeping and as we talked about it, it seemed that our sleep was taking the same trajectory. Going to sleep, waking up thinking and then either getting up ungodly early or going to sleep a few hours later. I asked if they’d like to go on a evening hike to the Refuge with me when the skies and light are beautiful and the breeze is calm and fresh. Now we sort of have a plan.

Elizabeth’s husband, Bob, came out of the garage where he’s building a 1957 T-bird. I like talking to Bob and he likes telling me stories, so as my friends went off to cut rhubarb (some for me) Bob told me stories about airplanes. I don’t know that he always has a willing listener and the words just poured out of him. Later he came over and installed a new pneumatic spring on my storm door.

The day went on with curious intensity, culminating in a 1 1/2 hour phone call with my formerly lost cousin, Linda. We’re catching up on each others entire adult lives. She wanted to know about how my brother’s death affected me. That’s a long story. We talked about the deaths of the people we loved, a strange coda to my morning.

I was struck again that all we really have in this life are dreams, memories and the love we bear for others. That’s it.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/05/rdp-friday-protest/

Die For

Watching all the violence and unrest over the past two weeks, listening to the President essentially turn our nation into a dictatorship this afternoon, I thought again about what I decided today while I was riding the bike-to-nowhere.

Not even I will claim that the bike-to-nowhere is interesting. I like the road trip videos I watch, and I even have a favorite (Picos de Europa, in Spain). Still, I’m pretty sure the bike-to-nowhere is why I can walk now and do not look quite like Jaba the Hut.

There are a lot of ways to ride that thing and for a while I’ve been going for longer rides, but I have a couple of goals with it and one of those is burning calories. I don’t eat a lot, but I have a very efficient metabolism. I’ve had to struggle with my weight since I was a younger woman.

I did Weight Watchers in my 20s — that was surreal. The diet centered on fish and peas with other weird stuff included, such as strawberry pie made with whole wheat bread smashed into a pie pan to look like crust and strawberries suspended in diet Jell-o. BUT if you’ve ever wondered how Barbi keeps HER figure (besides that she’s made of plastic) I’ve seen Barbie plastic meals and they are fish and peas.

After that experience I realized the best way to keep things under control was to manage my portions and exercise. I never viewed exercises as “exercise” (I don’t even view the bike-to-nowhere as “exercise” — it’s the sport I can do right now). When your joints are no longer “joining” (ha ha) all of this is a challenge.

So, looking at my “Map-my-Walk” workout log I saw I wanted to burn more calories in a week than I have been and realized I could do it by 7 shorter rides a week. Strange but true. I commenced that regimen yesterday. It’s kind of fun (relatively) to ride against the clock. I can do that AND walk a dog every day so it’s good for all of us. I can’t walk the dogs far enough to do me much good in the calorie department, though in the soul department it’s necessary to get out there as often as possible.

Anyway, as I was riding in this different way, I finally felt the stirrings of inspiration that have been missing since the virus started. “Yellowstone Park,” I thought, suddenly. “I’ll train to ski at Yellowstone Park this winter.” And then I thought, “For that I would risk my life.” I was stunned by the realization, but it also made me happy. It’s not the Birkebeiner, it wouldn’t be a crowd of people, and who’s to say that by January — assuming we still have a country — we might not have better treatments or even a vaccine?

There is no better summer training for Langlauf than what I’m doing. Suddenly summer seems less oppressive, the virus is still the virus and this fucked up situation is still fucked up but if I make it through? Maybe I’ll see wolves running through the snow and the steam from the hot springs making phantoms of the bison.

Mom from Hell, Literally?

“My mom, my mom, I know you’re sick of hearing about my mom…” Eminem “My Mom.”

I read a blog post this morning that has engendered this response. Since I don’t think it’s fair to write long self-confessions as comments on someone else’s blog because it’s THEIR blog I’m doing this instead.

Rebecca Wallick, a retired attorney, author of “Wild Sensibility” today wrote a post about something she learned from her first pro bono client. It’s a compelling post and a good story. Like me, Rebecca had a narcissistic mom, and if you have also been so blessed you’ll understand how incomprehensible, hurtful and indefatigable those bitches can be. Rebecca wrote about her mom’s death.

As the responsible, good child in my family, it fell upon me to head up to Montana in the dead of winter, leaving behind my jobs for however long it was going to take to sort out what to do with my mom. She’d become suddenly very confused, and my Aunt Jo had taken her to the hospital. Mom was admitted. I was called. The docs were still trying to figure out what had happened. Ultimately [this is (one of) the funny part(s)] my mom had OD’d on Tums. She’d poisoned herself with excessive calcium self-medicating an ulcer.

The afternoon/evening before I left California for Montana, my truck broke down, my washing machine broke, I tripped over the door of my dishwasher and it broke. Even pushing the button 10 times wouldn’t make it run. A stray dog we’d taken in showed up with scabies and ALL six of my dogs had to be treated. My roommate and I had to buy and treat ourselves with Quell or Rid or whatever, too. My purse was stolen from my truck while we were parked at the vet. Yep. All that after I got the call about my mom.

I got to Billings just after a major snow dump — more than a foot — and though my aunts managed to collect me at the airport, they didn’t want to drive. I had my mom’s car and chauffeured people around Billings’ frozen streets, back and forth to the hospital. After ten days, my mom had to be discharged into extended care. I had to find her a nursing home. It snowed again, 18 inches total on the ground and more in open spaces and drifts. All in all, it had been a cold MF winter, 40 below for two weeks (the theory is that’s what drove my mom crazy but I think THAT happened long ago).

My mom hadn’t signed a power of attorney which meant that, compos mentis or not, she had to sign herself out of the hospital and into “the home.” I had to “force” her to do it. I found her a place. I then went to the hospital with the papers not knowing how in hell I was going to accomplish this. She’d already asked me one morning as I was helping her out of the bathroom, pulling up her diapers, if I was going to stay and take care of her. That moment was my first inkling of my real feelings toward this person, “I’d rather die,” I thought and it was the truth.

She was holding court — meaning entertaining visitors. She’d turned on all of her immense charm for them, the funny, sweet person she was to my friends, to strangers, to my second husband. Seeing me arrive, they got up to leave. My Aunt Jo and my Aunt Martha were already there, knowing what was ahead for my mom and for me. My Aunt Jo was right behind me. “We’ll wait outside, sweetie,” she said.

I put the papers in front of my mom and set forth the facts. “Mom, you have recovered enough that the hospital has to discharge you, but you’re not OK enough to go home yet. I found a nursing home for you two blocks from Aunt Dickie. It’s really nice and you’ll have your own room until you’re ready to go home.”

Her face darkened, every nuance of evil settled into her features. “I knew you’d do this to me,” she said, and grabbed the pen from my hand, signed the paper and said, “Are you happy now? You should stay here and take care of me but no. So you’ve finally gotten rid of me. Now get out. I never want to see you again.” The nurses came and, as I recall, had to restrain her.

It hurt, but I was OK with that. I didn’t want to see her again, either. Never, ever, ever.

At that time I didn’t understand the underlying dynamic of our non-relationship. I just thought I wasn’t good enough, and she was complicated. Thankfully the next day I would return to California, to my students, to my life.

Outside my mom’s room, I found my Aunt Martha waiting. Jo had gone home and Martha had stayed so I wouldn’t be alone when the ordeal was finished. “Jo went home to cook dinner,” said Aunt Martha

We sat together on a bench in the hallway for a few minutes. I was emotionally shot, I wanted to cry, but those Montana cowboys don’t cry, so I didn’t. In a way, what could have been better than my two aunts making sure they had my back and I knew it? It wasn’t like my mom was easy for anyone.

My Aunt Martha and my mom were less than a year apart in age. They’d gone through school together, same grade. They’d been best friends their whole lives until, not so many years before, they’d had a falling out and my mom had ejected Aunt Martha from her life. It didn’t diminish my aunt’s loyalty or love for my mom, but Aunt Martha kept her distance. My Aunt Martha and I had always been very close. From the time I was a little kid, I adored her, liked her, appreciated her, enjoyed her and it was mutual. I am certain my mom was jealous because she envied anyone who had anything that she (felt? imagined?) she did not. She always saw herself as having been screwed over by life while other people hadn’t. The narcissist is always the center of the world and is incapable of empathy or perspective.

“I even gave you my family!” my mom said to my Aunt Martha in that fated fight. My aunt had remained single all her life.

I felt the turmoil of inchoate emotions and exhaustion. When I’d collected myself enough to go back out on the icy streets in February’s dim dusk, we went home for supper. My Aunt Jo had cooked the supper I liked best when I was a little kid and had stayed with them one summer.

My mom died a few weeks later, and I went back to Billings to deal with that. By then my brother (who was homeless) had arrived and was staying at my mom’s condo. The funeral ensued, I got pneumonia, yada yada and the day came to go to the attorney with the will. I drove my mom’s (new) car downtown to see the guy. Here’s the second funny part.

In her will my mom left my alcoholic brother her new car. The whole time my mom was in the hospital she’d said, to me, to my aunts, to everyone, “Don’t let that boy (my brother) drive that car! He’ll wreck it!” In her will she left me both of her televisions. Great except that for some 20 years we’d fought over the fact that I didn’t own a television and didn’t want one. When I told my Aunt Jo, she about died laughing. Everything else was divided logically down the middle…

Fast forward 20 some years to this past Friday and my fall (“Notes Smuggled from the Bunker”), my head bump, my black eye.

I have thought for a while that my mom is still doing things to me. I think that even as I think that’s a completely crazy idea. But it was only a few days after I arranged to read from the China Book at the bookstore in Alamosa that an insidious hiding rock on a soft, safe, dirt and grass trail, did a long-term number on my foot that put me out of walking commission for more than 2 months. Just a DAY before the reading, I reinjured the foot in my own living room on NOTHING. “Mom???”

Friday, my head-bump fall came more or less at the same time my Aunt Martha’s platter arrived at my door.

I think I need an exorcist.

P.S. This song by Eminem is great, and, for me, illuminating, but also a little “colorful.” You’ve been warned. 🙂

Thomas Hardy vs. Grief

In Tenebris

Thomas Hardy

Percussus sum sicut foenum, et aruit cor meum.” —Ps. ci.

Wintertime nighs; 
But my bereavement-pain 
It cannot bring again: 
Twice no one dies. 

Flower-petals flee; 
But, since it once hath been, 
No more that severing scene 
Can harrow me. 

Birds faint in dread: 
I shall not lose old strength 
In the lone frost’s black length: 
Strength long since fled! 

Leaves freeze to dun; 
But friends can not turn cold 
This season as of old 
For him with none. 

Tempests may scath; 
But love can not make smart 
Again this year his heart 
Who no heart hath. 

Black is night’s cope; 
But death will not appal 
One who, past doubtings all, 
Waits in unhope. 

Long long ago in a dormitory not so far away — five hours — I was confronted with this poem. At the time my dad was in a nursing home in Colorado Springs, his life suspended between a reclining wing-backed chair and a coma. Most Fridays I got on the Continental Trailways bus which I caught at the terminal in downtown Denver. Thinking about it, I can still smell the winter air and diesel wafting from the cold garage into the bus terminal waiting room with its chrome-armed benches and light green plastic upholstery from which the original pattern of pale ice cubes remained only on the sides where no one sat. $1.85 to get to Colorado Springs. I always had that, whatever expenses the week brought.

I stepped up the three steps with my little blue suitcase carrying homework and underwear (backpacks hadn’t become “the thing” yet), and handed my ticket to the conductor and took my seat by the window. Sometimes there was someone sitting beside me with stories to tell, often not. I wondered if my boyfriend would meet my bus or my mom. Usually it was my boyfriend, a man I later married, but that’s a subject for a blog post that will remain unwritten.

“Go see your dad,” said my mom when I walked in the front door, as if I needed to be told.

Whatever I found at the nursing home, I stayed. If he were lying in a coma, I did homework. If he were sitting up, we talked. By that time his speech was very garbled and he often used a Ouija board (imagine!) as an alphabet board to spell out the words he wanted to speak. He would point with his finger — spastic though his hands were, frustrating though it was for this short-tempered Irishman — and we would talk, sometimes for hours. He would tell me what to buy my mom to give her for Christmas, birthday, anniversary from him. His gifts to my mom were always something lovely. I would go to the new mall, The Citadel, filled with importance, carrying the checkbook that was our joint checking account, make the purchase and buy a mushy card on which Dad would scrawl what he could of the words, “I love you, Bill.” I always hoped that a gift would fix everything. I wonder if my dad hoped that, too.

Then the day came when I learned once and forever that hope is not enough. That paradoxical human thing without which we cannot live, but which cannot, in itself, keep anything alive, except itself. Hardy’s poem, which had been completely incomprehensible to me when I studied it the year before my father’s death, suddenly made too much sense, but it had a message I’ve retained all my life, “Twice no one dies…” followed by, “

… But death will not appal 
One who, past doubtings all, 
Waits in unhope. 

I spent the next three months pretty much alone at school, avoiding friends, studying, trying to make sense of life without my best friend. My dad’s death was a rocket that shot me into a universe none of my peers seemed to inhabit. I could see them from a distance, but I couldn’t hear them.

It took a L–O–N–G time to understand hope, and, again, Thomas Hardy (whose poetry I had in a HUGE book, The Poems of Thomas Hardy, by that time, not just in my even HUGER anthology of Victorian poetry) spoke to me in his poem, “The Darkling Thrush”

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

Featured photo: Bus station in Colorado Springs back in the day… My dad had multiple sclerosis, diagnosed when he was 27, died when he was 45. I was 20.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/10/09/rdp-wednesday-tenebrous/

Heaven is a Garage?

Last night I dreamed I hadn’t seen Dusty T. Dog in a few days, and I was worried about him. I looked every where. I finally found him in a garage with my affectionate, long-haired, long-ago tabby cat, Triffid, and my sweet black and white husky, Jasmine. I’m not sure Dusty was going to stay there. Maybe that’s Heaven’s anteroom or maybe animal Heaven is a garage.

Anyway, he seemed fine and Jasmine — Jammie — was there with him. When he was a puppy, Jasmine was the one who took care of him most of the time. My cat, Triffid, lived all his life among big dogs. Dusty looked a little hesitant in the dream until he saw me. He loped over to me, and I scratched his ears and snuggled his neck. I said, “I love you, boy. I’m glad you’re OK.”

And I woke up.

I guess I miss my dog.

I don’t know what happens when people (dogs?) die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing
I can’t help listening… Jackson Browne

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/07/06/rdp-saturday-sick/

Dusty T. Dog’s Memorial Service

Yesterday I had to have Dusty T. Dog put to sleep. He had a stroke — I witnessed it — and having experienced this with other dogs, I knew I wasn’t going to let Dusty have another. It wasn’t a difficult decision.

My favorite vet appeared at my house with his veterinarian truck — think a 2019 version of All Creatures Great and Small. When I called them at 1:00 he was out somewhere in the country doing James Herriot type things. I had to wait two hours, but I just put the China book on Kindle using new software. It was a good distraction.

By then Dusty had improved, but still couldn’t easily get up or stand steadily on his feet. Dusty loved this vet and tried to demonstrate happiness to see him at our house, but couldn’t really. Dr. Crawford greeted Dusty with a hearty, “Hello, handsome,” and scratched his ears. He did a thorough exam and except for not being able to stand and appearing confused, Dusty seemed fine. “All his vitals are good, but he’s not right, is he. What happened? “

I described it.

“He’s suffered what we call TIA in humans. He’ll improve, but there’s every chance he’ll have another.”

I said, “I don’t want Dusty to go through another day like this.”

“You must really love this dog,” said my vet.

He explained the procedure — which I’m either unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your perspective — familiar with. I said, “It’s OK. I know. I’ve had nearly 30 dogs.”

“Thirty?”

“Yeah. I like dogs.”

“A little bit, I’d say. So now you’ll just have one dog?” He knows Bear.

“No. I got a mini-Aussie a couple of weeks ago.”

“How do they do together?”

“They play all the time.”

“Thirty dogs?”

“Yeah, I always wanted a dog but my parents wouldn’t let me. When I was 35 I got my own house and realized I could finally have a dog.”

“You made up for lost time.”

“You have to seize the day,” I said, thinking of all the dogs I’d been privileged to love and put down when the time came. Dr. Crawford and I talked a bit about that, too, how the procedure for which we were prepping Dusty would have been humane for some people we’d loved.

Dusty went to the Enchanted Forest peacefully where he is now playing with his Siberian husky sisters that he loved so much. Lily was waiting for him, or, anyway, that’s how I choose to look at it. I miss him. We were together for fourteen years through all kinds of changes in life.

After I’d cleaned up the house I took Bear and Teddy for a walk and on the way back, we got to talk to the little girl, Michelle. She saw us and was so excited that she would get to see Bear and Teddy and talk to me. It’s amazing to be such an important event in a little girl’s life, humbling and a great honor.

“Teddy’s so cute,” she said.

“Yeah, he’s a good dog. Are you thirsty, Teddy?” I asked him. He was panting. “He can’t really talk.”

“Why?”

“Well, he’s a dog. I have to watch what he does to know what he wants to tell me.”

“Oh. Where’s Dusty? Was he bad?” I get from that that she and her brother get time-outs or lose privileges when they’re “bad.”

She only got to meet Dusty once, and she liked him a lot. That was only this past Monday. It just happened that I was walking Dusty alone, and it was easy to bring him to their fence to meet.

I don’t lie to kids. “Dusty is dead, Michelle. He died today.”

“What happened to him?”

“He had a stroke.”

“Oh. C’mere Teddy.”

“I have take these guys home for a drink of water.”

“OK.” So I walked along their fence (chain link, 3 feet) and Michelle walked beside me then, took off to run to the gate beside the alley, behind what was once a chicken house. When I arrived there she had the gate open and was ready. “Bye! See you next time!!!” Waving at us with all her heart.

I thought that was a pretty good memorial service for Dusty T. Dog

***

Today Bear is very tired and sad. She spent all of her life so far with Dusty T. Dog and they were friends. Because of her breed, its sensitivity to the feelings of the creatures around her and being unsettled by change, I think it might take her a while to return to the “real” Bear. Teddy is a puppy who only knew Dusty for 2 1/2 weeks.

I’m looking at my empty coffee cup and for the first time in many, many years I won’t put it on the floor for my big, black dog to lick the cream from the sides.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/06/22/rdp-saturday-peace/

Lamont and Dude, “Nobody Walks in LA, or How I Killed My Friend, Again) 3rd Episode in the great saga

________________________

— Your stragedy worked?

Yes, by the grace of, grace of, I don’t know what. I veered quickly right. I felt a splash of water and tar on my rear left leg. I turned and saw Dude lunge into the pool. He fought, of course, and the more he fought the more firmly stuck he became. He called out, in tiger, of course. I trumpeted my apologies and said I hoped I’d see him later when we weren’t in this miserable predator-prey connection. Soon bubbles rose to the surface.

— Wow.

Next time I saw Dude, we were both trees. But that’s LA for you. If it’s not traffic it’s tar pits.

Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with in 2014. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past incarnations which gives them an unusual perspective on life, the universe and everything.

A Letter

My aunt died this morning. I’m happy that she only suffered the terrible pain she was in for a short time. I’m happy my cousins did not have to contend with it for weeks or months on end, unable to do anything about it. My grandma said that death was merciful sometimes, and this is one of those times.

I found the actual letter my grandfather wrote his brother’s sons, and I sent it to my cousins. It’s a pretty amazing piece of literature in its way. It’s written in pencil on manila paper. I don’t know if that exists any more.

My grandfather was born in 1870 and grew up on a farm in Eastern Iowa. He was a brilliant man, self-taught, they say, but I have his 3rd grade math book and it has trigonometry in it, so that bit about, “He only went to third grade” is kind of bogus. It’s not how far you go in school, but what you learn while you’re there. He thought of himself as a philosopher which isn’t a very useful calling when you’re sharecropping a farm on the high plains of Montana in the 30s. I never knew him, really. I was 5 when he died.

The letter is a precious family artifact. It was written in 1941 when my aunt would have been 16.  It was kept by my grandfather’s nephew, passed to his son, and then given to my mom when she went to “find her roots” in Iowa. That’s how I happened to have it. It was one of the rewards of the “great garage purge of 2017.”

This is something my cousins might want to pass along to their kids. I hope so.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/mercy/

Real Fame

I had six aunts. I now have two. Last night I learned that the youngest — Dickie (Madylene) — has gone into hospice with a large mass in her lung. She doesn’t want to go through the misery of tests and so on, so she’s asked her kids to just let her go. I don’t know how that is for them, but she is a nurse, she is not in the least sentimental, and she is very, very practical. When I read my cousin’s message more-or-less conveying this, I heard in my mind Queen’s song from The Highlander, “Who Wants to Live Forever?” No one does. I don’t. I am sure my aunt doesn’t, either. The second-to-youngest of my aunts is at “the home” with pretty advanced dementia and doesn’t want to eat or drink. Both of these women are in their 90s.

I’m very sad. My relationship with some of my aunts has been important to me and, I hope, vice versa. I grew up around these women. My mom felt her family was important, she relied on their being there, so we spent time around them. This aunt — Dickie — has kids around my age, in fact, one of my cousins was born a month after I was. We grew up as friends.

One thing I learned from these women is that OTHER adults — not just parents — can be important in a kid’s life. I reached adulthood wanting to be that OTHER adult, not the parent.

A few years ago I decided I wanted my Aunt Dickie to know who I am. We’d been close, but had gotten estranged as a result of family stuff, and I didn’t like that. I have always liked her. I sent her a letter and a copy of Martin of Gfenn. She loved the book and wrote me a letter with two messages that meant the world to me. She was proud of me and she loved me.

I sent her Savior which she liked even more and then The Brothers Path. She really loved that book. Last winter her church book group read it as their winter book. She wrote me that and said, “I’m making them order it from Amazon so you’ll make a little money.”

Later I heard how the book group went. “Please keep writing the story of my mother’s family,” she said. “I’m very proud of you and she would be, too.”

This year I’ve ploughed through the sludge of disillusionment over writing, publishing, promoting, etc. Afew weeks ago, — after months and months — I looked again at what I’m calling “The Schneebelis Go to America,” and saw it’s a pretty good story. I wondered if I should keep going, or? My aunt’s words, “Keep writing the story of my mother’s family” echoed in my mind. “That’s a good reason to write,” I thought, “so my Aunt Dickie can read my book.”

My grandfather, my aunt’s father, in 1941, wrote a letter to his brother’s kids when their dad died. He wrote:

“I’m awfully sorry but it is a natural condition to make a change. It would be too bad for us to have to be bothered with this old body for ever. It seems sad but it might be if there was no death, that life would lose its meaning and love would perish from the earth and I would rather live where love rules and death is sure as to live forever in a land without love — but I am very sad.”

I can’t say it better.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/sludge/