Thursday, June 30, 2005
No. I hold my breath and stop my heart, Why?
He tells me that Aunt Betty passed away. He's matter of fact, doesn't soft pedal it, but how can you? We discuss the service details, and the phone call ends.
It hits me with the terrific force of a plane dropping in turbulence.
Aunt Betty. I'm not related to her but she and Uncle Willy were such close friends with my parents that I've never known her as anything but my Aunt Betty. My parents being Aunt Betty and Uncle Ed to their children. Growing up, we were as much a fixture in their household as they were in ours. Summers, the families spent together in neighboring cabins in the hill country and I have a pile of memories of evenings spent at Criders Rodeo & Dance - Mom, Dad, Uncle Willy and Aunt Betty sitting at a picnic table drinking their beers and enjoying the music and the darkening blue skies of a Texas evening, while we ran around the area like terrors trying to capture lightening bugs, or pretending to be our parents on the dancefloor.
Aunt Betty was one of those people who refers to you by your first and last names, even when she's just saying hello to you. She always made your name sound like music. She always made me smile when she said my name that way, even the last time.
She had a funny ability to be my friend when I was young, Aunt Betty did, and somehow still be the adult. She did not get mad at us when her daughter Sally and I discovered her mascara one Sunday morning, and applied it again and again to our lashes until we looked something like 7-year old versions of Tammy Faye Baker. Nope, instead she was over-the-top complimentary and told us we were beautiful. And she let us go to church that Sunday as is. It must have pained her to do that but I remember how much it meant to us, how glamorous we felt. I adored her.
As an adult, whenever I saw Aunt Betty, she'd pat the cushion on the seat beside her or point to a chair near her, and say, Sit right down here and tell me how you are. She was always so excited to see you. And she'd always listen.
I think of my father. I think of Uncle Willy, Aunt Betty's husband. I think of Mr. and Mrs. Gaylord. I recall all these giants from my life, now gone. I think of how the best things in life seem to barely brush our awareness when they're going on; we're not in tune to the soft shoe steps of time moving forward. I miss the days when I could never imagine that the cozy magic wouldn't go on and on. I miss the days of life in the Hundred Acre Woods.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
- Today is my first steroid-free day in six months. I've taken them in milligrams from 5 to 100 for ONE HUNDRED FIFTY-FOUR DAYS. And I've got the face to prove it. To me, this liberation is worthy of a celebration that includes a parade and fireworks, and maybe even a few speeches from public figures, and the presence of a movie star or two.
- Today I was actually able to figure out some math on my own, well, how to use the calculator for it, but I remembered the formula. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but then you were probably born with something in your brain where math calculations take place, whereas in my case there's nothing but a wind storm going on in that particular spot. Sadly, this is also worthy of a celebration, though smaller than the steroid-free gathering.
- Today I was rifling through my purse and cut my finger on a Dos XX bottle cap. I think I get two points for not littering, but I really need to remember to clean out my purse on occasion.
- Today my brother-in-law called to ask me to have a license plate traced. That told me that he has absolutely no idea what I do for a living. Either that or he thinks I have connections that I do not. Either way it made me want to hit my head against a wall. Several times. If I weren't so happy about being without steroids in my day, I just might have. But then I'd be bruised at my parade, and that wouldn't be good.
- Today I found out that one of my friends is actually a Reply All person even though she says she's not. She also says My bad just to rattle my cage. And it works. This, in turn, will rattle hers.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
6:00 a.m. - I wake up and wonder why I've made plans to get up earlier on a Saturday than I do during the week.
6:15 a.m. - Necessary cup of coffee in hand, all full of high hopes and anticipation, we set out into the sunrise and post our signs announcing to the world that we are having a yard sale from 8:00 - 2:00 and we would love for you to come over and put your hands all over our stuff and offer us next to nothing for it.
7:00 a.m. - We return to the house and start displaying the stuff on the tables. Five tables. Lots of stuff on the tables. Lots of clothes along the fence. Sweaters and wool jackets. It's already so hot that I can barely stand to touch them. No one will buy these things in the 94 temp we're expecting today, so I think the exercise futile.
7:01 a.m. - The first person who ignores the time on the signs shows up and pretends not to understand when we say "It doesn't start until 8:00," but is capable of asking us questions about this or that and putting her hands all over this and that before walking away without buying a thing. Sharon snaps, "Come back when we're open."
7:10 a.m. - The second, third and fourth person who ignore the time on the signs show up and touch all the stuff, rifling through clothes that I just folded and tossing them back into a heap on the table. Sharon growls, "We're not open until 8:00." They leave.
7:15 - 7:30 a.m. - A nice lady (because she is the first to say "Good Morning" when she walks in) and her son come by. Because we're used to company by now and she's actually picking up stuff and keeping it in her hands - without questioning the price - we let her be.
7:30 a.m. - First sale of the day. She scooped up the goods: two Ralph Lauren purses, a couple platters, some t-shirts, and a pair of boots. Yeah, let the cash box ring!
8:00 - 10:00 a.m. - A fair amount of people come and go, make purchases from .50 to $14.00 totals. Some want to pay .50 for things that are marked a dollar. I know that money is tight but we're only talking a .50 difference. And I know I said yesterday that we'd nogotiate, but today I'm not in the mood for it, so we don't budge because on our end that .50 will buy what I'm not sure but we decide that we need it.
10:00 - 11:00 a.m. - It's slow, maybe one or two groups of people. They do buy stuff but we're getting bored and let our .50 cents go to the wind and start saying "yes" when they ask if we'll take .50 for something that's marked a dollar. A couple friends stop by. They give me $100.00 for the paving stones they bought the night before and return a lock they'd borrowed. I put a dollar sticker on the lock and put it on a table. It's the next thing to sell.
11:15 a.m. - Sharon says, "Only three more hours." I want to cry. We have a lot of stuff left and it's hot and I'm bored with the whole thing and tired of watching people pick up J.Crew dresses or Banana Republic pants and asking if I'll take a quarter. No, I won't. I would give it away before I'd sell it for a quarter, but not to you. They look at me like I'm a bad person and I do not care. I return a look that says, yeah, well you're a cheapskate. In a weird way, the buyer has become the enemy.
11:20 a.m. - Sharon says, "Maybe people can't find the street." I ponder this a moment. We're in a grid neighborhood, numbered streets east to west, named streets north to south. And then her street, which is secret and invisible.
11:30 a.m. - A woman tries on a wool jacket. It's so hot that I have to go inside the house because I cannot watch her do this. She buys the jacket though. Sharon starts putting reduced tags on her stuff, taking a dollar off of everything and even breaking out the .10 cent stickers. I'm starting to sell pants and dresses for .50 without the potential buyers having to ask first. Someone asks if Sharon will take 15.00 for the Baker's rack priced at 20.00. She'll only go so far on the price slashing though and says the price is firm but to come back at 2:00 and, if it's still there, she'll negotiate.
Noon - We sit inside now with the door open and wait for the dogs to bark to alert us there's someone approaching the gate. A few people wander through and they buy a lot of Sharon's stuff; we have to send them away with boxes to hold all their stuff.
12:30 p.m. - Friends come over. Their dog pees on Sharon's luggage beneath one of the tables, then he pees on the box of tee-shirts. While they're beside themselves with apologies and running after the dog and into the kitchen for paper towels, I almost fall off the porch with laughter. We throw away the luggage and box of shirts. We are tired and hot and bored and do not care anymore.
1:15 p.m. - Hunger sets in, impatience rises up. This sale is over. Sharon makes signs "Take what you want, everything free," and tapes them to the fence. Yeah, that's negotiating. We head out for lunch. On the way, we pass two garage sales across the street from each other, just around the corner from her house. There are cars everywhere, and so many people that it looks like a street party more than yard sales. There is actually traffic. The street is a numbered street. I reconsider Sharon's comment about her street.
When we come back from lunch only two things have been taken - a set of Christmas plates and coffee mugs. A few things are put just outside the fence and the rest is boxed up and put into Sharon's car to deliver to the resale shop on Sunday. It's not five minutes later that the Baker's rack has been scooped up by someone. Within an hour the rest of the stuff on the street is gone. It's over and done.
All told, I think we made about $300.00. And I say here and now that garage sales are officially a thing of the past in my life.
Friday, June 24, 2005
So I'm sitting here now and on this table are rolls of masking tape, a cash box with $75.03 in it (the .03 is another story altogether), and packets of price tags in five, ten, 25 and 50 cent prices, and one, five, ten and 20 dollar prices. Who made these stickers? Clearly someone who never had a garage sale because if they had ever had a garage sale then they would know that you have to have a two dollar price tag. You just have to, that's the way it is. That's what the masking tape is for. So tomorrow morning at 6:00, not only are we going to be running around like mad people putting the clothes on a line along the fence and moving five tables from the back yard to front (because apparently things sell better when they're displayed properly) and "displaying" on those tables all the stuff that we no longer want, and posting throughout the neighborhood the ten garage sale signs that we made, we're also going to be writing $2.00 on masking tape and sticking it to whatever it was that we at one time paid $50.00 for, all the while knowing that someone is still going to wander through the yard, touch all the stuff and then look up at us and say "I'll give you a dollar for this." Which is fine, we'll take it. We will negotiate, BUT THEY WILL NOT GET A BEER. Trust me on that.
Never is a moment
In the vastness of this world
Baby you are so unique
From your pouty little mouth
To your pretty little peaks
From your head down to your toes
You are beautiful divine
And there never is a moment
That you are not on my mind
Circumstances cast our fate
Maybe wrong, maybe right
Though you're dreams and miles away
I try to reach you through this night
If you hear music in the wind
I hope my melody you'll find
Because there never is a moment
That you are not on my mind
I haven't done this since the Hallmark commercial around Mother's Day where the little girls are sitting with their Mom on the couch and going through a box of her saved cards. They find one from their Dad where he's signed it Boo Boo or something like that and they just go into giggle fits when they realize it's from their Dad. And he peeks above his newspaper and grins at his wife and daughters, sort of embarrassed and sort of proud. Love that.
Before that commercial, it's a long stretch back to the last one I loved. That was a McDonald's commercial from years ago where the children are wearing golashes and yellow rain coats, walking in the rain (no doubt to McDonalds) saying in unison, Quack Quack Waddle Waddle. That one always brought a smile. I miss it.
The Pedigree one is lost on me for the purpose though - I don't feed Cheyenne Pedigree dog food. BUT, I do agree with them, dogs do rule. Especially this one (at least in my life).
Thursday, June 23, 2005
She was seated at the station next to me. On the other side of her was a woman who apparently is in her children's carpool during the school year. They started talking and I started humbling. What I learned from my eavesdropping was that she has three young children, this woman, and she's raising them alone because her husband is in Iraq. She hasn't seen him since December but is hoping to see him this December. They talk when they can but it's not often. One of her daughters wears hearing aids and the summer camp program has been very hard on her because the children are teasing her. She's not at all sure what to do because each morning her daughter is having fits about going to day camp but has shut her out as to working through it. And she's so tan because this past weekend her mother took her and her children to Galveston for the weekend to give her a break and help her out. To top it off, she was not at all complaining about this, not a bit. It just came out in the conversation, stemmed from the other woman's questions.
So, yeah, I'm humbled and I feel selfish and judgmental. I felt about two inches tall when I left the salon. Deservedly so. Walking out of there, I knew with certainty that in that scenario, I was the dismissible one. And I've once again learned the lesson not to judge a stranger, because you just never know what is going on in another's life. You never know.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Monday, June 20, 2005
She has a bit of magic to her, this one. She has a wide eye and a kind spirit. She has a laughter that does not edit itself. She knows exactly who she is, and she is herself no matter where she is or who she is with; in other words, she's not easily swayed. She is shy but emerging.
We spent the rest of our weekend discovering the area around her campus, the shops and restaurants and side street surprises. We met friends for breakfast and lunch. We discovered many vegetarian menus about town, which thrilled her to no end. We shopped. We watched the people waiting for the bats to come out from beneath Congress bridge. We walked, a lot. We discovered waterways and parks. We discovered Waterloo Records (if she had her way, she'd still be there). All weekend, she kept saying to me, everyone here is so nice. And she was right, everyone we met or chatted to was friendly and warm-spirited. Just like she is. I think she's going to be just fine in Austin - the city fits her. She'll stretch her wings beautifully.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
I put my finger on the <-Backspace button and went over every word, watching them eaten up like a game of PacMan, disappearing letter by letter until the screen was once again white.
Starting over, I could tell you a few things with a knowing sadness, how different the world is to a daughter without her father, how I feel that Father's Day will be a floating bubble, colored and fragile, and out of reach. But I realize that there are some who wish for that difference, who would love to be free of their father. Some fathers are cruel and hideous beings. Some walk out the door and never look back. Some wouldn't dream of raising a hand to help, but don't think twice about raising a hand otherwise.
And then there are the rest of them, the gems. Mine was a gem, a hero, a gentleman, a leader, a father and a Dad. That makes him one of the good guys, and us a few of the lucky ones.
I will be happy tomorrow. I will be feeling blessed tomorrow. He may be gone now, but he was here, he was always here. And he made a difference. He taught me how to drive, how to shoot a gun and how to sharpen a knife. He taught me how to fish. He taught me how to listen. He taught me how to tie a knot, make the perfect martini, and appreciate a good story. He taught me the importance of a solid handshake. He appreciated people that made an effort, and taught me that respect should not be expected or handed over freely, it had to be earned and it was worth seeking. He taught me that I could do anything. Anything at all that you set your mind to, Alison. He taught me that if something is worth having, it’s worth working for, and that included relationships, work and pleasure.
The day didn't much matter to him but I loved buying him Father’s Day cards and writing in them how happy I was that he was my father. And as sad as I am that I’m not buying a card this Sunday, truth be told, I’m still happy. I'm happy that he is my Father.
I would not have it any other way.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Moving on but keeping on words in general... why do we use utilize and (cringe) utilization when use is a perfectly good word? Why why why? It's not as if the number of syllables equals the IQ level of the writer. And while I'm at it, I prefer to see no more use of prior experience. If it's experience, we get it, it happened before the present. Just a sample of what comes across my desk on a fairly regular basis. And I think a tiny exercise in face-saving.
That said, one last thought on words. I'd like to declare right here and now that I have fallen head over heals for Hep Cat. It was in yesterday's crossword and I think it's just plain cool, daddy-o.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
'Cause I have wandered through this world
And as each moment has unfurled
I've been waiting to awaken from these dreams
People go just where they will
I never noticed them until I got this feeling
That it's later than it seems.
Doctor My Eyes. I was searching for a traffic report on the way to work and caught the song at the first notes. It's been a long while since I've driven to work with the volume as loud as it was, and my steering wheel pulling double duty as a drum set. Oh yeah. It's a damn shame that I have zero musical talent because I really am a rock musician at heart.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
All of these you do beneath the freedom that it represents.
Sunday, June 12, 2005
I go over and over the details of him. The details that day-to-day were not taken account of but were there all the same. The way the hair on his arms laid down, the way a glass fit in his hands, the way he tied knots in fishing lines and ropes. The imprint his feet made in his shoes, evidence he was there. I try to remember how he opened his mail and how he read the morning paper. I try to remember the smell of his neck when we hugged, and the feel of the air conditioning on his shirt collars. And the way his hand felt when he held mine. It's these details of him that I want to gather into a pile like shavings and hold in my hands. I want to hide the pile away like a secret beneath a loose board in the floor. And each day see the light shining through the cracks, and know the secret is there and safe.
But he is not a hidden secret. He is everywhere around me. He is my heart. He is the summer heat. He is the mourning dove. He is the whir of the fan, the pulse of the breeze. The flesh of watermelon, the scent of a strawberry. He is the click of the lamp switch, the tightened screw on the hinge, the key in the lock. He is the smell of good coffee in the morning. He is the smile of the little boy I winked at in the store yesterday. He is the reason behind that wink. That alone is evidence.
I know he would tell me, don’t be sad. He couldn’t stand to see me sad, couldn’t stand when he was unable to fix or understand whatever it was that was upsetting me. And when he couldn’t fix it, he’d tell me, be brave. Tell me or ask me, I’m not sure. It was easy to be brave for him. He was there to be proud of me. But asking it of myself now is sometimes impossible, like someone asking me to act out the shape of a color.
Whether reasonable or not, I used to think that the dead could see us. For instance, I've often found comfort in, and even guidance from, my belief that my Grandmothers watched over me. Does my father now see me? And if so, does he repeat to me, Do not be sad, Alison. Be brave.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
Friday, June 10, 2005
Look at that defeated face. No doubt she is remembering the days we used to go on morning walks through the neighborhood and to the park where she'd be let off her leash to run and play and sniff about and roll in the grass and chase squirrels at whim. Now she goes outside to do her business and that's it. I hate to step between her and the great outdoors - I do leave a window open for her so that she can plop her head on the sill and at least watch and smell the world around her. Poor pup, she's definitely singing the blues. Six more weeks of this.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
So, I'd like to ask the dark cloud that is seemingly intent on shadowing me to get off my ass because I think you've got the wrong girl. But just in case you don't, let me tell you that I think I'm doing very well in this storm you've dropped on me. You're not going to knock me down. I know what I'm made of. And these things that you're putting in my life, I'm dealing with the emotional ones, got it? I'M DEALING WITH IT ALL. And you know what? I'm getting stronger every day. But the others, the ones that require me to pay out the same ass that you keep trying to kick to the ground, the ones that are hitting me so hard and fast that pawnshop has actually slipped through my mind and into my vocabulary several times, well those have to stop. I'm asking nicely. Seriously, because my last name, it is not Rockefeller.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Fear is a lion stalking your path, with steady breathing on your heels. The lion is my imagination; the breath my own. Fear is my enemy - trying to numb my pain, it will numb my mind, my spirit, my life.
This past weekend, I turned around on that lion, said "Boo," and watched it slink away. I had no intention of helping myself this weekend, that wasn't the goal when we tackled the yard. Nonetheless, that's what happened. It happened when I stopped thinking and started working. It happened when I pulled weeds by their roots from the earth. It happened each time I wiped the sweat from my brow. It happened when all it took to satisfy my need was a drink of water. It happened when I patted the moist dirt around the base of the newly planted plants. It happened when I fell asleep Sunday night with an exhaustion that was physical rather than emotional. It happened when I stopped looking inward, and started living outward.
I've learned enough about grief the past four months to know that this will circle back, my fear of living in a world without my father has not really been abated. But this weekend, I also learned that oftentimes the best medicine is to go on living.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
After the lovefest was over, we were very clear to them that we now owned their yard and we expected them to treat it with the best care, plenty of water, fertilizer, weeding, etc. Or we would just have to take it back. Because we will be keeping an eye on it. Acting like a bunch of possessive moms, we were.
Monday, June 06, 2005
The dogs that ruined the grass that revealed the dirt that Sharon wanted to turn that led to the surprise they'll get when they get home
Sharon would tell you that it all started with a hoe. But really, it started with two particular dogs running a path in C&J’s back yard so regularly that the grass had long ago vacated the idea of living there, and in its place was a long dirt patch of nothingness. As Sharon was house sitting for them, on Friday she had the idea to turn the dirt a bit and, while looking for a hoe, she connected it with the idea to get some sod to fill in the dirt patches. Before she could say what the heck have I gotten myself into, she found herself on the phone with a guy in Rosenburg, giving him directions to the house so that he could deliver the pallet of sod he rightfully convinced her she'd need. So she spent her Saturday single-handedly putting down the sod. The back yard looks fantastic, and very green.
Let me say right here that, in and of itself, that would be a tremedous surprise birthday gift. But then, a few of us could not leave well enough alone and had to join in the yardwork fun. So, Sunday found Jacqui, Carrie, Teri and me (and of course Sharon) at C&J’s house in about 90 degree heat with not a breeze to be felt, weeding, pulling, digging, uprooting, and trimming. And let me tell you, were we ever sweating and did we ever get DIRTY. And by dirty, I mean to say that we were covered in dirt, head to toe. Well, except for Carrie's toenails which apparently repel dirt. But that's another story.
Then it was off to Houston Lawn & Garden where all the plants were half price, so all of us went wholly nuts with the blank-slate potential for the three beds we'd cleaned out. We opted for Hibiscus and Mexican Heather in the back yard bed, and for the front beds it's Esperanza, Cannas, Caladiums, Vincas, Zinnias and Mexican Heather. And 12 bags of soil and mulch.
Back at their house, we embarked on planting, potting, raking, bagging, edging, sweeping, mowing, fertilizing, and watering. At this point, we were the kind of dirty that when you were little your Mom would stop you at the back door and make you take your clothes off right there so that you wouldn't track dirt in the house. That dirty.
But we were also smiling. Because doing this felt amazingly good. It felt good to be working beside each other, and to be doing this for our friends. And for me it felt cleansing - even though I was covered in dirt (by now you should be clear on just how dirty we were). It felt good to have my hands in the earth and not much thought in my mind. It was a relief for me to be working on something constructive, to weed and plant, to nurture life. And if felt real good to every so often get absolutley fizzy with excitement knowing that they had no idea that five of their friends were together at that moment landscaping their yard while they were sipping drinks at Pat O'Briens. No idea at all!
Their flight lands at 5:00 tonight. We're going to be waiting for them at their house. Not one of us wants to miss their faces when they drive up and see this:
Oh, and Teri, Jacqui and Carrie installed their outdoor stereo speakers as well, which really is another story, except for the fact that it involved climbing through attic space, which as you can see in this photo secured that Teri win the dirtiest bird of the day award. And please give a round of applause to Sharon for that lovely grass in the background, the grass that started it all.
Friday, June 03, 2005
And I told her as much tonight. I crawled out there on the edge of conversation and dropped a few things... how can I help her? I can't. What can I do? Nothing. Does she know how much it hurts her children that she speaks this way? She wonders if we know how much it hurts her to be without a car? Um, excuse me? She says, if you want to help me, get me a drink. It will your eighth since I've been here. I don't believe that, who is counting? I am. Well, are you going to get me a Scotch? I guess so. I just want to die. And after several more hours of the bitterness that is her tongue, and the craziness that is her mind and our conversation, she is finally ready to go to bed. And I help her there, tuck her in, kiss her cheek, turn down the lights.
And then I crack.
I go to the kitchen and pull out the knives, testing them for sharpness. I glide each one across my calf imagining what it would feel like, what color red is just beneath the skin. I select one. It has a long blade that glistens in the lights. I prop myself on the counter, look at the knife and look at the target. And I think, NO WAY.
And I realize that my bleeding cannot save her, and in the end, it will not release the pain - hers or mine. I can't transfer this problem to my leg or hurt myself into understanding her, and it will not take away the pain of living in a world in which every day my mother tells me, "I want to die," or, "I'm calling to let you know that I'll be dead tomorrow."
I've spent five hours tonight trying to convince her to live, and I'm not sure I've done any good at all. I am sure that she won't be able to recall this tomorrow. But I also know that I didn't slay myself over it. And for now, that's an accomplishment.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
All the photographs I have of my father are not enough. The photos are all imperfect. The images on paper or my mind are not him, but a link to him. They resemble him but are in ways reminders that his presence is not here, just as his presence isn’t really in the photos, just as the photos are not real. They have their use, photographs, and I love their construction, the camera, the image, the print, the success of capturing what you see or saw, or what you were. But they also tell me always that the moment is captured and gone.
I talk to my father’s photos now, one in particular in the hallway. I stop before it in the evenings, look into his eyes and say out loud that I love him, or I’m doing my best, or I miss him. What have I made him in my mind? A piece of paper with the memory of his face imprinted on it, that can hear me as if he is in the same room as me, as if he is going to respond. Or perhaps I do so to have that exchange again, to hear my voice speaking to him, saying “Dad” to him again. Although one-sided, it is comforting.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
I don’t have to wonder why I’m afraid, why I haven’t gone beyond the necessary movements the past several months. Life without him is new, and not what I want. As much as I think I’ve plowed through my heart and my mind, there is still so much of me that cannot fully accept it. It is the part that does not know where I belong, that lives between not wanting to be alone and not wanting to see a soul. The part of me that for a flash of time wants to share something with him, and in an equally quick flash, remembers that I cannot. It is the part of me that feels that if I take new photos, photos beyond digital snapshots, then it will be official. I really am here and he really is not – that is the same reality that is shaped for me by the camera that stands between my eyes and what I see. I see it, I feel it. But I am not part of the picture, and I cannot reach it.