Sunday, December 31, 2006
My mother had another stroke last night. She's stable now. I can barely remember the phone call, and getting to the hospital is also foggy, though I did not drive myself.
I'm blurry in memory because I was out with a friend last night, drinking margaritas. On a stomach that had only one small slice of pizza hours before in the day. I looked at the food but couldn't entertain the thought of eating. That happens when my heart is hurting. And that happened because someone I love walked out. There wasn't much conversation, just the leaving. And returning - he's gone back to where he used to be, who he used to be with. There's details and reasons but nothing as important as the simple truth. He is gone. And I am here. And this pain inside is a heavy load to carry into the new year.
I walked home from the hospital last night. That was a long walk. A long and lonely walk.
Friday, December 29, 2006
This morning I woke to a house full of her friends, fast asleep here and there in my living room. I had forgotten how easy it was to sleep on a couch, chair or even the floor when you are 19. They had driven in from Louisiana yesterday, wanting to see her before she left for college.
Which will happen in five days.
On Wednesday, we'll drive to Austin with all her stuff in the truck, and her following behind in her car. On Wednesday we move her into her dorm. Thursday she'll attend orientation and registration. Friday I'll return to Houston, likely without dry eyes. As excited as I am for her that she's been accepted to the university she wants to attend, that she'll experience dorm life rather than living with her Aunt and attending community college, that she'll be on her own and figuring her way, I'm also dragging myself through the days that rapidly approach her leaving.
She's blossomed the past several months, and I've enjoyed every minute of her living with me. I've also gotten to know her on a level that is beyond love, a level of respect and pride as I've listened to the reasoning behind the choices she makes in her life. I'm nuts about the person she is and the young woman she is becoming. Her talent behind the camera floors me and I'm certain that pursuing photography as her major will secure a bright future for her. The Christmas print she gave me of Cheyenne is one of those photos that is less of a captured moment and more of her eye and camera skills, her skill in enlarging and printing. It's one of those photos that says photographer, and not lucky shot.
What I'm not going to do in this next paragraph is jabber on about how I held her when she was only hours old, how I've watched and guarded over her for 20 years, and been involved every step of her way, from bottle feeding and Christmas pagents, and skinned knees and braces, to first dates and broken hearts. And every one of her haircuts and hair colors, and even the piercings and that tattoo. Okay, that's wrong. I did not watch over that tattoo and if she ever wants it removed I'll cough up the money, but she loves her ladybug and she was of age so that's when I had to start practicing backing off. Which wasn't easy, by the way. Anyway, I'm not going to write about all that right now. I prefer to save my tears until Wednesday.
(Side note to her: Sorry about revealing the tattoo, but that's payback for making me find out about it A YEAR LATER, rather than telling me in the first place. Love, your Aunt.)
What I've enjoyed most about her living with me, and I'll miss most about her absence, is her laughter. She laughs often and she laughs loud. She's honing her sense of humor and lately when she laughs I close my eyes and thank God for her happiness. She deserves it. I know that a small part of that happiness is because of the relationship we've forged, the trust we have and the guidance I've been able to provide. My relationship with her is one of which I'm very proud. In turn, she's taught me a few things. In indirect ways, she's reminded me to smile more often and love more freely. And every now and then I'm able to dismiss something that I previously would have clung to unnecessarily. In short, her influence on me has been one of balance. I've gained a bit of flexibility and freedom from watching her life. Freedom to hang on and freedom to let go. In a few short days, as she steps into her new life, I'll be doing both. Beneath my tears though, a big smile will reside. And isn't that exactly how it should be?
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I want to tell you all about it, about St. Francis Cathedral where we sat together on Christmas day, about the horseback ride in the mountains, about the drive along a winding and climbing road through the mountains up to Taos, about the snow and the sunsets seen from our balcony, about the many deep breaths I took thinking this is exactly where I want to be and exactly who I want to be with. But right now, there's laundry to be done, a reunion with that now very happy Lab of mine, and sleep to be had.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
It's cold outside, baby, and that makes me warm inside. We opened all the gifts underneath our little tree. Truthfully, they were under the tree, on the chairs and had spilled over onto the floor. I think the word is abundance. Boxes and paper everywhere. Smiles too. My niece takes my breath away these days. She's growing into a loveliness that is her own, and she shines when she smiles. Which lately is often.
Yesterday, I had lunch with my nephew, my niece and my sister, their mother. She had not seen her son in over a year and a half. The word I can use to describe their feelings at seeing each other would be joy. And when my nephew thanked me for giving him the best Christmas present he could have ever received, I too felt joy. From the bottom of my toes and deep into my heart.
Today, we'll visit my mother. It will be quiet and love will be in the room, emanating from and covering all.
This evening, we are going to church and following that we're going to meet friends for Christmas cheer and celebration.
I've used the word, we, in this post. There is another. He came back into my life several years ago. And again in October. He came to stay in November. My heart has love and happiness again. Tomorrow morning, he and I will get on a plane to Santa Fe for a couple days and nights. Just the two of us, mountains, snow and a more quiet and personal celebration of the holiday. And each other.
Merry Christmas, everyone. A very merry Christmas to all.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Would you believe she had those nails trimmed yesterday?
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I realize again that understanding this is a process not unlike learning to read. I thought I’d be able to understand the whole by now, but still my focus is on the building blocks. Someday, someday I will understand the whole. For now though, as it was then, I do trust it's there.
Too everything there is a season,
a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant,
and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Hey, it's me. I'm sitting here at a bar and the bartender is wearing a t-shirt that says Poco Bueno on it. I've been looking at it, thinking that's the fishing tournament that your old man won with that big Marlin. I had to show off a bit, tell him I was good friends with the man who won the whole thing one year. What year was it? I can't remember. Anyway, I showed off my tattoo. You know the one, on my arm with the bear paw and your father's birth year and the year he died. I had to say, yeah, you may be wearing a t-shirt, but I knew Ed Groth.
That? That's a voicemail I saved.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Friday, December 15, 2006
Tell, me, do you know if they make personal fire extinguishers? You know, to keep in my purse for moments like these.
2) Have you grown tired of the black? I have. I've been sitting on the fence for too long. Over the weekend, I'm going to get some light in here, clean things up a bit, rearrange the boxes and see what tickles my layout fancy.
Monday, December 11, 2006
On the outside, I take a deep breath, consider this hammock between losses past and future. I walk through the door. On the inside, she's calling out for help.
I sit beside her, wrap my hand around hers.
Are you okay, Mom?
She closes her eyes purposefully, then opens her eyes and sighs, dissapointed to be here.
I wish I was dying, I want to die. She looks up at me, asks, Will you help me?
Mom, no, I cannot do that. I hold hold her hand tighter.
Mom, you need to talk to God.
She gives me a weak smile, says, I have. She pauses a second, then continues. I asked him to hurry, but he's not.
Mom, do you really want that? Do you really want to die?
She closes her eyes again.
This is what it's like. This is where she is and who she is. Her body is failing and failing her. She'll not try anymore, she wants out. It's like watching a baby, the need, the hours, the love and attention, the feeding and changing. The depth of feelings in the heart. But there's no hope and promise for the future, no delight at forward steps. The future has been had, there's a different direction now, a different position between mother and daughter. On the inside, there's a heart filled with love that can make no difference to a heart filled with desire to exit.
On the outside, a red leaf relinquishes its hold on a branch.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Friday morning, a neighbor joked with me that my brother had called him the night before and suggested he put a smoke bomb under the house. You know, just for the fun of flipping me out. Ha ha ha, I laughed along with him. I'll never live that down, I thought to myself.
With the temperature hovering at freezing, and sleet coming down, I decided to allow myself to build and enjoy a fire in the fireplace. Where fires belong.
The ambiance set, safe and warm inside while the weather was cold and miserable outside, some food was in order. And here is where my troubles began. Again.
Placing nachos into the oven, I thought that I should check my email since I had work to get done, whether I was at the cabin or not. Sometime later, when smoke was pouring from the oven, I remembered the nachos. And then the smoke alarms went off. Something they did not do just a few weeks ago, so I will say that I'm glad to know that at least they work.
And I'll leave it at that.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
It was cold that morning, the first temperature drop of the season. After being outside about five seconds, I ran back into the house, up the stairs and into one of the guest rooms to grab a sweatshirt from the closet shelf where I keep all my sweatshirts and sweaters. I turned the closet light on, grabbed the sweatshirt, shut the closet door and we were on our way.
If you raised an eyebrow at a missing step there, you're onto something.
At one point on our walk, my friend asked if we could let the dogs swim. Not wanting to have two cold and wet dogs to deal with when we got back to the cabin, I gave her a look that needed no words for clarification. One that clearly said, hell no.
Sort of a save the day response, that.
When we returned to the house, I smelled something, something yummy. But ever so quickly, my brain jumped from the oh-so-pleasant thought of Mmmmm, someone is roasting marshmallows to the terrifying realization that no one roasts marshmallows at 8:00 in the morning, that something was BURNING.
I glanced upward to discover several streams of smoke coming from where the side of the house meets the eave of the roof. Stating with a bizarre calmness to my friend that something was on fire, I ran inside the house to get the fire extinguisher and investigate. Trouble was, the extinguisher was extinguished. And I couldn't find the source of smoke. Neither could she. We yelled across the house to each other and we were both empty-handed. It wasn't on the third floor, or in the attic, or on the second floor. Racing through my head were the desperatre words, Where in the hell is it?
Brilliantly, I called a neighbor to tell him that I thought our house was on fire and was unsure what to do other than to call someone and make it their problem because I was clearly not dealing with it very well on my own.
And, conveniently, and sort of medicinally, I thought, At least the phone works.
Back upstairs again, I opened the door to the guest room and discovered thick smoke. Then I began to act out every single thing you are not supposed to do in the event of a fire. 1) Walk upright through the smoke and breathe deep and through your mouth. 3) Open a door that is hot (in this case, the closet door) - suggesting that fire is on the other side of that door, and 4) Feed the fire by giving it oxygen (in this case, opening the window to let the smoke out and allow the fire-feeding oxygen in).
I found it! I yelled, gasped and coughed as I ran outside for smokeless air, and the now on-the-scene island caregiver heroically ran inside. Almost immediately, an airborne handfull of flaming sweaters and sweatshirts followed an airborne window screen he'd knocked from the open window. Then another handfull. And there in a small and pitiful heap was half the problem that, thanks to my sweatshirt-grabbing carelessness, had connected with the other half of the problem: the lit bulb that I did not turn off.
I looked at my sweater, now nothing more than a pile of wet soot, and at the house I've spent so many good times in, time shared with my family, time shared with my friends, time shared with my father. I looked at that house which my parents built together. And prayers of gratitude poured from my heart that we caught the danger in time, before it became an emergency that could not be answered.
As we stood around in a circle shaking our heads and thanking our luck, my friend looked at me bug-eyed and said, We forgot to wake up Chris! Who, let it be said, was never in any danger whatsoever because she was in a separate house entirely, connected only by a walkway.
Monday, December 04, 2006
But sometimes I just do not have the words. Sometimes a photo is all that's needed. Say, for instance, this one of Cheyenne doing her best imitation of a fruit bat getting electrocuted.