Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Two steps up; one memory back

Here we are on the eve of February. Has it been a year? Have the seasons really circled around? When did that happen? The question in my heart when I awake is this: Is he still dead? What kind of question is that? Of course he is. Joan Didion coined it: it's called Magical Thinking. You ask questions like that, and you're serious.

I hate calendars tonight. I dread tearing the page off for the launch of February. The month I lost him. The one described by a friend I've yet to meet as not to be trusted. Just as last year, its brevity will be the thing I appreciate.

Excuse me for just a minute.

Hey February, FUCK OFF.

That feels better.

I know this: trees grow stronger, rivers grow wider. Broken hearts, they grow older. Death dissolves life but cannot disconnect love. In this, the first year, the comfort to be found has been in remembering the alive moments that were just around the corner. This time last year, we were at the cabin or on the phone or at dinner on Sunday night. He was right here; I was right there.

That 'this time last year' stuff has about run out for me.

I can accept that, really I can.

Depending on who you are, you believe that.

I have friends who offer themselves in the form of open doors and shoulders of steel. Can you imagine the luck and generosity of having that? A considerate lot, they are. It's comforting to hear and know they mean it. It's hell to have no words in response. I can't honestly say what I need right now because I'm disconnected from what I feel. Is that safety? I wonder.

I'm thinking in half sentences, naked and incomplete. I'm remembering the last of his life and the permanent abruptness of his death. I'm remembering the phone calls received and made. I'm remembering when the whole world spun magic before I ever considered trying to describe the mist. I remember Saturday mornings when I'd walk past his office of dark wood walls and dark furniture, stacked file folders and notepads atop his desk. Standing in the door, inhaling the smell and wanting more of his world.

I'd watch him for a minute, say, Hi Dad, what are you doing?

He didn't look up from his place, though he shook his head, said, I'm trying to get some bills paid.

I wanted his attention, Can I sit on your lap?

Not right now, honey, I need to get these bills paid.

Another angle: Can I help you?

Tell you what... if you really want to help your old man, you'll go out into the yard and pick up some pinecones for me. I'll pay you a nickel for each one you put in the wheel-barrow.

With that, I'd set out to rid the yard of pinecones, and he'd settle into the quiet focus he needed and had just assured himself of getting. Most importantly, he gave us some time together, even though we were apart.

That's sort of what this is like, it's spending time together even though we are apart. Death may dissolve life, but it cannot disconnect love.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Give me this moment

I heard his voice last night. I was dreaming. His voice was on the answering machine. At first, I was surprised, and then I dialed the number again. It felt good to hear him. I dialed again and again, each time happier than the time before to hear the voice of my father. It was my first dream in which I knew he was gone, but still I felt love when I awoke.

I've learned this year about love after death. I've learned where love is protected, and that it continues to grow. I've learned that memories are tranquil places which no thing can mar, no storm upturn. I've learned to stand still and feel the delight of sunlight on my skin or a breeze across my cheek. I've learned the language of my father. I've learned that the music is everywhere if I just listen. It's in the mingled songs of the birds, of croaking frogs, a mare calling to her foal, the breeze through the tree tops, even in the steady the hum of traffic rolling past. I've learned to look into the reflection in a glass-smooth puddle or pond, and there I'll find the sky. I've learned to be quiet for those moments because in them, I feel him. And I've learned that even in my dreams, I feel his love.

Friday, January 27, 2006

I'm surprised she didn't outright ask me for a couple side dishes to go with her entree

I should know better, really I should. Afterall, we've been together for five years now. I know her tricks, and I know how she is with her paws, how she uses them like hands. But I never figured she'd turn a doorknob. That's a special skill apparently she was saving for the right prize and the right opportunity, both of which I made available for her this afternoon.

I had thrown away the better part of a whole broiled chicken, knotted the trashbag and shut the pantry, thinking I'd take the trash to the garage when I left the house. I took a shower and that's when she went to work.

When I came downstairs, the trashcan was on its side on the kitchen floor, the bag ripped open and the coffee grounds and other bits of nasty kitchen garbage spilled out over the floor. Everything, that is, except for the chicken.



For a moment, she went back and forth between licking her chops and giving me her guilty face, which is a face I might have believed if I hand't snapped these photos. See that photo of her licking her chops? That's a Ha! Fooled you look in her eye if I've ever seen one.

Mmmm good

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Meeting your sales goals utilizing time-proven techniques

Molly waits for me by the mailbox, sitting atop her purple bicycle. She lives two houses down from me, knows my home-from-work routine, knows where to position herself.

Hey Molly, what 'cha doing?

Hi Alison. I'm selling Girl Scout cookies. Would you like to buy some?

Molly is ten years old, has dark brown hair, and rigid bangs her mother insists on and she can't stand. She likes horses and kittens and her bike. And she likes the Girl Scouts, tells me it's fun.

I remember selling candy bars to raise money for the band in sixth grade, and several times selling raffle tickets to raise money for one cause or another, and of course, selling Girl Scout cookies. My father would pounce on each opportunity to make me the world's greatest sales kid.

You have to introduce yourself and shake their hand. Look into their eyes and smile. You need to say what you are selling and tell them why you are trying to raise money. Is the money for new uniforms? Tell them that. What do they win if they win the raffle? Let them know. Be enthusiastic. And remember to thank them. That's important.

I'd wrap his advice around me and set out down my street with pretty good results. Home, I'd be content. He, on the other hand, would not.

Did you go to the next street?

No sir.

Have you called your Aunts and Uncles?

No Sir.

What about your Grandmothers?

No Sir.

How are you going to sell the most [insert item of the year] if you don't contact everyone you know?

The most?

Well, what is your sales goal? This is about setting and meeting your goals. You must have goals.

We'd come up with a goal and I'd return to the streets, or move to the kitchen phone. There were a couple times that I did sell the most raffle tickets. I felt good about that, proud of myself. That's what he was after, of course. The rewarding feeling from setting your goals and accomplishing them through hard work.

Earlier this week I looked at a recently posted memo tacked to the bulletin board in the kitchen at my office. It was from a colleague, explaining that his daughter was selling coffee by the pound to raise funds for the local YMCA. Stapled to the memo was an order sheet and an envelope in which to put your check. A worthy cause, but who is actually doing the selling? Where's the eye contact and the handshake? The kid is missing out on the opportunity to build and gain confidence in her skills. There are so many of these at work in any given week - chocolate, popcorn, wrapping paper, you name it - but I think the parents have completely missed the point.

I look at Molly and remember what it's like to be a young saleswoman out on the streets, remember what it's like to have parents who make you do your own fundraising for your own cause. Her order slip is filled with buyers with neighborhood addresses.

I'm happy to buy some cookies from you, Molly. Tell me, what kind you are selling?

She goes through a more extensive list than I recall from my day, inserting an enthusiastic, those are my favorite, when she gets to the Tagalongs.

What's your goal, Molly?

She widens her eyes a bit exasperated with herself, says, Five hundred boxes.

She's not too far away from that. I put my order in, getting her a bit closer.

Thank you very much, Alison, I'll have your cookies for you in March.

Good move, Molly. I remember that too, tell them what to expect and when to expect it. Watching her ride down the sidewalk in pursuit of the neighbor pulling into his driveway, I can't help but think that my father would have liked Molly. He'd no doubt want to talk about her at dinner, tell a story about her. So, imagine we're at dinner, and I'm telling you about Molly. But don't worry, I won't try to sell cookies on her behalf. She's taking care of that on her own, and doing a fine job.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

In the name of the liver, the wine, and the mumbled words

Something happened between the time when not so long ago I knew her well, well like I recognized her and we had conversations that went back and forth, when she could take any challenge in stride and wrap it into laughter that would break through the dark and rise above the audience that clung to her humor. Somewhere between that and now, when she looks out at us and responds to a conversation we're not having, or wilts into her drink at any sign of direct focus.

How do you put your hand around a familiar form when you can't recognize her voiced words any longer? How does it become something you face on a simple night of dinner with friends?

How do you get to a point that you monitor the drinks?

It leaches out from something that is hers to something that is ours. It's behavior and voice. It's her body and her eyes. It's alcohol.

She's been here for five minutes and her eyelids droop, her voice slurs. Where has she been before now? What has she had to drink. We ask. She dodges.

I watch my friends. She's draining the energy from the table. It's familiar, this try of patience. It's not fun, her behavior. It's concerning. She's in trouble; we're in trouble. Frustration leads to anger and compassion limps along side. Having the energy to face this carves into responsibility, meaning it cuts to the bone.

I can't take it anymore. Not the looks, not the behavior, and not the discomfort. I take this into my hands and ask her (in a way that gives her no option) to let me take her home. She doesn't argue at the table but she questions at the valet stand.

Because you NEED to go home.

It's all I can say.

In the car, I glance over at her and sigh. I wonder who needs the armor, me or her. I think her. But that's graceful. At the red light, her head drops low. Silence.

I get her home, walk her in. She slurs her anger. It's loose and frightened. It's they and them. It's that she won't face herself and refuses to face them. She's caught between knowing and facing.

Yet she admits she understands the concern. She talks to me, says to me that she understands.

Returning to the restaurant, I recall that before I walked her out I was told to tell all when I returned. Are drunk words really worth keeping? I wonder where allegiance sleeps. Here we go again - the familiar need to apologize when the apology is not mine. Everyone at this table feels a version of it.

I sit down and can't shake that I've been here before. Enough times to make the familiarity boring. The taking responsibility, the removing and the driving. The returning. The questions and the secrets. The need to understand and the need to roll my eyes because I'm so tired of this particular familiar, no matter whose face. The burn of the spotlight on someone whose problems make more noise than your own, on someone whose problems are as clear and damaging, yet tolerated again and again until it's common and blurry and way past time to address.

A cry out is just that but sometimes it's never that. Sometimes it's found between her voice and our patience. She doesn't know that she's crying out. But she is. And we're crying out but pointing it at her. The battle is formed on the heart's concern.

It's not an ambush but she reads this blog. I want her to recognize herself.

I'm talking to you now. Take a step and get some help. You need saving but we can't do it. You have to save you. It's not an attack, it's a hug. A rough hug, I admit, but it is a hug nonetheless. We'll be here when you go though it, and we'll be here when it's over. That's a promise.

Seriously, it's time. Get some help.

Get a grip

Hold your hand lower on the handle. When you hold it up higher like that, you're choking it, and you won't have enough strength in your swing to drive the nail into the board.

He shows me and his hand covers most of the handle. He places the hammer back into my young hands, wraps my fingers around the bottom of the handle.

There, that's where your hand should be. Hold onto it and aim for the nail.

I move my whole arm back and take aim. He wisely moves his fingers out of the way. After making half-moon indents in the wood all around the nail, I twice manage to hit it squarely enough to drive it in.

That's great, Cat!

He takes the hammer from my hand and whacks the nail hard one time, making the nail head flush with the wood.

Ready to do it again?

All morning we nail boards to posts, we build our fence.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When he's swimming towards you, you'll feel slack in the line. Reel in as fast as you can.

I have a fish more than double my weight on the end of the line. He jumps through the water's surface and briefly flies. The sight is so beautiful, so suddenly blue on blue on blue, I can't help but watch.

Pay attention to what you're doing. You have to let the line run when he swims out like that.

The sun and effort combine to bake me. He has a cloth he dips into the cooler, and wrings bone-chilling water over my shoulders. I've been at this for over an hour now. I'm tired. My interest is waning, but not the fight.

Do you want help?

No, sir.

He watches over me, strapped into the fighting chair. Rocking forward when the fish swims out, reeling back in when the fish tires. Rock. Reel. Breathe.

That's my girl.

It's another half hour before I land that fish close enough to the transom to be released back to the sea.

I'm exhausted.

He puts his great hand on my small shoulders. I'm proud of you. You did a great job, Cat, a great job.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Talk to me about letting go. I'll talk to you about holding on.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Bless me Father for I'm an idiot

This morning, 0ur Human Resources department circulated personal contact forms for staff to update if necessary. At the bottom of the form was Visa Number / Visa Expiration Date.

I wasn't about to provide that information, and - ready to defend to the end - I wrote a note saying as much.


The HR manager walked into my office to explain it was not that Visa.

Egg on face? Check.

Did I actually wonder why they were only asking for Visa and not AmEx or MasterCard? Yep, I'll admit that as well.

Plans this weekend? To rest my weary blond head.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Excuse me?

Fox News lead-in at 8:58 p.m.: What's up with death cult threats from OBL?

Seriously. I'm not making that up.

Translation: Osama Bin Laden has released a taped message saying that plans are underway for terrorist attacks in the U.S.

What kind of a News lead-in is that? What kind of News language is that? What's up? Death cult? OBL? Are they really calling Osama Bin Laden, OBL? Seriously?

Way back when, I minored in Radio and Television. Had I written a lead like that, I'd have been laughed out of the department, not to mention given a failing grade.

Hey Fox, why are you getting all KPRC on me?

Today's adjective: healthy

Oh, have I told you? Cheyenne had surgery yesterday. Again. Three lumps removed. Two we felt sure weren't cancerous, but of that other one we weren't so sure. I moved through yesterday in partnership with concern and worry. But that wasn't necessary since music to my ears would take form in the words, no cancer, just harmless fatty lumps. She's a bit loopy and droopy-eyed today. But she's healthy.

Sadsack 2 Sadsack I

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

There's always one

If you watched the Golden Globe Awards show last night, then you heard Dennis Quaid introduce a clip of the movie, Brokeback Mountain, with a tasteless joke: Let's just say it rhymes with chick flick. His audience responded with verbal silence but audible discomfort.

All I could think was, What an ass. Is it any wonder Meg Ryan left him?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Let me spell it out for you: R-e-d-u-n-d-a-n-t

By definition, arson, is a crime. And crimes are, by nature, against the law, right? Right. I've heard of taking a bite out of crime, but banning crime? The powers that be in this great city in which I live apparently think it a good idea, or that we're all a bunch of idiots. Evidence can be found on the electronic notice boards situated on every freeway and normally used to let drivers know traffic conditions or Amber Alerts. Lately though, the boards have been utilized to announce something else: ARSON/BURN BAN IN EFFECT. Right, got it. Residents and guests alike, be warned: in Texas, there is a ban on outdoor fires. In Houston, there's a ban on arson. When it's lifted, feel free to break out your matches once again.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sunrise sunrise

I've put forth so many words describing my mornings, what I see, what I hear, how I feel. But I'm unable to describe this one. If you were there at 7:00 this morning, you know. If you weren't, these give you an idea. Still, you should have been there.

sunrise 001

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Breaking bread, drinking wine, spinning time

I haven't been here since your father and I were here together.

No, she hasn't. It has been a while.

Where did that table come from?

You gave it to me.

I don't remember that.

I used to have it as my dining table, remember? I put the leaves down and now it's here.

It looks good here, but I don't think I've ever seen that table before.

Kathy and I look at each other with the smile we share often now, the one that says I'm shouldering this with you.

Come upstairs, Mom.

We escort her upstairs; she clings to me with one arm, the banister with the other. Upstairs she smiles.

You've done a lot.

Yes, Mom, yes I have.

She eyes the bar.

Would you like a drink, Mom?

The question is as unnecessary as if she'd asked me if I would. I pour a Scotch for her, bitters and a slice of orange, a glass of champagne for myself and the same for Kathy.

Mom & me

We go through the living room and upstairs to the bedrooms. She looks at the photos from my horse show days. Somewhere in her mind she remembers the horses, the competitions, the ribbons. She stands on the stair and studies them in watery recognition but cannot focus on the exactness. Moving on, she does recognize the photos in the upstairs hallway. Catherine, Edward, Uncle Peter, Dad, the professional sitting of my brother, sister and me when we were children, her bridal portrait, the photo of me young and wild haired sitting on my first pony. The photos of her as a child with her brother and mother, of she and my father on their honeymoon. These she remembers. She looks at each one and walks on, eyes as wide and sad as the full moon.

I know this is hard for her. Her daughter the photographer and she the mother who has never held much interest in photos. Watching her walk through my halls it's no wonder. A series of people she loves and has lost, if not to the passing of time that takes us from innocent laughter to wisened sighs, then those she's lost to death.

You always liked pictures, Alison. You know you share that with your father, he always liked pictures too.

I do know, and I smile at her words, happy that it passed on to me. Happy to hear it again.

I don't remember that picture of your father. It's a good picture but I don't remember it.

I don't remember it either; I found it after his death when I spent months obsessing over all his boxes of photos. He in that red dinner jacket, the glass of wine in his hand, perfectly manicured nails, the watery sparkle in his blue eyes. We stand before it, both hoping it was us he was looking at like that.

She shakes her head and moves with me through the rest of the rooms. A part of her is nicked by these photos of her life and loves; a bit of blood trickles from her heart the rest of the evening.

All through dinner we share stories. Travels, Paris, airplanes, childhood, New York. She's all here, all mine, all ours. She's missing him and embracing us. She's sad and perfect and fragile. It's a fight for her to be here, to be awake and aware and present. But she wants this, and she's trying, bless her, she is trying. They become special, the times like this.

When its time to leave, she glances across the room, says, I haven't been here since your father and I were here together.

I hold her hand and sigh. No, Mom, no you haven't.

With help like this, my Saturday chores might take me just a little bit longer than they normally do

Warm clothes Mmmm warm clothes

While I answered the phone, she took the opportunity to jump onto the warm pile of clothes I had been folding. I'm just not sure how she managed to get herself squarely beneath the folded dish towel without disrupting it one bit.

Friday, January 13, 2006

There but for the grace of God goes she

She stands on the edge of the median, a few feet from my window, holding her sign at me. Hungry. Need help. God Bless. The words written in mixed capitals and lower case letters in thick black pen on a piece of worn cardboard. Waiting at the red, I wonder who she belongs to, what path led her here.

Being this close to her takes me back to the Fred years.

Fred took his place in a long line of my sister's boyfriends, standing between husbands five and six. He was tall and reed thin, always wearing a dirty truckers cap over his dark and dirty hair. His face looked older than his years, and his fingernails like his clothes were always dirty. I'm not sure Fred was ever clean.

He had a lot of theories in life, Fred did. One being that he didn't believe in working for anyone in any sort of conventional way. To Fred, having a boss was a form of slavery and no one had a right to tell anyone else what to do. I used to watch my father shake his head in complete confusion and disappointment when Fred would pitch his theory in response to the questions, What are your plans? How will you support yourself? Fred did dabble in what he called the recycling business, a fairly white collar term for what is more commonly known as dumpster diving. He and my sister would sometimes bring over salvaged toys to the children that I'd take from their little hands and throw into the trashcan as soon as possible. Fred liked to speak his theories, not defend. If there were ever any argument on the reality of his theory of work, or the likelihood of any success in the recycling business, he'd turn and walk away. Without a spoken word, but with her clinging to his hand and hanging onto his ideals.

What it was about Fred that had her loving him the way she did I never could figure. They left for a better life in Gulfport, Mississippi. His words, a better life. She quoted him when she called from Louisiana to let us know. Hitched a ride to Gulfport. He had family there. He wanted to start fresh.

It was over four years before she was seen or heard from again by her family. There were a few phone calls here and there, well-meaning strangers informing us where she was, telling us she needed help. Dad would send money and hope the well-meaning strangers really meant well and got it to her. One woman called from a flower shop in San Antonio to tell us that my sister was living nearby with her dreadful boyfriend. We asked the address and she hesitated before saying, Well, under the bridge of the overpass. She went on to say that she provided work for my sister in the shop when she could, just to give her some money, you know, for a meal.

So powerful her love for Fred that she'd live under a bridge to be with him.

Can you find your sister?

I can try.

She needs to come home. She's hurting her children and she's hurting your mother.

He looked at me with his own pain flowing from his eyes.

Find someone who can help us, a private investigator maybe? Start in San Antonio.

All roads led to nowhere and the Private Investigator I found got fat on the checks he cashed, but stopped returning my calls and never did return the photograph I'd sent without making a copy, the one I'd borrowed from her son. There's a special place for that man.

Vanished in the name of her love for Fred.

A couple more years passed.

As suddenly as she had disappeared, she returned. Sitting on the front porch one New Year's Day, waiting for her family to come home, a paper sack with her belongings beside her. She'd follow him anywhere, but apparently could not follow him to jail. They'd been back in Gulfport, he was picked up after a couple months. His family didn't know what to do with her so they bought her a bus ticket back to Houston.

She acted as if two days had passed. We were happy to see her but cautious, confused, resentful that she did not come home on her own decision but instead was sent home. How can you trust that? She didn't consider that an issue. To her thinking, she was home and that was that. The project that is her now out of Fred's hands and into ours. An apartment was secured, furniture given. Dishes, pots, pans, towels provided. Groceries put into the fridge and pantry. Another fresh start in her nine lives.

Several months later, Fred got out of jail and returned to claim her. A woman like her though, she needs a man by her side. By the time he returned, her eye and heart had already shifted to the man who would be Husband Six. Another shifty character to be sure but this one had a job, a roof over his head, and considered trash cans to be something you put trash into, not pulled lunch from.

We never saw Fred again.

I pull a five dollar bill from my wallet, roll my window down. Her eyes dilate with the possibilities. She thinks I'm generous but I know she's drawn the luck of cashing in on the memory. I tell her, Please don't drink it. Buy something to eat. Take care of yourself. Please. She says, God bless you. As I drive on, I watch her tuck the bill in her jeans pocket, turn to the oncoming cars and get back to work.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Oh Lord my load is heavy

Cell phone
Wallet full of change and one photo of my niece, two of my nephew, two of my youngest Godchild, one of my friend, one of my father. And six of my dog.
A packet of gum (Polar Ice)
Small bottle Advil
So Magic! perfume
Small bottle ginger and lemon hand lotion
Small bottle of lotion from Chicago hotel two weeks ago
Weekly Planner
Two tampons
Glasses Case
Small notebook
Lip gloss
Two Chapsticks
Blush brush
Face powder
A crumpled piece of paper with last week’s grocery list
One, two, oh wait, yes, three lighters. Only one is mine so that means I have once (twice) again taken someone’s lighter without realizing.
Six pens (Six!!)
One pencil

What is it about a day that I think I cannot get through without these essential items? Bugger.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

When two cars crash into each other, somewhere a flower blooms

In the beginning Today

The flower pot and bulbs were a Christmas present from my best girl in Vermont. Everyday I've been watching the green shoots break through the dirt and stretch ever-upward. It reminds me of elementary school science projects - toothpicks piercing and holding up the avocado seed growing roots in the water-filled plastic cup placed on the kitchen window sill, or planting the bean in the Dixie cup and waiting ever so patiently for the little sprout to break through the dirt and lift its head to the light. The progress of this growing green life in my house has been equally enchanting. I've been observing the changes daily, slight as they have been but undeniably there. This morning's changes weren't slight at all. The first blossoms broke through their shell sometime during the night and this morning they greeted me with the palest white and sweetest scent.

And I returned the broadest smile.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

She says / She says

A day after the accident and it's finger pointing and make believe scenarios, even a make believe witness.

I ask the claims agent of her insurance company, What witness?

The man who was in the passenger seat.

Later, my agent tells me that the supposed witness had called him to make a claim, that the witness is an employee in the department she manages. It's a company car and a company insurance policy. I grit my teeth. How conveeeeeeeeeeenient to have an company-employed witness.

There was no passenger. No man, no woman, and no child for that matter.

Her agent tells me that the woman and the witness are disputing my statement of the accident and my claim to her insurance company. She tells me that this woman states that I hit her. I tell the agent that the damage to both vehicles will reveal a different story. My damage: Driver door and front panel. Her damage: Front of SUV and right side of bumper. Unless I was driving sideways, it's impossible for me to hit her and get that damage. Her agent goes on to tell me that the woman stated she was not on her cell phone, and her light was green. I suddenly have boiling blood. I become hot shot big important person and state that I'll take this to the courts and subpoena her cell phone records to show that she was on the cell phone at 8:37 when she hit me, and I'll get the city to provide proof that the light had been as yellow as the shining sun when she drove through it.

The agent tells me to calm down. I deserved it, so apologize and explain that I'm reacting from my surprise to the fabrications of her client. I tell her again that when she sees the damage to the cars, she'll know that her client hit me, not the other way around. I give her the address of the dealership that has my car. Unbelievably, she then tells me that I should not count on this being settled in my favor. Further, she tells me to file a claim with my insurance agency because she may not get out to the vehicles until two weeks time and her company will not be responsible for my rental car fees.


My lesson in all of this: In the future, I will ignore the city's request to not call the police for fender benders. If I had called the police, they would have given her a ticket, and that would be the end of it as far as make-believe witnesses and responsible parties.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The all too dangerous combination of purple jade and yellow light

Her light had been yellow for a bit. I pulled from the driveway and across the non existent eastbound traffic to get into the empty westbound lane. I'm barely moving, there's a car that must turn south before I can cross into the westbound lane. She was heading eastbound, on her cell phone, right through that yellow light, shining briefly on the top of her speeding gigantic Ford Excursion.

When you're stuck, time slows and you leave yourself to watch safely from a distance. I saw her but there was nowhere to go. The car before me was making its left turn and I was moving but so was she. I turned to see the white barge coming for me, I saw her cell phone to her ear and I saw her face. I don't know where she came from but her journey came to an abrupt and screeching halt when she smashed into me. The sound of our cars introducing themselves to one another shattered my distance and pushed me hard along the street.

Fact: A Honda CRV is no match for a Ford Excursion.

I stay in my car and look through my driver's window at her. She's so close that what I notice is her earrings. I motion to drive to the parking lot beside the very one I just left.

Parked, she gets out of the car and smiles at me, says, I haven't been in a wreck since highschool.

Large purple jade drops on gold wires swing back and forth from her earlobes as she flips her hair. The small silver hoops on my own ears don't move at all as I contemplate what the hell she means by that, by what she said.

I ask her if she is okay. She does not answer, nor does she return the question.

She says, I didn't see you at first.

At first?

I'm not angry, I'm not anything but shaking. The accident has stripped my nerves and I can't think of anything nice to say in response so I say nothing at all.

We exchange insurance and phone numbers, say goodbye and get into our damaged cars. I sit in mine for 20 minutes before the shaking subsides. The vision of her SUV coming towards my window loops over and over again in my mind. It is something I've always feared and imagined, and in an instant can now fear and recall.

It's funny where your mind goes, what it keeps and what it discards. Right now, even though it was only this morning, I couldn't tell you what she was wearing, couldn't tell you the colors or if she were in a skirt or pants, long sleeve top or short. But those earrings, swaying carefree on her lobes in grace and defiance of the horrific sound that metal crashing into metal makes, those earrings I can tell you about.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Morning re-discovered

Early winter morning. Cheyenne spins circles at my feet, and I have to hold her to put on the collar and leash. We set out into the dawn. She doesn't know it but today is the day we return to the path along Buffalo bayou where she can run down the hill and along the path, unleashed and out of control. We have not been there in too long a time but she's strong enough now for the distance.

Outside, it's as quiet as an untold secret, and the near-dark hour is gaining light slightly, slowly. The morning dew is fresh and heavy on the grass and above us on the wires, the twittering birds. We weave through the neighborhood and I watch and listen, absorb. Color is everywhere. The sky a whitish blue, a pale gold sunlight highlighting the damp tree branches. The fallen leaves of brown and fading yellow. The paperwhite bulbs have broken through the ground, some blooming, some still reaching. The neighbor's nightblooming jasmine fills the air with a sweet smell that Cheyenne's twitching nose says even she seems to notice.

When we reach Shepherd, she clues in on her return. Practically dragging me to Memorial and across the wide street, she suddenly has the strength of a sled dog. At the top of the hill, I remove her leash and she tears downhill in an all-over wiggling joy that is her own, except for mine to witness.

Morning girl Sunlit path Lit up
Old glory Downtown Live Oak

Seasons have passed since we've been here. I've missed being near the changing but relish in being here now, in seeing the bare branches and the broad view they allow of the length of Buffalo Bayou and in the distance, downtown. In contrast, the River Oaks and Live Oaks are full and green and steadily familiar.

The rising sun makes our shadows stretch long across the path and hill. I stop for a moment, look at my dog, look at the trees, and smile. I feel tremendous joy and peace of mind in discovering this again, this beauty which has called me and quietly waited for our return.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Yes Virginia there is a Bevo

Ten days after Christmas 'Ol Santa Claus had one more big wish to grant, but no worries. He knew his tallest elf ever, Vince Young, would take care of it. And that he did. And all over Texas, Bears, Cougars, Aggies, Owls, Red Raiders, Mustangs and Horned Frogs are showing a distinct shade of burnt orange pride.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I think the whole lot of us feel the same way, 'cept I'd say Get 'Yer Guns Up Horns!

Today Only

Registered BE

Something has been bothering me for several days now. I can't shake it, so I'm going to share it. I caught a background piece on New Year's Eve in Times Square and it mentioned the tons of confetti that would be dropped at midnight by Dispersion Engineers. I work with Engineers, lots of them. Chemical Engineers, Environmental, Civil, Construction, Electrical, Mechanical, etcetera etcetera etcetera. And they may conduct dispersion modeling regarding stack emissions, but a Dispersion Engineer? No. I think that the Engineer title is being tossed around with about as much care and meaning as that confetti had while drifting downward.

That said, I'd like to take advantage of this and announce my new title for 2006: Blogging Engineer.

Monday, January 02, 2006

It's a given that I shared the New Year's Day good luck black-eyed peas with her

Mmmm, yummy

The new dawn

I admit that I was on the edge New Year's Eve, completely sideswiped by my sudden mixed emotions on the changing year. But what happened when I woke yesterday morning was the realization that they were my fears only. A day is a day, the calendar year doesn't separate me from my father any further than losing him has. And the storm that blew through me that night was the very thing that though a bit fragile, left me feeling released and at peace in the morning.

As Cheyenne and I set out on our walk, a low fog wrapped the grounds in a soft white, and a gray sky outlined the crowns of the Oak trees and bare Sycamore branches. Soft as silk. After an hour, the sun burned through and turned it all into a glistening scene of dew on the sparkling grass. Nothing settles me or shows me more promise, more hope than what I discover in the mornings. It was important for me to have this first day of the year at the cabin, to breathe this air and to be among these little things that sweeten life. Indeed, I looked around me and thought, You can do it. One day at a time. You are doing just fine.