Thursday, June 29, 2006

Beware the turtle

Beware the turtle that has fallen into the spa and absolutely terrifies the Pussycat Lab.

Dog sees turtle

After she discovered the turtle, she ran around the spa three hundred times, stared at the strange and terrifying creature in disbelief, got closer, jumped back, and with great caution, approached it again. Repeat 30 times. She then noticed that her ball was floating in the main pool, right where she would have retrieved it had she not gotten side-tracked when she first noticed there was a strange and terrifying creature in the spa. She went into action mode, glanced at the turtle, glanced up at me, jumped into the water and retrieved the ball, then quickly tossed it onto the patio and ran back to the spa to again-and-oh-so-fearfully check out this creature. And circle the spa another hundred times.

Approach II

Eventually, I pulled the turtle out of the pool and sent it on its way in a nearby ditch. The minute I shut the gate to the back yard, Cheyenne excitedly retrieved the ball from the patio and dropped it at my feet. As I tossed it into the water, I couldn't help but think, That's my girl - protecting what's valuable in threatening times. For all she knew, the ship was sinking and someone had to grab the champagne.

For the love of the ball

Throw the ball

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

She sells sanctuary

A girl can create just about anything when she sets her mind to the joy of starting and finishing a project in the same day. It doesn't look like much in this shot but there are also flowers in the flower boxes and pots beside the Ficus that's blurrily creeping into the picture, and there's new flagstone leading into the yard. And there were two big garbage bags full of weeds and dead leaves. It all started with my walking outside with a broom to sweep the little patio. It ended three hours and four bottles of water later with me slowing climbing the stairs in filthy sweaty clothes, my left hand on the pain in my back and my right hand on the banister for strength, my face red, shoulders sunburned, and my mind cursing itself for waiting until Noon to begin. Still, pleased, very pleased with myself and my little sanctuary.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Time and Tide

A friend of mine wrote me a heart-wrenching email this morning. I had spoken with her last night, after what had been too long a distance without hearing her voice. Life has been letting her down lately, in the names of trust and love. Over the past few years, life has sculpted her into someone I wonder if she would have been if not for the unnecessary lessons and subsequent wounds.

In her email, she wrote this: I just cannot be a party to my own oppression.

Powerful words. I stared at the sentence for a while, thinking about the years it has taken her to recognize, learn and write it. Years.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Little Brown Guilty-as-Guilty-Can-Be

She had gotten in the trash and scattered it everywhere. I pointed to the mess and firmly said, Cheyenne, bad dog. She melted. Blinking and squinting her eyes and putting her ears so flat and far back that they all but disappeared at the back of her head.


She couldn't even bear to look at me, she was so ashamed.

Guilty II

She got down on her side, all passive, full of caution in her face and pleading for forgiveness in her eyes. Her ears still back flat, hoping maybe I'd somehow confuse her for a little brown seal that just happened to wander into the room.

Guilty III

And not a minute later, total boredom with her mea culpa.

Guilty IV

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A prosperous future, more earning power and the admiration of all

I got an email from "Robyn" yesterday. She was offering me a diploma that, according to her, I've already earned. Based on my present knowledge and life experience, I can - for a small fee - obtain the degree I deserve, said she. Then, she elaborated, I can get a promotion and the social advancement I desire. Best of all, this program eliminates classrooms and studying. If I choose to purchase the program, I can achieve my Masters, MBA or PhD. My favorite part of her email though is at the closing where it said, Your graduation is only a phone call away.

I was reading the email when my coworker came into my office laughing and carrying a print of the same email. Hers wasn't from Robyn though, hers was from a guy named Mike. The subject line on her email was Hot 'n' New Degree or Diploma of Your Choice. Throughout both emails, the word, Degree, was spaced out funny, like De gree and D eg ree and Degr ee. Which of course led us to think that Robyn and Mike were likely graduates from the program.

Also under email opportunities, the Japan Lottery Board has notified me that I won $1,000,000.00 in the lottery on June 14. And, you’ll never believe this, but I got another email from them notifying me that I won $1,000,000.00 in the lottery on June 17. Same numbers. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? And, it all took place under the watchful eyes of 18,000 spectators, so it must be true.

We’ll see which advances my social life quicker: Two million dollars or my new PhD.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Kindness in email

"Don't be afraid to tell people you need help. If you need anything Alison, if you need me to run some errands for you or do some grunt work or annoying things that you can't be bothered with, just let me know. I can always help you if you need me.

I love you and your Mom a lot and will keep your family in my prayers and thoughts. Take care. "

Monday, June 19, 2006

Reason No. 42 why I will forever celebrate that man

Just up the road and around the bend from one of the houses I grew up in was a drugstore with the standard issue pharmacy but also a well-rounded gift selection that included items for young children, high-school and college grads, and other items such as vases, scarves and figurines. When mother went to the drugstore, I was often in tow and while she got a prescription filled or browsed the aisles for what she needed, I was contented to walk the aisles of the gift section, dreaming I'd one day have that Barbie doll or that paint-by-number set.

It was there that I first eyed what I thought would be a perfect Father's Day gift: a small glass bull figurine with blue eyes and orange horns and hooves. I cannot recall exactly why my just shy of seven-year-old mind thought that bull would be the gift for my father, but I do remember picking it up off the shelf with great care and noting the price. And I remember thinking that with my allowance and some extra chores, maybe picking up pinecones or taking out the trash, I could earn that money and buy that bull for my father.

Which is exactly what I did. I was determined, and I kept my plan secret. Not the easiest thing at that age. I didn't even let it slip to my mother when I matter-of-factly requested that she take me to the drugstore so that I could buy something, with my own money. I was adamant about her not walking with me to the gift aisle, or standing near me at the cash register. She was amused, and definitely curious, but respected my secrecy.

On Father's Day, before my father could have his first cup of coffee, I was on the scene with excitement, presenting my poorly wrapped and overly taped gift to him. When he opened it, he looked at me with a bit of confusion on his face, surely wondering why I had chosen this little bull for him. Someone mentioned that he had gone to Princeton, not UT. There was laughter. Too young to comprehend college mascots or hook-em horns, I wasn't so young that I couldn't realize that my gift had meaning I did not know or intend.

I was gutted. Fat tears began to spill from my eyes and drop onto my quivering lower lip.

Seeing my reaction to his reaction, my father's about-face was immediate and complete. He shushed the teasing and began to gush over that bull, how thoughtful I was and how impressed he was that I had picked it out and used my own money to buy it. On and on he went about how pleased he was with the gift. In an instant, I was put back on top of the world.

Not content to stop there, he elevated the little glass Bevo to the highest of honors in our house by placing it on a shelf in his office, where it sat among other select items given or collected over his life, items of which he was particularly proud or fond.

Where it sits, still.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Don't tell me I've nothing to do

Left brain, balance, strength, conversation, speech, comprehension. Motor, sensory, connectivity. Important part of her brain. The stroke was large. The bright spot on the film is in the worst spot for her brain. Narrowing arteries, nothing we can do. But we suggest you try this. Therapy might work. Twice a week for speech. Three times a week for physical.

These are the words of the day.

I stand beside her, over her. I have no other purpose but to protect her, love her, understand her. I stand above her, and listen. She needs help, and I think I need help. But who am I to think so? I want the doctor to speak in words more gentle. Less clinical, somehow. This is my mother, after all. But the language is for me.

I am guardian, protector. I am daughter. I wheel her out of the building. Away from the words and into hope.

She gives me her confused, angry eyes, wonders why she is here. She wants to be treated, not assessed. In fact, she's angry that the doctor speaks to me, not her. She manages to tell me her disappointment in me on the way home.

Her disappointment in me.

I suffer the accusation. It's what you do. Slip of the tongue... It's what I do.

The nurse is home when we arrive. Mom pushes against her.

Together, we change her mind from anger to her hunger. We give her dinner; she demands a Scotch.

We wheel her to her room, undress and dress her. She falls into bed. I tremble but watch her drift to sleep. Exhausted. I watch her chest rise and fall, slowly. It's hard to tell she is alive. I put my ear on her breast to be sure. She breathes. I kiss her cheek.

She mumbles what I think is "Good night." Gggnaaabbb.

I turn out the light, stop halfway up the stairs, look out over the rooms of my mother's house.

Am I losing her? Or is she fading?

And isn't that one in the same?

I pledge allegiance

When I look up and see our flag flying, caught on a breeze, or hanging still, it always takes my breath away. This morning when I was out for coffee, I paused to take these and heard church bells ringing from the nearby church. That's about enough to make me pass out from joy of the senses. I know, I know, separation of church and state and all that, but still, for me to hear the bells and see the flag, was to have a moment of joy in my morning that was not only a complete surprise, but also completely needed.

DSC_0006 DSC_0009 DSC_0003 DSC_0008

Saturday, June 10, 2006

As sure as I'm standing here, this is the present

Two steps lead to the front door. The first rises about four inches, and the second about six. Between these, the brick landing is about five feet wide. After the second step and before the front door, there is about eight feet of porch. I take these steps from door to driveway without thinking, without considering the movement or calculating any sort of risk. She eyes them with caution and grips my arm tight. I have you. You're okay. Her grip does not loosen. Stopped at the first step, she looks to the front door as if it were on the horizon. She looks back at the first step, raises her left foot but cannot bring it forward. She lets out a short, frustrated sigh, steps forward a bit and tries again. Wobbly and afraid, she succeeds. Again she looks at the front door, her goal. And she faces the next step, breathing hard and hanging on. She looks at me with eyes that implore me not to let go. Again I tell her she's okay. You can do it.

Inside the house, she climbs into bed, exhausted from the afternoon of doctor appointments and negotiating unsure paths on unsure feet. She looks at me and whispers one word: Die.

She does not want to be a burden, cannot find any peace between needing and accepting help, or more to the point, accepting that she needs help. She wants to give in and let us care for her, but can't let go the frustration that she is unable to do these things, to walk unguided, to eat a meal without assistance, to take a drink and hold her own glass. She does not want to unravel.

The house is quiet, the lights low. She rests. I walk to the kitchen and turn back to the livingroom where I see previous times of celebration. Christmas parties, Thanksgiving gatherings, my brother's wedding reception. I can hear voices no longer here, see faces long gone. I see my father in his red sports coat, opening a bottle of champagne and raising his eyebrows at me. I see Christmas morning and smell the tree, I think I see ribbons on the floor and discarded wrapping paper. I see her in the entry way, perfectly dressed, perfect hostess. She's holding the conversation, her manicured nails drifting in a red arc as she moves her hand in the air, her red lips curving in a smile around her words. I see friends in the chairs, on the couch, there's warm life filling the rooms. I see all that was once here, all at once. And I stand still and remember.

I shake my head, turn around, place the dishes in the sink.

When I turn back again, the voices have hushed, the memories faded back into the walls. The house is quiet now, the lights low. She rests.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Holding shadows

On the bedside table in the guest room at my parents' house is a framed photo of my father in a Santa Claus hat. The day he died, I went home to pack my clothes so that I could stay at my mother's house and I grabbed that photo off my dresser and tossed it in the suitcase. I took the photo about ten years ago at our Christmas party. I've always liked the way he looks in the picture, his head slightly turned to me, a smile on his face, his blue eyes looking right at me.

Whenever I think about bringing the photo back home, I can't bring myself to do so. On the nights I stay at my Mom's house, I like having it there beside me. I'm comforted by his presence, instilling it with meaning and purpose as if he were watching over me through the portal of his photo.

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

I do not know when she began her journey, nor do I know how long she'll travel or what path she'll take but I do know that my mother has taken her first steps towards him and away from us.

Her words tumble in shapeless sounds without meaning. Her eyes are cautious and filled with fear and need. Her body defies her will.

This is personal. And devastating. Something goes on here, something that must be guarded and we all feel the need to be protective. It is also quiet and with the same feeling of watching a child sleep, a mixture of peace and urgency hover in the room. Hush the phone, keep the lights low, let her rest.

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

Last night I sat in her driveway and looked at the bright moon through the branches of the tall Pine trees in the front yard. I felt a warm breeze circle my shoulders and closed my eyes and took a slow breath. Above me, the leaves were restless.

Later, with my suitcase unpacked, and Cheyenne's water bowl filled, I crawled into bed exhausted. Reaching to turn out the light, I paused to look at my father on the bedside table. His eyes looked back into mine. Much was said, but no words were spoken.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A weekend in Vermont in the rain with my niece, my dear friends and two little girls who laugh so wildly that their whole bodies shake with their joy

I needed exactly what this weekend gave me. Big fun. Big love. Pink tootsie toes. Proportionate umbrellas. Lots of hugs and silly kisses.

DSC_0023 DSC_0020
DSC_0012 DSC_0013
DSC_0014 DSC_0020
DSC_0006 DSC_0008
DSC_0029 DSC_0024

Friday, June 02, 2006

Windows of Boston

Last night after work, my coworker and I took a cab to Cambridge where her boyfriend and two of his brothers own a tavern. We sat at a tall table by the open window in the front and watched the dark sky rumble with a storm and then drop rain in straight lines because there was no wind. All evening, the big window stayed open, allowing us to smell the rain and enjoy the storm from the dry comfort of our table.

This afternoon, we took a break from our work and I picked up my camera and took this picture of the view outside our conference room window. I love this view and found it so difficult to keep my mind on my work yesterday that I had to change seats so that I was not facing the window. Today I loved it even more because of the rain and the clouds. Today I sat in the chair facing the window, just so I could look up every now and then and have this to see.

My kind of window display


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Well I love that dirty water

When the sun glows through my window at 5:00 in the morning, I stir with the light and for a moment think that the bedside clock is wrong. Then I remember that I am in Boston. And I go back to sleep. But that only lasts until 6:15 when my eyes and my body and everything about me says to get out of bed and go for a walk because it's not every day that just one block away is the oldest public park in the country.

Boston Gardens Fountain

Although the Boston Commons was not formally incorporated until 1837, the 50-acre plot was set aside as military training grounds in 1634. Knowing that delights me to no end as I stroll through the park, looking at the giant Willows and Chinese Maples. How often is it that I can stroll past a cemetery established in 1754, 22 years before the 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence and became states? Thin slate and stone grave markers dot a small hill, informal yet stately still. I walk on, wondering about a woman named Sarah who died in 1800.

Lake Park Benches Agapanthas

There is something about Boston that I'm never quite able to describe. Big city, indeed, but without the temperament. Small town charm, but without the small town. Saturated in history, humming with the present. Charming, to be sure.