Monday, January 29, 2007
I was in Sardi's in New York with my mother and a friend watching the Kentucky Derby last year when Barbaro sped to his place among those champions. The crowd gathered around the televisions in the bar went insane during that race, voices raised, joy screamed, strangers' arms grabbed in anticipation . Mom turned to me excitedly and said, What a horse!
Two weeks later I watched the horrific moment when Barbaro's life forever changed, the moment that ultimately was the beginning of his end. As his jockey heartbreakingly struggled to bring him under control, I recalled in 1975 the same scene unfolding as I watched Ruffian fall to Foolish Pleasure. Not since then, have we so publicly seen such an instance of horror in horse racing. One searing moment of dread and dismay. Shock and knowing creeping in. These gentle giants cannot withstand such an injury.
And yet for a time Barbaro seemed to defy that. Over the past eight months, I've followed his recovery, rocking back and forth with his progress and setbacks. In the end, those who loved him most did what was merciful.
Mercy aside, in the end it's not the horse who did this to the horse. It is us. Last summer alone, in Chicago's Arlington Park, 17 horses suffered fatal accidents. Between 2003 and 2005, on racetracks in California, there were more than 240 fatalities. Two hundred and forty. There are myriad reasons, too little time between races, too pushed for qualifying times, too much drive and expectation. Too pushed for fame, too pushed for the purse. These horses, mighty as they may be, stand on fragile legs. Laminitis stalks a leg injury as opportunistically as cancer a cell.
May the racing world be reminded yet again the need for changes to a flawed and greedy system. Let the burden of this tragedy rest heavily upon the shoulders of those who have the power to change the system, and let it raise their minds and actions to those changes.
Barbaro's name will forever stand at Churchill Downs, etched in history among the giants who preceded him. Like them, he had a heart for racing and a body built for the wind to chase. May that giant's heart now rest. Painlessly. Peacefully.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
To say that I am fanatic about all things Fleetwood Mac would be a mild statement. I have no idea how many of their concerts I've been to through the years, but it's well over 30. Come to think of it, I have no idea how many album to tape to CD purchases I've made through those same years but I'm sure if I'd invested that money elsewhere I could retire very soon. Suffice to say that since Rumours, I've spent countless hours of my life inside the music of that band as well as the solo efforts of its members.
For Christmas, two friends who know me very well and have been dragged to several Mac or Stevie Nicks concerts gave me tickets to see Lindsey Buckingham. This should tell you that I am blessed in the generosity of friends department. It was also their brilliant way of saying that they know I want to see him and they support that but no way in hell will they be joining me for a two-hour guitar solo by Lindsey Buckingham. To them, his solos are when they go to the bathroom or buy a beer or walk the venue in search of Advil and ear plugs. To me, well, come on, he's a Guitar God. Those tickets were a great Christmas present. And the concert was Friday night.
He stood on that stage, a blue light behind him, guitar in hand, and sang his new stuff and his old stuff, and some Mac stuff. And I sang and smiled and tapped my toes the whole time. And before I knew what was happening, it was over. But we knew better - the band loves encores - so we ran up to the front of the stage and stood there like faithful disciples awaiting his return. And when he walked back on that stage and started the first notes of Holiday Road, and we were right there, I could have passed out from musical joy. But then he looked right at me and we locked eyes, and although only for a second or two, it was still eye-to eye, and then I really could have passed out. I mean, to lock eyes with Lindsey Buckingham while he's playing his guitar is to connect with a legend.
On Saturday when I called my friend to gush and thank her for the gift, I told her how close I was to him and how we locked eyes and how, well, COOL, that was. Through the phone I could hear her rolling her eyes. She said, Of course he locked eyes with you. He recognized you as the blond stalker who followed them to six shows last year. I'm surprised he didn't point you out to his security team.
Ahem. All I have to say to that is I have never gone to Tulsa to see Captain & Tennille.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
The dog food? Not hers.
The behavior? Typical.
I don't remember what my neighbor Mary and I were chatting about, standing in her front yard. Cheyenne was off leash and, while we were talking, disappeared. Then it was all, Where did Cheyenne go? And we set off in different directions to find her. I walked around the side of the house. Mary went inside the house. She found Cheyenne, grabbed a disposable camera off her desk, then raised her voice a notch or two, Cheyenne!
Oh so busted.
The dog peering through the back door with, What the? on his face is Bear, the dog whose food bag Cheyenne is wearing.
Monday, January 22, 2007
In a way, it was like catching up with an old friend. But there's no overall theme to this particular friendship, no high school or college connection, no binding moment or shared connection. There is no central plot here. I realize that I cannot categorize this site beyond my journal. And that's okay, it just makes it unclassifiable, like when you're left no choice but to check Other in the answer box of a survey response, or perhaps looking in the odd bins. Or even maybe writing etc., when your words fail.
So be it. This is other.
What I've posted about most often is my father. I had just under 25 posts when I lost him. For those 25, he loved that I was doing this, enjoyed reading my words. But then his life and, naturally, this site became something else, something other. Death and loss seeped into my heart, my life and my words. IWSI became the journal of a grieving daughter. And it's still saturated with that, as am I. I'm always keeping my eye out for the white feather.
For the past year, my mother has figured heavily into my writing. Her strokes, her unraveling, the long nights, the many hospitals, the communication and the sadness. The realization of the horizon. The love and heartbreak of my journey as a daughter mothering her mother.
Always throughout there has been the little brown dog Cheyenne, and nature observed, hope realized, travels chronicled. Friends. Pictures. This spot has been a place for the daughter, friend, griever, mourner, photographer. A place for the woman who shares her observations through words and photographs. In an odd way, it's been a place to hide. In plain site, but still. It's been a place for me to express myself as desperate, fortified, hopeful, hopeless, prayerful, loving, knowing, positive, negative, angry and, yes of course, happy.
And it's been a portal through which I've discovered friends, some briefly connected and others landed. Honestly, I've been given some true gifts through the landings. In particular, Ghost and Just Golden, and NG and Sass. I've been through hurricanes and birthdays with them, first dates, anniversaries, newborn sons, new puppies, and new ventures. Which reminds me of Velvet, a delightful story and history discovered on my internet doorstep, one that I'm still savoring as my own but will share in due time. For different reasons and at different times, they've each made me feel welcome and understood, and allowed me to offer it in return.
The title of this post? That's from a conversation I had with Mom tonight. She's somewhere else in her mind at the moment, somewhere where she needs to tell me that there is a pair of colored shoes - size 4 or 8, she can't recall - in the trunk of her car, and she wants me to have them because she got them for me. I smile at her, tell her I'll be sure to get them. And I thank her.
I don't have to go to her car, I know there's nothing there. It all makes as much sense as anything else I've experienced and expressed here. Happy, blue, hopeful, colorful. Life. All of the above, and Other.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
As I was sitting in the chair, I could not get the Smith & Hawkcen catalog out of my head, the one I looked through before going to bed Friday night. The catalog featured terrariums, and I realized that I could not possibly live in my house a minute longer without at least one terrarium.
Until I got to the store and saw the terrarium containers. Ornate designs, elegant and sleek and a bit delicate looking. Not something that would fit in my house which, when I look around, I realize I apparently prefer to resemble the comfy interior of a barn. A terrarium of the Smith & Hawken variety would be as out of place in my living room as a Tiffany necklace on a horse. But they had bulbs and old looking pots that were packaged together with all the dirt you needed, on sale from $38.99 to a mere $8.00. Terrarium schmerium, what I needed was Paper Whites in and a rustic looking pot. And I bought a couple extra bulbs for a couple other sufficiently worn looking pots. And the ever-important moss, so you're not just looking at dirt in a pot on your counter while you're waiting for your Paper Whites to sprout skyward.
There's something wonderful about putting your hands in good soil, about planting and watering, something so warm and soothing and life-affirming that I could not leave well enough alone with planting the three pots with dirt and bulbs and moss. Nope, I had to step onto my teeny tiny back porch, all covered with soggy felled leaves and hopelessly dead plants in window boxes and iron baskets and big terra cotta planters. An hour and a half later, dead plants had been removed, dead leaves raked and bagged, and stale dirt turned for aeration. I felt good.
And then I gazed at the neighbor's bougainvillea that had creeped over and along my side of the fence. It was a beast with menacing thorns that could take my eye out, a mass of branches so thick I could stand beneath it in the pouring rain and not feel a drop. And I thought, Why not tackle that as well? The answer should have been, Because you got a manicure this morning, but instead was, Well, you're out here anyway. No small undertaking, this involved two types of pruning sheers and a ladder. When that was finally over, still not able to leave well enough alone, I cut back the Confederate Jasmine that was threatening to take over all other living things within five feet of the fence.
And then, just for fun, I pulled weeds.
The teeny tiny back porch, the walkway, the fence and the yard are well-groomed and clean once again. Sadly, the same can no longer be said for my fingernails. Ugh, my fingernails. That manicure that I had recieved six hours earlier? I look down at my hands and see that my nails actually looked better Friday when I looked at them in horror and picked up the phone to make Saturday morning's appointment.
I blame all of this on Smith & Hawken and their damn Terrarium catalog.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Annnnnyway, when I got home from Target, I put the single bulb and all the unnecessary and dreamy purchases on the counter, fed the brown dog, took her for a walk, and went out for dinner (after giving her a treat, mind you).
She was at the door when I got home. And on her face was that look. I walked up the stairs having no idea what I would find but knowing it would be something. She lunged ahead of me, and when I rounded the corner into the living room, she threw herself down on the rug beside her prize of two slightly torn open boxes of soap, and did so in a manner that sighed adolescent first love, a manner that spoke to the boxes as something she created yet still needed to breathe life into and draw from, and I who feeds her and walks her and puts her to bed with down pillows beneath her head, and pretty much wipes her ass if she needs it, I had the NERVE to interrupt her. No more guilty, I'm-so-sorry-I-can't-stand-to-be-alive-please-don't-stop-loving-me look on her face, just a pure and bizarre sort of, well, soap love.
I did what I normally do: I shouted, CHEYENNE, NO!
She looked up at me without a modicum of sorrow on her face but instead an expression that said Hey, I live here and who invited you into my home? I swear to you that if words could come from her mouth, she'd have told me to leave her the hell alone with her soap. Dammit, Mom! GO AWAY. I'm busy here. I need my space.
As if I'd walked in on her masturbating.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Am I dreaming? Has our world fallen apart? It seems to have done so without you. I want to tell you how hard it is, how sometimes I want to quit. I want to tell you how much I understand you now. The funny thing though, the dark but funny thing, is that when I put my shoes on, I feel you and I hear you asking for my help and I know that quitting is not possible. And then I realize how much you did and how relieved you were by my help. We took care of our family, together.
I wipe a tear, hang my head. I recognize the moment as your own. At this point, you'd ask me for help. Now I'm asking you, father. I need help.
Father, I'm asking for your wisdom, I'm asking you to tell me. How do I help her and him and her? How do I help them and still work my job and my time and still absorb the love and answer the needs and carry on? How do I fill the shoes you left me to fill, answer what is asked of me? How do I keep your voice? How am I you?
I miss the shape of your name in my sentences. I miss your watery blue eyes. I miss your gentle hands. I miss your voice and your love and your heart. I miss your face and your presence and your wisdom. I miss your humor and your support and belief. I miss your love and I miss the days before I grieved you. I miss your life, father, I miss your life.
I am rounding a corner, softening sharp edges, breathing dull gashes, returning. To that day. It's you, I feel it.
It's not you. It's a haunting. The calendar, the memory, the loss. The void. I stand up and wait for you to tell me you love me.
You're there, aren't you? I hear you. I feel you.
The earth spins. The seasonal talk of Superbowl Sunday begins. I turn my head, my stomach tightens. Again the reminder of the day, of your leaving. That day again, that square inch on my calendar. It's just a shape. But it's a day and a date. My head falls into my hands. It marks a life lost. Your life lost.
It's coming. Soon you'll have been gone for two years. Two years, father, two. The last words you said to me were I love you Cat. Two years.
I have no idea how I've made it these years without you.
She said it best... In a way that is my own, I begin again.
There's no choice. I walk, I run, I freeze. I worry, I cry, I laugh. I pray. I get out of bed each day and I try, I just try. I take care of her. And her. And him. For you, for me. I do it because I am you, because that is what you gave me, you taught me, you passed on to me. I haven't left you, father, I have not left you or your many lessons. I carry you on. I'm taking care of things for you, I am.
But oh how I miss you. How I do miss you.
I say it out loud.
I miss you.
And on the flip side, if you live in Austin and the roads are iced over in some places two inches thick and all schools are closed and warnings are made to stay off the roads, is it really okay to ignore all that and get on the road anyway just so that you can eat barbecue at the inauguration of our useless Governor? I think that is an unacceptable risk on so many levels.
There has been one bright spot in all this, however. And by bright, I mean amusing. No one I know hates weather like this more than my friend Reading does. I'm still chuckling to myself from yesterday when she asked me what I thought her bosses would say if she called in cold.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Sunday, January 14, 2007
The red lights blink back and forth, back and forth, in balanced rhythm with the slice of steel wheels of the train delaying me from getting home. It is a pulse, loud and urgent.
A receipt is snagged by a leaf in the puddle along the curb. It is out of place, on a journey.
I turn back, think I should have held the door open for the elderly man. My arms were full, I was a moment too late. I sigh at the missed opportunity.
A drop of water on my windshield connects with another and another, a stream across the glass. I watch the streams form, connect, separate. They look like veins. I feel detached.
She curls on her side, her left hand on the pillow, palm facing upward. She sleeps. Peaceful and painless.
I sit beside her, watch her chest rise and fall. To be sure. Loving and fearful.
Friday, January 12, 2007
He's a jack of all trades, this one, a renaissance man in dirty jeans, if you will. He's hunted bear, befriended Dusty Hill, given the most poignant eulogy I have ever heard, and run a shooting range in Juneau, Alaska. He has done several stints as a bouncer in the roughest territory, has transported jailed criminals from jail to courthouse and back, has taught numerous self-defense classes, and held (still holds) more shooting medals on a local, state and country level than I can recall. He built a small plane from a bicycle and gave his younger sister the aerial tour of Juneau on that plane. He has drifted his canoe beneath glaciers and sent me images of a blue not found in RGB or Pantone. He was the only person outside immediate family to ride with and sit with the family at my father's funeral.
Today, he lives about 30 minutes outside of Houston where he runs a shooting range that he designed and built. Over time on that range he has collected several goats, a donkey and a llama. Because that's who he is. Not a dog, mind you, he has a llama.
So when he came over the other night for dinner and a visit, and he brought out his new laptop to show off, I should not have been surprised when he said in a completely untroubled voice that he had to get a new one, because the damn goat ruined my other one.
Simply, that's who he is.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Where are you?
She screams it.
I've lost everything... everything.
She sighs it.
She looks at me. She looks beyond me, beyond the ceiling, the room, out the window and beyond the tree tops, the sky. What she sees I have no idea but she is focusing there. There, mind you, not here.
Mom, I'm right here. Can you see me? I'm right here. You're okay.
She slowly turns her head to me, towards my voice. With little concern but great effort.
She looks right into my eyes and breathes her words with great concern, I don't know when your father is coming home. Sometimes I think he won't come home at all.
I take a breath, shut the door on her words, on my tears.
Be brave, I hear my father's voice tell me, be brave.
I think he is home, Mom.
Whispered, like her words, resigned like her words, I think he is home.
And I do, I really do. But how do I tell her? I look upward beyond the ceiling, the tree tops, the sky. I look upward to him.
Later in the car I tire of feeling, of bleeding. I sit rigid. Everything is fine, she's okay, I'm okay. No, really, I'm okay.
I look down at the cast on my arm. Foolish girl. I'm so angry with myself for how I handle (don't handle) the pain. But for tonight there's no room for the anger, or sorrow. No room to take it out on myself. Don't do it again, I tell myself. Painful lesson I've learned. Painful to hate and blame inward, and take it out on yourself. It occurs to me that no matter which direction I take, there is pain. I hear Be brave, but I want to scream, FUCK IT ALL. I mean, seriously, I do. Scream it out loud to the skies. But what would that do but startle the stars? I will not scream because I cannot. Because letting it go would be letting go. And that can't happen.
Instead I choose change. I choose a beer, a pizza, a blue neon camel flickering in the window. Simultaneously passing by and joining in is the circular rhythm of red ambulance lights. I watch the patterns across the room, think that beneath those lights are troubles belonging to someone else. I take a breath, feel the red circle through me, think about the lives passing by, think about Mom, think about quitting.
And then she walks through the door. To see me.
A friend. A smile. Her love, her laughter. Her. Compassion is given, understanding is inhaled, stories shared. In the moment I feel healed, alive, present. For the moment I feel joy. I look upward, thankfully. Friends. She feeds me with her presence, she feeds me with her laughter. I breathe her gifts. That she exists and I know her, that gift is all I need to feel good again.
I close my eyes and inhale it all, willing it to stay but knowing it will pass.
At home I tell myself that nothing has changed because nothing can change. But I'll tell you this much: Tonight a friend showed up. Just because she loves me. And her presence warmed and soothed me. It felt good and right and like the days when tomorrow wasn't a thought at all, much less a concern. She balanced the reality. She made it comfortable to breathe.
Tomorrow I'll be bedside again. I'll read Winnie the Pooh to my mother, because that's what we do these days. It's okay but it breaks my heart. Tonight I'm alright. I swing sleepily between the balance of the friend reaching in and the daughter reaching out.
This is what keeps me from the cliff's edge. Because it's enough. Because it has to be.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
My history class is a group lecture. It was the weirdest class I have ever been to. The Professor had us move the chairs around so we would all face him in a U-shape. He said his purpose was to make us think and figure out what and who we really are. Stuff like that. But then he pulled a flask out of his jacket and this girl started coughing at the same time. She took a sip from her bottle of water and he told her she should stop drinking vodka. She was all What? He said sometimes people put vodka in water bottles to make it look like they're drinking water. She asked him if she could have a sip of his vodka then. And he said he didn't drink. He was trying to point out our assumptions. It was a bit crazy.Mind you, that's her history class.
It shot me back more than several years ago when my Logic professor walked into class on the first day. He stood before us and asked what color shirt he was wearing. It was red and we collectively said as much. He responded that in an alternate world red could be white, or yellow for that matter. And in a perfect world, which did not exist, any answer would be correct for all colors exist in part in other colors. He then told us we were incorrect to say it was a red shirt. I had thought that class would be Venn Diagrams and such, and I still remember sitting back in my chair and realizing with a bit of trepidation that it would be about much more than circles and commonalities. Indeed it was at trip that kept me on the edge the entire semester, one that involved art and math and a healthy dose of Plato. And throughout the way, instruction on thought.
There's some good stuff going into her head.
Monday, January 08, 2007
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Symbolically, I was thinking how the rain washes clean, how water renews.
Before we drove out, we visited Mom in the hospital. I've not seen my mother smile in months but when we stood beside her bed and told her that we were leaving to Austin, getting Cat registered and moved into her dorm at the university we all wanted her to attend, the smile on Mom's face was one so bright and pure and filled with love, that I will carry it my heart for the rest of my days.
Her dorm room was a sad site when we opened the door, like all dorm rooms are before move-in: grey and cold, waiting for personality to be taped, tacked and draped across it, waiting for life. And that it now has. In her usual way, she has made it her own. When she refered to the space as her new home, my heart lurched. But then she gave me her full moon eyes when I left her to sort through what she didn't want my help with, the same huge eyes she gave me when I took her on her first Merry-Go-Round. It'll be fun Peanut! Fear and excitement. Hanging on, moving forward, letting go.
In her wallet is her student ID and her class schedule. In my wallet is the receipt for dorm, meal plan and tuition. It is pressed against the receipts from Target and Linens and Things and the campus bookstore. In her wallet, her class schedule. On the back of my car, a decal of her school letters.
Last night we had big plans to hit 6th Street but I am no longer an eager 20-year old on the weekend before 2nd semester sophomore year, so at 6:30 when I realized I am instead age-appropriately drained from all our activities of the day, I called her and we decided it best that she come to the hotel and we have room service and watch a movie. Which we did. An obscene brownie for her, herb chicken for me. A bit of champagne (me) and a bit of Dr. Pepper (her). The movie? Jackass II. She laughed; I cringed. When she left, I hugged her a little longer than our usual hug length. For old time's sake, I asked her to call when she got home so that I'd know she got home safely. We laughed. Ten minutes later, she called.
This morning we went for breakfast and then to the Farm to Market organic grocery store near her school. She walked through the store happy and relieved to find all her favorite organic and vegetarian brands, and smiling at the fresh produce and fresh flowers. Two Gerber Daisies later, we returned to campus. As we drove along the winding drive up the hill to her dorm, I wondered what I would do in the next moments. Would I cry? Would I bite my lip? I had no idea.
What we did was walk to her dorm's front door, arms around each other. I reminded her to enjoy this time, to show her colors, to work hard. I told her that her family loves her, and that her Grandfather would be very proud of her, and to remember how very much he adored her. Then I held her face in my hands, looked her in the eyes and told her I loved her and I believed in her. And then I kissed her cheek and let her go.
And walked down the hill to my car with a smile on my face as big and wide as the Texas sky above me.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Before we go to the orientation, I'd really like it if you put a brush through that hair.
It's no big deal, those words, not really, but they are parental and adult enough to make the college student I used to be take a step back and kick the adult I am now. In the shin.
I'd really like it if you put a brush through that hair? When did I become someone who says that? I guess the answer to that is this morning when I saw the tangled mess of her hair and watched her sort of pat it down and look at me in her way that says, Okay, I'm ready. And the sentence just came out of my mouth. I didn't tell her to do so, mind you, just told her I'd like it if she did.
And she did.
Parental manipulation skills? Check.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Note: Her concerned face is because she's afraid of this bridge and I have asked her to stop and turn around for a photo.
Monday, January 01, 2007
Last night, I dreamed you were telling me your dream. I didn't pay attention to that as much as you were sleeping beside me. When I woke, there wasn't that gift of a few moments of being awake and forgetting how much pain I was in. Each time I woke up during the night, I knew you were gone.
I prayed last night, prayed for the strength to get through this and everything else. To be able to carry on, face the challenges on solid ground. Right now, I have no idea. I begged for it. Friends tell me I'm strong, I'll get through this. I don't feel that strength; I feel run over, and weak. I feel tired and I feel that walking is more like crawling. I feel shocked and gutted and broken. I feel as if I've lost my father all over again - something I believed in and someone I love is gone. Just like that.
I threw your strawberry jelly away, took the photos down. I'm trying to convince myself I never really believed it in the first place.
It's hard to breathe; it's hard to eat. Especially because while I'm able to stomach toast, I've managed to burn it three times already this morning.
Yesterday when you called I asked you if you when you were flying back. You said that your ticket was for Monday. I shook my head at your non-committal response and asked you if that was when you were coming. You told me you weren't sure, that you had to talk to a lot of people, you had a lot of talking to do, that you just ran when you came here and you have to fix a lot of things. You were crying. You named several names but my own name was not mentioned. I was crying.
This morning when I walked Cheyenne, under the blue skies of a brand new year, I thought of you and the times we've made that walk. I missed you so. My heart could not lift up to the beauty around me; I felt that I was somehow darkening my surroundings. How something that has been my ritual and inspiration for five years can in such a short time turn over and become sadness for me, saddened me more so than I already was. I have no idea how I can reclaim it and make it mine again.
I'm terrified of now. I'm terrified to be in this new year and to have so much pain and know there's more coming. I know I'll lose Mom this year, and I know I'll stand alone. I know you'll be back today or tomorrow or someday soon and you'll pack up your stuff and get on the road back to your home. I know that will be the last time I see you.
So much has happened in such a short time. It's a fall from happiness, a fall from grace, a fall into darkness. Friends say I'm strong, but I just don't know anymore.