Monday, March 31, 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Lilies were delivered to the door yesterday

It's been two months since she died. Sixty long and painfully distorted days. How does one go on without their mother? Even though I do so, I do not know the answer to that question. Even though I make strides in my own life, though I have experienced laughter and have worked with focus, I turn to her voice, I pause to move a wisp of her hair from her forehead. I hear her at night, hear her calling for help, my memory of those nights making me sit up at her need.

Sixty days is an eternity. Sixty days is but a single thought in time. The days, the days, the days, stacking atop each other into weeks and now she's been gone for two months. How is it possible, this passing of time when no one is looking, this passing of time when I struggle to see her face, the shine of her cinnamon eyes?

How long it has been since I put my fingers through her hair, touched her cheek, told her I loved her. How long it has been since I said Mom out loud, since she said my name, since she said, I love you too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Discovery walks

On a stretch of ground on a corner in my neighborhood, beside a fence that long ago was new and painted white with young rose bushes planted along each post, is a tree still bare of any new growth. The rose bushes have stretched and woven their way along and around the fence, hiding a few boards missing here and there, hiding the worn and faded paint. One rose bush has grown a different direction. That one wraps around the tree. The most robust of all the bushes, it has climbed its way upwards and through the tree's bare branches. The bush is in full bloom, with fat pale pink roses bursting all over, climbing high. The tree is covered in blooms and scents not its own, a veil of beauty.

Each morning, I stand beneath the tree's branches and look at the roses blooming there and I think of my parents, and this song whispers through the clouds of my mind.

Plant a rose tree on his grave
And on mine plant a vine,
As seasons pass and markers fade
Watch them slowly intertwine
I’ve heard all the stories told about love(till death do us part)
But our love is a vow which has been wrought
From heart to heart

Cowboy Junkies, White Sail

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday, chocolate chocolate Sunday

My father always ate the ears off the chocolate bunnies on Easter. Today, it's the dog.* Only, she didn't stop with the ears.

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* Because of her weight-to-chocolate consumed ratio, she has had no ill effects from the bunnies. She has, however, had to get in the grass several times this afternoon.

From afar

It seems so long ago that I last saw her. Time flies, changes take place that you're not there to witness. Children grow and parents leave. And yet, when she arrives it's the same as it ever was. My friend, her family, all those hugs, the best Easter gift and a very happy Saturday!


Friday, March 21, 2008

Two jabs and a right

Continuing along in my goal to learn something new each month of 2008, March presented me with a bit of a quandry. I wanted to take another photography course. I'd taken one in January and in February, but the next level course I wanted to take is not being taught in March. I thumbed through the catalog of courses in other subjects and though there was a lot offered of interest, nothing that grabbed my attention would fit into my schedule. And then I walked past the answer, on the other side of a glass wall at my gym. Boxing. It had what I was looking for: something I didn't know anything about, and something that would be good for me. On Wednesday, I went to class. I can now tell you that boxing is not only a temendous full-body workout, but it's fun! After one hour, I am hooked. Next Wednesday? Boxing class.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring has sprung

The setting moon in the West this morning was full and heavy and a creamy golden color that glowed light in the navy blue morning sky. So close, it seemed, I reached out my hand as if I could touch the colors and light suspended in the sky. Moments after my hand came up empty, I turned to the eastern sky to discover an orange and deep pink glow at the horizon. A beginning unfolding from an ending, lightness from dark, a new season born from an old. The whole of life seen in the circle of one setting moon and one rising sun.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Everywhere I go

She's with me all the time. When I wash my hair, I remember when she'd wash my hair, gently keeping the shampoo from my eyes, careful that the water was not too hot or cold. She's in the crossword puzzles and in the clue, Meat with mint jelly. And 36 across, Wimbledon call. She's in yesterday's dreary weather, telling me not to let it get me down, there are lots of things to do inside. She's in the rings on my finger, the pearls in my ears. She's in the Easter cards I glance over with Happy Easter Mom printed on the front in swirling script. She's in the organization of my closet, the way I make my bed. She's in my heart when some struggle stumbles me and I recall her dignity and grace in the face of challenge. She's in my mind when I tell myself to hold my head high. She's in the tennis courts I pass when I walk the trail in the park, the tennis courts where I sat on the bleachers as a child, eating the popsicle she got me as she played her match. She's in every real estate sign I drive by. She's in the way I hold a fork, the way I use my knife, where I place my water glass. She's in my handwriting and the paper on which I write. She's in how I address a letter and how I answer the phone. She's the color navy and the fabric cotton, she's in the pages of every book I read. She's in every step, every move, she's behind every word. She is with me, everything I am, everywhere I go.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Seasonal white

At our old house so many years ago, my father planted a tree, a Japanese flowering plum or something of the like. When my parents razed our old house and built their dream home, they curved the driveway around the tree to spare it. Every Christmas we'd weave lights of white along its trunks and through its branches. Every Spring the tree blooms for a brief fantastic time of white. On Saturday I drove to the house to see what I knew was there, a tree my father planted, a tree in full and glorious bloom.


Friday, March 14, 2008

One big run on

My father bought the house for them years ago. Her husband paid my father the reasonable rent regularly. He went to work. She raised dogs and sold the puppies. She made a garden, tended flowers. For a few years, their lives were okay, even good at times. When my father died, my mother paid off the mortgage and gave the house to her. They started drinking again. He lost his job. There were fights, emergency calls in the middle of the night. Police were called. Often. Emergency Rooms were visited. She kicked him out and moved another in. He brought his unemployment and addictions with him into the house. There were more fights, more police calls, more Emergency Room visits. She wouldn't kick him out. Her divorce was finalized. Her ex-husband would return to protect her or to get his things or to get drunk with them. One night he returned very drunk, got out of his car, fell on the driveway and never woke from the coma that resulted. He died months later. She kicked the new guy out. He returned. She called the police. He left before they arrived. Repeat day and night. She got drunk on her own. She was lonely, she said, so lonely. She allowed him back in, someone to drink with. She was lonely. Out of the blue, her high school boyfriend called her, visited her, treated her well, fed her, tended to her, helped her get sober then moved her to Austin to live with him. She took what she wanted from the house and left behind what she did not want.

I found a realtor. A sign was put in the yard.

Today I drove by to check on the house, check the mail, assess what I need to do with what she left behind. I walked through the rooms, noticed the thermostat on 69, turned it off. Then I noticed the back door open wide and walked into the dining room. And there he was standing in the kitchen, drunk and shaking, holding on to a wheelchair in front of him, cooking something in a pan on the stove.

My nerves raced the chill up my spine. You know you're not supposed to be here, don't you?

He mumbled something I couldn't understand, something about being there to fix something. He was out of his mind. I didn't take a step farther. I had my cell phone in my hand, keeping my friend on the line with me as security when I had walked in the house, in case he was there, relieved that I'd thought of it. She heard me talking to him, told me to get out of the house, which I did. Then she said to call the police, which I also did.

And then I got into my car and started crying and I couldn't stop until I got home. I cried out of fear and I cried out of frustration and I cried because she left this responsibility on my shoulders and she doesn't understand what that means or that I don't want it, but mostly I cried because this is not what my father had in mind when he bought the house.

The surprise is the absence of Fleetwood Mac

One of the things that keeps me motivated when I work out is having my own music in my ears. The gym's music, though upbeat, does not move me to dig deeper or find the energy to continue even though a part of me might feel that I can't possibly lift another weight or complete the set, or stay on the bike for the ten more minutes I'm asking of myself. Certain songs simply pull that out of me, keep me going, fighting, moving. Lately, shuffling on my Shuffle, these are those.

Tom Petty - I Need to Know
OMD - Sailing on the Seven Seas
Nelly Furtado - Say it Right
Robert Palmer - Looking for Clues
The Hooters - All You Zombies
Jefferson Starship - Find Your Way Back
Ringo Starr - It Don't Come Easy
Queen - Fat Bottomed Girls
Led Zeppelin - Kashmir
Bachman Turner Overdrive - You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet
Public Image Ltd. - Rise
Eminem - Lose Yourself
The The - Giant
Visage - Fade to Grey
Squeeze - Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)
Styx - Mr. Roboto
The Call - Everywhere I Go
Richie Havens - Here Comes the Sun
The Gourds - El Paso

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Short rant

Soapbox. Stepping up.

The word respect is being tossed around my ears like those annoying hairs that won't fit into my hairband. I am tired of the assumption that respect, like innocence, is assumed until proven otherwise. I subscribe to the theory that respect is earned, and worth working to receive. I respect ideas and respect privacy and respect my elders and even respect some nebulous concepts, but as for people, they have to earn it, just like they have to earn trust. Show me your colors, show me what you're made of. Let's do some work together or travel a difficult road together. Let me see your qualities, your abilities. If one wants it so badly, perhaps the way to receive it is to stop demanding and start earning.

Soapbox. Dismount.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Grace loves company

In case you've not seen one before, this ball here to the right is a girl's best friend at the gym, in a brutally masochistic sort of way. There are so many ways to torture yourself with this ball, particularly your abdominal muscles. The ball I use is about two and a half feet in diameter. I sit on it and lean all the way back, put my arms in the air and then sit up and reach for the sky, and back and up and back and... after a while I'm in so much pain and breathing so hard that I have to put my head down on my knees and think happy thoughts while sweat drips down my brow. I also lie on my back and put the ball between my feet and lift my legs, while holding the ball, up and down, to the point of muscle fatigue, then rest. Then do it again. There are a number of other grueling exercises that I do with this thing, exercises that involve contorting my body into embarrassing positions, like the one with my bottom in the air that I'd rather not write about. It all sounds easy but it's not. In addition to the work, it requires balance, something I don't have in abundant supply.

Yesterday, my friend and I were on the mats 45 minutes into our overall workout, sweating and breathing hard and ready to tackle this last element of our program. She put the ball between her legs, lifted, and promptly dropped it. On her face. The look on her face was priceless. And we laughed, laughed like school girls. And that's where it started. I fell off my own ball, twice. More laughter. Laughter that involved the same sore muscles we were working, which made them hurt more, which made me laugh more. Serious gym-goers were eyeing us sideways with disdain because laughter, that's not what you're supposed to do at the gym. But what a release it was! It took a while for me to stop and focus again, but when I finally had that focus, the rest of my self-inflicted torture-ball time was with a definite smile on my face. As a matter of fact, that smile is still with me. Because, seriously, give two klutzes a rubber ball and all sorts of unexpected antics can take place.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The dangers of excess

When it comes to energy, when I have it I typically spend every bit. This weekend was no exception. In addition to the gym Saturday morning and organizing and cleaning out my garage Saturday afternoon, and the three-mile walk Sunday morning, on Sunday afternoon I decided to go to the garden center and buy five bags of potting soil, several pots and two flats of geraniums and other flowering plants. My little patio was blanketed in leaves fallen from the neighbor's tree over the Winter and the plants there were in desperate need of larger pots, the empty pots were begging to be filled again with dirt and plants. So, I tackled that project as well. I raked, swept, bagged, transferred, poured, planted and rearranged. When I went to bed Sunday night, I was delighted with myself for my progress over the weekend. Monday morning and even this morning, I'm still delighted but I'm paying for it in muscle currency. Two days later, I still have not refilled my supply of energy. It's only 7:00 in the morning and I'm already looking forward to going to sleep tonight.

But, my garage is clean and my little patio is alive with color.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Tumbalina gets a prize

Although I managed to walk three miles for charity yesterday without incident, later in the day I was not so sure-footed when trying to put one foot in front of the other in the short distance from my parked car to the front doors of my neighborhood grocery store. To put it lightly, I ate it. Bad. My foot met with a crack in the pavement and launched me forward and down. All the way down, hands scraping against the concrete, my hip, one knee and my arm slamming against the pavement, car keys sent flying across the parking lot, purse contents scattered everywhere. My lipstick rolling past me at eye level.

A young couple and a man helped me out. The man helped me stand up and asked me if I was okay, if my ankle was okay and if my arm was okay. Although my entire body was hurting and throbbing, I assured him that I was fine. The young couple retrieved my purse contents and handed them back to me. I thanked each of them for stopping to help me out, put the stuff in my purse, dusted myself off, assured them that I was okay, and started my way again towards the grocery store.

Walking towards me was a man carrying a dozen long-stem roses. He stopped when he got near me, pulled a single rose from the bunch, held it out to me and said, I think you could use this today.

How nice was that?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sunday, volunteer Sunday

This morning, Cheyenne and I participated in the Chevron AIDS Walk, a three-mile event to raise funds and support for those afflicted with this horrible disease. Three miles is not so much for me but Cheyenne blew out all her energy and enthusiasm after two and a half miles of greeting people and running ahead and running back and her normal over-the-top excitement, so she was moving a bit slowly towards the end. As soon as we got home, she drank the entire contents of her water bowl and fell fast asleep under the dining room table. Good dog.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Three Gs

This is my favorite photo of my parents and me. The occasion was my best friend's wedding, and this particular evening was the rehearsal dinner party. The wedding was in Rancho Santa Fe, just north of San Diego. I had been up there for the week and my parents flew in a couple days before the wedding. They were delighted to spend time with my friend's family in celebration of the wedding, and the three of us were excited to be there together.

Right before this photo was taken, my friend and her parents gave me a Maid of Honor gift. I held the Tiffany box in my hands and looked at my friend and her mother, then back at the box, and then slowly opened it to find a beautiful pair of diamond and pearl earrings. My mother could identify the color of Tiffany blue from a hundred yards and, as I held the box in my hands, I could see her light up with approval and curiosity. Both my parents were watching me and eager for me to show them what I had just received. After I wiped the tears from my eyes, I thanked and hugged Augusta and her mother, and thanked and hugged them again. Then I put the earrings on and walked over to my parents to show them. As I was leaning down to show them, my friend Donna picked up my camera from the table and asked us for a photo. This is that photo. It's a rare photo in that my mother allowed her picture to be taken at all and also that all three of us are smiling and our eyes are open. I like that our happiness shows so clearly. These are my mother and father's true smiles. These are our true eyes. My favorite color is the blue of my father's eyes.

Three VI

A couple days after the wedding, my parents and I flew back to Houston. When we checked in for our flight, I was upgraded to First Class. Naturally, I gave the ticket to my father as his legs were hurting him and I wanted him to be comfortable and, well, it was the right thing to do. Mother was happy to sit with me in Coach. When our row number was finally called, we boarded the plane. As we passed the first row, there was my father, sitting next to and talking with an absolutely stunning woman, drinking a Bloody Mary, a plated Shrimp Salad on a bed of spinach sat with silverware and tiny salt and pepper shakers on his linen-covered tray table. Not wanting to blow his cover, I just glanced his way and smiled at him as we passed. He smiled back and opened his eyes wide in that mischievous What can I say? face he used to make.

Mom and I were situated in our seats, awaiting our shredded barbecue sandwiches wrapped in microwave-safe cellophane, when she said that it was very nice of me to give my seat to my father. Then she harrumphed, But I could do without him sitting next to that woman.

She looked over at me, smiled, and shook her head. I smiled back at her, leaned over and put my head on her shoulder and we laughed. Together in our seats, we just laughed and laughed.

I miss her, so very much. I miss them. So very much.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

You must remember this

A good friend of mine read my words here recently and she emailed me some encouragement:

You must remember this: You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

I recognized the words but could not place them. I knew I'd written them before and read them before, but also knew they weren't my own. I wrote her back and asked about them.

She responded: That's what Christopher Robin said to Pooh.

How comforting it was for me that my friend sent me Christopher Robin's words of encouragement today. Not only is the message something I needed to hear, but the connection to my favorite bear, to Mom's favorite bear, has me taking the words and wrapping them around me in safe, cozy and familiar warmth.

I'm here for a pick-up

This morning before I go to the office, I will go to the funeral home to pick up my mother's ashes. My chest is a bit tight at the thought of it, at walking in alone and carrying my mother in my arms when I leave. As I wrote that sentence, I shook my head in a bit of disbelief. Carrying my mother in my arms.

Earlier this morning, my uncle, her brother, and I had a long phone conversation over our morning coffee. He shared some memories I'd not heard before and on my end of the line he had me in his hands, thirsty for his words and delighting in his stories. He spoke of when he and my mother were children how they would skate in Central Park and then skate to the Museum of Natural History at 79th and Central Park Avenue. The Security Guard at the entrance was a man they knew as Sugar. Uncle Carl tells me, "Sugar knew us because we were there every day. That's when Mom and Dad were both working so we'd spend our afternoons at the museum. Sugar would greet us in grand gestures and open the door for us." Uncle Carl chuckled at the memory, "Oh the hours we spent in Central Park and that museum. Hours and hours, so much time."

I'll be thinking about that when I pick Mom up, her as a young girl skating with her brother through Central Park park on their way to the museum. That's as clear an image of my mother's character as there ever was. And I have it now. I have that knowledge, that story.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Working through

Recovering from loss of a parent is a process and it takes time. Having gone through this before does not qualify me as better prepared. In fact, I've discovered that everything blurs, memories are not separated and the feeling of loss doubles. Grieving takes place in the heart, not the head. I'm not thinking my way through my grief as much as I am feeling my way through it. I'm not manipulating my feelings but allowing them and working with them. It takes time to locate how I feel, permit my feelings to surface and then deal with them, give them life, voice, time. At any given moment, I feel despondent, bereft, isolated, frightened and inadequate. Sometimes I feel relieved, and even thankful. And then, I feel guilty. While I understand there are no wrong or right feelings and that all are part of heeling, my heart is crowded and heavy.

A part of my life came to an end in January. And a part of my life began. Sometimes I don't know what to do with that.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Twice this week, someone has asked me the question, How's your Mom?

The question has been asked by two people I work with, but not on a regular basis and not in the same office as me. It's the hardest question to answer. I feel my face warm, the breath leave my lungs. And I cannot say that she died, I am not able to do so yet. My answer both times has been, We lost her in January.

And when I leave the conversation, I walk away thinking how true the words and how tremendous the loss.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Saturday, March 01, 2008

For the band's playin' one of my old favorite songs from way back when

The exact date and even the year are both outside my knowledge, but on a certain day of a certain year, and in a certain theatre in the city of New York, my Grandmother took my mother to Hello Dolly! during Carol Channing's first run as Dolly. Fifteen years ago, in Houston, I treated my mother to Ms. Channing's performance in her last run as Dolly. My father was relieved not to be dragged along and Mom and I enjoyed our night of just the girls. I delighted in Mom telling me at dinner about her first Dolly experience with her mother. I felt part of a special mother/daughter club and very much enjoyed my standing.

Tonight, I am going to see Hello Dolly! without my mother. And without Carol Channing. I'm a bit nervous, to be honest. I know I'll be missing my mother terribly. I'm only beginning to adjust to carrying on alone with what my parents instilled in me, even with such a small thing as love of the theatre and musicals. But I also know that when I'm there, I'll have my mother in my heart, just as my mom had her mother in her heart when she and I went 15 years ago. And I'll probably sing out loud and disturb my theatre seat neighbors, but I'll want to sing because in a way this will be like visiting the past and being greeted with, It's so nice to have you back where you belong.