Sunday, May 31, 2009

And just like that

I can't remember how old he was. My friend told me last week but I can't recall his age today. Maybe it's because when she told me the battle he was suddenly facing, my first thought was He's too young.

I only met him one time. When I first got out of my car at her mother's house, he said they were expecting me and he let me in the house. I thought he was her mother's yard man. Turns out I was only a little correct. He did do that, voluntarily driving a hour there and back each week to take care of his mother-in-law's yard needs. But he was my friend's sister's husband. He was the father of two young and beautiful daughters, two bright handfuls of curls and questions and energy, of life. He was a son, a brother, a son-in-law, an uncle, someone's friend, someone's buddy. He was a husband and a father.

Early this morning, he passed away.

Two months ago, my friend and her mother joined her sister and husband and daughters on a vacation in San Diego. He was tired, they told me. He had complained that his back was hurting.

There was the doctor's visit when they returned home. Then the devastating news of Stage IV Sarcoma. I remember my friend saying over the phone, There is no stage five.

This life holds its secrets like a sea shell holds the sea,
soft and distant calling like a fading memory
This life has its victories but its defeats tear so viciously

Cowboy Junkies ~ This Street, That Man, This Life

Friday, May 29, 2009

I love this guy

This guy, his sister and their cousin are three of my favorite people in this world.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Most of the time

It's a lost day, a nothing day. I won't bother to search for meaning, as I watch the colors of my hours blend and fade into beige, blend and fade into no meaning at all. It's the phone that doesn't ring, the changes between me and you. It's the hours I spend on the internet searching for something, anything, to make me feel connected. I am searching for anything meaningful, anything I can sink my teeth into. I'm looking in the wrong place. I'm arm wrestling desperate and I'm not sure who will win.

Lately I can't figure out how to put that into any conversation.

And I don't know how to tell you as much.

It snagged right here. I looked back on the past. Foolishly, on a dare I pitched to my heart, I'm writing my Mother's story. It begins with taking everything from this site and copying it over to Word. It will continue through the journals, the diaries she gave to me. The diaries I didn't read until it was too late to ask questions.

But the thing is, the thing is... before I copy the words, I read the words. I read my interpretation of what our last five years were like, what she and I experienced together as we travelled a strange journey, one in which we switched roles. I read the words of a terrified and loving me, a terrified and loving her.

I copy the words, paragraph by paragraph, year by year. I copy five years of her life, my words about her life. I unzip what I've kept shut for years, ignite a spotlight on her demise, on my watching. I step into our secret past and the warm waters of our curves, our mystery, our being mother and daughter together.

It always happens when I get this close. I stumble over my aching heart, slip on the top stair, and fall into the darkness of my being without her.

Reading the words I wrote but don't remember, I see each letter lift from the screen into a color, a smoky color, a color like the shadow of green falling on green. Before I know it, we are back there, my mother and I. I see the memories and I feel the words. I feel her arms scoop me up to the sky and bring me back to her chest, to her heart. I see the past and I wonder what happened to us, the little girl and her young mother.

I shake my fist at the clouds that carry us away.

We grew older together.

We made mistakes together.

We lost each other.

We found each other.

I grew up and she lost me all over again.

I returned.

She grew older and we lost each other.

I drive to my neighborhood convenience store, just around the corner. It's not until I put the car in park that I notice the man. He's an hispanic man. He's an obviously drunk man. He's a man who leans against the building, lurches forward towards the lights of my car. This man's shirt is yellow, with "Keep Austin Weird" in faded print on the back. This man watches me, says to me, "See what I mean lady? Oh wait, no, how are you? No, that's what I mean."

He stumbles and recovers.

He asks me to buy him a beer.

I look at him for a fraction of a second, then quickly put my eyes to the sidewalk for safety. I'm afraid to smile. I was told not to smile. Protect yourself. Look up. Look forward. Look strong.

Always I smile.

Always I look up, look forward.

Always I'm strong.

Today is like being 20 again, like being bored and colorless. Like not knowing I'll one day ask to forgive myself for believing that always being brave could even come close to meaning most of the time.

Monday, May 25, 2009


The faces of Memorial Day weekend. The faces that made me smile and laugh. A lot.

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The complete cast of characters:

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Friday, May 22, 2009


There's a lot I need to do today and yet I'm sitting here on my couch, sipping coffee and watching the Today Show as if I have all the time in the world to get those things done. I need to pack a bag, and pack Cheyenne's food, bowls and treats. I need to pack the water toys, bug spray and chairs. I need to go to Costco and get the groceries. I need to return something to the Gap. I need to have all of this done and be ready to head out by 2:00 for a three-day weekend.

Where am I going? San Marcos. I've rented a house on the San Marcos river and over the next three days and nights, that house will be filled with my niece and her boyfriend, my nephew and his girlfriend, and friends of mine who are like Aunts to them, and of course since we're all dog-lovers, a whole pack of pups! There will be swimming and tubing and grilling and Scrabble. There will be laughter and music and love. There will be a lot of high-SPF sunblock, and there will be photos.

There will also be three days of disconnect from the internet.

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend. And please pause for a moment on Monday to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for this country.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A brief respite, part II

It's easy to go to the cabin for just an afternoon, a night, a morning. Although I much prefer a long stretch of time there, it's not really necessary when it comes to shredding stress and recharging my batteries. Just 24 hours of its green trees and blue skies, the wide and slow Colorado river, the house that my parents built together, and I'm right with the world again.

As for Cheyenne, she runs her batteries into the ground when we are at the cabin, and it takes her a couple of days back home to get right with the world again.

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I took this photo early this morning. The sun was over the trees, but the air was cool and the river was quiet, just the breeze moving across the water's reflective surface.

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The fish were jumping, so Cheyenne could not completely relax, even though she played so hard the afternoon before that she was moving quite slowly this morning. As pained as she may have been when I snapped this photo, we must admit that the girl is a darn good model, yes?

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This bench is one of many of my special spots at the cabin. I like to drink my morning coffee while sitting on this bench. I like to watch the birds flittering and fluttering though the enormous Live Oak tree that spreads its limbs across the porch, providing a blanket of soft shade and the oh-so-teasing dappled lighting.

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My heaven is less than a hundred miles away.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A brief respite

Less than a hundred miles from here, the Colorado River flows slow and lazy past our family cabin and towards Matagorda bay. There's a certain spot on a hill where I like to sit in the grass and watch the river and empty my head of all thought. Right now I can see that spot in my mind's eye and I can see the white tufts of Cotton Wood seeds floating on the breeze. I can feel the sun at my back, and the breeze on my face.

I'm heading that way in about ten minutes. It's a short trip, just a day. But the place and the river are calling my name. The upside of being unemployed is that on a Tuesday afternoon, I can answer.

Monday, May 18, 2009

For a ghost in the fog

Revelry, by Kings of Leon

What a night for a dance, you know I'm a dancing machine
With a fire in my bones and the sweet taste of kerosene
I get lost in the night, so high I don't want to come down
To face the loss of the good thing that I found

In the dark of the night, I can hear you calling my name
With the hardest of hearts, I still feel full of pain
So I drink and I smoke and I ask you if you're ever around
Even though it was me who drove us right in the ground

See, the time we shared it was precious to me
But all the while I was dreaming of revelry

Born to run baby, run like a steam down a mountainside
With the wind at my back I don't ever even bat an eye
Just know it was you all along who had a hold of my heart
But the demon and me were the best of friends from the start

So the time that we shared, it was precious to me
All the while I was dreaming of revelry
Dreaming of revelry

And I told myself, boy away you go, it rained so hard it felt like snow
Everything came tumbling down on me
In the back of the woods in dark of the night
Paleness of the old moonlight
Everything just felt so incomplete

Dreaming of a revelry
Dreaming of a revelry
Dreaming of a revelry

Give it a listen.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

For a change

There are thousands (millions?) of idioms along the lines of the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. It's easy to look at what others have or do and think theirs is better than our own. For me, it's all about hair. My hair is fine, not fine as in okay but fine as in thin, as in body-less, shapeless, as in wispy or when I need a haircut, stringy. Color-wise, I have received countless compliments over my lifetime. I'm a natural blond and well into my 40's my hair color has not darkened much. And I've had more than one friend run her fingers through my hair and tell others to feel it, it's so soft. And that should make me happy, the color and the softness, because we all like to receive compliments, don't we? But what I see is a flat and lifeless head of hair. Over the years I've more than one time broken the bank in attempt to get curl and body into my hair. I've paid for perms, root perms, and body waves, and have tried countless products that promise body and lift to my limp tresses. All for naught.

Even though I know better, even though I've had this hair my entire life and I've never won the battle, not once, I still occasionally succumb to my foolish dreams, thinking that maybe now my hair will somehow be different, maybe time has changed it somehow, or the vitamins I take, that something maybe (possibly, please) has changed. And so it was last Saturday. But rather than drain my entire bank account, my friend suggested that I let her curl my hair. And I did. She curled my hair in the morning, wrapping my hair around over 30 curlers all over my head. Then she stuck me under a dryer for an hour and then I wore the curlers all day until five minutes before I went out that evening.

When she unrolled the curlers out of my hair, I had curls. Curls! Me, with curls. I had curly hair!!! I walked across my living room and felt the delicate bounce of the curls and delighted in fact that my head was filled with curling spirals of curls. I felt tiny curl-bouncing breezes on my neck and I became a walking exclamation point. I was Shirley Temple on the good ship Lollipop, ready to tap dance my way into the curly haired hall of fame.

My plans for the evening were to attend a surprise party for my friend's father, held on the patio of a friend's restaurant. The patio of course is outside and this being Houston, the humidity was, well, it was typical for Houston which was 100%. My curls were in the fight for their curly little lives. For about 30 minutes after I arrived, they were winning. Slowly though, the curls drooped to waves and the heat and humidity pulled at them until they ultimately caved and fell. I grabbed my back-up plan hair clip from my purse and pulled the whole droopy mess to the back of my head and off my neck. My beloved curls had a lifetime of about 90 minutes.

Still, I'd like the world to know that for a brief period of time on Saturday May 9, 2009, I, Alison Groth, had won the battle and had a head full of curls.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Let's have another look, shall we?

My little courtyard is now complete. Complete as in there is water in the fountain and the motor works because there is now power out there. And the airconditioner is hidden by the new lattice fence that was installed yesterday after the fountain was completed. This morning I sat outside and read the paper while Cheyenne rested at my feet and the sound of the water falling tickled the air. It was pure delight.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gardenia beauty

This flower is from one of two potted gardenias my friend gave me for my birthday a couple years ago. I love the smell of the blooms as much as I love the contrast of the bright white flowers against the glossy green leaves. About every three days this time of year, I clip a flower and put it in a vase beside my bed, and just before I turn out the light I breathe in the glorious scent. It's a nice stepping stone on the path of a good night's sleep.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Him, her, her and me

Today is my father's birthday. I'm missing him something fierce today but I'm also happy and dancing and feeling joy because I love him. It's the funny man I'm thinking about today, the joker, the schemer, the story-teller. That man lived life to the highest and he enjoyed every minute. He also loved to fish, and was very good at it.

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Today is also Mother's Day. I embrace not only my mother today, but also her mother. Great women, both. From them I learned to read. I learned words and sentences and an affinity for crossword puzzles. I learned how to hold myself, how to sit, cross my legs, and what fork to use. I learned to stand on my own and to never back down from my beliefs. I learned that women can be anything they want to be, and I learned to have fun.

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All three of these people, my father, my mother, my Grandmother, loved me very much. I'm so grateful for that gift. So very grateful. I'm a very lucky girl, I am.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Isn't she lovely?

May 7th, otherwise known as today, is my mother's birthday. When you lose a parent, and the calendar pages tumble over the days year after year, there is a tremendous tide, a flood of past and present, and tense. And questions. Was it her birthday or is it her birthday? The stumble over past tense and present is an enormous obstacle.

I believe that I will say that the 7th of May is her birthday. It is the date that will forever be the day she was born, always be celebrated in the present, whether she is still alive or not, and I will always celebrate this day as my mother's birthday.


My mother had big white teeth and an enormous smile. She earned a four-year degree in Economics, in three years. From Vassar. The woman did not mess around. She was both graceful and athletic, had long and lovely fingers and beautiful muscular legs. As her daughter, I envied her legs and that grin of hers. I envied her Chanel red lipstick, her No. 5 perfume, and her beautiful face. But to her, her legs were too muscular and her teeth were too many. My mother also suffered from depression. She was intelligent, athletic, charming, flirty, powerful, graceful, loving, difficult, kind, brilliant with numbers, and a hard act to follow. She was human... and, my Mom. She was oh-so-smart, and oh-so-difficult, but also so easy to love, so very easy to love. I never heard my name spoken as musically as when she said it out loud. It is true that I've never loved another as I loved my father but it is also true that I've never known anyone as amazing as my mother. On my best days, my shining days, I am but half the woman she was. At my lowest points, my worst times, I only begin to understand the troubles she rose above. And I understand and admire her all the more, embrace her, for I understand the mountains she climbed.


Elizabeth Oxholm Groth was a beautiful woman, at times a happy woman. I'd like to think that she spent more time being happy than being depressed, but I'll never know that truth. She was a force to deal with, a mind to discover, a cunning opponent with a wicked and dry sense of humor. She was a fighter, outgoing and resilient. She was a survivor. An extraordinary mother and friend. She was an incredible negotiator and had a knack for putting you in your spot. She was proper and correct, full of manners and grammar and Latin vocabulary, full of style and composure, and she knew when to speak and when to keep her mouth shut. She also knew when to wink. She was an equestrian, a hockey player, a tennis player, a business woman, a mother, sister, daughter and lover. She suffered from depression and regret, from decisions made that she would never be able to reconcile. She struggled, my mother did, but she never quit fighting for her sanity, for her faith, her husband, her children, herself. She was a difficult puzzle to comprehend, a solid ally, a glorious beauty to discover, a loyal wife, mother and friend.

We were never closer than when I escorted her through the years to her death, than the hours upon hours we spent with Winnie the Pooh, the spoon-fed meals, the dreams, the touches, snuggles and kisses. It was a long road we traveled, a long walk, a painful yet precious path. It was a glorious time nonetheless. And she, she was an absolute beauty during the journey, the journey of our lives together. A beautiful journey it was. From beginning to end.

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you, as I did then, as I did yesterday, do today and will tomorrow, as forever.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The rest of the greatest week

Ah, Monday. Laundry is almost done. House is clean. Little courtyard and butterfly garden are thriving, green and blooming. (I excitedly check them almost hourly, as if I had a sleeping newborn out there.) And me? I'm happily reflecting on last week, a week I consider myself blessed to have had.

Wait a minute. It's not Monday, it's Wednesday. I wrote the above on Monday though and then I stopped writing because I wanted to give last week some time to thoroughly soak in.

Now I'm ready.

A highlight of my week was having lunch with my friend known around these parts as Velvet Sacks. I've known Velvet since I was 24 when she worked for my father's company but I'd not seen her since I was 24. We reconnected after my father's passing and have remained connected since. It was so good to see her, to hug her, to sit across the table from her and talk; I could have stayed with her for hours.Velvet has two dogs and one of them, Butch, is my cross-species love. Butch is blind and he has had a special spot in my heart since I first read his story and saw his pictures. Velvet invited me to her house to meet Butch face-to-face and, for me, that was like winning the lottery. Upon meeting him, my love was sealed. He is the happiest dog I have ever known, so sweet and so strong and a kissing fool!

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After leaving Velvet, I drove farther east to New Orleans and spent the afternoon strolling the city with my camera. I went there for my first Jazz Fest, and dinner with a friend who works for my old company who was in town from Oregon for the fest. Both the dinner and the fest were beyond my expectations. And I admit that my expectations were high.

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Then a friend flew in from Houston and are you keeping up with me and my week or are you starting to get exhausted? We hit the town Thursday night and then walked the town Friday morning and that walk included Chartres street, Jackson Square, the Mississippi River, all through the Aquarium, up Canal Street, along Royal and to this fabulous spot for oh my goodness the best oysters and Bloody Marys and is anyone ready for a nap yet?


Yeah, I was too. But instead we drove home for five and a half hours. And then I went to sleep. Which would be a perfect place to end this post but the next night, Saturday, my friends and I went to see Fleetwood Mac and although we've seen them many times, the Mac really rocked this show and so we danced and clapped and sang and screamed all night long. And my voice went into hiding until late Monday afternoon.

So, now it's Wednesday and here I am, still happy and grinning from what a great week I had last week, what wonderful people I know and met, the great food I ate and music I heard, and how lucky I feel to have experienced it all. Sometimes life takes us away from the ones we know and love and sometimes it takes those people away from us, and yet still other times, life brings back the old and gifts us with new. That was my week.

~ The End ~

Sunday, May 03, 2009


It's Sunday afternoon and I'm sitting here on my couch with my feet up on the coffee table. There's a basket full of dirty clothes that doesn't stand a chance of being washed today. There's a suitcase that may or may not be unpacked today. I've opened mail, but have no intention of doing much more. To say that I'm tired is to stay that the mighty Mississippi is a stream. I am exhausted. Happily, happily exhausted.

I have stories to share and photos to share but that would require energy on my part, energy that I do not have. So, in lieu of photos and stories from my week in Louisiana, I'll post photos of what went on here while I was away. I present to you my new butterfly garden and New Orleans-styled courtyard. I can now put a check mark beside my goal of wanting to transform my tiny weed bed of a yard into a place I can visit and enjoy.


Design and labor courtesy of Leyendecker Landscape. I highly recommend this company.