Saturday, December 31, 2011

Home, sweet home…

He suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said “Bother!” and “O Blow!” and also “hang spring-cleaning!” and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel…and scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged… until at last, pop! His snout came out into the sunlight and he found himself rolling around in the warm grass of a great meadow….”

And so Mole temporarily abandons his burrow and gets involved in an amazing adventure with Badger and Rat and Toad…

And so it was on the last day of 2011 with that I popped out of my cave of an office and into the sunlight and took a walk with the cat. Of course it is not Spring--that is most definitely some months away, and I am not doing cleaning -- but it is unusually warm today, almost 60 degrees (even if a it is a bit breezy), and I too could feel the call…

Squeaker and I  took a walk out to the pond. I fret a bit about the pond surviving from year-to-year, especially when we have had drought, and indeed, it was very low as Summer segued into Fall. But, the recent rains have filled it up, almost to the brim. That means it will likely survive the summer.
Our land slopes from the house up toward the wood, and forms sort of a ridge, creating a beautiful south-facing slope where the wet weather spring flows along the the edge of the flat pasture.

I have often daydreamed about clearing some of the trees and building a house into the side of the slope.

Instead of heading straight back the way we came to the pond, the cat and I took a left turn and headed toward the spring. It has a bit of water in it from rain earlier in the week, and so we hopped across and headed up the slope toward the upper pasture.

And look-it here..

Someone else also had the idea of building a home into the south slope.

Yes, the cat has to look too.

Hard to say whether this house is occupied or abandoned. In any event, if someone does live here now, they have has not swept the porch recently.

And feeling much refreshed and invigorated, we head back toward the house. The cat is feeling so invigorated she does a typical cat thing and goes nuts (which is why I suppose our ancestors in the Middle Ages thought cats were possessed), charging around tailed bristled out like a bottle brush, and clawing her way up a tree for a few feet.

Happy New Year to everyone.

See y’all next year.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Kindred spirits…

Judy and I are standing in her kitchen preparing fresh fruit I brought with me that will be for a fruit salad. She is slicing red seedless grapes. I have sliced two bananas, and sectioned two tangerines and teased the seeds out them, and have carefully peeled the fuzzy skin from some kiwi fruit, and they have been sliced and added to the bowl. A lovely ripe pear is waiting. A can of pineapple has been opened and added with its juice. When I was buying this fruit, I thought cherries would be a nice, colorful touch, but when the cashier put the small package on the scale and I saw the price was $6.89, I decided we did not need cherries in the salad.

Charlie (Judy’s husband), his sister (yes Dot, you have ended up on the blog), their mother, and his niece Karen, are all working on a hard jigsaw puzzle of a very fancy snowman that has been laid on a large piece of green felt. 

Earlier, I was trying to help them with it, but not succeeding very well. I am somewhat spatially challenged. Even so, I  can see that laying out this jigsaw puzzle and getting people involved in it is an excellent way for people who do not know each other to become better acquainted. 

Dot is waiting for us to finish because she needs to put together a Waldorf salad and fix broccoli.

My husband and the other two husbands, Jimmie (who belongs to Dot) and Rick (who belongs to Karen), have moved into the living room and are occupied with a new Kindle Fire that was Rick was given for a present. Richard has hollered at me a couple of times for the names of the reference books I use for editing. I can imagine wheels turning: he will be wanting to buy one of these and load it with the dictionaries and the style guides I routinely use.

As Judy and I work a way chatting about this and that, I hear my husband’s voice and his laughter coming from the living room. My heart lifts. It can be a bit frightening to walk into a room of strangers who all know each other, and I know Richard was nervous about how this was going to turn out. My husband is a rather shy guy. It appears that they have hit it off and that they have things in common to talk about, and that he has found kindred spirits in these two very nice men. He tells me later he really enjoyed talking with Rick, and that Jimmie was very witty and funny.

I was worried about Christmas, worried that negotiating this holiday that is loaded with memories and stress was going to be akin to dancing in a minefield. Judy and Charlie and his family were there to hold our hands and it became a stroll in the park. We are so blessed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Santa Claus done been here already

 These days, the jolly fat man in the red suit and the white beard who gets around in a sleigh pulled by reindeer has morphed into a clean shaven, slim and trim, younger fellow wearing a brown uniform and driving a big brown truck with gold lettering on the side.

He showed up here on Monday with Christmas from Los Angeles, and he showed up in Lakewood yesterday with Christmas from the Ozarks. And the respective families breathed sighs of relief that nothing happened to these boxes along the way.

Such is the situation when just about all the people one buys gifts for are 1500 miles away and there is little likelihood that any of them will come East for the holiday or that we will travel West. My sister would love for me to experience the Italian Christmas Eve seafood meal (squid is usually involved) that is traditional in her husband’s family. If it were possible to hop on an airplane in Springfield and fly directly to Los Angeles or Long Beach or Orange County, we might actually think about it, but having to change flights in Denver or Dallas-Ft Worth is an adventure neither of us wants to participate in at this time of the year.

I remember a Christmas season a very long time ago when my father took his little kids to downtown Gardena to see Santa Claus in the early afternoon. We found him, sure enough, staggering down the street drunk as a skunk. My dad was very angry --and he could get rather loud when he was mad -- and I can remember him complaining to somebody about it, but now I don’t remember if it was in person or on the telephone after we got back home.

I suppose we took our boy to see Santa when he was little, but I don’t remember doing so, and I don’t have any pictures of him sitting on Santa’s lap. I do remember going down to the train tracks several Christmases in a row to see a special Christmas Train that Burlington-Northern had put together, lit up and decorated, with Santa Claus on a flat car. It was quite beautiful.

At any rate, Christmas is coming and we are getting fat, even if the goose isn’t.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pressing buttons...

The last time I was at the thrift store, I picked up a book for 25-cents called Three Junes by Julia Glass. 

The gold seal on the front says “National Book Award Winner.” And indeed, it is a winner. Fenno, one of the characters in this finely crafted first novel, muses on the death of his mother…

Time plays like an accordion in the way it can stretch out and compress itself in a thousand melodic ways. Months on end may pass blindingly in a quick series of chords, open-shut, together-apart, and then a single melancholy week may seem like a year’s pining, one long unfolding note.

I like the accordion analogy almost as well as the “time is like a river…” Time does indeed seem to stretch out and compress itself. Time indeed does inexorably march forward, and we are coming up now on the first the anniversary of our son’s death. At times, this past year has indeed seemed to pass with blinding speed. And then again, it seemed that some on days we were slogging through molasses and the day would never end.

It often seems like that, even when one is not in the midst of some stressful event. Perhaps it has something to do with the right balance of “being busy” and having “nothing to do.”   

But, the bit about the accordion caused one of those “oh yes” moments too in another way. Funny, sometimes, how memories can be triggered.

My father’s 3 sisters and their families lived within a “long-day’s drive.” We frequently (but not always) spent holidays with these aunts and uncles and cousins. Sometimes they came down from central and northern California to see us and Grandpa, who lived nearby, or sometimes we piled in the car at the “crack of dawn,” usually the day after Christmas, and headed north, toward Carmel Valley or Sacramento, depending on which aunt we were going to see.

When we went to Yuba City, we usually stayed with Aunt Vera, probably because their daughter was just a little older than me. Cousin Mark was just a little younger than me.

I have many comforting of memories of Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays spent with these wonderful people who were our extended family. They sort of all mush together.

When I read that passage about the accordion I suddenly remembered that my cousin Mark had an accordion when he was “a kid.” I thought it was quite an amazing instrument. Half of the instrument was like the piano keyboard that I was familiar with because I was taking lessons, but I was fascinated by those smooth, little black buttons on the other side that were pressed to make the chords. The instrument was much to heavy for me to strap on and work, but I can remember him playing it and letting me push the buttons. And then I wondered how his fingers knew how to find the right button to press..

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The one that got away

One of the lessons I have learned in the past year is how important it is to tell people who are suffering that you care about them. You may not understand what they are feeling, you may not know what to say, you may have no words of comfort easily at hand to offer them. You may have no words at all; in fact, sometimes it is better not to even try because sometimes people say the worst possible thing when they are only trying to be kind -- but let them know you care.

So, when I learned that a friend’s husband’s mother was killed in an accident, I had Richard fix me a sympathy card. I have a terrible time picking out cards, and the program on his computer allows one to adjust the wording on the card if it isn't quite right.

This will be an especially hard thing for this dear man, our former pastor, who drove 90 minutes to spend 5 minutes with us at the hospital when Nathaniel had his second operation. His father died last December. I am sure he is not over grieving for the loss of his father, and now his mother is gone too.

I grabbed my camera in one hand (one never knows when there will be something interesting to see) and clutched the envelope in the other, and the cat and I walked it out to the mailbox for the rural letter carrier to pick up.  

Near the head of the road, I was noticing some aluminum cans had collected down below in the thicket -- sometimes teenagers park at the head of our driveway and drink and throw the cans out -- when suddenly I noticed a very large deer.

She looked up at me, ears up and twitching, I looked at her, camera still clutched uselessly, and I said, rather stupidly, “Oh, hi there.”

She responded by leaping around, white flag of a tail waving, and took off. And then I saw there was another smaller deer, probably this year’s baby, and it too raised its white flag and took off. All I could think at that moment was “please do not bolt across the highway and get killed.” Fortunately for them, they ran parallel with the highway and disappeared into the brush.

Scared the cat half to death. The camera remained clutched uselessly in my right hand. So this post is not only not illustrated with a wonderful shot of this beautiful deer, it is also not illustrated with a hilarious picture of the cat with her tail bristled out.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I am a thief…

The light has come on again, for a while at least, and I am feeling better than I have for quite some time, well... I was until I opened my purse this morning to clean it out.

We went to St Louis on Thursday to have a bit of fun. We did some shopping for things that could only be had at St Louis. We actually had ourselves a Starbucks coffee, thanks to a gift card Richard had received.

We had White Castle Hamburgers in honor of our son’s memory. 

His favorite thing to do when he worked the graveyard shift at the ambulance was to get 10 of them at a time.
He loved going to Forest Park. We went there, to the St Louis Art Museum, and saw beautiful paintings...

 including a special exhibit of Monet’s Water Lilies. Why is walking through an art museum so exhausting?

But the main reason we went was to attend the annual memorial service hosted by the medical students at St Louis University School of Medicine for families and friends of those who donated their bodies to the medical school during 2011.

Perhaps it seems like a paradox that going to a memorial service would make me feel better and much less depressed, but that is exactly what happened.

Perhaps the moving experience I had at seeing the glorious the church with the beautiful stained glass windows…

  Photo by Szeke 

Perhaps it was feeling the bond with the probably 1,000 other people who were there – people who were friends or families of the 435 other individuals who had also donated their bodies – who had also come to honor the memories of their loved ones.

Perhaps the overwhelming welling up of emotion when the pianist and the violinist began playing Satie’s Gymnppedia No. 1, Lent et douloureaux

And the students began coming up the long aisle in pairs and laid flowers on the basket that contained the names of those who had donated their bodies… 

I don’t know, but it was beautiful and wonderful and moving.

I will never know which of those lovely young men and women who participated in the program might have studied the body of our son in their anatomy laboratory, but seeing them and hearing their words about how grateful they were for the donation and how it would help them be better physicians… well, it gave me great comfort.

Just before we left for the cathedral in which the service was held, we had lunch at a small Vietnamese restaurant. At every Asian restaurant where we have a meal and chopsticks are brought along with silverware to the table, they are almost always the cheap bamboo kind that are meant to be thrown away. I usually always take them because there are many useful things that can be done with chopsticks that have nothing to do with eating (or attempting to eat).

At any rate, at the end of the meal, I grabbed both sets and put them in my purse and thought nothing else about it until this morning. When I took them out, I noticed that these were not at all like the throw-away chop sticks we usually get. These looked very much like chop sticks the restaurant would have collected and washed along with the silverware and reused. 

I am almost sure I stole the chopsticks.

I didn’t do it on purpose. Honest.

Monday, December 05, 2011

My shadow...

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me…

A line from a beloved poem by Robert Lewis Stevenson that my mother read to me when I was little girl, probably over and over and over, assuming I was like most other young children who seem not to get tired of hearing things they like over and over and over. I discovered this when our boy was little and I would attempt to skip pages of books I had read to him over and over and over – books that he had memorized. Every time I tried to turn 2 pages at a time to get through it faster, he always caught me.

At any rate, I sometimes view the Depression that began stalking me last December at about this time, when our son’s physical condition took such a nosedive, as a Shadow that occasionally grasps me around the ankle and tries to trip me up and slow me down and wants to get up close and personal. I would rather not go back on the happy pills that the doctor gave me last December. They either worked very well or it was a placebo effect, but I would just as soon not take the drugs if I can avoid it.

And most of the time I seem to do fairly well. We are only a few days into December, but already I have been feeling Shadow’s arms trying to embrace me in his dull, gray hug. I am determined to shrug him off. It would be easy to blame the time of year for this – the deciduous trees are now naked, standing with their skeletons exposed. Barren. Dull. A cold, gray day  today. There is a feeling of wanting to retreat and withdraw and hibernate.

It began to drizzle sleet and some freezing rain as I drove home from town this morning, but within a half or so after I had picked up where I left off working, a light snow began to sift down, reminding me of how my mother dusted powdered sugar on a chocolate cake through a wire-mesh strainer.

We watched The Adjustment Bureau Saturday night. The movie intrigued me. Now that I have seen the ending, I must watch it again to pick up things that I missed the first time through because I was nervous about how it was going to end.
Today I am wondering was it chance, or the devil, or part of a Master Plan, that resulted in my unfortunate fall several years ago in which I fractured my pelvis and spent at least 2 months camped out on the couch and needing a wheelchair to move? I suppose I will never know, except that I know God worked that event into a marvelous good. 

Yesterday, we working together in the kitchen preparing food, with the roles switched. He did the actual cooking, making cabbage sauteed with green and yellow peppers, dressed with a sweet, Asian style sauce; and a green bean dish cooked with hot chili-tomatoes and mushrooms, a bit of sugar. I did the chopping and the assembling of ingredients.

Even as I write, this I can smell the wonderful pungent odor of boiling vinegar and ginger as he prepares marinated carrots, and he has sprinkled yellow squash split lengthwise with cheese powder and spices. which will be roasted, and fish baked with a thin coating of marinara sauce. Would any of this had happened if that day in June had gone according to plan?

Hard to say, but I am enjoying this new interest of his very much.