Happy Birthday, Dad

ImageToday would’ve been my dad’s 71st birthday.  71.

I imagine him, smiling, moving quickly from one project to another, eyes sparkling like only his did, laughing that fantastically gregarious laugh.  I imagine him surrounded by his children, their spouses, his grandchildren, his wife.  He is drinking coffee, with cream and loads of sugar, and eating a cheese sandwich.  His hair is gray, it went that way early, which is something he passed to the seven of his children, and his clunky black glasses are perched on his nose.  He’s wearing a pair of polyester pants, some funky loafers, a knit polo shirt, and some off-color windbreaker.  He’s legally blind, but you’d never know it by the way he zips around, managing to never run into anything.  His spirit, which has always been joyful and silly and free, is a big presence in this space.  He fills it.  I imagine him giving me a hug, so tight, full of all the things he could never really say.  Afterward he sits down at his pedal steel guitar and he plays.  Man, does he play.  His skill is unmatched, his notes hitting with perfection, and his smile gets even bigger, if that’s possible.  Then he begins to sing….

Today would’ve been my dad’s 71st birthday.  He’s been gone for nearly 8 years now.  I miss him still….

Happy birthday, Dad.

70 For 70

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My mom turns 70 today.  In honor of this milestone, and of her, I thought I’d throw out 70 facts about her.  So off we go….

1. She has the best smile of anyone I know.  Period, the end.  She smiles with her eyes, and is always sincere.

2. She played a mean trombone when she was younger.  I actually have a record of her playing with her high school band.  She rocked.

3. She lived next to and was friends with a prostitute when she was younger, though she was naïve and didn’t really know it at the time.

4. Her love of music led her to her love of my dad, which led to me and my brother.  He was playing in a band at what I think was a bar.  Their eyes met across the room….  (actually he might have known someone she knew, or something like that, and they were introduced?  I should really ask her this question.)

5. She is kind.

6. She can solve most problems to do with fixing things.  She’s very handy to have around because of this.

7. She isn’t above being silly, which I love about her.

8. She loves deeply.

9. She manages to handle tough situations with more light and grace than anyone I’ve ever met.

10. She’s one of the two best people I know, the other being my honey.

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11. She went back to school when my brother and I were in grade school and got her degree in education.

12. I learned to play guitar because she took guitar in college.

13. She’s super artistic and can draw really well.

14. She really pays attention.

15. She was a Cub Scout leader.

16. Every time she made a pie when we were kids she made squirrel tails out of the extra dough.  (squirrel tails are made of pie dough sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and then rolled up, cut into little rounds, and baked… you should try them.  Tasty!)

17. She used to read to us while we ate breakfast, before school.  This gave me a huge love of books and words.

18. She’s a mean Scrabble player and we played a lot of Scrabble growing up.

19. She loves to laugh.

20. She’s an amazing gardener.  She can grow anything, and has probably tried to.

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21. She can carve a pumpkin better than anyone else I know.

22. She’s always there to help, genuinely.

23. She’s someone you can always count on.

24. She has big feet for a small woman, size 10.

25. She’s the second born child of seven siblings.

26. She worked at the Salem hospital for a few years.

27. She’s in much better shape than I am.

28. She used to be a Jazzersize fiend.

29. She makes me proud to be her daughter every day.

30. She’s a breast cancer survivor.

31. She can drive a tractor.

32. She took Latin in high school.

33. She’s lived in the same house since 1979.

34. She’s generous.

35. We’ve had many a dance party in various kitchens.

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36. She’s incredibly smart.

37. She’s very emotional, which is where I get it I think.  I’m glad of this.

38. She’s the one, and probably doesn’t know this, who got me interested in photography.  She loves taking photos, the art of it, and has all my life.

39. She once slept in a hammock by a river in the jungles of Guatemala.

40. She has eaten some gross and disgusting things (this goes along with the category of will try almost anything) like crickets and fish eyes.  Gross.

41. She loves road trips and travel in general.

42. She can fit into tiny spaces and is the person you want when you need to have a small area painted.  Somehow she fits in there and gets the job done.

43. She loves to sing.

44. She used to make our clothes when Kev and I were younger.

45. She used to knit and I still have a crazy sweater she once made for me (at my request I think) that’s made up of all the left over yarn she had.  It’s multi-colored and awesome.

46. My friends, throughout my life, have loved her and consistently told me how lucky I am to have her as a mom.  They’ve been right.

47. She calls our dogs her grand dogs and they love her tremendously.

48. She was a row boss when Kev and I picked strawberries as kids.  She was tough.

49. She once substitute taught for one of my grade school classes, I believe it was 5th grade.  She was hard on me.  I deserved it.

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50. She’s a mama bear when someone threatens one of her cubs.  You don’t want to mess with her when she’s defending someone she loves.

51. She’s vegan and has been for a few years now.  Even still, she calls herself a weekend carnivore as she sometimes eats meat on special occasions.

52. She’s open to and interested in other people’s ideas and thoughts.

53. She’s a staunch supporter of her gay daughter and her gay daughter’s partner.  It breaks her heart when discrimination of any kind is mentioned to or seen by her.

54. She used to fly fish the Metolious River with me, and my brother.  I loved that time with her.

55. She used to be a little overweight, but decided to lose it and has kept it off.  It’s inspiring and she looks awesome.

56. She always swam with us when we were kids.  I have great memories of being in pools with her at little motels all over the place when we’d go on family vacations.

57. She used to water ski, and we have the super 8 video to prove it.

58. She has an adventurous spirit and loves to do new things, try new things, and push herself.

59. She’s brave.

60. She once traveled across the country in a train.

61. She has the best laugh.

62. She has a big love of family.

63. She’s interested in how things work and is curious by nature.

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64. She’s played miniature golf on a cruise ship and eaten pineapple on Antigua.

65. She’s always the first to volunteer help when someone needs it.

66. She did a  4 day 40 mile hike along the Rogue River.

67. She grew up on a farm where my grandparents, for a time, practiced the ‘have more’ plan.  Basically self-sufficient farming, etc.

68. She’s had to shoot many a skunk and possum in her life.  She doesn’t like it, but does it because it needs to be done.

69. She knows what’s important in life, and has always made that clear, and thankfully, passed it down to me.

70. She is loved so much by so many people it’s pretty amazing.  I doubt she knows how much people think of her, or how much she means to so many.  She’s humble like that.

I love you Mom.  More than I could ever express.  I am so lucky to have you in my life, and I’m thankful for it every day.  Happy birthday!

Desert Winds

It’s windy out there tonight.  I can hear the rattling of the blinds as the wind whips in, rustling them, causing a banging on the window frame.  I may have to shut the window, but maybe I’ll put up with it, I love the cool desert night air.  And I love the sound of the wind, whipping by outside.  Whistling, then howling, then still.  It is a symphony.

It’s after 11:00 in Vegas.  It was warm today, 79 and blue sky.  I wore shorts and a t-shirt, had on my slide shoes and had to squint when I was out driving around.  I think the people who live here think it’s still sort of cold.  They are used to the heat.  My body doesn’t expect it until June.  I live in the Midwest after all.

I’m missing my honey and don’t much like being so far away from her, but am glad I came.  Friends like these are gifts.

It’s amazing how people can be so different, and yet have so much love for each other.  I was a bit nervous about coming.  Not sure how, after all these years, we would get on.   Hoping it would be the same, wondering if all of life’s ups and downs might have changed us all somehow, made us different people.  Those ups and downs have changed us, all of us, but who we are, and have always been, to and for each other remains.  Distance and time haven’t altered that.  Thank god.

I am blessed to have these people in my life.  And with them, as I always have felt, I am home.  We’ve been in each others lives for so long there’s a comfort and certainty that is reassuring and magical.  There’s a peace that happens not brought by any one of us, but made by our presence together.  Deep love and understanding resides there.

Understanding.

Hanging On To Life

Hanging On To Life (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

We may be different, see the world differently, but we understand each other and know, always, that there’s a love and a respect and a kindness there.

My wish for the world is that people would feel this sort of kinship in their lives.  I’ve been lucky enough to feel this with several people throughout the course of my life.  Spectacular people, each and every one.

This tapestry of lovely humanness is overwhelming, and as I sit here, the blind still banging on the sill, I feel an incredible sense of humble gratitude for how fortunate I am, for how full my life is of beautiful people, and for the sounds of the wind, right outside the window.

 

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A Meditation on Love

Love.

I looked up the definition for love at Dictionary.com and there were 27 kinds of love listed.  At Merriam-Webster  there were 13.  And, over at the Urban Dictionary, there were 142 submissions for the word love.  Poets have tried to harness the feeling in stanzas, film makers have tried to capture it on-screen, and musicians have tried to condense this complicated emotion into under three minutes for decades.  Even scientists have studied the physical reactions our bodies make when we are in love.  It is mysterious, strange, frustrating, beautiful, and all together nearly impossible to describe.  And yet, we keep trying.

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There’s nothing like love.  It can lift and crush us all at the same time.  The feeling leads to wonder and obsession, giddy excitement and incredible loss.  It’s at once unknowable and all-consuming.  It is an enigma.  A puzzle we are all constantly trying to solve, in one way or another.

My first feelings of love were for my mom, my brother, my  family at large.  I remember feeling warm, wrapped in the whole of these beautiful people.  Knowing I was a part of them, and they me.  I was constantly being held up by their concern and encouragement and leveled by their disappointment or criticism.  I was dependent and depended upon.  All of those things still hold true, none of them capture the depth of the feeling.

I have a deep and abiding love for so many amazing friends.  I’ve had that all my life.  I’ve been lucky to pick, and have been picked by, a generous, fantastic, lovely, lot of people.  A group of people, throughout my life, who have given me so much in the way of support and kindness and laughter and companionship.  We’ve shared stories and triumphs and heart breaks.  We’ve hugged each other and cried together and laughed so hard no sounds came out.  As I sit here thinking about all of them, I am overwhelmed to the point of tears.  Face after beautiful face popping into my head, a wonderful tapestry of smiling eyes.  And still I can’t describe the depth of this feeling in me.

I’ve had a few romantic loves.  Crushes and relationships that were never meant to be, but felt like they were at the time.  Secret loves and awkward feelings of love I hid from some and exposed to others.  I stumbled and bumbled my way through most of my early life, meaning before I was well into my thirties, not really knowing what I was actually feeling, or wanting to feel, but feeling it so deeply and overwhelmingly that ultimately only confusion resulted.  I had passion and commitment in spades, but didn’t really know what to do with it.  But I loved, and yes, I was loved in return.

And then… then I fell madly and deeply in love.  I’ve attempted to describe this feeling, this feeling of fitting together.  The best way I’ve found is to say that there was nearly an audible clicking into place when I met K.  It’s as if all the cogs settled just so, accompanied by a perfect little whoosh of sound.  I believe, to this day, that I actually heard it.  Love.  True, impossibly real, and mine.  And still, I can’t really describe it, not even to her.  I’ve tried.  I’ve said the words, written poems, sung songs, and looked at her with so much feeling coursing through me I’m sure she feels it.  When she looks back I feel it from her.  It is obsessive and sweet and ruthless and honest and miraculous.  And still I feel as though I can’t quite get my words around it.

It’s such a small word.  The ultimate four letter word.  I feel it so deeply, for so many, including those furry little faces walking around our house.  And yet, even with all of this, the words seem hollow and the attempt middling.  I guess when all the scholars and scientists and poets and musicians have trouble condensing it into any kind of real explanation I shouldn’t expect that I could, in any way, do it in one small blog post.

I guess I will just say this, no further explanation needed… I love, and I am loved in return.  It just is.  And, in the end, that’s all we really need to know.

On Shuffle

I was perusing Facebook earlier today and noticed one of my many cousins posted a meme relating to iTunes on shuffle.  It went something like, open iTunes, put your songs on shuffle, and post the first 10 that play.  I enjoyed looking at her playlist so I thought, hey, I’m going to do that as well and see what pops up on mine.

Before I post my list you should probably know that I’m a bit of a music nut.  A collector and a connoisseur of fine sounds.  I’ve loved music since before I could walk and have had many musical influences in my life.  Those influences have insured that my tastes are broad, far-reaching, and eclectic.  There are nearly 20,000 songs in my iTunes Match and a whole passel of vinyl in storage.  I can’t regularly tap into the vinyl, sadly, but I can access all those lovely sounds in iTunes.  It’s an amazing thing, to have most of your music collection available with the tap of a key or the click of a mouse.  Heaven, for music lovers.

OK, so without further ado…  my list.  I should say there are a few more than 10 here because once I got going I kept wanting to know what would come up next.  I stopped when we had to go out and run a few errands.  While in the car we listened to music, loud.  We usually do.  Here’s the list, in order.

The Airborne Toxic Event – Half of Something Else                                                                                       Headphones on stack of CDs

Marvin Gaye – Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing

K.D. Lang – Nowhere to Stand

Marc Broussard – S.O.S.

Gordon Lightfoot – Canadian Railroad Trilogy

The Rolling Stones – Let’s Spend the Night Together

Def Leppard – Love Bites

Zac Brown Band – No Hurry

Jonatha Brooke & The Story – When Two And Two Are Five

Ben Harper – When It’s Good

Great Northern – Houses

Billie Holiday – Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be)

Collective Soul – After All

Dixie Chicks – Cold Day in July

Melissa Etheridge – My Lover

Josh Groban – Vincent

Bon Jovi – Bad Medicine

Philippe Entremont: Vienna Chamber Orchestra – Mozart: Symphony #29

 

 

Best Finds of 2013

I’ve been reading a lot of best of lists in the last several days, everything from albums of 2013 to recipes involving bacon.  Everyone seems to be making a year end list.  I thought, why not jump on the bandwagon.  So here we go.  This isn’t a top ten or even a list with any sort of theme.  These are just things (songs, movie houses, art, tv shows, food, etc.) I discovered in 2013 that will stay with me long into 2014 and beyond.

Let’s get to it….

The Lone Bellow came into my life via iTunes and a free download.  I instantly became obsessed with them.  Great lyrics, excellent harmonies, and catchy tunes that stay in your head for days.

The Cinnamon Crunch Bagel from Panera.  This thing is addicting.  I’m so glad we discovered them, and so sad at the same time.  It’s all kinds of deliciousness in a small round baked good.  Toasted with butter… so damn tasty.

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Kickapoo State Park, Illinois.  We’ve lived in Illinois now for nearly two and a half years.  Surprisingly there are many things we’ve come to appreciate and even truly like about living here.  One thing we haven’t is that there isn’t as much water as we were used to living in Oregon.  We’ve done our best to travel to nearby towns with river walks (there aren’t that many) and to find state parks and such that have a decent amount of water, in whatever form we can find it.  One such place, to our delight, is Kickapoo.  First, you have to love the name, c’mon, it’s kind of awesome.  But more importantly, it has water.  All sorts of little lakes and a stream, running through it.  There are canoe rentals in the summer, and loads of trails.  We went in the fall, when the colors of the foliage were stunningly beautiful.  We will definitely be going back.

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The Golden Harbor Restaurant.  With a huge menu, free tea by the pot, and a cool old school vibe, this place rocks. Plus, the food is great.  How can you go wrong with spicy green beans, salt and pepper mushrooms, and plates full of sweet and spicy chicken.  The menu on the wall is enormous and all in Chinese.  You can pick up an english language menu from the little table by the front door if you like.  Write down the numbers of the things you’d like to order, take it up to the counter, and moments later your tasty hot food starts coming out as it’s ready.  We love this place.

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Season tickets for the University of Illinois women’s volleyball and basketball.  What a great deal.  We’d been to games before, but this all inclusive $35 dollar ticket package gets you into all the home games for both sports.  We’ve had hours of enjoyment at these games.  The atmosphere, the competition, supporting the local university, and eating an occasional stadium dog… all worth it.  Can’t beat it for good sporty entertainment.

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Cris Cab.  I can’t even remember how I stumbled on this young gent.  All I know for sure is that his music is catchy and I’m semi-addicted to it.

Dominic Thomas was born.  I don’t know if you can call him a discovery, but as he grows, and has one discovery after another of his own, we have discovered a little more about him, and ourselves.  I think that’s part of the beauty of little people.  As they grow and change and develop we see the world through them, and it is an amazingly wondrous place.

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The fun of riding steam trains.  Taking a five mile ride on a steam train isn’t exactly something I would choose to do on my own.  Maybe an over night or a several night journey, one with sleeper cars and a nice dining car, but not a shorty ride on a steam train that goes one way forward and then backs up on the return trip.  But, somehow, with the help of the excitement of a three year old, short trip steam trains kinda rock.  We went a couple of different times and I’m sure we’ll be going again this year.  Our mini engineer in training loves it and, consequently, so do we.

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The Blacklist.  James Spader is just plain awesome.  He’s an amazing actor.  In lessor hands this role, and the tv show connected to it, might not be as riveting and interesting as it is.  But with James Spader at the center, a decent supporting cast, and top notch writing, Blacklist keeps you hooked.

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Portland, Maine.  We took a little road trip for our 10th anniversary to Portland by way of NY, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, etc.  We loved New England.  It’s beautiful, it’s people are great, and it’s beautiful.  Portland, the destination for this trip, didn’t disappoint.  We met in Portland, Oregon.  It’s our city, as we like to call it.  We love it there.  I had, however, always wanted to go to the other Portland.  To check it out.  To see what it had to offer.  My honey felt the same.  Seemed fitting that on our 10th we would take a trip to that other Portland to see what we could see.  It was great.  Good restaurants, excellent scenery, really nice people, and funky in it’s own way, we enjoyed it very much.

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Roadtrippers.  I love this website.  We travel quite a bit.  Most especially, in recent years at least, we’ve gone on some major road trips here in the U.S.  This site allows you to plan your route and then see what sorts of places might be along it.  From practical to strange Roadtrippers has them all.   They also have an app, which rocks.  I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

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Cafe ZoJo.  It’s a local coffee shop that’s fairly new.  I’m not sure if we actually found this in 2013 or the year before, but never the less, I’m including it here.  The staff are friendly, with quick helpful smiles, the atmosphere is eclectic and comfortable, the food is tasty, and the coffee is sublime.  ZoJo is our go to for take away coffee.  I’ve never had better drip coffee in my life.  That’s saying a lot.

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Sleepy Creek Vineyards.  We actually discovered this place by way of a thing called the Fork in the Road Tour.  A few local farms, their goods, a nice drive with good friends, and we ended up, last stop on the tour, at Sleepy Creek.  We were given a tour of the vineyard,  an explanation of the bottling process, and then a tasting.  The wine was good, but the people were great, and the atmosphere was awesome.  Later, like a month or so, they hosted the Salk Fork River Art Festival.  Again, great setting, great wine, great people.  We were hooked.  They do several events a month including things like film festivals, live music, art festivals, weenie roasts, and of course wine tastings.  It’s worth the drive east.

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Cinnebarre in Salem, Oregon.  We live in Illinois now, but we still spend a significant amount of time in Oregon.  It’s where I’m from, and where my honey lived for over 30 years.  It’s home.  My mom lives in Salem, in the same house we lived in when I was in high school.  Salem is the capitol city, and has always been considered, amongst people who live in Portland anyway, a lessor town.  But in the last several years Salem has grown up a little, and funked out a bit as well.  To prove this point they now have a movie place downtown called Cinebarre.  It’s a chain, though there are only about seven or eight locations around the country.  The fact that one of those is in Salem is very cool.  Cinebarre is a movie theater and it’s a restaurant.  You get table service during the movie, which seems like it could distract you, but it doesn’t really.  Walk in, look at the menu before the movie starts, fill out your card, prop it up, and the wait staff comes to take your order via your card and then brings you the food while the movie is going.  You can keep ordering if you want to, they also have beer and wine.  It’s a kick and a unique movie experience.  I like it.

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Honda PCX 150 Scooter.  We used to own motorcycles.  Big motorcycles.  Hogs.  We had all the gear, went on rides, and thought we were slightly above all those scooter riders out there.  That’s the way it goes.  If you ride motorcycles you think scooter riders, or scooterists as I like to call them, are slightly beneath you.  Not really in an arrogant way, it’s just that as a motorcycle rider you’re cool.  As a scooterist you’re nerdy.  Until, of course, we gave up the motorcycles and bought a Honda scooter in 2013.  It’s beyond awesome.  It hauls buns, can carry both of us, is fun as hell to ride, and seems easier.  Maybe the easier part is just because you don’t have to shift, I don’t know.  But it’s zippy, and it makes a fantastic second car.  I so love to ride it.  Who would’ve thunk, those few short years ago, we would prefer a scooter, but we do.  I guess if that makes us nerds we proudly own it.  I’m a scooterist.  Damn straight I am.

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I Offer This…

It is the holiday season now.  I’m filled with both a sickness about the greed all around and a warmth and love and gratitude for the gifts in life I’ve been given.  These two do not live exclusive of each inside me.  They live and breathe together, making my thoughts this time of year slightly muddled.  Waffling back and forth between these two I cry at the injustices and cruelties perpetuated every day in the name of power and that never ending black hole of “more”, and then I smile and feel overwhelmed with joy by the goodness and beauty in my life.  I sing inside with possibility and hopefulness about the human condition and the kindness of strangers.  I curse the cruel and power hungry, and ache for those who are cold and hungry this time of year.

I’m of two minds.

Then I say to myself… zip it.  Zip.  Shh.

I am currently filled with an overwhelming feeling of love.  Love for family I have close and those who are far away from me but who live in my heart every minute of every day.  Love for friends near and far who lift my heart with laughter and connectedness and a joy I am so lucky to recognize is there.

I sit here watching the kids and my honey build the new configuration of Sebastian’s train track.  It’s quite an undertaking.  They are somehow managing to stay calm and I am somehow managing to keep my opinion out of it. Three opinions are enough.  They are getting it done with laughter and cooperation.  I keep writing.

Christmas snuck up on us this year.  Thanksgiving later than usual lessened the time in between.  Consequently we were unprepared and haven’t realized even half the things we dreamed we’d get done.  No worries.  The things aren’t important.  Not really.  Yes, I’m referring to the buying of gifts.

I love giving gifts.  Always have.  I don’t much enjoy getting them.  OK, honestly, I do enjoy getting them, but am always, with the exception of getting gifts from my honey, uncomfortable with having others watch me open gifts and then knowing how to respond to said items in an appropriate way.  I think I’m slightly off in this regard.  I don’t often know how to be when I get a gift.  My default is always to smile and say thanks.  I think it works.  I’m still always slightly uncomfortable.

And that’s just about enough of the gift talk….  almost.  I always appreciate getting gifts and recognize the fact that the people or persons who’ve given them to me do so with affection.  I recognize this.  I appreciate it.  I’d just much rather be the giver of gifts than the receiver.  Tomorrow, however, on Christmas Day, I will get gifts.  And, truthfully, I will love them, whatever they are.  I’m an oxymoron.

A word on holiday cheer… I’m drinking a bit of wine right now.  Very cheerful.

I think it’s tough to feel so lucky about what I have in life without thinking about how there are so many people out in the world who don’t have the family and friend support I have, who maybe don’t have enough food or warmth or love in their lives.  And once again I’m back to the ache I feel for those who may be less fortunate than I.  Sadly, there are many of those as I am mightily fortunate.

I am of two minds.

The wine cures this conundrum and adds to it.

Preparations are nearly done for the big reveal tomorrow when two small boys, one three year old in particular, will rush down to see what Santa has brought to the house, how many cookies he might have eaten of those that were left for him, and how many nibbles on carrots Santa’s reindeer might’ve taken.  It will be a fun and glorious thing.  Love in a short and glee filled package.  There’s no waffling about that.  He and his brother are light and love and wishes fulfilled.  I am blessed beyond measure.

Merry Christmas to all… and to all a good night.

Thankful Everyday – The Thirtieth

Here we are, the final day of thanks for the month of November.  I think every day, in my normal life, I say a mental and emotional thank you for something… the way my honey laughs, the excited way the pups greet me every time I walk in a room, the smiles of my grandsons, the beauty of the sky or the day or the soul of a friend.  I appreciate things.  Even so, this has been a lovely exercise in purposed thankfulness.  Being cognizant of what I have in my life.  I have a lot.

30.  I am thankful for love.  Love of all kinds.  Love from friends, family, my pups, the grandsons, the kids, my Mom, my siblings, and most of all my honey.  I am blessed to have so much love in my life.  More love and more joy from that love than I could ever dream possible.  I feel it like a wave sometimes, immense and overwhelming in a totally good way, and other times it’s presence is like a vast and endless calm sea supporting the weight of this tiny ship.  Most importantly, I feel it.  Always.  I’m lucky, fortunate, grateful, thankful, honored, blessed, graced, and humbled by the magnitude of it.  I am loved, and I love.  It’s beautiful.

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Thankful Everyday – Twenty-Three

23.  I’m thankful for my grandparents.  Bill and Martha were the best.  They gave us all, and there are a lot of us, such a great sense of family and fun and strength and curiosity and acceptance and love.  I’ve written about them here and here and here and so many other times on this blog before, but I can’t say enough about how thankful I am to have come from, and been able to spend time with, such amazing people.  I see them everyday in my Mom, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and myself.   We are their legacy, and if you ask me, they did good.  I feel them every day and I’m so thankful for that.

The photo below is courtesy of my uncle, Tom.

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Thankful Everyday – The Nineteenth

19.  I’m thankful for the kids.  I never had my own children.  Never really wanted to, until I met K.  By then we were old enough that we decided having them wouldn’t work.  Lucky for me K already had children.  They were grown, but she had them.  It meant, and means, that I get to be a step-parent to some great kids.  When I met K her daughter was in college.  She visited in the summers and we went to visit at various times of the year.  In the years since she graduated, met her husband, moved to England with him, started having babies, and moved back to the states.  K’s son graduated from college and moved to Japan, lived there for several years, and is now back in the states.  We live near K’s daughter, her husband (who I also feel is a kid to us), and the grand boys, and we get to see K’s son when we visit Portland or he visits here.  I’m lucky.  Before K there was just me, my family, and my friends.  It was a good life, I enjoyed it.  But now, wow.  My life is so much richer, so much more full and lovely because I get to spend time with the kids and the grandsons.  We enjoy them, have fun spending time with them, have had big adventures with them, and we love them tremendously.

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Thankful Everyday – Day Twelve

12. I’m thankful for my friends, near and far, who are the best people I could hope to know.  Each of you has brought such depth and joy and fun and meaning to my life.  I’m blessed, honored, lucky, and humbled beyond measure by the quality of my friendships.  I have so much love for you and am so thankful for the love you’ve always given me.

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Thankful Everyday – The Eighth

Here we are, day eight.

8.  I’m thankful for my second family.  When K and I got together I didn’t realize at the time that I’d be gaining a whole new set of people to call my own.  People who in turn would call me their own.  People who made me a part of the family and have accepted and loved me ever since.  They are amazing and I’m so fortunate to have them in my life.

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Thankful Everyday – The Seventh

Day seven and these feelings of being thankful are still going strong.

7. I’m thankful for my brother, Kevin.  We’ve been through so much together.  No two people have the same experiences he and I share.  But more than that, he’s a fantastic brother, and a gentle soul.  He’s also famously the best hugger in the family.  In fact, when someone gives someone else a big hug they call it giving a Kevin.  Funny, but true.  He’s my partner in dorkiness and has one of the best belly laughs I’ve ever heard.

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Thankful Everyday – The Fifth

November fifth brings the fifth day of thanks.

5.  I’m thankful for my little grandson who spent an hour today pretending with his Grandma Tam.  He’s spectacular.  There’s no better way to spend time than hanging out with that little man.

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A Dance of Victory

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I didn’t call yesterday.  Since 1999 I’ve either been there or called.  She was not at home for the weekend.  I didn’t want to interrupt her fun.  Now — I feel bad.  Or better yet, maybe not bad but sort of off about it.

1998… Mom is diagnosed with breast cancer.  She’d had the lump, the biopsy, and then the news no one wants to hear.  I was there when that diagnosis came.  It was storming that day.  I remember it vividly.  What followed is what typically follows.  Surgery, then chemo, and finally radiation.  I was there for the surgery and then after for a few days, then again for her first chemo, and on and off throughout.  Of course I was, she’s my mom and I adore her.

My mom, as I’ve written here before, has so much strength and grace.  She also has the best smile, the warmest heart, and the most mellow of dispositions.  Not that she doesn’t occasionally get angry or frustrated, she just handles that stuff pretty well most of the time.  We’ve experienced so much together, she, my brother, and I.  The three musketeers in a way.  Lots has happened in our lives.  I of course remember all the tough stuff, as a person does, but I also have memories of moment after moment of laughing until I cried with her, with them.  Mom has a great sense of humor and loves to laugh.  She knows how to be silly.  How to have fun.  I think I got some of that from her and I’m so grateful I did.  We have even managed to laugh and smile our way through some hard things.  That’s part of her strength.  I admire her so much for it.

Every year, on diagnosis day, I’ve shown up at her house with brownies and mocha almond fudge ice cream.  Both particular favorites of hers.  She loves her chocolate.  I’ve shown up and lit a candle commemorating the number of years since the diagnosis.  An anniversary of sorts.  A victory dance.  The year she went to Hawaii with my sister I colluded with my sister to provide the goods, I called, and we sang to her together on the phone.  Since my move to Illinois I’ve colluded with my brother to provide the goods, I call, and we sing to her.  K has been a part of this since she’s been in my life.  It’s been something that’s always been important for me to do.  The funny thing is that Mom usually forgets.  She’s busy with her busy life and when I’ve shown up, or my brother has provided the goods and K and I have called her, she is surprised that it’s that time again.  She’s not a person to dwell.  Something else I admire.

So yesterday was the anniversary.  I believe it was 15.  A biggie.  Every year we get to feel that celebration a little more because it’s another year she’s cancer free and here and living a great life.  I kept thinking of her yesterday.  K and I were out exploring a nearby state park, new to us, and even though we were having an adventure, Mom kept popping into my head.  I knew she was up visiting some of her siblings this last weekend so I knew she was having fun, as they do together, and still I kept thinking of her.  I’m blessed to have her.  Blessed.  I know this.

I contacted my brother a couple of days ago, just to check in with him about the whole thing, and was reminded she wasn’t going to be home until today.  She’d told me she wasn’t, but I didn’t really put the two together — she’s not going to be home and it’s the anniversary.  But there it is, there it was.  So I didn’t call.  I should have.  Though knowing Mom she won’t be upset and she probably didn’t even remember what with everything that was going on up with the family.  I’m sure she enjoying herself too much to remember it.  My bro and I, during our email exchanges, planned on doing it today, when she gets home, which is fine and dandy.  We’re not going to forget it all together, we just delayed slightly.  I guess it’s OK.  It is OK.  It’s just that this was the first time I didn’t call or see her on the day.  First time.  But here we are, I remind myself, 15 years later and life has moved forward.  Those facts in and of themselves are fantastic things.  Moving forward, living life.  All good.  She’d say so.  It is so.  So I guess not calling is just part of that whole living life thing.

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2013, yesterday… It wasn’t stormy out.  In fact, it was beautiful out.  Sunny, a fall-ish coolness in the air, but warm none the less.  Leaves changing color, falling, crunchy under our feet.  A beautiful day.  What follows from here is what always follows… love, smiles, laughter, lots of hugging, talks, and more love.  And, later today, brownies and mocha almond fudge ice cream.  Victory.

Carving Out Halloween

Halloween, it’s nearly here.  For me Halloween, though enjoyable (mostly for the candy and occasional small party), hasn’t been my number one holiday.  I know people who live for this little snippet of time in the year and I love how they love it.  I envy their enthusiasm for it.  I wish I could share it.  I think I’m just lazy.

Corn mazes (I finally went through one two years ago — made fun by the fact that we made it a game and had teams competing to see who could finish first — mine didn’t), costume parties, candy corn, leaves falling, spooky houses, apple bobbing, rascal ghosts and goblins, and carved pumpkins.  My enjoyment of this particular holiday nowadays mostly consists of taking photos of the cute grand sons in their costumes and maybe going along to watch the trick or treating.  Some years we leave our porch light on, like last year, so we can open the door multiple times and give out loads of candy to the nicely dressed munchkins, and some years we just leave the light off and hunker in.  Our one Halloween decoration is a plastic pumpkin that is lit from within.  We put it in the window and plug it in, then we take it back downstairs to the storage room.  I know, I know — bah humbug.

When I was a kid Mom made our costumes.  We were ghosts, Batman and Robin, and other regular stuff for kids of our generation.  A favorite of mine was the year I wanted to be a Lucerne carton of milk.  Yes, a carton of milk.  Mom somehow made that happen.  A box, some shoulder straps, and a nice paint job — I was milk.  Quirky.  It goes along with my personality I guess.  When I was older, in college, I went to a party as the unknown guest.  This was a play on the unknown comic, who was popular during that time.  He used to wear a paper bag over his head when he did his shtick.  I made a huge paper bag out of other paper bags and put it over my head.  I had eye holes.  The bag went to my waist.  I remember it being hot in there.  I hardly knew anyone at the party (big parties aren’t my thing, they make me kind of uncomfortable), and after being asked a few times “who is in there?” I took the thing off, went outside, and smoked cigarettes.  Then I left.  Once, when I was a kid, I think it was the year I was the milk, I went to a kid’s party.  At some point during this party some girl hit me in the leg with a caramel apple.  My pajamas got all sticky and gross.  I ended up leaving.  I guess parties and me really don’t mix.  I can’t recall one I’ve been to, of a large size anyway, that was fun for me.  Smallish gatherings with several friends or family, or both, no problem.  Big parties with loads of people I don’t know — torture for me.  Maybe it was the apple incident that threw me over the party edge.  I’ll never know.

But enough of my insecurities and  foibles, back to Halloween, the day of scares and dares and tricks and treats.  There is a thing I loved, and love, about Halloween, other than it being in the fall, which rocks for me (I love fall), and that thing is my mom’s carved pumpkins.  My mom — so creative.  She has loads of creative talent, way more than she realizes.  That woman can draw, play music, sew, fix most things around the house, and she can carve, or sculpt if you will.  I always looked forward to what she would do and was always so proud of her creations.  She didn’t think much of them, you know, just something she did, but man were they cool.  We have loads of photos of them, year after year, and not one was the same.  She used to do one or more every year and take them to my step-dad’s office or other places.  She usually did at least one for us at the house as well.  Those pumpkins had loads of personality.  That’s what made them so great.  Each was a definite character unto itself.  They were amazing.

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She doesn’t always carve them anymore, but when she does they are as spectacular as ever.  I always bragged about them, and still do I must admit.  My idea of carving is a very crude triangle-eyed, triangle-nose, jagged mouth sort of creation.  Not very inventive or attractive.  But Mom’s pumpkins — Wow.  While mine appear to be some sort of freakish trick, Mom’s pumpkins were, and are, always a definite treat of the season.

Crying Tears of Joy, In the Garage

Ever find yourself sitting in the garage after you’ve pulled in, unwilling to get out of the car because the song that’s playing is making you feel something?

That was me just now, and damn, it is great to be alive.

Every once in awhile I find myself, because of a song, or a video, or a thought, or something my honey or the grandsons or the dogs do, just loving being alive. And not just loving it, but being so overwhelmingly grateful that I’m here, enjoying whatever it is that’s making me feel so much at the moment, I cry.

There’s a story behind this. Yeah, yeah, isn’t there always?

The story is a tad long, but it’s mine, and today I’ve decided to tell it. Here goes…

At the end of 2009, November it was, life was moving along just fine. Work, home, friends, family, dogs… a good life. Then, unexpectedly and out out of the blue, my honey got sick. Not just sick, but really sick. Sick as in we went to urgent care, they said oh, you have pneumonia, and here … have a shot in your bum, and go home. Only to be called by an emergency room doctor a couple of hours later who, after reviewing the blood work, told me to get her in immediately. He even told me all the other hospitals along my route in case she lost consciousness. Seems she was sicker than we were originally told. She went into the cardiac critical care unit. One of her lungs was completely full and the other was half full of stuff. This was effecting her heart as well, hence the cardiac critical care unit. She was delirious, literally. I didn’t know what she was saying half the time and she didn’t know much of what was going on. The nurses repeatedly told me she was the sickest person on that unit. She was there in critical condition for a week, before they were able to downgrade her and then finally send her home. I stayed with her at the hospital, never leaving. How could I? She’s my everything. It was the worst week of my life. Which, after you hear the rest of the story will mean even more than it does right now.

Fast forward to May 2010, six months after her illness, and I started not feeling that great. Looking back now I wasn’t feeling great for a little while, but by the end of May 2010 I really wasn’t feeling good. On June 1st we had yet another fateful trip to urgent care. Some blood work results, and they sent me directly from urgent care to the hospital, by ambulance. Seems I was so sick by then that if I’d gotten in a car accident on the way to the hospital from urgent care I would’ve bled to death. The EMTs took me directly to the oncology unit. A couple of transfusions, a bone marrow biopsy (my first of three) with the results a couple of days later, and what we feared had come true. I had leukemia. I was told that it was the deadliest form, but if I lived through the first month, it was also the kind that was curable. Scary, but… good? Yes. Good. If I lived, I thought, I might live.

I spent a month in the hospital… multiple transfusions, multiple tests, and my first round of major chemotherapy. I say first because though I got out of the hospital a month to the day that I went in, I had to go back in later in July for a second round. I was in for a week that time. Then again in August, for another round and another week. And then, in September, I got to do my last round, which was only two pushes (the last of which was on my birthday), outpatient. Unfortunately I ended up getting a neutropenic fever after that round and ended up in the hospital again, for another week, anyway.

By October I was done with the major chemo and starting on maintenance treatment. Which would last for two years and entailed me taking rounds of ATRA (the thing I started right in the beginning that really saved my life), low dose chemo in the form of pills, and a shot, every week. I had to go into the infusion center every week for that shot. It was my life, our lives, for two years.  My first, and diagnosing, oncologist, who was an amazing guy, told me that the maintenance treatment was akin to sweeping the floor. Done to make sure we got anything that could be lurking. I was all for it. My attitude, during the whole thing, was let’s go. Whatever we have to do, let’s do it.

In November, of that first year, I had the third of my bone marrow biopsies. They did a molecular scan and I was cancer free. No aberrant cells found at all. Yay!  I cried, my honey cried, my Mom cried.  I think I might have breathed deeply for the first time since the ordeal started.

Here I am, three and half years later, no longer on maintenance treatment, still getting blood work and seeing an oncologist every three months. Leukemia free. I will do this for another year or so before, once again, my protocol will change and I will only have to go once every six months, and then, at some point, maybe once a year. Who knows. I’m OK with whatever the schedule is.

I chronicled part of this journey here, on this blog. Not posting during that initial time in the hospital, except maybe right in the first few days, but posting here and there during the months that followed. I posted about things that happened, but I never really posted about how I felt.

Damn, I’m so glad to be alive.

I was, as maybe you can or can’t imagine, scared as hell. Scared doesn’t even cut it really. I was terrified. When you hear the words, “your body is chalk full of Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia” everything sort of freezes. Slow motion starts and you look at your honey and your Mom and your brother who are all there with you and they all start crying at once. You look back at the doctor and he’s looking at you, and you say something that seems like it comes from you, and from someone else all at the same time. You say, “OK, what do we do, let’s go”. I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry at all. Everyone else was crying, but I just felt this thing come alive in me. Will. An amazingly strong will. It was there, nuzzled right up against the terror. I would be so determined and yet I kept thinking about things like, oh god, if I die my honey will be alone, my Mom will lose a child (which is unthinkable), my brother will lose his sister, that my grandson won’t know me, that my honey won’t have any more adventures with me, that my dogs won’t understand if I don’t come home. I was so worried about everyone else. Interesting. I kept rehearsing the speech I would have with my Mom if it looked like I was going to take a bad turn. The speech where I tell her to be with my honey, to help her through losing me, to comfort each other. I wanted to live, I was fighting to live, but I also had to prepare myself mentally for the other thing that could happen.

I went through some awful things while I was sick. After the first round of chemo, while I was still in the hospital, I got so sick I don’t remember much, thank goodness. I had to be helped to the bathroom (by my honey or my mom), someone (my honey or my mom) had to shower me, I would throw up and have diarrhea at the same time which the nurses would have to clean up. During this time I also had to have a test (one of many), I don’t remember which one, and part of it was that I had to drink some stuff. I remember my honey, who spent only one night away from me during that entire time (working from the hospital, sleeping there, taking care of me) having to try and talk me into drinking it because I was getting so sick from it. I was sick anyway, and having to drink that stuff didn’t help. She convinced me and encouraged me to get enough of it down so I could take the test. She also had to talk me into taking my pills every day, and trying to eat, and taking a shower. She was my champion.

Everyone talks about the chemo, but no one talks about the other things… weird little side effects from basically having no immune system, like yeast that develops on parts of your body that you can’t get rid of, and other just as lovely things. I had a reaction to one of the transfusions and had to have a major dose of benadryl shot directly into me. I had neutropenic fevers followed by loads and loads of IV antibiotics (two at the same time), which didn’t help with the nausea. I had a pic line put in that was very difficult for them to get in and three weeks later an infection from that pic line which resulted in them having to take it out. I had ultrasounds because I had so much scar tissue in my veins in my arms after pushes and lines and blood draws and IVs that a couple of times they wanted to make sure I wasn’t clotting too much in there. I ended up at urgent once, during those first few months, because I got a hemorrhoid from all the laying and sitting, that started to bleed. Gross.  But, so it went.

I think the worst of it though, ultimately was, and is, the anxiety. I’m a person who never had anxiety before all of this. I’m pretty laid back. Pretty care free and pretty full of joy. Anxiety was something unknown and foreign to me. But during this I developed anxiety. So much so that leaving the house, after I had been allowed to go home, was scary for me. My body would just react… feeling like I couldn’t breathe, heart pounding, panic. When I was neutropenic, which was a lot during those first months as every time I’d have a round of chemo my numbers would crash, I had to be so careful. When I was in the hospital the precautions for neutropenia were major. Gloves, masks on everyone who came in, no flowers in the room, no fresh veggies or fruits on my food tray (and if there was, even a sprig of parsley placed there accidentally, they had to remove it quickly from my room and get me a whole new tray), restricted visitation, basically creating a germ free zone. It wasn’t just that I might get sicker, it was that I could die. My body couldn’t fight anything off when I was neutropenic. An infection became life threatening, as did a cold. So I got anxious about a lot of things. When I was permitted to go home my honey had to remove all house plants from the house (there’s a fungus that can be in the soil that could kill me if I inhaled it), we couldn’t have fresh fruits or veggies, no one could see me if they had even been around someone who might have been sick. I was weak and tired and nauseous most of the time. And just when I’d start feeling better, just when the numbers would start to rise, I’d have to have another round of chemo. My life became very boxed in and small. Hospital for treatment, then home where leaving the house (I’d have to wear a mask when I was outside the house) was not worth it or even possible sometimes. I couldn’t drive, couldn’t do anything really. My honey didn’t even sleep in our bed during this time. She slept on that same air mattress she’d used in the hospital, next to our bed, with the dogs, who couldn’t sleep with me either. It’s not just that things were dangerous to me, I was dangerous to them. I was leaking poison out of my pours most of the time. No kisses, from my honey or the dogs, no using the same toilet even, because I was toxic. All of this created anxiety in me. I still get it actually. Less and less all the time, but I do. I have pills for it. I got them a lot in the hospital, and used them a lot during those months of chemotherapy. They help. And thank goodness for them. Sometimes my mind would go and go, worrying, and worrying. A loop of worry and fear and anxiety and sometimes, panic. As I said, I’m better now, but I don’t know how many times my honey has had to look me in the eye and say to me, “it’s OK my love, you aren’t sick anymore, there’s no leukemia in you… none”. And the rational me then sort of wakes up, comes to again, and knows it’s true.

And damn, it’s amazing to be alive.

I guess I’m recounting all of this because I never have before, and it’s time. Time for me to say it aloud, as aloud as this is. But I guess it’s also because all of this is the counter point to what I was feeling just a bit ago sitting in our garage after having come home from running some errands. Nothing big happened while I was out. I just went to the library and then to the coffee roasting house and then drove home, sipping some coffee and listening to music really loud in the car. It’s sort of gray outside today and the leaves are falling. But as I drove into the garage, and shut off the car, staying in there to listen to the rest of the song (Change by Rascal Flatts, for anyone who’s wondering) I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed because the leaves are falling, and the dogs were barking in the house knowing I was home, and I knew my honey was in her office working, and earlier today we’d gone swimming with our grandson, and the music was so beautiful. I started to cry.  Crying from a place of overwhelming happiness and a feeling that life is so big and wonderful, and so fully felt.

Damn, it’s so so good to be alive.

I am grateful and I’m humbled by the quality of my life.

The thing I learned from my honey’s illness, and then mine, was something I already kind of knew anyway, but it got reinforced big time. It’s something, a feeling, I wish everyone could feel and something I wish everyone could know, without having to go through something so major, so awful. It’s the surety of knowing that there’s nothing important in life save for the people we have in ours. That is, period the end, the only thing that matters. Stuff, problems, annoyances, possessions… none of it matters. Not really. The time we spend having adventures and experiences with the people we love and who love us, that’s what matters. That’s what you think of, what you fear you’ll miss, if you think you could die.

It’s so damn good to be alive because I have so many fantastic people in my life. People, and dogs that is. People I love to be with, who love to be with me. People who I miss when I don’t see them, who miss me right back. Dogs who love me unconditionally and bring me so much joy I can hardly stand it sometimes. People who I laugh with, and get angry at, and cry with, and am silly with. People I have adventures with. People. There is nothing more important than our relationships and the experiences we create together.  It’s the journey we’re making, with each other, that matters.   It’s what matters most to me.

I am so happy, so thankful, so grateful, and so overwhelmed to be alive. Life is so beautiful.

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Missing People Just Plain Sucks

Missing people just plain sucks.

I’m sad.  I just finished watching a video about the School of Piano Technology in Vancouver, Washington.  And no, pianos themselves don’t make me sad, just in case you were wondering.  What just made me sad was missing my dad.

My relationship with my dad was… complicated.  My parents divorced when I was a young pup.  Knee high to a grasshopper.  My dad, who didn’t want it, didn’t handle it well.  My mom, for her part, wishes she would’ve done the whole thing differently, but we’re human, and we handle things the way we do.  Better or worse.  Life is messy, and so was this.

After the divorce my brother and I lived with Mom full-time.  Dad had visitation and Mom, who still thought he was a great guy, wanted us to have him in our lives.  She talked kindly and fondly of him and often encouraged us to call him.  Dad, who was a person filled with light and joy by nature, couldn’t handle the separation and his best defense was to ignore that it happened, and consequently, to ignore my brother and I.  Simply put it was easier for him to pretend we didn’t exist than it was to actually be engaged with us on a part-time basis.  The whole situation was made more difficult by the fact that he remarried and after a few short years together they moved to Montana.  Being so far away just put further distance between us.  My dad had a great life there.  He and my step-mom had five children together and were happy.  It was good for them, for him.  But he was still my dad and though I loved him, and knew he loved me, he dropped the ball in the being a parent to my brother and I department.  He dropped it big time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

There were hardly any calls to us, and when we did talk to him it was because Mom had asked if we wanted to call him.  And when, finally, we were on the phone with him, after we’d made the call, he would cry, say he missed us so much, and ask how come we didn’t call more.  We were pre-teens, he was the grown up.  Who should have been responsible for keeping in touch?  Apparently, according to my dad, the pre-teens.  I think I only ever got one or two birthday cards from him.  He never wrote a letter.

Missing people just plain sucks.

When he first moved to Montana we didn’t see him for four years.  Not because Mom stopped us from going, but because Dad didn’t ask us to come.  I remember our first visit there, I was 12 when he moved and 16 when we went for the first time.  My brother and I went by train.  It was strange suddenly being with him, with his new family, and feeling outside of it all.  Feeling apart.  He tried to make us feel like part of the family, but he was a tad clumsy with those things.  I have memories from that visit all clouded by this feeling of us all being a bit uncomfortable.  The weird thing is that when we were with him we were his everything.  In person he was fantastic.  Showered us with attention, talked as if nothing was off, as if we hadn’t just spent four years not really communicating at all.  We were his light, when we were there with him.  I’m sure that then made it strange for my step-mom and for my younger siblings.  Suddenly he was all about us.  Wanting to introduce us around town, spend all his time with my brother and I.  He would say things to us like, take this to your mom, referring to our step-mom as our mom.  It didn’t feel right, to us or to her.  He wanted one big happy family when we were there.  Like I said, he was awkward with things like that.  Then, when we weren’t with him, when we were back in Oregon, it was as if all the lights shut off.  All communication once again stopped.  Like a switch.  A switch I wasn’t very good at understanding for a long long time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

This happened every time we went to Montana to visit, or my dad and all came to Oregon, which wasn’t a lot.  After I was a bit older I drove out for my little sister’s high school graduation and then for my younger brother’s high school graduation.  Same thing.  Switch on.  Switch off.  It’s something K saw first hand a few times after we got together and she never understood it.  She always said it was so strange that he didn’t communicate at all with me and then when I was with him he couldn’t get enough of me, showered me with attention and affection.  Switch on…. switch off.  It was actually kind of nice to get her opinion about it.  All those years feeling that way, to then have her confirm how odd it was, was comforting.  Made me feel a little less off kilter where the Dad situation was concerned.

My brother and I handled this whole switch scenario very differently.  When we were younger my brother had Dad on a pedestal, way up high, something porcelain and delicate and beautiful and not to be disparaged or messed with.  Dad was the end all and be all to him.  For me that wasn’t the case.  I was angry.  I remember my brother and I having big yelling matches about Dad.  He defending him as I screamed about what an ass he was for not caring, for not talking, for not being there, for basically abandoning us.  I wrote Dad letters I didn’t send.  Made mixed tapes for Dad that, unfortunately, I think I did send.  Embarrassing, and yet not embarrassing.  I was a teenager who desperately wanted her father to love her.  To acknowledge me when he wasn’t right there looking at me.  To be my father, my dad, whether or not he was standing in the room with me.  Because honestly, I adored him too.  I wanted desperately to have his attention.  After we were adults, my brother and I did a swap in this regard.  Me, having come to grips with who Dad was as a person and who he would always be, and my brother having an experience with Dad in regards to my brother’s wife at the time that would make him so angry he didn’t see or speak to Dad for six years after.  Dad didn’t really do anything, but he didn’t stand up for my brother or his wife and my brother couldn’t make excuses for him anymore.  I think all the anger he hadn’t allowed himself to feel over the years came out because of this incident.  And I think the amount we love and adore someone informs the amount of anger we can feel for that same person.  He was bitter and enraged.  For a long time.  Just as I had been bitter and enraged for a long time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

Later, after we got older and Dad and his second family moved back to Oregon, it was really too late.  They lived not far from Mom, probably only 20 minutes or so, but I never thought of visiting him.  It wasn’t a vindictive thing, it was just that it didn’t occur to me.  He had made himself so absent in my life that he was absent in my thoughts.  By then I would see him every couple of years and that was about all.  I didn’t even think of seeing him.  Didn’t think of making that effort.  Strange.  It’s amazing how someone can be gone from your life for so long that they are no longer a part of the every day culture of it.  You think of them sometimes, and those thoughts and feelings are usually warm and tender and genuine, but during the course of a normal day they don’t even enter your mind.   It’s sad, but that’s what happened with Dad.

Missing people just plain sucks.

Several years ago now I got a call from one of my younger sisters.  She told me Dad had had back pain and had gone into the hospital.  Everyone always teased him about how he whined about his pain or an injury, or whatever.  This time he wasn’t whining.  He went into the hospital and 11 days later, having gotten out and been sent home on hospice, he died in that house 20 minutes from my mom’s place.  I was there.  During those last few days I spent time with him at the hospital, listening to him writhe in pain as the cancer that was attached to his spine grew so quickly it broke his back.  I was there telling stories from my childhood with him and our visits together over the years.  I asked him questions, he asked me questions.  I was there at their house, one that had never been mine, watching the stream of well wishers from their church who brought food and spoke so fondly of him.  I was there to talk to him about music, which was his life’s blood, and laugh with him about some silly thing or another.  I was there standing by his bedside with my brother when our dad apologized to us for not being the father he should have been.  I was there to forgive him and to tell him I loved him.  I was there when his breathing slowed and then stopped for the last time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

I’ve been thinking about Dad a lot after watching the piano hospital video, which made me cry and cry.  I was thinking he was such a joy-filled, emotional man, and here I am, a joy-filled and emotional woman.  I’m blessed to have been his daughter.  He didn’t always do it well, being my dad I mean, but he did do some things right.  Most especially when I was with him.  In person he was awesome.  He was passionate and joyful and silly and fun and so warm.  He was one of the most genuine people I’ve ever known.  Honestly himself regardless of the situation.  He loved to laugh, and that laugh was so infectious anyone hearing it had to laugh right along with him.  He had music in his blood.  So talented and effortless, able to play pretty much any instrument, though he stuck with the pedal steel guitar because it was the hardest thing to play and he loved that about it.  I loved to listen to him play.  Loved it.  I loved watching his face when he was playing and singing.  I swear light shot out of him in all directions when he was sitting at that guitar.  Getting to see he and his band play together, live, was always awesome.  I loved his mis-matched outfits and his love of sweets and his gray hair and how when he walked places he moved fast.  He never moseyed.  He was blind, but that guy could move.  I remember watching him do single axle jumps while Ice skating and can picture him floating the river with us.  I can see him playing frisbee at my step-grandparent’s house, leaping in the air, and I remember fishing his glasses out of the river after he, my brother, and I went into the water when the raft ripped down the middle.  I love how he loved his coffee, with loads of sugar and cream, and how he was always the first to lend a hand when someone needed it.  I loved how he smiled and I loved his laugh.  I remember being a tiny girl visiting him one night at the gas station he worked at at that time, and how he walked over and bought us hot chocolates at this diner next door, and then lifted me up so I could clean someone’s windshield.  He made things an adventure.  I remember feeling like I was having an adventure almost every time I was with him.  Not many people do that, give that feeling.  He did.  It was a gift.

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Missing people just plain sucks.

Now, thinking about him, the all of him, I’m proud to be his daughter.  I had, long before he died, come to grips with who he was.  The guy who wasn’t the greatest of dads, yet was.  I’d wrapped my head around the fact that he was who he was, and that he would never change.  He wasn’t emotionally mature where my brother and I were concerned, but that was what it was, and it was OK.  I came to a place of accepting him for him and accepting and forgiving myself for putting him in the place I ended up putting him in my life, which was sort of on the side, just out of reach.  And I learned a great lesson from him.  I learned to be there for the people I love.  I learned that the hard way from him, but I learned it.  I think he’d be proud he taught me that lesson, even though I know he wasn’t proud of the way he taught me.  I’m also proud that he passed on his dorky sense of humor, his ability to be light and silly, and his love of all things coffee.  I’m grateful for those gifts, and for the gift of having had him in my life, even the little amount I did.  I’m grateful he gave me my younger siblings; my brother from our mother, and the younger five he had with my step-mom.  They are fantastic, and even though we don’t spend loads of time together, not nearly as much as I’d like, when we do it’s wonderful.   They are, simply, great people.   Each with a great smile.  I have a great smile too.  My smile came from both of my parents.  They both, Mom and Dad, have and had great ones.  Smiles from the inside.  Smiles that light the eyes.  It’s the thing most people notice about me, and it comes from them.

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Missing people just plain sucks.

It just does.

I miss Dad, and I love him, and sometimes, when the light is just right or my mood is, I see him in me.  Smiling.

One Month – 6475 Miles

We’ve been home now for a few days.  Getting home after being away for a month is a process.  Check the house, clean up the yard, re-set your air and take the long hose off the de-humidifier in the basement, spend significant time with the kids and the grand boys, do laundry, and settle back into our life.  All of which we’ve done, including re-organizing our garage and buying our second car, a scooter.

Life is beautiful.

The trip was fantastic this time.  We both kept commenting on how relaxed we were.  No house in Oregon to deal with, other than visiting the rentals, no running around like crazy people.  We made the conscious decision to spend most of our time at Mom’s place helping out on the farm and just being there, hanging out with her.  It was lovely.  Dinners on the patio, sleeping in the tent trailer she’d so nicely set up to be “our space” while we were there, helping her do some projects at the house, going to the movies with her and my bro, playing chuck-it with the pups under the walnut trees, and generally just being mellow.  We spent 13 days driving, in total, there and back which was also fun this time.  And we spent a few days at the beach with the kids and the grand boys who’d flown out so Mary could be in a wedding.  The time at the beach was also wonderful.  Sebastian’s first time seeing the ocean and walking on the beach.  Pure magic.  Every little thing a new and exciting adventure for him, and in turn for us, watching it through his experience.  We got to see some of our friends, and help one celebrate turning the big 5-0.  Some even came to visit us at the farm.  I got to spend time with the other six.  So great to see them all.  It’s not often all seven siblings get together.  I love them.

We didn’t see everyone we would’ve liked to, and we didn’t hit all of our favorite restaurants, but what we managed we loved.  Every single minute.  Somehow the time flies by and though a month was a long time to be away from here, it seems as though it’s never enough time there.  It’s amazing how a person can be ready to go home, but not want to leave all at the same time.

Without rambling on and on too much more I’m going to do what I did the last time we took a major road trip… I’m going to list the highlights.  Fun for me, and hopefully fun to read.  Here goes…

  • 6475 miles put on the rental car.  It had 7900 when we picked it up.  We almost doubled what it had.  Nice.
  • Animals spied… Big Horn Sheep, Coyote, Cows, Antelope, Sheep, Cranes, White Pelican, Turkey Vultures, Horses, Buffalo, and your regular dogs and cats.
  • The Boardman Plantation… 24,000 acres of Pacific Albus… wow.
  • Watching Sebastian collect rocks at the beach.
  • Music played on the road… sometimes loud with us singing along.
  • How gorgeous this country is, most particularly Colorado and Western Wyoming… wow.
  • The decision to take the roads less traveled and see places we wouldn’t normally see.  Hwy 20/26 is worth the drive people.  So is Colorado highway 114.  Just gorgeous.
  • Best coffee… Mud House in Springfield, MO and the Coffee Trader in Montrose, CO.
  • The surprising beauty of Northern Nebraska.
  • World’s Largest Fork, Springfield, MO.
  • Huge legs in Amarillo… nowhere to be found.  We looked, but apparently we looked in the wrong place.
  • Walking the fishing docks in old town Newport and hitting the aquarium with the kids, grand boys, and Thomas.  K spending time with both of her kids was a joy to behold.  Amazing what can happen when they both, the kids I mean, are finally living back in the U.S.
  • Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX…. as expected, and not.  Used up spray cans everywhere, people spray painting them as we walked around the big dirt field they were in, big crowds, iconic, cool, strange, a tad zany, and worth it for the photographs.
  • Seeing friends and spending some time.
  • A fun and fine 5oth birthday party.
  • Cake.
  • Sleeping in the tent trailer while it rained.
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Strange and beautiful and other worldly.
  • Signs on old bars, restaurants, gas stations, etc. on small highways = awesome.
  • Air conditioning in a car and hotel room when it’s hot as hell outside.
  • How great the dogs were during this trip.  They traveled so well.  The water bowl we were able to have for them in the car helped a lot, as did their comfy beds.
  • Realizing we both like motor lodges better than fancy hotels when traveling across country.  Fancy/expensive definitely isn’t always better.
  • Trailer shopping with Mom and Kev.  We ended up finding the Hood River model of the R-Pod Trailer  we will be purchasing next year.   Whoop!
  • Finally getting to visit Santa Fe, NM.
  • Being able to check off two more to-visit U.S. states on this trip….  New Mexico and Texas.  Had been to airports in Texas before, but I can’t count that as an actual visit to a state.  Leaving only Alaska, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.  Next road trip through the southern states perhaps?
  • Selling Dent, the Toyota Tacoma truck I’d had for 15 years.  Sad, but I was ready.  The sale afforded me the ability to buy a scooter here in Illinois.  Moving forward is a good thing.
  • Yelp.  I use it all the time when we travel to find funky coffee shops and restaurants for dinner.  It rocks.  I recommend it.
  • Spending the day with my siblings.  The seven of us rarely get together and it was wonderful hanging out with them for a drizzly day at the beach.  I’m lucky to have them and to be part of such a great group of peeps.
  • Deciding to not stop and sit in the saddle of one of the World’s Largest Jackalopes in Douglas, Wyoming.  We should have gone back and done it.  We did see it however.  It was big.
  • Deciding not to stop at Hell’s Half Acre because the road construction made it slightly difficult and we were only 40 miles from our destination for the night.  Next time.
  • Time spent alone with my honey.  We love being together, all the time.  It was wonderful getting to have yet another adventure with her.  Nothing like traveling with my best friend and the love of my life.
  • Laughing until we cried several times as we both attempted to take photographs from the car going 65 miles an hour.  Sometimes we got what we were after, many times we didn’t.  Either way we had fun.  Getting it was victory and celebrated, not getting it became a recurring joke.  We find fun in the smallest of things.
  • How many times two people can say, “this is beautiful, wow, look at that” in a one month period.
  • Wandering the Portland Saturday Market with our friend Vicki.  It was raining slightly on and off, but it was also loads of fun.  Plus, we bought soap.
  • Ruby Jewel Scoops Ah Joy sundae.  It is the best ice cream sundae I’ve ever had and whenever I’m in Portland it’s a must have.
  • Pasta and dinner with Thomas at Piazza Italia in Portland.  My honey dreams of their lasagna.  It’s perfectly wonderful.  Plus the company of Thomas was so very cool.  What a great kid (sure, he’s 27, but you know… a kid is a kid) he is.  International Patent Law here he comes.
  • Sunshine and no humidity.  The weather was pretty much perfect while we were traveling.  Only too hot and humid a couple of days on our way back to the Midwest.
  • Being so relaxed.  It was awesome.
  • Love of friends and family we got to see, missing the family and friends we didn’t get to see.

It was a wonderful trip this year.  Stupendous.  Terrific.  Really great.  So good we’re already planning our trip out next year.

Fathers

I started writing this on Father’s Day and was, as can happen, distracted by actual life events.  Visits from family and then traveling can do that.  I had nearly forgotten about this post until I noticed it idling there, the red “draft” sitting beside it in my post queue.  It was important to me to get this piece of writing out there, so here it is… late, but no less important to me.

Originally, like most people, I started out with a Dad.  One.  He was full of life, fun loving, sporty, loved his coffee, loved to laugh and laughed a lot, went gray early, had false teeth, played the pedal steel guitar better than I’ve heard anyone else play it, had a major sweet tooth, was legally blind, and smiled with his eyes… Warm and full of love.  My Dad was a dork, which I inherited.  Totally goofy with a dork’s sense of humor.  I’m honored to carry that on.  I’m also so happy to have his sense of joy.  It’s the best gift he passed on to me.  That and his sense of play… and awe.
When I was a tad older, and not much mind you, Mom married Bill and brought another dad into my life.  For 33 years he was the man of our house.  Bill had a sly sense of humor, often a mischievous twinkle in his eye, a love of science and the PBS shows Nova and In Search Of, could fix nearly anything, was the best BS’er I’ve ever seen, adored his tractor, loved a good pancake breakfast, and loved my Mom.  Bill taught me to love learning, whether he knew it or not.  He had a keen and curious mind.  Always reading National Geographic, Scientific American, and the like, he was interested in how things worked. And even though he wasn’t much of a traveler he wanted to know about the world.  He was a guy who didn’t have a large formal education, but he was a very educated and very intelligent man.  Bill, or Billbsy, as Kev and I called him when we were younger, was a guy of deep feelings and strong opinions.  I didn’t often agree with his politics, but that was OK too.  Bill had the ability to talk to anyone, and did.  I was always amazed at how he just struck up conversation with the people he was around, whoever they were.  He taught me to fly fish, to love small Mom and Pop motels and car trips, and passed on to me a great appreciation for the mysteries of the larger world.  I am oh so grateful for those gifts and for the gift of seeing my Mom love and be loved so well.
A few years after Bill passed Mom met and married Don.  I recently, after Don’s passing, wrote a blog post about him so I won’t go into all the things about Don that impressed and amazed me, but I will say that after just having attended his celebration of life I was so awed by the number of people he effected in such a positive way.  He was an amazing father and grandfather.  He lived an amazing life and I was so honored to have had him in mine for a time.
I gained yet another dad when I married Karen and met her dad, Don.  From the beginning, even though Karen’s parents tend toward the very conservative, they accepted me, and our relationship.  I knew I was in when Don, one day, put his arm around me, called me kid, gave me a little squeeze, and smiled at me.  That small gesture meant more to me than I can express.  He has been strong, and wise, and has shown me love from the start.  I  also, see an earlier blog, had the honor of being chosen by him as the forker during a new in our relationship Thanksgiving dinner.  I won’t explain here, but needless to say I was thrilled to get the job.  Don is steadfast, opinionated, warm, curious, and can, even still, move fast when he’s headed somewhere with a purpose.  He has a fantastic laugh and does it with a great twinkle in his eye.  He gets joy from small things, which has been a great lesson for me because when it comes down to it it’s the small things that matter.  He’s quiet, reads voraciously, loves his family and extended family with a passion, and  is a solid rock of support and strength.  I appreciate his presence in my life every day.  And like I told him this Father’s Day, privately with a little kiss on his cheek, he is the only dad I have left and I love him so.
Lastly, when talking about Dad’s, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about my Grandpa, my Mom’s dad.  Grandpa, who I also wrote about in a couple of previous posts, was the epitome of a fantastic father and grandfather.  I learned so much from him… how to play cribbage and backgammon, how to tie my shoes, what a good person should be.  He had a love for life, an adoration of family, and a playfulness and sense of joy that was so strong it still flows through our family.  I was with some of the family this last weekend and I could see him in all of us.  Those were some amazing genes he passed on.  He is the father of my Mom and so through her he also gave me so many gifts.  I was blessed to have him in my life for so long and am so lucky to be a part of him.

 

As I look back at this list of fathers, my list of dads, I am amazed at the quality of the men here.  They were nothing like each other, and yet the most important thing about them, their ability to love well, is shared by all of them.  Most people get one dad and I have been fortunate enough to have four.  They have been, and are all, each one, a blessing to me and my life.  Men, who might be reading this, and I know a few uncles, brothers, brothers in law, a son in law, friends, and cousins who might, you should know you are valued.  You, as fathers, are priceless.  You bring so much love, joy, strength, and happiness to the children in your life.  You might not know this, or be aware all the time, but you are so loved.  What you do, what you provide, is invaluable, and I, for one, am so thankful and grateful for you.  Watching you dads be dads is an amazing thing.  It’s a joyous thing.  So thank you fathers, mine and the dads I get to watch every day being fathers to their daughters and sons.  Thank you, and happy Father’s Day.

A Thousand Years

I’m sentimental, empathetic, and very in tune with the feelings of others.  Always have been.  It’s the thing that makes me cry during silly commercials, sporting events, and when I hear a song on the radio that makes me think of someone I love.  I feel things deeply.  All things.  Sometimes this makes it hard, I’m sure, to live with me.  When I’m upset I’m emotionally upset, which I myself don’t always understand, and when I feel love I am so full of love I sometimes fear my body won’t be able to contain it.  All of this emotion comes from the same well deep inside of me.  It is at times overwhelming, explosive, warm, joyous, and all consuming.  I don’t always appreciate these deep feelings I have, and have sometimes wished I didn’t have them at all, but honestly, I’m glad I’m like this.  I’m glad I see, and feel, the world this way, through this blanket of empathy and love.

Earlier today I watched a Youtube video of a man using a flash mob, in Central Park, to help him propose to his boyfriend of many years.  It was beautiful.  Simply put, love is love.  There can’t be too much of it in the world, in my opinion.  So while I was watching this video I started to cry.  It was moving, and as noted above, I’m a crier.  I felt for them, was happy for them, happy for the people watching, happy for one of the guys Mom’s who was there to see it and crying herself.  My honey looked over at me, we were both in our office, and said you must be watching something emotional.  I had headphones on and tears streaming down my face.  She’s used to this.

I watched the video and listened to that song and thought, once again, of my honey and how lucky I am to have her.  It’s really, I think, why I was crying today.  I was overwhelmed by the love I feel for her.  I am difficult to live with.  Difficult to love sometimes I think, but she is always right there, loving me as if it’s easy for her.  Making me feel as though it’s easy for her, as though it’s something she has always done, something that’s natural and true.  I am so blessed and lucky that she somehow manages to understand me and love me for all that I am, good and difficult.  For 10 years.  10.  I can’t express how much I love her.  It comes from a place so deep inside that deep well of mine that I don’t think there are actually words.  Just feelings so big and strong and true they defy articulation.

Honey… I have loved you for a thousand years and will love you for a thousand more….

She Is Grace Under Pressure

I love my Mom.  It’s not just loving her though, I admire her.  When I think of some of the best qualities a person should have… truth, trust, honesty, integrity, acceptance, humor, a non-judging attitude and spirit, honor, fun, smarts, strength, an ability to keep moving forward no matter the circumstance,  and grace… she has all of that in spades.  I have known this, and looked up to her, my entire life.  She’s a fantastic role model, someone to aspire to be like, and then on top of that, she’s also my friend.

Mom and I sat at a restaurant I like while I was in Oregon this sad month and she said to me she was glad we could talk to each other about most everything.  I agree.  The truth is Mom and I have been friends most of my life.  I’m lucky.  I watched her while I was there for those 19 days and I, again, was amazed by her.  She is no stranger to sadness and heartache and yet she shines.  She keeps moving, keeps making sure those around her are OK as well.

I saw Mom with Don’s kids, who are fantastic people by the way, and I loved her all the more.  Was so proud to be her daughter, yet again.  Mom has a way about her.  A way to calm and make you feel like you matter and that you are important.  She does this effortlessly.  She does this naturally.  She does it with everyone she’s around.  It’s why people love her.  My friends, throughout my life, have loved and do love her.  And over the past three weeks she was these things for Don’s kids, without even trying.  She probably doesn’t even know she has had this effect her whole life.  The feeling she instills of calm and peace combined with that smile, the famous smile that beams light and love, it engulfs you.  Her presence says everything will be alright.

Somehow, through tears and sadness and heartbreak, she manages to keep that wonderful smile.  She manages to see that there is still beauty and love and hope and reason in the world.  This doesn’t mean she hasn’t been hurt and sad and angry in the last three weeks, or at other times in her life, it just means she knows how to feel that and still see the love around her.  She looks at the world with the best eyes… eyes of hope and love and possibility.  She doesn’t let circumstance weigh her down, change her outlook, make her cynical and hard.  She never plays the victim and has never been one.  It’s spectacular, really spectacular.

Mom has had her share of sadness and loss.  My heart aches for her now, as it has in the past, as she deals with this heartbreak.  But I know something, something she knows too, something she said to me herself, I know she will be OK.  And she will.  Knowing that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking of her many many times a day and trying to will my love to her over the miles between us, I am and I do.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hug her and tell her over and over that I love her and that even though I am miles away I’m holding her.  I think she knows this.  I hope she feels it.  But knowing it helps me, and her too I think.  Because it’s true.  As she gets through the hours, and days, and the next few months, she will keep her life moving forward.  She will love and be loved, she will have happiness and joy, she will laugh and have peace again.  She will be OK because she is grace under pressure.  She will be OK because she knows there’s more good than bad in the world, and that light always shines it’s way into dark spaces.  She will be OK because Mom is strong beyond measure.  She’s stronger than even she is aware of I think.  She will be OK because it’s who she is.

I love my Mom.  But more than just love, I admire her.  That admiration causing tears to stream down my face and my heart to swell with pride.  I love you Mom.

I Hope The Fish Are Bitin’

I can’t believe it’s been a week.  A week.  Time goes so fast, or slow, or fast again, depending on how you look at it, and how you feel.  To me, and in talking to Mom, to her as well, it seems as if the last week has stretched out creating the illusion that oh so much more time has actually passed than has.  Yet all in slow motion… stretching.  It’s strange.

It’s strange what emotions do to you.  Sad ones anyway.  A week ago today Mom called me early early in the morning to say her husband, Don, has died suddenly, and what everyone believes is pretty peacefully, in his sleep.  She woke to strange breaths, tried to wake him, called 911, did chest compressions until the ambulance arrived, and watched as they worked on him both here at the house and then again at the hospital.  He couldn’t be revived.  She was sitting with him when she started making calls.

I couldn’t believe it early that morning and still I don’t know if I can believe it.  I was just here visiting a month and a half ago.  Just here at the house hanging out with them.  Here chatting with him, loving that occasional mischievous grin he’d get sometimes when he thought he was pulling one over or getting your goat a bit.  I really liked that grin.  I really liked how he made my Mom happy.  Gardening, traveling, spending time with family, trying new Vegan recipes together, reading the paper over good espresso in the morning, and watching the news at night.

Don was a passionate man.  Passionate about seeing and exploring the world, passionate about his grandkids and kids, passionate about my Mom and their life here on the farm.  He loved trying new gardening techniques and recipes and finding just the right mix to make a suet the birds would like and eat, mixing it up in big batches and devising a plan of delivery so the bigger scrub birds couldn’t get it all.

Sitting here helping Mom go through some of his papers I discovered he was a bit of a poet and philosopher at heart, eloquent when he wanted to be in writing his thoughts down.  Snippets here and there of things he’d experienced while traveling, feelings he’d had as kept moving forward through life.

He was an amazing guy, and though I didn’t know him nearly long enough, or know him as well as I would’ve liked, I really only need to know this… he loved my Mom well, he loved his children, and he adored his grandchildren.  He had friends he cared about and who care about him.  He knew what life is all about.  He lived his life using that as his guide… it’s about the people you love and who love you.  And because he lived his life that way, because he knew it was all about loving his people and them loving him, he made such and impact on those people… he made an impact on me.  I can see him in the beauty of his grandchildren, in their smiles, their sense of fun, in their determination.  I can see him in his children, how they are as parents, who they are as people.  His legacy is vast and far reaching.  His memory, his impact on everyone, so lasting and strong.

Don… you loved well… and you are so well loved…

And if you can hear this… hear me… I hope the fish are bitin’ where you are, and I hope they look out because Fly Fish Don is coming.