It takes a while

After dropping off the little boy at school this morning, I took a brisk walk around the campus and through the adjacent park.

I probably needed to walk the loop more than once, but even that fleeting twelve minutes worked wonders on my foggy brain.

This has been a strange week.

My uncle’s passing and the daily updates from mom about the flowers and the neighbors with food and the service and the other little details that you can’t predict until you’re dealing with them, all of that is spinning in my head and kicking old memories right to the front of my thoughts.

I remember all of this from the week after my dad died.

It’s good to have those things to keep you occupied until you can settle into the fact that your loved one is gone.

It takes a while to do that, you know, to settle into it.

It takes a while to stop reaching for the phone to call him.

It takes a while before you stop rushing home to tell him about your day.

It takes a while before you think of where to put the thoughts and feelings you kept just for him.

It takes a while to like the holidays again.

It takes a while before you stop buying him trinkets or bringing home magazines with articles on the things he collects or the places he goes.

It takes a while before you stop getting an extra slice of cake or a few more oranges at the market.

It takes a while before you stop regretting this day or that day.

It takes a while to forgive yourself for fights and failings.

It takes a while before you can clean out his stuff and actually decide what to do with it.

It takes a while to remember all of the people who would want to know that he is gone.

It takes a while to recover when you stand alone in your house with the phone in your hand and you realize you have told everyone there is to tell and now you must face a conversation with yourself.

It takes a while to really cry and to feel the way you really feel – mad or sad or relieved or sick or lonely or not.  Happy or stressed or scared or buoyant.

It takes a while to decide where you think your loved one is and whether or not he sees you and knows you as this new person that you’re taking a while to become.

It takes a while to rearrange your life and to realize how you rearranged it for him before he left.

It takes a while to settle into it.

For me, it has been a long time.  Eight years.

Today, I finally stowed away some of the Christmas decorations.

In the space I made for them in my closet, I found a box with some papers in my father’s humored, unhurried, and purposeful hand.

I will keep the box, of course, and I will frame some of the papers one day.

But it could take a while.

This week reminds me that I am still unsettled.

P.S. I threw some tomato seeds into the yard a couple of weeks ago.  Can you see the sprouts in that photo?  They are teeny next to the fully established ornamental strawberry leaves, but they are thriving.  I can’t wait for this year’s crop to show itself.

And speaking of delicious produce, the strawberry patch at Main and Third is open for the season again.  Go get yourself a flat.  It’s worth the drive.



I’m Just Saying

I’m just gonna say it to get it out of the way.

Today is the day my dad died.  Seven years ago.

Do you call it an anniversary?  That seems celebratory and that’s not exactly what this is.

But I didn’t wake up depressed today.  At least, not about this.  Not about my dad.

I know he’s in a good place.  And wherever it is, he can walk and run and ride horses.

I’ve said before that I don’t make appointments with grief.

I don’t believe that I am supposed to be sad just because a given day marks a somber event.

I’ve said that before.  You’ve read that before.

I guess I’m just bringing this up because writing a post about something else today seems disrespectful somehow.

Last year, we were traveling in January, so I spent the 8th posting a recap of events from the road.

I didn’t think much about the significance of the date.

This year, I’ve been sick and I’m just home and not engaged in any hugely distracting activities, so there it is, the anniversary of my dad’s passing.

I think my mom is a little teary today.

She loves her life and everyone in it, but there’s always going to be a space in her heart that is reserved for my dad.

I’m not even sure it’s a voluntary reservation.  It’s just par for the course of love and loss.  I have it too.

Crying about the past doesn’t mean we’re not thrilled about the future.  We are.  We both completely are.

My dad would want that.

On a lighter note, I feel a lot better today.  I sound worse, but I feel better.

The husband boosted my morale with personal sacrifice.

He skipped a movie night with the boys to let me off the parenting hook last night and then he got up with our son this morning so that I could sleep in.

I’ll be gone tomorrow, so today was supposed to be his day to sleep.

I am forever grateful.  I think he let me turn the corner on this cold.

And to sweeten the honey-do credits, he’s now at the store picking up my hair color.

In the morning, I’m driving a couple of hours to meet some friends for shopping and lunch.

I can’t wait.

Thanks to husband, I think I might even have the energy required to really enjoy it now.

Of course, I may feel differently when the alarm rings at 5:30.  😐  We’ll see.

What are you doing this weekend?

Have a Happy Saturday!


Has It Really Been Seven Years?

Happy Birthday, Pop.

I’m thinking about you today.

I wish you were here to go to a thrift store or get a doughnut.

Maybe we could even sit in the garage and listen to music while you tell me a story about Caruso.

Or we could share some See’s and talk about your mom and dad.

Then we could pull out the graph paper and draw our dream houses or chart the year’s best horses.

Later in the day, you could call me and pretend to be a serious government employee, needing information only I can provide.

Your name would be something like Petunia Snardfarter.  Or maybe that would be me.

Do you remember that time we were turning into the parking lot of the Amvets store on Broadway around 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday?  A six-foot-something man (?) dressed in drag with great long fishnet-stockinged legs crossed in front of the car and wagged his tongue suggestively, right in your direction.  I think he wanted to get to know you better.  Do you remember?

Or how about the time I walked a few paces ahead of you one evening as we were leaving the Tower Records on El Cajon?  A couple of twenty-something punks started hitting on me in the parking lot.  You grumbled something to dissuade their bad behavior, so they asked if you were my granddad and you replied that you were my husband.  I think I turned four shades of red, but they turned six, so it was fine.  Do you remember that?

I remember all of it.  And more.

It all still makes me chuckle.

You were such a good dad.

You always made me laugh.

I miss our friendship.

I really do.

Happy Birthday, Pop.

I hope those other angels bake you some devil’s food today.  🙂

With white frosting.


Wounded, But The Shooter Is Sweet

Sometimes I am wounded to the core by my son’s disdain for my singing.

I can’t stand it.

I don’t have a bad voice and I love to sing.

He won’t let me.

I feel stifled.

And sometimes I feel wounded to the core by his annoyance with books.

Granted, there are occasions on which he actually enjoys them and will let me read him a page or two.  He might even read a sentence himself, but those occasions are exceptional.

In general, my kid doesn’t like to look at books.


I come from a family of book lovers.  A family of book collectors.  And a house full of music.


Now I am ordered not to sing, not to read, not to be.

My heart breaks over this on a daily basis.

And it feels like a slight to my father, the one who mastered a love of books and beautiful song.

I know a conversation with my dad today would only reveal a man determined to appreciate the strengths of a boy.  My dad would caution me to overlook these minor and probably temporary let-downs.  Of course, I always heed that imagined advice, but the whole of it makes me very sad anyway.

Just now, the little boy and I were in the guest room, stripping the bed after Grandma’s visit.  He was singing, humming really, with his lips forming a perfect “o” and his little head tilted upward, like the children at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I thought I would try to engage him with a book from the t.v. special, complete with music and lyrics for two of the songs.

He saw Snoopy and the other characters on the page and seemed very interested, so I showed him a second Charlie Brown book.

He sat on the floor, turned the pages himself, pointed at Snoopy and was smiling and happy.

Then he started singing Jingle Bells.

I produced a board book with the music and lyrics for that song too.

But then I made the fatal error.

I decided to sing the words and point to the notes so he could follow along.

He lost his mind.

“No read a book.  No read a book!  No sing!  No read a book!  Mama, no sing!”

I tried to calm him down.

Too late.

He took the item nearest him – the dust jacket for the Peanuts book – and ripped it in half.

It made me mad.  It really did.  With all the fury of impatient generations behind it.

I ordered him out of the guest room and closed the door and now I sit here pouring out the emotion just to get it gone.

Because I know the little boy loves music. I KNOW he does.

And I know he will come to love books.

But in this moment, I am overwhelmed with his disdain for my love of them both.

Overwhelmed.  Sad.  Stricken with grief for the unfairness of time and loss and death and the mismatch of generations.

I miss my dad.

I just miss my dad.

And I wish I had let my mother sing.

Now it’s 7:00 p.m.  The little boy is clean and dry, snug in his room, and headed for dreamland.

He closed the door to the bathroom during his shower tonight and got the place as steamy as a sauna.

When I popped up to check on him, the steam poured out and engulfed me.

Through the fog of it, I found him standing on the edge of the wet tub pointing a full bottle of water straight at the light fixture.  I shudder to think what hazardous scheme had hatched itself inside his busy brain.  Sheesh!

I have ridden a roller coaster of emotions today, partly fueled by sleeping only four hours last night and partly fueled by the little boy’s destructive nature.

He broke things today.

I replaced them or I fixed them or decided I didn’t need them.  I cried a few times and just kept going.

I went to Pier One and Trader Joe’s and Petco and Von’s.  I came home, I took down Thanksgiving and put up Christmas.

The boy was excited to help with three trees, two garlands, and a wreath.  Husband hung a cheery string of outdoor lights and inflated a silly two-foot Santa on the front lawn.  We ate Thanksgiving food all over again and I chopped up the decorative gourds to scatter in the corner near the ever-flattening pumpkins.

What a day.

Now I’m going over to my new couch to sit next to my sweet husband to watch something with Bruce Willis in it.  Anything with Bruce Willis in it, please.


And out.

Day Twenty-Six 2010 Pumpkin Demise

I was enchanted by a beautiful hummingbird in the yard today.  Now THAT was a photographic challenge.  Didn’t get any really great shots of him, but it was wonderful to watch.


Oh, I almost forgot…

Happy Friday!

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Dear Boots

It’s your birthday.

You would have been 45.

In my head, your birthdays look like this:

Why did I wear a halter top if I felt compelled to fold my arms across my stomach?  I look uncomfortable.  You look beautiful, as always.

Do you remember that Halloween that we put on costumes and went to the new mall?  Lisa dressed like a reindeer.

Halfway through the afternoon, we ran into some boys you knew from school.  I felt important to be noticed by them.  Looking back, I know they weren’t noticing me.  They were noticing you.  And maybe the reindeer.

When my dad came to pick us up, we each gave those boys a quick kiss.  I had never kissed anyone before and, more importantly, my dad had never seen me kiss anyone before.  I can only imagine the conversation between him and my mom that night.

Conversation.  😐

I’d love to have a conversation with you.

Shhhh.  Don’t tell anybody, but sometimes I talk to you anyway.  I figure it’s worth it, because maybe you can hear me from wherever you are.  Maybe you even have some way to respond.

Today, I told you that I feel overwhelmed by the challenges with my son.  He is home from school again and I am teary and mad and teary and mad and teary again and madder still.  And sad.  Maybe you would listen to that.

Maybe you would also babysit now and then to help me keep my sanity.  I could use that today.  A lot.

A lot.

“Lot” is one of my son’s high frequency vocabulary words this week.  I can’t get school off my brain.  There’s always some dilemma with school.

Yesterday, there was a series of minor mishaps in the classroom.  My son was not to blame, but I guess his routine was a bit derailed by it.  Today, he doesn’t want to go back.

Talking about it distressed him so immediately and completely, that I couldn’t even stay in the room.  I went to the garage and cried in the dark.  I needed him to go today.

I needed him to go because this post was supposed to be about you, not him.

When I had stopped crying enough to think for a moment, I decided that home needed to be as boring as I could possibly make it.  I came in from the garage and wrote some rules.

If he stayed here, there would be no television, no toys, no legos, no computer, no open snack choices, no store, no friends, no outside.  There would be nothing fun.  I would bore him out of staying.

He would sit on the couch all day and eat only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for his lunch and all snacks.  Surely he would choose to go to school, right?

Wrong.  He is home and we’re both going crazy.  And your lovely birthday post has been hijacked.

I have successfully managed to keep the child on the couch with no real activity for about an hour.  He is bored out of his mind and he wants something to eat that isn’t pb&j.  What do I do?  Is this what I wanted?  I hate it.  What would you tell me?

A few minutes ago, he got up from the couch and just as I was about to direct him back again, he said “Thomas hug a Mama?”  Of course we hugged.  And now I am possessed by guilt.  And tears.  Great.

Another hour has passed and we have gone to my friend’s house to walk her dog.  I mean your friend’s house.  I inherited her from you.  That was a very nice gift to leave behind.   Thank you.

Now the little boy is doing everything he can to push the boundaries of his circumstances.  I am standing firm to the rules I wrote out for him this morning.  But he is getting agitated, so what do I do?  What would you tell me to do?

Maybe I wouldn’t listen to you.  Maybe I would even get annoyed if you threw in your two cents before it was solicited.  Maybe.

He wants to play on the computer.  He sees me in my computer chair.  He sees that I am typing something and he wants to do that too.

He doesn’t know that I’m having a chat with my departed friend.  He thinks I’m playing.  He doesn’t know that it isn’t the least bit fun for me to only wonder what you’d think.

I can’t make my autistic child sit on the couch all day.  Heading for Plan B.  Are you coming with me?

Okay, crisis averted.  Crisis of autistic behaviors.  Crisis of conscience.  Crisis of parenting without my friend to see me though it.

Back to you.  And me.  And us.

Do you remember when nerf balls first appeared and the only thing we ever thought to do with them was stuff a couple under our shirts and pretend to be Dolly Parton?  Here’s you with two:

Everything was funny to us.  There was a shorthand to our humor.  I miss that so much sometimes.  It’s not just anybody’s broken bone boredom that could get me to do this:

Happy Birthday, my beautiful friend.

I love you.


Going Along Fine And Then…

My friend’s kitten died last night.

It was four weeks old – probably just too young to be away from its mama.

I held it for twenty minutes in the morning after walking the dog.

Its little voice had deepened since I heard it last Thursday.

It clearly wasn’t well.

Its energy was gone.

It didn’t even know I was in the room until I touched it.

Poor little thing.

It burrowed itself between my neck and hair and stayed there as long as I let it.

I wish I’d had more time, but it wasn’t my kitten.  It wasn’t my house.  It wasn’t my place.

When my friend called later to tell me it had died, I wasn’t surprised.

I feel sad for my friend and her husband and children.

It’s a rough time for them to lose a pet, even a stray they’d only known for a week.

Last night as I was getting into bed, I accidentally tipped my grape leaf music box up on its side.

The daintiest little notes of O Sole Mio tinkered their way to my ears.

Somehow that seemed fitting for my somber mood.

The music box sat on the mantle in our living room when I was growing up.

I was always fascinated by it.

Now, whenever I hear it, I float instantly to a weird melancholy space between the lightness of childlike wonder and the heavy reality of my father’s absence.

I don’t think I realized until I heard it that I was so depressed about that little kitten.

I couldn’t save it.

That’s just how I felt about my father, my friend and cats of my own.

I couldn’t save them.

But today, I’m trying to let that go.

I had two good days getting the little boy off to school this week and then this morning there was a meltdown about socks.

Three pairs.

Socks.  And shoes.

None of them were right.

After an agonizing fifteen minutes of upset in the car, I sent him to school in sandals.

I’m tremendously sad about the kitten, but I have to let it go.