Oddments

In search of story


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June 18.20: Coping

I see many references to isolation and aloneness these days. As an introvert, I’m comfortable with aloneness. Usually content with my own company, I do not crave the madding crowd. Aloneness isn’t always loneliness.

But I haven’t been with my family since March 6. No hugs for three months! There’s loneliness in that, as many elderly (and not-so-elderly) know.

It has recently occurred to me that there is another dimension to my aloneness. My close friends vary in age, but all of us have experienced family death in our parents’ generation. However, among my friends, I am the only one to have lost the sibling connection to the past; I’m the first to be The Last. This hit me as a revelation. Unaware, I’ve been grappling with a sense of aloneness among my friends.

I am an old single parent who is also The Last One of the family she grew up with — those are my particular circumstances — but I think most of us are grappling with some kind of aloneness, and maybe loneliness too, at this time. It doesn’t mean we have the same life experiences, only that we are in the same human condition. Human, but dangerously corrosive, all the more so swirled as it is with anger.

As I’ve said before, I think writers write about two things: what is, and what could be. Sometimes we can’t write about what could be until we write about what is. For me, this is what is.

 

 


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April 17.20 Again: Coping

Edna and me (not a recent photo)

Some years ago, I spent Saturday afternoons with my Aunt Edna, who lived in an apartment about half an hour away. I always called ahead for her grocery list so that, on my way to her place, I could do her weekly shopping for her. Then I’d pick up sandwiches for us.

When I would come out of the grocery store, shoving the cart into a driving cold rain, or, better yet, into a faceful of wet snow, and then try to get the bags into the car without dropping my purse into the slush, I must admit I was no saint: I grumbled and groused to myself. What a mess I was, and what a mess everything was. And then in and out for our sandwiches, and then wrestle all of it into her apartment…nope, not a saint.

But, on the side of virtue, I think I got a grip on my lesser self before she opened her door. She’d pour each of us a small glass of white wine, always the perfect complement to my all-time favorite tuna fish sandwich, and we’d settle into some good yacking.

Today we are having a very cold, relentless rain. It is dark and miserable. My wonderful daughter-in-law, hooded and dripping, just deposited multiple bags of groceries at my front door, and laughed a bit as we social distanced.

Am I thinking about the cycle of life? You bet.

 

 

 


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March 24.20: Coping

Coping is as coping does.  Me, I’m attacking my Fibber McGee family history closet.

It is arguable that this is the worst project I could undertake since I am isolated and already filled with dread and anger.  With every envelope and box I open, ghosts waft out. Loss is freshened and grief revisited. I miss these places and these people long gone — who were they and why did they make the choices they made?

You’d think, given the load of paper they left me, I’d find the answers. Not a chance.

There are photos and negatives (remember negatives?), deeds, receipts, bank books, letters, post cards, diplomas, telegrams, cocktail napkins, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks…the Smithsonian of, yes, oddments. What a tell-all lurks! If only I could figure out the “all” to tell!

For now, I sift and sort. One bit of history at a time.

Take, for instance, this historical scrap, which, in other circumstances, would be timely: my dad’s tax return for 1941, the year he and Mom were married, shows the princely income of $2674.68. But, even better, his whole return was completed on a one-page — one page! — 8.5 x 11 tax form. If you live in the USA, you are grabbing for the smelling salts.

Or this: the bedroom furniture you see in this photo — bed, chest, dresser — was purchased in 1946 for $79. I think they got their money’s worth.

The flip side of this way of coping is that I can write about it. Blogging is coping, yes? Maybe in the writing I’ll get to some of the answers I seek. Or maybe I’ll learn to ask different questions.


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March 4.20

Salad days

judgment green

wings untested

life unseen

soaring spirits

buoyant dreams

endless visions

plans and schemes

ideals of beauty

reason, truth

halo’d by snow

but more by youth.

 

Apologies (and thanks) to Shakespeare.

Thanks also to Wabash College for use of this photo,

and to S.W. Berg for sending it.


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February 22.20

Look both ways

our parents told us,

and if we didn’t

they’d yell and scold us,

but a harder lesson,

heaven knows,

if cars and trucks

drove over our toes.

A lesson for life,

to look aft and fore,

then run like the wind,

wide-eyed and full bore!

 

Thanks yet again and a rousing HAPPY BIRTHDAY

to photographer S. W. Berg!


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November 26.19

The road to here

from distant there

is mapped as

greasy thoroughfare.

‘Mid stain and splotch,

old gizzard drip,

evolution in

encrypted scrip.

Notes to self

in mishmashed order

chase themselves

around the border,

not merely scrap,

timepiece instead,

the years piled up

like cubes of bread.

From my neatnik Mom

through freeform me

the family stuffing

legacy,

preserved in splat

of butter, sage,

for, I hope,

another age.

 

There was nothing like it: the smell on Thanksgiving morning. No, not coffee and bacon. Onion and celery and butter! Smells to float on. Dad would go to Mass and some years I went with him, but usually I stayed home to help. OK, so it should be “help.” I was very good at putting things away just before they were needed, and I was very good at reminding my mother how I disliked pumpkin pie. What a model child I was!

I hope your Thanksgiving memories are good ones, dear reader, and that, amid the bleakness of our times, we can give thanks for the things and people we know to be true and good.

I thank all of you who have stopped by my blog and left an encouraging word or like. Writing is ever on the edge of not-writing, and your kindnesses have kept me going many times.

A very happy Thanksgiving to you, dear reader!

If there is travel, may you and yours come and go in safety.

 


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November 20.19

Make a list!

What good advice!

If I were Santa,

I’d check it twice.

But I’m me,

with list syndrome:

 I write it out,

then leave it at home.

 

I did it again the other day, dear reader; I left the list at home. It’s not my fault! I have a syndrome! But here’s the truly trying thing: I remembered ONE THING from my list, and I was so proud of myself. Light brown sugar! And surely you know what came next. Yes, they were out of it.


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November 11.19

In loft of branch,

salute

to drummed stepping,

ghosts now.

In iron root,

duty,

grief-sealed

in the clay.

In fallen leaves,

acorns.

In shade of history,

children.

 

 

The grand oak tree on the old parade grounds,

Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, IN.

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg, CAPT, MC, USN (Ret).

I wish you a thoughtful Veterans’ Day, dear reader.

 

 


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October 29.19

Age, some say,

is just a number,

inconvenient,

contrived encumber.

I shake my head

and must dissent;

age is real,

the past is spent.

In shingles curled,

in chimneys blackened,

in wood wind-sanded,

in facia slackened,

time’s signature

is boldly written,

and we are similarly

smitten.

Our mortar to dust,

our boards to splinter,

through many a summer

and many a winter,

we too show

the outward signs

of life’s erosions,

droops, declines.

But as parts unjoin,

fade and slip

arises still

proud workmanship.

And so with us

of youth bereft:

who we are

is what is left.

 

With thanks to photographer Mary Jo Bassett

and Conner Prairie Living History Museum, Fishers, IN.