Oddments

In search of story


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June 16.19: Postcards from Emmy

Eyes up

or dead ahead

full-faced

uncorseted

youthful

 oaken vertebrae

steel-enforced

DNA.

Downcast eyes

will not attend

the future that

these two portend.

Fearless Girl times two

foreseeing

each steadfast

in her own being.

 

To all the dads who have given the world Fearless Girls, a very happy Fathers’ Day!

 

With thanks to the unnamed photographer,

to sculptor Kristen Visbal,

and, of course, to Emmy.

 

 


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May 20.19

On Being The Caboose

Do you remember the words spoken of George Washington: “First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen”? With a trifling modification, they could be spoken of me: last at the table, last out the door, last to finish anything. I was considered the dawdler, the slowpoke, the Grand Pooh-Bah of Time Wasting. My father referred to me as “the late Maureen O’Hern.”

What nonsense. I was deliberate. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the concept of the clock; it was that the clock didn’t understand the concept of me. I was– ahem — unrushed.

And thus did I become the family caboose. Always, always last.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately because now, in a new way, I am last. Of the family I grew up with, I am the only one left. Now no one remembers but me. I am hit hard by this, not least because of my desire to write combined with my amazing inability to tell a story.

Bringing up the rear gives one a certain perspective, perhaps not entirely flattering but in a way whole. Where do I go with that? What words do I give it? I know you understand, dear reader, because you are here. You know about words. We want for permanence; in some pauper’s way, our words give that.

 

PART TWO

 

 


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May 19.19

In matters of parenting

we have to admit

some things beyond

our control and our wit:

whether two or two hundred,

one will get loose,

another will always

be the caboose.

 

 

If you know me, dear reader, you know I do not love these geese.

However, I have to grant they are occasionally hilarious.

 

PART ONE

 


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May 12.19

I think they look huffy,

a bit high and mighty,

as though family life

is always this tidy.

I think it’s a ruse,

this complacent look,

a portrait for gloating

on their family Facebook.

Such serene air

is hardly the way

most parents spend

a usual day.

So here’s to reality,

mess by the ton:

a whole lot of work,

a whole lot of fun!

 

A happy day to all who mother!

(And, yes, some days the work:fun ratio is not stellar.)

 

 


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April 12.19

APOSTROPHE TO AN APOSTROPHE

Oh, you of little ink,

preposterous to think

you’d grow to such a plague,

pestilence and nag.

Everywhere and more

you’re a digital uproar;

documents are shredded

because you’re name-imbedded;

computers gag and sputter,

bureaucracies sweat and mutter,

printers flail and spit —

you just don’t seem to fit.

With all this ID ballyhoo,

I’m boiled in an impossible stew:

oh, my little apostrophe,

how to prove that I am me?

 

If, dear reader, you have an apostrophe in your name, you know the terrors. Some computers will take it; others won’t. Sometimes it’s changed to a comma, sometimes to a period, sometimes just tossed out. Then upper case becomes lower case (e.g., O’Hern becomes Ohern or O. Hern or O,hern). Lo, your last name as documented today does not match your last name on your birth certificate. Ponderously important people behind laptops are going to look at you with suspicion. They will ask you who you REALLY are. By that time the computers will have undone you and you will have no idea.

 


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April 2.19

I’ve been in California. Did I have fun? Was it a good time? Well, it’s complicated.

Both my sons, my daughter-in-law, and my grandchildren stood with me at my brother’s grave near a sun-crazed bloom of osteospermum. It was a beautiful day. As I walked away from the grave, I impulsively turned and said, “Bye, LB.” (He was LB and I was BS.) I felt awful. (Full disclosure: my brother and I spent our childhoods trying to kill each other. I do not wish to give the impression of lifetime sibling bliss.)

Then to his house so I could see it one last time. To our astonishment, the insides were being ripped out; it seemed the new owner had been granted permission to start renovations before closing was official. I think we scared the daylights out of her, a bunch of strangers led by my 6’5″ second-born. But then came explanations and introductions and a heady dose of her infectious excitement. Lots of hugs.

She invited us to go through, but I declined. I didn’t resent the changes but I wanted to remember his home in all its beigeness the way it had been. Everyone else explored the gutted insides. I visited his stalwart rose, that would live, no matter what he didn’t do.

The new owner commented on the sense of peace she felt in the place. The grave was still with me, but now also a happy sense of renewal. Complicated.

IMG_2018

Then legal and financial complications. All confusing to me, but, fortunately, not to my younger son. I leaned on him heavily. And on my new cane. I did not feel young! In the midst of it all, he took me to two art museums. My brain, entangled in the mesh of practicalities, struggled valiantly to adjust to the abstract and erudite. Complicated.

LA traffic was worse than ever. I’ve never been a city person, and the way of the city is but dirty mayhem and claustrophobia to me. It wears me down and depresses me. I felt mechanized.

My son’s friends invited me to dinner. A group of 40-somethings on a rooftop in the hills overlooking Los Angeles with — yes! — Emmy! I got to meet Emmy! I could see that the future is in good hands — and what wonderful calm amid the treetops away from the city!

Late in the week, as we sought the Santa Monica Post Office, I spied the Pig Jig. It hit my funnybone in a most unexpected way. As a usual thing, I am not particularly drawn to pigs, let alone when they’re dancing, but these three seemed to insist that they had a place in my week.

 

Life goes on? No, I don’t think so. We search for words to band-aid the loss, but the loss remains. Each of us feels it and fears it in his or her own way. It’s human. And there’s nothing more complicated than being human.

Our homecoming was marked by a bracing faceful of snowy air. Ah, spring in Indiana! What a finale!

If you have read to this last, dear reader, you have my thanks. This is by far the longest post I’ve ever written. In part, I wanted to explain my absence. But, as you well understand, I also turn to words to help me.

 

With thanks to photographer Patrick Mesterharm for the photo of me in the Kusama sculpture at the Marciano.

And thanks also to photographer Kelley Wilson Mesterharm for the official photo of the stalwart rose.

 


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February 17.19 (yesterday cont’d)

I’ve been thinking about “me too,” and how it is used. The photo of Emmy in yesterday’s post helped me with my thinking. “Me too” had come to suggest pretense to me, pretending someone else’s shoes fit.

Don’t get me wrong: in no way am I disparaging the MeToo movement, whose voices have given the strength of the many to the one. As depressing (if unsurprising) as MeToo truth has been, it has also been affirming; the one person who comes forward now has the voice of the many behind her or him.

But if you tell me about a worry or fear or grief you have, and I respond “me too” or some variation of it, aren’t I slamming a door on you? Dismissing you and changing the subject to me? Aren’t I saying “enough about you”?

Once I was talking to a dear friend about a problem in my life. She responded, “I can’t even imagine.” It was the most supportive thing she could have said. If she had said “me too,” she wouldn’t have helped at all; she would only have been pretending to walk in my shoes, pushing me out of them.

When is “me too” genuine empathy, and when is it just upstaging?

And that, dear reader, is how yesterday’s post came to be.