Oddments

In search of story


4 Comments

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.)

 

 


4 Comments

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.

 


10 Comments

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.

 


4 Comments

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.

 

 

 

 


8 Comments

February 8.19

Yesterday, dear reader, came the fifth sunless day of rain in five days. Also came the haulers in a pickup truck pulling an open wooden cart. They hauled stuff from my garage and then we drove to my storage unit and they hauled stuff from there.

And the rain poured down.

I followed them out of the storage place, and there was no way not to see the detritus of my life, soaked and wilted, riding in front of me. The big cardboard box with the old Christmas tree figured prominently in the heap. Some of the stiff old branches had fallen out and, formed yet in their bent upward curve, lay there appearing to wave goodbye to me. It was the forlornest vignette to be imagined.

That tree belonged to my parents and had seen many, many Christmases. Yes, I still have the top. Yes, it was time to let it go.

But did it have to wave at me?

And the rain poured down.

I came home and attacked the garage, sweeping and shoving and piling. The temperature was 59 and it was suddenly April. We haven’t seen the sun all week, but there was warmth! The daylilies were sprouting!

This morning the temperature is 18, windchill 0. A winter wind rattles the house and my head. Poor daylilies. Poor old frozen Christmas tree.

Mourning is a process not meant to be cured or stopped or unfelt. Grief will be, just as the winter rains will be. I loathe Pollyanna-isms, but there are those sprouting daylilies.

 


6 Comments

Vagaries in Gestation: December 21.18

My brother was stretched out in his recliner and I was lolling on his sofa, facing his side. The California sun was going down and its fading light fell over him like running water. As we talked, I became increasingly distracted. He was changing without moving. I tried to keep my part of the conversation going but it wasn’t easy; I was watching something I’d never seen before.

He morphed like some special effect from a movie, and became someone I knew but couldn’t name.  Then I realized it was our Grandpa Mauck, whom I hadn’t seen since I was about ten, when he died. The shadows had sculpted everything about my brother that was like our grandpa into our grandpa. Grandpa stayed and talked with me; my brother was gone.

It scared the bejabbers out of me. At the same time I felt there was something wonderful about it. It was ominous and reassuring all at once. I tried to talk myself out of it, but the sense of portent was there. Still it hit hard last week when I got the call: my brother had died. Our last visit was just that.

During this past year, his emails had been uncharacteristically terse. If he thought he was pulling wool over my eyes, he thought wrong. I knew his/our medical history. I knew something was going on. It wasn’t what he said; it was what he didn’t say.

I look back. As the sun went down on the other side of my brother and I could see less and less of him, I saw something more. As he communicated less and less, I heard something more.

And I think about how we grasp what’s there from what isn’t there.

 

 

Vagaries in Gestation

 


4 Comments

Vagaries in Gestation: November 14.18

Did you ever look at a close relative and ask yourself that hideous question “Am I like that?” No other question is so hard to answer, I think.

My mother was born 100 years ago today, and was a child of her time, as are we all. That time was one of clear-cut roles and expectations for women, and it crumbled around her during her life. She was, I think, stymied by the changes but willing to challenge her own perceptions. In a grudging sort of way. She stubbornly argued she was NOT stubborn. She was finicky and explosive and opinionated. She believed that anything worth doing was worth doing her way.

She ironed everything but rugs. And I’m not sure about the rugs. She believed in propriety and process, hard work and common sense. She inevitably bungled a punch line. She endured her own mother, although at great cost, believing it to be the moral way. Immersed in an immigrant Catholicism, she preferred Protestant humanness to Catholic etherealness. She wanted to sing “He walks with me,” not “Panis Angelicus.”

If I could fit her into a blog post, she wouldn’t be my mother.

So I salute my mom today and ask the answerless question: Am I like that?

 

Vagaries in Gestation

 


4 Comments

Disconnections: October 16.18

Morning sun

in autumn slants

reveals my dust-fest

extravagance;

my foremothers

would surely look askance

at my housekeeping

fainéance.

Matter of fact,

I think they glanced

and left this subtle

recognizance.

 

(Is this literary irony? I’m stuck in this dry, arid word desert, and dust gives me words. )