Oddments

In search of story


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August 10.20: Coping

“The malignant air of calumny has taken possession of all ranks and societies of people in this place…The rich, the poor, the high professor and the prophane, seem all to be infected with this grievous disorder, so that the love of our neighbor seems to be quite banished, the love of self and opinions so far prevails….The enemies of our present struggle…are grown even scurrilous to individuals, and treat all characters who differ from them with the most opprobrious language.”

According to David McCullough’s book “John Adams,” Christopher Marshall wrote the above in 1776.

Perhaps spellings have changed, and maybe vocabularies have weakened a bit, and maybe also “social media” is no longer the handwritten letter, but otherwise Mr. Marshall would not be much surprised, it would seem, by any of the news accounts today. So I pass it along to you, dear reader, for what it’s worth, and I leave it to you whether to laugh or to cry.

 

 


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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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June 15.20: Coping

Upside-down-ness

above below

gives me doubts

and vertigo.

I fear my eye

misapprehends

if sameness is

my constant lens.

I can sometimes

see anew

when things are toppled

all askew.

From eye to brain

zig-zaggety:

what I think I know

from what I think I see.

 

 

Many years ago, while I was caregiver to Dad, I audited Beginning Drawing at a nearby university. I couldn’t finish it because Dad grew so much worse, but even in that partial semester I learned immeasurably more than I can tell you, dear reader. One assignment was to draw something upside-down. Life was upside-down anyway, so why not? It was for me an astonishing process. It is one thing to draw something as you see it; it is another thing entirely to draw something as you don’t see it. When I was forced to turn an image upside-down and draw it, I was also forced to think differently. It was surprisingly uncomfortable.

 

 


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June 9.20: Coping

Yesterday I had a moment in a paint store that sent me into laughter which almost suffocated me because I was wearing a mask. Afterward I thought about it.

A man was buffing the floor, likely enjoying the sauna behind his mask as much as I was enjoying mine while I maneuvered with my usual grace amid shelves and social distance markers. The COVID pas-de-deux.  As it happened, I ended up apparently in his path: my assertion that I was trying to not be in the way was met with his “Well, then, MOVE!” This hit my funny bone hard. Thus my suffocation.

We all have our gifts. Mine is to be in the way. My dad had variations on “you’re in the way,” the best of which was “go tell your mother she wants you.” The man with the machine yesterday would have fit into my family perfectly.

As I chuckled my way home, I reflected on the mask as a new wrinkle in such a moment (pun intended). He was wearing a baseball cap so all I could see was a bit of grey hair and his eyes. Maybe MOVE! was grumped at me. I don’t think it was, but how would I know? We did not see each other’s faces — this should be remarkable. It isn’t! What a weird world we have landed in.

 


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May 27.20: Coping

You’ve seen “The Scream,” yes, dear reader? This is “The Gasp.” I made this! I, who scotch-taped pieces of fabric together to make doll clothes, made this mask with actual needle and thread. And no blood stains! I did, of course, draw blood because one of the rules of sewing is Stab yourself with the needle, but for once I didn’t get it on the material. Sometimes I amaze myself.

When I stepped away from the blog a couple weeks ago, my intention was to do what I could to re-arrange my head to survive this barrage of grief and flim-flam. What does one do with such resentment and frustration and creeping hopelessness in isolation? One grabs a dust rag and follows the lead of her ancestors.

Yes, I’ve been cleaning. To be clear, my housecleaning would never pass inspection by my mother or grandmothers. But I told their ghosts to shove off. I’ve cleaned, thrown out, packed away. It is symbolic, of course, but it is also a proven way to clear my head. If I can dig into something physically, I can dig out mentally.

I have baked, continuing my search for the El Dorado of gluten-free blueberry muffins.

Gardening beckoned but opportunity was limited to occasional cold and soggy weeding. Now overnight it’s the Amazon. I have mourned the death of spring in keeping with this season of requiem.

I started to go out last week, feeling like one of these emerging cicadas.

I made a mask!

Physically I’m better, but still get short of breath and tired. Fortunately, I was born pokey so slowing down comes naturally to me.

I have missed you and been concerned about you, dear reader. I hope you’ve managed to keep safe and sane.


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May 14.20: Coping

Thus far, dear reader, I have coped by writing and by baking, two time-tested strategies for me. They aren’t working any more. A few days ago, we were bloodied once again through the reports of a terror attack on new babies and new mothers. That was one too many for me, awash as we are in grief and fear.

I’ve been sick, as some of you know. Nothing serious, just enough to keep me from being complacent. I don’t know that I had COVID; we still don’t know if my “presumed positive” son had it. We still don’t know much about COVID. “Don’t know” is the only wisdom we have.

Having seen my family only from a distance, unable to touch them, for two months, I think I have a sliver of understanding of what it might mean to die among strangers in Intensive Care.

I am disgusted and exhausted by the flim-flam.

I’m going to step away from the blog for a few days. Each of us has to find ways to stay human in this very dehumanizing time. I am looking for my ways.

Thanks for being with me in my blog. I worry about all of you and hope you endure.

 


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May 10.20: Coping

Ten of my mother’s favorite rules:

     Nothing is clean if you do it the easy way.

     If it holds still, iron it.

     Always counter the opposing view with “that’s just dumb.”

     There is no such thing as too many Christmas cookies.

     Always bake with butter.

     Never leave the house without a hankie.

     The punch line is irrelevant.

     Pie is for breakfast.

     Nothing is more beautiful than cows’ eyes.

     Gardening isn’t work.

My resident gremlin has hidden the photo I wanted to post with this. If you, dear reader, have experience with such a gremlin, then you know it is absolutely not my fault that I can’t find it. But I know my mom would love that peony bud.

I am not a big fan of what Mothers’ Day has become here, but I’m a fan of all mothers and fathers and grandparents and foster parents and all others who step up to nurture and protect children. May they all, present and past, be honored. And may we find ways to help them at this time.

 


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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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December 12.19

Many the Christmas

has faded away,

but here are a couple

preserved for today.

The curly-haired toddler,

a bit knobby of knee,

recalls the first Christmas

for cute little me.

The other, my parents,

with some of their caucus,

a nefarious bunch,

unruly and raucous.

A time to be serious

about four-in-hand,

and to mutter at tinsel

hung strand by strand.

Life wasn’t perfect then,

but still I hold dear

the Christmases seen

in life’s rearview mirror.

 

That’s my dad in the middle, and my mom is the one looking down at him; I can’t tell if she’s thinking what a great guy he is or his collar needs more starch. You will notice, dear reader, the Christmas tree in the far right of the photo. If you can remember the insanity of hanging tinsel strand by maddening strand, then you also remember the days when ties were what you could always get your dad for Christmas.