Oddments

In search of story


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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.

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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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Disconnections: June 6.18

Summer afflicts me with memories.

Like family vacation. A surfeit of togetherness. Dad’s mother, our beloved Grandma O’Hern, sat between my brother and me in the back seat. Poor Grandma. My brother loved confinement as much as I did and we were not anyone’s first choice of traveling companions.

Our expeditions almost always started with a new comic book, a thing of beauty and a joy for…well…five minutes. After that the only thing it was good for was rolling into a tube and clobbering someone. (But that was only because he clobbered me first.)

There were, of course, no such things as seat belts. We could kneel in the back seat and look out the back window, trying to see if where we’d been were any more interesting than where we were. Nope.

Rolling the windows down (aka air conditioning) had nothing to do with pushing a button and everything to do with grabbing a knob and turning for dear life. Reverse to roll back up. A life skill we’d already acquired. Boring.

The view from the back seat had greatly to do with the back of my mom’s head and the back of my dad’s head. And sameness out the windows. Devoutly did we pray for Burma Shave signs, when there would be respite from sameness. At the end we’d all shout out “Burma Shave!” and then I’d lapse back into a comatose state of childhood on hold.

There were “guessing games,” of course. And singing. And coloring books. For some reason, though, my parents got touchy about melted crayons under the seat. Was it our fault the summer sun was hot?

The years distort, I know, but I’m fairly sure that’s my dad’s voice asking “Are we there yet?”

 

 

 


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Connections: November 8

An entire playground!

Does it matter?

Naturally not —

they want the same ladder.

At the same moment.

Because better than play

is sibling foment.

An album opens

in my head —

other siblings,

some long dead.

‘Twas ever thus:

siblings meant to feud and fuss.

Then years go agley

to entropy:

family, home, brain and bone.

One crumpled sibling stands alone

in hospital starkness

sleepless darkness.

Why is one

the caregiver daughter or caregiver son?

Connections