Roots

I need to apologize to Osyth. A few weeks ago in her blog, Half-Baked in Paradise, she wrote about moving. Something about her words broke my heart. Maybe it was this:

My heart felt the leaden weight of sorrow because my safe-place, my home, my warm hug, my protective cloak, call it what you will has gone.

When she posted again, I didn’t even go read it. I couldn’t — I was still grieving over her move. Then she posted again, and I read it. In fact, she started re-blogging a series about her home, and the renovations there, and I binged. She’s posting day by day. Like a glutton, I looked the whole series up and read it, laughing — actually revelling with her — at the great adventure she has been on for some time. (Start here: Coup de Coeur: Part One)

Sorry, Osyth, for not waiting for you to repost them all. I’m just the kind of person who likes to read the end of the book before I read the middle.

Home is something so dear to me. One of my many started-and-discarded blogs had the tagline, “I love where I live.”  And I do. I love upstate New York.  I love Cooperstown. I love the four seasons, the Susquehanna River, Otsego Lake, the trees, the village streets, the country roads, the people, the cows, even the tourists. This is my home — and the thought of living elsewhere is almost unthinkable.

My father keeps asking me what brought me to Cooperstown.

“What do you mean?” I ask him.

“What made you come here?” he’ll say, as if that clarifies anything.

“Are you asking about why I first moved to Cooperstown?”

“Yes,” he replies.

“We moved here as a family in 1967,” I say. “You took a job at Bassett Hospital as the head of their General Services department.”

“Yes, that’s right,” he replies, every time, remembering, or acknowledging the plausibility of this story.

“I was a child,” I remind him, “your child. I didn’t have a choice.”

“Where did Bud come from?” my father asks, trying to piece together my family.

We’ve gone through this many times now. I know the questions that are coming, but it’s sad because he has lost a large chunk of my life.

“I took a year off from college and met Bud while I was working at Bassett,” I say.

He nods, but I’m not sure he remembers anything about this.

Long pauses punctuate our conversation.

“Where did you come from?” This question often comes next. It’s another one that needs clarification. I’m sure he’s not asking about the birds and the bees, so I name the army base where I was born.

“How long did you live there?”

My mom and the children she moved with all by herself

“Six weeks,” I tell him. “When I was a baby, Mom loaded me, Stewart, Donabeth, and Peter into a station wagon to join you in Fort Riley.”

Yes, I was 6 weeks old. My oldest brother was 5 years old, my sister not quite 4, and my middle brother only 21 months old. Whenever I asked my mother about my birth and first year of life, all she would say to me was, “That was a hard time.” I’ll bet it was. The legend of a super mom.

“I don’t remember any of that,” my father says, and, of course, he wouldn’t because he was busy working at his fledgling career as an army doctor.

Another long pause. I begin to focus on whatever it was I had been doing before this conversation began.

“So what made you come here?” my father will ask, and we’ll start the whole thing again.

“You did, Dad,” I tell him. “You did.”

Advertisements

Rough and Slippery Roads

Those who journey on level ground have no need to give one another their hands, whereas those who are on rough and slippery roads hold fast one to another… in order to walk securely and help one another in the many difficult places through which they have to pass.

St. France de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life

A helping hand while climbing the rocks at Whytecliff Park

God, in His mercy, blessed me with a number of people who offer me their hand in the difficult places.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for each one of them.

 

Another Sunrise Post

Laurel and I left before the crack of dawn for a swim meet this morning.

As we came over the top of Murphy Hill, I caught my first glimpse of the eastern horizon.

“That’s going to be a beautiful sunrise,” I told her.

She started to laugh.

“Just you wait,” I said, assuming she was laughing at me gushing over another sunrise. “Some day 50 years from now, you’ll see a breath-taking sunrise, and you’ll think, Mom would have liked that.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked.

“You laughed,” I said.

“I thought you said, ‘That’s no surprise’,” she said, referring to the conversation we had been having before I was distracted by the crack of dawn breaking through the sky ahead of us.

We both laughed. I mis-hear a lot. This time is was someone else’s turn to hear incorrectly.

I handed Laurel my phone. “See if you can take a few pictures on the way,” I said.

And she did.

 

I know that beautiful sunrises are simply caused by light reflecting through particles in the atmosphere.

Still, it was a lovely way to start the day.

Every time we came around another curve or crested another hill, the view just got better.

It doesn’t happen often , but I’m so glad that some days are like that.

Dear Evan Hansen

Getting in line to see Dear Evan Hansen

On the way home from New York City Mary asked me what my favorite song from Dear Evan Hansen had been.

Mind you, I had heard all of the songs a grand total of one time.

Unlike Mary, who knew every word of every song.

Unlike the woman sitting next to Mary, who also knew every word to every song.

During intermission I asked the woman if she had seen the play before.

“No,” she said, “I’ve just listened to the soundtrack a thousand times.”

Now, two weeks out, I’ve joined their ranks.

I want to see the show again in the worst way, but the tickets were a huge splurge the first time and would fall into the realm of ridiculous expenditures if I were to see it again.

“What’s it about?” Karl asked, a little mystified about my latest obsession.

In a nutshell, the story is about a socially awkward teen (Evan Hansen) whose counselor suggests that he write a pep talk to himself every day — Dear Evan Hansen. One of these letters falls into the hands of another social outcast who commits suicide. When the letter is found in the pocket of the deceased boy, his parents conclude that he and Evan Hansen were friends, and a fabricated friendship begins. This barebones synopsis leaves out a thousand important details, I know, but it’s a start.

What’s it about?  I could have answered mental health or high school or parenting or social media or life.

I’m still trying to figure that out — life, and what it’s about.

~~~

As Mary and I stood in line to enter the theater, we saw a sign saying that the part of Evan Hansen was being played that day by Michael Lee Brown. People in front of us and behind began to grumble. Before taking my seat, I listened to a woman argue with an usher about it.

“I paid to see Ben Platt,” she said. Purse looped over her forearm, gloves in one hand, ticket in the other, silver-haired — she looked like the innocuous grandmotherly sort, but she went after the usher like a Rottweiler.

The opening set for Dear Evan Hansen

To future Dear Evan Hansen viewers: May you be so lucky to see Michael Lee Brown perform the title role. He was amazing. He was the perfect amount of awkward as he stuttered. His hands fluttered — a stage-visible sign of a racing heart, something I know too well. I watched his hands, fascinated.

~~~

What was my favorite song?

I know them all now and sing along as I make dinner or walk the dog.

The lyrics are quotable, meme-able, but so layered and rich.

I think I know which song I would choose now — but that’s probably a post for another day.

It’s November 3rd, That’s Why

Two years ago this — Helen and I kept vigil through the night with my mother. Helen had snapped this picture while I was dozing.

Three generations of hands

I went home in the wee hours, grabbed a little sleep, then went back to the hospital to relieve Helen.

After struggling so much the day before, making terrible gurgling sounds as she tried to breathe, my mother finally slept peacefully. I think the atropine helped.

Atropine gets its name from Atropos, one of the Fates, the one who chooses the mechanism of death and ends a mortal’s life. I find that both strange and interesting.

But my mother slept.

And we took turns sleeping.

At the end, Helen was sleeping when my mother passed away. My siblings were all there, but Helen, who had been so close to my mom, so faithful and present in so many ways, was not. In retrospect, I should have called her. But I didn’t know when the thread of life would finally be severed. None of us really do.

November 3rd feels heavy, like a weight on my heart.

My friend, Michael McNevin, wrote a song we play every November 4. The first few lines run through my mind unbidden.

Thinking of the cold to come…

It was 61° this morning — not very cold, but I shivered anyway. Today my father goes for a physical as a step toward entering an adult home. I am so unsettled with this decision. Ah, the cold to come.

From what I hear it will make me numb…

I remember the numbness after my mother died. I don’t want to feel that again, and yet, it is inevitable. My father walks more slowly now, shuffling along with his walker. His pacemaker paces 90% of the time. His thinking is muddled at an unquantifiable percentage.

Two of his peers took him to lunch the other day. When his friend brought him home, he pulled me aside. “Your father really couldn’t follow any of the conversation today,” he said, “And he fixated on one small thing. That was all he could talk about.”

Yes, I’ve noticed that, too. It makes me sad.

Look at how the wind goes by…

A breeze refreshes, but the wind is the wind. It blows through our lives – pushing us along, trying to hold us back, knocking dead branches out of trees, grabbing loose items and skittering them away.

Two years ago my mother died on a cold November day.

I can remember walking up the hill to the hospital that last time when she was still alive. It was still dark, maybe 5 AM. I wanted to give Helen a chance to sleep. The wind blew tiny raindrops against my cheeks — portending tears to come.

It’s November 3rd, that’s why.

 

A Visit to the New York Public Library (and a Broadway show)

Dear Mary Zaengle,

I didn’t know yesterday was going to be such a great day and here’s why —

In preparation, I had focused on the tired parts of the day: the getting up before 4 AM and the getting home after 1 AM.

I was worried about the city, all those people crowded together and the tall buildings holding them in, a barricade between city and country, urban and rural, not home and my home — and I was spending a day on the wrong side of the barricade.

I braced myself against the day instead of leaning into it.

I felt like you, who had never been to the city before, should be going with someone who loves the city and that’s not me — but you wanted me to go so I figured I’d better make a good effort.

“What do you want to do?” I had asked you. We had several hours to kill on either side of Dear Evan Hansen.

“I dunno,” you replied, in that helpful way you have.

So I worried about that, too, and finally decided we should go to the New York Public Library. You love books. I knew that if it turned out to be just a bunch of books you would be thrilled. You would pull the oldest book you could find off the shelves so you could hold it in your hands, feel the paper, and smell the old book smell. I’ve seen you do that.

The library was the right choice. You reached up to touch one of the stone lions that guarded the main entrance.

Inside, I touched the Lego lion that guarded the entrance to the children’s room.

“Mom!” you said, aghast. “The sign says ‘Please do not touch.'”

Oops. My bad.

But what a magnificent place! You wished you could climb up the ladder to the second tier of books that ran the circumference of the study room. I wished I could have seen the original card catalog where now tables of computers sit, the card catalog’s modern replacement.

We walked the long hallways, climbed the marble stairs and admired the art work that was everywhere.

a long hallway

Artwork — a man reading

Artwork — mother and child reading

ceiling in the McGraw Rotunda

As we were leaving, we noticed a sign for tours of the library. Our 2 hour visit served as a peek — there’s so much more, I’m sure. Next time we’ll have to take the tour.

Did I just say next time? Next time?

After spending some time there, I kind of want to go back. We should do that, don’t you think?

Sincerely,

Me

 

October Gratitude

On October 29, I am grateful for these — collected over the course of the month.

  1. Harvest time
  2. A few stalks left behind
  3. Airports
  4. A full-circle rainbow seen from above
  5. Tennessee sunrise
  6. A quiet place to stay
  7. That bald-headed guy resting his arm on the chair (below)
  8. The woman in the middle in the greenish shirt (above) (Her eyes always sparkle.)
  9. Dining with friends
  10. A new book
  11. An afternoon walking around a mall with a friend (sorry, no picture)
  12. The Dalek I saw there
  13. A bald eagle sighting
  14. A new job
  15. Chipmunks in the house (only the tail visible here)
  16. Mice trapped in an empty can and released into the wild
  17. Beautiful sunsets
  18. A girl to take the picture for me while I drive (rearview mirror)
  19. Late autumn colors
  20. The way the afternoon sun hits the hills
  21. Concentric spiky circles
  22. Apples
  23. Pears
  24. Hallmark movies
  25. Family humor
  26. A funny sign
  27. A visit from my grandson (the walker isn’t his)
  28. My father and my grandson playing together
  29. A military funeral (no photo, but a memory I’ll hold onto)

How has your October been?