The sun peeks through the curtains, casting a soft glow on the room. Snookums and I stir in our bed, slowly waking up to the new day. We get up and make our way to the kitchen, where we brew a pot of coffee and slice a piece of cake. We sit down at the table and savor the moment, enjoying the peace and quiet of the morning. The air is still and cool, and the only sound is the birds chirping outside. We take our time, sipping our coffee and nibbling on our cake. We talk about our plans for the day, and we laugh and joke together. This is our time, our special time, and we cherish it.
The soft sleepiness of morning is all around us. The sun is not yet high in the sky, and the light is still gentle. The air is still and warm, and there is a sense of peace and tranquility. We are relaxed and content, and we are grateful for this moment together.
I have written this, rewritten, edited, reedited it, and yet what I want to say just doesn’t appear.
Usually I post this on Memorial Day, but this year Mothers Day posts triggered this once again. My Dad was born on Mothers Day, and he told mom a little fib that it was the day after because he didn’t want to take away from a celebration of her. Most of my sisters were in on the ruse, but I wasn’t a party to it until much later.
Grief is just not something I can share, even among my best of friends and family I can share sickness, anger, hope and despair, but grief, no. I will not. I cannot. While busy with my parent’s death, I remained stoic and businesslike. There was not a tear, not a crack in my voice throughout the funeral and afterwards. I have little patience for histrionics and occasionally snapped at relatives for resorting to them.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t endear you to people, and I have seriously offended some with my curt replies. Grief can come years later, and it did with my parents.
They were both cremated and put into urns until I could arrange for a military burial. It took quite a while to get my Dad interred in a military cemetery because his military records from WWII were destroyed in a fire at the National Records Center. The Army created a special team to look for other sources of proof such as mess-hall passes, leave records, and such to verify service.
Also, my father was first enlisted and went over to Burma to serve in operations over the Burma-Ledo road that supplied China with arms and munitions. The transportation companies were all black enlistees, and apparently the Army was uncomfortable with them, so when the Army discovered my Dad was a southern boy, they felt that he would know how to deal with them. They sent him to Officer Candidate school at March Field at Riverside, California, and it was at that time I moved from a twinkle in Dad’s eye to an embryo.
The records did not reflect his promotion to Captain, but at least we got his Officer Candidate School papers and buried him as a Lieutenant. Mom’s name went on the reverse side as “wife”, and we buried their ashes together in the same grave. It was a bleak experience for me, and we are talking about a span of a few years between Dad’s death, Mom’s death, and final interment at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado. The site was a newly plated site, and sod had not been laid. The grave was a round hole dug by the burial crew with a powered auger.
The family went its separate ways, and I returned home to garden and write. Still my emotions were flat. Later that same year I went to check on their gravestone on Memorial Day. The sod had been installed, and many, many more gravestones had been set up on that new plat.
I stood there meditating when off in the distance I spied a group of about six Viet Nam vets going unerringly from gravestone to gravestone of their buried comrades. They were more familiar with that vast cemetery than most of us are with our own backyard, stopping for a time at each on to bow their heads and leave coins on the stones.
I remember the hate vets received from some of the people toward returning vets. Most of them went on with their lives, and never spoke of the war around civilians. But here they were, quietly and anonymously leaving their greeting in coins to their fallen comrades. I broke into painful tears of grief and staggered back to the car and sat there for a couple of hours until my emotions subsided.
Finally, I returned home, ate Dinner with Snookums before she left for work. I was back to my old stoic self, but something changed. I am not sure I like the change …
I sat down at the keyboard and put my fingers on the keys, hoping she would show up, so I was pleased when she appeared, sitting on the edge of the monitor with her legs hanging over the edge. I thought she was gone forever.
She was still wearing her pink rayon™ blouse and brown plaid skirt. I saw the puffy white flesh squeezing out of the tops of her garter band before quickly looking away. I really didn’t want to explore any further.
“It’s been a while” I said, noticing her rumpled looks. She had been drinking again.
She saw me looking at the ratty skirt and runs in her hosiery and said defensively “I didn’t have anything else to do. Maybe you could have sent an invitation and given me time to freshen up.”
“I haven’t wanted to do much of anything lately. It isn’t just you”. I replied magnanimously, trying to give some of her dignity back.
She wasn’t buying it though and snarked “How condescending of you”.
God, how I have missed her.
“Frankly, I was afraid that you would appear, and I wouldn’t have any excuses to not write”. I bleated.
She frowned a little, the softened. “Have I ever let you down”?
“No. No, you haven’t.” I said in this moment of clarity.
She cocked her head and asked, “So, what are you working on”?
“I was thinking it was time to reintroduce myself to my audience. My neglect of them is showing, and the list of followers has grown short.”
“I am sure they appreciated your absence”. She said dryly.
But I went on, ignoring the barb. “ … and I am feeling so useless and non-productive. It shows in everything that I touch. My studio is a mess. Not the old mess of a busy writer, but rather one of a slob.”
She shrugged and said, “You’ve always been a slob. Why should it bother you now?”
“I really don’t want to die this way.”
“How do you want to die”?
“I would prefer to die in cleanliness and order.”
“Then go live in a nursing home!” she said unsympathetically.
“That wasn’t called for!” I yelled.
“Look. If you want my help writing, I’m your huckleberry. But maid I ain’t.”
“Well, here we are, 336 words into the essay, and I am still uselessly bantering with you. I need some motivation and ideas! And get some decent threads while you are at it!”
“Have you looked at yourself lately, Beau Brummel? Just because your underwear is colored doesn’t fool people. Put some clothes on for cryin’ out loud!”
“Oh. Now you are my fashion adviser?” I snarled
“I can do a better job than you!” she shot back.
This was going nowhere. I needed a new track. “Do you think that just doing some writing exercises will help?”
“You would have to write to write exercises. Why not just dive in. Yeah, your prose will be awkward. Consider that the penalty for sloth.”
“I have had a couple of ideas, one being that surreal experience being bathed in the hospital by the ER team, but somehow I just can’t get the feel and the humor as well as the humiliation of needing bathing into the story without sounding like a clinician.”
She smirked and replied, “I sure wish I was there to see that! Why not give it another go?”
“It might be a start. If I knew where to start.”
“It was a dark and stormy night, when suddenly, a shot rang out”
That is code between us for shut up and write something.
I have “zombie finger” 😢
I have been having trouble with touch pads on gasoline pumps and customer number machines. A few weeks ago, I needed to renew my license plates, and I was one of those random people who needed to do it in person rather than mail this year.
When I walked into the office, there was a “take a number” machine that asked a few questions why you were there, and then gave you a printed number. It was a touch screen. I poked the answers, I stabbed them with my fingertips, I pounded them with the side of my fist, and nothing happened. Finally a woman behind me lightly touched the information in for me and the machine spat out a ticket like it was my fault that I was held up. I passed the event off as another one of those miracles of modern science and technology and went on about my business.
But today, I went to my usual gas station, and they had recently installed brand new pumps with that same type of touch screen. I put my credit card in the slot, and tried to punch in my zip code when it asked. I poked. I hammered with my fist. I pushed my thumb in it. I rapped it hard with my fingernails. Finally the machine said that my card was declined. I know better. I was waiting for my zip code and didn’t get it in a timely manner.
I figured that I couldn’t be the only person with that problem, and when I got home, I googled it and came up with “zombie finger” … most of the time it attacks people with touch screen cellphones and pads. It shouldn’t be confused with zombie hands which is a serious symptom.
Apparently my fingers are too dry, according to the people who have written about it, and I should either get special gloves with finger tips sewed on to them, or a stylus, or some type of ointment. I was also suggested that I blow warm air across my fingers before using the touch screen.
Why is it always my fault that machines don’t work the way the designers want them to? Why must I adapt to it instead of it adapting to me?
The Bittersweet Pain of Nostalgia
Many years ago my family in post-war California sent me to live with my grandparents in New Mexico. My father was having trouble finding a job in the recession that followed the Great War, and my living with my grandparents took a huge load off of the family finances.
Grandpa bought a remote section of land running up into the Sangre de Christo range and was building a house on it, and I and two of my uncles were helping. My grandmother’s brother lived in the village about twelve miles away and he had spent most of his life there with his wife. I sometimes was left with them while the men went off to log. Logging was far too dangerous for a boy to wander around unsupervised.
One day while staying with Uncle A, as we called him, and Aunt Hattie, we went to visit a friend of their about another 15 miles away down a dusty track that led to Taos. The village is named Arroyo Hondo, and this woman had settled there with her husband at the turn of the century. She was old and wizened, and watered her garden with a long handled double action pump. She had a very old truck that wasn’t equipped with a starter, so she would hand crank that old truck and drive into Arroyo Hondo to get the mail and a few staples.
She was extremely independent, and had even made her own casket and dug her own grave so that she wouldn’t be beholden to anyone even after death. She even had a casket for her dog to be buried in the same grave.
I remember her house. It was simple, but well ordered. It only had one room, with a kitchen in the middle, her bed to one side and a sitting area to the other.
She wore a checked dress that was stiff with starch, and a matching bonnet that protected her face from the harsh sunlight of the high Rocky Mountains. Her dog, of some unknown breed, was scruffy with wiry hair, and it followed her everywhere. It slept with her at night on a special pad to protect the immaculate bedspread from his muddy paws.
To my shame, I have forgotten her name and the name of her dog. But that fall, word went out that she had passed, and the little Baptist congregation nearby held a memorial for her. They found her in bed with her hands neatly folded over her breast, and they put her in the casket she had made and buried her in the grave she had dug, and put the tombstone that she had chiseled in place. A local family took the dog in, but he died that same winter, and was put into his casket and buried next to its human. She even had a stone chiseled with his name.
I don’t know why, but I long to go to that place in Arroyo Hondo and find those grave stones. I am not even sure I could find it even if I was able to make that trip.
So I sit in front of the glowing cyclops today trying to come up with something other than my continual carping about my lot in life and my maladies.
Nothing comes to mind. My mind is a bale of cotton. My eyes want to close in blissful sleep, but something pops them open again. I have surveyed my ceiling from my bed. The cobwebs are familiar friends. Central air hums. Air freshener whooshes. Oscillating fan creaks and groans. Portable AC buzzes.
My nose itches. Then my arm itches. Then my forehead itches. Then my cheek itches. Then my leg itches. Then my ears itch. My shoulder hurts from the way I sleep on it. I think soon I will tire of breathing and just stop.
Up in the middle of the night. Another Tylenol. More opiates. Refill the water bottle. Eat a few chunks of fresh pineapple and trudge back to bed and wait for everything to kick in. I feel the easing of the pain in my shoulder. Good. The Tylenol is going to work. Then a sharp pain in the stomach and a burst of gas tells me the opiates are starting to work. Check my sugars to be sure that I don’t crash. Then the jaw clenching of the opiates followed by the relaxed breathing lets me know I am good for another four hours.
Watch the ceiling, day dream, float in the cotton, take a sip of water until daylight brightens the blinds. Get up, start the coffee, eat a couple of pieces of toast, and take a huge number of pills. Two morning shots of fast acting and slow acting insulin. Sip coffee.
I want to take my car to the battery place, but I need to call AAA to jump it. But that won’t get done today. I need to make an appointment with the dentist for both Snooks and I, but not today. I just want to go back to bed.
Read the emails, make a few comments, read the news, make a few comments, read the social media, make a few comments.
Then sit in front of the PC waiting for inspiration that isn’t coming.
Bat Kol Redux*
She whispers to me at night, In a voice so soft and light, Her words, like a gentle breeze, Carry me away with ease.
She speaks of dreams and hopes, Of endless possibilities and scopes, And in her words, I find solace, A sanctuary where my heart can find its balance.
Her whispers calm my restless mind, And in her embrace, I find, A love so pure and true, That I know she’ll see me through.
Through the ups and downs of life, Through joy and pain, and all strife, She’s the constant presence that stays, Guiding me through each and every phase.
So, as I close my eyes and drift away, I know she’ll be there, night or day, Whispering her love and light, And holding me close, so tight.
* Bat Kol is a Hebrew term that literally means “daughter of a voice.” It refers to a divine voice or a prophetic voice that is believed to have spoken to the Jewish people after the era of prophecy ended.
In Jewish tradition, the Bat Kol was considered a lower form of divine communication than prophecy, and was often used to communicate simple messages of encouragement or guidance. The Bat Kol was believed to be a voice that came from heaven and was heard by human ears, but only by those who were spiritually attuned to its message.
The concept of Bat Kol appears in various Jewish texts, including the Talmud and Midrash. It is often associated with the idea of a small, still voice that speaks to us in moments of contemplation or prayer. The Bat Kol is also sometimes used as a metaphor for the collective voice of the Jewish people or the voice of wisdom that emerges from Jewish texts and teachings.
Wanted to get one of these so Snookums and I could ride around Walmart in style. Of course, she would need a biker babes tat to go along with it …
… but she said no. 😢
On a happier note
Today on a much happier note, I took the long way home from the hospital today. The day is mild, a tad early for rattlesnake romance so it is a little safer wading through the sea of blue. It was a good day to just breathe the gentle perfume. I am so weary of my griping and complaining. In no way have I received my just deserts.
A little coffee, a little time with the bride of my youth, an easy run to the hospital and back for my bi-weekly finger poke. A homemade breakfast roll and some more coffee.
Yeah. I could get used to this …
Come, eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with a good heart, because God is pleased with your works! Always let your garments be white and let not your head lack oil. And see life with the wife whom you have loved all the days of the life of your futility, because she is your lot in life and in your labor that you labor under the sunThere is my command. And see life with the wife whom you have loved all the days of the life of your futility. I am ill. My life is a misery every day, yet I scrabble for one more day. I don’t think I’ll be resisting death. But who knows. One good man falls off a chair when he is young, and dies. An old fool lives until he is a hundred. I think I dread being a hundred even more. But Snookums. My lot in life, who isn’t without her own ailments and resignations, she is still the one I see to. And I will see to her with my last breath.