I just cannot.
(From a work in progress)
The heart knew it was 55 years ago that you last went to that restaurant with your uncle. Do you say something to him?
Probably not because back then you were a child who was too small to even look out of the backseat of his car and see the snow covered streets, streets with no one but children who had been forced from their home during another Sunday night alcohol fueled rage. Do you say something, hoping he would remember?
Do you look at him and realize that back then he was barely more than a teenager himself, so young and proud of his red 1963 Chevy with back then unheard of features of automatic windows and doors. I drove all the way from the city to pick up the kids, your uncle said, so they wouldn’t be walking in that empty field or the swamp.
You look at your uncle and realize he’s nearly 80 now. You look at his hands that have had dozens of operations from damage done during the lifespan of a laborer.
Yet he still has that boyish smile, the quick wit, the quick temper.
But he’s 80 and you’re not eight years old anymore. You have a career, an education, a loving kind spouse.
But this is a gratitude 55 years in the making , for taking a child off the street that night, making jokes, buying hot chocolate, anything other than spending a cold winter night alone outside.
You can’t say thank you for that to an 80-year-old uncle. You just can’t. You’ve never spoken about it.
You reach across the table, take the check, walk to the counter and pay.
OLD DEAD PHONES
Measure my adult years
In dead phones
Alive with memories of others who spoke with me:
Gone, lost, left, dead.
All Ioved once.
Flip phone last used
To speak to Mother
Hearing her last
Sense to go
(From my phone) And I’m here, still.
...I’m trying hard to keep it together. My husband is pulling me off the ceiling sometimes, as I’m finding I’m having chest pains and horrible urges to sob loudly.
When I see her, I will be cheerful and not dwell on the fact that she is most likely dying and going to die an awful death. But in my alone moments, I don’t handle things so well.
Took a short nature walk today and it really helped. Saw a flying squirrel and an ornate box turtle. The poor turtle was stuck between a rock and a hard place, literally, but got free. The flying squirrel froze when it saw a human. I tried to be still, to disturb it as little as possible.
The walking paths were snow-covered, which is surprising since it is still autumn.
Sitting at home, done with grading, waiting for night to fall. Flashes of red from outside. Three male and three female cardinals picking seeds up from the bush in back of the house. Those brief flashes of red are so beautiful and so life affirming somehow.
I stand up to look outside, and they fly away. They must have been able to sense my presence, perhaps see my shadow.
And it helps. And the sunset helps. And the trees and the birds and friends and loved ones help.
But it is impossible to inoculate yourself from grief. At least I think so, if you are a loving person, the loss of a loved one will hurt greatly.
About 13 to 14 years ago, my family and I suffered the loss of many. Some died from a freak set of accidents, some from cancer, some from old age, etc. But it was so many in a short period of time that I was truly overwhelmed and didn’t get a chance to really mourn the loss of most of them individually.
Of these nine losses, the loss of my best friend, Susan, my godmother, and my mother hurt the most. The others I feel bad that I have not mourned them individually; it was like a collective grief.
So I know I’m going to face a lot of pain, and if you love someone, that’s to be expected.
But not something to be looked forward to.
It’s the price of loving people and getting older, surely.
The cardinals have returned, cautiously picking out seeds from the bush behind the house.
And I’m here, still.
Lest I forget. Find beauty even in the quiet of a gloomy day. It’s there. Especially if love is there; I do not take anyone for granted.
About five months ago, I started this blog and got an email associated with the blog. At first, I added that email to my phone and my computer at home. However, since I only got spam- like email there, I removed that email many many months ago.
However, tonight I saw an email from the daughter of one of my husband’s dear childhood friends. She informed us that her father had passed away, and asked to contact her. My husband asked me to reply as soon as possible, so I went into the next room and logged onto the computer.
However, her email was gone. Completely gone. Absolutely completely gone. Not in spam. Not in deleted. Not in trashed. Not an archive. Simply nowhere.
Since two of us saw the email, I knew I was not crazy. I knew we had actually seen it. And I remembered enough about the writer to be able to find her by her career and institution where she works.
And then I added back the email to my phone for my blog, the blog here. And there was her original email, notifying us of father’s death.
Her father had been the best man at our wedding. Her father was a very dear dear dear friend to my husband, who is a quiet and gentle soul, and appreciated his friendship very much.
There is no way I should’ve seen the original email at all. It is not surprising that it disappeared; rather, it is surprising that I saw at all since it was not on my phone, that email, nor on my computer.
Sometimes glitches with technology can work out. I’m not going to make it anymore than that.
However, we had been wondering what happened to his dear friends since he didn’t reply anymore to our texts or emails.
And now we know. Now we can mourn him, and send our love out into the universe and to his family.
Sometimes glitches can actually help us.
Thanks for reading this, and I hope all the little glitches in your life help you.
Trying this blog entry from my cell phone–that’s risky! I am outside and just do not want to go INSIDE and log onto a computer…
What an odd day, a day mixed with joy and sadness. 630 AM—still dark—road closed ten seconds before the intersection where I turn to get to work and a truck started pouring hot tar in two lanes. Semi ahead of me kept knocking down tree branches (too big for the small amount of the lane still open) and construction cones. I had to get out of the car in the dark to move the cones, but finally a construction worker let me through.
11 hours of work (part time !) Some middle school kids on the college campus today. So cute. So loud. Sipping their pumpkin spice sugared drinks waiting for the presentation they were here for.
Some students asked if I could teach them next term.
Drove home in the dark.
Sad loved one’s health news.
Two more poetry rejections.
Glad I’m part time. This won’t happen often. To work in the dark. Home in the dark.
Glad for modern medicine which may help family member.
And frogs! I’m sitting outside in the dark with my trusty tennis racquet (you know… in case of critters) and with a spotlight hearing LOUD FROGS. It’s that warm now!?!??!! Wind blowing off so many remaining leaves.
Love hearing those frogs. Thought I’d not hear them for months, until spring.
Truly a changing season type of day.
(Picture taken with my little camera phone while sitting in the dark, soft rain… back flashlight light on the bush. I’m such an adventurer.)
Thanks for reading; may your seasonal changing days change well, with kindness and hope.
A few years ago, I found this old rough draft of a poem I started after we had moved. I keep losing it and then finding it. This time, I won’t lose it, but I will revise, edit, and work on the poem. There is something to the “moving on” theme that is compelling–maybe escape is the correct term?
In any case, thanks for reading.
Note: …..many stanzas before this…won’t post here so I can publish one day… and took out middle stanzas
Memories, you said. I cannot move.
These have been
the best years of my life here.
How can you say that, I asked,
not wanting to see the paint-peeled walls
or the missing tiled floors even one more time.
They were my years with you, you said.
Today I looked for photos
I am sure I threw away in my
haste to leave and I wonder
how I could have been so cruel
how can I
live with such moving love?
Between Sunlight and the Skipping
–by Laura Lee
(Reprinted with permission; a version of this story was published in 2013 at Staxtes.com)
Last Sunday evening I decided to take a ride to a park and watch the sunset, but found the sunlight flooding my eyes. I reached for my sunglasses, remembering how often during the last several years I was one of those people driving at night while wearing sunglasses. I needed to hide my eyes.
“Excuse me! Lady!” Abdullah said, skipping from the porch to the garage.
Abdullah is a chubby black- haired boy who lives next door, a boy who seems to smile all the time. I noticed that he had on dark green sweat pants and wondered how he could be skipping in such heat. His older brother Hassan was still sitting on the stairs next door.
“Excuse me, please. Can I? Please, can I please borrow your pumpie thingie?”
“My what?” I asked him.
“You know! I’m six, going on seven, you know!”
“He’s SIX going on SEVEN,” his older brother Hassan added, walking over to us. “You told her last week.”
“I’m six! Going on seven! I will take good care of the pumpie thingie!”
“Oh! The bike pump?”
“Yes! Can I use it? I will return it, lady! It is a good pump! Works good on these tires,” Abdullah said.
As Abdullah tried to pump up his tires, Hassan looked at me and said, “I’m nine, you know that? Abdullah is my little brother.”
“You told her that!” Abdullah said, laughing.
“I will help him,” Hassan said. “I will be ten soon. Abdullah is the laughing one,” Hassan said. “He is the baby. I like to hear him laugh.”
And Abdullah dragged his bike over to show me his flat tires and I didn’t have the heart to tell this small SIX going on SEVEN- year- old boy that he was using a girl’s bike. It was hot pink and sparkly and had two very white “mountain” tires that were very flat.
“Sure. You can use it whenever you want. Just leave the pump by the side of the garage, ok?”
“Oh, no! Lady, no! What if a big boy steals it? I could not face my father. You wait, ok? I pump fast and you go then, ok,” Abdullah said.
Hassan did most of the pumping but left a little work for his little brother. As Abdullah finished pumping up his tires, Hassan looked at me and said, “He is my little brother and I watch him. We are Muslim you know.”
“You told her that last week,” Abdullah said.
And after that, Abdullah called “Father!” and soon his father came out of the building. The older boy shook his head, grinning.
“My little brother is so happy,” Hassan said, “even my father smiles.”
“Father! This is the teacher lady who lets me use pumpie thingie,” Abdullah said. The father touched Abdullah’s head, running his hand through his son’s thick sweaty hair.
“Lady! This is my father,” Abdullah said, kissing his father’s hands.
“I’m sorry, Miss. Are you the teacher?”
Yes, I said, not knowing how they knew this. I am sure I never mentioned this to the boys.
“Excuse me, we have seen you carry many books up and down those stairs many times. It must be a wonderful thing to be a teacher in this country. And you teach in the big school at the bottom of the big hill?”
Yes, it was a wonderful job, I told him, and yes, my school was the big high school at the bottom of the hill.
“Excuse me, but I thought so. I have seen your school uniform shirt with the name of the school, so I think you might be a teacher. You do not remember me from the store? By the school?”
Now that he mentioned it, yes, he did look familiar. Maybe it was from the little store where I bought my morning coffee or my afternoon newspaper, but I wasn’t sure. I did remember a very small woman, so short she could barely reach the cash register. I wondered if that was the boys’ mother. I remembered that she smiled a lot, had very warm but frightened brown eyes, always seemed tired, but did not ever speak to me. Ever.
“That store is my brother’s. He came here first and then I help him in the store some days.”
The father seemed to be waiting for something, or someone, and finally said, “You do not have a husband or father I should talk to?”
No, I told him it was all right to talk to me about the bike pump.
“I do not see a husband or your father with you, so forgive me I must talk to you like this. Do you like to teach?”
I told him that I loved teaching English, and that it was okay to talk to your neighbors here, that Americans are usually very friendly and very casual.
“English! An important language,” the father said. “There is so much freedom here. I think of such things for my sons. But that is not what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Father!” Abdullah said. “She gave me the pumpie to use. I did not take it. I am not a thief!”
“Excuse me, please, but has my son bothered you?”
I assured him that his sons never bothered me, that they were polite and nice young boys.
“That is good,” the father said, “but I will deal with him if he has taken anything of yours. I wanted to meet you and say I am sorry if my son takes your things. I tell him he should not bother you.”
I assured him that Abdullah was never a bother.
“I have talked to his mother about this,” the father said, “but I am afraid the boy is becoming rude as he gets older.”
I assured him that Abdullah was never rude.
“He must not yell at you like that,” the father said. “In public like that to a strange woman he does not know I thought was very rude. Is that something American? My brother said in America everyone is so loud. Even in school?”
I laughed, but told the father that yes, it was very American, and I did not think it was rude. His son was never rude to me. I told him I knew about these things and he could trust me that Abdullah would not be in trouble at school. He was a good boy.
With that, the father seemed to relax and then smiled.
“My wife could not talk to you,” the father said, “because she is very afraid about talking because of her English. I told her a teacher would not mind about the bad English and that she must learn. It is bad in the store if she does not speak English and that is why we came here, for the freedom and the chances. And she wanted you to know she does not wish her sons to take your things.”
I told the father that I remembered his wife from the store, I remembered her very well, and she always understood what the customers wanted.
“That is good,” he said, “but she wants you to know we will pay you for anything my son has taken.”
Oh, no, no. I assured the father that I let the boy use the bike pump, that he could use the pump any time. I wanted to tell the father that he had no idea how much it meant to me that Abdullah still skips even though he is using a girl’s bike and wearing green sweat pants in summer. I wanted to tell the father that he and his shy wife must be doing something so right with their son that he still skips.
But I did not tell him that. Between the sunlight and the skipping, I had to put on my sunglasses again. I handed the bike pump to the father and muttered something about the sun this time of day, they can use the pump any time, I barely ever ride my bike anymore. I think I said I would talk to his wife more when I went into the store and maybe I could help her with her English and that English was a hard language to learn.
The father might have said something about a blessing, more blessings, but I could not really hear him well since my sunglasses did not cover enough of my face, which had suddenly turned into a stranger’s face with its weeping. I am sure I walked away from him while he was still speaking, being such a rude American, and I know I should be a better example, but I could not help it. I could not take the sunlight and Abdullah’s skipping at the same time.
I got into my car, backed out of the garage, and waved weakly to Abdullah and his father, marveling at a boy who skips in joy and does not need sunglasses to protect him from beauty.