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Today is the first day to write one hundred words a day and it is the day when I have had my first real put-down letter to the editor in response to my column last week. I guess it has me bummed because the critique was about my folksy, befuddled narrative style...which is true, sometimes that is how I write. But the rest of the letter was a basic attack of a personal nature - question about my logic and a spelling aha about the column title which is, of course, not written by me but by the editor
Running errands for everyone else. That's my job, ma'am, I'm a mom, ma'am. Nothing special, just doing my job, running errands, picking up books and dirty socks and something for dinner. Anyone know what they want for dinner tonight? Ask mom. Ask her before you've finished breakfast, she's waiting for it. She's sitting there, tense, coiled like a spring waiting for someone to ask the question, the question she always gets asked. Hey, mom, what's for dinner? It's always the same answer, too. I don't know, what do you want. I don't know, mom, something not icky. What's icky? Celery.
It is a day where life seems to be lived through and around me but not with me in it. My life is lived for everyone around me and no longer for me. It's a strange existence, everything I do is for those in my life but there is no acknowledgement of my being there, driving the car, cooking supper, fetching medicine and tending to needs. Be brave, bear up and carry on, that's the way it is, was and always will be. Who am I to question how or why things are now done or when I became stupid.
Driving all over town. Drop off one daughter, drive the other, pick up the first and take the other to the next appointment. Life lived on behalf of my family. It is tiring beyond words, treading this never ending wheel, never getting anywhere myself but watching my children move slowly beyond my life. No longer someone to consult with, no longer a source of information, a guide. I'm a sherpa standing with wallet open and carrying away the bags. No request for my opinion on style or fit, just go there, please, towards the check out with the shortest line.
A year ago and two days without a mother. A year and two days of dealing with being an orphan at 50. It is embarrasing to admit, as an adult, a parent myself, that I can feel so totally at sea because I no longer have mom or dad to turn to when I feel the need. Now I am the generation that others turn to. Well, they will once they stop being teenagers and pull their heads out of their asses. Not that I was any better at that age. Hell, I was a total idiot as a teenager.
Sitting in the crook of a desk, facing out to anyone who walks in. Behind me a window to the office of someone else who can look over my shoulder on those days she chooses to come to work. There is nothing I can say because it is a matter of being the daughter of the former owner where she met her current husband the main manager/owner of the business. After two years, my limit in most jobs, I'm finding myself lagging, critical of everything around me and longing for a chance just to pack up and go somewhere.
I now have something else to put on my list of things I never knew until just now. Most recently I've learned that mice actually sing. An observant scientist recorded males making a twittering sound on a frequency we don't hear, of course, but other mice do. A twittering similar to the chirping of small birds. Tonight I learned sparrows fart. The only way to know this is to watch them on a cold day and, if you're very lucky, your patience will be rewarded by the sight of a puff of steam from the tail end of the bird.
A cold, raw wind from the north drives rain in ripples across the pavement. This is March in like a lion. It's been a winter of winds. Inside and out. The mid-day dark of a west coast winter chills the casual observer. Listening to others complain about the weather and how it will be so nice to be in Mexico next week. Like they are hoping for a sympathetic ear from me for them having to deal with the dismal weather until they board the plane. Leaving me to work in the muck while they play in the sand.
I get older, everything around me gets younger; I feel more out of step. Cranky, stopping myself from saying things like, "I just don't understand these new television shows" or "kids these days don't have the same respect for other people that we had". Even if it is true, I can't admit to being old enough to remember things from before to compare to today and daring to think some of the then things would prove of benefit to today. Everyone today is so tired of hearing how great it was in the 60's. It wasn't better, just different.
Waking up to snow, ice, frost. This is not right. This is not what I signed on for. Daffodils, tulips, cherry trees blooming their big old hearts out, that's what I'm here for. Now the flowers are covered in wet, icy snow. This is a hell of a week and it just keeps getting better. Snow is fun for a change and it is something I miss from my prairie days but not now. Now is time for bright colours, flowers. Mostly I'm really tired of whining. It's been at least a week of non-stop whining. Inside and out.
She's off to France. At the airport all the parents milling around, nosing up to their calves in the herd, murmuring words of assurance to each other, smiling and joking. We're carefully nonchalant to notice the strangers walking by, hoping they aren't on the same flight as the 44 high school students. Then the moment, outside the security screen where they separate the staying behinds from the flying aways. Everyone knows the moms will be sniffling. I can't talk. I say goodbye, give her a hug and my throat closes up. It's funny and it's heartbreaking at the same time.
Semper Fi. Always first into the breach. Always the most macho on the field. Now our great leaders have decided to jump into the fray, make visits to areas of conflict, great photo-op. A gesture of support for our brave fighting men that actually puts the poor sods in more danger as word of potentially valuable figure heads become available for assasination by suicide bombers or potential hostage takers. Of course it isn't likely the Prime Minister or President will be kidnapped but every soldier and police officer assigned to take the bullet sweat more than from the heat.
Some day we'll look back on this and laugh. A sense of humour, perspective on it all. Okay, and in the meantime what do I do with this crummy attitude clinging to me like the tang of unwashed bodies: onion, garlic and cooked cabbage fed unwashed bodies rinsed in stale beer and cigarette butts. It wafts out, flavours the words and generally damps down the colour of the world. It isn't raining outside. Not all the time. Like Mr. Mxptflts (or whatever his name was) I have my own personal cloud. Damn, I'm getting so sick of being with myself.
It is hard to keep from sounding self righteous, to preach and say this is right and you are wrong. No longer ruled by one person divinely annointed, we have become a society of divinely inspired, divinely approved, completely justified in our own beliefs, individuals. This isn't tolerance of differences. It is a demand for everyone else to bow to the individual, I am right, you are right if you agree with me and a fool if you don't. Evil roams the earth, democracy gone mad; my rights take precedence over yours. So says everyone. We pull in different directions.
I used to be funny. Strange how that happens. One day I was making jokes and suddenly I'm a drudge. When did it happen? Why did it happen? Responsibility takes up some of the blame, I guess. It's hard to be funny when you're worried about life and death matters. Actually, it's easy to be funny when facing life or death matters, its the daily routine, the continual cycle of picking up, washing up and starting all over again the next day. Now that I think about it, I guess I stopped laughing about that one a few years back.
Okay punk. Think you invented the world, own it, everyone in it has to stop, drop and roll for you at the snap of your fingers? I've been there, punk and I know exactly what's going on behind those bright, eyes and taut, shiny skin and nothing sagging body. Ya, okay, maybe it is the time to enjoy all those perks. The problem is I don't know if you're taking full advantage of the moment. No, not that Buddha stuff, live in the moment stuff, just being aware of what the moment offers. I'm learning now before it's too late.
A quiet week. The eye of the storm has us becalmed and waiting irritably for the winds to start up again, lightening and thunder. The litter of the streets will start swirling around and limbs cracking off the trees. Perhaps not so apocalyptic as all that, just back to the usual disorder of family life. There are a lot of things to be thankful for in a day and surviving one to go onto the next is one piece of the puzzle. A family, children, pets, slightly damaged house and critial but loving spouses. This is life. Ain't it great?
March 18 The race, driving up island, competition among a group of total strangers whose only relationship is the accident of being on that particular stretch of highway at that particular time. It is the ultimate definition of synchronisity. On the side of the road two vehicles who've taken the moment to a higher level, exchanging telephone numbers and insurance details. Both torn between blaming themselves, the other or getting down on their knees thankful for surviving the startling impact. For the rest of us it is a quick reminder to slow, gawk, and focus more closely on the road.
March 18 Moralizing all the time, preaching and taking the position that whatever I say is the hand-to-God truth. This is the way to be, the preferred method of communication, posturing and presenting oneself to the world. There is no middle ground here. It is my way or the high way and everyone has their own map to help you find your way out the door before the door hits your ass. Respect is a vague concept, not to be earned, not to be given but it is doled out arbitrarily according to the fashion of the day.
The spicey wine of autumn air filled her lungs and purged the sick room smell. The taste of illness, medicines, stale air still on her tongue would take at least another hour more wandering along the beach bluffs. There was less than half an hour of light left and the dog was pulling towards the path home. The first delicious moments of freedom from the death watch now started to break up with guilt static. Reluctantly she took one last deep breath of the salt air and savoured it, noting the warm caress of the evening breeze on her face.
It had seemed like forever Jan had been watching her mother slowly disolve into dementia. A process of gradual robbery, bits of mom's personality would dissapear only to be found in the memory of everyone around her. One day Jan's husband let himself into mom's house to measure the living room for a new couch. She'd pulled all the food out of the fridge onto the floor. Chicken thawing last night had dripped onto the shelf below ruining everything, contaminated, poisoned. Kevin led her out to the couch and called Jan. Doctor Edwards said dementia can go unnoticed for years.
Someone else has taken my horoscope today. I'm supposed to dazzle the people that matter, be noticed and come out with guns blazing. This has not been a blazing guns kind of day, not even blazing saddles. Long, tiring, tied to a computer focus bouncing between a relentlessly monotonous computer screen and a stack of remarkably similar invoices. Inputting numbers. The kind of day when a paper jam in the copier is considered a nice break from routine. A temporary respite from the flood of black sticky ooze welling up behind the eyes, trapping creative thought in mental tar pit.
A person seen sometimes as a threat, sometimes as an annoyance. Today seen as just another person, trying to get along - actually friendly. Am I less irritable? Is that why I see the smile, the friendly wave and not the intention I always feel with some suspicion as lurking below the surface. Others are friendly today too. Maybe it is the sunshine? But the sun isn't shining so much today. Maybe I am being accepted. Is what makes me suspicious? In the past, just when I feel accepted, the rug is in the hands of someone, getting ready to pull.
There comes a time in every persons life when the props of childhood fall away like petals of cherry blossoms. The hard winds of spring strip them from the trees and pile them up into pink drifts of memories. The colour is the only thing that remains with any semblance to that life under the watchful eye of loving parents, uncles, aunts. There is no life in them anymore, no fruit will come from there but now will be born upon the tree. And in the heart of each cherry lies the potential for future trees to bloom years hence.
A moment of light, of spiritual brightening. The words, the hymns are part of a ritual that goes to the basic fibre of existence. She is almost transported but for the awareness of all her failings. It is a cult of sin, of keeping one's feet on the ground in spite of the call to the next world. She reads from the old testament to the assembly, stumbling because she is listening more to her own voice, her skill at narrating the story of divine affliction and the promise of redemption. The moral: let the words tell the story. Always.
Family. The picture of a traditional family. Like going to Walton Mountain only they dress a lot better and the mountain is in the middle of a tonier middle class neighborhood. Still, the house was once the original farmhouse for the area, a stage coach stop and when they first moved in, had a huge yard that required a tractor to properly turn over in the spring. Now the cherry trees bloom, apple trees, two pears, a large bed of Rhododendrons and another of roses. It's been civilized over the past 40 years. Next year it will be growing townhouses.
Monday morning, a day full of the promise of spring and firm resolutions made before dawn. Feet on the floor, wheels down 5:00 a.m. and on to the first of "tomorrow we start". The pool is more crowded than expected. I'm more out of shape than expected. Quietly accept reality, slip into a space in the 'leisure lanes' for a gentle work out. Standing at the shallow end, 3 laps completed, adjusting my goggles. Some old guy wades out and cuts in front of me, steals my piece of the pool. My last laps spent cursing the old fuck.
The irony of a laptop is it really isn't designed for pro-longed use on a human lap. Two things happen. First of all the posture required use the keyboard isn't conducive for long periods of typing. Secondly the hard drive fan vents onto my leg and I get overheated in one spot. There is the third problem, of course, of trying to concentrate while watching tv. Can't be done even when everyone else is watching survivor or Amazing Race or similar mind sludge. TV is bright, shiny, makes noise and distracts the inner crow from her more serious pursuits.
Everyday starting with clear resolution and then life happens. More interruptions than continuity. My job is a series of interruptions while trying to get other things done. Then I get something truly mind-numbing to do. Wading through papers, ticking off a square on on the computer file for each file number noted in a book, including ones that are stored in the dank, dusty back closet of the storage garage. "Why?" springs to mind. "Why me?" Because it's my job. This is why every computer comes with at least two types of solitaire games - to keep clerical drones sane.
It comes over me at any time and from the oddest things. Today, in the poultry section of Country Grocer, an old woman in a wheelchair is pushed by me. Something about her, her voice, an unthinking gesture and it's my mother. Holding a package of god-damed chicken legs trying not to cry, trying to breathe. A year has passed but every day it moves through me, seizes me by the throat, leaves me gasping. Sometimes its a fleeting image of Dad, his mouth, despite the embalmer's skill, showing just a hint of one sided slack from the stroke.
They no longer great me with smiles and hugs. Now it's "where were you, mom, you were supposed to pick me up...." Or "I tried phoning you to say we're done early". Accusations of doing things terrible in their development. I think if this is the harshest action I've committed against my children, I'm not doing too badly. One day when they were doing a tag team on all the times I'd forgotten, failed or generally fucked up I managed to find the where-with-all to say, "Save it for Oprah." And I want to reply on Gerry Springer.
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