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BY suzy

09/01 Direct Link
August is the Official Month of Death, as far as I’m concerned. It contains anniversary after anniversary of deaths: my father’s; my mother’s; my grandmother’s. Famously, the tenth anniversary of Princess Diana’s passing and the thirtieth of Elvis Presley’s. I dread the dates that return me to the dark day when the loss was still new. Amazingly, after several years, you can still feel as grief-stricken as you did the first time the grief struck. It’s all I can think of, all month: death. Writing about it day after day wouldn’t help, so I chose not to write at all.
09/02 Direct Link
“A blow, expected, repeated, falling on a bruise.”
Evelyn Waugh

The death days of August have gone again, taking with them the legendary Merv Griffin and the legendarily evil Leona Helmsley, who left the bulk of her empire to her dog, and philanthropist and socialite Brooke Astor, the last great lady of a great era. Every year August adds to its rich harvest those who are lost to us. Every year I get through day after day of the worst month of the year, plagued by memories, mourning, and the voices of those who are silenced except in my heart.

09/03 Direct Link
There’s an empty KFC bucket clinging desperately to the construction site fence. I wonder if the marketing geniuses employed by KFC actually think we don’t know that the “F” stands for “Fried”. As in “Kentucky Fried Chicken”. Of course, we all know that the “F word” is actually “fried” nowadays.

When I was in Cleveland, a waitress told me Colonel Sanders used to go drinking with Bob Evans, the sausage king, and that the Colonel was a mean drunk. Now every time I see a KFC bucket or the Colonel’s smiling face, I think Colonel Sanders was a mean drunk.

09/04 Direct Link
A mystery in my family is why my grandfather never spoke to or saw his family again after coming home from World War I. I have wondered all my life what could have caused such a rift. Now everyone who could have told me – assuming they would have – is dead, so the truth will never be known. But lately, I’ve been thinking of how he came from such a bad part of London, saw so much in the war, and maybe decided to make himself and his life into something new. Maybe he simply couldn’t go back there.
09/05 Direct Link
While walking my dog this morning, I noticed my neighbor's appropriately named morning glories, exhibiting their vivid beauty in all its, well, glory. The new sunlight was just touching the deep green leaves, contrasting with the deep, intense violet of the ephemeral blooms. My neighbor came out of her house to greet me, and I told her how beautiful they are, and she agreed. "They give such joy to the neighborhood," she said. They do. And as the neighborhood changes from its modest Victorian houses to its soulless boxes in high rise condos, we need that beauty more than ever.
09/06 Direct Link
I took the kittens to the vet for the first time. They didn't make a peep all the way to the vet's, though they did wiggle around in surprise when a truck roared past. On arrival, when I was filling out the paperwork, they cuddled in their carrier with complete unconcern, apparently feeling that no comment was called for.

When the vet took them out of the carrier, she actually oohed and aahed over their beauty. She was even more impressed by how calm and relaxed they were. Neither shot nor temperature taking nor de-worming pill ruffled their unflappable cool.

09/07 Direct Link
Having kittens is like winning the lottery. Suddenly, you’re much more popular, and it has nothing to do with your charms. Friends and neighbors drop by casually to say hello, and just happen to notice the kittens, who have two modes: frantic and asleep. They’re either running around like crazy, getting into trouble, or fast asleep, usually in some peculiar place (wedged on top of the records or on top of the lighted room dividers, which seem to be like hammocks to them). There is much admiration. No wonder the vet didn’t faze them in the least. They’re cool cats.
09/08 Direct Link
I’m usually nature-averse (Bugs! Dirt! The cruel effects of time and gravity!), but I enjoyed walking my dog in the fields behind the building today. The field overlooks the railroad tracks and the freeway, but seems bucolic. It rained last night, so the scent of the late summer wild flowers was heightened by the heavy perfume of damp earth. Walking through the wet fields reminded me of my childhood, growing up in the country with five acres of land to explore, the feeling and the smell the same as it was in a different place and time, so long ago.
09/09 Direct Link
I was making dinner yesterday when the building superintendent arrived with the fire inspector. They wanted to replace the bell in my fire alarm. My dog wanted no part of it, so she raced out the door as they came in. By the time I caught up with her, she was jumping up on a man I had never seen before. It turned out he was her former owner’s brother. He said how well she looks, and I felt very pleased. On our way back, my neighbor, glass of wine in hand, gave me a mirrored disco ball. Why not?
09/10 Direct Link
My neighbor, she of the glorious morning glories, brought the last of the kittens to say good-bye to me. He was the runt of the litter, but you’d never know it now – he’s as big and strong as June and Dennis are. The brothers sniffed each other curiously, but the sister hissed. How quickly they forget that they were all piled up together with their mother, nursing, sleeping and playing! I think my kittens have forgotten their littermates and their mother. Maybe it’s best. I was sad to see the last kitten go, but glad of his happy home.
09/11 Direct Link
It’s hard to write 100 words, or any words, with the kittens around. They love playing on my desk so much that I have removed anything with toy potential (especially that pen shaped like a palm tree), but they still keep popping up to see what I’m doing. Not content to merely observe, they walk on the keys, adding their comments, and have even managed to do a spotlight search (for the letter “e”). I keep moving them away, but they keep coming back like fuzzy little boomerangs. “Really,” I tell them, “it’s not that interesting.” They don’t believe me.
09/12 Direct Link
Sitting in the café, I watch the world walk by. All those people driving and walking, wanting to be where they’re not. I wonder what they’re thinking. The little group of nurses: are they stressed, worried? Or simply glad to escape from pain and death for a little while? The homeless-looking guy: is he afraid? Sad? Lonely? The pretty girls strolling past: do they feel pretty, or are they prey to the self-doubt that plagues most of us? Little do we realize that no matter how hard we are on ourselves, there’s someone who wishes he or she were you.
09/13 Direct Link
Someone should invent kitten repellent. A temporary mist you could spray on yourself, so your kittens don’t bite and claw your bare feet, arms and hands in their oh so playful and painful manner. Not to mention climbing up your legs, their needle claws digging merrily through the fabric and right into your delicate flesh. Spray it around your desk, so the kittens don’t annotate your work unexpectedly with their kitten comments. On the door, so they can’t sneak out when you take out the garbage. Of course, the effects would have to wear off when it’s time to cuddle.
09/14 Direct Link
Sometimes, I think I’d like to spend a little time in the past. Say a week, say fifty years ago, when cocktails were de rigueur, smoking wasn’t bad for you yet, people dressed up and beautiful women wore mink stoles and jewels, blissfully unaware of the evils of mink farming and diamond mining. Those halcyon days when Iran was still Persia and Iraq was a place you never thought of, except possibly for archeological digs. All those tiresome places were never in the news, World War II was over, and there was temporary peace and prosperity. Those were the days.
09/15 Direct Link
How she longed for the forbidden cocktail! She closed her eyes and imagined it: the ice cold vodka, the crisp bite of the tonic water, the tangy tingle of the fresh slice of lime, its essential oil scenting the air, the crack of the fresh – always fresh! – ice cubes, the damp chill of the clean, clear glass, the bliss of the first sip, relaxed in her favorite chair, the evening before her. Giving up this simple, yet complex pleasure was going to be harder than she thought. She sighed and opened her eyes. Maybe just one wouldn’t hurt.
09/16 Direct Link
It was his first Open House. He had decided to sell his house, finding it too big and lonely after a few years. He had just gotten into his car when he realized he had forgotten his cell phone. He ran back into the house and collided with a girl who had come to see the house. He apologized and offered to show her the house, ignoring the agent’s frowns. She loved the house, and seeing it through her eyes, he loved it too. He decided not to sell. But she got the house – and him – after all.
09/17 Direct Link
The house looked the same as it always had. The way it had his whole life. He unlocked the door and went in, closing it behind him. There was no-one to greet him, and there never would be, now. The silence of the house settled over him gently, like dust disturbed after a long sleep. It looked familiar, but changed. His footsteps echoed on the parquet floor. The sitting room to his left, the dining room beyond, the kitchen at the end of the hallway, the bedrooms above – where to start? He was really on his own now, he thought.
09/18 Direct Link
He had the house built just for her. Just for them, really – they were just married. No-one had lived in the house before them. She couldn’t wait to decorate, to make it a real home – their home. She had lived above her father’s butcher shop all her life, and he in rented rooms, so having their own house was a dream come true. She loved the house and its location, so close to the shops and church. She was bursting with pride for her new husband and this wonderful achievement. I shall paint the door red, she thought happily.
09/19 Direct Link
They lived in that house all the rest of their long, happy lives. They were married for more than half a century, and never stopped delighting in each other. On baking days, he would bring his chair into the already tiny kitchen to be with her as she baked the cakes and pies for the week. If she was later getting back from the shops than usual, she’d find him watching anxiously from the front garden. When he listened to the Test matches in the dining room, she kept the house quiet. It was a simple, contented life they shared.
09/20 Direct Link
I’m off to Detroit tomorrow to visit my friend Kathleen. I can’t wait to see her; it’s been too long. And Detroit is one of my favorite places. I love its history, its spirit, its undaunted courage in the face of adversity, its pride of place. I even find something beautiful in the decay, something hopeful in the people who choose to stay in a city they love and try and make it better. When Kathleen moved back there from San Francisco, most people thought she was crazy, but I didn’t. It was time for her to go back home.
09/21 Direct Link
A beautiful, clear, sunny day as I drive toward Detroit with the baseball game on the radio. The grey highway is heavy with trucks, bright with cars, but the trees by the side of the road are beginning to flaunt their annual Fall finery. The dark trunks are hazed with hot color, from pale yellow to flaming red, not yet at the zenith of their glory. I am delighted as I pass the huge Uniroyal tire on the interstate, because I love it as an art object and symbol of the motor city, and because it means I’m almost there.
09/22 Direct Link
I have left my responsibilities behind – Charlie is taking care of my dog, and Patrisha is looking in on the kittens – but not my thoughts of them. I had been feeling overwhelmed by the needs of an old dog and two young cats, and wanted a break, but now I have it, I perversely miss them. I don’t know how many times a day I wonder how they are and what they’re doing. I know they’re in good hands, but it’s irrational. I keep having this nagging feeling that I should go home sooner than I had planned.
09/23 Direct Link
Kathleen and I had a wonderful day together. First, we went to The Henry Ford Museum, where we were dazzled by the vast collection of cars and Americana, along with a special exhibit of “Rock Stars Cars and Guitars”. There were so many wonderful things that it was sensory overload – I couldn’t take in any more after a few hours. We had a late lunch in the sunny courtyard of a Mediterranean restaurant, making the most of the lingering warmth of late summer, and arranged to meet up for dinner later, at our favorite restaurant downtown. I’m so lucky!
09/24 Direct Link
I listened to my worrying heart and went home on Sunday instead of Monday. On arriving home, the kittens came running out to greet me, mewing hello and telling me they missed me, too. I went to pick up my dog and Charlie told me that he thought she had eaten some mouse bait in his apartment. He took her to the vet and had her stomach pumped out – twice – and she seemed to be fine. So maybe I somehow picked up on something being wrong, even though it ended up being OK. Poor little Rita, poor Charlie!
09/25 Direct Link
Dennis caught a mouse! I had thought that beautiful June would be the first, since she’s a little more assertive and seemed to have been hunting the mice. But it was sweet little Dennis who turned up with a mouse in his mouth. However, he couldn’t keep hold of it and it ran away. The next day, June caught one – the same one – and was having a great time playing with it until I took it away. They don’t seem to understand that a mouse is not a toy. But they do understand that a mouse is prey. Amazing.
09/26 Direct Link
There’s a stillness to the air this evening. It rained hard earlier, leaving the road glassy and the sky a hazy grey. But at this moment, the construction site is deserted, no cars are driving down the rain-washed street, no-one is walking past, front porches and yards are, temporarily, deserted. As I walk the silent streets, do I change them? Here, in the heart of a big city, at rush hour, there is a temporary peace, a pause in the frantic pace of life here. It is as if the whole world is, just for now, holding its breath. Waiting.
09/27 Direct Link
I write letters to people who can’t write back: my mother, my father, my grandparent quartet. The children I didn’t have. These letters will never be sent, but still I write. I tell the lost things I couldn’t when they were alive and well and part of my life. I tell them trivial, day to day things, because those are the most important. Those are the things which bind people together. A letter like that can be the most fascinating or the dullest thing on earth, depending on your opinion of the author. And the author’s of you, the reader.
09/28 Direct Link
It will be strange, I think, to fall asleep without the benevolent presence of the records. In their thousands, they line the shelves across from my bed, on specially-built shelves. These are no ordinary records. These records are loved. Their plastic records are covered by paper covers, which in turn are covered by plastic sleeves to protect the paper covers. You could say they’re coddled. They are still a work in progress, a collection that started more than 30 years ago and is still growing. But they are the first things I will pack to prepare for my upcoming move.
09/29 Direct Link
My throat is still sore from this morning’s episode. As I splashed cold water on my face, I thought how strange it is that bulimics look forward to the purge part of the binge and purge. I can see how the binge part is appealing, and I can see how the idea of removing the food before it can race to one’s butt and thighs is appealing, but I can’t understand how the process itself could ever be appealing. Most of us resist that activity, whether we have the flu or morning sickness. I guess you have to be there.
09/30 Direct Link
Well. It turns out that Dennis is, in fact, a girl. How my neighbor and I and the kittens’ many early childhood admirers all had the same visual hallucination, I know not. Nor how the vet and her assistant missed it the first time around. Maybe they just took my word for it. They weren’t sure this time and got a second opinion. There was some debate and a promise to check up on the situation down there next time. In the meantime, to re-name or not to re-name? That is the question. Or at least one of them.