Tag Archives: siblings

My Groove

I began today happy to wake up, which is my preference, but soon I went on a tear.

Momentary digression:

For weeks I’ve been working on the lawns, vegetable and flower gardens around the main house. The underground sprinkler system is down. So, for the first 2 – 4 hours a day, 6 days a week I’m working in the yards, pulling weeds around the lots for chicken feed, hauling grass clippings to the livestock, tending the pastures in between moving the hoses and sprinklers. Clearly I get my steps in early!

 

Note: The potted plants around my door require about 5 minute’s attention every other day. I have gravel, no lawn.

 

 

I do all this mostly because I enjoy it, but also because 1) Brother needs and appreciates the help while he works in town and runs his business here, and 2) I’m at a standstill in my cottage:

  • I can’t paint the walls or floors before the roof is repaired and any drywall that needs replacing is done,
  • the list goes on, but I’ll spare you the whine.

You’re welcome.

Last week I began watering the grass in the evenings in case that might green up the too-beige lawn.

I may have mentioned I typically rise and go to roost with the chickens. The problem watering in the evenings rather than early in the morning is when I’m up later in the evening I have trouble getting to sleep before 2 or 3 a.m. This doesn’t work well when I usually wake between 3 and 4 a.m. – like it or not.

So back to today:

This fourth (maybe fifth) groggy, sleep-deprived morning I felt notably grumpy and shaking it off was difficult. More importantly, my chapters have taken some hits – the writing’s vague, sequences bounce all over the place and dialogues suck (it’s an industry term). Sort of like me lately.

Before long I’d zeroed in on the problem:

  • I volunteer the upkeep of Brother’s lawn and our gardens,
  • I volunteer caring for his livestock,
  • I volunteer vacuuming the avalanche of dog hair in the main house (his house) three times a week before he ever asked me to help him out with it. I admit, I do this so I don’t feel bad using his vacuum cleaner in my cottage.

Shortly after returning from the pastures this morning I became annoyed by all this – yet again.

It appears I threw off my groove.

 

With the emotional turmoil and all the changes in the household lately, Brother’s been quite overwhelmed. Been there, done that. They’re his problems, not mine. Still, I care about him and I understand his situation – and his occasional crankiness.

I must say here that Brother is mostly kind and generous. He is not obligated, but allows me use of his vehicles and is keeping the Tracker, what we call the Wanna-be Jeep mostly for me. He tells me often he appreciates how I always refuel all the vehicles and I check the oil and water every time I drive. No matter how busy he is, he checks in on me if he doesn’t see me. He offers me cash any time he imagines I need it. And he always says (or texts) “Goodnight. ‘Love you.”

He even took it upon himself to replace my ugly old shower curtain rod with a newer, shiny chrome one that matches the fixtures. It’s what he does.

Because he primarily sees the demands on his time, he doesn’t actually notice all I do to help out. It’s what I do.

After my rant at the cottage walls subsided, convicted by my attitude, I got to my knees.

It’s funny the way prayer works.

Shortly after I amen-ed, I realized I’d allowed Brother’s problems to take priority over my work – my job.  What’s more, I’m sure he has no idea.

But here’s the twist: Today I recognize my problem is I haven’t treated him like my brother. I’ve treated him like a landlord. Okay, so I wouldn’t care so much about a business relationship and would quickly insist a landlord hire a gardener, repairman, etc. But I’d never let my brothers take advantage of me (without some serious shenanigans). Family doesn’t function well like that. Believe me, I know about dysfunction.

I took the focus off my finger pointing at his problems and checked the three pointing back at me. And then I got back on my knees again. Once I regained my spiritual balance, I composed a text and scheduled it for about the time Brother clocks out at work in town:

“I’m returning to my job in the mornings. I can feed/h2o livestock, vegetables n flowers in a.m. You can h2o lawns in the p.m. If you need anything else we can talk. <3”

Walking around, moving the sprinklers, he’ll enjoy the lawns all the more. This feels like a good start in a better direction. I took a deep, sleepy breath.

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” Galatians 6:2-5 (NLT)

 

The Emperors New Groove Video courtesy YouTube

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The Ties That Bind

We’re undergoing some changes at the Ranch. Among others my brother Cole and Kendra have called it quits. Aside from the inevitable odds and ends that might remain, her relocation is about done.

I’ve done this myself a few times, so don’t ask me why I assumed I’d return to my regular routine while Kendra and Twelve-Year-Old settle into their new home – and Brother wraps his head around it all in the main house. Silly Me.

Yesterday was a landmark. It was trash collection day. Lifting the trash can lid to check for room to empty any overlooked wastebaskets, I found the curtains from the second bedroom sitting on top. Most people would probably think nothing of it. I saw a remnant of our late brother Richard’s life.

Roan, Richard and Cole in 2012

Since Richard vacated that room to occupy the cottage in which I now live, the bedroom had been the workout room. Now it will be Cole’s bedroom. Today, from the ever-open folding closet doors one can see seasonal clothes on one side and several guitar cases on the other. Though the guitars are actually Cole’s, the cases looked the same, covering half the closet floor exactly as Richard’s once had. That and the curtains hadn’t changed.

Maybe it’s just me, but leaving the window dressings in the trash simply felt wrong. I don’t know if the curtains had actually been Richard’s. It didn’t really matter. Still, I thought hard before reaching into the bin. I reasoned that they are pretty, still fashionable and seemed in good condition, so even if Cole actually didn’t want them somebody could use them.

Whatever the case it was getting hot and chores awaited. I dove in – no, not literally. The whole set was there; the four sheer panels, four valances, even the two matching ties.

Later on I looked more closely and found a few sizable paint drops on one of the sheer panels. Brother had painted the day before, so it made sense that he thought the set was ruined. I considered it well worth the time and effort to try removing the paint. A few hours later they looked new again.

Then for the rest of the day I wondered what I would do with them. Storage space in my cottage has been scarce for months. This morning I still hadn’t decided. I was behind on my work from all the time I spent helping out in the main house, so for the present I carefully folded the clean, fresh-smelling pieces into a clear, zip-seal case from another set of drapes.

Happy memories came flooding back as I handled each piece:

It was my first night in the main house with Roan and Richard. I’d flown in from Chicago, and we were all exhausted early. Roan and Richard had said goodnight and gone to bed. I was still in travel mode, hardly ready to retire or sleep yet.

About ten minutes after their doors closed I began knocking at Richard’s bedroom door calling, “Hey! Whatcha doing? Are ya sleepin’ yet? Let’s go outside. Let’s play…” like when we were kids. After a few minutes of this incessant pounding his voice boomed from the door at the end of the hall, “I have a gun!” That’s when I realized in the dark hallway I’d been banging on was my niece Opal’s bedroom door. Giggles resounded throughout the rooms, and I went outside to gaze at the starry array I hadn’t seen in years.

The next morning I intended to pounce on him to wake him (as we’ve done since we were kids), but found his room open, light pouring through the sheer panels so the olive green valances appeared beige. As I took in the immaculate space and enjoyed the sunlight filling the hallway, I was abruptly clutched around my rib cage and a loud, sudden, “Whacha doin?” startled me nearly out of my skin. There in my personal space Richard towered over me, grinning ear to ear, clearly pleased with himself for sneaking up on me.

 

Then there was the time Richard left his laundry in the dryer. Just for fun I seized the opportunity and turned all his clothes inside out, folded them neatly and set them on his bed. The next evening I went to get something from my one dresser drawer, but it didn’t slide open easily as usual. Yep, I’d been pranked. Richard had wrapped the drawer in clear plastic wrap and placed a Got Ya sticker dead center at the front of the wrapping.

It was on. Ice water over the shower door, short-sheeted beds, double-sided tape on flip-flops, reversing everything on his bathroom vanity (that really jacked him up, I was delighted), hair gel on bike seats – for days, yo… Sometimes being creative while not risking harm (or depressing messes to clean up) can be a challenge, but we rock that stuff.

 

On our last night before Roan and I departed for Texas, Roan, Opal and I shared an air mattress together on the living room floor. I wanted to go to sleep, but Roan and Opal were wrestling, playing keep-away with a bag of candy. About the time I was going to jump in, Richard entered the room. Blowing a whistle, he tossed a white hand towel announcing, “Personal foul, defense. Five yard penalty!” Yeah, the night went on for much longer than was prudent.

 

As I write I miss my other siblings more than ever. Life happens, siblings grow older but not apart, regardless of the miles between us. Our loss hasn’t changed that.

After I finished packing the curtains with lavender and cedar flakes, memories continued to flow. I wrote the about my experience with the curtains, printed the story, placed it in the package and zipped it closed. I’ll make space for it. Perhaps someone will enjoy finding the package someday, read how it got there and better understand what an amazing family we are.

This just in: Roan now wants the curtains.

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:9,10 (NLT)

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Experience

grandpas-hatchet

Helper, Captain Morgan at the helm.

Captain Morgan at the helm.

I laid awake most of the night, tormented over breaking Cole’s old Coleman hatchet. Yeah, the one I hammered into a wet, rather green log until the head broke – right at the notch (so handy for pulling nails from construction wood).

 

The upset tortured me while I should have been sleeping. All. Week. Long.

Cole was completely cool about it. I systematically timed telling him I’d broken the hatchet he’d given me on our first cold morning here. The moment arrived as I presented him with a fine, shiny-new, Estwick Sportsman hatchet with all the bells and whistles.

I rarely get to give Cole anything of value. I was initially giddy until I jokingly said the words, “the hatchet you gave me… …worn out…” and “…broke.” Instantly his entire demeanor changed dramatically – merriment abandoned my presentation. His words, “…my grand pa’s hatchet… he’d used it for years…” shot the loss and hurt straight through me too.

I get it: My siblings and I inherited very few, mostly valueless, common things from our parents. Those humble heirlooms are precious to each of us. Destroying something invaluable from Cole sickened me.

After weeping privately I texted him “I’ll make it right somehow,” (forgetting he was working in town). I’ll never forget his immediate reply: “Oh stop it-only made me sad for a min-it has done its job for a long time.” And then moments later he texted he’d gotten more wood to get me through while the grove is still snowed under.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment…” *

While I may annoy Cole with more words than he prefers, I learn from him. Things like his grandfather – who cut wood into his nineties with that old model, Coleman hatchet are important to us both. Had I known, I would have retired the Coleman and bought the new ones immediately.

The experience stung us both, but to me it revealed the character beneath Cole’s cast iron veneer. He is a treasure indeed. I hope for more, far less painful lessons.

“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:21 (NLT)

*Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

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Wake Up Call

be-still-know-godLate yesterday I wasn’t still. I’d been uneasy. With my lame arm I couldn’t pull my hatchet from a log. Cole didn’t get to the shop until early afternoon – he’d been working in town, so he and everyone else pushed hard to complete the day’s task list. I certainly wasn’t going to bother anyone with firewood.

By then my feet hurt, my back ached and my bad arm felt like it was on fire. Feeling my indisposition weighing on me, I resigned to wheel the log, hatchet firmly lodged in it back to the cottage and think the problem through.

Extraordinarily early this morning my phone rang. For years calls before daylight brought awful news. I bolted up, took a deep breath and answered, “What is it?”

Cole’s voice, “Wake up, Woman.”

Instantly relieved, I replied, “I’m awake Dude, I’m cold and slow…” I hadn’t heard it in a few years, but I’m pretty sure he was giggling before I heard him disconnect.

Minutes later with my latte and the smell of smoke from the stove I realized I was feeling cheerful, prospects abounded again. Even coughs in the pasture didn’t upset me (okay, that and checking with Kendra). Refreshed and fully awake by then I recalled Cole’s last text the evening before, “What are you worried about. Seriously.”

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again — my Savior and my God!*”

Later, in the morning light, with a cup of tea my concerns from the night before seemed silly. I began to remember scenarios from years long ago; the boy’s dad fussing into the phone after Pa woke him – at four a.m. I could hear The Old Man cackle delightedly just before hanging up. Hours later Ma also giggled describing how much Pa enjoyed waking all the brothers early that morning.

I may have mentioned before how my family tree is more like a tangled bramble bush. Love between us is wrapped in stained, stiff leather gloves. Those calls became a holiday tradition. I missed them after our marriage went south and the family distanced themselves from me for a season. Until this morning.

Today I’m glad I didn’t reply to Cole’s text the night before. Translated, it said, “Remember I have your back, Sister,” sub-text, “Being the only one here for days can feel lonely.” The call this morning confirmed what I already felt. Cole knowing I’m no slacker, my body is aging, but I’m far from lazy isn’t so important this morning. I must rest my arm and let it heal. He’ll get it eventually. Meanwhile God indeed knows.

Now I wonder; perhaps the way we’re all twisted together isn’t all that scary. No matter what, God’s got this.

It’s good to be home.

“But He knows where I am going. And when He tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.” Job 23:10 (NLT)

*Psalm 43:5

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The Stihl of the Night

wood-pixabay

**

Sunday night Cole was plowing after dark. Although I typically avoid working on Sunday, I pulled on my boots to help shovel the pile-up from the walkways. Sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Almost immediately Cole passed between my cottage and the shop. As he went, he called to Kendra and me, “Let’s build a bonfire!” – long after dusk on a work night. Crazy. Right?

icy-snow

We often enjoy bonfires at parties or on a relaxing evening after a hard day’s work. But not in 9 degrees and wind with a foot or so of snow. And it was late.

Cole and Kendra also know I typically retire early in the evening. I’m not literally an insomniac. Still, turning my brain off takes hours, so I typically “rise and go to roost with the chickens.”

As we shoveled Kendra shared that Cole had mentioned cutting wood earlier. I’m ashamed to admit my next thoughts were how I’d told him the day before I’d cut all the wood I could with my little chain saw – that he gave me for Christmas. He’d responded saying he’d go to the grove the following day, bring in more wood, split some logs and start up the big Stihl saw.

Another job came to the shop, so that didn’t happen. And then it snowed – yet again.

As Kendra and I worked I realized some other important facts:

  • The main house where they live has forced heat and air. Their wood burning stove is essentially aesthetic, more for ambiance. They don’t need wood for heat. I do.
  • For several consecutive days Cole spent hours on the tractor moving snow from the lots and the driveways. We all appreciate a path to the pastures.
  • Cole and Kendra team up to ensure I have all I need: heat, transportation, food, companionship and even hugs.

pepper-snow

Fortunately, before shooting off my mouth without engaging my brain, I realized Cole was looking out for me. Sure, he teases me saying, “You’ve been sheltered too long. You’re spoiled.” Cole actually doesn’t know better. He sees me today with all my “quirks” – not the scarred and torn Former Me. As Kendra said, “translated that actually means, ‘I have your back, Sister.’ ”

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.*”

Daily I thank God for my whole family. While Cole’s manners and personality can sometimes be annoying, Kendra is his soft side. We have shared some rough times together.

Four years ago, with my sister, brother and niece, we were all a family here together on the ranch. Cole, Kendra and the boys occupied what’s now my cottage and the loft. And then all our lives changed forever; Roan and I were barely settled into our apartment in McKinney, Texas when Cole called. Without warning Cole’s best friend, Kendra’s favorite neighbor, my precious kid brother suddenly, unexpected died here.

Jan 26, 2014 5 a.m. Opal, Roo, Seagh, Roan, Cole, Kendra

Jan 26, 2014 5 a.m. Opal, Roo, Seagh, Roan, Cole, Kendra

Yes, life goes on. Still, Seagh is such a huge part of our lives we all miss him – daily. We all occasionally see him in our peripheries. We need never explain those moments.

Initially Cole was my brother vicariously through Seagh. Though he knows comparatively little of my history, today Cole’s close as a brother. In his life Seagh called three men his brother; one is by blood, one a friend from his youth and then Cole. Kendra’s become a sister.

Sunday night was a reflective occasion, only it didn’t hurt as much. Because of Cole and Kendra I was only mildly concerned taking the last of the cut wood early that same morning. At the time I had no idea exactly how much the full wood box would actually comfort me that night.

God blessed me with many brothers and sisters and good friends. Though I miss many of them often, especially Seagh, Cole and Kendra have my back – daily.

I’m glad to see I “Stihl” have room to grow into a better person.

Have your circumstances forced you to grow where you didn’t realize you could?

It’s -3 degrees this morning. With this crazy weather the crib’s almost empty again. No problem, we got this.

“And my God will supply every need of ours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (ESV)

*James 1:27

**Image courtesy Pixabay

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Options

img_1613  img_1614

My devoted brother, arriving for the lunch he’d more than earned, thought he’d pop in and out of the apartment in a few minutes. Instead he quickly noticed how the 54 degrees with all the rain the past week, the apartment felt cold. He fussed that I hadn’t started a fire in the wood stove. I’m fastidious about wearing layers so the chill hadn’t bothered me.

As his soup cooled he set about the same procedure I’d enacted the day before, only he included evicting the wasps that had nested in the chimney over the summer. He debated over the damper handle positions, ran to the shop next door for the hammer I’d asked to borrow days ago and for a wet stone to sharpen the hatchet. He sent me to the main house for newspaper while he chopped kindling (I’d burnt my week’s supply of paper and kindling the day before trying to start a fire myself in the newer, unfamiliar stove).

Thanking me for the soup and sandwich, he noticed the jacket laying over the back of the recliner sitting across from the wood stove. “What the…?” He said, “Why’s Derick’s jacket still here, and not already patched? Sheesh, Woman, you better get on that!”

“Brother,” I replied lasciviously, walking over to stroke my hand over the jacket, “You know how long and cold the nights have been since he brought it by for mending. I’ve enjoyed sitting with the jacket. Sometimes I imagine Derick wearing it – other clothing being optional…” my words trailed off as I gazed blankly into the void between us…

With that Brother predictably stomped out of the apartment, shaking his head and murmuring inaudibly.

Sure, I could have pointed out the jacket rested on top of a pile of mending and alterations – due three days later, as agreed. I could have explained that setting up the table, lights and my machine is a chore that leaves little space for anything else. I might have explained that the items sit there where they will annoy me into getting to the task sooner rather than later…

But Brother being more prudish lately than I’ve ever known him, that wouldn’t be nearly as fun or entertaining.

I wonder if I can expect him for lunch again soon…

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” Proverbs 15:1 (NLT)

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Password

security lock

*

In today’s story I’d received several security warnings advising me of attempted hacks, to change my passwords. Ack!  But as it happened the experience was positively enlightening.

Like most users, I have many accounts and I routinely change my passwords, need it or not – every year. Even doing that requires a lot of time. I know the drill and give it my best.

black-calculator-3088x2056_21486

*

So there I was, two months into this fiscal year, rudely confronted with the reality that I have no assets worth considering, moreover hacking. I recently estimated I make below minimum wage per hour in many states. That includes interest I earn shopping creatively. And I put away for this?.

I comforted myself by reviewing my career history. I once earned a very substantial income, especially considering I was a high-school dropout from an impecunious family and a single mother that married poorly (economically). I walked away from both relationships empty-handed, except for the four little hands holding onto mine. Sure, that’s figuratively speaking as the little hands were far bigger than mine by the second break up. My investments during my “good times” saw my kids through school and helped my mother for a season. And not much more.

Okay, so back to my point:

In my mid-teens I resolved to be financially independent and retire from my (yet undetermined) amazing career by my late thirties.
Then. Life. Happened.

Looking back now I won’t say I wouldn’t change anything. There’s just too much Young Past Me would do differently. But the bright Light I can’t miss or ignore is how fully, how well I actually live.

Sure there were some genuine tragedies to hurdle – some would have shattered or actually killed others. But Jesus led me, often carried me through it all.

As many WordPress bloggers remember every time they post a comment, our passwords are meaningful. His precious name is woven into my passwords, continuously encouraging and empowering me when I wane. (Remember here, I have nothing the world wants 😉 )

I don’t want to sound trite, religious or nuts, but that’s the fact. Back in the day, my siblings had to survive too. In-Laws? “fa-ged aboud it.” Likewise, some good friends slipped away into the past, but the great ones remain today. Along with Jesus they have my back, so I can be eternally grateful and happy – literally.

Of course I’d be delighted with a secure investment portfolio, but that’s mostly to have more than a bag of bones to leave to my family – to remind them how my love for them drives me, pushes me, that they are my treasure.

Greens Dec 1960 Sdale 001 Scan_20160510 Sdale 1981 001 2016jan30copy

My treasures never have been tangible or transferable. But they are recordable – and I am a writer.

 

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:19-21 (NLT)

 

*Images courtesy ABSFreePics.com

All other images are private domain and not to be copied, downloaded, distributed or otherwise duplicated without prior written permission.

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My Strongest Conjuration Part 2

Foundation Issues*

 

“You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.” Maya Angelou

For what now seems too long, I want more than ever before to go home. My greatest challenge, as always is that my entire concept of home is tricky.

367px-A_Christmas_Carol_-_Mr._Fezziwig's_BallTypically, like Ebeneezer Scrooge’s happier visitations with the Ghost of Christmas Past, when I ponder home, warm feelings of Family Past flow into my fore thoughts. For me, however, debris and sometimes rusted car doors also flow in those treacherous waters. While I mastered those waters long ago, after years of “dealing with it,” it’s now a stale, old happenstance. I typically choose to move forward.

 

But I’m writing about my concept of home, so I’m going to remain in this stream for a moment.

Truth: My early life actually began in Pleasantville, U.S.A. The middle child of my parents’s first three offspring, we were blessed with three generations of a closely connected, devoted, loving and attentive family. After we all migrated to Arizona, we remained close. And then Quinn, my fourth sibling perished from a cold. Though my parents had three more children over the next five years, they never really recovered from the loss or the remorse and guilt that lurk silently in the shadows of such tragedies.

broken houseBy the time I realized something about anything, my parents were no longer like the Cleavers or even the Conners. We slept, kept breathing, ate regularly, people came and went, so nothing was different. And yet nothing was the same. Gradually boarders and nannies replaced grandparents and aunts. Our new, extended family branched out in so many directions, my brother and I were prematurely independent – far too unsupervised for children our ages. In our family unit’s complexity we became more like a grove than a tree.

 

swings

Truth: my siblings and I, naturally all true survivalists, have maneuvered around the globe longer than we’ve lived in the same states. For me, the concept of home has often been incorporeal, not too unlike those who endured migrations during the Great Depression. For the brief time I was an average schoolgirl, home was where I went after classes – when I didn’t play hooky. Home was dry, nobody was hungry, we knew where to find what we needed – and where to hide when we should.

 

“Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.”
Mother Teresa

“*Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.” Matthew 7:24 (NLT)

 

art: “A Christmas Carol – Mr. Fezziwig’s Ball” by John Leech – http://www.gutenberg.org/files/46/46-h/46-h.htm. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_Christmas_Carol_-_Mr._Fezziwig%27s_Ball.jpg#

 

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Today’s Autumn Observance

As the day began I felt somehow comforted that John Lennon would have been 75 today. That lifted me to consider how to take the day on.

While the seemingly endless weeks of Texas summer weather refuse to pass, I looked forward to enjoying yard work when autumn finally falls. That’s when the fruit of my labors remain evident far longer than in spring or summer. What’s more, now that all my siblings are beyond life’s halfway mark, comparing this season of our generation to autumn seems almost right. Almost, but its still unsettling.

Though simple yard maintenance tasks took longer to accomplish today, I enjoyed myself so much that I nearly forgot an appointment this morning.

In all fairness, back up a bit: The whole story; unable to take my usual walk first thing today – again, I’d reached my threshold for drama in our home early on and sought refuge outdoors. Once immersed in work and praying for the loved ones at the top of my concerns list, I slipped into pleasant oblivion long enough to need to brush all vanity aside and rush – your essential down-shift.

And even further back: As the first female I’m the trailblazer of the human aging process for this generation of our family. Our previous generations suddenly slipped away from us before we had the foresight to note statistics we’d all disregarded. Genetically speaking, aging is clearly challenging enough, but more so without a road map. This month the baby of our family got slammed with lumbar problems at about the same age I was when an injury also pointed out that time was marching across my back.

Three weeks into her treatment phase, I heard more often than I want (for now), “I don’t know how you lived through this for so long. Why don’t you just have the surgery?” She forgets how we already concluded (repeatedly), that “every body is different.” Excuse the pause – rolling my eyes makes me dizzy these days.

Several times over the past weeks I’ve heroically resisted the impulse to fire off expletives that would shock those outside our family circle – solely to jerk her attention from her genuine pain long enough to realize, 1. she’s not alone; and that matters, and 2. I’m close enough to catch her if she falls. Not that she may (or if she did, after recovery we’d humorously embellish the story for years), but because experientially I know enough about her specifically, her condition AND the medications her doctor prescribed. Therefore, I pay close attention to Ms. Feistily Independent while she’s up and moving about. I also try to imagine her away at work while she’s settled safely in her bed with her laptop. Until this morning.

My most profound observations today: When we were quite young, my siblings and I all grew up taking some beatings, mentally, emotionally and physically. We all learned early on to regard degrees of pain as momentary nuisances to consider later, the severity, source and time being subjective.

But as we age, and we all indeed have, we’re wiser to that “press through the pain,” philosophy our late brother Richard impressed upon us while we were young survivors and somewhat reckless. It isn’t always a great practice, and as we ‘progress’ the pain gets stronger remarkably faster. Yeah, this is more about missing Richard’s unique input, a “what would Richard do” moment.

Though we once considered extreme degrees of discomfort a challenge, we all learned that ignoring relentless, elevated pain will most likely cause more severe hurting and possibly other complications. Richard’s short lifespan is now a good example. While we remember him fondly and longingly with each new pang, Roan is now coming to terms with the reality life forced upon me over a decade ago, though it served us well long ago, ignoring pain isn’t necessarily wise throughout our lives.

As we continue to pursue new levels of debase mockery over our deteriorating bodies (our preferred method of coping), I prefer to practice a new phrase Richard never had time to consider; I now “brace for the next blow.”

We’re still listening. Even so, we miss ya, Bro.

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Filed under Notes from the Apex

Nothing and Everything

nothing everything

I was born in a Chicago suburb, surrounded by generations of family. We’d drive station wagons and family sedans along paved roads through gentle slopes lined with lilac blossoms in spring, and various maples, oaks and elms year-round. Every weekend the entire family gathered at one or another’s home.

Family gatherings gradually changed after we all moved to Phoenix. My grandparents and aunts settled a half-day’s drive away, my parents, siblings, and I into a square pink house. Brother and I started school in a dry, hotter climate walking by ocotillo, acacias, and towering oleander walls.

Our playgrounds gradually replaced weekly visits with family. For weeks we explored livestock pastures, orange groves and our favorite toys were ropes tied to enormous, friendly trees which we climbed to swing across the canal, later lying about swimming in the precarious water.

Late in the summer before I was to become an upperclassman at our grade school,  we left my grandparents and aunts’ families behind. In two cars with trailers, our parents drove my five siblings and me to southern California. Home was an apartment where there were more trees, but no yard. Dad and Mother went to work immediately.

Very used to caring for one another, my siblings and I faced the new climate, society, a much faster pace and being strange, new kids in metropolitan schools. Brother and I entered junior high.

Cool wasn’t about the weather anymore; either you were or you weren’t. In jeans, t-shirts and gym shoes, my main concern was hand washing laundry and having dinner ready before bedtime. I was not cool. Brother stopped being my pal and was mean sometimes. Somehow we got through our new life day by day, some days much worse than others.

After an eternity of a few months we moved into a house in a much nicer suburb. Eventually Brother discovered the bus lines to the beach, and he went there often. Two years after coming to Los Angeles, one midweek day Mother pulled us from school and took us to Newport. The fresh ocean air lifted me from our life and for the first time in months I could breathe. Tide pools, waves, kelp beds, sandpipers and sea gulls sent my senses and my imagination soaring, changing everything.

Through the following years I didn’t get to the shore often enough for my liking. Whenever I could, I dug my feet deep into the sand as though that would keep me from spinning off the planet. The beach became my sanctuary.

Often enough I came with nothing only to gaze where the sky meets the ocean. Between that horizon and my feet I found everything I needed.

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Filed under A Door Ajar, The World According to Roo