Clutter. There are scraps and fragments everywhere, in oddly named computer files on my iMac, scrawled in pencil on the backs of envelopes and Albertson’s receipts, scratchy voice memos on my iPhone. Reminders of things I should do (or should have done, whoops), dates to put on the calendar, ideas for blog posts. I had to deal today or be overrun, so I read and tossed, highlighted and hit Move to Trash, listened and deleted. Nope, not keeping the recording of me singing along with “Save Me, San Francisco,” though it’s a classic.
A few made me smile and one made me cry, though none was a standalone topic, editable to 500 decent words, so I thought I’d toss them together in a kind of grab bag, a rummage sale post, a pot of soup made from scavenging in the refrigerator: one onion, half a chicken, a little curry powder.
December 27, 2010, Light and Shadow
There is the nuanced and the obvious, the graduated and the stark.
Midwinter mornings hold long shadows, the sun so far south that high noon lasts only minutes before signaling the day to sink too soon to early night. Colors are all affected by light, brighter in the sun, muddy in the shade.
Homesick, I am home sick, Christmas trip canceled by a vicious virus. Coughing, sniffling. My throat tastes like nail polish remover, is swollen, hurting. But I can swallow, can’t I? There are no radiation burns, no raw flesh where the cancer was, are there? So, no crybaby, I’m typing at my Mac, wrapped in a blanket, not napping, not moaning. Not sick enough for pity, even my own.
It’s hard to find a person who is all bad or all good. All forgettable is easier, or all not-fascinating or all mostly-boring. But idealize someone or condemn them, and next thing you know, they do some snitchy thing or some kind thing and blow your label right off. Absolutes are hard to find, though not impossible. I mean, Sarah Palin is always awful.
Untitled, July 2010
When someone you love dies, you mourn their loss, the space they occupied in your life, the void that’s left.
It’s harder to mourn the loss of someone who isn’t dead.
For one thing, it gets worse instead of better. Once someone dies, they can’t be more dead, can’t be more missing from your life. He was here until one day when he wasn’t anymore; he breathed a singular last breath, the witnessing of which won’t have to be endured again and again.
Margery, my stepmother, has disappeared. She was replaced, in chunks large and small over the last eight years, by an actress who would have been lucky to get a C- in her high school drama class. It’s tempting to call her Margery’s evil twin, but she’s more like a bobble-head doll, a parody, a caricature.
Untitled, December 15, 2010
I’m going to pretend I’m Italian this Christmas. I will make sweeping gestures with my arms and laugh an earthy laugh, roll my hips and wink over my shoulder. I will wipe my forehead with the back of my hand in the steamy paradise of my kitchen, surrounded by red sauce and white pork, cheese and salumi and bread. I will drink Sicilian wine.
My earth’s axis tilted a couple of degrees this year; its orbit has a little wobble. Trying to force it back to what I called normal made it worse, so instead I’m learning to wobble myself, to accept the unsteadiness. A slight limp is the new black.
While limping along, I noticed that I have time to, well, notice things. Like yoga pants are far more flexible than my actual legs. That many of us in-laws spend a humorous amount of time deciding which family has more weird people in it. That I experimented with different handwriting for so long that I lost the one that was me (until I recently found it – whew!). That the Italians I know don’t eat roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for dinner on Christmas Eve every year and – voila – it’s still Christmas! So, in the spirit of embracing my inner rebel, on the 24th we’re eating Italy.
My brother is diagnosed with throat cancer, what he insists on calling “throat lumpage,” and sends me an email, addressed to his mangled version of my name, a lifelong attempt at improving it:
When dealing with persons who have throat lumpage, you should use reverse psychology- Tell the lumpee that only very quiet, non-complaining people ever get rid of their lumps. Even the dopiest ones will catch on eventually and quit whining.
The point is, there is no sense getting all shook. I think they shot my nose with liquid cocaine to use that scope thing, pretty strong buzz. Bring on the scope! And for the bonus perspective- what would you do if it was your lump? Eh? You’d calm down and think of way better lump jokes to share with your loved ones so they will calm down.
I just love ya. Deal with it. Don’t tell any of the Carlsons. Ix-nay on the ama-dray.
Oh, and thank you. Got your card about the squirrels. Not sure which one of us is weirder. I’m thinking you lately.
Untitled, November 2010
On the day of Margery’s Last Big Party, Simone (6 years old) and her grandfather (my husband Tom a.k.a. Mot) disappeared from the festivities, taking her socks, leaving her shoes. We later heard commotion from the long hallway.
Simone’s mother (my daughter Amy) sent this email the next day:
Mot, I thought you’d like to know that your little pal Simone is currently practicing her hockey stops on our kitchen floor. She says that you said she has to know how to do a hockey stop before she comes to San Diego next year. She’s ready.
to which Mot replied:
In the interim, please work with her on her vertical leap. She needs some improvement in that area.
Once she gets here, I will handle teaching her to go to her left and right along the baseline when she leaves the paint and drives to the basket.
Once those skills are mastered we turn then to basic football drills; forearm shivers, keeping her back straight and head up when tackling and driving through her man with her lead shoulder.
But don’t worry — baseball workouts will not be overlooked. When she returns home to Bagdad by the Bay her slider and cut fastball will be second-to-none.
Till then I remain,
Late November 2010
I’m driving home from Carmel, having closed the sale on Margery’s house and locked the door for the last time, leaving the key inside on the kitchen counter. The guys from the moving crew drove away half an hour ago, taking all the furniture and things we’re saving to storage until Craig’s chemotherapy and radiation sessions are finished in three or four months.
The movers were the cast of a Broadway play.
Joey, the scavenger – there’s at least one on every crew – who asked if he could take things from the giant pile of Crap No One Wants on the garage floor. I said sure, and he told me he and his wife had a new baby as he hefted a package of 1,000 Kirkland baby wipes and told me how much money that would save them. Who knew there could be something good about your mom being incontinent?
Anthony, the lead man, a slight, blond fellow, who told me he would ask everyone at his church to pray for Craig and said they had a wonderful track record of saving people from death, like 90 percent. Late in the day he told me about a recent job where he took a crew to move the furniture of a widow from the house where her husband had died. When they arrived, the woman was lying on the couch, crying, and said she just couldn’t get up. He knelt on the floor and put his arms around her. She asked if he would mind making her some toast. He did. After she ate it, she felt better, and then the move went ahead.
After the crew drove away, the wife of the couple who had bought Marge’s house drove up as I was pulling out, stopped me and handed me a tiny plastic vial the size of a quarter. She said it was holy water from Lourdes that she and her husband brought back from France last year, that I was to put it on my brother. She told me not to spill it in the car on my way home. With tears in my eyes, I told her I would be very careful and thanked her as sincerely as I would have if I, too, believed in God.
Posted in: favorites, human beans, la-la-la-love, my baby brother, my guy, what i'm thinking
Tags: athiest, bobble-head doll, brother, cancer, carmel, christmas, craig, craig mann, cut fastball, death, dying, forearm shiver, fragments, head cold, hockey stop, holy water, italian, lourdes, movers, nail polish remover, new black, papa mot, pasta, reverse psychology, save me san francisco, scraps, simone, stepmother, throat, virus, yoga pants, yorkshire pudding
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