Monthly Archives: December 2012

To The Future!

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. That sounds so cliché.

Today is the first day of the second part of my life. That sounds horrendous!
Who wants to live 120 years?

Today is just another day, another Saturday in a long string of Saturdays I have lived through. Another Saturday in perhaps a future string of Saturdays awaiting me. I hope not too many.

Both my parents lived another 29 years from the point I’m standing in now. 29 years. I think if I was offered another 29 years, I would say, No, thank you.

If I knew I could live what would essentially be the last third of my life as I am now, the physical status I’m in at present, RA and all, I might say yes. Enthusiastically, yes!

But, we can’t know what is to come. There are no guarantees.

And I suppose it’s just as well.

So, I raise my glass in a toast as I blindly go where I have never gone before.

To the future!!

Joy Street

When I was a young girl my father gave me two books. When he brought home the first book and held it out to me, a gesture accompanied with his usual silence, I accepted it gratefully. Until that day, I had not known that my father appreciated my love of reading. Up until then, I was not aware that he saw me that clearly.

I do not remember if I spoke, if I thanked him, but the look on my face must have been thank you enough, because later on he brought me another one.

These books became treasures to me and I guarded them reverently. To me they held a meaning beyond their story. They were proof of what could be done with words; evidence of what intricate power could be woven between two simple cardboard covers.

There was no greater gift, besides his love, that he could have given me, because you see, these were not store-bought books. They were books salvaged from someone else’s trash can. My father’s job was to drive a garbage truck. And I imagine that before he was “promoted” to driver, he was one of the men who picked up the trash cans and dumped them into the back of the truck.

How he noticed that there were books amidst the trash from his perch inside the cab, I don’t know. But just as he’d noticed that his little girl loved to read, so he espied those books and brought them home to her. I read and reread these books countless times, though one was missing the last half of its last page. It would be many years before I knew the ending to that story.

And as they gradually fell apart in my hands, these books served as propellant for my own writing. I accumulated notebooks full of stories, stories that my English teachers praised and led them to encourage my endeavors. I dreamed of going away to college to study journalism. For hours at a time, I would disappear into my own little world dreaming up stories, and reading and writing.

My mother did not understand or accept this as there were four younger children she needed my help with. One day when I was fifteen, I came home from school to discover that everything had been thrown out. All my writings were gone, and worst of all, my books.

The loss left me devastated and I stopped writing, for decades. And what made my pain worse was the thought that my mother had probably coerced my father into helping her discard my things. The irony of him having to return those books to the trash heap made me laugh, as well as cry.

I took this assault on my psyche in stoic silence. I was my father’s daughter and I said nothing to no one. Since then, I’ve never been able to talk or write about this and few people know about it. I bore this event in my life as a mark of shame, though I don’t know why. And as a result, I have never gotten over it. It has hurt to this day.

A few months ago, I did manage to relate this story to my daughter-in-law, with my voice only breaking once or twice. I didn’t realize how intensely she’d listened until I opened my Christmas gift from her.  It is an exact replica of one of my missing books, the one that had the last page ripped off, Joy Street by Frances Parkinson Keyes.

The last page on this copy is intact, however, and now, so am I.

I want to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and may joy street always find you.

I want to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and may joy street always find you.

 

What, Me Worry?

I had an epiphany this morning. I woke up as I usually do, with my youngest child on my mind. She is far from home and worrying about her comes as natural to me as breathing. She was hoping to come home for Christmas, but that won’t be feasible. That in itself is disappointing, and though I miss her dearly I can deal with it.

What I do have trouble with is the fact that she is living all alone in New York City. These past months I have made several attempts to get her to come home, but she is bound and determined to stay there and try to make it into the journalistic world. Free room and board is not enough to entice her; she’d rather rough it up there, working at whatever she can find while she keeps “writing on the side.”

I’m glad she’s writing, and though at this point the publications she writes for don’t pay, at least she’s adding to her portfolio. I suppose I could romanticize her present status and think of her as a starving artist, but the starving part doesn’t sit very well with me. Besides, she’s already tiny enough that a stiff breeze could blow her away.

I try to convince myself that she is all right; that she is an adult now, capable of making her own decisions. I tell myself that I don’t need to hear from her daily, that I don’t have to wait up for her to text me she’s safe in her room anymore.  I remind myself that I must keep my stress level in check, that RA loves any and all enablers. And RA has had its way with me for long enough.

And then this morning it hit me. Why am I worrying about her walking the streets of New York when she’s walked the streets of Casablanca, Tangier, Accra, Cape Town, Penang, Ho Chi Min City, Hue City, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai, Delhi, Tokyo, Yokohama and Puntarenas during her Semester at Sea voyage around the world? And before that were the streets of Paris and Amsterdam during her European trip, which seems so long ago I barely remember the other countries on the itinerary besides Germany and Norway.

Added to that are the four years she spent trekking up and down busy Commonwealth Avenue attending university in Boston. There was no set apart campus there; she was right smack in the middle of the big city. And how can I forget the months she spent roaming the entire country by car the summer she was twenty, accompanied by three other twenty-year-olds. If she could handle driving the L.A. freeways, something I couldn’t get myself to do when I lived there, what exactly am I worried about?

She’s logged more miles than the rest of her family put together and at this point only Australia, South America and the North and South Poles lack her footprints.  She has no fear of new places, meeting new people or of being alone. Her school teachers weren’t off the mark when they noted that she was self-directed and self-sufficient in her yearly reports.

She’s known to accomplish whatever she sets her mind to and her wish now is to become a travel writer. I suppose she has compiled more material during her 22 years than most people will in a lifetime. I have to say I don’t know anyone else quite like her.

“She’s different, isn’t she?” my son said to me while I visited him last month.

“Yes,” I responded. “She is.”

A little girl, a great big world.

A little girl, a great big world.

No matter how old she gets, she will always be 3 to me.

No matter how old she gets, she will always be 3 to me.

The feet that have roamed the world.

The feet that have roamed the world.

Tequila Turkey

It’s that time again. Time to figure out what to serve on Christmas Day. I go through this every year, the pondering, the planning.

It’s the same thing every Thanksgiving; I’m always wanting to tweak the usual fare. This year I did. While visiting my son, I became acquainted with the Food Network. Seems it was always on so I watched. This particular chef caught my interest. As did her recipe for the aforementioned tequila turkey.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/marcela-valladolid/apricot-and-tequila-glazed-turkey-recipe/index.html

The results of this recipe were in one word, scrumptious. The turkey was moist to the point that chewing was practically optional. Everyone raved. That turkey made the quickest disappearing act ever. Leftovers, what leftovers?

I debated whether to repeat this recipe for Christmas, but I’m just not in a turkey mood. After some thought and discussion we came up with an idea. The one ingredient we’ll carry over from Thanksgiving to Christmas will be the tequila. We’ll need it to make the Margaritas that will add the finishing touch to the Mexican spread we will serve.

Come to think of it, my red serape will look great as a tablecloth . . .

Food for Thought

I was just thinking, if the world is really going to end on December 21st of this year, then I don’t have to worry about turning 60 or losing weight! I can eat all I want for the next three days, or is it two days?

But with my luck, December 22nd will dawn bright and warm like every other day of my life, so I better get a move on.

Besides, Christmas is almost here!

A Lover’s Dream

I met a man
Who isn’t there
He isn’t there
Quite obviously

His form arose
Out of the fog
The misty fog
Enveloped me

His shape now blurry
Yet I still see
His gentleness
Exquisitely

He moved toward me
I felt assured
and waited for him
Breathlessly

So long of hair
with eyes too kind
He looked at me
Endearingly

I felt him reach,
reach out to me
To touch me oh,
So lovingly

A gravelly voice
Whispered to me
Whispered to me
Incessantly

Assuaged my day
and lulled my night
he made me dream
perpetually

Who is this man
no longer there?
No longer there
lamentably

(This is a reworking of a poem I wrote on February 2, 2011.)

My Love is Enclosed

So I missed a day on my self-imposed assignment to post daily. I may be wearing myself thin with all there is to do this month. Ironic since I’m also fighting the battle of the bulge or as it is sometimes called, middle-aged spread. In a way, I didn’t choose this month; fate chose it for me. It is my birthday month and I wanted to mark it somehow. It’s the end of a decade for me; then my age will no longer begin with a five, but a six.

I can’t believe I’m that old and I can’t believe Christmas is next week. It seemed so far away. But I’m on track, sort of, with my gift plans. Namely the blankets I’m making. Three are done and one was conceived of two days ago, an addition to my long list that bumps two others down the list.

And now, one of my sons asks me for a baby blanket for his friend who is having his fourth child. Luckily I already have one made, crocheted in white; I will add some pink trim for the new baby girl that is soon to be born.

Apparently, the oldest boy of this friend still has the blanket I made for him when he was born. Seems he won’t go anywhere without it and after six years it’s kind of raggedy, my son reports. Lo and behold, I still have the rest of the fleece fabric I made it from, a Winnie the Pooh print in white and blue. He will get a replacement blanket and since I can’t give to only two of the four, I will make a blanket for the other two children as well.

Therefore, in between the speed-making of an afghan in my older son’s alma mater colors, I will sneak off to Jo-Ann’s, my favorite fabric shop, for more fleece, and then steal some moments at my sewing machine to whip up two more little blankies.

It warms my heart to do this, to give away something I worked on, made with my own two hands. I’ve lost count of the number of quilts, afghans and fleece blankets I have given away. Some I remember distinctly and can visualize the making of still. These particular ones remain with me because of who their recipient was, is. Enmeshed within fabric, yarn and thread is my love, enclosed in each stitch.

Incomprehensible

This morning found me with two thoughts: How RA sometimes makes my eyes painfully dry, and how I needed to wrap gifts for my two little granddaughters. I reached for the vial of artificial tears, but before the day had barely begun I was crying real tears as the horrific news filtered in.

I remembered how I sent my own children to school, never fearing for their well-being. Never thinking that such a calamity was even remotely possible. I want the same safety for my grandchildren, for all our children, for they deserve to be safe at school. School is supposed to be where you go to learn and grow, not to end your short, young life.

My day ends in prayer. I grieve for the families of Newtown, Connecticut, who have suffered such unspeakable loss.

20 children . . . I cannot comprehend that.

I don’t think anyone can.

Dream Visit

My father came to me last night in a dream. He looked as he did at my age, robust and strong. I was as I am now, as he gently escorted me down a busy city street to a night class. Traffic boomed all around us, headlights ablaze, and he did not speak as we walked amidst many others. Before leaving me, he pointed out the building I should go into as if I didn’t already know, and then he held me in his arms and kissed me on the cheek, his stubble rough against my skin.

Though I don’t often dream about my father, I still feel him with me these many years after his death. He was a simple man who put family above all. He believed in paying his way and if he couldn’t pay, he would do without. And we did, do without. Yet, I never went hungry or lacked a roof over my head. And it was only long after I’d left home that I realized how poor we truly were.

The following story, I believe, depicts my father better than I can using just words. I wrote it March of this year.

Poverty’s Prism

My father walked into our home, bloodied.

“Hijo, que te pasó?” Mamá leapt to her feet.

“Papá, what happened to you?” I echoed. His khaki pants were drenched in blood and he held one hand within the other. Between the two was a blood-soaked rag.

We followed him as he trudged through the living room and into the dining room. Taking his usual seat at the head of the table, he sat hunched over his hands. With a long sigh he slowly separated them and as he let go, a stream of blood spurted out.

I grabbed his hand and instinctively applied pressure to his wound. My mother hovered about us, unsure what to do. My father sat mute as I pressed down and squeezed his hand in both of mine with all my might.

“Que pasó?” my mother whispered, her voice tremulous.

“Me caí,” my father said simply.

“How did you fall, Papá?” I looked down at him, my heart also bleeding. After work, he’d gone to visit his own father in the hospital.

“Antonio argued with me. When he walked away, I tried to follow him, but I slipped and fell.”

My father had many brothers. They all lived near us in that small south Texas town, but we hardly ever saw them. And whenever their father was ill, they made themselves scarcer.

My grandfather lived but a few blocks down the street from us, yet we never saw him. My father had married the woman of his own choosing and my grandfather did not approve. Therefore, the six children that resulted from this marriage were not recognized by him. In his eyes, my father was single and childless.

Oftentimes while sitting on our front porch, I would catch my grandfather passing by. He seemed to quicken his pace as he neared our home, marching tall and straight, his beige Stetson firmly on his head. His pale skin was ruddy from the sun and his flowing mustache and hair were as white as snow. I followed him with eyes that did not exist.

My father never spoke to us about him, but in our tiny house not much was secret. It was easy to overhear our parents’ conversations, if we’d a mind to. I usually felt nothing toward my grandfather, but now my anger flared knowing he was somehow at fault for my father’s injury.

“Where did you fall?” I released the pressure slightly and the red migrated onto the white handkerchief my mother had stuffed on top of the saturated rag.

“I fell against the glass door. It shattered.”

“Where?”

“At the Emergency Room.”

I was speechless for a moment.

“And they didn’t take care of you?”

“No, I left in a hurry before they could see I did it.”

“But, Papá, this hand needs to be seen. You need stitches. We need to go back there right now!”

“I can’t, Mijita.”

“But, why not?”

“Because they’ll make me pay for the glass.”

I was shocked into silence. I realized then that my father did not see this as an accident, as something that the hospital would attempt to rectify by rendering him care. He instead considered himself culpable. He’d broken the glass door and now he was responsible and we had no money.

I sensed his fear and his stubbornness. And though I tried to get him to seek care that night, I could not convince him. At the age of fourteen, my words did not carry much weight and he refused to return to the scene of the crime.

When his bleeding slowed, I cleaned and dressed his hand, taping it as tightly as I could. The next morning our family doctor would tend to him and the wound would eventually heal without further complication.

My grandfather lived to go home once more, until one day he returned to the same hospital for the last time. My father was there for his every need. Thankfully, his brothers were not.