Friday, August 27, 2010

do si do

Today I leaned down and whispered in Stella's ear: Go on, now. Your husband is waiting. Your children are fine. Go on now and squaredance in heaven. I'll bet it will be really fun.

So she did.

Stella loved to squaredance. She loved the company of men, and touted the benefits of vitamin D long after she'd lost track of time and family. Every day she would ask me if I'd seen her people. I'd lie, like I do, and tell her they were coming, just before dinner or lunch or whatever came next. She had pink gingham squaredance dresses with layers of tulle under-slips that spun when she did, and a husband who wore one of those string ties, texan ties, with a fishing fly embedded in resin for a clasp. Stella had perfect white hair and piles of costume jewelery. She always matched. Knee deep in Alzheimer's and still had her manners.

The girls say they go in threes. They say it happens on the full of the moon. I don't know if any of this is true. They all die, and the moon is full sometimes. Stella makes two. Or two hundred. They, the girls, the women who work in the trenches, have to make sense of it all. To me, it is both random and predictable. An even hand doling out pain and justice in equal parts. Life is fair, misery optional. It seems about time for death to take a holiday.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

death in the time of hypochondria

Aubrey's heart is dying and she knows it. Today I sat down next to her and she said,

When is this service going to be over?

Me: Are we at a service?

(Nodding) The funeral.

Me: Oh. Who are they burying?

Anyone who stops by.

Me: Ah. Well, I can't hear them. I didn't know.

Well, they don't talk in words you can hear.

Me: Oh. I see.

It is hard to know when a hypochondriac is sick. Even harder to convince a family who has grown tired of the chronic complaints, suspicious of symptoms, reluctant to even answer the phone.

But she was sick, and with bluing fingers and a rapid heart, she slipped away. The cry of wolf echoing in the hallways.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


My cousin Darla sent me the poem below. I love it.

Last night she and her guy and me and mine had dinner at our house: a seafood boil. It was an experiment in trust. Us to make it, them to eat it. We layered red potatoes, broken corn on the cob, fish fish fish, 5 lbs. of steamers, 2 lbs. of shrimp, 2 dungeoness crab --

(Crab is plural for crab. Like sheep and sheep. You wouldn't say "crabs." Crabs is only proper usage such as in the following sentence, "He has the crabs." Its something you might hear around Charleston in the winter. But how would I know?)

--and andoullie sausage. So anyway, you cook it all in this broth of seasonings: 1/2 bag of louisiana crab and shrimp boil, 2 lemons, one beer, an onion and a head of garlic. Boil the heck out of it and let it set. The longer it sets, the spicier it gets. Yum. The corn was outstanding.

It was good to get together for something other than a funeral.

I Confess

I stalked her in the grocery store:
her crown of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip,
her erect bearing, radiating tenderness,
the way she placed yogurt and avocadoes in her basket,
beaming peach like the North Star.
I wanted to ask
“What aisle did you find your serenity in,
do you know how to be married for fifty years,
or how to live alone,
excuse me for interrupting,
but you seem to possess some knowledge
that makes the earth burn and turn on its axis—”
but we don’t request such things from strangers nowadays.
So I said, “I love your hair.”

Alison Luterman

Friday, August 20, 2010


I was driving home today, trying to figure out what to make for dinner and Bad Moon Rising started playing on the radio. I have had the best last few radio days, B-52's Love Shack, Don't You Forget About Me (Simple Minds), but Bad Moon Rising, that was pure Joyce. I knew immediately that she was controlling the music and playing it for me.

I don't really believe that, but I could.

So I thought of her, fondly, remembering the time we crashed head-on into an Ashland cop while listening to Credence Clearwater and anyway, she went to jail and I didn't. And she died and I didn't and my brother died and I didn't and my sister is strung out on methadone and I'm not and I know I've made some unpopular decisions and walked away from my family to survive, and there is guilt in that. Survivor guilt.

and an element of grace.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

fake berry picking

When my honey hooked the truck up to his new boat and trailer and said, "I'm going to take you blackberry picking," I knew we were really just going on the maiden voyage. A boat ride. Nevertheless, I wore my overalls, the painting ones, the ones that are more patch than pant, and a red cami underneath. It is so hot. Too hot for me. But I won't pick berries in my good clothes. I know better.

So there I was, looking like a poor farmer's wife, waiting to climb in the new boat. Now during fishing season, this wouldn't be such a big deal, but this is high summer and Willamette Park was packed with every million dollar race boat, every hot babe, male and female, in the metro area.

Its bad enough to be old and overweight in public, add to that bra-less and in paint-spattered, quilt patched overalls, with a brim-only straw sun hat. If my sun hat had a price tag hanging off it, I could have been mistaken for Minnie Pearl. Only she wasn't fat.

It was not a good self-esteem moment. Note to self: always dress for success. Get new berry-picking clothes.


So, I'm coming down off the family death thing. Joyce's funeral was nice. My sister didn't make it because she was in the hospital, and the wierd thing is, when Marc died (Joyce's husband-my brother) my other brother went into the hospital the day after the funeral and was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure. Turns out this is the same thing my sister has. I'm not surprised. I rarely am.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

stolen poetry

Thanks to K&F Coffee Shop for this one, torn thoughtlessly out of the June 7 New Yorker.

A Maxim

To live each day as if it might be the last
Is an injunction that Marcus Aurelius
Inscribes in his journal to remind himself
That he, too, however privileged, is mortal,
That whatever bounty is destined to reach him
Has reached him already, many times.
But if you take his maxim too literally
And devote your mornings to tinkering with your will,
Your afternoons and evenings to saying farewell
To friends and family, you'll come to regret it.
Soon your lawyer won't fit you into his schedule.
Soon your dear ones will hide in a closet
When they hear your heavy step on the porch.
And then your house will slide into disrepair.
If this is my last day, you'll say to yourself,
Why waste time sealing drafts in the window frames
Or cleaning gutters or patching the driveway?
If you don't want your heirs to curse the day
You first opened Marcus's journals,
Take him simply to mean you should find an hour
Each day to pay a debt or forgive one,
Or write a letter of thanks or apology.
No shame in leaving behind some evidence
You were hoping to live beyond the moment.
No shame in a ticket to a concert seven months off,
Or, better yet, two tickets, as if you were hoping
To meet by then someone who'd love to join you,
Two seats near the front so you can catch each note.

~ Carl Dennis