Monday, August 30, 2010

In Memory Of Uncle Charles

Climbed a local mountain.  Found brightly colored mushrooms, likely Chantarelle's but possibly Jack o' Lanterns.

Among the season browns of the summer forest floor there lay a leaf, random and un-sourced and bright bright yellow.

I hiked a mountain a few weekends ago.  I am no stranger to this mountain; it was my Dad's mountain.  He climbed nearly every weekend for some twenty years well past his 80th birthday which he celebrated there among some of his family and hiking buddies on a cold and wintry November day.  His name appears in a book about this mountain, and his picture hangs on a wall in one of the park entrances.  That picture helped reignite memories for him we thought sure he could never lose. 

Now, recently following a stroke at 91, I cajole him into scooting down the hallway in his wheelchair at the nursing home to help regain his strength, and when he complains he is tired, I remind him of these feats.

He stares out of still vibrant blue eyes,  his aged and defiant body, hands bent from arthritis, back bent from years of honest  hard work, wondering aloud when he'll go home. I never thought, given all those years of climbing, that age would forsake him.  And I always thought that when his time came, he'd want to be scattered on that mountain, but he doesn't.  He  wants to be alongside his beloved.  He loved that mountain, but he loved my mother more.

A few of the flowers remain as proof that once there was a garden at my Mother's hands

My parent's yard used to be filled with my Mother's careful plantings, my Father's random finds, and, as I recently discovered when delving into their history, a clue into their lives before they were parents.  

My father had helped plant Pansy's in my Mother's little  garden  in Ankorage, Alaska where she and her Mother were living at the time.  In a couple of his love letters he commented on receiving the pressed flower in one of her letters and how he had loved the day he had helped plant the garden.  I wonder no longer why her trips to the nursery always included Pansy's and why even  he, took a fancy to the flowers.  

These are remnants of those long ago plantings in between long overgrown perennial gardens.  

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A story unfolds

I have been spending random hours here and there at my parents home slowly cleaning and sorting for an unknown inevitable outcome. Should he come home, it will be to a clean and cleared-of-obstacles space to maneuver wheelchair/walker. Should his permanent residence be the nursing home, we will have begun the difficult process of prepping the house for sale.

While putting some things away, I came across a box of love letters my mother had received from my Dad, that I decided to take home to read. At first, I felt guilty but as his words from sixty five years ago crossed the thresh-hold of my understanding of my father, I was thankful I had.

I gained a window into a man, in his late twenties at the end of the war, so desperately in love with a girl that he wrote her every day while he worked out a way to bring her home as his bride. This man who had a difficult time showing any of his children emotion or affection, had at one time, the capacity to call his sweetheart "Precious" and "Sugar" and "My Love." What happened to this boy?

I tread lightly when asking him about those days. His memory is failing and his lover for nearly seventy years, is incarcerated in the same nursing home a floor below and yet, he cannot bear to see her every day. It pains him that her memory of him has vanished, while his remains. I understand for I too, have a hard time visiting a woman with no reference to me.

My father and I were never particularly close, but in the last few weeks, I have begun to understand him as a boy, and as a man, trapped and desperate and lonely. And now, since reading his letters, I have begun to recognize him as once we all were; naive and hopeful with the promise of the whole world stretched out before us, a blank slate ripe for developing. He has a story, and his story is part of mine. I cannot know who I am until I understand who he was and how he came to be.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A tale in progress

Yesterday, I spent the better part of my day dealing with the detritus of age and it's affects at my fathers house. While he lay in bed bemoaning his need to be home, I was at his house stupefied at how quickly a place goes down hill.

My father took some nearly sixty years ago, a small cape built as military housing near a small airport, and turned it into a home. Without any formal training just Yankee wits, he converted those otherwise good bones into a tight little house for a family of six. A family mind you, he never really wanted to start but with some pressure from his bride they had, before moving to this fixer-upper.

My pride in his handiness is mixed with fading shame, for I never wanted to inherit this home. It resides in a neighborhood too close to business, mediocre schools, and memories while not awful they are memories I haven't completely reconciled with. Nonetheless, I always felt safe there,learned my independence while climbing trees, pilfering my fathers tools to build forts with, pretended to be a spy and to love the summers.

My father built several feet, of several feet high, flat stone walls mostly around our house, but in later years for a neighbor. He took his spare time and his lack of money, and his wealth of knowledge about the land to forage on weekends for long abandoned cellar holes. From those caved in and overgrown foundations he began to build his own.

Now, those walls still straight and solid, surround a house he's long failed to see clearly to maintain. He no longer can see his own food spills, the grimy stains from hands on walls and switches. The build up of coffee stains, and milk droplets and accidents. The garden my mother cultivated and passed on her love of flowers for, has long been overgrown. Bees have taken up residence underground and as we've recently discovered, mice have found a place to call their own behind the knotty pine walls he so lovingly protected his beloved with.

I spoke to my children thirteen and eight, and told them that I had no desire to be kept in a home when my time comes. That someday, I hoped to have a place in the woods I could go to, and of my own choosing, pass quietly away in. The thought of all that work and pride and sweat and towing the line so that someone else may profit just to end in a pitiful existence in a room away from home was too much to bear. They played it safe my parents. They bought the lie that hard work and obedience would pay off. (My father still worries that a bill not paid immediately upon receipt will be a mark against his name) and they earned themselves a bed in a home with underpaid staff.

As best we can tell, my mother has lost herself within herself and knows no better. Though I can tell you while I sit and look at her stare into her hands, that she knows too well what she has become. My father speaks repetitively of going home, and only needing a ride to get there. He does not understand that his body has now forsaken him. Or that if he were to simply break a rule that only exists in his head, he could call a cab and go home.

Life is short and lacks in guarantees. Grasp it whole, ignore the stings and live it well. Yes, it is hard to let go and imagine, but we have nothing left to lose.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Deep in the quiet. A place to be

Naked in the sun, in the shade, in the rain the heavy drops assaulting my skin.

Fat warm drops falling from infinity upon my breast, to my belly down my thighs to my feet, tasted on my tongue, dripping from my hair. 

I dance like Neptune's daughter on the land in the trees, in the moss with the breeze.

I am free, I am whole, I am something to behold.

Through the stands of the trees come the humming of the bees, swept along like a song, I am wild, I am free.

Restless to wander

I am restless.  Not miserable; just restless.  I stumble around blindly a newborn critter. It is time for my eyes to be open wide.  I have been dealing with my elderly father and his diminishing existence and it makes me crave travel. 

We are a band of wanderers.   Like gypsies, we do static existence well for only brief periods of time. In each others company, on foreign territory we are at our best, especially while enjoying really good food.  It renews our creativity and our drive.  My man has been dreaming of the Mediterranean and as long as I can bare my feet and be warm, I am satisfied. 

From August 2000

I sit in the yard among the lilacs and marvel at a woodpecker tracing a quick pattern up and down the trunks of the bush.  Here, in this city, despite the noise, pollution and steady stream of traffic, flitters this beautiful bird with a ruby colored throat among the branches.  Close, closer,  and the rhythm  it beats out with it's tiny beak, a mantra, "Live.  I live.  I am.  I thrive.  I adapt.  I assimilate."  Remember what it was like to be a child, independent not thwarted?  Embrace the memory, this is life.  Regain the memory and the essence.  It was not taken, it was relinquished. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I'd Like to Pose Naked

I would.  Seriously.  In black and white, in an artful way.  I would like to pose as the woman I am before I become too wrinkled, too bent and too frail for it to be anything but obscene.  But then, who dictates the boundaries of obscene anyway? I am neither voyeur nor exhibitionist.  I am woman, appreciative of the human form and aware that as I fade, so shall any semblance of my existence save for the memories carried along by my sons.  We have, as best we know, one life to live and I am compelled to  trade one shell for a larger. 

I am intrigued by the primal aspect of being naked, by the reality that is hidden behind clothing where most people give no second thought to hiding, or fading into background. 

Naked and exposed. 

How many of us have (innocent mind you) pictures of ourselves taken as babies on rugs, or blankets? As though the only real way for our parents to realize our "realness" was to take a picture of us without the trappings of clothing?

For all my imperfections, supposed or otherwise, I cannot help but think that by continuing to hide behind the facade of clothing, we continue the fiction of what is true beauty.  Especially here in the U.S., where youth is considered the first ideal of beauty.