Today has been a horrible day. Just up the road, a gunman walked into the grocery store I’ve been in hundreds of times and opened fire. Just walked in and without a word, opened fire. The police won’t disclose how many people died. A YouTube video of the first few minutes of the massacre showed two bodies laying in the parking lot and one just inside the store, by the shopping carts. Those souls lay there on the cold ground for hours as SWAT teams broke windows and rescued people through the roof, as news crews swarmed. The thought of them there breaks my heart. This store is the one all the high school kids hung out at — K was one of those high school kids, not so long ago. Today, her high school parking lot was used as a staging point for MedEvac helicopters, but there were no injured. Only bodies. If there is a single severe mercy, it is that this is Spring Break, so even though the kids are back at in-person school, they weren’t all congregating at the store’s Starbucks after classes, just when the shooting started. A Law Enforcement Officer lost his life. Police vehicles from multiple counties are sitting silently with their lights on in a long line, waiting to escort him out.
I remember Columbine vividly. Then, too, I was stricken by the thought of bodies left on the floor for hours. As a new parent, I could just imagine what those mothers were feeling. I remember Aurora all too well. K was at a midnight showing of that film, just at a different theater. The Walmart shooting? About 10 miles away. I have checked in with all my peeps who might have been in the vicinity today and all are accounted for. But my heart grieves for those families who cannot say the same, for those people who were just trying to buy some groceries. You really never think it can happen in your community. But it can.
Daily gratitudes: (tough today) Chicken noodle soup Cuddly cats The comforting reporting of Kyle Clark The woman I made friends with at the store yesteray The beauty of silver hair
Quote of the day: “Everyone has a thousand wishes before a tragedy, but just one afterward.” — Fredrik Backman
Today is the 16th anniversary of my Father’s death. It feels strange to call it an anniversary, because I associate that term with happy events, despite the fact that I’ve lost an inordinate number of people I’ve cared for in my life, disproportionate to my age. My body is aware of today. I have felt ill for a week. This is not new to me. My body has a physical memory of events, moreso than my conscious mind. There comes a point, usually before the anniversary of the event, when my body and mind catch up with each other and I figure out why I’m feeling like a cow turd in a remote Highland field.
I remember most of this day as it happened 16 years ago. I knew Daddy (yes, I’m a Southern girl) wasn’t well. I had talked to him the day before, and the last thing we said to each other was “I love you”. That’s as it should be. I was still in bed when ex-Pat came in with the phone, and said it was Larry, my parents’ best friend. I knew then. My Mother couldn’t talk to me. I don’t even know if she called my brother or if Larry did. K was going to up to see ice sculptures in the mountains with her aunt and uncle that day, and to a classmate’s birthday party. I was supposed to go with her, but we decided we didn’t want to spoil her much-anticipated day. So I stayed home and her dad went with her.
What I don’t remember is what I did after they left. Did I cry? Did I call my brother? Did I talk to my Mother? I don’t know. In the afternoon, I called my friend Denise. She is one of those friends who you know will always be there for you, even though now we’re quite distant. (But my phone Facetimed her about a year ago, all on its own when she was trying to talk to Comcast, and we caught up after a decade. It was lovely.) When my Father died, she dropped everything, and came and drank martinis with me in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel. She helped. I wish I could have been within a thousand miles of her when she suffered a similar loss, but that’s life. Or death.
I was a Daddy’s girl, for sure. I still miss him every day. I wish he could see who I am, what I’m doing, what I’ve become. Who I’ve become. I’d like to think he’d be proud of me. Neither of my parents was ever effusive with pride over me, to me. In the course of the last year, I’ve thought about that a lot. Been angry about it sometimes. And recognized that there are things that just are, that I can’t come to terms with, not without a dialogue with them about it. That’s how it is, and I think that’s part of how I grow as a person as I continue to age and look through the glass darkly at my past, my relationships, my perceptions. I also think that’s an important step to take as I move through the years towards the next place. Acceptance. Of my parents. Of relationships. Of myself. We can’t always have answers or fix things. Sometimes we just have to settle for an unfinished peace.
The sense of loss of Daddy never leaves me. It’s not at the forefront of my days as it was for a long time after he died, but it’s always there. When I make a huge change in my life, he (and my Mother) are the first people I want to tell. I think it’s important that I’ve had to make changes without their guidance and input. I think that’s a sign of strength, of growing up, which is a journey not limited to our childhood or teen years — it is a lasting adventure in our lives, if we’re lucky.
My life looks nothing like what it did when Daddy was alive. But I know he’d support me in the changes I’ve made. I know he’d have so much to talk about with M. I think M would be one of those guys he’d actually have approved of. And he’d be so proud of K.
He didn’t want to go, and he made that clear to me after he died. It took some time for us to work through that. I may write about that later. We talked a lot in our lives. We had a unique relationship. Ex-Pat always thought that we were too close. He didn’t understand how a father could tell his daughter that he loved her so often, that he would always look out for her. That’s a refection of the relationship he had with his own father.
I try hard not to catch the grief train when it pauses at the station these days, but I still step aboard, look around, feel. It’s how and who I am. It is woven into my curious relationship with death and the afterlife, a thing which I am still holding close, trying to feel how it nestles into my daily existence. I don’t wallow as I did a decade ago. But while years according to the calendar have passed, my partnership with my Father, and what today signifies, are still as fresh as they were 16 years ago. My heart, today, around this, his death, is like a statue that has stayed in place outdoors through seasons and weather for all these years. It has changed in appearance, grown mossy and tender and tougher all at once, but with its core solid and intact.
How did I celebrate my Father today? I worked. As he always did. I had a couple of glasses of wine that he would have liked. He was not a drinker, but he enjoyed trying wine with me. I went to my local library’s book sale and bought 11 books in honor of his lifelong career as a librarian. I picked up some yellow roses at the grocery store, which were my Mother’s favorite, but he would have approved. I wrote this post, which he also would have appreciated, because he always loved my writing, and he was the first person to introduce me to the blogosphere, when he asked me, “What is a blog?” and I didn’t know, so I looked it up. And while he so very seldom visits me in my dreams, I will fall asleep tonight thinking of him, and having recited the prayer that he always said with me at my bedside when I was a child.
Love you, Daddy, and I hope you’re having a marvelous time.
Daily gratitudes: Birds in the out-of-place tree, a sure sign of Spring The squirrel that made it across the road Cooper the Beagle mix at the Dog Bar A clean oven My red shoes
Quote of the day: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” — Jorge Luis Borges
I seldom find myself at a loss for words. Truly. I’m nearly always ready with a sassy, salty comeback or quip. I can remember only one time when words failed me, at the Buena Vista in San Francisco, on a dreadfully rainy day, after quite a few of the Irish Coffees for which they are famous, when the bartender blatantly propositioned me. (Once I found my words, I declined.)
Throughout the duration of this virus, which K and I call The Rona, and its in-and-out quarantines, I’ve been inside, with the exception of walks when the weather was nice, seeing M on weekends, going to the grocery store, four dining out experiences, catering at three or four weddings, a little thrift store shopping, and appearing at my second job once a month. We did travel three times over the last 12 months, twice by plane and once by car. Looking at that list, maybe it’s more than some folks and less than others. It sounds like more than I thought. But it doesn’t feel like a lot for 12 months. It doesn’t feel like “normal”. I don’t feel like “normal”.
I was not the most social person to start with, but being told I can’t do a thing is the surest way to make me want to do that thing, and make me grump about not being able to do that thing. I may have mentioned my mulishness before, as putting my ears back is a well-known trait of mine. At this point, as we’re entering Year Two in Life with a Virus, I am over it. I’ll repeat for those of you in the back. I. AM. OVER. IT. Because I’m caring and responsible, I still wear a mask everywhere I go. I’m not seeing friends because I don’t want anyone to get sick because of me. I didn’t think I went that many places, but apparently I’m missing the places I didn’t go. Because that’s a thing. M wonders if we’ll ever get back to normal, and I tell him that, as with any loss, we will find a new “normal” but I doubt we will be quite the same as before for a long time.
My Rona fatigue is showing up as more anxiety, more tension, more frustration, and less motivation to do things that I was doing, like eating well and exercising and learning a new language, all the things that I did so well at the beginning of quarantine. I also feel like, as I said at the start of this piece, I’m at somewhat of a loss for words. Uninspired. Though not free of thought. Just a lot of rambling thoughts that aren’t organized or interesting enough to share. This could also be some of the “brain fog” that is a long-term side effect of having had the Rona, which M and I both had last March. At least I had enough words handy to write this.
I’m currently reading John Berry’s “The Great Influenza”, which provides perspective on the political and social situations of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which actually originated in Kansas. It has been an eye opener. I had no idea about the severity of that pandemic — much more severe than ours — nor did I know anything about virology or Woodrow Wilson. It’s been quite an education and I recommend it. The parallels between the public messaging about the Spanish flu and the messaging about the Rona are remarkable. But one point the author makes is that it took a long time from the first victim fell ill to the time when the country settled into its new normal. I think that’s how it’s going to be for all of us now, 100 years later.
“The happier the time, the shorter it seems.” So said Pliny the Elder in the Year 105. I don’t know that I agree with this statement. Time and I have been curious companions since my teenage years. The events that are most clear in my memory are those in which I found myself most present — giving birth to my daughter and watching the passing of my mother. In those instances, I was more conscious of the here and now than at any other time in my life. My mind didn’t fly off on tangents, thoughts of what to do next, or old memories. There’s a lesson in that for me, a lesson of being completely present at all times, and not lost in my own head, as I am so wont to be.
For decades, I’ve considered myself something of a time witch. I often can slow time down if I’m late for something, though I’ve not mastered the ability to speed up time when something is unbearably long or dull. I’ve experienced interruptions in time. Like seeing someone walking into a pool at the hot springs, and then seeing them ACTUALLY walk into the pool. These kind of things are disconcerting, but not upsetting. They make me question the linear concept of time, as well as the reality of what we perceive.
Most physicists maintain that the future does not exist because it hasn’t happened yet. I know next to nothing about physics, having only been instructed in it in high school by a former nun who played the fiddle. Besides, my mind just doesn’t work that way, perhaps because of my skepticism about such things as time. Ex-Pat always said that logic wasn’t my strong suit. I disagree. Scientific logic, while provable, does not take into account the mysteries of our existence.
There are so many things that are inexplicable in this universe. Why do we recognize people whom we’ve never met before? What is the origin of those dreams that are so vivid that we wake up physically feeling an item in our hand that we were holding in the dream? What happens to our spirit upon our death?
These sorts of experiences that have no real connection to our present-day lives speak to the possibility of so much more than linear time. They suggest parallel realities, past lives, fractures in the fabric of time. Can we live in the past as well as the future? Will we someday understand the root of such mysteries? I think we must let go of our own rigidity and our fear of the unknown in order to accept such flexible realities. That’s a huge challenge for most, and not one that I would even know how to start investigating. Just like how some of us completely lose our sense of direction in some places, as if our internal compass has been tossed out of the car window (but we’ll talk about that later). For now, I’ll continue to play with time, as it plays with me.
I echo Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s feeling on the month of February, so well expressed in his poem “Afternoon in February”. The first stanza reads as follows:
“The day is ending, The night is descending; The marsh is frozen, The river dead.”
Trust me, it just goes downhill from there, ending with the line “Like a funeral bell.” You can imagine.
This February, in particular, is rough. I have finally reached a point of being fed up with not being able to go out to dinner, shoot pool, have a drink at a bar, cater a wedding. Colorado, too, seems to have changed its tune wind-wise. We’re having chinooks in February now, instead of January, and as stated in yesterday’s poem, I’m just not a fan of the wind. M told me when we met that he just thinks February is an asshole. I always thought that was January; he’s now converted me.
But to be peppy and upbeat (which really is not me all the time), here is Seasweetie’s Positive February Thought List:
The days are getting longer. It may not seem like it, but I can judge this well, because we usually drive back from the Retreat right around the same time. A few weeks ago, it was full dark by 5:30. Now, we can enjoy a longer twilight, which also means more deer spotting and cautionary driving, but it’s gently beautiful.
There are fewer days in the month. That’s nothing new, but thank the heavens for it.
Valentine’s Day. Yes, I know it’s sappy and trite, but I love it anyway. I like giving presents and while I don’t need an excuse to do so, I enjoy having a little celebratory reason for it. Besides, the origins of Valentine’s Day are fascinating, with not one, but TWO Saint Valentines being beheaded by Claudius II, and the christianization of the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, a fertility festival. (I suspect they dropped the goat sacrifices, the whippings, and the drawing of eligible young townswomen’s names from a giant urn to find mates for the men.)
The occasional sense of spring can be felt if you pay REALLY close attention to the feel of the air.
My twee-woo bird is back. I don’t know what kind of bird it is, and I’ve actually never seen it, but it always comes back as a harbinger of spring, like the swallows returning to Capistrano (which supposedly happens on March 19). It has a very distinctive call (hence why I call it the twee-woo bird) and I like to think it’s singing just for me.
I’m anticipating that I might see a few green shoots of something (snowdrops, grape hyacinths, crocuses) on a walk this month.
We’re one month closer to getting into the Retreat full-time than we were one month ago.
Of course, usually by this time, I have a plane ticket in hand and am making packing lists for somewhere warm and tropical with turquoise water and white sand beaches. But everybody knows that when you buy a house and start to move, you become house-poor and that lasts for at least a year. Such is the case with us. We’re having to do things like figure out fire mitigation and snowplows, and home improvements for the Bungalow and M’s house, so I am facing the reality that I won’t see an ocean until July. I’ve been blessed by being able to travel as I have, and it will happen again. Just not this spring. This spring, I will have beautiful hikes and slight sunburns and deep snowfalls and good music and a few perfect days. Let’s just get through February.
Daily gratitudes: My stir-fry Leggings with pockets Dancing My neighbor’s chickens Carrie, the wonderful lady on the phone at the insurance company, who didn’t mind that I cried, and started to cry with me.
I am not much of a singer, being very shy about my voice, which is something that a therapist would no doubt have a great time unpacking. I actually think I have a pretty nice singing voice, judging from my enthusiastic performances during The Drive. I especially like it when I have a bit of a cold, because then I get my sultry 900-number voice and sound like a torch singer. Only once in my life have I ever done anything like karaoke. It was in Dallas, on top of a grand piano, after much alcohol, and the evening ended with the police recommending that I leave town and not return (though not because of my singing).
If I sing in someone’s presence, it means I trust them with some deep and sensitive part of me. I sing in front of M, which reflects the strength of our relationship. And I sing unconsciously in the kitchen when K is home, because I’m happy she’s there and I feel I can be completely myself with her. I hope she remembers when she gets older that her mother used to sing incomplete versions of The Lumberjack Song, among other ditties, in the morning as she lay in bed. I usually add my own lyrics when I forget the actual ones. My Mother also sang snatches of songs in the kitchen. That’s where a lot of my kitchen songs (and ones I used to sing to K in the car) come from. They’re all old songs, and when I say old, I mean from the 1940s. Think Fred Astaire movies and Cole Porter tunes. My Mother had a lovely, sweet, singing voice
I sang to K at night when she was little, as my Mother did to me. Every night when I was small, my Mother would sing Rock-a-Bye Baby to me. If I had bad dreams, she would cuddle me in the big rocking chair and sing to soothe me. My two favorites were “I Wonder as I Wander” (fitting for the little wanderer that was me) and “The Cherry Tree Carol”. I’m sure there were others. In fact, decades ago, my Mother made me a tape of herself singing my favorite lullabies. Even though I treasure it, I have had a very hard time keeping track of it. But I know that the tape will reappear when I need it most. Of that I am certain.
The songs I sang to K were not the same as those my Mother sang to me. My favorites to sing to her were “When Halley Came to Jackson”, “Down in the Valley”, “End of my Pirate Days”, “Go to Sleep my Zoodle”, “Go Tell Aunt Rhody”, “Meet Me in St. Louis” (which is a song that saved her life when she was very tiny because she had been crying for six straight hours and I was home alone with her and called the doctor because I wanted to drop her out of the second story window into the snow and I discovered that singing this song to her over and over made her stop crying), and a lullaby that I created when I was pregnant called “Go to Sleep, my Little Love”. Again, I’m sure there were more. She doesn’t recall the songs too well, but I think that’s a factor of age and where she is in her life. If she has a child, she will remember my singing to her, and find her own songs to sing to her wonderful little person.
I’d love to know what songs you sing (or sang) to your children, and what songs your mother sang to you. I have a dear friend who is having her first child in May and I’d like to put together a little collection for her. She and her husband are exceptionally musical, so I know they won’t be shy about singing to their little guy who will, as so many children before him, feel the love in those songs.