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It was Mr. Lundeen who noticed I’d been out of school a few days and seemed depressed when I returned. He asked me about it, and I told him my Grandpa had died. His response was tender and genuine and he let me know I didn’t need to make up my homework. I did anyway; I loved the kits he had and I worked through them with a certain tenacity he complimented. I believe his tutelage marks the beginning of my longtime fondness for and adeptness in the language arts. Two other English teachers contributed along the way.
I love being retired. I am only as busy as I want to be. Writing my creative nonfiction short stories and my Dad’s memoir have been the major focus of my creative energy this past year. Once a month I meet with a circle of eight aspiring women writers who share current work and give and receive constructive feedback. It is the one commitment I made to an outside entity and it was absolutely right for me. Drawing has taken a back seat this year although I have completed some of the illustrations that will accompany my short stories.
Spring and summer I am in my gardens aka “playing outside.” Our family is now down to three: Creighton, Lindy, and our Beagle Josie. We visit my Dad, sister Diana, and brother-in-law Les about once a month in Corvallis. Dad is 91 (almost 92) and still living on his own-with a fair bit of support from Les, and good home cooking from Diana! In July, Dad and I joined Les and Diana for a week at Crescent Creek where they camp and fish most of the summer. We were on the lake at dawn, limited by noon.
My sister Lori and brother-in-law Scott, moved from San Diego to South Carolina this fall. Following their dream, they bought an acre plus property on a lake, and also a condo in Myrtle Beach, where they will live while their house is being built. It is hard to have her so far away, but we are all adjusting to the reality. My brother Mike is about to finish up his career teaching at a private college in Montana. I miss seeing him, but have had a blast bringing our younger selves back to life in my short stories.
Creighton and I have been having fun reuniting with friends from “the way back machine.” We were able to see Al Young at the Seattle Museum of History and Industry when his drag car was inducted and featured there. (Photos on my website.) Then in August we spent a night with Al and Vicki at their home in Shoreline; lovely place, and a lot of fun. Instead of our traditional two weeks at Beach Haven on Orcas Island, during the busy time of year, we spent a relaxing week there the first part of October, when everything was more mellow.
On our way to Orcas we stayed a night with Ralph and Susie Becker at their home on Whidbey Island; another lovely place and fun time. Amazing to pick up where we left off - still much the same people - just older!
Creighton continues to be the wizard of computing at our house, where if anything goes awry, Lindy escapes and Creighton comes to the rescue. He continues to take weekly Bass lessons and would love to get a gig with a band. I keep prodding him to form his own band, and maybe 2014 will be the year he does.
Writing a Christmas/Holiday letter is a task I take on with due trepidation. There is always the risk one is bragging, boring, or downright conceited. Ugh. So I strive to give those who give a shit, a sense of what my hubby and I have been up to since last years message. Once again, 100 words helps me hone my tome into something I am comfortable including in the cards we send. Old fashioned - yeah - but so are most of our friends! So the previous five hundred words was the start and I have whittled it down even more.
The temperature this morning is minus ten degrees Celcius. It is a bird count day (Project FeederWatch - Cornell Labs) and we have four Varied Thrush pecking away at seed and feed I scattered before dawn. To keep the hummingbird feeder from freezing, I rigged up a utility clamp lamp that sits right under the feeder, keeping both its contents and the birds who feast warm. At night I take the liquid feeders in, and get them back out when I hear the Robin chirping for fresh water. An Anna’s hummingbird was on its feeder before I left the deck.
Colder than a rat’s ass. I keep thinking that, though I don’t say it out loud. It was one of my Dad’s expressions I heard frequently in the winter months in Pullman, WA. Or maybe it was my brother Mike who used that expression - probably both of them. Anyway, it is at least that cold again today. Our wood stove is kicking out the BTU’s and I’m really glad we spent a day getting wood from Dad’s forest before Thanksgiving. At this rate, we’ll need to get another load before the new year.
Every year I make a personalized Calendar for my family. In it I notate everyone’s birthday and age, on their special day. I started doing this many years ago so that I would remember to send birthday greetings to them. At first I used stock photos for the monthly image, stuff I found on line. Then when I had my own scanner, I used photos I’d taken over the years. Finally using my own drawings seemed like a nice way to share those images. Now I am back to my current photos - God Bless digital cameras and iPhoto!
This years batch is now complete: 10 for my sister’s quilting group, 10 for other family members, one for Creighton and one for me. My office and the kitchen look like Santa’s workshop as I put my stacks of finished prints out on the counters to collate. They are made from HP brochure paper using a Samsung 325 laser printer, and look mighty nice. The only problem is the curl they get from the heat of the printer. My solution is to put the finished calendars on the surfaces in my study and stack heavy books on top!
At 5:00 I turned up the volume on my beside radio. Freezing fog had been predicted and I wondered if local school districts were announcing late start or closed.
It really doesn't matter now
I smiled to myself. Still I am curious.
By 6:00 I am up making coffee, anticipating the plans already made: stay home, finish reading Dickens'
The Battle of Life
(fourth of five Christmas stories written in the mid 1800s) prepare calendars to ship to far flung family members, check to see if email is working (been out since Tuesday night!), feed birds, wrap gifts.
It is not my pain. I have experienced such pain and it has gone away. His does not. Although it is his pain, I live with it too. Day and night the tension his body emits fills a space between us with anguish and need. Always highly empathic, my body feels his need, yearns to help, and gets tired too. My heart is weary, my spirit frazzled trying to ameliorate an unfixable condition. It is emotionally draining for both of us; so many of our activities together are vanquished by this unwelcome invader and its residual diminishment of his being.
And then there is courage; bold, bright, bald-headed, just finished chemotherapy
Eight around the dining table at her home. She is encouraged, back to full-time teaching fifth graders. We toast a long friendship among us - twenty years and counting - and tip our glasses to Ann who has shown us all how to be your best selves in the midst of pain, nausea and fear. A slight fuzz appears on her head. She looks forward to having eyebrows and eyelashes again. We sit together, eating, sipping, talking, laughing. I hug her from the side and call her sister.
It is a subject I touch with
allowing cannabis into our home again, something I have resisted since his eclipse in 2000.
- remembering how emotionally cruel he became. “I never hit you,” he rebukes. Yet his behavior destroyed my trust, eroded all joy.
- that cannabis will become just another ingredient in a cocktail of medication, and the mix will make things worse, not better.
- How will he react if my fear becomes the norm and I confront him?
- That last time we had sex before he eclipsed. He was like a fiend. Never, ever again.
So as I quelled my irrational tears, I looked my anxiety and disquiet demons in the eye and took a deep breath.
I have total control of what I choose to do. If my fears prove true, I have the power to release myself from the situation. And, perhaps this conversation I am having with myself needs to occur with him before his appointment on the coming Thursday.
Once, again, writing helps me examine my feelings, make sense of things and determine a course of action. We have made such progress since the eclipse, I want the positive to continue.
When I tell him I use the term eclipse to describe what happened to him 13 years ago, he is confused and curious. Yes, we can say you had a complete and total emotional breakdown. You were in the Psych Ward five days. What does it tell us though about what happened to you, and consequently to me?
I was gone, lost, absolutely in another place.
Yes, gone, but still physically here which is why I say you eclipsed.
Eclipse as in: “decline, fall, failure, decay, deterioration, degeneration, weakening, collapse.” Eclipsed as in: “blotted out, blocked, covered, obscured, concealed, darkened.”
Yet there is another meaning for eclipse, the last definition listed, that is apropos to our current state of being. Eclipse as in: “outshine, overshadow, surpass, exceed, outclass, outstrip, outdo, top, trump, transcend, upstage.
I believe his return to being a normal functioning member of the household and community is evidence that he has eclipsed out of darkness into light. Every day he awakens to a new chance to transcend the past, to shine in darkness, to trump with hope and love, to reclaim his soul once overtaken - blocked - by pain and grief. As the Phoenix rises, so does he
I love reading Charles Dickens. Maybe it is because his writing matches my reading style. With everything I read, I must look at each word to comprehend, but with Dickens, not only must I read every word, I often need to go over a paragraph a second or third time, and sometimes find it necessary to refer back to a previous page or chapter to make sure I have made correct connections. The A-Club read
The Battle of Life
this year; the fourth of his five Christmas Books. I was pleased when everyone who had read it, enjoyed it.
And no author I have read describes cold quite as vividly as Dickens does in
A Christmas Carol.
In the first few pages, not only are we absolutely convinced Marley was dead, we are intensely aware how icy cold and dark London was, how deeply chilled Scrooge’s spirit is, and how miserable life was for the poor.
Every movie interpretation I have watched misses or leaves out something important. The Alistair Sim comes closest to keeping with the written rendition, except when it comes to Belle. Dumb what they did instead - making her a spinster minister to the needy.
The other characterizations in this rendition fit. Why did the screenplay writers change Belle into a missionary rather than let her stay the woman loved by her husband and children that Dickens portrays? In my most skeptical mind I imagine censors deciding they can’t let this girl be a beauty - not after she actually had the good sense to release Ebeneezer. What right had she to be happy and fulfilled? How could they justify maintaining her lovely original character when they saw her as a reckless nobody casting off a prosperous man just because he no longer loved her?
A more recent film version, staring George Scott, does better justice to Belle. Unfortunately what I remember of the other characters is a monochrome of poised and appropriate, tidily groomed characters, none of which evoked the hardness people living in 1844 London would reveal simply through their physical and emotional demeanor. This Mrs. Cratchit did not appear to be “…dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons, which make a goodly show for sixpence…”
Looking on Amazon I found many other movie interpretations - most of which I have not seen. Fodder for next holliday season.
We live just three houses away; and once were close. Yet over the years there was a drifting apart that seemed to have no particular genesis, just a gradual divergence. Then one day when I was walking Josie, she was in her front yard with another person and called me over. As we talked I felt a spark rekindle. A few days before Thanksgiving she rang our doorbell and gave us a pumpkin pie. Didn’t come in, but said she’d been thinking about us a lot. So today Josie and I dropped by with a card and cookies.
Into the Honda and to the highway
to my family home we go
my man knows the way
what more can I say
what a lucky girl I know!
Over the river and through the valley
we drive while our beagle sleeps
and when we arrive
she will surely revive
and merry shall we be.
Hey not bad. And it was a wonderful gathering of those who live in the PDX and Corvallis area. Good fresh seafood, rich delicious cheeses, fresh veggies, home made clam dip, breads, cookies and candies, plus plenty of wine. Then coffee for me the DD.
Christmas morning dawned cold and clear. We had fires downstairs and upstairs. Josie had a blast with her stocking. The hoof disappeared outside before I knew she’d taken it to bury somewhere for me to find when spring lures me into the gardens again. Her squeaky toy present, the one shaped like a bone with “good dog” written on it, the same as one she begged for from another customer when we shopped at PetCo, has charmed her. She hasn’t destroyed it yet, in fact she has it tucked in under the covers with her in the basket.
I keep thinking of the look in my Dad’s eyes when I talked with him, the little I did talk with him on Christmas Eve. There was something missing. Maybe he was just tired, or maybe the noise of all the other conversations dulled his spark, or perhaps I am over reacting. It worries me though. A vacancy, not of mind, but there seemed to be an absence of joy, fun, amusement. I don’t recall hearing him laugh all day, and usually he has something that tickles his fancy - a story retold, a bit of silliness with someone.
An inversion is plaguing the area from Kelso to Salem. No burning allowed. We grumble, but don’t put a log on the fire. On my walk I noticed how smoggy it was, something we rarely deal with in this region.
So the Solstice has passed, Hanukkah is long over, Christmas is behind us and the New Year approaches. I am ready to make my lists of to do projects, dreams to come true fantasy lists, and of course my obligatory good intentions affirmations aka new year resolutions.
I hereby resolve
to continue to be the human I am becoming.
On today’s walk the air was much clearer, the clouds had lifted with some blue showing through, and a slight breeze gave me hope for a fire soon. Resolutions - intentions - the new year - writing remains dominant. Finishing my father’s memoir/story - it is in process - but sort of suspended for the holidays. Now I say to myself, by Dad’s 92nd birthday, February 28, 2014, I will have a final draft ready. Exactly two months. I can do this.
Structure - well - I like the absence of rigid structure. Yet, I also respond to self imposed timelines and goals.
Usually I post to WordPress a response to the weekly photo challenge. I could have come up with something but just sort of let it slip right on by with a sip from another glass of bubbly, and a toss of Josie’s tennis ball. She loves toss and chase and we allow it in the house; good exercise for her and fun for us. Whoever had her the first two years of her life not only taught her wonderful manners, but I’m pretty sure they took her to agility training - I see it in the way she moves.
The day before New Year’s Eve. What am I waiting for? Nothing. Everything I will start on January 1, I am already doing. Just little nitty gritty bits nag at me. The beautiful antique calendar clock for one. We had it restored to working order, but it has not been wound since then because it was at Jo’s place. Now we have it and it is two and a half years out of sync. It is designed to mechanically advance the day (at midnight) and the month-even is calibrated to change months after 30 or 31 days.
This clock, manufactured in 1878, is even set up to compensate for leap years! Getting it back up to date required advancing the calendar a day at a time, so each month would drop and at the end of December, the cycle would begin again. Right on schedule, February lasted 29 days in 2012. Wow. Quite amazing. Within an hour (thanks to the explicit written instructions from Charles Wolsey of Clocks Again!) I was able to safely move the time ahead from Oct. 17, 2010 to Dec. 30, 2013. Today I am making it straight and stable on the wall.
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