Thursday, June 23, 2011

Life Mates

I have this 19” picture of Drew across my computer screen marked up, but not too obstructed, by the plethora of desktop icons. It was taken from inside a pagoda going up Canada’s Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, BC. He’s looking out the window—hand up shading his eyes form the sun’s reflection off the snowy landscape. You can easily make out the snow drifted trees in the background. In the bottom, right corner are the bright yellow digital numbers 02/09/2009. That’s three days after our ten year anniversary.

He has a slight grin showing from his profile and in the corner of one eye you can see his smile wrinkles. He looks happy, contented to take on this horizons view—looking forward to where this ride will take us… a place we’ve never been before.

As I see how his forehead and chin are almost washed out by the sunlight, I can’t help but think of how his “golden boy” image has been tinted, the same way half of his face and eyes are now darkened. Maybe in the shadow he can see further now. Or, maybe he’s not blinded by the light. It’s not overwhelming to him at this moment. He is taking in the view from this particular stance and seems to be enjoying it.

He’s changed. He doesn’t have that young glow about him anymore. This picture seems to capture his reality. Yes, his eyes are shaded. But you know, he can see better now. And he is smiling.

This picture makes me feel warm and happy—deep happiness—for him. He looks good. Sometimes I trace his profile or touch the corner of his eyes with the mouse’s arrow and think to myself, “He deserves to be happy.”

The other morning, when I was still in bed and he was getting ready to leave for work, he yelled up to me from downstairs that there were two Canadian geese in the pond behind our house. He loves Canadian geese. There is just something about them he has always been fond of. Years ago, he told me that he liked the fact that they mate for life. When Beanie Babies were the fad of the time, I bought a couple Canadian geese which, after all these years, are probably collecting dust while hiding in a closet somewhere.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I Heart Artichokes

May 9, 2011

They’re supposed to squeak... I thought to myself as I reached to feel just how tight the finial shaped green heads were. The article I recently read about how to cook them also said something about steaming them stem-side-up in salted, lemon infused water. I stood staring at the four-packs wondering how I was going to eat them all by myself, forgetting for the moment just how frigid Costco’s walk-in refrigerator is. Feeling I needed a reason to get them, but didn't really have any, I came out empty handed.

A little later at another grocery store—there I was, gazing at the oddly giant, flower-like vegetables wondering if I was going to have a reason to eat even one all by myself. Again, I left empty handed. It wasn’t until the next day that it dawned on me. One year ago the same craving had happened so unusually to me that I ended up writing about it. I hadn’t realized it was that time again...

May 12th 2010

What’s the best part about an artichoke? Considering the hearts come in jars, I guess most people would say the hearts. To me, the leaves are the best. Okay, yeah, they’re messy and more work than you get in return. I get it. Who cares? Besides, the best part is the dipping sauce anyway. I’m partial to melted garlic butter, but mayo and soy sauce is okay too. The other day I was saying out loud how I really wanted some artichokes but I’ve only known them as an appetizer to be shared among others and I currently don’t have any plans for a get together. My sister in law over heard me and said the next time we get together we can have them (she loves them too). Soon after, I went to Costco. I found myself standing in front of the packages of artichokes. I don’t know how long I stood there observing them all—how closely tight or open the little black-tipped leaves were. They were perfectly sized for each person to have their own, but I was trying to figure out when we were going to get together next. “No sense in getting them now,” I thought as I walked out of the house-size cooler shaking.

Another week went by with plenty of family business matters to be dealt with. Easter was just here and Mother’s Day is around the corner. While in the midst of planning for Mother’s Day, my mom asked us what any of our plans were for that following Wednesday. She had mentioned going to Dad’s grave site and wondered if we were interested in planning a family thing. I don’t know how I had forgotten. She shared how it has been stressful for her as the day came closer. I wondered why I wasn’t reacting the same way. How could I forget? It was nearly 2 years ago he died in our very presence... in the hospice bed, in the living room, right next to the kitchen.

When I had met with my counselor earlier in the week, of course the first thing she asked was, “So, how have things been?” I sat there reflecting on the past 2 weeks and nothing substantial came to mind. “Well, Drew will be finishing his classes this May.”

“Oh really, that’s good news!”

“Tomorrow is my Dad’s memorial day but I don’t really have any strong feelings about that. I had a 3 ½ hr meeting with my pastor and the other worship pastor last night...” On and on I went and closed my session finding I need more structure in my life as I try to balance all the different things my mind is taken up with—finding a job that fits me—trying to found out who I am and be okay with doing things that may not fit who I am.

Once getting home, I check online for the latest job postings. I see a discussion of emails from my sisters. They are emailing back and forth about whose bringing what for dinner on Wednesday. Usually, I’m the one that gets assigned a salad. So I respond, “I’ll bring a salad.” Mom says she’ll bring a pie. I wonder what kind of pie was dad’s favorite and why someone is bringing teriyaki chicken wings in a crock-pot. That wasn’t ever the way we had them growing up. But that got me thinking about what kind of salad was typical growing up too...what was Dad’s favorite?

Dad and Mom discovered this new cabbage salad they couldn’t get enough of. Every time we came over, you could find cabbage in their fridge. Who likes cabbage? I mean, really. Why would I bring something nobody else wants to eat? What about artichokes?

Then this dark haze fell over me. I closed my eyes and this image of my dad comes alive like a moving picture... those last moments with him... how we had come to visit for the weekend because Mom told us he wasn’t doing well since they brought the hospice bed home. I remember him in his blue, flannel pajamas, lounging around without much energy.

Mom kept speaking in a low voice to us about how he wasn't eating and that she had to fight with him at every meal to eat something.

I had brought some food over to share for the weekend. For some reason I had bought a couple of artichokes thinking they would be a fun snack to have around. I asked Dad if artichokes sounded alright. Amazingly, he said yes and settled at the kitchen table with us pulling leaves. I sat beside, closely watching him as he would zone in and out, sometimes reaching for the leaves he had already eaten.

Mom said she didn’t know how often or when he was “there” or not. Not knowing if or when he could hear me, I found a post-it note and wrote, "I love you, Dad," and placed it beside his plate of leaves. He stopped eating about a minute later and shuffled back to his bed. That was the last thing he ate... the last time I heard him even communicate... He said yes to my artichoke.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Brute Beast

You know the big oaf who stands in the background, knuckles hanging a little closer to the ground, who wipes his nose with his sleeve as he waits for the command from the villain. Well, I meet him the other day. He was one of the sorriest creatures I think I’ve ever seen. There he was just sitting on the bottom of the muddy slope on the side of the path crying. When I finally recognized what he was, my heart hurt. I witnessed firsthand this ugly brute of a character literally grieving—shoulders shaking, head bobbing—truly pathetic. Of course I had to ask and see if he was okay. He didn’t look at me at first but just let his head hang. He mumbled something and told me to go away. It was kind of awkward and I felt bad for him so I hesitated before turning to walk again. Before I took two steps, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him throw his head back and grrr through gritted teeth. I jumped further away but kept my eyes on him. He hadn’t moved toward me. Instead, he threw his grimy hands up over his ears and then pulled on his matted hair and started weeping again. I was torn between wanting to calm the monster and wanting to run as far away as possible. He still hadn’t even looked at me, but then blurted out through blubbering lips, “It’s not fair!” I stood there frozen with wide eyes on the beastly man. He continued to explain in angry, short breaths that he wanted to do what the villains do and whined just a little on the word, “do.” He pointed out that the bad guys always seemed to have it easy; most of them never have for any want. They never had to ask for anything, they just took and did what they pleased without any consequences. But when he tried to do what he wanted, he would always get tangled up somehow, falling on his face embarrassed. Even when he was able to get a little extra dough, it always seemed that something else of his would break. He could never get ahead, never win. I raised my eyebrows and nodded with pursed lips. I knew exactly what he was talking about.

After a little more quiet deliberation, he pounded his fist in his hand as he declared that just for once, he would like to be able do something without turning around assured no one was watching or cared!

Oh, poor soul. Didn’t he know that they will go down? If only he could see them reap the consequences and not just the benefits, or care enough to know that their freedom is at someone else’s cost.

I tried to tell him that the pure in heart will be rewarded, but he just looked at me with eyes that were a little too close together. I told him that I had heard that if he could start by getting on higher ground, he could at least get out of the mire. I offered my hand as a guide, but he turned away.

In the distance, I could hear a squealing, high-pitch voice yelling for Brutus. I tried to tell the tyrant his shoe was untied, but he was already up scrambling and wiping his nose with the back of his hand as he shouted, “Duh... be right there Boss!”

Psalm 73

... But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold; for I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked... When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oh My Dog

There is plenty to write about; so much, actually, that I can't find it in me to post anything worth reading from my inability to assimilate it all.

In the meantime, I thought I'd dedicate the simplicity of this entry to the poor man whose dog died. This dog must have been an amazing dog. Probably the best friend he'd ever had. I'm sure the dog was a patient dog too--always waiting in the front seat of the truck while the man ran his errands. When the man came into the store, he told me how he thanked his dog for helping him find a parking space right out front. I admitted, sometimes I do the same thing too...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What Separates Us from Animals

After the mad dash out the door on our way to work, we sit in silence, settling after dropping off Bailey at Lindsay’s and my fussing to carefully put make-up and eye-liner on while cruising over our town’s half-finished road construction.

I sip my coffee quietly. Drew sits beside me and puts his hand on my leg after we finally get on the freeway. When the silence is finally noticed, he turns on the AM radio. We listen to this morning’s local news.

Last night there was a deadly fire. Three out of the four escaped. The firefighters were not able to get the grandmother out. One of the two teenage grandson’s hands had been burnt. One had previously been convicted of burying a sick dog up to its head and then beating it to death—this after hearing about war in Libya and radio-active leaks in Japan.

We both look at each other with disdain across our faces appalled at what we hear. Drew turns the radio to FM to rid us of the “ick” and replace our minds with something else, anything else. I push buttons to get away from ads or more news. Finding only one station actually playing music, but nothing that I recognized, I pushed the CD button. Empty.

“Drew, what’s over there?” referring to the driver-side door jammed with my personal favorites for the month.

“Your Mediterranean guitar CDs, Twilight, and A Fine Frenzy,” he says with a mission in his voice, like teamwork.

“A Fine Frenzy, please,” I say rather hurriedly and force it in the CD slot at the same time thinking how I remembered feeling tricked by the bright yellow dress on the cover to think it wasn’t mellow, wondering if it was the best choice to lift the mood after all. But since I am not a morning person, it was better than my other options.

Come on, come out
The weather is warm
Come on, come out
Said come on, come on

A spot in the shade
Where oranges fall
A spot in the shade
Away from it all

Watching the sky, you’re watching a painting
Coming to life, shifting and shaping
Staying inside, it all goes
All goes all goes all goes by
Stopping the time, the rush and the waiting
Leave it behind, shifting and shaping
Keep it inside, it all goes all goes all goes all goes by

Thank God for music. Thank God for poetry, and warm weather, and shade, and oranges, and beautiful skies, and paintings, and...