Saturday, January 11, 2020

Deadwood

I mentioned to Eldest the other night that I had a fairly wide open day Friday. Writer that he is, he wondered if I would perhaps like a writing prompt. Yesterday morning, he left a note with instructions. "Find something that is common to daily life and defamiliarize it. That is, modify its properties or recontextualize it in the environment to make us experience it differently than it is currently known."

“Deadwood”
There’s a saying I’ve heard people use from time to time. I’m fairly certain it’s a metaphor to them. I’m a bit confused on its meaning.
“He can’t see the forests for the trees.”
From my standpoint, and the standpoint of others of my kind, humans don’t see the trees either. Well, I guess that is unless they’re destroying us, either intentionally in their thirst for more development or more paper or more logs, or through negligence or ignorance or utter disregard for the plight of any other living thing on earth.
I see them all, of course. The small and shrieking-loud little children over there. The older people over that way. The young man staring intently at a computer or a book or a notebook. He did see me the other day. That was when that quite annoying flock of morning doves took roost way up here. No, this way. Now you got it.
I’m sensationalizing the event because it wasn’t me he was seeing. It was those damn birds. Honestly, I was just the vehicle for the birds. I was background. I was a prop.
But I am more than that, of course, and my trifling about a lack of respect or notice from humans gives the impression that they are important. They are decidedly not, of course. They’re just pests, quite like those birds, to be honest.
I am 123 years old. I have seen changes in my life, and I expect to see plenty more changes in the coming years. I’m counting on it. When I was growing up, there were so many more of us. But orange mark by orange mark, we were disappeared. We’d all heard about the people and how they killed so many of us, but that was far away from here. Here, we would be safe. They sure couldn’t take out whole hillsides.
Here I go again, giving more power to humans.
That’s all in the past now. We’re all enlightened enough to let it go. Or at least, we’re all supposed to be. I’ve been working on it, trying to achieve that peaceful acceptance, but my thoughts wander back in time, when I was at my hardiness, when I was surrounded by love and kinship, before the orange marks.
It was half a lifetime ago, but the wrenching heartache of watching one after the other after the other fall remains. Duller, yes. All grief deadens with time. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Seeing the Invisible

A few years ago, when my Mom's youngest sister was in her late 60s, I asked her when she first noticed that she was invisible. She had been was is a vibrant being, and she has been the very cool aunt for my entire life. She traveled the world. She did volunteer work. She wore trendy "outlier" clothes. She decorates with an eye to the whimsical. She is a brilliant conversationalist. She is witty as hell (even though she can't tell a joke properly).

But at a certain age, as near about any woman who attains that certain age would surely tell you, all of who you are or were or do or did fades to a kind of pleasing-enough taupe to the outside world. It's not just men who no longer see you; younger women do as well. You become invisible. You don't garner glances -- surreptitious or otherwise -- as you go about your daily business. Your seatmates on airplanes don't initiate conversations. You fade into the backdrop.

I asked my aunt when she first noticed she was invisible. She had no idea what I was talking about. Good for her, I say. Good for her.

But we are invisible. We really are. IRL, we are. Online, though, we are seen. And perhaps that is the greatest gift social media has given me. We see the invisible.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

A Winter Display of Affection

Youngest is the captain of his varsity soccer team. It is his senior year of high school, so this season marks the end of a very long career for me: pacing up and down the sidelines as the lad plays soccer, muttering to myself when a player screws up, shouting far too boisterously when his team scores, and generally being an easily identifiable figure at each game. I am the pacer. Attempts to force myself to stay in one place have failed spectacularly. Seriously, how can anyone not physically follow the action up and done the field?

Yesterday's match, the second one of the season and against one of the perennial favorites in the league, was played in a deluge. [I really have a bone to pick with the folks who changed soccer from a spring sport to a winter one.] Storms like this aren't unusual, but they are for this early in December. It was windy. It was cold. It was pouring rain off and on. It was awful.

It was a great game. It was an absolute joy to watch. It was at times hilarious. C'mon, you gotta laugh when the kids slip and slide and fall down and lose the ball. We won, 2-1, with Youngest taking the assist for the second goal. I think we were at 2-1 about 20 minutes into the first half, so the remaining 60 minutes of play was spent rooting for the best outcome. [As an aside, nearly every team Youngest has played on has done a massively crappy job of defending corners. There were at least 8 corners in yesterday's game, and they gave up zero. Sweet!]

* * * *

I apologize for this sport-hijacked post. The march to winter with both Youngest and Eldest in the house has meant I have started making hot chocolate again. It has always been a nighttime occurrence in our house. None of the watery, American, instant hot chocolate. No. It's milk and Galaxy drinking chocolate heated in a saucepan, whisked and beat until it is a frothy delight. It's the good stuff.

We were back home from the game about 3. Youngest was drenched and cold, of course. He didn't get the benefit of the umbrella like I did. He came up to the kitchen where I was making a throwback fluffernutter sandwich. "Would you like me to make you some hot chocolate?"

* * * *

In the early elementary school years, I lived in Northern Virginia, where winter means snow, not rain, and where sports aren't played outdoors, but the kids are out in the snow, sledding and building snowmen and snow forts and having snowball fights. We would come in after hours outside, and my Mom would often ask, "Would you like me to make you some hot chocolate?"


* * * *

Yesterday was the first time I had ever made hot chocolate in the daytime. It was the first time in a very long time that I had remembered my Mom doing that. I'm left again feeling her presence and her absence at the same time.


Friday, November 22, 2019

The Cover of Life

We shipped the very heavy, very expensive-to-ship box that contains a treasure trove of photos and mementos that my Mom had stored in her garage. It arrived, along with some other boxes for me, my sister, and BroPete, a few weeks ago. It might already have been a month. I went through the three boxes earmarked for me, but I only just opened the photo bin to show the lads what was inside.

Other than that, I haven't dared look through it. It sits behind me in my office, as do her cremains and still-unopened sympathy cards, as I face my monitor and keep imaginary binders on my left. But today is November 22, and that is a day that looms large in me. It is the day of JFK's assassination. And in that very heavy, very-expensive-to-ship box of my Mom's is this.


I was all of 2 years old when JFK was assassinated. My first memory is on that day. We lived in Ludlow, MA, then, in a house I thought of as my grandparents' but later discovered was my parents'. I remember adults crying. My Mom, for sure. My Grandma, yup. I don't picture my Dad in this memory. I remember being struck by the crying of adults. And I remember being plunked down in front of a TV in another room. I feel like I remember watching children's shows, cartoons, but I have a hard time reconciling that with the belief I have that all of the five or six channels we could pick up would have been focused on the news.

Regardless, that memory and my ties to Massachusetts along with my, at the time, closet liberal Mom's likely feeling of kinship with Jackie, fostered an obsession with me about all things JFK in my early childhood. Mom bought a couple of coffee table books on him, and I remember poring over them.

I don't know what else is in that very heavy, very-expensive-to-ship container, but I am pretty sure that there will be a lot more jolts to my memories. I'll let you know. Or not.

 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

I can't remember when I first put up a protest sign on the freeway overpass near me. It must be going on two years now. It was seeing a retweet of a Freeway Blogger sign that prompted me to do my first. I reached out to Patrick after my first one -- all via Twitter of course -- and he gave me some hints for cardboard sources and other places to post in my little 'burb of Novato. He sent me maps with detailed instructions on how to access the prime destinations.

The first few signs stayed up for two weeks or more. The longest surviving sign was my "Families Belong Together" one. The elaborate "Where are the Children?" sign, decked out with small children's clothes, also stayed up quite awhile. The shortest length of time? About 10 minutes, when some asshat exited the freeway, threw a U-turn, pulled up to the sign, and yanked it down, yelling at me, "You can't do that." The sign? "Impeach."

I just came back from putting up "Bravo Masha," inspired by the amazing Marie Yovanovitch and her testimony yesterday at the House's Impeachment Inquiry hearing. That might be my new favorite sign, although I was pretty partial to "Vote Damn It," too.

You might think I'm wasting my time, here in this little San Francisco Bay Area bubble, that I'm just singing to the choir. I dispute that. Hammering home the crises we face, day in and day out, as a direct result of the current White House occupant and his band of death eaters, matters. I shout it on Twitter, too. And I shout it in postcard after postcard after postcard I send. And I shout it in the hundreds of letters I send. I shout it at rallies I hold and rallies I attend, too. And I shout it texting in support of various candidates.

Raise your voice. Stand up. Rise up.






Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The New Normal

Aunt Micki's husband died about five years ago. They had been married for more than 50 years, and she had dedicated the last seven or so years of his life to caring for him as his ailments, again and again, sent him to the hospital then rehab then home. When he died, her biggest task was getting accustomed to what she dubbed the "new normal."

When my Mom died in September, we all had to adjust to a new normal. She and Louise (my Mom) were born just 13 months apart. Louise moved down to Florida permanently and lived in the same active senior community as Micki. They were attached at the hip, even more so after Bill died. And when Mom was diagnosed in early 2017, it was Micki who took on the task yet again for caring and nurturing someone in ill health. Though there were bad stretches in the 2.5 years between her diagnosis and her death, Mom lived quite the active life during that time, only just stopping her thrice-weekly golfing this past summer. For Micki, the new normal has got to be hard as everywhere she goes, Louise is absent.

And my new normal? Meh.

I miss my Mom. I miss hearing her voice for real and not just in my head and in the voicemail messages I never deleted. It's been nearly two months, which means I'm past the timespan between my visits to her. I should be leaving on a red-eye tomorrow morning to spend five days with her. I should be in constant contact with her. But that's not the new normal.

The new normal for me is avoiding looking in the corner of my desk at the unopened sympathy cards sitting atop the box of her cremains. It is making her sour cream coffee cake in the tube pan that was hers. It's wearing her emerald ring and earrings, putting my hair back so the earrings are visible (something I just don't do as a rule). It's turning on the cow lamp that her sister Joanne gave her that Micki thought was ugly but that I relished as much as Mom did. It's wearing her pair of docksiders, her outrageously vibrant golf socks, and the fox shirt my cousin Deb gave her.

In sum? The new normal is just new. And normal.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Serendipity of Mickey Mouse

This is a true life story. It just happened yesterday. Pete and I were staying with our friend down in Pasadena on an unexpected trip the reasons for which I'll glide over at this point. While we were doing our own thing, our friend Leigh, her friend Bob, and her mom went over to have lunch in the Brewery area of L.A. and do some shopping. Back in the car, leaving to go home, Leigh spots a Mickey Mouse picture next to a dumpster, along with some artist-related gear and such.

She tells Bob to jump out of the Jeep and get the print, which he does, and they also look at the other items. Someone else comes as well and Bob asks, "Is this okay to do? Take this stuff?" "Sure, everyone does," the guy says.

It's only when taking it out of the car, after arriving at the house, that they look more closely at it. The matting is amazing, matching the colorful patterns on the print itself. They also see it is signed. And that it's a limited addition. And that it's embossed.

***

When Pete and I arrive back with Le Daughter last night, we know none of this. All we know is that Leigh wants to give Le Daughter that print. What you might not know about Le Daughter is she worked at the House of Mouse for two years as a cast member. (We jokingly call her a "furry" because we're funny like that.) Le Daughter is also someone who would feel very awkward being given what she figured must be a very expensive gift.

When Leigh told when we got home that she wanted Le Daughter to have it, both Pete and I were astonished as well. It sure looked like an expensive item. "Look," we said, "It's signed! And it's a limited edition! Wow! Wow!" The others go into the kitchen to get dinner on the table, and Le Daughter and I stayed looking at the print. She was really hesitant because of the presumed cost. I told her that Leigh wanted to do it and that a few hundred dollars means different to her than it does to Le Daughter (or even me). I also reminded her what Leigh said, which was to give the picture back to her if Le Daughter no longer wanted it.

***

We headed to the other room to eat, and that was when Leigh told us the story of how that picture came to be Leigh's to give to Le Daughter. Leigh was just so delighted at the thought of happening across that picture and, knowing Le Daughter was coming over, the whole serendipity of it all. 



"Mickey's World" now hangs in Le Daughter's living room. Each time she comes home or goes out, she will see it. For me, and I'm sure for Leigh, that picture brings my daughter to life. That IS a picture of Le Daughter. And she is loved.

***
 You can find one in a gallery. It goes for $3,500.


Thursday, November 7, 2019

Ripples

Or, more precisely, the ripple effect.When one of my tribe is ecstatic, I am happy, too. When one is worried, I fret as well. And when one is overcome by remarkable sadness, I become overwhelmed with melancholy.

Oh, but if only it were just me experiencing the ripples. But it isn't me. It's never just me. And this isn't even about me. It's about the whirlpool of ripples taking out everyone in my tribe, which in turns ripples through their other tribes, leaving us all in a puddle of despair and hopelessness and fear, and anger at ourselves for giving in to all the darkness.

I am fortunate. I have been within those cascading and crashing ripples before. I have seen that there is safety once you can navigate through them. They do end. You do get through them. You will see and experience good and laughter and joy and camaraderie and friendship, and love. You will. I will. We will.

It's just extraordinarily difficult to see the shore right now. But I know it is there. I'm counting on it. And I'm banking on all of us making it there.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Babbling Brooke

Only my name's not Brooke.

But babble? I am fluent in babble. I also prattle. Maybe I should have entitled this "Prattling Patty." But that's not much of a play on words. And, now, fresh back from a Google search of synonyms of "babble," I am back to show you what the mighty Google overlords offered.

Sure, I've heard of "rattle on." Wait, what the hell is "gabble"? Okay, sure, "chatter" and "jabber." But then, whoa, "twitter." Is that what it means? Have I not once in the nearly dozen years I've been on Twitter made the connection with its name? I have not. Well, I have now.

Let me meander back to whence I started. About three weeks ago, I left Facebook. For all the good about the platform -- especially for the ability to have groups of folks able to discuss issues of shared concern (like the current White House occupant, his merry band of death eaters, and local politics) -- I just couldn't stay.

Following the 2016 election, I stayed even after it became apparent that Facebook, at a minimum, allowed Americans to be besieged by Russian social media antics. I stayed because I chalked it up to stupid people. And you just can't fix stupid.

But Zuckerberg has now decided that Facebook will allow campaigns and candidates to run ads filled with out-and-out lies. Stupid is one thing, but even the most advertising-resistant among us know that advertising works, and not just in the case of stupid people.

And so I left.

Twitter's Jack Dorsey faced the same issue with regard to political ads. He took a decidedly different approach and will no longer accept political ads. Period. I won't assign hero status to Dorsey. His decision to let Donnie Douchebag violate Twitters TOS is shameful, as is his failure to allow so many white supremacists to do the same. And those political ads represent just $3 million in revenue. (By contrast, they amount to $350 million for Facebook.)

So I will continue to twitter on Twitter. Come to find out, I'm apparently also going to get back to gabbling on here.



Monday, November 4, 2019

Time, it Flies, as Life is Fleeting

Eldest turned 23 yesterday. When I started claiming this little part of the Internet as mine, he was on the cusp of turning 10. If I were to go into the archives, I imagine I could find a post filled with awe that he would enter the double-digit age. "I can't believe he's THIS old," I likely exclaimed.

I am no longer surprised at the rapid progress of aging. Appalled? At times, sure. Before the epiphany that led to my deeply held atheism, I was an all-out believer. The nightly ritual of prayer has been replaced with thoughts of "I cannot believe I'm almost 60!" and "There's no way in hell we'll ever be able to retire" and "Oh, ugh, I hope I die before Pete."

That last thought, of course, is a direct result of the very recent and raw experience of my mother's death and the removing of all vestiges of her life from her home. I filled three boxes with those vestiges that would come home to me. Her cookbook, the one she got when she was 16, and the one she used over the next 67 years. Her recipe box, with so much goodness to savor. A couple of pairs of shoes. Her china. Remnants of her copper pots and pans collection. A blouse that I would never wear but that represents her so fiercely that I had to have it to hang in my closet and see every time I open it. A huge Rubbermaid container that holds a treasure trove of pictures for me to dive into before carting down to my sister and younger brother for them to do the same.

ImageIn the 2.5 years between her death sentence diagnosis and her death, we prepared. Kids and nieces and sisters identified what we would like of hers. The items she loved the most, she would press me to take. (I assume she pressed others as well.) "Don't you want the china, Patty?" "These rugs are so wonderful, are you sure you won't have them?" "What about the Japanese china cabinet?" "The elephants?" Although she didn't say it outright, what she wanted was to know the items that meant so much to her would mean the same to me. So I claimed everything she pushed onto me, to ease her mind, so that she could find a way to peace.

The three boxes and the china cabinet arrived Thursday, six weeks after her death. My house is now sprinkled throughout with her life. The ceramic frog that holds the brillo pad. The 1950 Betty Crocker cookbook. The non-stick tube pan that was used to make her sour cream coffee cake Saturday morning. Pewter rabbit salad set. The cup (with lid and straw!) I bought her to keep her hydrated. That blouse in the closet.

I walk through the house and no longer need a mirror to see my Mom.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

It Ends With a Bang

I'm feeding off the title of my last post, which I think has been more than a year ago.

I won't be doing this again.

But today, right now, I'm doing this. My Mom died a week ago. I am on her computer in her room in the house formerly known as Louise's.

I will write more, I think. But, for now, I want to make sure you all know that it might not end with a bang, but it ends.

Man, does it end.

Deadwood

I mentioned to Eldest the other night that I had a fairly wide open day Friday. Writer that he is, he wondered if I would perhaps like a wri...