Monday, October 22, 2012


The air is crisp and damp and the chill tucks itself up beneath my thin denim jacket as we navigate the wet leaves on this place of death so rich in history.  Day is falling and across the way the sun streams happy against the edge of a rough-cut field, blazing warm yellow where leaves have shrunken and faded in their annual mortality -  a gleam of heaven beaming in the haze of this autumn twilight.

A whole year.  Gone in a blink but it's been forever since I heard him laugh.  He's so hard to hold on to - though we never really let go, do we?  And we stand, banded together at this memorial, children stepping on this resting as we think upon his name - our name - carved deep and forever into cold stone.  Our little flowers lay softness against his memory and we set them haphazard and random because any formality would seem presumptuous and plastic.

"But Grandma, how do you know when you're going to die?" Because they can't understand why Grandma's name stands there beside their grandpa when she stands there beside them.
"No, you see...?" she says, pointing to the dates, "this is when I was born.  This is so I can be buried here with Grandpa someday."  And they accept it because they've known now for a year that death is real.

It's hard not to remember the ending.  It's hard not to remember his face void of the him we all cherished.  That ending that stole from him all that made him the man we loved.  Those awful days when he was already gone but we stood by his side and urged him to let go because what he was hanging on to was no kind of life.

Erase it.  Every gasping breath.  Every glassy gaze.  Just erase it.  Remember, instead, the man who came before - that man of integrity and strength and humor.  That man who sang.  That man who made a mean roast beef.  That man who loved us all with a love that never quit.  That man who believed in us all with a faith that never faltered.  That man who welcomed me and called me daughter.  Remember that.

For that is the stuff that never passes away.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I run.  Summer chases me, her winds pushing back my hair, her dew dampening my pajama bottoms.  Bare feet in sneakers and night so black.  Just thirteen years old and oh, so clever.  Eleven pm is heavy and exciting and when headlights slip over the hill from Durham I jump and duck into wet ditches because I am a ninja and those lights are my nemesis.  All the way to the town sign.  Gravel in my shoes and panting because I'm not a runner and ripping the duct tape - great tears of thunder in this country black - and holding up the sign crafted from three connected pieces of dot matrix printing paper because it's 1993 and that's what people have, and taping it up over the Population 2,500.  HAPPY ANNIVERSARY MOM & DAD!  And I run all the way back home and I sneak back into bed and no one is the wiser and I might die because I can't breath and I'm pretty sure I've got to be the greatest daughter ever to ninja my way along the highway just to acknowledge them like that... 

My children do not make grand (or medium sized, or teeny tiny) gestures.  Maybe I didn't put enough crazy into them when I molded them out on my insides.  Maybe they got that from their father.  On this, our fourteenth anniversary, his great gesture was interrupting my staff meeting at work to give me some Advil Cold & Sinus.  Pretty flipping romantic!  Of course, I'm not asking for anything.  If he bought me a card I'd laugh at him.  Chocolates just make me fat.  Advil's last for four hours - now that's a beautiful gift of stamina! 

Here's to 14 more!

Saturday, October 13, 2012


The furnace kicks on and I listen to the synthetic heat tick through the ceiling above and I am so frustrated that it's already that cold outside.  My blankets are heavy and thick and I'm tucked up beneath them but I'm not warm and the thought of stepping on the concrete floor of the wood room to fetch a log for the fire is I lay here and I don't move so that this one spot warms with my body - because to move is to find new chill.  I think about movies.  I think about that coffee I had at eight o'clock.  I think about how Joan Rivers is probably the meanest person in the world. 

The verge of sleep is like a lip I hang over, feeling the drifting but not yet falling....

The furnace ticks.  The ghosts whisper.  The walls groan.  Vines tickle the basement windows.  Who would ever marry a musician when it means you have to share a cold Friday night bed with a vacant side?

I hear feet.  Shuffling.  Short-strided.  They're above me.  Cupboards open.  They slam shut.  A chair pulls out.  It is pushed back in.  Shuffling.  Another door.  Is that the fridge?  Lost wandering.  Into the living room.  Back up into the kitchen.  To the back door.  Back to the living room.  I can follow the map of this movement across the ceiling as this midnight nomad traipses across my midnight attempts at dreaming. 

Shuffling down to the piano.  Stillness.  Hush.  The furnace ticks.  AN AGGRESSIVE POUNDING OF WHITES AND BLACKS!!!  Full palms have fallen upon the keys, billowing through the house with powerful vibrato, from low to high and back again - harsh notes dissonant when all I want is a lullaby.

I escape from this self-made warmth and my bare feet recoil against a floor rude with cold.

I am braced for a spirit - a dark man in top hat at the ivories, hung there against my already dreaming eyelids.  But no.  It is only a Liam.  And I am awake.  He stands there, hands fallen to his side while his last notes disappear into darkness. 

He sways.  His head bobs.  He is a Liam zombie.  He turns towards me.  Whimpers.  "I am so cold." And his voice is hung with tears and sleep.

I gather him and he has forgotten how to embrace and I lead him gently to his bed and tuck his blanket tight and kiss his eyes, now tight closed, good night.

And when I crawl back into bed, all that warmth I poured out is sucked clean and I shiver and shake and the furnace ticks.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


"It's snowing!"  I am hollering from the back hallway.

He glances up from his spot on the couch.  "It is not!" Incredulous and as if you'd dare to drift a cloud over my lovely Sunday...

"It is!" I say again.

He gathers himself and stalks to the window and puffs up to prove me wrong but..."It is snowing!"

I stand beside him and we watch little white pellets dance off the porch swing.  "More like hail, I guess," I say, throwing him a bone so he doesn't have to be totally wrong (because I'm sweet like that).

I add more wood to the fire and the smell of cedar smoke fuses with the aroma of turkey and stuffing from the kitchen.  The sweet potatoes are whipped and mallowed and waiting for their turn in the oven.  Cinnamon wafts and burlap makes a tablecloth and leaf clad windows count our blessings.

When family arrives, noise blows in with them like a thundering wind and I wrap it all up and tuck it by my heart and raise my voice above them to say welcome and decide that for today, I will be a hugger!

We eat but it doesn't get any quieter.  I have never had a home big enough to share a meal in before.  We fit around the table.  The children around their own.  I am swollen with pride at this family space that has always been this family's space and now it is mine.  But it is also theirs and it always will be.

We are full but still we have pie and then take our uncomfortable bellies for a walk through crunching leaves and the children gather and throw them up up up in the air just to be rained down upon by those wet, dead beauties.

It is crisp and we can see our breath and our noses drip and our cheeks tint rosy.  There is laughing and running and picking weed bouquets and finding game trails and kicking pebbles with rubber boots and holding hands.

And for this.  All of this.  I am thankful.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pumpkin Patch Kids

They remember the planting.  The digging down and the covering.  The waiting for the seed death to bring life wild from the ground in twisting vines that trail all the way to the raspberries.  Now the grass cracks and our feet find purchase on the dirt beneath - fingers pulling frantic through the depths to be the one to cry out, "I found one!"  The air is crisp and rubber boots promise tracks of filth upon mudroom floors.  We aren't concerned with such petty things.  Our sights are set on orange.

"I fouwd anuver one!"

They have their names there, planted on stakes where their seed was laid, fruit tumbled far from the sowing.  But they claim their yield and holler across the field, "MINE!"

We use pruning shears to rend them from their stems, the proverbial cutting of the umbilical cord, and we line them along the cinder block wall.

Cheeks are rosy and leaves are turning and smoke billows from the chimney and fall is upon us and the garden dies slowly and we raise our faces like sunflowers, grasping at that last breath of summer that whispers over the dead corn stalks in a sudden moment when the sun peeks from beneath an autumn cloud.