Draw your sword it is time to fight to rise above the madness of the mind Fear is crippling hopelessness death and they creep so stealthily surprise surprise But do not cower in the corner Parry Confront Attack And if you find you are on your knees stand up and do it again Draw your sword it is time to fight it has always been For the battle between a human's ears is the ultimate duel.
Monthly Archives: April 2014
Lately I feel like I’m turning into my grandmother.
I’m going through walnuts like they’re becoming extinct. My nana’s cheeks were perpetually bloated with the masticating remnants of an assortment of nuts. She somehow managed to keep them from spewing out as she multitasked between chewing, housework, and yelling at us kids. But never in anger. Always questions, like how many pieces of butter toast did we want for breakfast.
And speaking of multitasking, she did it every minute of the day, but she didn’t do it well. I pride myself on being an esteemed multitasker. But I find sometimes these tasks are not completed, merely started and left to sit unfinished like Nana’s breakfast dishes. She would “wash” them all day long. It would be time to start dinner and the toast crust would still be lingering on the edges of the Currier & Ives.
There are days when my breakfast dishes are still stacked next to the sink when the sun is setting and I’m searching for the wine opener.
Nana also loved chocolate. Fudge to be exact. She made three homemade pans full (with nuts of course) in the afternoon and by evening they’d be scraped clean. But the woman never gained a pound. Her house boasted a pea-green carpet that had a path worn thin from her constant moving about. I don’t think I ever saw her sit down. My floors are tile so there are no threadbare indications of ceaseless activity. But at least a half dozen times a day I will enter a room and say aloud, “Now why the hell did I come in here?”
But in the evening when I’m walking in the kitchen I know exactly what I’m there for. The chocolate.
Nana was also very scatter-brained. She eventually ended up with Alzheimer’s. Lately I have lost the spatula and the dustpan, and for the life of me have no idea where they could have gone. I also lose track of my point or story mid-sentence, and sometimes call my son every name except his own. She used to do this too. When she got to the dog’s name, Fuzzy, we knew she was close.
The fact I feel I’m losing my mind recently is cause for concern. Am I really becoming Nana? Am I gonna get Alzheimer’s? I still know the key is for the door. I just don’t know where I put it.
At Nana’s funeral they played Glenn Miller’s In the Mood. We all sat, heads hung low. I imagined her swinging with Papa at some cool speakeasy. And then I imagined her the way I remembered. Her taking time out of the daily and nightly grind of tending to husband and house and kids to stop and just cut a freaking rug. Usually in the front room next to the stereo turntable. I always loved that she danced.
When I have my kitchen dance party, or cut a rug in the living room, or groove in front of the bathroom mirror I am channeling some of that energy.
She is within me. I am a part of her. I hope I’m not going crazy. But if I am, I hope I’ll be dancing all the way to the nursing home. And I hope a bar of chocolate will be in the top drawer of my dresser. Just like we used to leave for her. But please let it be dark. With nuts, of course.
A fragrance of wildflowers traveled to my nose and into that place in the brain where scent and memories coagulate side by side And I saw the image of a young girl running through a field of daisies Was it me or the opening of Little House on the Prairie? I faintly remember this scene as I have imagined it before But I do not know what is real or fiction Or is it a layering of both I know my mother wore a dress stitched with blossoms when I was in the womb And I know there was a vacant lot across from my early childhood home where flowers grew But the girl in the field so carefree happily joyously running Who was she? Was it me or the opening of Little House on the Prairie? Illusory verity layering.
Barry was the first person who ever took the time to teach me about photography. He wore over-sized early-80’s style glasses. He always cleaned them smudgy on the corner of his plaid shirts, which were half tucked around his round belly.
We worked together at a retail photography store in the late 90’s on the heels of my college years. He was one of the top salesman. I was a Customer Service Associate– fancy title for cashier-who-must-be-polite-to-whatever-idiot-walks-in-the-store. Barry and I would make fun of the weirdos and assholes who did walk in and thankfully walk out. He had an aversion to anyone of religious identity. I had an aversion to the perpetually drunk woman who swore it was our fault her photos were always out of focus.
Barry was one of those coworkers essential to making it out alive in the tumultuous world of retail hell. He made the pain of standing for hours on end a little lighter. He made jokes when the clock was moving so slow we thought we were in a time warp. He spouted off random facts I’d later recite to customers when they asked me questions a lowly cashier had no clue about. He made goofy faces. He laughed at himself. He took me under his pale, sarcastic, hilarious, genius, kindly peculiar wings.
Some nights after work I’d follow him to his house after a quick stop at the liquor store. This was before my wine days so I was still in the process of figuring out what my drink of choice was. I was in my White Russian stage so he’d buy me a four-pack of mini Kahlua mud slides and bourbon for himself. We’d drink our respective beverages in his basement, which he took over as his nerd lair.
He was an amazing photographer, specializing in astrophotography. He’d sometimes set up his gargantuan telescope and we’d catch the light of the stars he recognized like the freckles on the back of his hand. He had thousands of photos he hoarded in his basement. “They can’t pay me what they’re worth,” he’d say sneeringly when I suggested he try to sell some of them. He also had a mad collection of albums he’d play on his souped-up stereo. He was the first person I knew to have internet access from his television. He introduced me to The Daily Show and South Park.
I went with him to buy his second Honda Hatchback, which he paid for in full from the money he saved working at the store. He took care of his mother, who lived above his nerd lair. He bought her mayonnaise and butter and bologna, the only “food” she would eat. Barry microwaved Lean Cuisines for himself on lunch break, two at a time.
I’ll never forget the time we had worked two weeks straight during the holiday shopping mayhem. It was Christmas Eve, our store’s metal chain-link security gate was half closed, and we were doing our final count of all the drawers. Some last-minute shopper ducked under the gate and begged us to let him buy a camera. Barry frantically took care of him while I tried to make sense of the day’s numbers. The boss was at home eating a warm meal with his family. Barry and I hadn’t eaten real food or seen the light of the sun in days. The last-minute shopper finally left and Barry and I continued our closing duties. The shelves were in disarray, the carpeted floor speckled with paper liter, and our count was way off. Barry grabbed the calculator for the fourth time and it slipped out of his hand, spinning in the air and crashing on the concrete floor below his feet. “Goddamn it!” he yelled in exasperation. “Screw it,” I called back as I ran to my purse, grabbed my cigs, and proceeded to light up and give one to Barry. We stood there laughing hysterically, puffing away, trying to fix the calculator.
I found out this morning Barry passed away. I hadn’t talked to him in years. I hadn’t sent him a photograph Christmas card since the one where my son, a toddler at the time, is waving at the camera. Barry told me it looked like he was waving at him.
I don’t want to imagine Barry in whatever way I’ll find out he died. I want to remember his silliness behind the counter, or crouched behind a wall of purple pansies teaching me macro photography, or sipping Jim Beam under Arcturus.
Rest in peace, Barry. Thank you for the lessons, the friendship, and most of all, the laughter.
My feet pedaled left today into town instead of right into the woods as they had for weeks perhaps months And they pedaled fast and smooth as the wind lay welcoming spring's bloom The cross lights changed quickly offering a speedy glance on all that had changed in just a short moment really The vacant lot where I once imagined a shotgun house now bloated by a tasteless modern dwelling And Eli's Friday BBQ smoke was not wafting through the Live Oaks Empty benches No snowy egret waiting for scraps But the once dry and lifeless garden there had blossomed with thick, dark greens And it made me smile And the Spanish moss thicker than ever And the leaves of the Jacaranda the color of the shallow sea And the streets sparsely scattered with happy morning people who smiled back at me.