Friday, December 4, 2015

When Death Happens

In my dream he died suddenly. I got the call and dropped what I was doing. The dog ate my dinner as I made plane reservations. My ex-boyfriend's father gave advice on a memorial service (it's for those left behind, not him...) I flew home and met with the funeral director, a high school classmate, and he guided me through the obituary. I blame him for my forgetting to mention my uncles or grandfather (their stepfather). 

I knew he wanted cremation. I knew he did not want a memorial service. He wanted a party. He got all three. In my dream there is more to deal with. There are memories and conversations and physical reminders of a life far removed from those we live today. Lives, really, thrown in different directions and memories barely recognized by any of us. In my dream our mother is there and she reconciles and reassures and returns to her new life. We squabble briefly over items representative of our childhood, and compromise. 

It's too much. I take the car for a farewell drive. The spring flowers reject the notion of death, and death smirks. There is no good time for a father to die. There is no good way to call your friends, hear their joy that you're home, and delete their joy with the news of why. In my dream the service is surreal. I cry like I've never known I could. The minister didn't know him, doesn't know us. None of us speak. When we stand to receive the attendees I'm overwhelmed. All our friends are there. And a man who served in the Navy and saw the obit in the local paper. I knew your father, he said. I had to come. We return to what will soon no longer be our house for a party. It's similar to many other parties, he's just not there. But he would have enjoyed it. Stories and laughter. Surreal reality. 

In my dream I'm in my bed, in my room, in my neighborhood, and I can't sleep. I read. I talk to an old boyfriend. We briefly reconnect. He's very supportive. In my dream I let hope creep in. In my dream I realize I have to wake up. My life is elsewhere, I have a job, an apartment, pets. In my dream I fly 'home' and try to resume where my life had been paused. It's very difficult to wake up from a dream. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mile Marker 104

Mile Marker 104

It’s a part of life:
The co-worker’s mother,
A friend’s father,
An acquaintance’s wife,
And his brother,
The neighbor’s dog.
But at mile marker 104,
That still, furry body struck
A deep sadness in my heart.
No one to hug, no one to console,
Nowhere to direct my grief.
Between 104 and 106, hold on
To it, out of respect.

Then, forgotten. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday 1986

I think more than any other day of the year, I remember our father on Good Friday. That was the day he died in 1986. I had spent the day at Galveston Beach with my friend Beth, and had just finished preparing my dinner when the phone rang. I was talking to my mom (in Florida) when another call clicked sister, calling from Norfolk with the news. Meanwhile my dog had consumed my dinner, which I'd carelessly set down when all this started happening. The rest of the evening was spent talking to my ex-boyfriend, his father (a United Church of Christ minister), and airlines. I don't remember who took care of my dog and cat while I was in Virginia, I don't remember contacting work to let them know I wouldn't be in the next week. I don't remember the flight to Virginia or how I got to our home on Tallwood Street. I do remember calling friends, hearing them go from excitement that I was home to sadness when they learned why. I remember taking the '76 Pontiac Catalina for a farewell drive, noticing the beauty of a Norfolk spring as I drove through familiar yet oddly strange childhood settings. I remember the outpouring of love and support from so very many people, and the unstoppable tears after the very impersonal memorial service, as our family stood to receive what turned out to be a packed house. I remember the man who approached us and said he had known our father 20 years previous in the Navy, and saw the obituary and 'had to come'. I remember thinking how pleased Dad would have been about that, as he loved his service in the Navy and the friendships he made during that time. So, even though Good Friday is a moving date and rarely falls on the actual anniversary of Dad's death, it is on Good Friday each year that the memories of the day he died come back to me. He missed out on so much, and I will always be sad for that. But I have good memories of a man who had a zest for live, drank too much, trusted too easily, and never stopped loving our mother, despite their split and subsequent divorce. He was my biggest fan. He had his faults. But on Good Friday I remember the good things, and the things he missed, and the fact that I never really said goodbye. So on this Good Friday, 28 years later...goodbye, Dad. We love you and miss you and know you're still bursting with pride over all of us.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Strip Tease

Peaking from behind the shroud,
The world functions around me…
Without me.
Peaking from behind the shroud,
Glimmers of things I cared about,
Things that made me smile.
Peaking from behind the shroud,
An exotic dancer,
Teasing back towards ‘normal’.
Peaking from behind the shroud,
Wondering how long it will take
For the shroud to lift, or fall away.
Peaking from behind the shroud,
Straining to see beyond the darkness,
To see a morning of simple tasks.
Peaking from behind the shroud,
The dance comes slowly to a close…

The shroud drifts to the floor.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Stuck in the Middle

Middle age
Middle class
Middle of the road...
Mid-life crisis?
Mid-range, mid-term
Middle income
Middle muddle...
Monkey in the middle
Monkey mind
Stuck in the middle.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Grandpa "Bob" Palmer July 8, 1920 -- October 4, 2013

A.M. was born on July 8, 1920 and passed away on Friday, October 4, 2013.

A.M. was a resident of Laguna Woods, California.

How is it even possible that a person's life can be condensed down to two sentences? I think more than the sadness over my grandfather's passing and the fact that I was in California this past summer and tried to see him but was unable to, I am deeply saddened that, in the end, those are the only two sentences that I have found acknowledging his passing.

Grandpa Palmer (Bob...not sure how Bob came from the initials A.M., but that is how he was addressed...Bob Palmer) was stepfather to my dad and his brothers. I know little about how he came to be married to my grandmother. What I do know is that he was devoted to her and, by association, to her family. He had a soothing manner, slow and methodical in all he did; he had a deep, calming voice, and he told stories. He loved words...spoken or written...and when my grandmother became ill, he kept a detailed journal of every minute, and he would send it to all of us scattered across the country, so we would know what was happening. It is my deep regret that I did not keep his writings...the journal during grandma's illness, his Christmas letters...because as it turns out, there is little left from his life with grandma or his association with the Izykowski family to remember him by. After some probing, my uncle (the last living of the three sons of my grandmother) was able to obtain one box of items that Grandpa Palmer had managed to keep. This is striking to me, as my grandfather kept *everything* took him years and years to leave the home he and grandma had shared, and I remember thinking how unhealthy it was for him to hold onto everything in that house. And then after both my Uncle Bobby and my father passed, I remember writing to Grandpa, asking if there might be anything from all that he had kept over the years pertaining to my father that I might have. But he never responded to that request. By this time he had buried a second love in his life, Alice, who had died due to complications from Alzheimer's, and he was living with his most recent significant other. She had a different view on the Izykowski family, and never warmed up to any of our attempts to keep in touch with Grandpa. I can only imagine that it was during this time that so many things Grandpa had held onto slipped sitting on a shelf in a Goodwill store, or some other thrift shop, or worse, in a landfill.

Grandpa was an extremely intelligent man who worked 40 plus years for Union 76; he planned his retirement in detail, as he did everything (I remember little notebooks he kept and wrote in constantly, always handy in his breast pocket, when they would come to visit us in New York or Virginia from California.) He had a warm smile, a compassionate heart, and a patience like I've never known in an individual. He suffered for years with cataracts, enduring surgeries and finally losing sight in one eye, and yet continued to appreciate the blessings in life. He was always incorporating quotes in his letters to family, and never failed to acknowledge snippets of news we had sent to him in our letters. He was supportive and generous with wisdom he had gained over the years, while never coming off as judgmental or critical.

The one memory that always sticks in my head of grandpa, is driving around Orange County, CA, after dinner in one of those classic L.A. area restaurants...palm trees and a fountain with colored lights and the neon cocktail sign outside. Grandpa would drive slowly, his soothing voice droning on about this place or that, his knowledge of the history of the area was amazing, and I remember being in the back seat and feeling drowsy and content and safe...grandpa's voice and the slow, low click-click-click of the station wagon's blinker lulling me to sleep as we wound our way home.

Rest in peace, Grandpa. I hope you know how much we loved, respected, and appreciated you.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October Presence

What a gift I was given yesterday. Rebecca and her friend missed the train home, so I found myself heading south on Route 17 at 6 p.m. on a Friday. Not your idea of a gift? Well, I'd barely gotten on the road, when I spotted a beautiful prism in the sky, over Shannon Airport. Soon, the entire sky was painted with hues of pink gray and blue. As I drove on, I suddenly noticed the moon peek up over the horizon. As she climbed higher, she seemed to be contemplating the gorgeous display the sun was making off to the west, and the golds and greens of the fields going fallow at her feet. As I passed through a section of tree covered road, an owl gently swooped in front of me from treeline to treeline, presumably starting the evening hunt. I came out of the trees and resumed my tracking of the moon, framing one photo after another in my mind but not stopping to take any of them. My favorite was the moon on the far right, the fields golden below, the pinks and grays off to the left, and a flock of geese moving across the panorama. Suddenly, out of nowhere, two bald eagles appeared just above me, tracking along the road. They almost seemed computer generated...their heads moving slowly left to right, their wings beating slow and steady, as if to say, "The way is clear, safe travels." Finally the sun set, but the moon continued her show. As I came through Tappahannock, I could see the light display on the Rappahannock, broken bits of light on the gentle swells of water. Periodically, to her left or to her right, I would spy a triangular shape in the sky, almost portal-like, with a glow from within and one side appearing to be a night rainbow, another prism lighting the way. I half expected something to come shooting out of those portals, they were so mythical looking. I finally arrived at CNU, feeling as though I had just been treated to a very special show, and in complete awe of what I'd seen.

So, even though my night didn't end up being anything close to what I planned, I am so very grateful for the gifts nature gave me on a cool and beautiful October night.