Saturday, June 28, 2014

Finders Keepers.

The vacant black orbs stare back at me with the uncomfortable intensity of death. What’s left of the innards are a mottled jelly and the once bunny-soft fur is a mass of dirt and blood and guts.

And I’m chasing it. At 6 a.m. In my nightgown. Breast and buttocks and wild hair unfettered. On the trampoline.

A year and a half ago, I made the ill-fated and heavily pressured decision to bring a dog back into our lives. After two years of peace and hairless quiet, the 15 years of triple-pet ownership had faded into pleasant memories. It wasn’t that I had forgotten the decimated carpets, the stolen food or the mangled shoes. It was that my daughter appears to have a promising future ahead of her in psychological warfare. And it didn’t help that friends were joining together in a chorus of maternal guilt trips.

She has decimated the underground irrigation system, causing hundreds of dollars in water bills. She’s dragged nine-foot-long poles and near-boulder sized rocks around the yard. The play set is tipping because apparently the best place to dig is under one particular corner and she ate a brown recluse that made Two-Face look attractive. The lounge pillows are never on the porch furniture where they should be and she ate a section of the pool vacuum hose, several hard plastic water guns, the tail of a large horny lizard and one hose nozzle. Two weeks ago she wanted to get up and play at 1:49 a.m. and yesterday she ate the chicken off the counter. And this morning she is tossing a not-freshly-dead rabbit in the air and rolling on it.

In the middle of the trampoline.

Every morning, this interloper that has interfered with my best attempts to slow and calm spends an hour or so lounging and sunning on the very large, very high trampoline that my daughter really, really, really, really wanted and then stopped using after six months. Instead of children laughing and jumping, our German Shorthaired Pointer runs laps on the inside and then around the outside. She lays on the edge soaking up the rays and when she happens upon something she knows is not permissible but is loathe to give up, she heads to the center of the trampoline and hunkers down to protect her position.

Like the irritating and long-drawn out impasse of my life, her yellow eyes dance excitedly at the game she is playing at my expense, the oozing treasure caught firmly in her jaw. I am hot, sweaty, tired and life isn't currently playing fair. Quietly seething I lean closer.

“I. Am. Not. Chasing. You. Any. Longer. If you don’t drop what’s left of that rabbit now, you will wish you looked that good.”

Cocking her head to one side, she looks at me unblinking and then suddenly there it is, deposited unceremoniously and juicily beside my flip-flopped foot. I watch her prance gracefully by and leap lightly off the trampoline to disappear out of sight.

Left alone with another mess to clean up.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Daddy Dearest.

“When is Father’s Day?”

“It’s Sunday.”

“Can we … not … celebrate it this year?”

It’s amazing how your world can change in a split second. We all know it’s possible, but we all go on as though it couldn’t – won’t – happen to us until it does.

And then there it is.

The wreckage in the center of our life’s road that we can’t stop looking at and are for now and ever forced to maneuver around. Eventually, the grass grows up around and over it, shielding it from our daily view. But it’s always there and we stumble over it again and again, the sting just as much because it will never not be there as for what put it there in the first place. And there’s nothing like Father’s Day to stub our toe and remind us that the man of the house is, well, me and only me.

This is our sixth Father’s Day solo.

We’ve celebrated it. We’ve ignored it. We’ve done things he would have liked against our will. We’ve brought flowers to a stone for a man who refused to buy flowers because they … ummm … die. We’ve watched movies. We’ve ridden bicycles. We’ve released balloons. We’ve ignored the phone. We’ve picked up the phone.

We have counted the minutes to the end of the day.

A week ago, a perky teenaged girl packing up our groceries took one glance at us and decided we were the family that would know. Watching her as she watched us, I felt the tingling on the back of my neck that happens anytime something unsavory seems to be looming. “When is Father’s Day this year?” She meant well, I’m sure. But did it have to be us? Two little heads whipped around to stare at me for direction and I breathed deep when the cashier filled the gap. “It’s next Sunday … no flowers today?” He smiled at us and watching him feed the food down the conveyor belt I couldn’t help but think I saw the flicker of recognition in his old, gentle eyes.

Milestones are the sinkholes in the road we travel and Father’s Day is perhaps one of the deepest.

I’ve spent years keeping his memory alive for them. With remote and rare exceptions, I am the voice that utters his name or tells his stories to them. It’s an exhausting responsibility that has aged me and that has left no living space for my stories, and it’s caused me to increasingly resent this once-yearly now-maternal milestone. They are as done with the upkeep as I am, it seems.

“Is that what you want to do?”

“Yes, we both do. It doesn’t mean that we don’t love him. Can we just not celebrate it and have it be a normal day?”

“A normal day sounds perfect.”

Perfect for an imperfect day.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

When Soon Becomes Later.

Soon (adv.): in or after a short time

“Mom … why do you have this piece of paper in here?”

“Put that back where it was!!!”

“I was just looking at it ……… Mom …. why does it say ‘soon’?”

Her luminous eyes, bright with laughter and the adventures of her day only moments ago, are suddenly clouded in sadness and I am angry at myself. All because I wrote four letters on a scrap of paper.

It’s been a year since I tucked the slip of paper away in my jewelry box, trusting its promise would be safe to bloom. I found it where it had been placed and discarded. Inked against a creamy background, it was an inconsequential word that had come to represent everything I was searching for. One word. Four letters.

A thousand wishes on faraway stars.

There is an undeniable truth in the post-mortem life that I have been so ignominiously handed. He will live in eternal perfection in their memories and imaginations while I will exist imperfectly and flawed. He will be remembered with tragic reverence and I will be judged and critiqued. He will be wished for, while I wish that someone would wish for me.

Soon is heavier these past few months as the door that was left open slowly begins to close and hopes and promises linger in my lonely oblivion. I watch quietly as the tiny birds perch delicately on my window sill in the quiet air far above the ground below and I wonder if the air deafens them in flight the same way that my singularity is deafening in its stillness. My fingers touch the unopened envelope that is the line-by-line decimation and resurrection of me.

I wrap my arms around her to keep the tears I have caused from dropping like shards of glass the way mine have begun to fall night after night when the house is still and dark.

“Ah, lovely girl. I am so sorry that I yelled.”

“Why did you get mad at me?”

“I’m not mad at you, sweetheart. I’m angry at myself.”

“Why are you mad at yourself?”

“Because that tiny piece of paper is filled with Mommy’s hopes and dreams and frustration.”

“Why don’t you throw it out?”

“I can’t. Not yet.”

Because I keep hoping that soon will come.