First the coat and then the car.

I don’t know why he was bleeding.  Or rather, I don’t remember.  And I don’t know if Joan knew I was concealing his blood in the cuff of my coat, but I guess she probably did.

Joan is a sister I selected.  I’ve known her almost 20 years.

Last January Dad was still breathing and I was with him in LaPlata.  The blood was older than that, though.  I can’t say for sure from when.  I’m only certain that it was his and I wasn’t willing to let go of it.   I rolled my cuff to conceal the evidence– and keep it close to me.

During my visit, Joan asked if I’d like her to wash my coat.

I liked it not.

Yesterday I washed my coat.  I didn’t plan to do it.  Or even really want to.  But I did, and then I set about deconstructing the unintended time capsule in my car.  Dad’s gloves.  Pennies we found together.  Rocks Mom and I collected for him.  The note paper on which I began his obituary.  Some candy I kept for our drives together.  Mom’s last lighter.  Their funeral cards.

Their funeral cards.

A month after Mom died, I dreamed that Little Brother and I were standing beside an intricately carved wooden box.  The box had one small hole in the lid.  I became aware that my mother was in the box, and that she had been there without food, water, medication, or any attention from us for an entire month.  The thought of it buckled my knees.  I could see her without seeing her, even though the box was closed.  In my mind’s voice I told her I’d’ve come if I’d’ve known she was there.   I struggled to piece together how I, how we, could have been so negligent.

As I thought these things to her through the box, I noticed a wisp of smoke escaping from the hole in the lid.   I held my finger over the opening to prevent the smoke from dissipating.  I looked up at GA in a panic and said, “I don’t know what to do.”  He said, “You have to let it go.”  And I did.  Not because I wanted to, but because I couldn’t successfully hold it anymore.

Coat and car aside, I still don’t have a good feel for what to keep and what to relinquish.  I have Mom’s glasses.  I also have the empty package of the last bag of rice she bought.  I slalom between the bins and boxes of their things in my room, to get to the bed where I sleep with Mom’s death pillow.  But I fit now.  I’ve made room for myself, and I’m able to move around in there now.

Just don’t expect me to feel happy about it.


The Big Dig

Mr. Flanagan stopped by and mowed the yard while I was in Athens on Friday.  First mow of the season and we are, all of us, excited about it.  Birds are grubbing, squirrels are squirreling, and all things are made new for Soren Kierkegaard (who has been over every inch of it with a fine tooth comb).

The trees trimming is finally finished in the front yard, and I’ve begun to liberate the bases from the unsightly shoots overgrowth so I can re-mulch.  There’s a lot of digging going on.  And progress. I’ve made a dent now.

Sometimes, even without a discernible breeze, the sway of the porch swing catches my eye.  I half expect to see my Mom there– reading her book, watching me work the yard like she did when she was here.  “This kid is half a farmer, to tell you the truth”.  Mom’s folks, some of them, were Missouri dirt farmers back in the day.  And however hard times were when I was growing up, we never went hungry.  She raised the biggest garden around– pasture sized– and put up corn, beans, tomatoes, okra, beets, and zucchini to feed us the entire year.  She also grew potatoes, peppers and carrots.  Her love was many things, and among the most important, it was practical.

She set a very good example for us, which is one of the reasons I’m so puzzled by The Man In Question.  Then again, maybe it isn’t so surprising.  He really didn’t know her at all.

I met Cousin K in Acworth on Friday.  She said her Dad and mine had something in common besides the surname, which I’m guessing was the shared foe: Ethyl. I’ll be glad to talk more about it.  I hope hers kicked it like mine did.  It changes everything for a kid– no matter what age the kicking takes place.

We met at the gallery that represents Suzanne, for a Poetry reading Tim was hosting.  The owner, who previously had no intention of speaking, stood up to tell us about “An Evening With The Muse”– a poetry reading his step-father started in a village in Africa.  People gathered at a pre-determined time and, because the village was without electricity, read poetry to each other by candle-light.  Beautiful.  There’s more to be said about that, a different day.

Afterward, Paula, Ed, Karen and I met for a late supper at the Marietta Diner.  Who cares what else is on the menu.  There is one draw for me there, and that is the fried feta in a lemon/butter sauce.  I’m starry-eyed about it.  Everything else is a blank.

Today I’m having lunch at Pony’s, and then driving with P to Athens to do some business-planning.  If you can get your work done at a coffee shop, why in the world wouldn’t you?

Tomorrow the digging begins again.  I’m looking forward to it.

No End In Sight, And Yet.

I left the office in the early evening and got back to it.  It’s overwhelming because I’ve let it go so long.  I’m not going to waste any regrets on that.  The yard mirrors me.  It’s appearance is congruous with my affect.

Still, despite my efforts it hardly looks like I’ve made a dent.  And then, too, I’ve been thinking that the folks would be a little disappointed if they saw this state of affairs.  Plus, no gifts from them lately.  I don’t usually go this long without finding a frog, rock or penny in an unexpected place.

So here’s the thing (at risk of sounding obsessive).  Yard tasks can be difficult for me because of the collateral damage.  I worry about the ants, beetles, crickets, frogs, etcetera that, hidden, are maimed or killed by weed eaters, rakes and hoes.  I pray.  I ask St. Frances to steer them away.  And I fret when one succumbs.

Frogs are especially tough because they are my Mom’s totem/icon.  She loved them–had their representations everywhere.  So when one goes down I react catastrophically.  But that didn’t happen today.  Today when I was hoeing, a little frog hopped out and into view.  I coaxed it along with my hand, thinking it would hop clear of the area, but instead, and to my delight, it hopped up onto the back of my hand and made eye contact. It stayed quite a little while.  Even after I walked it over to a safer place.  Even as I expressed my deep gratitude.

You can tell me it’s a coincidence, like the frog that appeared when I removed the very last box from her apartment, or the one that arrived in the foyer the day I passed by her eyeglasses on my dresser and said aloud, “Hey, Mom, why don’t you c’mon and go with us.”  You can tell me it’s a coincidence, but you can’t make me believe you.

I’m confident tomorrow that I can finally finish the Crepe Myrtles and the landscaping next to the house.  It still doesn’t feel quite right to set things in order, but it does feel nice to be moving again.  And I’m getting a clear message that I’m on the right track.

Crepe Rape

The trees trimming continues, but as far as the Crepe Myrtles go I’m on the downside.  I finished up those closest to the house this morning.  I’m not in favor of the brutal topping I see from the professional landscapers and some of my neighbors.  It isn’t right.  I mean, the CMs can get out of hand so they need some guidance, but the topping amounts to shearing off branches and shoots down to the bloody, bare knuckles.  There is no room for asymmetry.  There is no room for originality.

The office is next.  I’m finishing up an RFP Insiders blog and doing some photo edits.  Paula’s meeting was canceled, so I might even get some lunch out of the deal.

Taking Back The Yard

It’s Easter, and the exact wrong time for tree trimming. My last chance, though, before stinging things overtake the yard and orchard — and so that’s what I spent the evening doing.

It feels so nice to be outside. Even in the bee suit. There are 25 acres of woods and forest, and 5 acres that should be manicured. I kept up with those 5 pretty well in the beginning, but as my parents went… so did any interest in upkeep. Oh, Mr. Flanagan helped me keep it mowed down pretty well, but the trees, the flower beds, the deer meadow– oy vey.

Anyway. I started to reclaim it today. The wisteria I planted when Mom was last here is about to bloom any second. The crepe myrtles and azaleas will be along soon after, and the dogwoods and pear trees are already at it. There’s no stopping them. And it’s Easter. If now isn’t the time to make things new, I don’t know when is.

Had lunch with Paula at Jimbo’s. Wrote Bub. Talked to Mar. I can call it a day, I think.