The train horn and slight sound of the wheels on the tracks reverberate this sleepy house in Deer Park. It reminds me of my childhood in Norwood, where a freight train yard was up the street, turn left, run downhill,make a right and run slightly up and down another hill.
I didn’t do that but once. It was not on a route I took and though so close, you left Norwood and entered Cincinnati. Norwood was my small world that was safe. Cincinnati was too big.
The train is quiet now, passing. Probably on those tracks that ran through Norwood. There is a website called, “Everything Runs Through Norwood,” and it is quiet true.
Why am I talking about trains and Norwood when I was going to talk about taking time to look at the ornaments on a Christmas tree?
I am staying. Not in Norwood, but Deer Park is pretty close. So it was that sound of the train that took me back, took me home, to Christmas when I was a child.
I love this sound of silence. Nick is sleeping and so is our youngest daughter. Remember that feeling as a parent, when all of your children were tucked into their beds and home, safe? The world was “out there”, someplace. That feeling, now a memory, is one of the gentle memories of this life I have lived.
My heart is beating, tick-tick, tick-tick, and it is marvelous. It was two weeks ago, today, that the ticker got fixed. This morning, I began some gentle exercises. I plan to be an athlete, yet.
Yesterday, I stopped at Trader Joe’s. It was delightful. My speed of store … not too big. You know me and the vapors. Nick pulled in front of Krogers in Montgomery, because I wanted some distilled water. I said, “Are you kidding? I’m not going in there.” The parking lot was packed and throngs of people were going in and out. I looked at him and said, “That place gives me the vapors.”
So far, I have heard both daughters laugh. We’ve shared a couple of meals. Today, I will see one of my sons and do something we do when we are in town. He and I will meet at Starbucks and sit and chat for a long time. Catch up. And then, tonight, the Christmas festivities begin.
I was so not in a Christmas spirit a month ago. Other things were on my mind. Things began to shift when we celebrated Christmas at our son’s house in South Carolina, on the 16th. It was wonderful. I even sang karaoke with my grandchildren.
And now, after one of our best drives up here, we are and will be in the arms of people we love, people who make fun of us, who know us deeply, and understand the love that we have for them. People we would do anything for, including giving our life.
That is deep love.
I will call both sisters tomorrow and say Merry Christmas. I will think of my friends, here and in South Carolina, and wherever they may be. I know one friend is making a four layer carrot cake, one is having dinner tonight with friends, and another has seen grandchildren and their parents, staying at her house all week. Aye-yi-yi. And she loves it.
I will be thinking of my brother-in-law, for a reason that just is.
Of course, I called Camp K-9 to see how The Boy is doing. He is having a great time. They love him, too.
I was looking at my daughter’s Christmas tree. I mean, really looking. She placed every light and ornament on it.
The spirit of Christmas was awakened in me.
Oh, here is another Christmas sound. The garbage truck picking up trash. Ho, ho, ho.
The fact is. All I have are blessings to be grateful for. Love surrounds me. I actually feel the presence of Jesus, and the purity of his actions. Was he real? Did and does He exist? Is He really God, the father?
I choose to believe som. It gives meaning to my life, and offers a guide to be good to people and, it checks my behavior. I don’t know enough about life and I can surely use the help and guidance. It is through Him, that’s I find my purpose. I am a wobbly human, and the walking partner shows me the way.
Good Lily of the Valley, I am spilling the beans.
So, with that, though I am taking the week off, I am here to wish each of you, whether you are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu Atheist or whatever, Merry Christmas from a wonderful, kind and forgiving man who was born in a manger on Christmas. Peace be with you. May light shine on our troubled world and may all your Christmas dreams come true.
“Schlemiel! Schlemazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!”
My granddaughter has a skating costume that has a large, “L” on it. Her synchronized skating team skates to the Laverne and Shirley theme song.
Imagine a group of some 30 or so young girls, in their circle skirts and “L” sweats skating around the rink, in 2018, to the theme song to a show from 1976.
To those of us who were around at that time, you probably sighed and got that oh, no, feeling, when you read that Penny Marshall, Laverne had passed away.
Something is wrong with this system. The system that gives us so much and then swoops in on angel’s wings, and takes life away. It is something I can accept but not get used to.
Penny Marshal fir her names, both Benny and Laverne.
I read that at one point in her career, she was hurt, bummed, because she didn’t get parts because of her look … not your standard Hollywood cutie pie.
She didn’t see how her smile and askewishly real humor, resonated with millions and millions of people.
But she found her fit. She was Laverne, a beer capper in Milwaukee. She was the yin to Shirley’s yang, and they made us laugh. And Squggy and Lenny.
I loved watching them get ready for dates and thinking about dates. I loved their relationship and their apartment. They were real, not some people with unattainable lives.
From what i read, Penny didn’t have a great plan to be a huge actress or director. She just did it. She grew from actress to successful movie director. And she also had her disappointments, things that didn’t turn out as well as she had hoped.
Years ago, I read that she and Carrie Fisher were best of friends and celebrated their birthdays together. I bet they were a hoot together. Both with wry senses of humor,
Carrie is now gone, too. That death also stung.
Isn’t it weird? I didn’t know either of them, but I mourned them. (Good grief, I accidentally typed ‘mounted them’ instead of ‘mourned them.’)
They would have appreciated that typo.
I don’t imagine that any of the young girls on my granddaughter’s synchronized team keen who Penny Marshall was. Maybe they don’t have any idea of what the letter “L” on their sweaters stands for. I don’t know.
As I sit here in my big room, looking out at the grayish silver trees behind my house, glancing at The Boy, sleeping on the couch with his head on a pillow, hearing the heat click on, and knowing I have much to do, today, I have to reset my head from far away mourner, to joyful gift wrapped and Santa helper.
I was glad that Penny lived to be 75, She had had health issues for years, getting lung cancer that had spread to her brain in 2009. The National Enquirer at the checkout counter gave grave warnings about her impending death.
But she showed them.
Ok. I am turning my thoughts around. I am making myself smile to have had the opportunity to laugh along with her and be proud of what she accomplished. She left a formidable legacy, including no a group of young girls who happily skate, wearing Laverne’s signature “L” on their sweaters.
If they only know.
So, for Laverne,let’s give her a rousing …
“Schlemiel! Schlemazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!”
And have a beer.
Yesterday, a week ago, Nick thought he was dying.
I did, too.
But thank God and good doctors and support of his kids and caring neighbors, Nick lives to be quiet and then drop a zinger that makes people laugh.
He lived for another trip to Blowing Rock.
It has been a hot and cranky summer. Little rain, big water bills, and a rain dance or too, that involved a pool. I will not say if it were Nick or I, who did the pole dance. But I bet you could guess.
It was mountain type of day. Nick had rested all week and he was ready to see something different. Mountains. They have always been an elixir in our life. Some people love the beach. We love the mountains.
There was a buoyancy in the car that hadn’t been there for a long time. We played music. Nick didn’t even mind my opera. Pavarotti. Three Tenors. Me, screeching.
We didn’t stay long at Blowing Rock. I think we wanted to see if it was still there.
Oh gosh, there is my woodpecker. I love birds with long peckers.
I think I scared him with that remark. He flew back into the woods.
We walked just a bit in Blowing Rock and had to decide if we wanted to eat lunch in a restaurant or pick up a pizza from Mellow Mushroom and take it to the mountain lake that is covered in places, with water lilies, has a wide walking path, and makes you feel free and healthy.
We got the pizza and drove to the park. We ate by the car and thenNikc got his walking stick out that I bought him a few weeks ago at McDowellNature Preserve. I got out my walking sticks that I haven’t used since last summer.
And we hit the trail.
Nick has not been able to do this for a long time. His walking is mostly in shuffling steps. But since his episode last week, and treatment with strong antibiotics, he walks better. He still isn’t strong and he has to watch his balance, but he can move.
We walked toward what had been a fish hatcheries, but now, only has water and some crawdads.
Nick sat on benches or rock walls, to rest. I bopped along with my camera and found things to shoot.
We talked about a neat-o tree and the lilies and I pointed out things that others, without a camera, not see. That is the thing about taking photos … you look for what others might miss.
I played with settings and chatted-up a couple of passers-by.
We didn’t go far in distance, but we went an eternity away from where we were last weekend.
The drive home was delightful. Nick shut his eyes and rested and I drove along in silence. No opera. No lalalalala screeching from my throat.
It was great fun being a wife yesterday. Nick had a delightful time. Bonus time.
And now, I shall go make some scones, tend my diminishing garden, fold clothes and do whatever I have to do to live in gratitude.
Because we just never know.
A bit of death is in the air.
August does it to me. Most every year, the month of August brings a sullen, confused time into my life … into my state of mind.
This year, I lasted about a week into August before it really hit me. I am done with summer. Worn out from digging, bending, schlepping, lifting and tending the garden. Even the heat is different.
Yesterday, afternoon, I walked outside to try to get enthusiastic about something. I was hoping to feel the magic of the garden.
I looked around my yard. I walked to the wildflower garden, all spent from heat and exhaustion. Their bright colors had transpired to gray. Their heads, once bonnets of beauty, looked like me when I need to have my hair colored. Their posture was like mine, too. Bent.
The hydrangeas, which had been transplanted this year, and had been warding off the fungus, showed signs of weakness.
After. Few minutes, I walked into the house, noting that their was no air to breathe outside.
The garden had taken a toll on my body. I know, I know, I did it to myself. No one told me to haul bags of pea gravel, lift it and put it around. I didn’t have a gun at my head switch someone saying, dig deep into this clay to land this spires.
No, I was my own garden warden. The vision was strong. The body did most of what was asked. And now, it was revolting, telling me that it was time to rest.
There are times when I dance as fast as I can. I get a project, a vision in my mind and I go for it. I do what it takes for as long as I can.
Even if it involves trips to an orthopedic doctor and MRIs and. Probably, physical therapy.
Last week was also the week before my 6-month mammogram and visit with the surgeon. My first check-up since I was declared cancer free. And I had been cancer-free. Once the surgeon had said those words, after surgery and before radiation, I lived my life free of cancer. I simply went on.
The funny thing about many kinds of cancer is that you feel fine and dandy, even though a group of cells are gathering to form a convention of attackers, often you don’t know it. It is like walking in your yard, as you always do, but this time, you look at the grass and see a copperhead. Yikes. But you get rid of the copperhead and move on, perhaps with a slower speed because you realize that you need to slow down and feel life, or you speed up things because you hear tick-tock, tick-tock.
For me, it wasn’t so much the episode with cancer … it is age. No matter how much I want to believe that age is just a number … for me, it isn’t. It is trying to balance attitude, looks and body. I rarely have them all in sync.
And August is my month when I feel everything shift. It is my of uncertainty, a bit of a foggy head and a sense of loss … ad transition.
I see photos of my grandchildren heading back to school. A couple of days ago, I got a phi tire of my two oldest granddaughters standing by each other. One is a senior and one is a freshman. The senior was going to drive the freshman to high school. I couldn’t help but get misty.
It is so difficult for me to put my arms around the fact that one of my sons will have a daughter in college next year.
I guess that August is a melancholy month for me. The air even shifts. What was simply hot and humid, become stifling. The sounds of outside are different. The nights are loud with a cacophony of insects and their hallelujah chorus. And even now, as I sit on the screens porch, the sounds of insects drone, not allowing silence of any kind.
I tend to craw my way through August, waiting for it to end. If I acknowledge and embrace this weird sense that I feel, I can almost laugh at it. But mostly, I don’t think it is very funny.
The good news is that when September arrives, I have figured out my next chapter. I have let my mind and body regroup. At this moment, I am uncertain about what my next act on life’s stage will be. Will I continue to write and allow people to see some of the workings of my mind and heart, or will I hang that up? What will I do to move my life and thoughts forward? Or do I have to look at life that way?
There is something good that comes out of putting one’s shovel down for a while. Breathing deeply and taking stock. Maybe that is what August is about? Perhaps the discomfort and uncertainty of and uncomfortable feeling of this month is part of the growing process. It is a realization of the seasons. Seasons change. So must I.
But for now, I think I will rest.
PS. Winston feels this way, too.
I can be harsh. I can look at a diseased or dying plant and have it affect me much more deeply than it should.
I can hone in on the problems of the garden and life.
Instead of seeing the whole picture, the beautiful flowers and plants and the birds that arrive with bravado, I look at what needs to be done, size up what needs work.
That is what hit me in the face, yesterday, as I looked at a zinnia whose leaves had gotten some sort of black spot. Yep, I took it personally.
Abut after watching “A Gardener’s World” a lovely show about gardens in England, I walked to my garden and thought, wow, I have done a lot of work and smiled … right before I dug in, and made a new path and began sweating like Shrek in the weather with a 77% dew point.
The mind shift and excitement came back to me as I saw possibility, and put away my stink-eye.
Sixty-six years old, and still have to work on my attitude.
In my life, I have met people who couldn’t figure out how to live. Life was always a problem. Nothing added up. Why can’t I have this, do that, look like …
Accepting things as they were or are, and not going down the path of self-doubt, or feeling angst and defeat is a big part of how one lives a peasant life in a day.
I am slow, but I am learning. I am seeing so much of life, and myself, in my garden.
Dirt that is rampant with fungus. It is there. The world will not end.
The plant that had glorious flowers yesterday, is dragging, today. There is no need to fret.
Weeds are coming up, again, where I thought I had gotten rid of them. Relax.
The hostas don’t like where they are. Move them and get on with your life.
You get the point. It is the same as in so many other areas of my life.
The dough I made didn’t rise properly. That need not be the benchmark for your day.
The 5 gallon pail with all of the birdseed fell over and spilled all over the patio. Shit happens. Smile anyway and laugh. The birds will still come, tomorrow.
Monte, the gardener from England, whose show I watch, made me realize I was being a tad anal about all of this, and that the garden (and life) will have its day, or most likely, a moment, when the flower is perfect, the plant is robust, the dough rose beautifully, and my hair looks pretty decent.
These are but moments in time. You take your mental snapshot and know that it is all going to change because that is how life is.
But to only see the diseased plant or the flower with the gimpy pedals or to think you are a failure because your dough didn’t rise? That is like living in a no-outlet.
And that isn’t how I want to live. I shall, each day, marvel at the flowers and plants and events that make me feel that sense of marvel, wonder, and fulfillment.
This moment is temporary.
And so is life.