Posts tagged “sadness

As she lay sleeping

From one day…so many years ago….

“The sun’s light has faded and gone with its setting more than two hours ago.  The star of stars ended its daily cycle behind our valley’s western mountains as it has done every evening now for what must be the past several million years.  Now, left in the twilight created by the nearly concealed bathroom light around the corner from where I sit, my eyes perceive this bedroom-world in hues of light and dark.  Only gray, black, and lighter gray can be divined by my night-adjusted eyes.  In focusing upon the slowly closing eyes of my little loved-one, they disappear with my concentration, but if I look to either side, I can see them clearly, rather, as clearly as the suffused light will allow.  My baby’s purple dinosaur pajamas are only a darker gray than the blackened, navy sweat-shorts that I am wearing.  She is singing ‘I love you’ in her fifteen-month-old’s dialect as she fights the valiant efforts of the Sandman.  Holding her on my lap, I can smell the fragrance of her baby-shampooed hair, just as she, maybe, can smell the scent of ground weeds and back-yard vegetation that lingers on my hands as I caress her ever soft cheeks and jaw line.  The contest is finished, and that enchanter of sleep, Mr. Sandman, is victor yet again.  His wooings are too much for the protestations of my little one.  She has succumbed to the calling of sleep, where, hopefully, she will rest the night through – so that my bride and I can do the same.  Good night, Fair One.  Sleep well and know that you are loved.”

And from another….

“The Angel sleeps in the lighted room, peacefully unaware that the sun is as bright here as it was in the out-of-doors where she spent the afternoon playing.  Looking at her sleep, I am captured by the essence of a baby completely at rest.  The tiny curls at the back of her neck are slightly wet and somewhat darker than the rest of her not so long crowning glory.  Lying on her belly with the two middle fingers of her left hand motionless now, still from their suckling, she is oblivious to my presence and adoring eyes.  Her feet are bare, thanks to her own playfulness; you know she is proud that she removed the socks, smiling with her eyes almost closed to slits…she sleeps.  Tousled hair and tiny ears adorn her face and perfectly shaped head.  Her right arm is thrown forward and up where it rests on her favorite blanket; miniature lungs cause her little back to rise and fall with sustaining breath; sleep my Little One.  Rest safely for another day.  Sleep at your ease.  When she is gone, my chest will be empty where my heart now beats.  I never knew I could love like this.  I never cherished holding a tiny form as I do now when I hold her.  I was reborn too late.  My soul is miserable for not knowing how to love my own then, as I do her, now.  Those ticks of the clock have ceased even their echoing.  I hope they will forgive me.”

*****

This is a Favorite re-post from March, 2010.

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Under the Cherry Trees

The man stood in the doorway for a moment before grabbing the elongated brass handle to open the door.  He was looking at the house to the west of his and noticed how the image of the lowering sun was about to touch the roofline.  The slate roof seemed to dip in the moment of the sun’s contact, causing the illusion that the weight of the sun was bearing down on the roof, or maybe the roof was molding itself to the shape of the sun to give it a more comfortable resting place at the end of its long day.  The sun was bright, of course, but softened somehow in the closer atmosphere and haze of industry and pollen and life that existed above the horizon’s curving line, so the man stood there with unshielded eyes and continued to watch the sun’s dip into and below the roof line.  He turned away and the golden glow remained in his eyes as he looked through the door’s glass to find his son.  It was time for dinner and the boy was somewhere outside.

The door handle lowered without a sound and the door swung open quietly as the man pushed against it and walked out onto the back patio of the house.  As he passed the mustard-colored and rectangular-shaped charcoal grill, he noticed that it still smelled of burnt sugar from the last time he barbequed ribs.  It had been a couple weeks or more, but the scent still lingered.  The man was barefoot and noticed, too, that the cement of the patio was still warm from the day’s sun, but the grass was cool as he stepped into it and began his search for his son.  The man turned to the left from the patio and looked into the back-yard proper, gazing at the rock-fronted embankments that supported the tiered lawn that rose from the yard up to the street that ran behind his house.  As he walked toward the front of the house that faced the town’s park, he craned his neck to look further into the yard to where the boy liked to play around the young, conical pine trees that resembled miniature Christmas trees when they were dusted or coated with December’s snow.

The evening was peaceful, now that the neighborhood kids had left the park and gone home or wherever after playing soccer for most of the afternoon.  Looking toward the east and over the hills that fronted that side of the town, the man noticed the swallows darting over the park for their evening feeding and play-time.  Overhead, the clouds were pink and orange and white and darkening gray with the falling sun and approaching night.  Further north, he could still see the white line of a plane’s contrail that was still intact even though the plane had been gone for hours…just the singular, lined cloud was left in its passing.  The man didn’t see his son anywhere, not in this side of the yard and not out in the park.  He thought about calling-out for him, but didn’t want to break the quiet by raising his voice or yelling.  Instead, he retraced his steps around the house, passed the back-door patio, and toward the other end of the yard, the side that fronted their street.  The man walked along the low hedge that separated his yard from the neighbor’s and then past the gooseberry bushes and toward the side of the house where he could peek around the corner to see if his son was playing under the cherry trees.  His step was quiet in the cool grass and the moss that grew thinly among the grass where he was, but was thicker under the trees.

Because the sun had completely lowered itself beneath the roofline of the neighbor’s house by now, there was no chance of the man’s son seeing his father’s shadow intrude into his quiet play.  When the man slowly moved his head around the corner, he saw that his son was sitting cross-legged, facing away from him, and leaning forward with his hands busy at some task.  The boy had his tan and green army-men positioned in loose rows and partially hidden in the moss, or situated behind various military vehicles and broken sticks from the trees above him.  He occasionally leaned back or to the right or left to straighten a fallen man or to move a truck closer to the grouped men, enacting some strategy or maneuver of protection or attack.  The boy even rolled a golf-ball or lightly tossed a shiny, black cherry in the direction of the men, imagining that they were rockets or some other projectile, sometimes knocking over one of the men or coming to rest next to or on top of one of the vehicles, and sometimes not.  With the impact of the cherries or golf ball, the boy made his eleven year-old’s version of a soft explosion…a hushed “pkshew!” that he thought only he could hear.

The man smiled to himself as he watched and listened to his son.  He saw the purplish-pink stains on the boy’s white t-shirt and imagined the cherry-fight that he had had with his friends earlier in the afternoon…the cherry-fight that he wasn’t supposed to have had.  As the man attempted to kneel down into the moss and grass next to the house, his shorts scraped on the prickly stucco finish on the house and startled his son.  The boy was in mid-reach across his battlefield and gasped and dropped one of his army men as he jerked and turned around to face his father.

The boy’s heart was pounding and his mouth was suddenly dry.  “I didn’t know you were there,” he said.  His mind was racing back through his day, wondering at what he might have done wrong, wondering what little or grand sin had been revealed and was now set to ruin what he thought was an otherwise good day, and wondering why, if he hadn’t done anything wrong, his father was there on the side of the yard looking for him…and getting ready to sit down like he was planning to stay for a while.

“Well, I wasn’t here for very long.  What are you doing?”

The boy tried to swallow.  “Just playing…Army.”

“Weren’t your friends out here earlier?”

“Yes Sir, but they had to leave.”

“Which friends were here?”

“When?”

“You said your friends were here earlier.  Which ones were here?”

The boy looked across the gravel and grass driveway and out into the park where the swallows were still darting around.  He saw a couple boys at the water fountain at the far side of the park.  “I…don’t know,” he stammered.  “I don’t remember.”

“But they were just here,” the man said, “who were they?  You’re not in trouble, Stephan, I’m just asking which friends were here.”

“Hansi and Martin.”

“Isn’t Hansi’s father the butcher?”

“I don’t know.  I think so…maybe.”

“Isn’t he one of those older boys that you were playing with in the spring and got into trouble with?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t remember,” the father said, “when you guys stole the bratwurst and then went off into the woods and cooked it?  You don’t remember that?”

“No Sir.”

“What?”

“Yes Sir…I…think I remember.”

“Wasn’t Hansi one of those older boys?”

The boys had moved from the water fountain and were now kicking a soccer ball out on the field at the park.  “I don’t know.”

The man sat down in the grass and moss and leaned against the house.  “Stephan…look at me.  You’re not in trouble…we’re just talking…ok?  You can answer me,” said the man.  “Look…here,” he said, pointing to his eyes.  “You’re ok.”

The boy turned his head from watching the boys with the soccer ball and met his father’s eyes.  He didn’t answer him immediately, but just looked at him.  This was unusual for him; the boy…he felt odd, bold somehow…maybe even brave.  His father’s manner and voice were unsettling.  There was none of the harshness or sarcasm that he was used to…and his eyes didn’t look angry.  It looked like his father was really just asking him a question…not investigating an offense.

“Augie’s father is the butcher,” said the boy, “but Hansi was part of the group that did that, yes Sir.”

“Is that Hansi out there playing soccer?”

The boy looked at the two other boys out on the field for a couple seconds and then turned again to his father.  “No Sir.  Hansi had to go home.  He said it was almost getting dark and he had to go in for dinner.”

“Oh, ok.”

“Why?”

“Why what?” said the man.

“Why’d you want to know if that’s Hansi out there playing soccer?”

“Nothing, Stephan.  I was just asking…nothing.  Relax, would you?  And stop calling me ‘Sir.’”

The boy looked at his father’s hands for a couple seconds and then moved up to meet his eyes.  The eyes were still dark brown and still set deep into his father’s head, but the prominent brow-ridge seemed less severe as his eye-brows were raised in a gentle and almost inquisitive arch.

“What?  Just call me ‘Dad’ now.  Say ‘Yes Dad,’ not ‘Yes Sir.’  That seems wrong somehow.”

“Dad?”

“Yes.”

“Can I ask you something and not get in trouble?”

“Yes…ask or say anything you want.”

The boy just looked at him.

“I’m serious…really…anything…you won’t get in trouble.”

“What happened to you in the wreck?  I know you broke a couple ribs, but what happened…you know…inside your head?  Mom said it went through the front window, right?”

The man looked at his son…intently, gently…and picked a tuft of moss from the ground.  He moved his eyes to the moss and then asked, “What do you mean, ‘What happened in my head?’”

“You’re not like you used to be,” said the boy, looking past his father, but still watching him, trying to sense if he was going too far.  “You’re different.”

“Almost dying in the wreck like that made me think about my life; it made me think about how I was treating people…how I treated you and your mom…and I decided that I needed to be different.”

The boy looked out into the park again.  He didn’t want his father to see the tears that were starting to spill from his eyes.  “Just like that…you ‘decided’ that you needed to be different?”

The man looked down and watched his fingers as they slowly tore the moss apart and let it drop back into the grass.  “I guess so.  When I was laying there in the hospital with my neck in that brace and my face all bandaged-up and tubes sticking out of my lungs, I thought about how lucky I was that my heart was still beating and that I wasn’t hurt as bad as I could have been considering what I had been through.  It almost seemed like I was being given a second chance or something, you know…somehow…maybe…to do things right…if that’s possible.”

The boy turned back and looked toward his father, not meeting his eyes exactly, but looking through him at some point directly behind his head.  “If you could just decide that you needed to be different when you were laying there in the hospital, why couldn’t you have decided a long time ago that you would be different…why didn’t you decide when I was a littler kid that you weren’t going to be so mean…that you could talk to me instead of hitting me, or that I could talk to you like you were just my dad and not some…kind…of…whatever you’ve been?”

“I don’t know, Stephan.  I guess it took me almost dying to realize how much I love you…I don’t know.”

“Oh.  Well, that’s when I figured out that I don’t love you,” said the boy, “when you were in the hospital almost dying.  I always thought I did, or wanted to, maybe.  I thought that if I loved you more you’d be nicer to me, but it didn’t work.  So when Mom told me that you might die, I was hoping you would, because I knew I wouldn’t have to try to love you anymore.  It would be ok that I didn’t…and now you’re not dead and I still don’t love you.”

The man turned his eyes to watch the neighbor drive past in his blue Saab.  He followed the car until it stopped at the water fountain by the corner of the park and then turned down the hill where it disappeared behind the Vivo store on the opposite corner.  Then he turned slightly in the other direction and watched the kids chasing each other and kicking the soccer ball for a few seconds.  Finally, he looked back at his son and said, “Wow…I don’t know what to do with that, Stephan.”

“I don’t either,” said the boy as he reached for one of his army men.

“I guess I’ll have to work on that, won’t I?  Give you a reason to love me?”

The boy pulled a handful of moss and began to gently tear it apart and lay the pieces across his army trucks, camouflaging them against the enemy that was lined-up behind the moss and grass berm that he had built close to the trunk of the nearest tree.  He then absently grabbed a cherry from the ground and slipped it into his mouth.  He bit down on the sweet flesh and then used his tongue to separate the seed as he slowly chewed and swallowed the tiny fruit.

“Stephan?  I said I’ll have to work on that, won’t I?”

“I don’t know.”

The man slowly stood and then leaned over to stretch his legs that had been folded under him while he sat and talked with his son.  He said “Ok,” and then turned to walk back around the corner of the house.  After a couple steps, he turned around and leaned down so he could see his son better under the cherry trees.  “You need to come in now.  The streetlights are coming on and it’s time to eat.”

“I’m not hungry.”

The man raised his voice a little – “Stephan, I said you need to come in.”

“Yes Sir.”

*****

This is a Favorite re-post from May, 2010.


One year already….

I took an unplanned hike this morning, on an unplanned day off in the middle of the week.  As chance would have it, I found myself on the trail that I first hiked when visiting the Salt Lake area in preparation for my move from Phoenix.

I have hiked sections of this particular trail about six or seven times in the past year, and only twice now from start to finish.  Shortly after crossing one of the trail’s bridges, it dawned on me that I haven’t been to this specific section since I was up here locating the apartment where I would stay until my family arrived a few months later.

There was an odd recollection-quality to being there again, remembering my excitement (and fear) at the coming relocation, my physically being out in the woods and along a rushing stream again for the first time in decades with all my senses noting the sights and sounds and scents of being out there…and the notion of standing on the ledge of time and change and wondering what the next step would hold for me and my family.

The past year has, more than anything else (of course) been one of incredible change and adjustment and prioritizing of resources, time, and emotions.  We’ve cried happy and bitter and sad tears, and mourned the losses of a familiar life and loved ones and have hoped incredibly for normalcy in all of the realms of our lives where we’ve missed it, both individually and collectively.

We have also longed to sit again among our entire family on the weekends like we used to do, and to spend our weekdays with and among our long-time and beloved friends and coworkers whose absence still aches in our hearts after all this time.

And yes, we have considered, too, what life would be like if we could roll back time and return to that old and familiar place, to have never left…or to even return to it now, afresh, after being gone for this single and elapsed year…we have wondered so, and have measured our past against our present and our still hoped-for future and we still wonder if it was the right thing to do, while telling ourselves that it was.

And so there I was again, walking under the familiar and green canopy of beautiful trees, smelling  the natural and alluring perfumes of forest mulch and wild flowers and grasses riding the cool mountain breezes and listening to the accompanying and ever rumbling stream that was sometimes loud and close and other times quieter and removed, but ever-present, depending on the trail’s nearness to that peaceful and natural water-feature.

I was there, looking for distraction and peace and comfort after a crazy and sad month, hoping for a calm to return, hoping that what my senses experienced on the hike would remove images and texted sentiments and echoes of angry and sad words from my rambling and disjointed mind…hoping again for peace to be restored…and my hopes were answered, in this sense.  Peace did come and quiet a portion of the unquiet things in my mind…it was a good hike.

I know I have posted similar pictures many times over the past year, but these images, these snapshots of our local and  natural beauty are just too good not to share again, in my thinking anyway.

Yes, it’s been a year, and while I still miss my old friends incredibly, miss having them as constants in my every-day…I’m still loving it here.  I hope you enjoy the pictures….


I don’t know what it’s called…

…but there’s definitely a “something” that I feel when leaving the forest and hills and trails on my weekend outings.  I would offer that it’s almost a tangible sadness, but that’s not precise enough, I don’t think.  There is a…I don’t know, maybe a separation occurring somewhere in my soul, my core, a literal leaving of something that speaks deeper than words, that moves, maybe, in a way that simply cannot be defined.  For the hours that I’m out there, the notion is essentially absent, I’m not worrying about leaving, not preoccupied with the loss that is around the eventual next ridge or hillside, I’m not thinking about it at all…but when that last draw has been passed or the last canyon crossed, or when I’ve come to the place in those long upward trails where my body is not responding to my mind’s bidding and jamming up the slopes with as much fervor as it did those hours ago and I decide that it’s time to rest for a bit and then turn around and head back, within that instant, or in one of the several that shortly follow that one, the sensation of a coming loss becomes real and my heart and mind know that all of the things I have so loved for the last however many hours will be shoved away for another week or so until I am out there again.  And no, it’s not that I “have” to go home…I am not dreading my return to family life and work and responsibilities and whatever else.  That’s not it at all.  I love and enjoy my family and my life and home and work and all of that…I’m not dreading what I am returning to, I’m immediately missing what I am in the act of leaving.  Yes, I am attached to those in my life whom I love…but I’m strangely attached, too, to whatever it is in those forests and hills, as well…those crazy-tall mountains that fill the eastern horizon with their canyons and draws and the rugged rocks and crags that adorn the mountain-sides, all the varieties of trees and bushes and groundcovers, the moss on the rocks and scrub oak, even the fallen and decaying leaves with their smell of sweet rot and life, mingling with the perfumes of new buds and leaves and spring flowers that brave the cold and wind on their bare hillside homes.  I don’t know what it is, really, but it’s something…it’s something that I’m attached to and I feel a genuine separation and loss when it’s time to leave.  Maybe it’s like leaving the peace and quiet of a beautiful sanctuary or temple and returning to a loud and profane world of city and cars and signs and electrical poles and streets and sidewalks and airplanes….  Whatever it is that draws me out there, I start to miss it before I’m gone.


The Pedestrian Bridge

I wandered out of my neighborhood proper this evening for my regular walk, out of the familiar realm and into another, past the new-ish houses that line and dot the area and into the older parts, the more ancient, if that is not too exaggerated of a word for the homes and hearths that rest and belong in this other area.  I walked past houses with fireplaces lit and burning and the myriad smells of different woods burned and smoking and was cast back into my childhood with the smoky meat and sausages of German towns and cobbled streets and gutters, wood-burning stoves lit and burning and casting their familiar aromas into those long-ago icy nights, snowflakes falling past slated roofs and through the beams of yellowed street lights.  I was there in moments and out again as I beheld the gorgeous and modern houses that lined other streets, an elementary school with the shining SUVs and minivans leaving the parking lot with raised and lifted and monstrously-tired trucks as they left the evening conferences or whatever, pulled out of the parking lot and made their way and ways to their various houses…anyway, down those dimly lit roads that went to those other neighborhoods, not mine, but away. 

I walked those miles and then, and came to the cemented ribbons of commerce and travel, that freeway beltway that circles the town and valley.  On this side is the neighborhood, on the other are the stores and restaurants filled with people spending their time and money doing whatever it is they’re doing, shopping and eating and being and not wondering at what I was doing out there on the middle of the pedestrian-bridge those twenty-some and thirty feet above the freeway looking down at the passing cars and trucks and minivans, some of which might have just left the evening’s activities at a local elementary school, some of which might be passing homeward, so late, from their working days, or heading back, or to work as I stood there and looked at them passing so.  My gloved hands slid their fingers through the chain link arched fence that covered the bridge and hung loosely there as those semi trucks and full and midsized pickup trucks and whatnot sped along. 

I wondered at peace and how it could be found there, wondered if it was there, not just there to be found, but could it be there, suspended so high above those cemented passageways, four and six lanes heading their separate ways, four and six lanes times east and west, so eight and twelve lanes in their coming and going.  Would it be possible to sit there above the traffic, suspended there above those passing vehicles and people, and have the hum of tires and motors become a relaxing and whitened noise that might calm a troubled soul?  Standing there in that odd place, that suspended place that caused my steady soul to wonder at the fastness of the cement pillars and pilings, the metal rods that must be deep inside those cemented somethings, and the architectural skills and engineering genius that must have been utilized to allow for sway and movement and the natural jostling of wind and the shifting of potential liquefaction of the substrate and the contracting and expanding of freezing and warming concrete in their seasons and other things…it did wonder, my steady soul. 

It wondered, too, at the darkness that must reside, I would say live, but that would seem to involve an effort to do so, to live, that is, but to reside could be equated to existing and that, it would seem, might not take too much effort…but I wondered, anyway, at the darkness that must reside in the hearts of other people, in their souls maybe, such seemingly impenetrable blackness that would cause them to join me on this midair walkway and look for ways to violate and pass-through the chain-link and then hurl themselves onto those concrete ribbons and under all of those passing vehicles that I mentioned and didn’t, just above in those earlier lines. 

My mind wandered back, too, to an earlier life and an earlier occupation that was occupied, was occupied, indeed, so to speak, with concerns, with others’ concerns and our own concerns, mine and my co-workers, with those troubled souls and darkened hearts that found themselves up on those suspended places over the rushing traffic.  I wondered how they could have come to that place in their lives, and so near their deaths, that they sought the heights so they could soar up and out from their own inner depths and fly and fall into a light that meant release from so many torments.  I wondered what happened to that last loved one or friend, the last one of either, whose patience ran out, whose loving words finally failed that other one on the pedestrian-bridge.  Were they scorned by lover or friend, by their oldest child or youngest child or their mate of one or two years, of two or three decades, or was it failing health or lost dreams or used-to-be’s?  What did they lose…to find themselves there?  It could be anything, I suppose…or everything, too.  Their equilibrium, purpose, drive, meaning, orientation, world-view, or whatever…they might suddenly be in a place where nothing makes sense, where things aren’t where they used to be, where even the light is different than it’s supposed to be in their world, or in the place in their world that they used to occupy, maybe.   Maybe if their shoes were on my feet, maybe, I might understand more than I do or can, maybe I would understand what it’s like to be them, if I could understand such a thing, but I don’t know.  I didn’t walk in their steps, didn’t share their heartbeats, didn’t lay my head on a pillow next to theirs at night, maybe, or didn’t lose what they lost, or suffer the abuses from monsters’ hands like they did, or might have…I didn’t feel those things, maybe I didn’t, so I can only try to understand, as I might. 

So, I wondered about all of that and some, and more, as I stood there and listened to those tires and motors speed away from beyond and beneath me as I looked eastward in the darkened night and beheld the lighted forms of the mountains sitting there and understood and knew that they offered perspective to some people’s lives, but not others, that some problems are bigger even than mountains, or seem to be, and therefore are, and that comfort and peace might only come to some at the end of a brief flight from a pedestrian-bridge.  Not my personal choice, mind you, and nothing that I condone…but I do understand…in as much as I am able.


Don’t use that name

Years ago I found stories in the everyday lives of the people who populated mine, those from my workplace, especially, and sometimes, and still, with my family.  In those years of the past, the situations and lives of my clients easily became the foundation or the substance of the stories and recollections that I put into stories and musings.  Yes, I changed the names, always, but the things and events that I shared were straight from their lives.  I would change some things, as is my license when I’m the writer; I would add to or delete from what they had told me, as sometimes the truth was too raw…other times I made the truth a touch stronger so that it would bite harder when it was read, so that it would cause us to think more, you and me both, about our own lives and the importance of the people we love and the things we take so for granted in our own little orbits around the sun. 

I have recently returned to the first “former occupation” that lived so vividly in my earlier writings.  When they say that you can never go home again, this seems to be true in this instance as well.  Things are different than they used to be.  The grass isn’t greener, by far, over here, but it is still good and the rewards are similar to what they were in the past.  Some notable differences, though, come in the level to which I am able to participate in the lives of my clients and the other categories of people who used to fill my work life as I did what I did in the health department context.  Most of my experiences and involvement with people are now over the phone, similar to when I worked with 9-1-1.  I participated in the callers’ lives over the phone, I was witness to their tragedies as they played-out through the headset, I typed the facts as I obtained them, or as they were hurled at me through the technology of a cell phone or land-line that was so utilized to request our certain brand of help.  And today, or now, again, with this health department, it’s back on the phone.  Most of the interviews with my clients/patients are conducted on the phone.  I do, occasionally, as much as I’m able, bring people to the clinic to speak with them face to face, the contacts anyway, if I can’t do so with the original patients, so that I can deal with and participate in the human exchange again.  Yes, I enjoy it being a limited exchange, 20 to 30 minutes of their lives, but face to face, looking into their eyes, watching them try to find the right words to express their concern, or watching them react to the pointed and intimate questions that I must ask them in order to do my job…it’s so much more preferable than doing it over the phone.  I can observe and then respond to the nuances of their half of the conversation, those non-verbal parts that can betray the spoken parts.

And then there are some occasions, very limited ones, thus far, in which I am actually out on and in the street again, traveling, driving the new old streets in this new town and home of mine, seeing people and places for the first time that my daily routines and even weekend wanderings don’t usually allow me to see.  On those few times that I was able to get out there again, I felt an odd familiarity and excitement, almost, at being on strange doorsteps and knocking on those strangers’ doors again, watching and wondering at their reactions, or wondering if they’re going to answer the door in the middle of a late afternoon snowstorm for whoever might be knocking or ringing the bell after I’ve already seen them walk past the window or move the curtain after I parked in front of their house.  I haven’t been out and walking up and down dusty alleyways or sitting at a picnic table in the park, watching a dominos game while asking about whoever knows whomever yet, but that day may be here again, someday…maybe…maybe not.

At any rate, I’m back inside the stories again, on a vastly different plane, but still there, listening sometimes to the confusion, marveling with them as the light comes on or as the blinds are pulled-up on what they had been told, and hearing that “Aha!” moment come through over the phone or in person as they’re learning the truth about how they got that particular infection, etc.  Back inside the stories…not on the 9-1-1 phones again, not on the radio where the cop-talk became a way of life, but back inside the stories where intimacy got defiled, or germy, anyway, and sometimes watching the eyes as realization comes, or as truth is rearranged or lost in the speaking of a few words.

Another thing that’s different and a concern of mine/ours, in this recent time, this current working with the health department that I do, is that of confidentiality.  Yes, the concern was there in the past, those 10 and 20 years ago in which I did this same work, but it seems that the emphasis then was upon medical information and names, not necessarily the stories and the content of those lives.  At least that’s how I remember it anyway.  And today, this day and yesterday and the literal tomorrows of my work here, all of that information is confidential, somehow, especially in print.  Their step into the clinic and the color of their car and the big tree under which it was parked in their neighborhood home and the 20 weeks at which they lost their baby and the husband or wife or boyfriend who cheated on the patient and the other, and whatever, those things aren’t mine to share…as much as I’d like to in some of their various forms, their disguised forms, their interesting stories and then, they’re not mine, somehow.  I can almost hear a voice inside myself saying “Don’t use that name.  Don’t say it aloud.  Don’t spell it while you’re doodling and sitting on hold.  Don’t whisper it as you’re typing your notes.  Don’t think it as you’re driving home, and don’t say it in the echoes of your imagination, not even in a conversation within your hidden self.  It belongs to someone else in a different place, in a different life, and it ceases to exist in yours once you’re done doing what you do with it.  If you remember it later, you had better forget it just as quickly.  If your pen starts to write it down, you’d better put it away.  When you dream at night or in the middle of the day, that beautiful name had better stay gone from your thoughts and reflections.  In all of your remembering, remember that it’s not yours.  When your heart cries with your mind in knowing why you know it, when that ache transcends reason and thought, your bones had better remember what will happen if you don’t forget it.  It’s not your name, so leave it alone.  Years might pass and places change and the context of your rotating around the sun might be different or the same…and you might start reflecting on life and your trod steps and the people you have known.  You might remember the faces of those who peopled your earlier lives in those earlier places and those other worlds, but when you start to recall their names and the places and contexts in which you knew them, you’d better remember to forget some of them.  If your self fails and your resolve dwindles or your heart still aches too much to ignore, you’d better change the frame, the context, the situation, the details, the heartbeats, the coursing blood, and the number of stairs that led to the place where you knew it.  You’d best make it so different that nothing is the same, not even the smell or the taste of the memory that resides in your cells.  Don’t use that name…it isn’t yours.” 

Anyway, if I tell stories here, they aren’t true…but they’re not made-up either.


This New Place Called “Home”

In contemplating this wondrous place, I thought of the many things that might be the same or different from the places I’ve been before, the places where I’ve lived and dreamed, stumbled into happiness or fought against raging rivers of sadness or woe, where I considered the options when evaluating mistakes and misfortunes, wrong turns and stupid decisions and thoughtless acts…I pondered those places of hearth and home, those comforting domiciles, living arrangements, quarters, and other stopping places along the way where my life has become what it was and is, those sundry places filled with memories of tender smiles and belly-laughs from little ones and big alike, where that first picture of that first three-month-old has become several walls and picture-walls of photos and portraits and captured moments of these and our many lives, where the echoes of celebrations and sounds of sadness mix and mingle like tasty and alluring aromas from the kitchens of our minds where peace and harmony become one with the rest of life and cause us to know that it’s going to be ok, whatever comes, because we have each other and we live and love and that’s what matters.

I also thought about the view on my way home from work yesterday as I looked eastward toward the mountains and couldn’t find them because of the foggy inversion substance that covered the sky, that blocked-out in its whiteness anything that might be beyond some hundreds of yards.  I looked up and out to where the mountains used to be and found the blanket of white extending to the gone place, so I looked higher to where they could be and found them there, yes, above the mist of commerce and progress and upside-down air-streams.  I found that the milky white yielded in the up-above to allow a vision from a different world where other planets exist just beyond our reach and where sister moons adorn the heavens in their orbit above us.  These and my mountain tops were revealed in their peachy glow from the setting sun, through that vapor below; they were their own white and rocky selves sitting and suspended in the white nothingness, hanging there rich and immense and like little else that has existed in my life.  Mountains have been there, yes, in childhood and young adulthood alike, but many years ago and rarely with the immediacy and full presence as these are in their heights and wonder.

This place has become a mix of many things and an absence of others.  We are two families from one that now live together and see each other in a constant weekend visit and continuous marvel that it is so.  There are many dishes in the sink and different foods in the fridge, four (or three) cars in the driveway and many pairs of shoes about.  Tiny footsteps mix with older foot-stomps and dog toes and nails and slippered feet that slide and move about the dark wood floors and lead us and each other around the chilled and warmed and windowed house that is home with its ice-cold tap water and scalding hot, hot water that is there immediately to warm icy fingers and digs deep into the muscles and bones in a morning shower or “hot bath” that soothes a certain trembling soul.  The holidays brought a pan or pot of desert cacti to bless the shared home office of a little one and his mom, calming a sad memory of a place that was and is in the used to be, a place that jumped onto the TV screen as we watched Forrest run-ning, that deserted and desert-ed place that somehow pulled on the heart-strings of that same cactus-loving little one, tarnishing an otherwise happy few hours…as life is life and sometimes sadly borne…but happy now on the following morning as he watches his cars racing through an animated image of the same place and then, his joy speaking loudly in the quiet house, full of glee and happiness, and that’s how it is right now.

I dreamed the other night of my return to that former place, plugged-in and along-side those who used to be in my charge.  We laughed at how little I remembered and knew, marveled at how slow my fingers had become in typing into the screen those letters and numbers and words that would send help on its way.  They thought it was funny that I had returned, funny that I was with them and there again, and funny that I was down from the pod, that elevated place where commands were given, where eyes watched and ears listened to the goings-on from the phones and radios and people who worked them and do.  It was funny and light and strangely comforting, and when I awoke I wondered at what had happened to make it so.  There was a big empty space between what happened and then, no indication as to what had caused the return from here to there, from this life to that life, from these mountains to that desert-place, and from now to then.  It was a dream, of course, but from whence did it come, which part of my psyche spoke loudest in that sleeping place…hope or despair…longing and sadness, expectation of what might come…or simply missing that and those in the familiar?  I know where my heart is, but it has many places within it, many places that are touched and can be touched by those other loved and loving ones who live in this tender place, this home in home, this wondrous surround that is marked by adjustment, realignment, compromise, the unknown, and hope. 

That precious one, my precious one, told me the other day, that two times in that day, not once but twice, she felt that she was home.  She felt that the rooms were hers and this place in its place was what she wanted and where she wanted to be; it was an emotion and sensation that was fleeting and strange, yet welcome to her mourning soul, her saddened spirit, that longing heart that wanted to return to that former place in that earlier time, that place where the place was comforting and dear, even in its discomfort and un-ease, simply and only because it was that home-place and familiar, that spot in her physical existence where she had been for so long that it was natural and right to belong and long to be there…even though she had wanted to leave for so many reasons, so many reasons that are still real and valid and real and important and immediate and then, yes, and conflicted in emotion and want, desiring the place and the time of the past for what it held, while wanting the place and time of the present and future for the hope that it holds, for the hope that it holds.  She said that, then, my precious one.

So this new place called Home is and is becoming that sacred place and sanctuary, that harbor in the storm of life where we lash ourselves to the docks of security while we replenish our supplies of strength and endurance for what lies ahead, those things that come without our bidding and assail us so, and bind us tighter to those we know and love and with whom we weather those storms when back out on those seas and tempest tossed…and here we are…in this new place called Home.


Eleven Miles from Somewhere

Yesterday morning, on my drive home from the store where I had just purchased the week’s food and other household supplies, I was looking at the neighborhoods I passed and at the smoke and steam coming from roof-top chimneys and vent pipes.  I also caught sight, through and beyond the clouds, of parts and pieces of the white and enormous mountains that line our eastern horizon.  It was and is still amazing and weird and wonderful to find myself in this place in the middle hours of this last day of the year, in a place so new and strange and removed from where I was last year.  As I drove those snow-lined streets back to our neighborhood proper, I happened to notice a mile-marker sign that was posted along the road.  It said “Mile 11.”  Now, I am familiar with state highways and roads that leave their freeway confines and become or pass along the same route as a city street, like US Highway 60 in Arizona that becomes or passes-along on Grand Avenue, bisecting the Valley of the Sun to take travelers on their way to Wickenburg or beyond, and I know of US Highway 89 that takes us from Flagstaff to Page, and to Kanab and Panguitch, and then marks a parallel course to I-15 as it leads north to Provo and Salt Lake, eventually becoming State Street that runs the central length of our city, but I was not familiar with any such state route or US highway that had turned into 700 East as it made its course through the city.

Seeing the sign made me wonder about the eleven miles that had passed on the other side of that mile marker and how many other miles existed in the opposite and other direction, whatever and whichever way that actually was.  It struck me as odd, too, and maybe allegorical even, in the processing of what yesterday was and what today is in the marking of time in a year and this present time or era or segment of my life and my family’s lives in this time of crazy and dramatic change.  We’ve come to this station and place in our lives, taken such drastic steps to find ourselves in a new state and locale, and work and living and natural environment and our heads and hearts and sometimes emotions are spinning and wondering and looking for something familiar to grasp and hold-on to as we attempt to regain our balance and direction.  And here we are then, eleven miles from somewhere, remembering and thinking about the past and wondering about the future, holding-on to each other, leaning against one another in our little relocated family, awaiting the arrival of others and missing those who won’t or cannot join us…and our friends, of course, we remember and miss them too, those precious ones who, even from outside the circle of our family and intimates, loved us and brought us joy and companionship for the past twenty years and more.

So it’s not only us, but you, too, and then, who on this first day of a new year are eleven miles from somewhere.  Where are you going, what are you doing, how are you, and we, too, going to measure this year when it’s gone, like we’ve done to the one that is just passed and passing?


A Christmas Letter to a Friend…or Two….

As I sit here in this enchanted place that filled my dreams in my yesterdays and look around at what has become the reality of my everyday, at the white covered mountains and winter-bare trees, I reflect upon the things that I wrote in this season of the past year and marvel at what has changed and what has remained the same.  I am thinking, too, of the friends that I spoke to in “Yes, I Spoke of You,” those noble and precious people who peopled my past and still live in my memories as I live in this new and present place.

When I read those writings from this time last year, I reflect on the workplace happenings of the holidays in “Postscript to a 9-1-1 Christmas.”  It’s crazy, now, how my Christmas and this season are so different than they were last year.  Instead of participating with my friends and co-workers in that Christmas morning banquet as we and they answered the call, I am sitting at home with part of my family, part only, as those friends are away from theirs for a bit, taking care of their citizen callers and officers for a shift of so many hours and then.  They are writing more workplace holiday memories into the stories of their lives as I sit on the outside and remember what used to be.

There won’t be any or many Christmas cards sent from our house to yours this year.  Life is still busy and crazy and boxes remain unpacked in their various places throughout the house as we’re trying to reassemble our uprooted lives and find places for those pictures and things that bring comfort to our hearts and souls when that need is real and upon us.  Not many cards sent, but friendly faces and friendships remembered in this faraway place, those intangible tokens of an enjoyed and lived life.

So I wish you all happiness and peace in this holiday season, and I thank you again, as I have thanked you before, for creating those new worlds within me that are our paths walked together, the stories we’ve shared and lived in our workaday lives, and the experiences that have bound us together as friends.  I thank you all.


The Present

The notes dropped softly into the quiet air of the darkened room, falling easily like thick snowflakes on a wintry and wood-smokey night.  They slid sometimes in icy wonder up the scales and tinkled down again and pattered along the floor like a baby’s footsteps as he’s learning to walk, all wobbly-legged and unsure, patting his bare toes in sprinkled notes and laughs of fancy and then.  They remind the man of a music box that used to sit on the shelf in other babies’ rooms in days and nights of a past that is thin and fleeting.  Cars and cars pass and the furnace clicks on and a smell of warm dust and human dander swirls against the cold walls as another tune steps from the stereo and moves him further along and into the night.  The muted lights from something moving on the quiet television that glow through his closed eyelids make him wonder for a second why it’s on, but then it doesn’t matter…as the notes keep rising and falling like a tiny heartbeat.  A tiny heartbeat that is just below the other notes and endures with its tender strength and doesn’t go away even when the music ends, that one little note that lay underneath and within and kept on with its steady, un-fading ping ping ping ping, and then, that heartbeat.  There is an Indian running swiftly in tinkling notes of raindrops and teardrops of gentle cadence, a rushing of golden tango-notes like freckles falling on a fair and tender face, and a person dining alone in a happy sadness that isn’t sad, with a movement and sway that comforts and soothes in its quietude. They are notes in their touching caress and the passing of the minutes and hours of a night that lure the man into a wakeful sleep where his heart beats slow and calm and there is nothing else, just the song.


I’ve seen you before….

I saw your face and thought of a name, but was it yours, I wondered, and couldn’t say for sure.  Was it at work, in the clinic, in front of the vet, or down the road at the gas-station, the gym, or…?  I know, I remember now…it was when you were getting out of your car that day with your little ones in the grocery store parking lot and I hesitated before pulling into the spot next to you because your kids were standing there with big eyes looking at the car, my car, that was coming at them.  I just sat there in my patience and waited for you to grab their hands or usher them in some other way out of “my” spot.  You looked up and glared at me and angrily waved at me to drive on in.  I still waited, as I do, for you to get the little ones’ hands, to offer them your security, that sense of “Daddy’s got you, so it’s ok” before in continued in with my car.  You were swearing at me when I finally parked and you were walking away, little ones in tow.  As my car alarm beeped in my leaving, your words of “What the fuck are you looking at?!” bounced into my ears and around in my head and I couldn’t imagine “what the fuck” you were talking about.  I shouted “Hey!” and you yelled “What, bitch?!” and I said “I was waiting for your little ones to move.”  You suggested that I “stop being such a fucking idiot and park your goddamned car” as your little ones’ eyes went from you to me as they were being tugged bodily up through the asphalted parking lot and into the store where the air-curtain above the door wooshed and splayed at their hair and yours and mine as I followed, not following, per se, just going in the same direction.

And it’s you I see again one day, inside of another store, with you waiting in line for the lady to ring-up your stuff and me walking past to go into another aisle.  Your kids aren’t with you and we, consequently, have nothing to talk about, but you see me and I see you and I remember very clearly where I know you from.  I see you looking after me as I turn into the aisle and my face is calm and your brow is furrowed.  “Where do I know you from?” you’re wondering, maybe, as you were wondering, still, when I left the opening to the aisle and was gone again.

Today, literally, these years later, I still see your little ones’ eyes.  Their tiny, large brown eyes looking at me through long and curly lashes and framed with clean black hair.  I see them looking at me behind the windshield and then walking through the parking lot, seemingly at and after them and I wonder at their wondering.  I see them looking up at you and your full brown angry face and silver black hair, first one and then the other, and then back at me.  I see their little arms tugged in their tiny t-shirts as you hauled them out of the parking spot and across the lot and into the store.  I see them still.


Violation….

We get into our habits and routines and go about our lives in the steps and ways that become familiar to us and comfortable in their sameness, or we live differently and make chance and opportunity exciting, grabbing at anything different and charging full-steam toward that unknown end, relishing in the adrenaline of “what if” and laughing all the way to the inevitable end with whatever conclusion comes, made by our hands or not.  We might find peace for our souls in that raging unknown, the unpredictable change or risk that we embrace in our fullness to invigorate our modern selves and lives…throw us into the wild and unknown to make us know that we’re alive…make the ledge we’re standing on give way beneath us and drop us those several yards or meters with our hearts hanging and nerves tingling in anticipation of what’s going to happen when we hit the ground again, and when we’re finally there intact and whole, we can look back up to where we’ve fallen from and have all of our senses awake and alert and buzzing with that rush of living, of being alive in that moment.

And then sometimes our habits and routines become too known, or at least observed enough by shadowed opportunists who contemplate our rhythms and mark us as prey, knowing when we’re here or gone, home or away, and how we go and return, on foot or bike or in a bronzed-colored four-door returning at this and that time, at night when the lights are out and the sun has fallen in its course or in the graying dawn when it’s rising again from its sleeping….

A few years ago, and in the second week of October, I returned from an evening class at the university to find the screen from the front window of my house propped-up against the outside wall next to the front door.  I had never seen the screen in that location before, and in that immediate rush of thought and memory and consideration of the screen in that unusual spot, I knew that I hadn’t left it there and that nobody else was living in the house at the time who might have done so either.  My wife and kids were living out-of-state for a while and it was just the dogs and cats and me residing in our home and house.

I had turned-off all the lights when I left for class some four hours earlier, knowing that my housemates wouldn’t need them.  Why have the lights on when nobody’s there?  Maybe the answer to that is precisely because nobody’s there.  I/we want to give the illusion that someone is actually in that sacred place keeping watch over all that is special and dear and identifying and wrought with the history and histories of the people who live and have lived within those several walls.  We want the boogie-man to understand that it’s not ok to come in right now because we’re actually there, even when we’re not.

I backed-out of the driveway a little bit and then pulled back in at an angle so the headlights of the car would be pointing toward the front door that was tucked into its alcove and darkness.  As I then walked up to the door, I saw that the window whose screen had been removed and placed so neatly against the front wall had been kicked-in…kicked-in and inward and glass lay all about the tile floor of the entry-way and even up the stairs, and I could see that the “security” door was unlocked and opened, as was the front-door proper…the means, of course, of the bad-guys’ exiting the house.  They were too encumbered to step or climb through the broken-out window frame with all of my “stuff” in their hands and arms…actually in my pillowcase and the seat cushion cover from “my” seat.  My heart was pounding and my mind racing as I walked back outside after turning-on the front porch light.  I called that ever familiar “9-1-1” and told the folks that I had just arrived home and found my front window kicked-in and didn’t know if anybody was inside or not.  Those were the key words, I knew, from working where I did and “answering the call” when people called 9-1-1 in the city where I worked.  “I don’t know if anybody is still inside.”  I didn’t hear anything, and given that I had been gone from the house for over three hours, I didn’t know if they had just left or had been gone for hours.  At any rate, my town’s cops were there in less than five minutes, really, and were rather professional, in their way, as they walked their dog through the house (on a leash so he/she/it wouldn’t attack my cats) and then had me walk through with them to identify what was missing or otherwise damaged or out of whack.

Working where I did, I had taken probably a couple hundred calls or more from people who were reporting that their homes or businesses had been burglarized.  The situation itself sucked, listening to someone describe how they felt violated, how they were frustrated that the cops were not going to rush right out there, and then how they felt that someone had stolen more than their property from them.  The people felt and knew that their sense of security was stolen, too.  I suppose, in truth, their “illusion” of security had been stolen.  They were probably never really secure to begin with, but it was comforting to them to think that they had been.  And now the shoe was on the other foot, so to speak.  I had made that call.  I had asked for help.  I had beseeched those armed and uniformed somebodies to come and check my house to see if they could find the bastards still inside who had the gall to break-in and steal those fine and important things that they had stolen.  I wanted my city’s “finest” to loose their dogs on the shit-head who had stolen my illusion of security.  I wanted to hear them clear on the radio and say “Hey Boss, we’ve got to do some paperwork tonight,” which would tell me and their boss and their dispatcher that the dog had found someone inside and taken a bite or two out of him.  That would have been sweet.

So, aside from the two computers and monitors and modems and router and pillowcase and seat cushion cover and DVD player and birth-certificates for myself and my older sons, and the adoption papers for my older daughter, and my and my wife’s marriage certificate, and the savings-bonds for my little one and the CD case with the hundred and more CDs and the intact window…the bad guy or guys also stole my sense of safety in my own house.  Actually, I don’t think I was fearful that they would come back when I was home, but I never drove away without wondering if they were going to come back when I was gone.  Nobody else was going to be living in the house with me and be there during my odd hours away for another ten months or more.  My “stuff” was going to be as vulnerable to being stolen again as it was the day or hour before it was stolen this first time.

I did manage to sleep that night.  After the “emergency board-up” window/glass guy left sometime around midnight and after I had managed to clean-up probably 98% of the glass that had been kicked into the corners and crannies of our furnished living room, my racing heart finally settled and the waning level of adrenaline finally allowed my mind to slow to a calming pace…sleep finally came to my wondering self and brought a needed semblance of rest.

Morning found me walking through the house again looking for what I might find that would help in identifying the person or people who had broken-into my house, my home…our home, my family’s and mine, the sanctuary in which we worshipped and loved the people who were and are dear to us…the hallowed place where we believed we were safe from the evils and uncertainties of the world…that sacred place that had been violated by some unknown person or people who had left behind a single glove in his or their passing.  He took all my stuff and only left me his glove and a sense of being wronged, a sense of wondering each time I drove away, what I would find when I returned, a feeling that hasn’t left me yet…three years later.

The morning light revealed the black smudges of finger-print dust that the cops had left behind after their attempts to find identifying clues as to who had been there when I was gone…black smudges and powder on my bedroom closet door, on the drawers to the filing-cabinet inside the closet, and on the front door in the living room.  It also caught and reflected itself from and in the many tiny shards of window glass that I had missed the previous night.  I found splinters for months, tiny pieces and large, laying under furniture and in the cracks along the baseboards…clear across the living room and under the piano, four and five steps up the staircase in the thick carpet…tiny sharp prisms of who’s been here and gone.

So what then and what now, these few years hence?  I would drive away and wonder, as I do now.  Living in the solitariness that my current situation demands, I know where everything is in my little apartment “home.”  I know when I leave a closet door slightly ajar and remember where I laid the remotes the night before when I turned off the TV.  And I have the serial numbers and model numbers for everything electronic and so labeled with those numbers of identification logged in their special place so that if they’re taken again, I can say which exact one is mine and ours.  The phone calls I took from complaining citizens after I had been in their shoes were slightly different from the ones I had taken before…as I understood in my core what they were going through.  I knew what they meant when they said they felt more wronged by the act and intrusion than they had ever felt before.  I understood the loss of the illusion of their security…their extreme sense of violation, as it was also mine.


Since I’ve Been Gone

In those many orbits around the sun, and the moon around ourselves, in that figment of time and space that we call months and years, and in those days of our passing, in that time that I’ve been gone from that place where I had worked and worked and wondered for other years and gone, things changed and progressed and grew and became other things that someone else had imagined.  Technology and practice and practice became new and better and more precise and less invasive in a personal sense, for some, for those in the practice of this medicine and art and then.  Time has changed some of the occupants, too, of the circles in which and around which the plagues are passed and given and shared and transmitted in knowing and unknowing senses all.  While some advances have been made in several of the related realms, some of the old and tried and true remain and serve as beacons and exemplars of what works and what lives still in our humanity and theirs.  A handshake and an eye-to-eye look of greeting and acceptance or a touch on the arm or shoulder or a shared smiling frown still connects their lives and ours as we mix and meld in our humanity and striving so.  There is the unknown and the fear and the real pain of their physical pain and non-understanding and guilt and shame and glistening eyes and downcast, as they ask questions and await answers as they stare at the lines in the tile on the floor.  No quivering today in that unshaven and rugged chin on that young man, little boy, who described his estrangement from his parents, their disapproval of his life and his mom’s fears for his future and health and physical living.  He spoke of church bonds that are harsh and unforgiving and uncompromising and are tied harder and faster and sharper than a love for a child.  He said, too, that there is a sister of mom or dad who still loves and accepts him and will always be there.  He wonders at what a test result might mean, in that it changes the way even friends look at you.  They don’t joke the same, can’t tease the same way…maybe like stepping on an un-dug grave, so he couldn’t share it with them either.  “You are so young,” I said, “and that is both good and bad.  You believe in your invincibility, still, and in your right to conquer the obstacles in front of you, but you’re not old enough to remember your friends wasting away and dying from what they contracted during the fun and love of an earlier time.  Your brain tells you that the others’ memories are true, but you live in your actions as if they aren’t.”  We think it can’t happen to us, he said, unconsciously squirming at the sensation of what was leaking out of his front and back-sides as he has waited so long to come in for a simpler malady.  He was quick to respond to my call that he’d been exposed and needed treatment.  Whatever he had scheduled was suddenly less important because he now knew and understood that what he had been feeling for weeks and weeks was real and could be ignored no longer.  And so he was there…and so was I.

No radio was in the background and I had no concern for a status-list.  I couldn’t feel a headset cord at my side and there were no black-banded badges or shields on posters on the wall reminding me that it wasn’t how they died that made them heroes, it was how they lived.  My heart wasn’t beating with an anxious pulse waiting and waiting for someone to clear that it was Code-4, it was beating in sympathy and empathy for the distraught young man who sat in front of me who was wondering at test results and the fact that his father hadn’t spoken to him in over three years because of who he loved, yes, both the father and the son, the “he” in their each and solitary selves…and the men they loved.

Many things have remained the same…since I’ve been gone.


Thoughts from Then and Yesterday….

From Then…

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you might remember the posts Daydream, To go Away, The Remove, The Stuff of Life and…maybe not.  I suppose it doesn’t matter, either you’ve read them or you haven’t, either you know me or you don’t, and that probably doesn’t matter either.  Run, run, run away….

Life is moving hard and fast in the direction of great change.  I am on the brink of leaving what I have known for ten and twenty years and starting all over again somewhere else, returning to a slightly familiar place where I will no longer be a visitor and returning to an occupation that I have once loved and hope to fully embrace again.  I will not be a novice this time around, but things will be so different and in such a different place that my experience will only be a foundation for new learning.

The excitement of the past few weeks and the anticipation they held have been tucked under the emotional costs that I will soon pay for making the change.  Rather, the excitement has been tucked under the “realization” or “coming to fullness” in acknowledging that cost, naming the faces that I will be leaving behind for good.  Yes, I will be leaving my spouse and children for a time, but I will see them at intervals over the next few months, and the expectation is only that we’ll be separated for six months at most…but given the realities of life as I leave a part of it behind me and the circuits in which the loved ones travel, there is a strong likelihood that the six months will become only three or four and we will be joined again in our family fullness.  The others, though, the friends and co-workers who have become special over the past years will likely be left behind in those worlds of our collective past where we existed together.  Sure, we’ll see each other on Facebook and in occasional or seasonal emails and cards, but the truth and reality of life will probably dictate that we are going to exist more as memories than participants in our continuing lives.  That is what the past tells me, anyway, those other laps around the proverbial block.

A week or so ago I went to dinner with two old and dear friends from a previous time in my life.  The occasion for the dinner was to have one last get-together before I launched out into that other city and state that will likely be my home until I am no more.  We had a nice couple of hours together, eating chips and enchiladas and drinking beer while we shared new stories from our lives since we parted and recounted memories from our time together.  And when the evening was done and we all drove away in our different directions to our separate sides of town, it struck me that we had already parted.  We had already made that divide of hearts and emotions and this new parting wasn’t sad, which at first struck me as sad in itself, but then just left me feeling a little empty somehow, like maybe anticlimactic, or post-climactic, if that’s an appropriate word.  In truth, I guess that’s what it was.  We had already parted; we had really already said goodbye.  We had shed our tears eleven years earlier when I had first left them in our common workplace and had gone on to my new one.  Even though we met probably half a dozen times or more in these past years, the hurt of the leaving had already been felt, we have already mourned; it’s done already…and it’s time for that whole experience to happen again with another group of people…another group of friends.  We are cutting the cords, the ties that have bound us to each other for these past and passing years.  I suppose I am cutting the cords and ties.  It is my action, again, that is doing this, and then goodbye….  You have peopled my world, tugged on my heart, and will now live on in my memories and occasional contacts.  I miss you already.

In that solitude there will be quiet and pain and the tinkling of only one spoon in the cup, one plate on the table, and only one head on the pillow.  Shared voices will be found only on the telephone or in the crisp letters that travel through space and time and appear on a computer screen in an email at home and back and on the tiny text page of the phone.  The nuances of expression will be gone and nobody else will wake with my stirring.  The sounds of breathing will be my own and the thoughts abounding will all sound familiar.

From Yesterday….

And I am here and finally and up in the great northern place to which I have been yearning for all these months and weeks and days.  I found myself here yesterday afternoon after only four hours’ sleep and about ten hours driving and the wind was blowing and the sky clouded with the salt plumes from the northern part of the landed city.  I was hungry and tired and actually worn-out with what I had just done and I wondered what the hell I had actually done.  I wondered if things were a mistake and I hadn’t even started the adventure.  I’ll correct that…I have begun the adventure, as I have left family and friends and have stepped into the great and wide unknown that is up Here.

The wind has ceased in its craziness and is now just a strong breeze.  The morning was quite chilly as I waited for the guy to arrive and connect the cable and internet services.  I had the door open in waiting for him, along with the windows to create a cross-breeze that would do better at cooling the apartment than the central air-conditioning.  And the day is now in its winding-down stages, coming to an end with only the evening remaining.  My “house” is now as furnished as it needs to be to sustain me for these months, minus a chair-side table to hold my drink or remote, but otherwise, operational and looking something like a home, as it is known in the common sense.

I am feeling further out of sorts in my new surroundings.  “Discombobulated” is a good word, I think.  I know where I am, know why I am here, know where everyone else in my family is, and know when they will be joining me, but even with the familiar things in my little apartment home, the great outside is so different, the apartment is different, there are no pets, no kids, no wife, no backyard and no pool, and no police radio echoing in the background of my mind as I sit here in my late Sunday afternoon.  I am feeling disjointed and un-centered…out of whack, out of sorts, half a bubble off plumb (in my life orientation, not my sanity), and maybe even like a ship without a rudder.  I think that might speak to more serious problems than I really have going for me at the time, but it almost fits.  I feel off.  My bride told me that I should go for a drive or a hike to remind myself of the wonderful things that are here for me despite the aloneness I mentioned to her when we wrote each other earlier.  So I did that…I went for a drive…down to Smith’s…where I had been so off kilter earlier that I left part of my groceries and other items there when I walked out of the store.  I kept going, afterward, of course…drove southward down State Avenue to its end…some two or three towns south of my current home…my home away from home, my new home in transition from my old home…the home that I will call mine until my family gets up here in a few or several months…and then.

And later…I am in that strange and other place now and have left behind those I love and hold dear in different ways.  It is a strange place and kind to my previous desert-dwelling soul, with morning kisses of chilly and promising breezes.  My new home is only temporary, but it is and shall be my lodging and launching point as I head out into the wild beyond that shall nourish and sustain me until loved ones arrive in their time.  There are familiar things here in this new and quiet place: my chair and music and pots and pans, the loving faces on the wall that have followed me and smile into my eyes as they will.

The quiet here is familiar, yet new and thick; there are no voices in the place, no cats to meow; only my thoughts populate these several walls.  I should allow here that there are now voices and sounds, however, but they belong to people I haven’t met or seen; they only walk past my opened windows and talk as they get into the vehicles with the slamming doors and drive away to places I don’t know.  The footsteps and sounds of a bath above me are from strangers, too.  They are not of my children or kin and they exist as sounds only in this new world of my making.

Tomorrow will dawn and direct and urge me into another familiar unknown place and occupation.  It will present new strangers to me and introduce new worlds that are waiting to be born.  Time in its marching, plodding, and shuffling-along will open other doors, reveal new or different pathways, and bring experiences and lessons and stories of different shapes and hues.


On saying “Good-bye”

“Goodbye brothers!  You were a good crowd.  As good a crowd as ever fisted with wild cries the beating canvas with a heavy foresail; or tossing aloft, invisible in the night, gave back yell for yell to a westerly gale.” – Joseph Conrad

“Here lies my past.  Goodbye I have kissed it; Thank you kids.  I wouldn’t have missed it.” – Ogden Nash

“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” – Robert Southey

“Can miles truly separate you from friends….  If you want to be with someone you love, aren’t you already there? – Richard Bach

“Not to understand a treasure’s worth till time has stole away the slightest good, is cause of half the poverty we feel, and makes the world the wilderness it is.” – William Cowper

“Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love.” – George Eliot

“The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected.” – Nicholas Sparks

“You and I will meet again – when we’re least expecting it – one day in some far off place – I will recognize your face – I can’t say goodbye my friend – for you and I will meet again.” – Tom Petty

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go.  Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.” – Flavia Weedn

“As contraries are known by contraries, so is the delight of presence best known by the torments of absence.” – Alcibiades

“Absence diminishes little passions and increases great ones, as the wind extinguishes candles and fans a fire.” – Francois Duc de la Rochefoucauld

“Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” – Kahlil Gibran

“Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.” – Theodor Seuss Geisel

“Sweet is the memory of distant friends!  Like the mellow rays of the parting sun, it falls tenderly, yet sadly, on the heart.” – Washington Irving

“If I had a single flower for every time I think of you, I could walk forever in my garden.” – Claudia Ghandi

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard to do.” – Carol Sobieski & Thomas Meehan


Another Last….

From a couple months ago….

Another marker of time has passed; another milestone achieved; this one was known and anticipated, looked-for and then, but some have come and gone without our noticing.  Some have become significant only upon reflection as passed and past, things that caused us to say “Oh, yeah…that was the last time I….”  They weren’t esteemed as significant in their moment, their instant of being what they were; they became so only afterward – when they were a nuance, maybe, a wrinkle in our memories, appreciated only in retrospect, not in substance, not in the rich essence of being what they were.

Today was the last day of second-grade for my last child; the last day that he could be included in that group of kids deemed as “K-2” on some papers, flyers, agendas, or other forms of organized little people collectives.  Today was another irretrievably fallen grain of sand in the hour-glass of my little one’s life.

Is this significant?  Is this day really that big of a deal?  Is it worth the recognition that I’ve given it here?  Does it really matter?  I don’t know.  I don’t remember the last day of second grade for my other five children who had a last day of second-grade in their particular lifetimes…and while I can’t guarantee that I will remember this day as significant several years from now, I am noting it as significant today.  It is a celebration, a particular and specific something in my last little one’s life.


Violent Night, Holy Night

It’s not that sacred December season, but I could not help but make the connection with all the mayhem that is and has befallen our city in the last evening and early morning hours.  I realize this is another somber and distressing post, but I think my cup is full and the meniscus of sadness is about to overflow, as its already feeble boundary or edge of fragile instability sways and quakes in the beating of my heart and tightness in my throat.

I sat there with my headset on and waited for what might come through the phone and happened to look up at the clock and noticed that it was 9:06 a.m. on our Sunday morning at work.  In our police radio talk, in our city anyway, “9-0-6” means that we are to send help quickly.  When we hear it on the radio, we know someone is either getting their ass kicked or they are about to.  It’s not as bad as “9-9-9,” but it means that there is serious trouble and the officer needs help right now, this instant, this moment, immediately…a second ago, please.  It’s appropriate now, I think.  We need help.  Or maybe it’s just me.

I could not help but be affected by my dispatcher’s quivering chin as she fought back the tears after working a suicide call that involved an officer from a neighboring city.  “It’s so sad,” this little one said, as she voiced her distress and concern at what might have been so bad in the guy’s life that he wanted to end it all as he did.  He had left a note at his computer on the desk in his office, giving his wife very specific instructions as to what she should do.  He told her to call 9-1-1 and then take their daughter out front to wait for the police.  She called us and said that she found the note and was scared to search the house for him or to go into the garage.  She didn’t want to find his body.  My dispatcher entered the responding officers’ radio traffic into the call, typing a narrative of what the on-scene officers said, noting the officers’ identifying call-sign, and then what they said.  The Air Unit was overhead and did a search of the property after patrol units had arrived and checked the inside of the house.  The sergeant said to keep the wife and child out front and to block off the road from passing traffic.  The Air Unit’s observer then told the officers standing with the wife to turn-down their radios so she wouldn’t hear what he had to say.  He then told the dispatcher and the other listening units, and me, that the officer was sitting on the swing in the northeast corner of his back yard.  He said that it looked like a gun lying on the ground by the man’s left foot and it appeared that he had shot himself.  The observer said that the guy wasn’t moving and then told us to stand-by; he was going to get lower and check to make sure.  A couple seconds later, the Air Unit observer told us that the man was definitely shot.  The patrol supervisor told the units to secure the dog in the backyard, and then to secure the handgun and to roll Fire.  We don’t leave officers dead in their backyards for hours while we investigate what happened.  Roll Fire – get the guy to a hospital, away from the house, from the family, from the swing-set in the backyard. 

I wonder what that means, the symbolism in the man taking his life on his six year-old daughter’s swing-set in her backyard?  Does it mean anything or nothing?  The possibilities of freighted meanings are too much to contemplate.

My dispatcher’s eyes were sad and her voice was calm as she said thank-you as I got her a relief to sit there as she went down the hall for a few minutes after she finished the call.  She was back on the radio then, half an hour or so later, and was giving the details of another hot call she was working with a hit-and-run accident victim who was chasing or following the suspect vehicle as it left the scene.  She’s ok.  She handled everything fine.  She copied and repeated what the officers told her and she got it all typed into the call.

And so we go on.  “9-1-1, Where is the emergency?”

This was only the second “serious” call of the morning.  An hour earlier someone called to tell us that there was a dead transient in our city’s downtown “Heritage Square.”  Another hour or so later, a son called to report that he found his 70 year-old father cold and blue in his bed on the west side of town.  Another couple hours later, an off-duty fire-fighter and paramedic called to tell us that he found a deceased transient lying against the back wall of a dollar-store on the city’s south side.  And almost finally, just before the end of shift, a young man called to tell us that he was hiking at one of the city’s mountain parks and found what appeared to be a 55 year-old man who had been shot in the chest…just laying there in the middle of the hiking path.  Officers responded quickly with their lights and sirens and did, indeed, find the man lying there…and with a gun nearby.  As I was about to step off the pod at the very end of my work-day, I noticed a message on my computer’s screen notifying me of another injured-person call…a two year-old was found floating in the family’s pool.  The message had been there for a minute or two, so by the time I looked at it, the operator had added a couple more lines to the call.  The last line said that the baby was awake and responsive…crying.  “Code-4, clear it.”

And I’m 10-7, goodnight.

No TV tonight…no cop-shows…no news…and hopefully, no dreams about work….


Tears of Gold

The stars rained tears of gold that burned my cheeks in their falling.  I was caught unawares and didn’t know what was happening.  The song was playing with some mystical guitar notes that crept into my heart and caused the feelings to come, unbidden and not wanted, yet there and not able to be stopped.  They sang of a sorrow that was nameless until the notes captured their substance and melted my aching heart.  I longed for release and found it in her notes.  That minstrel singing and the echoing thoughts in dirge-like chords wrenched my soul.


Under the Cherry Trees

The man stood in the doorway for a moment before grabbing the elongated brass handle to open the door.  He was looking at the house to the west of his and noticed how the image of the lowering sun was about to touch the roofline.  The slate roof seemed to dip in the moment of the sun’s contact, causing the illusion that the weight of the sun was bearing down on the roof, or maybe the roof was molding itself to the shape of the sun to give it a more comfortable resting place at the end of its long day.  The sun was bright, of course, but softened somehow in the closer atmosphere and haze of industry and pollen and life that existed above the horizon’s curving line, so the man stood there with unshielded eyes and continued to watch the sun’s dip into and below the roof line.  He turned away and the golden glow remained in his eyes as he looked through the door’s glass to find his son.  It was time for dinner and the boy was somewhere outside.

The door handle lowered without a sound and the door swung open quietly as the man pushed against it and walked out onto the back patio of the house.  As he passed the mustard-colored and rectangular-shaped charcoal grill, he noticed that it still smelled of burnt sugar from the last time he barbequed ribs.  It had been a couple weeks or more, but the scent still lingered.  The man was barefoot and noticed, too, that the cement of the patio was still warm from the day’s sun, but the grass was cool as he stepped into it and began his search for his son.  The man turned to the left from the patio and looked into the back-yard proper, gazing at the rock-fronted embankments that supported the tiered lawn that rose from the yard up to the street that ran behind his house.  As he walked toward the front of the house that faced the town’s park, he craned his neck to look further into the yard to where the boy liked to play around the young, conical pine trees that resembled miniature Christmas trees when they were dusted or coated with December’s snow.

The evening was peaceful, now that the neighborhood kids had left the park and gone home or wherever after playing soccer for most of the afternoon.  Looking toward the east and over the hills that fronted that side of the town, the man noticed the swallows darting over the park for their evening feeding and play-time.  Overhead, the clouds were pink and orange and white and darkening gray with the falling sun and approaching night.  Further north, he could still see the white line of a plane’s contrail that was still intact even though the plane had been gone for hours…just the singular, lined cloud was left in its passing.  The man didn’t see his son anywhere, not in this side of the yard and not out in the park.  He thought about calling-out for him, but didn’t want to break the quiet by raising his voice or yelling.  Instead, he retraced his steps around the house, passed the back-door patio, and toward the other end of the yard, the side that fronted their street.  The man walked along the low hedge that separated his yard from the neighbor’s and then past the gooseberry bushes and toward the side of the house where he could peek around the corner to see if his son was playing under the cherry trees.  His step was quiet in the cool grass and the moss that grew thinly among the grass where he was, but was thicker under the trees.

Because the sun had completely lowered itself beneath the roofline of the neighbor’s house by now, there was no chance of the man’s son seeing his father’s shadow intrude into his quiet play.  When the man slowly moved his head around the corner, he saw that his son was sitting cross-legged, facing away from him, and leaning forward with his hands busy at some task.  The boy had his tan and green army-men positioned in loose rows and partially hidden in the moss, or situated behind various military vehicles and broken sticks from the trees above him.  He occasionally leaned back or to the right or left to straighten a fallen man or to move a truck closer to the grouped men, enacting some strategy or maneuver of protection or attack.  The boy even rolled a golf-ball or lightly tossed a shiny, black cherry in the direction of the men, imagining that they were rockets or some other projectile, sometimes knocking over one of the men or coming to rest next to or on top of one of the vehicles, and sometimes not.  With the impact of the cherries or golf ball, the boy made his eleven year-old’s version of a soft explosion…a hushed “pkshew!” that he thought only he could hear.

The man smiled to himself as he watched and listened to his son.  He saw the purplish-pink stains on the boy’s white t-shirt and imagined the cherry-fight that he had had with his friends earlier in the afternoon…the cherry-fight that he wasn’t supposed to have had.  As the man attempted to kneel down into the moss and grass next to the house, his shorts scraped on the prickly stucco finish on the house and startled his son.  The boy was in mid-reach across his battlefield and gasped and dropped one of his army men as he jerked and turned around to face his father.

The boy’s heart was pounding and his mouth was suddenly dry.  “I didn’t know you were there,” he said.  His mind was racing back through his day, wondering at what he might have done wrong, wondering what little or grand sin had been revealed and was now set to ruin what he thought was an otherwise good day, and wondering why, if he hadn’t done anything wrong, his father was there on the side of the yard looking for him…and getting ready to sit down like he was planning to stay for a while.

“Well, I wasn’t here for very long.  What are you doing?”

The boy tried to swallow.  “Just playing…Army.”

“Weren’t your friends out here earlier?”

“Yes Sir, but they had to leave.”

“Which friends were here?”

“When?”

“You said your friends were here earlier.  Which ones were here?”

The boy looked across the gravel and grass driveway and out into the park where the swallows were still darting around.  He saw a couple boys at the water fountain at the far side of the park.  “I…don’t know,” he stammered.  “I don’t remember.”

“But they were just here,” the man said, “who were they?  You’re not in trouble, Stephan, I’m just asking which friends were here.”

“Hansi and Martin.”

“Isn’t Hansi’s father the butcher?”

“I don’t know.  I think so…maybe.”

“Isn’t he one of those older boys that you were playing with in the spring and got into trouble with?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t remember,” the father said, “when you guys stole the bratwurst and then went off into the woods and cooked it?  You don’t remember that?”

“No Sir.”

“What?”

“Yes Sir…I…think I remember.”

“Wasn’t Hansi one of those older boys?”

The boys had moved from the water fountain and were now kicking a soccer ball out on the field at the park.  “I don’t know.”

The man sat down in the grass and moss and leaned against the house.  “Stephan…look at me.  You’re not in trouble…we’re just talking…ok?  You can answer me,” said the man.  “Look…here,” he said, pointing to his eyes.  “You’re ok.”

The boy turned his head from watching the boys with the soccer ball and met his father’s eyes.  He didn’t answer him immediately, but just looked at him.  This was unusual for him; the boy…he felt odd, bold somehow…maybe even brave.  His father’s manner and voice were unsettling.  There was none of the harshness or sarcasm that he was used to…and his eyes didn’t look angry.  It looked like his father was really just asking him a question…not investigating an offense.

“Augie’s father is the butcher,” said the boy, “but Hansi was part of the group that did that, yes Sir.”

“Is that Hansi out there playing soccer?”

The boy looked at the two other boys out on the field for a couple seconds and then turned again to his father.  “No Sir.  Hansi had to go home.  He said it was almost getting dark and he had to go in for dinner.”

“Oh, ok.”

“Why?”

“Why what?” said the man.

“Why’d you want to know if that’s Hansi out there playing soccer?”

“Nothing, Stephan.  I was just asking…nothing.  Relax, would you?  And stop calling me ‘Sir.’”

The boy looked at his father’s hands for a couple seconds and then moved up to meet his eyes.  The eyes were still dark brown and still set deep into his father’s head, but the prominent brow-ridge seemed less severe as his eye-brows were raised in a gentle and almost inquisitive arch.

“What?  Just call me ‘Dad’ now.  Say ‘Yes Dad,’ not ‘Yes Sir.’  That seems wrong somehow.”

“Dad?”

“Yes.”

“Can I ask you something and not get in trouble?”

“Yes…ask or say anything you want.”

The boy just looked at him.

“I’m serious…really…anything…you won’t get in trouble.”

“What happened to you in the wreck?  I know you broke a couple ribs, but what happened…you know…inside your head?  Mom said it went through the front window, right?”

The man looked at his son…intently, gently…and picked a tuft of moss from the ground.  He moved his eyes to the moss and then asked, “What do you mean, ‘What happened in my head?’”

“You’re not like you used to be,” said the boy, looking past his father, but still watching him, trying to sense if he was going too far.  “You’re different.”

“Almost dying in the wreck like that made me think about my life; it made me think about how I was treating people…how I treated you and your mom…and I decided that I needed to be different.”

The boy looked out into the park again.  He didn’t want his father to see the tears that were starting to spill from his eyes.  “Just like that…you ‘decided’ that you needed to be different?”

The man looked down and watched his fingers as they slowly tore the moss apart and let it drop back into the grass.  “I guess so.  When I was laying there in the hospital with my neck in that brace and my face all bandaged-up and tubes sticking out of my lungs, I thought about how lucky I was that my heart was still beating and that I wasn’t hurt as bad as I could have been considering what I had been through.  It almost seemed like I was being given a second chance or something, you know…somehow…maybe…to do things right…if that’s possible.”

The boy turned back and looked toward his father, not meeting his eyes exactly, but looking through him at some point directly behind his head.  “If you could just decide that you needed to be different when you were laying there in the hospital, why couldn’t you have decided a long time ago that you would be different…why didn’t you decide when I was a littler kid that you weren’t going to be so mean…that you could talk to me instead of hitting me, or that I could talk to you like you were just my dad and not some…kind…of…whatever you’ve been?”

“I don’t know, Stephan.  I guess it took me almost dying to realize how much I love you…I don’t know.”

“Oh.  Well, that’s when I figured out that I don’t love you,” said the boy, “when you were in the hospital almost dying.  I always thought I did, or wanted to, maybe.  I thought that if I loved you more you’d be nicer to me, but it didn’t work.  So when Mom told me that you might die, I was hoping you would, because I knew I wouldn’t have to try to love you anymore.  It would be ok that I didn’t…and now you’re not dead and I still don’t love you.”

The man turned his eyes to watch the neighbor drive past in his blue Saab.  He followed the car until it stopped at the water fountain by the corner of the park and then turned down the hill where it disappeared behind the Vivo store on the opposite corner.  Then he turned slightly in the other direction and watched the kids chasing each other and kicking the soccer ball for a few seconds.  Finally, he looked back at his son and said, “Wow…I don’t know what to do with that, Stephan.”

“I don’t either,” said the boy as he reached for one of his army men.

“I guess I’ll have to work on that, won’t I?  Give you a reason to love me?”

The boy pulled a handful of moss and began to gently tear it apart and lay the pieces across his army trucks, camouflaging them against the enemy that was lined-up behind the moss and grass berm that he had built close to the trunk of the nearest tree.  He then absently grabbed a cherry from the ground and slipped it into his mouth.  He bit down on the sweet flesh and then used his tongue to separate the seed as he slowly chewed and swallowed the tiny fruit.

“Stephan?  I said I’ll have to work on that, won’t I?”

“I don’t know.”

The man slowly stood and then leaned over to stretch his legs that had been folded under him while he sat and talked with his son.  He said “Ok,” and then turned to walk back around the corner of the house.  After a couple steps, he turned around and leaned down so he could see his son better under the cherry trees.  “You need to come in now.  The streetlights are coming on and it’s time to eat.”

“I’m not hungry.”

The man raised his voice a little – “Stephan, I said you need to come in.”

“Yes Sir.”


some don’t go away

Winter finally arrived in our desert valley the other day, bringing cold and wind and rain and a crispness in the mornings that has been uncommon in our easy-bake-oven existence here and about.  The day’s early sky was still rippled with clouds of gray and white amid the blue background and aimless sun.  When I dropped-off my little one at school, the teachers stood around shivering and smiling and talking about the upcoming holidays and mid-word stopped to blow a whistle to tell the kids to get off the ball-field…you know better than that…the grass was covered in frost and the dirt of the infield was darker with a dew that didn’t freeze.  It was the first morning of the year when there was real frost on my windshield that I had to scrape off…so unusual…bordering on strange, for here anyway.  My little one commented that the ground would be covered with snow if we were up in Utah…a subject of some contention in the household and family of late…to go or not to go…to be or not to be here or there…to throw caution to the proverbial wind and step out on another risk…a risk-taking in a risky time…but we’re not going…we’re here…and another Christmas season is upon us already.  It seems that the kids just started school a little while ago and it’s back again.  The lights are up throughout the neighborhoods and the stores are crammed with people who are usually doing other things when I happen to frequent the place…more cars in the parking lot, more cashiers at their stands, more people in the aisles, and more stuff and stuff in the air.  I put-up our tree that afternoon and got-out the Christmas CDs and still had them turning on the stereo when I wrote this…Jim Brickman, Josh Groban, and three others making the rounds over and again, shedding their spirit and making me wonder again at this person Jesus who is said to have been born in a manger and all of the rest of it.  I think this might have been my favorite time of the year when I was a Christian, a believer, a person of eternal hope and non-thought…someone treading in the footsteps laid ahead for me…pulled along by the ring in the nose…non-thought…anyway, I’m not going down that pathway right now, just wanted to say that if I were still a Christian, I would love the words of the music and the thoughts of the season.  As it is, I listen to mostly instrumental music and hear only the tunes while the words echo on their own in my mind….resounding symbols of a previous life.  It would be so nice to be able to believe that it was all true because it sounds so beautiful in this one month of the year…so comforting, reassuring, or something…but empty…and even sad…sad at the loss of that wrongly-conceived comfort, and sad with memories of being welfare-poor when our kids were little and not being able to provide them with the tangible Christmas gifts that we thought we should be able to provide…and sad with the memories of being a child and feeling that I didn’t deserve the presents…I wondered on several occasions how I could possibly have anything under the tree, thinking the gifts were supposed to be a representation of the love that was being rewarded in substance for my behavior during the rest of the year…and I knew that I had gotten my ass beaten several times, too many times, innumerable times for shit I did wrong and for lies that I told so that I might avoid the ass-beating…and how could they then give me presents for Christmas…and the gall they had that one year to give me the presents I had found while snooping through my father’s dresser drawers and stealing some of his Lifesavers…he had said he was throwing everything away…and he did throw away most of my toys and all the posters and things I had on my walls and on the top of my dresser…all my special things, trophies, souvenirs, mementoes…every damn thing…the things that comforted me when I was in my room and away from him…and I had discovered a poster of a horse in his drawer…and it was under the tree…like I wasn’t going to remember the yelling, cursing, hateful brown eyes glaring, piercing, stabbing into my soul whenever I saw the poster?  Merry fucking Christmas….  And it’s always sad in spite of the good times with all the kids over and the tons of presents for everyone…it just is…too many memories that reach beyond the present and cannot be exorcised even with the passing of time…the shit is still in there with painful gashes that are trying to heal…and making tears run with sad joy at remembering my Thanksgiving morning when my littlest one greeted me first thing with “Happy Thanksgiving, Papa.”  He calls me Papa when he’s being tender…when he’s being precious, gentle, loving….  “Papa.”  I never had a word like that for my father…and my heart is touched.


Despair

  In despair…despair…dispair…despear…deaspear…dispare…disappear…disappare…disappear…dead-spear…die-sphere…dead sphere.

 

I lay there with sparkling glass all about me.  The sun could blind a living eye with this glaring prism of light that is alive itself.  Concrete is warm as leather-soled shoes stop on the sidewalk across the street.  Cigarette butts, gum wrappers, and spent leaves lay around me.  A paper cup with orange and yellow flowers sealed beneath cracking wax is blown against the curb under his paused foot.  The wing-tip is untied and has a hole in the great toe.  A white sock peeks out, surveying the air.  A lost pebble under the ball of his foot nears him to craziness.  No briefcase to put down before he sits to the curb.  No hat to tamp against gravity before he leans over to remove the stone.  My eyes see him but my brain just lets him be.  The metal taste in my mouth is like a penny hidden under the tongue.  I can’t spit it out.  He looks at me like he’s done something wrong.  Hair flutters in his eye, then mine.  And mine.  Sand from the concrete presses into my cheek as he examines his sock.  His mother doesn’t know where he is.  Mine thinks I’m at work.  Of course, she’s thought the same thing for years, or weeks on end; at day’s end.  Days end.  For that’s where I was.  When I was.  When I was there, the world spun as it does now.  It still spins.  The world spins still; it spins not moving, still.  If you can know something like that, I guess that’s what it was doing, when I was, and doing.  A feather, still.  His old tweed jacket has holes in its holes.  Cigarette burns in the arms with the lining appearing without.  My ears still ring; the blood yet flows through the tiny capillaries near the surface of my skin; it is still warm.  It tingles when a car drives by.  A truck makes it louder.  And, he sits, not knowing what to do.  The wheels on the chair spun for only a few seconds.  They were startled, too.  And the glass, it was whole and unnoticed when it was clean.  Now it’s lost its pane and its absence draws a crowd.  It is scared, fallen to pieces, broken near into sand.  Lost.  He sees the people looking down to the street.  He sees the clouds crawl past the horizon.  The building leans toward him so he rises and looks about.  Not away.  She thinks I’m at work.  He saw me fall silently to the street.  That pain is gone.  That pain has severed the feelings that had been severed so long ago.  Happiness fled itself.  And drawn away.  It screamed as I walked past, “Come here!”  Don’t leave.  Go away.  The grit in the street crunched beneath his foot as the siren’s car approached.  It left whole for another place, its tail following behind.  The tiny hairs picking up the static dust.  The lint and fiber of nonsense.  Nonsence.  Nonsents.  Non-scents.  Non-cents, he went bankrupt.  Fell out of life.  I fell to the street.  He just fell out of life.  And went away.  They are lost.  Do you look around?  Does it sparkle in other places too? The clouds are lowering a story at a time.  Birds flew past the ledges without second thinking.  They dropped their things in flight and landed in other places.  We’re not the same.  The chair flew out and took me with it.  Anger seized, seized, seized, seased, ceased, teased, teized, seized me.  In a rage the clouds swept me up.  They tossed me higher and crashed me harder than clouds should.  So friendly when viewed from the park grass.  They threaten nobody there.  So soft, like cotton candy – over-used simile.  In the end.  His split finger-nails had been chewed down to the quick.  Dirty fingers housed the nails and brushed the hair out of my face.  The flattened side of my head didn’t feel flat; it didn’t ache either.  I saw ants on the sidewalk, undisturbed they were.  Undisturbed they were before I saw them, too.  I had hidden in the bathroom, sat there so long that my legs had nightmares.  The fan overhead drowned-out the speakers on the wall.  The walls heard the speakers, but they didn’t listen.  They kept on standing there, fastened, undisturbed, too.  As dust falls, it sees its friends lying about, keeping a place for anybody else who might happen to drop in.  They collect, one by one.  Slowly there is a film of their bodies, covering whatever they touch.  Are they happy?  Water washes them away.  They’re weak.  The chair just took me like I was weak too.  I only meant to hurl it at the window; then it grabbed my tight, angry fingers.  White knuckles tensed the blood away.  The weight just took me like I was weak, too.  I smell vinegar from the mustard on his fingers.  There is some yellow, too.  The breeze replaces my hair.  The breeze misplaces my hair.  Our moms ought to get together.  His doesn’t know where he is, mine thinks I’m at work.  I succeeded today.  Now I’ll nev