Archive for the ‘family’ Category

The World’s Fastest Indian

June 16, 2008

It’s not often that I recommend films and the like, but I feel obligated to push this one out there. A couple of weeks ago, a friend recommended “The World’s Fastest Indian,” a movie about Burt Munro, a slightly eccentric codger from New Zealand who set the land speed record for streamlined vehicles with engines under 1000 ccs. His last record at Bonneville has stood for more than 40 years. Anthony Hopkins plays Munro. I think this is my favorite of all his performances.

I’ve spent a very large share of my life around amateur car racers, and the first word that somes to mind to describe this film is “authentic.” It’s incredibly well done, very real, and I’ll probably watch it again. Soon.

It’s been a lovely Father’s Day. The Sunday morning free-write at Carla’s went well, and I think I got two potentially strong poems from it. The sun is shining and the garden is finally growing. Tonight we ate fresh (from local waters) halibut with a shrimp (ditto) salad with a spicy homemade louis dressing, and sourdough bread. The lettuce was from the garden and the dill on the halibut was dried from last year’s garden. The wine was Barefoot’s Pinot Grigio, highly rated by the Wall Street Journal a week or two ago but a little sweet for my taste. Very drinkable, though, and at $5 or so a bottle at Freddy’s, a pretty good buy.

Inger called to give her dad a long-distance hug.

All in all, a very satisfying day.

A shining. . .

June 2, 2008

There are some evenings that simply glow, and this is one of them.

I have been absent from this space for awhile, and I apologize. I had many things that I thought of writing about, but when I sat down in front of the screen, they didn’t happen.

I don’t know if it was a delayed response to my brother’s death or some other form of malfeasance of the spirit, but I just didn’t want to write.

But tonight I am full of joy. It’s Ben’s birthday, and our daughter Inger has come to visit. She brought with her an electric bass guitar and a 12-string acoustic that she rescued from oblivion. For the last hour or so I’ve ducked out and listened from the sidelines to Ben (one of the finer guitar players I’ve ever known) showing her little tips and tricks.

Ben and I play the guitar. Ben is proficient, I am competent. Inger does not play, has never played, but something caused this leap of faith that she could play. And I suspect she will. I hope she finds the same magic in it that I have.

I worried when she was young because she did not sing. I grew up singing, and I thought everyone did. Now she is seemingly discovering her music, and that makes me very happy.

My daughter has given me so much joy in life. It pleases me immensely to watch her finding her own joy.

Well, this just chaps MY hide

March 29, 2008

I’m getting darned tired of this stupid weather. Spring officially arrived a week ago, and the next day I planted most of my early garden–brassicas, lettuce starts, green onions, snow peas, sunflowers, a few potatoes (the rest have to wait until we can till the bed again). I also planted another dahlia and four lilies.

Every day since then, it has rained, hailed, snowed, and otherwise generally misbehaved. If this is leading up to an April Fool’s Day blizzard, I am going to be really pissed.

I checked the starts yesterday and they looked fine. I’m afraid to go back and look again after a morning of snow and hail and a full afternoon of monster hail storms. So I’m ignoring things, at least for the moment.

A chicken carcass is simmering on the stove. I roasted a chicken tonight, made mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy, and as we were stuffing our faces Ben looked over and said, “That chicken cries out to be made into soup.” And I started visualizing chicken and dumplings.

After a week of crappy weather I am really tired of feeding fires, but I told Ben if he’d feed the stove so I could do something else, I’d cook the chicken down and make something wonderful. He agreed, and before too long I’ll be able to set it off to cool and deal with it tomorrow.

I met all the poetry contest deadlines only to discover some other writing challenges. I’m working on a Malayan pantoum at the moment about a funeral. The pantoum lends itself wonderfully to ritual, and I suppose that’s what’s on my mind now. A week from tomorrow is Tom’s wake, and I’m running out of energy to deal with the emotions (other people’s, not my own–I’m just tired) that are surfacing around that.

So that’s what’s going on here tonight. Even the hummingbirds have been fighting all day. But I did re-engineer my feeder today and it works much better. It was prone to developing an airlock, and you had to go up every so often and give it a good whack. But as I was refilling it today, I found a spot that was obviously supposed to have a little air hole but hadn’t been punched all the way through. So I got a push pin and fixed it. Now it works great. I’m quite smug about that little piece of problem solving.

But I’m still going to be grumpy until I get some sunshine for more than 10 minutes at a time. . .

A poem worth noting

March 18, 2008

I’m about to cut and paste a poem from today’s Writer’s Almanac. I’m sure I’m in deep violation of some copyright law or another, but this poem reminds me so much of Tom’s last days that I’m going to do it anyway. If it touches you, subscribe to Writer’s Almanac.

Poem: “Snow” by Elizabeth Tibbetts, from In the Well. – Bluestem Press, 2003.
Reprinted with permission.

Snow

The old, blue-eyed woman in the bed
is calling down snow. Her heart is failing,
and her eyes are two birds in a pale sky.
Through the window she can see a tree

twinkling with lights on the banking
beyond the parking lot. Lawns are still green
from unseasonable weather. Snow
will put things right; and, sure enough,

by four darkness carries in the first flakes.
Chatter, hall lights, and the rattle of walkers
spill through her doorway as she lies there?
ten miles (half a world) of ocean

between her and her home island.
She looks out from a bed the size of a dinghy.
Beyond the lit tree, beyond town, open water
accepts snow silently and, farther out,

the woods behind her house receive the snow
with a faint ticking of flakes striking needles
and dry leaves-a sound you would not believe
unless you’ve held your breath and heard it.

Tom died tonight

March 17, 2008

Thanks to all of you who have borne with this saga so patiently.

Tom died peacefully, apparently at full rest.

I will miss him tremendously, but I am so glad he has gone on to whatever comes next.

This business of dying is a strange business

February 22, 2008

Yesterday was Tom’s 50th birthday. Lisa decorated the house beautifully (Tom, a helicopter nut, said the streamers from the ceiging reminded him of standing under a Huey, and he really like them), bought and wrapped a present, and got up to share it with him at the best part of his day, early morning after a night’s sleep. She got him a cake and I got him a cake.

She said he seemed really excited about the fuss being made over his birthday. “You don’t suppose he thought we’d just let it pass by unnoticed, do you?” she asked me.

It’s hard to know what to think. Tom is on that roller coaster that goes with deteriorating health, down, then up again, but never quite as up as he was before, then down, and almost up again, and so on. He is essentially blind now, so most of the things he sees are hallucinatory. But the worst part of it for him is that he’s losing conversation. He tries, but it’s increasingly hard for him to pull out the word he’s looking for.

This morning I fixed him a scrambled egg (he ate a whole one with enthusiasm yesterday) and he asked where the ketchup was. I rummaged around til I found it and brought it to the table. I asked him how much he wanted and he started shaking his head in a horrified manner. Turned out that what he wanted was a Kleenex, another K word, not ketchup at all.

Yesterday he did seem excited. We ate chocolate cake with raspberry filling and ganache icing with our fingers (it’s easiest that way when you can’t see a fork). I cleaned the dropped chocolate from their white carpeting after he laid down again, and I think I did a passable job of it. I cooked him a birthday dinner of baked chicken and asparagus and biscuits that only Lisa and I could enjoy.

Today he was semi-comatose.

Last night he got up from a very deep nap to see the lunar eclipse with which the universe had honored his 50th birthday. I don’t think he could see it at all, frankly, but he pretended that he did, and he seemed excited about it, even chastising me for not bringing my telescope when I came to his house. It never even occurred to me to do so.

I lost a good friend about six months ago after a very long illness. Fred was nearly 80 years old and had been battling emphysema for some time. His actual dying was long and dragged out, miserable for him.

But like Tom, Fred retained his sense of humor. It was very hard to lose him even knowing how difficult living had become for him.

It is the same with my brother. I hate, hate, hate seeing him suffer like this, waking with excruciating headaches that are relieved only somewhat by the same drugs that produce the hallucinations that frustrate, frighten, or confuse him. It shouldn’t be this hard to die.

On the other hand, I know that when he is gone he will leave a void in my life. He’s much too young to be dying (he calls it “taking a shortcut to where we’re all going in the end”). In the natural order of the universe, he should be around to mourn me when my time comes. This is backward.

I have a sibling or two who won’t come to visit. One of them said she was unable to deal with the “emotional issues raised at times like these.” I understand her view, but I keep hearing the hospice nurse saying, “You will never regret the time you’ve spent with your brother during these weeks.” And I know she’s right.

I’m not sure where I am going with this, so I will say only that when I die, I want to just simply fall over dead (unless I can die in my sleep with no previous warning). I haven’t been afraid of death since a near-death experience when I was about 25 years old. But I am afraid of being maimed, incapacitated, unable to care for myself, dependent on the kindnesses of others no matter how much they love me or I love them.

Just let it be fast when it comes at last.