Thursday, August 29, 2013

Small stories.

Do you ever wonder about the little stories you glimpse but do not know the whole of?

Every morning, I see a solidly built young man plodding along side the highway in a florescent vest, like the highway crews wear. Clues to this story: Same time every day. I also generally see him walking home. Rain or shine. He walks on the opposite side of a divided highway, so that even if you wished to be kind and give him a lift, you would be unable to.

I've guess that he is walking to work. He is timely, which indicates that he is reliable. The only thing down that way is fast food restaurants and big box stores. They don't generally offer set schedules, which he apparently has, which is intriging. He also likely is not earning big bucks.

There are parts of the story I don't know. Does he not have a car because he can't afford it? Can't drive because he got a DUI? Too many tickets? Because he's an environmentalist? Who knows?

The one thing I do know is that steady sort of reliability is becoming more and more difficult to find in people. I miss it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Inner Voice

I've been really dragging lately, so I tend to get things done in spurts of energy. This weekend was no exception. I charged through the house putting things to right, getting laundry done, folded and even put away. I even rearranged the bedroom.

During the dust-up, my debit card AND my library card came up gone. The first day, I wasn't too excited, because I remembed distinctly having them in my back pocket. I'd gone downtown twice, pulling William in his little wagon, so instead of taking my purse, I put my library card and my debit card in the back pocket of my jeans. I had bent my last debit card by sitting on it, so later, when I got home, I remembered distinctly putzing in the kitchen, realizing that the cards were in my back pocket. I had no recollection of what I had done with the cards, but I do remember thinking, "Cripes. You stick those there, you'll NEVER find them." And that's the last that I thought of those cards until I needed gas in my car.

I have been looking for those cards for two days now, and frankly, I was getting a little frantic about the debit card. I can misplace stuff, but seldom is anything well and truly lost. Until that debit card...

Last night, getting ready for bed, on a whim, I ducked down and looked under the bed. I found my library card right away. I looked further, and there was my debit card. I was so stinking happy that I almost cried. Not because it was a relief to find them, (which it was) My relief was mostly this: When I thought, "Cripes. You stick those there, you'll NEVER find them," I had actually heeded that little voice, walked out of the kitchen headed down the hall, went into my bedroom and put them on the bedside table, where I apparently knocked them off with my pillow in the night, or reaching for the alarm, or some such thing. This validation of my mind was reassuring.

Other breaking news: an old velvet sofa left at the curb had a brass tag that identified it as being handmade from a high end furniture store in Jamestown that burnt to the ground in 1965. The sofa itself had to be from the 1910-1920s. The suspension in this was lovely. Still a firm sofa after 100 years. Reupholstered, it would have been simply gorgeous. I wanted it something awful, although my inner voice was pointing out that realistically, I wouldn't have the money to get this done right for some time, what with the purchase of the most recent house. I am proud to say that I heeded that inner voice as well and left it there.

My inner voice is now telling me that if I don't get going, I'm going to be late for work. I think that I will listen once again.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Making a Memory

Today, I walked to church. It was such a pretty morning, and it was nice to hear the whirring of the cicadas. My church is early, and as I passed by the playground that William loves so dearly, I saw a man with a little girl on a bike in the empty parking lot. He hunched over talking to her earnestly, and she was on her bike, with her little helmet, gazing up at him, hanging on to his every instruction.

Appropos to nothing, I thought, 'she'll never forget this day.' I remember my own father holding on to the back of my little red bike as I mastered the two wheeler. Even after 50 years, I remember. Learning to ride a two wheeler is one of those childhood milestones, no less memorable than our first day of school, or Christmas, or the loss of our first beloved childhood pet. You just remember these things.

I stopped. I couldn't help myself. I wanted to see what happened next. And then they pushed off, and the little girl began to pedal shakily, and off she went, for some distance, slowly, uncertainly. She braked, and then quickly put her feet down. She looked back immediately, and the man stood behind her, perhaps 20 feet, cheering and clapping. From where I stood, off to the side, perhaps 100 feet away from the scene, I began to clap too, and I called out "Good job!" I heard the man say, "How about that?" and they waved. I waved back and continued on my way to church.

It was kind of cool to think that this was a day that she will remember always...and that now, as a total stranger, I am a part of that memory too.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

William had a very busy day today, what with 'hepping memaw' and then watching the heavy equipment in the street in front of the house. We went to the library to pick up "The Bear's Toothache", giving William a wagon ride. He came home and managed to smack himself in the lip with his great grandfather's guitar, but there was not a lot of time to howl. We were headed back out to his little wagon to go back downtown for a street carnival for kids. There was sidewalk chalk, and two bounce houses, and a marching band, and princesses, and huge helium balloons (William got orange). There was a clown and face painting and story tellers (of which I was one). He was nodding in his little wagon on the way home, but got a second wind when we hit the house.

What do you do with little boys who are so exhausted that they can barely function, but they will not fall asleep? Easy. You tuck a scarf into his shorts so that it trails behind him. You name him "William the kitty cat" and you play this on the computer:

By the time that his mother got here, he had danced himself into a near kitty cat coma. I'll betcha bucks that child was asleep before his parents turned off Water Street.


I worked about 20 hours of overtime this week. Needless to say, this got me a bit behind on all things domestic, although I did manage to get my column in on time. I don't believe I ever missed a deadline before, and the thought that I might was some powerful motivation.

This morning, I hit the ground running. I was anxious to get the house caught up. William was here, but he was still sleeping, so I took advantage of the couple hours before he got up, and I'm telling you, I was flying. Even rearranged the furniture in our bedroom.

William got up, and he began to 'hep memaw', and things got a bit more difficult. But I soldiered on, despite Williams's 'hep'.

Tim had been at his garage working on a car. Coming home, he realized there was heavy equipment working in the street in front of the house. I had heard it, but I was working, and William was 'hepping' and, well....

So, Tim charged in the house and he was all kinds of ways upset that William was not dressed yet. He chided me for not taking him outside. "Where's his shorts?" and "Where's his socks?" and he was pretty impatient. I said, "Gees, Tim..." and Tim said, "There's a big truck outside and a digger...we need to hurry up so he can see them.

Tim was always the one who said, "We work first, and once the work is done, we can play." I watched the two of them run out the door talking about trucks and digging, and fixing the road. Funny how a little child can change everything.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Old man

I picked up some hospital coverage over the weekend. The client has been a long time favorite of mine.

As he slept, I wrote quietly next to him. A man in the hall was very agitated. He was certain that his leg was gone. He was being quite brave about it, but he would not believe that his leg was there. He was held tight in the clutches of dementia. He talked about luggage, and the girl in a glass box. He talked about needing new wheels for the chair he was in. He wanted tools to fix it himself. He was sure that he could, if only someone gave him tools. He had something clutched tight in his hands. The nurse was concerned that it was an insurance card, and that he might lose it, or something, so she asked to see it.

This man might have forgotten many things. He might be broken and old and not right in his mind. But he remembered that he was a soldier. He remembered that he fought in the war. The nurses admired the old military id card, remarked how handsome he was as a young man. He remembered that too...what it was like to be young, and strong and able to do anything. He remembered what it was like to turn women's heads.

Eventually, one by one, the nurses returned to their duties, and that old man was left clutching his ID with a far away look on his face.

It wasn't long, and once again, he was looking for tools so that he could fix his wheelchair.

Friday, August 16, 2013


Courage shines in very dark places. A couple days ago, I read the obituary of a very young man. It began with "------- ------- passed away after a lifelong battle with alcoholism."

I stopped at those words. It was easy to see the pain behind that little sentence. So many times, obituaries are 'prettied up'. All that makes the paper are the notes about how wonderful they are. The obituaries makes them sound perfect. It took a lot of courage to begin an obituary with that stark and honest line.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

School days.

Tonight, I sat with other story tellers to do a presentation on the "Winds of War" about the war of 1812, and how it affected our little corner of the world. This was presented at the Wilder Museum. You can click on the words 'Wilder Museum' to see a link. For whatever reason, I can't write a blog post from anything but HTML, which doesn't let me highlight the color.

But, I digress.

After I did my piece, I sat down and was able to relax a bit, look around. I went to elementary school in that little building before it was turned into a museum. So did my father. I was actually sitting where I once played Four Square with a big red rubber ball. If I looked over to the right I could see where the maypole used to be, and the gazebo where we all sat and played "Button, Button".

It was a strange feeling to be an old woman in the place where I was a young child. We were talking about history, about days gone by. Just as surely as the 1800s are gone, well, so are the 1960s, where children played on playground equipment that would not be permitted today. That playground is gone, for safety purposes no doubt, but it felt like if I listened hard enough, I would still be able to hear the rhythmic scree---screeeeeeeeeeee of the big old swings. For a minute, I had a vision of small feet in brown buckle shoes silhouetted against the sky as I leaned back, pumping that swing higher and higher, my pink dress fluttering in the wind.

We all knew it, even back then: recess would not last forever.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Face Palm

Earlier in the week, Tim and I had an argument. He wanted to go look at a house. I was pretty hot about it. We rarely raise our voices to one another, really and truly, but this time I did. I was coming down with a cold, and I was tired, and it just seems like Tim sort of just pushes until he gets his way. He was calling from work, and he raised his voice right back, impatiently. I ended up just hanging up the phone on him. I've really just had enough of being talked at until I give in.

This morning, he said that he had not canceled the appointment with the woman, because he didn't want to hurt her feelings. He did say, "We're not buying it."

Today, I bought a house.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New Love

Today, walking home from the library, I saw a young man walking with a young woman. She was a plain woman, but stylishly dressed, as if she had a professional job. He was wearing dickies work pants and a gray tee-shirt with black greasy smudges on it. His hair was dark and curly.

I watched them walking together, talking together. They did not touch, or hold hands, but they never stopped talking.

There's a large rental house, and when they got to it, they turned up the sidewalk. He stopped at the steps, and she continued on. He looked after her until she went inside, shutting the door behind her. He turned, and fell gracelessly to the steps, apparently waiting for her to come back out. I smiled at the big goofy grin on his bearded face. He looked at me, startled. He had been so caught up in their little world, he never even realized that I was walking behind them.

Sometimes when you've been married for a long time, it is a refreshing gift to be reminded of your own first days together ~ that gentle awkwardness of two people who are just beginning to learn that they are compatible, a nostalgic glimpse of what it was like before you became so comfortable with each other, before you knew each other so well that words become unneccessary.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


I walked into a grocery store the other day. An SUV sat in the handicap parking right outside the door, the music turned up so loud the whole vehicle seemed to be throbbing. A bearded man sat in the front seat listening to (incongruously) techno-music.

In the back seat, two children screamed, "Turn it down, Dad!" over and over. The bearded man in the front seat sat stone faced, making no reply as if they were not even in the car.

It breaks my heart, to see children matter so little to their parents.

I picked up bread, and Tim's Pepsi, and I wondered, "Is this child abuse? Should I call someone?" When I went back outside, the vehicle was gone.

I put the groceries away in my car, feeling bad in my heart, and comforting myself with visions of little William scrambling out of his wagon, running full tilt for the teeter totters at the playground, calling "High inna sky, high inna sky!"

Monday, August 5, 2013

Eyes to see

I've seen her when I go walking, or when I drive past her house. She is a young girl, heavyset. When I see her, it is as if she's walked out the door, and plopped to the ground, and she sits there in a jumble smoking her cigarette.

The expression on her face...I don't know. It bothers me. It's so bleak. She doesn't look up. She doesn't seem interested in anything going on around her. She just sits there, plopped.

The first time that I saw her, I thought perhaps it was drugs. The fact that she comes outside to smoke doesn't jibe with that notion. Druggies don't care about the 'no smoking in the house' clause in a lease.

Day after day, the scene tugs at my heart, this feeling that I'm supposed to do something. I don't know what it is. I know that I've spent years trying to help people, and accomplished nothing at all. You can't change anyone else's life.

I saw the scene again, and once again, it bothered me. She was alone, almost prostrate on the sidewalk, not looking right or left. I stared. She did not notice.

When William and I got home, I put a wooden bench in his wagon, and we set out once again. This time, William helped me pull the wagon. The girl was not outside, nor did I want to her to be. I lifted the bench from the wagon, took William's hand, and crossed the street quickly. We set it against the wall of the entrance to her house, under her mailbox, and then we quietly left, crossing the street very quickly. I popped William into his wagon, and we set off for home.

I think of all the faces of all that people that I have tried to help. Some of them, I love so desperately words cannot say. In the end, I could not help. But the fact is that I am a kind person. I am a blessed person. I saw a person sitting on the sidewalk outside an apartment that I know for a fact is a one room efficiency hole in the wall. And I have a bench. That one thing, I can fix. And so I do.

The next day I noticed that the bench was carefully pulled out and set at a neat angle.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Tomato Butt

Tonight, Tim and I are going to see Garrison Keillor. I am really excited. It's a sold out show, but here's my favorite skit of all time.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gender confused.

You know, it's been a pretty difficult week for me.

I brought Nash into the house thinking he was a boy. He has pretty long hair, but I thought...well...I was sure...

And then my friend stopped in, flipped my cat upside down and announced that he was a she.

That leant a little more urgency to get her into the vet.

Cara came home this weekend and Nash/Nashley (thanks for that Karen Bringol) slept curled up with her. Cara came in for breakfast and said, "Um. Is there any reason you are thinking this cat might NOT be pregnant?"

To which I replied...well...just you never mind what I replied.

I began to tell my friends that they would be receiving darling little kittens for Christmas. To which they replied "Friend? What is this 'friend' stuff that you speak of." You know those friends that stick by you no matter what? I need to get me some of them.

Today, Nash had that vet appointment. Nash is a neutered male cat. I am so relieved I cannot tell you. My friends? You can come out of hiding now. I have no kittens for you.

However, Nash does have an identical brother. Or maybe it's a sister. You cannot trust my judgement on these things.

Late edit: "Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a function." --Garrison Keillor Guess who Tim and I are going to see tomorrow?