Monday, March 2, 2015

Unexpectedly: This Happened.


I don't get specific about this a lot, but ... the man I love lives four thousand miles away. He's been gone ten and a half years, and though there are plenty of folks who think that means I should love somebody else, I've never round reason to come to this conclusion. He's been suffering depression and any number of other setbacks over the past three years (if not longer), and there is no current plan for him to come home.

He left about a year and a half after my dad died, at a period I was still in mourning.

I have a joyous array of absolutely wonderful friends. My mom is in my town, and she and I get to spend good times together, with my stepfather, whom I love. My home is cheering and more than halfway paid for, and populated by the dearest dog and cat an ageing biddy could ask for. But without Mr. X, my life is ... less. I'm no gothic heroine, I'm not Penelope to his Odysseus. But I have never known anything else to do but love him. Even though I've looked, from time to time.

I can share none of my blessings with him in any way that makes a difference to his life, and the impotence is profound. Indeed, we go through periods we don't even communicate at all, which can be giddily terrifying, on top of the helplessness.

And it was almost at the same moment he left, less than two years after dad died, that my brother took me to a James River Writers conference, and ... life got seriously different.

My life doesn't need saving, but even so writing "The Ax and the Vase" did something like it.

Friday, February 27, 2015


“I remember when I had my first beer”, “I remember when I invented feminism”, “My diet is morally superior to your diet” and other stories of baffling enragement. The “standing desk” link is a great impression of the psychotic/proseletyzing vim and fervor people insist upon applying to their own choices. The diet link doesn’t say anything I haven’t pointed out before, but is very, VERY well written. Like, I have a little bit of a crush on the author well-written. Also he’s smurt. So go kill a mammoth, have a snack, and enjoy the read. But do it standing up.

Louisa Young takes us on an absolutely wonderful journey into the joys of research at The History Girls, starting with the charming portrait of a little girl and her cat ... and ending with a couple more very like her, and some winsome surprises along the way.

Lauren at American Duchess once again wows us with shoe designs of the early 20th century - the first pair are stunning. The third pair I crave.

Jeff Sypeck asks, “Dante? I’ve never grasped what Americans hope to do with him—maybe because the answer turns out to be 'everything.'”

The Arrant Pedant (ahh, how I love a new post at The AP) discusses Fifty Shades of Bad Grammar Advice. Awesomely. And, in case you're leery of (a) reading anything whatever to do with the Fifty Shades novels or (b) sick of reading snark *about* the novels, this post really doesn't touch (hee) those to speak of, but takes the discussion beyond. As, apparently, Grammerly did in dispensing poor advice about writers from Shakespeare to Hemingway whom they have deemed to employ substandard grammar.

Finally, in a self-referential link, someone finally commented on my post about a particular peculiar behavior of my dear little ur-doggy; it looks like it may be that this *is* a Carolina Dog thing.

LLAP, Y'all.

He sure did.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

More Snowy Animals

A hawk and a crow came to the great maple in my front yard today, and had what appears to have been a most interesting harangue - on the part of the crow, at least.

My family are unabashedly hawk obsessed; one of the key recurring memories of any road trip from my childhood was mom excitedly pointing them out as we rode along. My experiences with birds since living in this home have been of the more negatively superstitious type, mostly (it's supposed to be bad luck for a bird to get inside; in reality, it's mostly just a mild frustration and a surprising variety of little white poo spots), but more than one hawk has said hello here on the estate. Usually, it's smaller ones, but this magnificent specimen posed JUST long enough to get me squee-ing.

If Looks Could Cuddle

Goss and Pen haven't actually become the adorable snuggling pals you see in aww-inducing internet photos ...

But they fake it pretty good, don't they?

The secret is, the space heater was right at the end of the couch where they were situated. Radiating heat and a good nap beat out a bonk on the brainpan any day.


When the office is closed, it's nice to have a laptop and still be able to accomplish something in between shoveling and such.

It's nice, also, to have a change of personnel.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Thank You, G-d, For My Friends

Just spent a nice twenty or thirty minutes on the phone with one of my best friends. She it was who, when we used to go out together, used the fake name "Penelope" (I was "Sabrina"), an alias I can't give her here for obvious reasons. She is V.

V and I have known each other almost as long as TEO and I. Middle school, high school, and beyond. She and her parents came to the church after dad died, and I treasure their coming. She has been there for me and I have tried to be for her, through times neither of us could ever imagine. V has been assailed, over the past ten years, with hideous health problems. I bless the day she met her husband, who is my friend too.

She and I just laughed and laughed, discussing all the (non) attractions of the fact that our high school class are planning a thirtieth reunion.

I love laughing with V. She has a beautiful laugh, and I love *her*. Tonight we were celebratory, for the first time in what seems like a very long time. Her father turned 88 today, her husband cooked a splendid meal for them, there will be cake when they can take another bite again. It is good to hear her relaxed, well, and *happy*.

Thank you, G-d, for my friends. Let me be a blessing to them.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hostile Environment?

Many readers will know the joy and adventure of the break room at work. There is the inevitable miasma of burned (or, what the heck, not burned, but simply foot-scented) popcorn. The scary refrigerator. The crowded configuration of sink/microwave/fridge/ice maker and so on – but trash cans are always well across the room. The stolen food, the leftover food, the occasional present of crumbcake, the odd notices posted, the joy and sheer cameraderie of shared corporate hunger.

The day someone brings fish.

The day someone else brings barbecue, and it smells so good your little wan sandwich makes you get resentful.

Today was a new day. Today was the day … someone brought in a gourmet dish of mustard and creosote for lunch.

It was enough to make the world long for stinky-foot popcorn. Burnt.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Anyone who read my earlier post from today would be forgiven for thinking I am in a less than peppy state of mind. The truth is, I'm not feeling as morbid as it might seem; the headline says, "I contain multitudes" and that's no lie.

Yet there seems to be a confluence of sorrow; perhaps the predictable result of the ruthless weather so many across America are enduring. And so, here we go - click on any of these links if you're PMS'ing pretty good and need a cry. Or just if you are curious, 'what made Diane misty today?'

Donna Everhart actually beat me to it by some days, with a useful discussion of writing as a way to channel fear and loss. Her blog is, by the way, an example of the increasing pleasure I take in following people and sites where "don't read the comments" happens to be BAD advice for a change.

Leila Gaskin takes the same topic as mine above and treats it with far more brevity - and poetry. We share the date in this, we two. Sigh.

Finally, Susan Bonifant reminds us - with a truly vivid story - "We were all five-year-olds" ...


I emailed a voice mail message to myself at home today.

"Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable. ... Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”
--Douglas Adams

One week before my dad died, we got cell phones. I recall him, mom, and me in their room, programming the little sneaker-shaped things, laughing at how amazing they were, playing with ring tones and so on, commenting about their appearance.

Dad was in bed that day, and we got the phones because his disease was terminal. Mom wanted to be able to reach out instantly in case of emergency.

We had no idea we had so little time left.

Long after he died, I read somewhere about the Columbia shuttle disaster, and was shocked and perplexed; I had no recollection of this event, and this is not the sort of event one easily misses. It had happened the day I was over at the house, playing with the phones. It’s entirely possible – even quite likely – that we were watching news of it that day. If I claimed to remember, I’d be convincing myself though.

An event I cannot erase, unfortunately, was the epochal broadcast of the Michael Jackson interview with Martin Bashir. This aired the night before he died – and after we did know.

Dad went to the hospital on a Friday afternoon, or perhaps it was morning. I went upstairs to my boss’s boss’s office, a still and stately area of our building, and interrupted a meeting between them. Anything my own boss said was blotted out by her boss, a man I still respect, admire, and am immensely grateful to to this day. He all but insisted upon getting me a car to the hospital. But I drove. I needed that time in the empty space of the cab of my beloved, first car. I needed to have it and the freedom of movement it brought with it, and I had the strangest fear of leaving it, like my purse, at my office – and then what, and then what, was all I could think, though I recognized how kind the offer was even as I refused. I needed the drive.

I needed somewhat less the turquoise Honda or Toyota with the Icthys and “GOT CHRIST” sticker on the back that cut me off on a steeply curved part of the freeway, where I spun out and ended at a standstill, facing east in the westbound lanes, and wondering (to this day, yes) whether that Christian ever knew what they’d done to me. Even just on the practical level.

The rest of the drive was safe, and the hospital was what hospitals are. Dad was in a grey cul-de-sac of the ER, it seems cluttered in my memory, but we were alone at least. Mom left us after a little while – ostensibly to eat or go get someone or talk to people or use that cell phone … but, I think, to leave us alone. Mom doesn’t always work that way, but that day, she did.

And that day, we still didn’t know.

Before she left, the three of us were talking about my boyfriend. We’d only been seeing each other a few weeks – our first date was on my parents’ anniversary, in fact – and he was coming to visit the next day. I was thirty-four, they could see I was smitten, everything was heightened with dad being in the hospital, and this was his first visit. Mr. X.

Mom wanted him to come to the hospital (we’d learned by that point they were admitting dad, they were just waiting for a room). Dad was flat against that. Not the right place. Not the right time. “Another time, Helen.” And he would not be brooked. I was to enjoy our first visit, and a little celebration which had nothing to do with hospitals.

I wasn’t anxious for any brooking myself, not least because – good gravy, what pressure to put on a new guy. I agreed to dad’s proclamation that I would follow through with celebration, and he and Mr. X would meet some other time.

The backstory here is that dad wasn’t a big one with the I Will Not Be Brooked thing. He tended to appreciate my mom’s motivations, and if he didn’t he indulged them. She wasn’t a bad planner, it worked out most of the time. But in a hospital gown and in a poor state of health – not the way he planned to meet the new boy. No. Period. Done. No anger, and no flexing of power. Just a blank absolute, baldly laid down, no more drama than that.

Then he had an attack.

When dad had an attack, he called it the dragon. Dad hated that goddamned dragon. Hated it – and, like the brooking thing: dad was not given to hatred.

He told mom to give him an Oxycodone, and she remonstrated, and he cursed that he didn’t care about prescription guidelines, he needed it and he was going to take the pill.

He took it. Mom left. And he and I sat alone, talking about Cicero and Rome and Sulla and Marius.

And then the room was ready. I seem to have left, perhaps to go home and change clothes, because I then recall coming back to the hospital, suddenly filled with family – and we knew. We knew. We knew.

I hate that goddamned dragon.

No memory of the Challenger, but memory of Martin Bashir and spitting, icy, snowy weather. Bitter stuff. Pretty only on the skylights outside dad’s window. Memory of that long-ago neighbor, of my cousin V, of getting dad into the bed. And a morphine shot.

That was the end, then – the prosaic fussings of a man transferring into a real hospital bed out of an ER one. His abject little cotton gown, socked feet. Orderly, nurse, someone giving him the morphine once he was settled. And gone. No more chance, ever again. No return. No more conversation. Breathing, still, as hideously awful as that process had become. But gone. Irretrievable.

His flesh purple and his muscles thin.

Gold wedding band *glowing* in that twilight.

And me and mom and Mojourner. Only us.

Phone calls on that silvery sneaker, at all hours, in the hallway. I must have called Mr. X, told him. He was still going to come. He was still going to come.

We talked about the plans. Nobody else was with us, it must have been so late. No television by then. Only snow, blackness and glaring hospital parking lot lights. And us. We knew – and could not imagine.

Great Xs of snow on those domed skylights. Falling, then slipping away, occluding the light in soft-edged X shapes.

Dad’s skin so soft.

Mom made us both leave. Get some sleep, she enjoined us. I think I did go to bed, because I have this memory that through much of the next day I was wearing the pants I wore to bed. Fortunately, not obviously pajamas. But yes. That exhaustion, that emotional fume, social oblivion. Living, that day, in the sacred space-time of mourning.


Talking with my best friend TEO at some bitter hour of the morning, knees up, pressed against the hallway wall, sitting on the gleaming floor.

Mom spooned him all night. He died where his heart lived; wrapped up in her.

She called us at 4:30 and we came back. It was like, and unlike, the time we spent alone with him sleeping. But he was there still.



I held his hand, and some residual electricity spasm’d, pulsed. It didn’t feel like magic. It didn’t mean anything. Even still warm. I knew this was a body. With a wedding band glowing on it.

I did not see him after that. Some did, but I held to his wish he not be … viewed. I treasure those who needed that. Some saw him after his eyes had been harvested, head bandaged, Teiresias destined for an oven, mute, and no longer my daddy. I know why they held his hand then.

I’d held his hand already. That was finished.

And then a blur, a rush, the longest day in the world. I cannot talk to you about that day. Must not, it feels like. Too many things.


Some time later, my mom handed me a Valentine’s Day card without telling me. It was from dad. Opening that almost killed me.

But there was one treasure.

Dad had left a voice mail, that day – that dark Columbia day – that day we’d all been at the family house, the day he’d been in his own bed, the day we were smiling over those nifty phones. He’d left me his voice.  “Hello (phone number)” that gruff, joyous voice of his.

He hadn’t known.

I lost that recording, long long ago.

I don’t need it. Any more than I needed to hold or see his body after it became the domain of orderlies and donations and morgues.

But I miss it.


So, today, when my mom left me a recording my email dutifully saved to a file. I sent it home.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Snow Day

My neck of the woods has been south of the many storms buffeting the northeastern coast of the US since the new year, but yesterday we caught in the middle and today I am working from home, which comprises somewhat more than just my job. Between following up on data analysis for possible negotiation of vendor services for a contract, and communications across our business lines to update several owners and executives on collaborative tools, I've been doing a little hand laundering, put away some clean items, and have pulled out a few mending projects that need to be taken care of. That cranberry turtleneck would be a good sweater to have right now ... !

The snow needs to be shoveled, but the sun is out, and I am all too aware the snow will still need shoveling later on. So I haven't done it yet. It's not even eleven, it'll keep.

On a day like this (or like this), the WFH option is good, because I can still be productive - and I can enjoy this office, so conducive to productivity - and still shake out the cobwebs by working in a completely different environment. The commute is a dream, of course - and I won't complain about being able to sleep in past SEVEN (oh, the decadence!) and wear comfy clothes/no makeup. As a day-to-day thing, it's far and away the best to be able to work at my office, but it's a mighty fine thing for safety and efficiency that laptops have come to replace desktops, and people don't HAVE to be there to get things done.

Even if, parallel to the things I'm paid for, a couple of things include laundry.

And snow-shoveling ...