Friday, July 3, 2015

Day-Long Depressive

Today, my office is closed so that colleagues can celebrate a long Independence Day holiday. I was up late last night for no good reason. Talked with my brother a while, talked with my mom, and just stayed up and kept staying up, until past one. Not a breathtakingly late hour, I know, but usually I have to have some reason to keep going that long, when I've been up since six a.m.

Today ... I woke up at two p.m.

I can do some very good sleeping indeed, but I don't sleep until two. Even when I'm sick, I get up and deal with the furbabies and deal with myself in some medical way. Oblivion until mid-afternoon is not my thing. I was set back just seeing the clock, and thrown off so much I was pretty much instantly paralyzed. Beyond dressing and, yes, dealing with Gossamer and Penelope (who had never so much as nudged at me, which is odd as well), I spent an hour and a half or so pretty much just gently caroming around my house, unable to effect any action.

Then I took almost a two hour nap.

This week at work has been fine. It was short, very productive. The single relationship I've had at my job that's ever been stressful seems to have come to a good place, unexpectedly. Nothing is looming over me nor upsetting me there.

But this week in life and love and family has been sad. Not hard. Just - I looked in someone's eyes, and saw something there. Beyond sadness and beyond death; desolation.

I've known entirely too many people who have faced death. Not one of them has ever been "dying" - before. Now, I know someone who is dying. And ... in a heartbreaking way, that is actually okay. This isn't suicide, it's not someone who isn't ready. The very readiness for death is something I think we may have been trying to eradicate in recent generations. When almost anyone - at least, I know, in America - is facing extreme age or illness, the only word allowed is FIGHT. Nobody is allowed to be dying anymore.

My own father, stricken with terminal disease, was never a man dying. He LIVED all his life, every bit of it, and that was noble.

Looking into the desolation I saw this week. It is not less noble to acknowledge, and to face without fear that one inevitability life brings for us all. It is not "giving up" in defeat, only relinquishing what has been, I hope, full - and worthwhile. I hope my own part in this life came as a late, but sometimes joyous blessing. I know this life has become so dear to me.

There is a simultaneous urge to see this person die as they wish to - and to hold on, to protect and to keep safe.

Today, maybe I relinquished for a little while. My body said, "SLEEP" - and I slept. My heart said - "SINK" - and I did.

This is self-indulgence, but sometimes to be the best caretaker when the time comes, we all need to remember to allow for that. To make room for it.

And then to make room for death - and all the work and administrivia and emotional support that entails.

It has been a very strange - if minimal - afternoon. But I feel better already.

Saturday, June 27, 2015


Nyki Blatchley has a great post about adaptations which differ from their sources; the point he makes about "Female character? Love interest, obviously" is pure gold. (His thoughts make a very good counterpoint to the recent piece I linked on the possible utility of anachronism and its place in historicals)

The BookEnds blog has a good look at the new-author issue of "what if they steal my story!!??" by way of a possible plot bunny. (So, my writing readers, you have been warned before you click!)

The History Blog also provides *serious* plot bunny fodder with this post: how did the foetus come to rest beneath the bishop's robes? Impossibly tempting material!

Who Loves Maps?

Discussion this week at Janet's community has been good, but today's conversation about maps is just FUN. I love maps.

Vid shamelessly copied from Janet too. WONDERFUL food for thought, and starring a Trek alum, too!

Friday, June 26, 2015

22, 222 ... and 20160626

Twos have for whatever reason always dominated my addresses, phones, room or apartment numbers and so on in my life.

Today is the twenty-second anniversary of the day I married Beloved Ex, and he’s been much on my mind of late. We’ve talked a couple times in the past month or so, and I’ll call him tonight to wish him well on our day and reminisce a bit like proper oldsters.

BEx was twenty-two (hah) and I nineteen when he and I first met. He was a would-be rockstar and I was – really quite unformed. I’d been through my little hippie kid phase, and entered into a bit of a groupie rocker chick mode when he and I got into a relationship, but as to who I wanted to me, or was, there were a lot of questions unanswered – indeed, unexamined at all – back then.

We were together six years before we married, and all I knew was that I had a good man and that was valuable enough I couldn’t look beyond that point. I clutched on entirely because he was (and is) a fine person and not half bad looking.

It’s funny, but I never had a thing for blonds nor the Nordic God thing in a man, but the fella I married was all of that. His resemblance to Michael Hurst of Hercules: the Legendary Journeys has always struck me, because – though Hurst appears a good deal shorter than BEx – the humor and goodness in their smiles were alike. But for maximum recognition value: BEx resembles Rutger Hauer to an almost alarming degree – physically. His demeanor is nothing so forbidding (men Diane likes: nerdliness comes first, then good-looking), and BEx is twenty years younger than the Replicant, but feature for feature the similarity may be stronger than Aeolus’s.

A friend of mine during the years I was married to BEx once explained to a table of friends out for a drink and a nosh, about the color of BEx’s eyes. She told the story of how her dad used to take her and her brothers camping. They would climb this beautiful mountain, in fresh air in the sunshine. They would stop at the top to lay out food and eat by a beautiful lake. The water was blue, and so clear you could see to the bottom. Her story went on a good five or ten minutes. And it ended, “And THAT is the color of Diane’s ex’s eyes.”

Gee. And all I ever did was gank from Carla Tortelli, who said, when asked if a handsome man’s eyes were blue, “*Sigh* Like Windex!”

Image: Wikipedia
I Googled him this week – why I don’t recall, but sometimes you Google an ex, and this is one of those “aww – Beloved Ex” weeks. This time, I got one of those ghastly Olan-Mills-for-the-corporate-office type portraits; weirdly taken from a high angle, so he’s looking upward and kind of cheesy, all be-suited and too tidy and slick. His blond-ness has subsided somewhat, but for one of your Nordic types, let it be said he is ageing spectacularly well. Lovely crinkles at the eyes, white teeth he doesn’t have to treat to get that way – that one crooked little incisor I was always a little too much taken with. The overall effect of the corporate pose is a bit “MY NAME IS HERB. TRUST ME!”, but the depth of knowledge if you know BEx lends a “yep, that’s him”-ness that sees that same old smile, the slight nervousness … those eyes.

I never had a thing about blue eyes themselves, but BEx’s blue eyes truly always were beautiful to me. In addition to his Nordic looks, BEx also has a Hungarian strain, and something in the expression of his eyes always spoke of the same melancholy Mikhayil Baryshnikov always had. As bright as he seemed to be, and as slightly silly, BEx houses a melancholy spirit not uncommon in the men I have loved. He and I laughed for years about an article he once read, that men who liked small breasts (I didn’t grow mine until years after our divorce) tended to be “slightly depressed” and men who liked larger chests were into football and less educated. Hooray for reductive stereotypes of men based on reductive stereotypes of women!

So last night, spending time with a nice array of the women on my mother’s side of my family (two aunts, mom, and a cousin), I shared the photo because I knew they would love it. Aunt G. would hardly have recognized the man in the picture, but those eyes were utterly unmistakable. Mom, who always did like BEx, may have suffered some resurgence of the “why the HECK are you not with this man” even as she simultaneously does know and understand. I paint a good picture of BEx and take my responsibility for my fundamental part in our divorce, but let it not be said I see no errors nor shortcomings at all.

The fundamental issue is this – I love BEx and always have and always will. But love is no reason to share your whole LIFE with someone. My life is going reasonably well. Only if, without him, it could not, should I be committed like that to any man, even if I do respect and care for him as much as I do.

There are those for whom in fact that would be more than enough, and compelling and successful. Without regret: I just am not one of those people. What I do regret, as candid as I may be in this blog and with certain people I love, is nobody’s business but mine and BEx’s.

Image: that was me

Twenty-two years ago in the morning, it was quiet in my parents’ home. I hadn’t expected that, somehow; thought I might be the center of attention in a hive of activity. But I had breakfast alone, I think – and had to kind of pull that together catch-as-catch-can. My dress was in the best garment bag ever – my childhood twin fitted Snoopy sheet fit it EXACTLY, and pinned shut to hold it together just right, in nice soft poly-cotton. My dad and mom were not given to maudlin hugs and Very Special Moments, and so at some point I worked my way up to my room and spent a long time getting ready. I put my hair up and did my makeup and put on my mom’s pearl jewelry, and I hope I cleaned my beautiful engagement ring so it would sparkle (my engagement ring is really beautiful, as was BEx’s band; we both still have them, which seems right for us two).

I don’t really recall getting to the church, but once there I have some memory of putting on the girdle and ivory hose and shoes, and then ceremoniously being dressed, for perhaps the only time in my life post-infancy. My dress was a marvelous thing, ill-suited to a Southern summer day (long sleeves and satin, high necked, and close to the body). When we went outside for photos of the bride …. even with dress shields, you cannot stop the river of sweat that will run down your spine on a hot noonday in the windless lee of a tall chapel, wearing so much heavy textile. Even the embroidery lace was thick and substantial. This confection had been hand made for me by a friend whose own anniversary, the day before this wedding, meant she could not be with us on the wedding day.

My dad and I convened in the vestibule of the chapel and there wasn’t a dramatic moment between us. I wanted one, but somehow the business of the pageant took us away, and we walked down the aisle (never knowing a month later he would be undergoing a sextuple bypass after a heart attack).

My grandmother wore magenta.

My mother wore baby pink, and she and my mother-in-law looked so soft and so pretty.

BEx had, at that moment in his life, basically a dutch-boy haircut. After years of long, beautiful curling warm-blond hair, in that period and after what seemed to us a drastic cut, he looked like the guy on the label of Sam Adams bottles. In a tailed and cravatted tux, he just looked handsome. And nervous as hell. I looked – I don’t really know. Manic and rapacious kind of come to mind, but I may have a bias against my old self. Maybe.

Ceremony over, we took more photos and walked to the reception, which I remember mainly for my overly self-conscious feeling I was being SUCH a successful, grown-up polite hostess. I talked with everybody, smiling and unfailingly (my idea of) gracious, which I suspect was a bit on the arch side. What became of my husband, I have no idea; I was doing my duties, which had nothing to do with him.

I changed into my going away dress (a gorgeous cut, but a black dress I now remember as a haunted, bad-omen object) and hat. We drove away in dad’s red Fiat, top down, and NOBODY shaving-creamed the beautiful finish on that car. No shoes or signs either. Just two young people in a great car.

We went back to my folks hosue for a while, where we opened presents. That night, we stayed at the Embassy Suites right in town. Before embarking on what little passed for a honeymoon, we stopped at my cousin’s farm and picked up my brother, for a day at an amusement park – bro along because (a) I rarely saw him, he lived in Hawai’i back then, and (b) he and BEx liked each other, and could ride the rides I’d get sick on. I hardly really remember the day, but I think we had a good time. Then we drove up to DC to stop in what turned out to be the hotel in which Marion Barry had been busted for drugs a few years previously. ROMANCE. It was a room on an alley or some equally ugly outlook, and I ordered ROOM SERVICE as a deranged splurge.

The next morning at breakfast in their restaurant, BEx was away for a moment when someone came to the table, and I self-consciously remember saying the word for the first time: “My husband will be right back.”

We stopped for lunch at my aunt’s house, with her and one of my cousins; a gloriously tasty gorgonzola and walnut salad I still remember to this day amongst our summer treats.

Then, on the road, back to Ohio.

We did have time alone, but our wedding and honeymoon were family-packed; a varied, busy affair indeed.

If self-condemnation is clear and stark in these memories, it’s not out of regret for the marriage nor even living resentments – against myself nor anyone else. Maybe just a way to keep myself honest. But those days themselves – this day, this anniversary (which, from glorious and sunny in 1993, is now a stormy, dark, and muggy affair indeed) … they are almost as fine as the man who gave them to me, shared them with me.

Happy anniversary, Beloved Ex.

And happy anniversary to all those couples who, today, can finally marry one another in every last one of our fifty states. Congratulations, in joy and gladness.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Speaking of Costumes and Ethics ...

... two more irresistible links for the day, and then I must away - to read about night time, at this that time of year when we have the least of it ...

American Duchess has a wonderful photo diary of a day recreating 18th-century prints of sailors (oh my!!!) and a sudden storm in Colonial Williamsburg. I always enjoy her blog, but this post is one of the most charming I've seen, and the costumes are drool-worthy. The green of her skirt is crisp, elegant, and cool for a Midatlantic summer.

And for whom is the idea of a gift of firearms for a three-year-old entirely appropriate? Click to find out. At least this time it's not an American redneck. (Spoiler alert: it's a look at artifacts, not current events.)

Thirteen Minutes or So

As journalistic statements go, it is culturally and certainly factually questionable to state that "It's estimated that Italy is home to two-thirds of the world's cultural treasures." (By whom is this Euro-centric estimation being made, by what criteria, and using what sources?)

Full disclosure: I have not watched 60 minutes to speak of at all since they aired a suicide in 1998; at an estimate, perhaps I've stopped on the program three or four times in these seventeen years. Whatever my moral feelings upon euthanasia, my moral feelings about the sickest imaginable ratings grab are clear: I am against it.

However, I did watch "Saving History" this Sunday, and thought I would share. Combining, as it does, some of the thematic obsessions of this blog - fashion, archaeology, preservation ... and, frankly, the fascinating ethical and political questions attendant upon the initiatives under discussion - I was curious.

It's worth a watch if only to gain some perspective, if you feel you don't have any, on just what we're up against across the world, culturally, in an economy still aching from strain in too many areas. It's also worth just seeing the beauty of those areas of the Colosseum in Rome which have been cleaned with incredible care and dedication by those who have been given the chance. And to see the real extent of the filth threatening it in the first place.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

... and this is why I need that anger ...

I just got up, let Penelope out in her yard, played fetch for a little bit and made sure her water was fresh and cold. Came up the steps and fixed the little hydraulic control doodad on the storm door. Put away her food and Gossie's. Picked up a few things, ready to take upstairs. Cleaned up a Gossie mess he left on the STOVE for me. (Yay for pet ownership getting gross just when you're depressed - it kind of ices that cake.)

I still need to finish wiping the kitchen, swiffing, and vacuuming. Not a lot of work, but the effect is substantial.

I'm not done, and Sunday's wearing thin. Research is still waiting.

But Pen is having a good time in her yard, and I'm eyeing the cukes one of my coworkers brought me Friday, and the gorgonzola I got this morning ... with some tomatoes, I'm thinking that makes a cool summertime supper, or at least a snack.

Hurrah for the energy of anger.

That Day

Twelve years on, this is the day of the year I can't seem to control my anger. Hallmark emailed me about how I should handle this holiday, and I wanted to scream and rant. Deletion just is not enough.

Through the year, I can manage to get through every one of the thousands upon thousands of times I am told by my television, mail, and so on that I am a non-person because I do not belong to A FAMILY (I have family, yes; but the degree to which our politics and pop culture presumes all people are - or are supposed to be - members of a nuclear family is impossible to really "feel" for those who actually do; for those of us who do not, it is an inescapable imposition upon us that we don't belong to the world if we don't belong to one). But come May and Mother's Day, this day begins to bob up on the horizon. And there is no way around it.

Father's Day acknowledges NOTHING about those of us whose fathers are no longer with us. Never mind those whose fathers don't occupy that nuclear-familial role. What that must feel like I can't even imagine, but it's awful to contemplate.

I only know that the only thing I've been able to feel for this day, myself, for a dozen years is impotent anger. Impotent, not in the face of my father, but in the face of my CULTURE, which parades ugly shirts and power tools and stupid stereotypes at me for weeks on end, and cannot apparently conceive of death.

It is exhausting - the parade, and my own anger. I know the latter is a bag of rocks I collected for myself and it does nothing. But I let it live on, because I am not perfect and I don't want to be, and I have very little anger and hatred in my life. This ... Well, this doesn't actually hurt anyone. It is not aimed inward, it's not aimed at anyone. Only the faceless monolith of the idiotic and money-driven tone of the world I have chosen to stick with in life. Hallmark needs to bite it hard enough to break a tooth. But there's no ill wished on actual humans (or teeth).

On my dad's last Father's Day, I made sweet rolls and brought them to my parents' house. We ate out on their brick lanai in the back yard, then lay in the grass, lolled in the hammock, talked to each other in the iron patio furniture. My rolls weren't as good as grandma's - the sugar didn't completely caramelize with the butter. But they tasted good. My dad told me long ago, my bread was really good. It was good enough, that day.

That day is over.

This one ... isn't.

Shark Week in Review ...

... it's not what you think.

Unless you're a Reider, and then it's exactly what y'all are thinking.

For any writer reading me who doesn't read Janet Reid's agent blog, bookmark it right now. I've been taking advantage of it for years, and Janet herself (a.k.a. The Query Shark) is as generously accessible as is humanly (or shark-ly) possible for those of us still yet-to-be-published could ask. She's even begun a weekly review not only of what's been under discussion, but highlighting the community's discussion itself.

I made the WIR several times this week. On point of view, charity, and even Bad Agent/cy Behavior.

Then I got exiled to the wilds of the Reider reservation on Carkoon. Sigh!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Late Collection

With the events in my country this week, I missed - and simply did not feel up to - history nerding about the 200th anniversary of Waterloo. Here, a bit late, are the best links - pretty much as always from The History Blog (on the sale of Wellington's cloak from the battle), and of course Tom Williams, taking a look at the "wreck of the battle" ... its pathetic litter and deaths from neglect of care.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Lee Bittly and Deeb

The personal languages of families are such an interesting study. The kids who call grandma Omie, a diminutization of German Oma, for grandmother – or those who use nanna or gramps or mum, mom, dada, baba. Much of it is cultural, as those are – and then there are the baby-names, often those given by baby in trying to pronounce a name.

Phrases are the thing that begin to get really evocative. My family was filled with idioms I never even contemplated when I was small; “put that down the little red lane” meant “eat/drink it” – and I was eighteen or so before I actually quantified the little red lane as my esophagus. It’s a little bit odd, but it was ours. “Applesauce” was, as it is in other families, a way to ask for affection. My paternal grandfather always said to us, “Give me a little bit of that ole applesauce!” and dad said it too sometimes.

“Fine as frog hair” was another of those unexamined concepts; it tended to be used to mean fine as in dandy, and so the application of the fineness of a frog’s theoretical pelt again didn’t occur to me during childhood.

My dad liked to cultivate in his children an exotic menu, too. Sauteed Hummingbird Tongues was a favorite – somehow resembling the more ordinary treat of boxed macaroni and cheese (again, not until later did I think about the actual hollow, tubular tongues of the wee birds) – and braised rhinoscerous tusk might be any number of cuts of meat instead.

My friends, he amusingly forgot and reassigned names for – Henrietta, Bertha, and so on; I believe the occasional little boy in our house would be Aloysius or Agamemnon, or perhaps even Jehosephat on an especially populous day. Apparently our feminine juvenile company was less mythical/Biblical, but Aloysius, I find on Wikipedia, not only is a derivative of that ultimately Clovis-derived name, Lewis, but also the first name of Mr. Snuffalupagus, whom I had no idea owned his own given name. I’m pleased it is that one.

The paternal men were not the only commanders of language in my home; mom had this habit of saying “I reckon” which again meant nothing to me as a kid, and the number of times I asked her through childhood what “Iya rekkin” means is best unexamined, as it gives away a certain slowness on my part. Her mother, whom I never called Granny till I got a bit older (she was grammaw and my paternal grandmother was grandMA; a fine shading of my infantile understanding of identity), I identify most with “oh my LAAAAAAANDS”, a highly handy expletive she used a lot for either astonishment or to try to seem as if she were being shocked. It was good for glee, too. And my grammaw was good at glee. (Better, perhaps, than she was at shock …)

When granny came to see my house for the first time, she walked around the outside, and in the front yard she stook and looked up at its somewhat tall fa├žade, the little group of family having taken ten or fifteen minutes just to get this far in the tour. She peered at me with a wonderful smile and said to me in her gorgeously, lovingly rough voice, “Now, Di-AAANNNE. How many men are you going to have, to keep up a house like this!?”

I miss my grammaw so much. She was with us 94 years, outliving even my father (to her great sadness), and healthy for *generations* of that life. When I was small, she was “soft grandma”. My paternal grandmother was, in my very smallest childhood, slightly-scary grandma. She had darker, cotton soft hair; and she later became grandma-a-few-blocks-away, who put up with visits from me and our family dog with a marvelously forbearing primness. She made sweet rolls my dad and I once walked through snow to share with her, hot, and then brought her and them home to share with the rest of the family.

I made those sweet rolls once. Only once.

It was the last Father’s Day I had a living dad to celebrate.

So many of my family are gone, and I hold tight to my mom and stepfather, with whom I live in the same town. My brother and nieces and their mom are in a different world, but I still tread strangely close to the swamps we grew up beside. All I’d have to do is go right when I leave work, instead of left … to visit the MOTHER earth – the clay and the farm of our mom’s family line, the long-gone house where she was born and the aunt still living there, not so far away.

My dad’s line would be in the other direction, but again; not so far. Major-ville; the creek where my dad’s sister retired to a beautiful home, and those waters of Virginia which run in my blood and in my ink, even as the love poem my applesauce grandfather wrote to my soft-haired grandmother, not only about her, but about their rivers. I have that poem, in his hand, on a perilously delicate piece of paper onto which he copied that old poem years later, and which itself now is very old. He broke an engagement with another girl; impetuously in love with my grandma, his Potomac Maid, he married her instead.

Granddaddy was born in 1895. His younger brother, (1897 I believe, maybe 1898) lived to within weeks of New Year’s, 2000. He almost lived in three centuries singlehandedly, my great-uncle. They both were fine looking men, and my uncle was contracting and building until he was eighty or so; when he broke a foot, the doctor said, “you can keep working but you can’t go on rooftops anymore” and my uncle said, “heck with it then, I’m retiring.” He had to have his food put in a blender in the end, but he said it tasted the same.

His wife regaled us at an anniversary banquet, “I could not have found a betta mayun than (Great Uncle) May-jah. I could have found a PRETTIER mayun. But I could not have found a betta mayun.” Then she told the story of his intimidating the boy who once chanced to tease and be mean to his daughter.

My knowledge of my family’s history is in some ways very strange, and in every way woefully incomplete, filled with lacunae and even misinformation I’ve gotten wrong or only half comprehended or remembered.

On the other side, my grammaw and her sister. Grammaw and one of my great aunts had a habit of looking alarmingly alike, yet JUST dissimilar enough to confuse and confound me as a child. I only half-knew what wasn’t my grammaw sometimes, but I also felt an instinctive … welcome. You could hug a great-aunt even if you were a little kid half confused why grandma was in different skin – and they’d only be happy to hug you back.

My own mom has two sisters, and a brother too, and the only family similarity between all four of them is my uncle’s, to my granddaddy.

Ahh, my maternal granddaddy.

He was a big man – not in girth so much as in presence. He had an enormity and laconic charisma that made him a fascinating figure, even as I was half in awe of him when I was little. He called grammaw Lou. When he became ill, now and then he’d ask her for a “big bowl of cream” (ice cream). He used to put us on the high, metal seat and let us “drive” his tractor. I wish I had known him better.

He and grammaw had two chihuahuas, and she a third after he died; Penny-dawg (yes, Penelope had her name when I first met her, but it was this tiny echo of grandma's beloved pet that *kept* that name for her when she came home at last). He used to call small things lee-bittly old things; I don't know that he said this of their pets, but Tinkerbell and Taffy were certainly lee-bittly old things.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s before I got much past that awe, and even in his illlness he was imposing. Granny took care of him the rest of his life, with a little help, and that seemed such a long time to me, then. But her widowhood was much, much longer; and she had a friend to keep company with. I never actually met Granny’s Ernie. But I am so glad she had him.

Granny’s smile was as strong as the roughness of her voice, vivid as its twang, indelible, incandescent.

So much of my family is gone; my father and all his siblings, my grandparents; I miss them, and sometimes it's hard to really comprehend the extent of absence. That there can be no talks, no hugs; defunct circuits on the family grapevine; no new news. No more.

I miss my uncle's pontifications and his style. I miss the way my aunt reacted when I beat her at Scrabble, her laugh and her great susceptibility to humor. I miss dad's voice; gruff and low and soft, not sharp, around the edges. The way he held on when he hugged, and the immensity not only of his love but of his brilliant, curious, nimble and generous mind. I miss grandma's cooking and having her for a neighbor, and the power of her personality, and grammaw's house and all the times shared in it.

I miss my grandfathers, with less memory, but not less love.

What have I left behind for others' memories ... my older niece and her friends, using me as a jungle gym and swinging from my hair, or playing with it by turns. The perennially (pathetically) late Christmas packages, the hit-and-miss games. The pets and the eyeball-smackingly bright mantel (... the hole in the wall ...), the walks to the park in my neighborhood, and the walks and SANDWICHES when I've gone to visit them. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Phineas and Ferb - or the time when she stayed the night that Elder and I watched Viking Apocalypse and Suchet as Poirot.

The first time I ever held both of them. The way we marveled at Younger's red, red hair and how her babyhood thousand-mile stare looked like her late grandfather. Her monster-baby growl. Elder's meticulous care and organization, her incredible art, her dancing hula for her grandparents in their family room. The time she said, of her granddaddy being sick, "I wish some people didn't have to be really sick, but that instead we could all be just a LITTLE sick" - dividing the burden, sharing it and bearing it ... perhaps the wisest philosophy there is. Her way with words ("There's lots of darks out tonight") and her little sister's, too; Lee Bittly has been a writer since before she had her letters. The way she gave our whole family the affectionate nickname we call my stepfather. The way she was instantly, undisguisedly jealous in a flash when she found out I am a writer too; *her* thing, *her* need and talent.

I miss them, too.

Good thing I'll get to go see them this summer.