Sunday, July 31, 2011

somebody shoot me now

Tomorrow is the second day of the county fair and I will be there with four children, somebody shoot me now. 

County fairs in the heartland have been elevated to the status of a Broadway blockbuster and they boast rows of hosed-down livestock, sweet-sour homemade lemonade and cows sculpted out of butter and the public slurps it up.  This is the land of deep-fried twinkies and swarthy carnies who swindle innocents out of allowance money and  make them think they are inadequate  because they can't pick up a rubber fish with a cheap fishing pole.  My grand kids are in honors classes, jeesh, where's the logic, why expose them to this?

Whitey is a friend of my husband's from grade school days and he has a piping hot temper probably from getting pulverized by an older brother on a regular basis. He also volunteered for three tours in Viet Nam which definitely is a red flag of some sort and  I remember his 50th birthday party and watching that older brother smash cake into his face forcing him against the wall breaking two picture frames.  Whitey beat up a carnie after he discovered the milk bottle was glued to its stand and unable to get knocked over by his baseball.  I like that story.

It is fun to watch a small girl's eyes grow immense at the top of the Ferris wheel and nine-year old boys screech and jump out of their seats when the tiger plunges their way. The county fair does have some merit.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

desperately democratic

Back in Michigan and I'm greasing up grand babies with sunscreen because we're headed to the pool.  I eat more vegetables when I visit my son Jim  than I do when my oldest, Jason, shows up at my door with his highly selective vegan diet. Jim and Sara are  feeding children and they take their job seriously, not a french fry or laffy taffy in sight.  By the way, those vegans, when they aren't feeling so goddamn proud of themselves, are either shopping for food, chopping it up, preparing it and finally eating. Without fatty vein-riddled meat on your plate you pretty much eat all day to maintain fullness and nutrition.  Of course, there is beans or nuts for your protein fix, but they ain't no cheeseburger.

I pick up Sara's left hand and tsk, tsk there is no ring on that finger.  We've already picked it out, says Jim, we are presently amassing funds and there are some concerns.  Evidently, the conscientious gem shopper must make certain his purchase  is a conflict-free diamond and so there are these jewelry ethical issues to consider.  Jim starts to explain but young Arya interrupts with a more interesting observation and the topic is tabled.

Back at the hotel my friend B.Obama is talking on that scary debt issue and don't you wish his tie was a different color than navy or red.  How about a Grinch pattern or something by Jerry Garcia?   I shook this young president's hand in a parking lot of a public school in my hometown three and a half years ago.  He was wearing a plaid shirt and jeans and he squeezed my hand while he listened to an old lady's question.  I felt the spirit move, there was energy flowing from his karma to mine, possibly my imagination. The Republican response says that O's ideas are sucking the life out of the American people.  I'm not feeling anything sucked out of me and am certain I would recognize that sensation. Call me desperately Democratic.

My fingernails are three different sparkly colors thanks to the work of a granddaughter this weekend.  Dave's toenails are sporting the same color explosion and perhaps I'll forget where I put the polish remover and then Dave's visit to his gym tomorrow may result in a most interesting experience. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

pain in the lane

It's crazy white heat Iowa weather and the indexes hover near 120 degrees and Death Valley looks polar bear cool right about now.  I care for children all day and I feed my father hamburger steak tonight but my head is at the pool, my pool, my turquoise cool haven.
I hand Sonny raspberry pie under Saran wrap, grab that pink swimsuit, close the door and I am gone, baby, gone.
I crawl down Rhomberg avenue at 21.5 mph, thanks to the clueless mullet-haired fellow in front of me and then I am there, pulling into the parking lot and now it's my turn.
I tell Dave I am possessive about the swim lane.  I am there for one full hour and I expect to be able to swim  without interruption, without thinking, without needing to zigzag around other citizens who are clearly not there to swim.
There are seven people in the adult swim lane, a narrow channel designed to comfortably hold two swimmers. There is the couple who want to make out, fondle shamelessly , add undesirable body fluids to the already contaminated water. Three male swimmers who need to be big and bold and testosteroney and kick and splash and spew water into my already compromised sinus tracts.  And two swimmers who insist on doing a back stroke or a face-under-the-water slow crawl, neither are good choices with this many people. YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO SEE WHAT'S IN FRONT OF YOU, KMART SHOPPERS or better yet,  PICK A LANE, NUMBNUTS.  I watch a few head-on crashes with malicious glee.

 It would be senseless to swim in the other pool areas as they are filled with leaping, screaming, fighting children trying to outshout, outdunk, outpluverize each other.  Lifeguards are weary of the whistle wailing in their ears and walk around in a glazed daze wishing they had taken the Burger King job.

Seven, usually a good number, not tonight, it is like swimming upstream in whitewater rapids. I corner a few of the swimmers and say, in my best kindergarten teacher singsong voice, let's do this, we'll swim in a long continuous loop and this will avoid collisions.  They squint at me wondering what kind of anal retentive old lady is this and continue to swim in their Claude Kadiddlehopper  fashion.  'Cause girls and boys just wanna have fun I guess, and they do not have a mission from God to complete like I do.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

woman, tired

I lied to my husband.  This is not something I do on a regular basis, in fact, I don't remember doing it at all except for the time I slipped and started smoking for three or four months, just a few a week, standing in the snow on my deck, shivering and trying not to leave telltale footprints.

When I was younger I could lie with the best, my silver tongue saved me from fierce confrontations with the ex-husband about my affair, those stories not going to happen here.  But then I grew up, I got responsible, I got to like truth and the American way and I don't do that dirty deed no more.

But I did lie this time.  I attempted to maneuver into a parking space, yes, children I was in a hurry and I didn't notice that the cretin in the Dodge macho truck was parked on the painted line and there was not enough room and I hooked my door on the fellow's fender and now I have no paint, no alignment and a bulging surface, like a sore tooth.  What I said to The Husband, "some guy scraped my car in the parking lot,"  kind of, kind of true, the words are just rearranged differently.

I shouldn't be driving these big cars. I am a small person accustomed to maneuvering in small places and guiding this tank through the city streets feels alien and unnatural.  I need to be in a Volkswagen, a moped, a pogo stick, just do me small, puh-leez. The fact that I have taken out three rear-view mirrors proves that I am not comfortable in this Chevy Impala sedan zone.
You know what I wish? Besides world peace and well-fed African children? A chauffeur, an air-conditioned limo with a thin screen TV, car fridge packed with diet Coke and Kessler's, and hours of blissful, obligation-free time.
I present you, woman, tired.

Monday, July 18, 2011

man, I'm sick of this

I am chugging up hills on my power walk, arms pumping, legs feeling like rubber bands, Ipod feeding
Beatles into my inner brain.  I am sweating and little gnats are whirling in my face and maybe I should move farther north.  And then the morning's headlines from the local paper flash into my head and I feel a tipsy gratitude that I can move these limbs at all.

 "Two wounded 133rd soldiers return to the tri-state area."  It's the photograph that takes my breath,  leaves me simmering.  The boy is nineteen years old, still in his camouflage uniform, his legs tied together, feet in giant booties like my nursing home residents wear to avoid skin ulcers.  He is paralyzed from the chest on down.  His relatives walk behind him, eyes looking at the pavement, faces stony, impeccably grieved, wanting to be gone from this crowded place. A biker guy is pumping the kid's hand, a bandanna tied around his greying hair, his leathers boast his Viet Nam participation and the boy is very scared.  His childlike face looks into the toughness of the veteran and he can't comprehend his incredibly tragic situation.

Cory will return to his home in Earlville, Iowa, a storybook kind of town and this manufactured glamor will pass. His friends will move on with their  families, watching their kids win athletic competitions and go to proms. Cory will spend years learning how to operate a body that has ceased to operate.  He will have memories of running across fields, diving into cool lakes, just pictures in his brain.

How do you not feel your legs, your stomach grumblings, your lower back ache after a hard day's work, your sexual tugs?  This kid's reality overwhelms me. I didn't know a damn thing when I was nineteen, no one does.

I thought Obama would get those kids out sooner, I was wrong.  I will continue to vote Democratic because it makes sense, but once again this American is disillusioned, Kennedy was an adulterer and crap like that.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

me and the therapists

I was raised by Sonny who believes everyone should pull themselves up by their bootstraps although none of us have straps on our boots. He can be an old cold turd but he never found himself in the throes of a full blown postpartum depression with three small children and all my friends away at school.  The doctor who diagnosed me back in the 70's called it the housewife syndrome and prescribed  Valium, hello Valley of the Dolls. I took a couple and felt the same as I did drinking beer so I didn't see the point and the pills went down the toilet..

The next doctor zonked me out on Wellbutrin  and I told my husband to tie a string around my ankle so he could pull me down from the ceiling each night, his little wife high as any hippie stoner. I changed doctors and meds and got a little counseling this time although the new doc kept calling me Sandy.  He asked what things I liked to do and I rattled off reading, gardening, swimming, hiking.  Alarmed he responded, but those are all solitary activities. He then proceeded to tell me how he and his wife looked forward to Sundays because they would make a game out of who could pick up the most dog turds in their back yard.

About this time I went back to school, left my husband and that counselor and got a job. And after nine years I found myself  in a relationship with another jerk and back on the couch again. I knew I was in trouble when the new counselor opened his calendar book and there were Biblical sayings on each little square.

I dumped those chumps and now Big Dave sits at my dinner table every night but I am still making appointments.  Dave has PTSD thanks to a purposeless war and I just don't like being married even if it is the logical place for me right now.  I need some adjustment cues and I think I'm going to like Laurie, the new therapist on the block.  She is a self-named loner married to a neurotic doctor.  At first I thought she was too perky, I don't do perky and I was irritated by the "what the hecks" and "gosh darns" that peppered her conversation, but I got over it. I just might stick around for more than two sessions.

Friday, July 8, 2011

dead people everywhere

 I am doing my morning walk through the cemetary and I see Joy Berry's grave sideways as I stoop and drink from the water faucet, 1909 - 2009, a hundred years, good for you, Joy, whoever you are, lucky girl. I read the obituaries in the newspaper, people older and younger than my mother, and I go to an Asian restaurant and am surrounded by 95-year-old healthy women having lunch with their daughters.
I have  a doctor's appointment this morning in a building next to the hospital where my mother died a year ago.  I park in the same spot, view the same water-starved bushes, walk the same walk as I did waiting for her to die.

It has been a year since I spoke to my mother.  That is a significant amount of time but I remember those last days with complete clarity.  The call came right after midnight, my brother at the hospital, her shrunken, bruised body had finally let go.  My husband and I racing through the hot July streets, I wanted to be there while she was still warm, still looking like life and talk to her one more time.
I can't say my grief  has lessened. The confusion is less prevalent, the heaviness remains and I haven't had a day when I could honestly say, I am joyful.   Whenever I approach my father's house I am slugged in the gut, she will not be there. I do not want to be in her house by myself. She comes at me in waves and I need to be outside.  My father has tucked aways keepsakes, a funny little vase with a cracked face.  She put  toothbrushes in it but Sonny decided he preferred a regular kitchen glass and now the vase sits on the closet shelf.  My fingers run over the painted surface and there is that familiar crazy tug in my belly.

Sometimes I look above my oak tree to the blueness and my sadness takes me strongly.  Most of the time I get myself back up and find something productive to do.  She would want that.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

wet puppy

Holy Toledo, it's freakin' Florida out there and I'm talking 96 degrees.  I am the only customer in the Indian restaurant and I think their air conditioner died.  There is a fan on the floor pointed away from me and I would rather have hot air blowing on me than no air at all.  My glass of Diet Coke arrives with a few wimpy ice cubes which will be gone by the second swig. And here is my palak dosa and I arrange the three bowls of seasoned sauce like the chef showed me - gingery spicy, buttermilk creamy and something brown and watery with green stuff floating in it.  I tear off a chunk of spinach crepe and dip three times, three bowls.  Ya gotta love a culture that eats with their fingers.

Yesterday was my first grandchild's twelfth birthday.  Twelve years ago his uncle and I braved the hospital waiting room chairs scrunched up and trying to sleep hoping the door would open and the smiling nurse would bring the good news.  Doctor said midnight.  Midnight came and went.  Doctor said 2 a.m.  Came and went.  Doctor said 4 a.m., you get the idea.  Ethan Randall was born at noon, I could have told that doctor my daughter was not the punctual type.  Finally, we are allowed in her room and everyone huddles around the baby, a howling little wet puppy.  I check on my baby, my Carrie, and she is exhausted, barely able to talk or move her head. 

Yeah, they really don't give you the whole story in those Lamaze classes.  It was my turn to view that precious kid and I say to his father, "he looks just like Joe (my ex-husband.)"  I know, Joel rolls his eyes.  The one person that will spend the least amount of time with the child and that's who he resembles.  Kids, if you forget everything else I tell you, remember this, the world is not a fair place.
Happy birthday, my sweet boy. Could you slow down this growing -up process a bit?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

goose poop AND Senator Franken, what a great weekend

It is time to leave Minnesota, the land of goose poop and Senator Saturday Night Live.  We actually saw Al Franken at the Pride parade, we love that guy. Those geese were hissing at me during my morning walk because I had the audacity to share the sidewalk with them for a few brief seconds.  I thought what now, last year a dog bite, this year beak indentations in my leg?

Jane and Jill come by hospitality naturally but I can't say the same for their two cats who stared me down until I got out of bed and then sniffed at my breakfast cereal. When will I find peace with the animal kingdom?
I used to have cats, I say, I used to have cats.

Lady Cricket

It was good to read a real newspaper and see a movie that wasn't produced by Walt Disney or Pixar, thanks, Jane, for the invite.

Sir Rugby

We are on our way back home and will rendezvous with Dave in the little Minnesota town of Harmony. I am lounging on a bench on the main street admiring the 19th century architecture when I see the man walking towards me.  Dave is wearing shiny turquoise athletic shorts, a green t-shirt that says: "Beer - Helping White Men Dance Better Since 1862," white tennis shoes and black work socks. And this is the reason I cannot stay away too long as my husband immediately will start taking giant strides towards becoming a dweeb. Wow, I tell him, you got here fast.  And he would have been even sooner if he hadn't been pulled over by a state trooper outside Garnavillo.  The cowboy passed a car at eighty miles per hour in a fifty-five mile speed zone.  A bit excessive, wouldn't you think, at least Officer Kevin thought so.
A piece of strawberry rhubarb pie and glass of milk at a local cafe help nurse away some of the pain.  The county will be $114 richer thanks to Dave's blunder and the law's observation.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Jason illuminated

I especially love this picture of my oldest son.  He rarely smiles for the camera preferring to stare me down with the expression of a cretin.  He was not aware the camera was aimed and clicking so we have a recording of his mirth preserved  for all time. The second picture shows a more accurate depiction of what we usually see glaring back at us through the camera's eye.

Jason has a sense of humor, it's just  hidden inside a complex intellect seeping out when dry sarcasm is required.  A few years back he had missed my birthday and a Mothers' Day, well, a phone call happened but I can't get across to my sons that I want a card, something with a little snippet of a poem on it, perhaps a good joke, a funny cartoon, something that was chosen, signed and envelope licked. I want a card.
 So on my next birthday I received a postcard from the son being discussed.  It was white with black block letters and said simply, YOU NEED A BEER.  On the back he scribbled, "I just watched a documentary on TV about leeches," and he proceeds to tell me the process of leech-eating-human-decayed-tissue on unfortunate Portuguese volunteer patients. Oh, and happy birthday, love and the rest. Got my card, now didn't I?

Jason's third grade class was instructed to write an autobiography. So he wrote the assignment and  he referred to me, the woman who birthed him, by saying  "my mother wishes I would get a sense of humor."  So maybe he did listen to me, jeesh, everything backfires.