Summertime Blues

No one in the neighborhood had seen Mrs. Pauley’s sons since the funeral three months earlier.  No one was very surprised either.  I’d heard Mama talking to Ruthie next door while hanging the laundry about what a shame it was.  I didn’t really understand why it was a shame.  Now her sons – they should be ashamed.  At least that’s what Ruthie said.

Bright and early that first day of summer vacation I crossed the street and knocked on Mrs. Pauley’s door.  I was hoping she’d let me mow her yard today rather than wait for Saturday.  Danny said his dad was talking about a camping trip over the weekend and I wanted to be able to go along.

Mrs. Pauley opened the door, smiling when she saw me.  But she looked different somehow, sort of shrunken.

“Hello Timothy, is it Saturday already?” Her voice was as pleasant as always though and I quickly forgot my first impression.

“Aw Mrs. P, you know it’s Wednesday,” I joked back.

We chatted a bit and I explained my request.

“Of course you can mow the yard early; we can’t have you missing out on a camping trip!”  Her eyes got this faraway look they sometimes did when we talked.  “My Benny loved the outdoors too,” her voice faded away on that thought.  Then she gave herself sort of a shake and she looked back at me.

“I’ll have your lemonade in the kitchen when you’re ready for a break.”

“Thanks!”  I ran around to her tool shed to get started.

When I was finished mowing and edging her lawn I went inside and we shared some lemonade – the real stuff, not the mixed kind.  Mrs. Pauley had also baked some fresh ginger snaps.  We munched a couple of those and when I was leaving she handed me her cookie jar.

“Take these on home for your little brother and sister,” she instructed.  “Be careful with the jar now. Your mama always loved that jar.”

It seemed odd to take her cookie jar when she usually just gave me a zipped plastic bag but I knew better than to argue with her.  Mama wouldn’t like it.  And I really wanted to go camping.

At home I placed the cookie jar on the kitchen counter, pausing to grab one more since Mama wasn’t around.  After shouting upstairs that I was going to Danny’s, I went out the back door cringing, when the screen slammed.  That was going to cost me later, but it was the first day of summer vacation and freedom called.

Hours later I rode my bike into the front yard, dropped it on its side and ran indoors.  After grabbing a cold soda I went back out to sit in the late afternoon sun.  It had been a great first day of summer!  And Danny’s father was going to call my folks tonight to get permission for me to go with them to the lake!  Life couldn’t get much better as far as I was concerned.

I was trying to picture the campsite and lake when the black and white patrol car pulled up to the curb in front of Mrs. Pauley’s house.  A moment later another car, this one a fancy new model, pulled into Mrs. Pauley’s driveway and a man got out.  Something about his expression made my stomach hurt.  It wasn’t that he looked evil.  I don’t know how to describe it really.  Oh, wait – he looked like he wasn’t there.  His eyes were empty and his smile looked like it hurt.

Two policemen stepped out of the patrol car and joined the man in the driveway.  They talked together for a short time and then moved toward Mrs. Pauley’s front door where the man knocked.

When the door opened I expected Mrs. Pauley to smile as she always did when she welcomed people.  But Mrs. Pauley wasn’t smiling; there were tears on her face.  She listened while the man spoke, nodding the way you do when you’re trying to be polite, and all the time the tears continued to fall.

Mrs. Pauley nodded one last time and I saw her say something before closing the door.  The three men started to turn and I thought at first they were leaving, but they stood near the porch rail waiting.  A few minutes later the door opened again and Mrs. Pauley came out.  She was wearing her good cardigan, carrying her good winter coat and pulling along one of those rolling suitcases.

The hurt in my stomach got worse.  What the heck was going on?  I was suddenly afraid and before I could think about what I was doing I jumped up and ran across the street.

“Mrs. Pauley, can I help you with that bag?” I asked, ignoring the men.

She kept walking slowly toward the patrol car and I walked beside her.

“Why thank you Timothy, but I have it.” Her voice was only slightly raspy from the earlier tears.  “If you could do something else for me I’d be very grateful.”

“Anything Mrs. P,” I replied, eyeing the cop who had moved ahead to open the back door of the car.

“Tell your mother I said goodbye.”

“Goodbye?  When will you be back?”

“I won’t be coming back.”

“But why?  Where are you going?” The stomach ache was spreading; I could feel my eyes growing wet and I blinked hard.  I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of the men but something about this felt very, very wrong.

“Please just give my message to your mother Timothy.  She’ll explain everything.”

“I don’t want you to go!”

“And I don’t want to.  You know, I always hated it when my parents told me I’d understand something when I was grown up but sometimes it’s true.”  She paused, handing her suitcase to the other policeman, who loaded it into the opposite side of the car’s back seat.

“Timothy, go on home.  Tell your mother she can keep the cookie jar and that I said goodbye.  I’m sure she’ll explain it all.  I will miss you Tim.”  For a moment she placed her hand against my cheek and my tears came.  She smiled again and the cop helped her into the car.

None of the men had said a word.  The empty-eyed man climbed back in his shiny car, backed out of the driveway and sped off.  Both policemen looked after him and I got the impression they weren’t happy.  As they got into their car I watched Mrs. Pauley looking through the window.  When I followed her gaze I could see she was staring at her house and tears once again filled her eyes.

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Is it Miller time yet?

Why am I suddenly so emotional?  I was sitting on the train on the way to work this morning, gazing out the window, which I almost never do, when it occurred to me I’ve been doing this commute for a little over 3 years.  The next thing I knew my eyes were filling.  WTF?

I blinked back the potential for embarrassment or awkwardness in front of the other commuters, and ramped up the volume on my music.  I’m cool.  I did not just almost burst into tears on public transit.

But since then I’ve been wondering what might have caused that surprising reaction to a somewhat ordinary thought.

One possibility is that remembering how long I’ve been commuting via train tends to also bring up the fact that we lost our property and house about 3 years ago.  But I’m pretty sure I’ve dealt with that loss.  I still miss my soaking tub, but otherwise – I’m good.

Alternatively, when going beyond the last 3 years to see the Big Picture, I’ve been commuting in one form or another more than half my lifetime – ack!  That’s enough to make anyone want to cry.

Or perhaps my subconscious was facing the hard reality that I will likely be commuting right up until I drop dead.  At 57 you’d think I could be looking forward to retirement, if not soon, then at least eventually.  Just between us Dear Reader, retirement is merely a dream.  I’ll be sitting at my keyboard, proofreading legal memoranda and entering attorneys’ time for the foreseeable future.  Or until secretaries become obsolete, whichever comes first.

Is it Miller time yet?

Writing 101, Day 14: To Whom It May Concern

My nearest book turned out to be The New Yorker magazine which I borrowed from our “lending library” in the kitchen.  Page 29 is an advertisement and the first word to really sink in was … well let’s see if you can guess before you get to the end.

Dear Jon:

           Why don’t you play with us anymore?  We used to have so much fun man!  We remember the way you’d dance around your room to the Stones and play air guitar along with Jimi.  Sigh.  Those were some awesome times!

           Was it something we did?  Oh wait – it’s the needle isn’t it?  That bastard broke again, didn’t he?  How many times have you had to replace him?  He just can’t seem to stand up to the task.

           We see you play with the CDs all the time now.  Too bad you can’t read us with a laser.  But here we stand, dusty and neglected; forced to watch you dance to those pipsqueak plastic discs.

           And don’t get us started on those MP3 doohickeys!

           Well fine then.  Go on, take your pleasure elsewhere.  We’ll be just peachy on our own.

V I N Y L   F O R E V E R !

                                                               Your loss,

                                                                        The Records

Stop internet f^%kery

Pass it on.

Denise Lhamon

The most important thing you can do besides calling your mother and telling her you love her once in a while.

Watch the video:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fpbOEoRrHyU

Go onto the specified website and troll your little heart out. Because what is at stake is the very thing that keeps us all in touch.

And in cat memes.

Toodles!

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To Blog or Not to Blog

I’m amazed at how many posts go up here every day.  Having barely enough time to manage the minimum daily effort at my salary-paying job, cope with the basic needs of my home, family and pets, I find myself wondering where everyone finds the time to write.

I’ve heard and read many times that if you’re meant to write you will find – or make – the time.  Based on that, I guess I wasn’t really meant to write.  At least not seriously.  I didn’t get online one time all weekend.  Well, not counting my brief foray on my phone to look up how to reheat an artichoke.  Other than that though?  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  No online time logged.

Between mowing our postage stamp square of lawn, baking the sweet potatoes for my hummus, pre-cooking the artichokes for later in the week, cleaning bathrooms and monitoring the laundry, I had my hands full.  Literally at times.   When I managed to take a break, I planted myself on the sofa, ice water at hand, feet up on the table and Solitaire City or my current book  in front of me on my Kindle.

Sure, I could have been writing.  Even with JD on the computer, I could have pulled out a spiral bound notebook and started scribbling.  But I didn’t choose to do that.  Makes me wonder whether writing is something I long to do or whether it’s something I wish I’d already done.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the release that I feel when I’ve poured out my angst over a family argument or my pleasure at something I’ve read or seen.  I guess I’m not all that inspired to write just for the sake of writing.  Turns out I’m not writing for other people, I’m writing for me.  Imagine that.  And that includes whenever or however I want to, even if I don’t want to for days.

In conclusion, I had absolutely no business enrolling in Blogging U’s Writing 101.  Part of my brain (the part that’s still easily convinced I can go beyond my natural laziness I guess) figured it would be a good way to develop a daily writing habit.  And I have to agree, it would be, if I actually wrote on a daily basis.  The really-real part of my brain knew better, but it let the other part have its way.  I’ll likely pop up occasionally to write some drivel, but for now I’ll be over here lurking, reading posts here and there, perhaps commenting.

🙂

Writing 101: Day 4 – Lose Some, Win Some

Many moons ago my first husband and I were living in Oregon, housesitting for an out-of-state new property owner.  We lived in a twenty-something foot travel trailer with our two kids. I think it was a Sunday but the day doesn’t really matter; I had discovered my wedding and engagement rings were missing and became very upset. Not as freaked out as I would be when my current wedding ring broke, but that’s a story for another day. (See? I paid attention this time and I’m ready for installment two! Or maybe it’ll be three if I’m working chronologically.)

The rings weren’t worth much money but they symbolized something I valued – the bond of my marriage. We owned very little of substance back then – the clothes on our back and a car. Period. The trailer we lived in was part of my husband’s compensation for washing travel trailers at a dealership in town. When I couldn’t find my rings I insisted on looking everywhere we’d been that day. It may have been a Sunday because I seem to recall searching the gravel parking lot at the church. The memory is hazy; it was more than 30 years ago after all. I know we drove to town and searched that parking lot as well as the parking lot at the tiny grocery store / post office. When we finally gave up and went back to the trailer I was resigned to the rings being gone. I wasn’t happy about it, but there wasn’t much more I could do.

The trailer had an unexpectedly nice bathroom for its size. The bathroom was at the very back and stretched from side to side the full width of the trailer. It included a decent commode and a tub which was nearly large enough for an adult. I was much younger and more flexible back then and soaked in it occasionally, sitting with my knees up in order to fit. That evening was one of those times and while steeping in the hottest water available, I spotted something shiny in the shower door’s track – my wedding rings!

We eventually figured out how they’d ended up there. The day before I’d put them in the small change pocket of my jeans, probably while I was doing the dishes. Later, when I got ready for bed, I hung the jeans over top of the shower door while I washed up and brushed my teeth. The rings had fallen out of the pocket and landed in the track. Even though metal on metal should have made some sort of noise, I probably had the water running and wouldn’t have heard anything. But they were back!

From then on they rarely left my finger; I even kneaded bread dough without removing them; which is still another story.

Writing 101: Grief

Today’s Blogging U prompt fits right in with yesterday’s.  Well, it fits in with my post for yesterday’s prompt.

Yesterday we had a spark of hope that Roscoe was feeling a bit better.  Unfortunately, it was a combination of wishful thinking on our part and the canine desire to please on Roscoe’s.  JD phoned me at work to describe his morning and we cried together over the phone.  For my part, I tried not to cry.  Hell, I’m a professional legal secretary in a global law firm!  There’s no crying in the workplace!

So I guess the most difficult emotion for me to keep under control would be grief.  I wept off and on all the rest of the day but while I was red-eyed behind my glasses and sniffling audibly or blowing my nose, only my nearest co-worker knew something was wrong.  Or perhaps she was the only one brave enough to ask specifically.  Plus I was staying close to my desk as much as possible to avoid untimely breakdowns.

I’ve discovered that I fight grief by trying to keep my mind off of it entirely.  When I learned of my mother’s death I acknowledged the news and headed down the hall to the master bedroom to find some laundry to sort or some other chore to occupy my mind.  My then-fiance, JD followed me into the bedroom, sat on the edge of our bed and pulled me into his lap.  That was all she wrote … he held me, stroked my back and murmured comfortingly while I sobbed my heart out.  Yesterday when I got home I went straight to JD and held him a moment and then went in to greet both dogs.  Roscoe’s tail was wagging away but I could tell he was ready.  His doggy smile was in place but his eyes were so very tired.

I changed clothes and while we waited for the vet I did stuff around the house.  JD and I took turns getting down on the floor beside Roscoe and having last minute cuddles, stroking his back, scratching him behind the ears.  And trying not to weep.  At one point JD went out to check the mail, and I buried my face in Roscoe’s coat.  I choked out how I was going to miss him but soon he would be pain-free.  And I asked him to say hello to his doggy friends Rocky and Old Man.

The vet was a lovely woman, compassionate and patient.  She explained the procedure and let us determine the timing.  The hardest part came when JD had to help carry the stretcher down our porch steps and lift Roscoe’s body into the back of her vehicle.  Later we piled into the Suburban, taking our Beagle, Peaches with us and headed to our favorite diner since neither of us had eaten anything for hours.  When one of our favorite servers seated us and asked whether I wanted decaf I looked him straight in the eye and said I wanted alcohol but I would also take the decaf.

He went off to start a fresh pot and we glanced through a menu we know by heart.  When he returned I asked him for a double whiskey neat.  He suggested Crown which was perfect but unfortunately he discovered the bar was out of Crown so rather than house whiskey he suggested something else.  I got to try something new to me.  Courvoisier mixed with cranberry juice.  For the purists out there I’m sure that sounds godawful but it hit the spot.  I’m such a lightweight that I was quite pleasantly buzzed before I’d finished half of it.  That helped in two ways:  first, it dulled the pain I was feeling; and second, JD was enjoying my inebriated state which eased his pain at least temporarily.  I rarely drink spirits; I’m a beer gal most of the time.  So last night was the closest JD’s ever seen me to completely drunk.  Apparently I was pretty amusing.

Bonus points for the Courvoisier:  I went right to sleep when I finally laid down.  Now I just need to get through the next days and weeks … I know from experience time will make it less painful.