Hello…Good-bye…Later

For those that have not noticed, I have been away.  I was way down under, down under a large pile of covers.  This served a dual purpose; I was wonderfully warm and cozy and with the covers pulled over my head I was invisible (well it seemed to work when I was three).,

I was dragged from my hiding place kicking and screaming; “Mom is expecting us for breakfast, get dressed, you can have your coffee on the way.”

“Mom”, is Marion (Wicked Witch of the West, one of the octogenarian couple and mother to the SWMBO), Marion is suffering with cancer and is at present going through the first of four cycles of chemotherapy; I have assisted with her in-home care.

“John (elder brother to the SWMBO and present care giver to “Mom”).wants to have a talk.”

Family conversations, at least those within the SWMBO’s family, are not on my top ten best things; actually sitting in on one thiumeir conversations is like being a very special corner of Hell.

Dad (John senior, male component of the octogenarian couple) was at the kitchen staring at his empty coffee cup and trying desperetly to reach through the fog of his dementia and remember what he was going to do with this thing in his hand.  “Mom” was in her bed, sighing, afraid to get up, mentally reviewing her morning list of medications, “Cyndi”, she yelled down, “do I have any Imodium…I have to have Imodium, I’ve got diarrhea again.  Where’s my orange juice, can’t take my pills without my orange juice.”

John (the elder brother)sat in the blue wing-back chair tucked in the far corner of the living room, his face concealed  by the open book he held.

“How long has she had diarrhea, Johnnie?”

“Since Thursday.”  He turned a page.  “I’m leaving next Tuesday .”  His head turned slightly to his right as moved his gaze to the next page, he paused briefly and again, turned the page.

“Mom, and you making it to the bathroom alone?  Michael, make sure she’s cleaning herself.  Michael’s going to get you down for doughnuts.  When are you coming back ?”  The SWMBO was definitely in the house.

Never revealing his face, “Don’t know.”  Another page gone.

The SWMBO’s voice could be heard throughout the house, “John, come to the table for doughnuts.”

From his chair, eight feet away, “Don’t eat breakfast.”

“Are there any jelly doughnuts, I like jelly doughnuts.”  Dad looked from box to box opened on the table.

“Dad, you’ve eaten three jelly doughnuts already,” I said, “can I get you more coffee?”

“Three, are you sure?  They were really fresh.  Three?…Are there any jelly doughnuts, I like jelly doughnuts…when they’re fresh.  Are there any jelly doughnuts?”

On the ride home; “You’ll have to stay there through the week; I’ll come over on Saturdays and you can go home over the weekend.  You’ll have be back Sunday afternoon.  That should give you time to take care of our yard.  I think you know that the only way this is going to work is if they move in…its the only way we will be able to spend any time together…its the only way they can save any money…its the only way…and when I’m home, I can help you with them.   Oh, State Farm wants everyone in the Division to put in fourteen hours OT every month.  If you were still working I would be happy to retire and help more.”  The SWMBO was driving, nibbling on her fingernails, interrupted only by a need to adjust the temp control.

“…its the only way” was fading away as in my mind I pictured climbing under a large pile of blankets and once more becoming invisible.

 

 

Dear friends, with my new (insane) schedule and the duties involved, I will be restricted to writing one day a week.  I promise to share my meditations from the weed garden and observations and conversations with warriors of the finest ilk.

The NW Oncology Group, here in Kennesaw (GA), provides chemotherapy treatments for 60-75 victims of cancer daily.  Some, like Mom, once a week, others; every other week or so.  There are no masques there, no casts, they face a common foe, and…and there are no tears.

There are smiles, gregarious outbursts of affection, it is never quiet and there is much laughter.  I can not say I know the cause, I can only speculate at this point, but I hope to find out what it is that brings light and laughter into their lives and I promise I will share.

 

peace out, pilrims

 

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My Clock

 

 

“Michael, you are going to have to look after Mom and Dad.  Gather your things.”  The SWMBO said in her most endearing voice.

She was referring to the ‘Octogenarians’; the Wicked Witch of the West (Mario) and he who does not/cannot/will not listen (John).

“Yes, dear.  How long will I be staying…just to be sure how many of “my things” I will need to gather?”  I said over my shoulder as I made some futile adjustments to my clock.  It is a two hundred year old case, mostly, with a great number of original workings; the balance found on “Stealitback.com” and canabalised parts from more contemporary clocks.  It runs 2 minutes, 38 seconds slow in any given 24 hour period; as close as I will ever get.

 Between 2100 and 2130 every night I Wind the clock and the chimes and set it just short of 3 minutes fast, every night that I’m home.  “How long do you think I’ll be there?”  I said a bit louder.

“Johnnie will be coming down to help out after his trip to Hawaii, he is going to need to get his things together; close the house, take care of his mail, visit the cousins…oh six to eight weeks.”

“They are your parents; you, John, and Chris…is Chris coming down to ‘help out’?”

“Johnnie’s doing all he can, Chris is just too busy and you know I have to hold down my department.  And you, you’re not doing anything…you’re retired.”  The SWMBO walked from the kitchen to the living room, TV remote in her hand, “Pack for a week, I’ll relieve you after that.”

 “Gotcha.  Hon, please remember to wind the clock.”

 Nine days later I received a rare call from the SWMBO, it was 1000, “Yes, luv?”  With the SWMBO it was always best to ask what she wanted first; the conversation was going to get there soon enough.

“I’m having a miserable day, everyone knows how hard it is on me, Mom having cancer, and with the chemo side effects, everyone thinks I should be with her.  Well, at least I’ll beat the traffic.  Make sure you have finished their back yard.”

“Its been three years since a self respecting rake would be caught dead in that forest. How do you expect me to have it cleaned up.  Did you forget I’m feeding your mother and father, arguing with both about any PT and carrying her up the stairs to bed.  You do know that she can walk up stairs perfectly well and all of this is just to torment me, don’t you?”

“Whatever, I’ll be there soon”

Not long after the garage door open, I was certain it was to the sound of trumpets sounding.

“Hello, Mom.  How are you doing?”  The SWMBO yelled out to the living room not looking for a response; from the corner of the couch a small, frail looking figure with very thin silver hair mumbled…something.

“I was going to talk to him about that right now, don’t worry.”  The SWMBO’s superhuman powers were astonishing (and not a trifle scary).

“I know you wanted to take your little fishing trip, after the chemo and all…”

“That won’t be for three or four months and I am taking “my little fishing trip”…and?”

“We’ve talked about that, and you’re spasms…you need to use your cane so much now…and your voice…well we, Mom, Johnnie and I feel you would not be safe, wading in streams, you could fall…and…and drown; we really can’t let you do that.

“Oh when you get to the house, the lawn is a mess; take care of that, walk Duchess and QVC has a Quacker Factory program at 6:00pm, I’ll need to be home for that.”

“Gotcha, back in five hours.”

“Oh, Michael, Johnnie’s been delayed another week.  Love ya.”

The garage door at the house squeaked a bit, I’ll need to lubricate that.  I walked through the door from the garage into the living room, my 18 year old puppy, the cats Poe and Callie were all asleep on the couch; Alix would be stretched out to capture the sliver of sunlight that escaped the blinds in the office at this hour.

The house was quiet, save Callie’s snore and the silence was ripping a hole in an already injured heart.

There was no ticking as the pendulum would have swung, back and forth; the dark wall clock, with the two  hundred year old case, mostly, was quiet.

The clock hadn’t been wound.

I took the ten minutes to properly set the time, wound the clock, set the pendulum in motion.  I watched the slow movements of the hands now set almost three minutes ahead.  Content that the world was right again, I shut and locked the case.

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“Duchess, baby”  I said as I scratched her ears and kissed her head, “Let’s go for a walk and I’ll leave the leash on so you’re not committed to chasing the rabbits.  And then treats…before I mow the lawn.

 

 

peace out, pilgrims

 

 

Weed Garden

 

I love my weed garden (there is not a single cannabis plant to be found).  I am the only human in the house that shares this sentiment.

Over the years I have planted trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials around the house and throughout the yard.  Digging here is much like anywhere in Georgia; there is red clay and there are rocks, rocks of every size, shape and mineral imaginable.  The rocks went into a pile; I called it, my pile of rocks.

On one particularly hot summer day, four years ago, I envisioned a rustic rock wall, along the culvert that made an eight foot deep cut into the little hill that is my back yard.  The culvert runs for about a hundred feet before sliding into the five foot diameter drainage pipe beneath the lane.

It was an ambitious plan and after careful thought and a chilled beverage, I scaled back my vision of a wall to about twelve feet.  Even so, it was still a lot of rocks to move.

As happens with many of my visions, things changed.  The wall I envisioned moved from the top of the hill; I carved instead into the bank and stacked the stones.

Just beyond the top of the wall was every imaginable natural, wild growth to be found in Georgia.  One year the rains carried blackberries, blackberries that grew in grand proliferation; to the delight of the neighbor’s children as they approached the brambles with buckets and visions of jams and pies.  The storms came and as storms are want to do, they brought change; the blackberries were soon replaced with fragrant honeysuckle (and poison oak, not the best year).

It was that year of the ‘fragrant itch’, in late spring the wall evolved, into a garden.  The pile of rocks all but disappeared and became three small, terraced sections, bordered by rough stone walls.  Taken as a whole, the garden was shaped like a leaf.

I turned the earth, that wonderful Georgia red clay, and added fresh soil and turned it again.  I planted… wild flowers. In a few short weeks, tall, gangly green plants had pushed through the soil and raised their heads of yellow, orange, blue and red to the summer sky; and then the fun started.  Bumble bees from three counties took up residence, along with a host of butterflies and by early July, the humming birds.

I took to having my morning coffee; sitting on the wet grass beside the garden, the new inhabitants took little or no notice of me even the feral gerbils that had burrowed their way in (chipmunks).

Today, once again, the SWMBO, informed me that the garden, like my unkempt hair was “unbecoming” and had to go.  One is going all too fast on its own, the other…not by my hand, if however she wished to disassemble it…

As it is every Spring Season, the garden is overrun with weeds and leaves from the old sycamore that had at last surrendered to the assaults of wind and lightening.  Vines of various types had worked their way up from the culvert and through the cracks in the wall; some moved the stone in sections and that part of the wall would be redone and others anchored the stones in place, like a living thing.

Familiar earth, rich and black, turning easily, as a familiar shovel blade cut into it, weeds give up their hold, for a season.  Soon I’ll sit quietly in the grass and listen to the sweet music from my little weed garden.  And I’ll smile, a lot.

Peace out, pilgrimsImageImageImage

Who/What Am I Today

The daily question: What am I going to do tomorrow.  How stupid is that?

0500, the SWMBO is showering, preparing for another day in the “orifice”.  The kids ; fed, moderately played with, walked and soon to be neglected for the balance of the day as I sneak away…to meditate…to meditate on the question: should I continue my studies to become a meditation instructor?  How stupid is that?

My turn to prepare for the outside world; the donning of the distractions; ornate rings on either hand (two for the right one for the left), several bracelets, leather and wood, outlandish socks, poly-chrome shoes, stylish cane and always a hat.  Always an odd old bird, but few see the tremors, the twisting and jerks, or so I like to think.  Like a four year old that makes himself invisible…by covering his eyes. How stupid is that?

This morning its take the octogenaria to the hospital, more tests…still no answers

I’ll wait ’til tomorrow to answer all my questions.  Really, just how stupid is that?

Illustration: Calligraphy-Zen Art by Qiao Sen

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The Major and Darcy Weaver, Chapter 3

“My eyes were closed tight, hands behind my back and by my reckoning; I jumped, maybe 6 inches high, over a twig.  That was about a minute ago.  I was waiting to land.  I slowly peeked at where I was going to end up; and through my now opened eyes, I looked at all the stars…where a hall was supposed to be.

“STARS, they were all around me; in front of, in back of me…” the Major turned to his left, tilted his head up, then down, spun left, then right,”…they were on top of, all around me, they were even under me, stars and nothing else.  What happened to the hall, the hall that was on the other side of the twig?

“What happened to my clothes, in the light of a gazillion stars I could see that I was no longer wearing my 49s sweat shirt and jeans anymore.  The pants I was wearing were of a of a woolen type, a deep brown like the wet bark of a tree, a ruffled front shirt with lace sleeves the color of morning fog, braces of the deepest purple, a coat the color of a deep water lake collar rising up to my ears sleeves rolled back and draping to mid-thigh.  I felt a little chill around my ankles and saw…the sneakers, an olive green with orange laces and no socks.

“It was then that I noticed the hat.  A scarlet hat of felt, yards and yards of felt.  Something was tickling my right ear, like a bug buzzing to close; I went to brush it away and discovered it was a feather.  The hat seemed to be growing feathers, long feathers, short feathers, straight feathers, bent feathers, when would it stop?  I reached to the top of the hat; it stopped.

“I was standing, floating; spinning it was hard to tell in that space.  There were explosions of colors going on all around me, colors I could never have imagined.  Then colors collapsed on themselves, and music was in the colors, thousands of beautiful songs played at my ear.  I was somewhere between the beginning and the end, here and there…and then I knew something else…I WAS FALLING!”

The Major grabbed the brim of the hat and with a look of panic on his face.

“From out of nowhere, there were clouds and water and very solid ground below me (I was sure it was below me this time) and  I was going to die.

“The wind was tearing at me as I fell faster and faster, it pulled most of the feathers from my oversized hat.  I twisted the hat on tighter…and I slowed down, I tilted the hat right, and I turned right, with the hat over my right ear, the few remaining feathers flopping in the breeze, I was floating (again).  Floating over a land that was nestled in the warmest corner of the calmest sea (and I had seen them all during my rapid decent).

“There were fields, filled with every kind of flower imaginable; there were patches of the deepest red, blues and green bunched tightly together; colors that in the breeze looked like waves on the sea.  It was a splendid, enormous, impossible patchwork quilt.”

The Major extended his arm, with his hand open he gestured in a wave like fashion from corner to corner of the field he was in.

“laid upon the ground for a giant’s picnic.

“The splendor that was flowery field was dwarfed by the forest bordering it.  Populated by trees of stupendous proportions, with bases bigger than houses, trunks and branches rising so high above they separated the clouds like foam on the shore wraps around a stone.

With a look of delight and voice almost a whisper, he said:

“Why this could have been a model for the Garden of Paradise.”

“It was then that I noticed that I was once more falling, not as far or as fast, but FALLING.  In great haste I twisted my hat, tried pulling it over both ears and then my eyes and was just about to scream…when I stopped, I landed.”

“’It took you long enough…just had to gawk.’ Charly said.  ‘Pull that thing off your eyes and lets us take a stroll.’

“’Well, Master Quickstep, what do you see?’

The Major tilted his head up as he spoke, shifting his gaze as if talking to a much taller person.

The Major stood silent for a moment, he slowly turned his head from left to right, his mouth opened his eyes grew wide as he said,

“Beautiful…colors, flowers, trees and grasses…beauty…sir”

“’Charly,’

The Major’s head tilted up and left,

‘Come, into the Wood.’ The Major said in a voice deep and pleasant.

“As small as Charly was he moved very very quickly and it was a struggle to keep up and as I started to break into a run, he stopped, turned and faced me, fists on hips he looked at me.  I was going to run him over or if by some miracle I could stop my feet from moving I was going to fall face first into the mossy ground or on top of Charly.  My olive green sneakers (with the orange laces) held their ground as if glued to the forest floor, my woolen trousers grew ridged and it was the very purple braces that kept me from flying out of those same trousers as I waved back and forth like slinky on an incline.

“’Are you always this slow?  Why ever do they call you, ‘Quickstep?’  Charly stood in a one of the scattered shafts of light that made their way thru the dense canopy above.  Charly gestured toward the ground around him, as if on cue a breeze shifted the trees and the pin points of light danced through the forest.  ‘What do you see?’ he asked.

The dancing lights showed the brilliant greens of the ferns, the tans and greys of clusters of mushrooms, discarded branches and leaves, a rabbit, squirrel and the damp moss floor.  I mentioned all that I saw, overwhelmed by the balance, the perfection of it all.

“Charly laughed more of a chuckle as he led us, (at a more leisurely pace) from the heart of the Great Wood back into the sunlight.  ‘Take that thing off your ears and listen.’”

The Major pulled the hat off of his ears and set it high on his brow so that it draped like a head dress and tilted his head as if listened to a distant voice,

“I listened and listened and then I began to hear them; all the voices, some were grumbling, some were unkind, some frantic and none were happy.

“All of the flowers seemed to be…well vain.  This is what I heard  ‘I have the true red’ said one red rose; and ‘Only I have grand stance’ said the iris.  Among each and every flower boasting of its splendor; there was unhappiness, for it seemed that flowers have the very softest of voices.  You doubt me, hold your ear as close as you might to any flower any flower you chose and tell me what you hear.

“So brag as they might, they couldn’t be heard by even their nearest of neighbors.

“Now they did have guests that stopped by I saw; the oh so busy bees, butterflies and the occasional aphid.

“The bees arrived in a flurry of rapid movements and even more rapid talk.  ‘The buzzzz queen said buzzzz buzz and buzz, gather-buzzz-ing buzz buzz, and buzz.  Good-buzzz.’ The poor soft spoken flowers couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

“The butterflies arrived and sipped a cup of dew off the flower’s leaves and gracefully danced across the colorful flower petal and listened to all the poor vain flowers had to say about themselves.  And they listened and listened and listened…a never said a word.  One daffodil referred to it as ‘…talking to a rock.  It would be so nice if once they would agree with how beautiful I am.’

“When the aphids arrived and they often did; they never listened, rarely spoke, except to say, ‘Very tasty.’  A complement the poor flowers really didn’t relish.

I listened as a Wisteria vine, wrapped around the branch of monarch of a fir tree shouted as loud as it could; of all the woes of the flowers, into the tree’s ear.”

The Major pulled himself up as tall and straight as he could and in the most commanding voice he could muster.

“You think flowers have problems.”  The tree’s voice boomed over the top of all the meadow, through every path in the wood and out to the sea; “I stand as tall as a mountain and as strong and all I do is support a nest of birds, be a playground for a family of squirrels.  A waste, just a waste.” And the tree’s voice trailed off, his eyes closed and he seemed to drift off to sleep.  But the same lament was echoed by every other tree in the wood.  Then the trees once more stood tall, ridged and silent.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something moving in the wood.  It rustled a few leaves, had no voice of its own…and then I saw it clearly…a little dust devil.  As it twisted and darted its path through the deep wood; it was drawing ever closer to the sun lit meadow and it was carrying something, something very small.

The Major and Darcy Weaver, Chapter 2

The Major walked to center stage and looking at his audience, more people than he would have imagined, his gaze fell on the eleven extraordinary people in the front row unconsciously bowing to them before he began.

In a voice with more bravado than uncertainty “Good afternoon all, I am Stephen P. Quickstep, simple teller of tales, at your service.” Well, I’m off to a start if not a good one, he thought.

Lowering his head he brought his right hand up to his chin, as if to stroke a beard or lost in thought.   Then in a wink, lifting his eyes to the gathering, “Do you believe Faeries, Pixies and Elves, you know the Dawn Folk?”  Before anyone could answer, with a wave of his hand as if brushing them aside, “No matter, most of the Dawn Folk that I have encountered don’t believe in people, they know we’re just tales they tell their children at night.”  Some of the audience chuckled.

“This story began with a knock on my door, a rather loud knock.  Expecting a person of considerable size to be calling, using the standard inverse ratio of sound to height…this sounded something like a battering ram) you can understand my surprise when before me was a very small man (with solid knuckles).  He stood about”…the Major stopped from indicating with his hand the height of his visitor; and drew on a more tangible reference.., “not much taller than the door knob.  The hair on his head and the hair of his beard were the color of flames and seemed to give off heat when you got too close to him.  His clothes seemed out of place, if not out of time.  But it was his smile that my eyes were drawn to first and in all the time that we would be together, that smile never faded, not for a moment.”

“It was in November that Charly (that was his I name I came to find out) came to visit.  Had it been December, I would have thought that Santa had sent a messenger, by way of an elf;  but this message wasn’t from Santa.”  The Major stood as if talking to someone on his right, he turned his head back to the listeners

“‘Stephen…’ Charly said.

“You know my name?’

…of course, Stephen P. (and I know about your grandfather’s quip) Quickstep.’

“How could you know about the P?  No one knows about the P?  I said in disbelief.

“‘Please, knowing names is easy…comes natural, but I know some things that you NEED to know…to set the record straight, as it were.  Histories…real ancient histories, histories that go so far back that they’re remembered only by the sun and the sea.’

“The sun and the sea you say…like in an adventure.  I was skeptical.

“‘Yup, you could say an adventure; but do you have the courage to go on that adventure?’  Charly waited a moment, ‘I got me a simple test of courage, right here.’  He reached into the outside right pocket of his forest green coat and pulled out a twig, a little twig with four small leaves clinging tightly to it.”  The Major squatted low and placed his hand in his pocket and slowly removed it holding a twig that was only seen in the mind’s eye.

“That’s your test, your test of courage?

‘Yup.’

“How does that work, this test, the twig will shiver and point at me if I’m worthy?

“‘Nope.’  He said as he bent over and placed the twig on the threshold of my front door, with his hand still on the twig, he looked up at me and said, ‘You’ll have to jump over the twig.  With your eyes closed.  Hands behind your back!  If you’ve the courage.’

“I quickly calculated my chance for serious bodily injury, they were close to nil.  I closed my eyes put my hands behind my back and jumped.”