Category Archives: Family

Daydreaming of Paul Bunyan and a T Rex

One of my favorite passages from On The Road, by Jack Kerouac is at the end of the novel, after Sal sees Dean for last time “under sad and strange circumstances.”

So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? 

When I first read this passage, many years ago, I loved it because as a child, Pooh Bear was my God.  Each night I worshipped at the altar of A.A. Milne, and snuggled my Winnie the Pooh close.  But what gets me now are the images of the road, and travel.  …raw land that rolls…all that road going…the immensity of it…  I write this because today I had an ache in my heart for the open road.  Since my father became ill, over two years ago, neither my mother nor I have been able to travel.  And lately, since the weather has turned warm, I crave the open road, cruising towards some destination.  I don’t even know where, but going .  Perhaps, the best part of any trip is the anticipation.  The sense of freedom.  The hum of the tires as they speed along on a warm spring day.  Passing other cars, knowing they’re headed to work while you’re headed to the coast, or the mountains, or wherever your heart desires.  They look like suckers.  You feel like a king. 

I read a blog the other day in which someone from the UK lambasted Americans for being uncultured and untraveled.  He claimed most had never even been out of their own state, let alone to another country.  I wondered at his statement, and considered it a gross exaggeration.  If he had statistics or facts to bolster his claim, he didn’t state them.  While I will concede that many Americans haven’t travelled outside of the country, I will argue a good number of them live near the Canadian or Mexican boarders.  Also, isn’t Cabo San Lucas one of the most popular spring-break destinations?  Maybe the blogger didn’t consider trips to Canada and Mexico counted as “world travel.”   Or perhaps he just didn’t think his argument through.

What I fervently disagreed with was the idea that most Americans have never been out of their own state.  While I could possibly give you names of a couple of people who have never been out of the country (and I said ‘possibly’), I know of no one who hasn’t ventured out of their own state.  No one.  Hell, it’s what we, Americans, are about.  Cars.  Open roads.  Resorts.  Amusement Parks.  Sandy Beaches.  National Parks.  Grandmother’s house.  We live for this stuff.  We plan it.  We record it.  We post it on YouTube.  We build bigger and better interstate superhighways to enable us to speed along to our destinations.  Most states have “Welcome Centers” for weary travelers to stop, take a break, use the restroom, get a snack, and snag a brochure or two about local attractions.  Cottage industries have sprung up close to our highways to capitalize on the American traveler.  Restaurants.  Truck stops.  Gas stations.  Seedy motels.  Gift shops.  I’ve even seen farmers markets and fruit stands. 

I’ve always wanted to travel the length of Route 66, from Chicago to LA.  Sure I know a lot of the highway is in disrepair now, but I’d still like to see the fiberglass Paul Bunyan, the statue of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and The Wigwam Village – the motel that has teepees instead of rooms.  Maybe what I want most of all is to feel the sun on my face, land moving below me, and the anticipation of embarking on a new adventure.  Don’t we all?  But don’t tell me that Americans don’t travel.  We do.  However, unfortunately for me, for some time at least, I won’t be one of them.  Oh well, maybe I’ll settle in with another read of Jack Kerouac.

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Filed under caring for the elderly, comedy, Creative writing, Family, Humor, Life, postaweek2011, Random, Travel, Uncategorized, Writer, Writing

Fuzzy Babies

A group of women gathered around the jewelry counter, like clucking hens.  As they gossiped and laughed, I hung big red banners from the ceiling.  Anniversary Sale.  Everything 25% off.  My ladder wobbled just a little as I reached towards the sky to secure the sign with a cable tie.  I disturbed dust-caked ceiling tiles and the particles floated around my face.  My eyes watered and I spat out the dust.

Banners hung, I climbed down the ladder and wiped my dusty hands on my jeans.  I could wear jeans on my job.  The hens wore skirts or slacks, with silky and frilly blouses.  They were adorned in dangling earrings and long necklaces.  Their shoes had heals, and made clomping noises as they walked across the sales floor.  My shoes had thick rubber soles, and usually a drop of paint or two on the bottom.

My back to them,  I folded my ladder.  All at once, they swooned, “Oh, how cute.” 

My brain raced through the possibilities of what could be so cute to make them all squeal.  The only thing I could think of was a puppy – a white fluffy puppy with a big red bow in its fur.  Don’t ask why.  I don’t know myself.  I imagined that a customer, or employee with the day off, brought the said puppy in to show her off.

My heartbeat quickened.  I smiled as I leaned my ladder against the side of the escalader, anticipating holding someone’s new little fuzzy baby.  I crossed through rows of socks and  purses, to the jewelry counter.  The hens stood in a semi-circle “oohing” and “aahing” over the object of their admiration.  I pushed in between them.  A couple of them stepped aside to let me butt in on their party.  My eyes widened, taking in the scene. 

 There was no puppy.  Just a woman with her hands on a baby stroller.  The pink, chubby baby lay under mounds of blankets,  like an overstuffed burrito with ears.  My heart sank.  It’s just a baby.

“How cute,” I told the proud mother,  half-heartedly. 

As I left the hens to fawn over the baby that looked like a  Taco Bell combo-meal, I wondered what was wrong with me.  Why was I disappointed that the baby wasn’t a dog? 

I didn’t have the answer, but that was the moment.  The moment I knew I wasn’t going to be a mother.

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Filed under baby, comedy, Creative writing, dog, Family, Humor, Life, motherhood, Parent, pets, postaweek2011, Random, Uncategorized, Writer, Writing

Little Yellow Flags

Wolfgang and Bunny

Crisp air swirled around us as we strolled arm and arm in his back yard.  Kicking up yellow and brown leaves as we went, I positioned my hand higher to give him more balance.  This is good, I thought. He needs fresh air. 

At long last fall had wrestled control of the days away from summer, not a small feat in the south. He stopped to pull his sweater tighter around himself.  “I wonder what the flags are for,” he said fastening a black button and pondering the little yellow flags waving near the back edge of the yard. 

Leaves crunched behind us as a little black and white fuzzy torpedo came running up with a ball. I picked up the toy lain at my feet, and gave my father the simplest answer that I could, “The landscapers put the flags there.”  Tossing the red ball as far as I could, Bunny, the shih-tzu torpedo, took off with her tail high in the air.

“When were landscapers here?”  He never remembered.

We had gone over this several times, but the cardiac arrest had left him with some brain damage.  Now there where huge gaps in his memory, and often times my visits were spent filling in those gaps.  Usually, the holes were monumental: who I was, where he lived, what had happened to him.  Today he simply wanted to know about the flags again. 

“They came when you were in the hospital, Pop.”

“When was I in the hospital?”  Bunny danced around his legs for attention.  I picked her up.

“Late September through most of October.”  The little dog squirmed and wiggled in my arms.

“Oh. I don’t remember any of that.”  He always said that.

“I know.  It’s probably better that way.” 

“I guess so.”  He patted Bunny on the head as I reminded him about the cardiac arrest and the CCU.  When I explained about his pace-maker and defibrillator he touched his chest, feeling the lump that was about the size of a deck of cards.  “I wondered what that was.”

“You’re the bionic man now.”  He looked amused.  It was better to keep things light, otherwise he became overwhelmed.

Bunny begged for attention and he took her from my arms.  “I haven’t seen Wolfgang today.  He must be under the bed.” 

I considered ignoring that observation, only to decide that the truth was best.  “Wolfgang passed away, Pop.”

Pain crossed his face.  “I didn’t know that.”

I told him gently, “Yes, you did.  You’ve just forgotten.”

His occupational therapist had said that repetition was the key.  She said eventually it would start to sink in.  I sure hoped that was true. It was excruciating seeing him discover over and over who was still here and who had passed on.

“It doesn’t seem like I can remember anything.” 

“That’s a side-effect from the cardiac arrest,” I said trying to reassure him.

Stroking Bunny’s ears, he asked, “When did Wolfgang die?”

“In August.”  Just over a month before the event that changed his life.

“Where is he?”

“You buried him, and then you planted a daffodil to remind us.”

“I did?  Where?”

I pointed to the spot in the yard.  “Over there.  Where the little yellow flags are.”

He walked towards them, setting Bunny down as he went.  She followed.  Stopping in front of the flags, he took in the prospect. 

“The landscapers didn’t want to upset his grave, so they marked it.”

“That’s thoughtful.  He was a good dog.”

I tucked my hand under his arm again.  “Yes he was.”

He grinned.  “One time he stole a loaf of bread off the counter top.  Reached right up and pulled it down with his teeth.”  Funny the things that did come back to him.

Smiling, I added, “But he put the half-eaten loaf in Rusty’s bed to hide the evidence.”

“Rusty,” he gasped.  He had forgotten about Rusty.  “So, Rusty is gone too?”  That was a good assumption.  If Wolfgang was gone, then Rusty, who was older, must be gone too.  Sometimes his reasoning skills worked.

“Yes, two years now.” I walked to the other side of the flower bed and pointed to more little yellow flags. “He’s over here.”  Bunny tromped through the garden, unaware of her predecessors. 

“And that must be Teddy,” he said pointing to another set of flags.

“Yes.” Pleased that he had figured that out, and that there were no tears today, I considered that maybe somewhere in his sub-conscious it was sinking in.

My mom and I could have taken the flags down weeks ago, but we didn’t.  Perhaps, we wanted to remember too.

“You know,” he said turning to me with a twinkle in his eye.  “I don’t think you’re allowed to have a pet cemetery in the city.” That he remembered.

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Filed under Cardiac Arrest, caring for the elderly, Creative writing, dog, Family, Father, Life, Love, Parent, pets, Starting Over, Unemployed, Writer, Writing