Friday, December 30, 2011


Though it is late afternoon a cream of mushroom soup fog still cuddles me as I contemplate the almost end of another year. Earlier today as I was denuding the weathered manzanita branch of the miniature ornaments displayed each year to give a semblance of Christmas spirit (for its still hard to be joyful without my life partner to share the task) I felt a welcome tingle of pleasure fingering the memorabilia. It was a feeling of both surprise and tenderness. A number of the objects had been Lee’s folks. Three of the special ones were White House Christmas replicas given to me by Lee’s great niece Julie and family from Virginia with whom we shared Christmas brunch again this year. Some of the ornaments were favored objects in my therapy office sand tray, thus infused with multiple memories, magical and transformative. Does that mean that time has softened my sharp edges of loss? I surely hope so. A surprise stopped my introspection. In the bottom of the plastic crate in yellowed tissue appeared the spectacles shown above. It eludes me where they came from, but they must be at least a hundred years old. The frames are incredibly fragile; thin wire, rusted in places. The lens are intact but the glass is so amber and shattered it looks like ice on a melting mud puddle. For the photo I placed them on a bible I was given at age 12. It opened randomly to the book of John. The bible is not quite 70, but it was the oldest prop I could find around. The set up rather pleases me. Perhaps I will paint it some day, or maybe I will put the thought on my bucket list. Tee Hee.

Lately a number of my friends have been talking about doing things on their bucket lists. How funny, for they are all younger than I. For instance, Catherine and Mary went to New York to see the Thanksgiving Macy’s Day parade because it was on Catherine’s bucket list. And my friends Sue and Jeanne spent part of the holidays flying to Fairbanks to see the northern lights because it was on Sue’s bucket list. My painting teacher Sandy is going to Guatemala in the spring to paint because its part of her bucket list. I’m afraid I can’t think of a thing I’m aching to do that I haven’t already done. Of course I'm a little jealous of my friend Arlene who saw a bald eagle in her back yard last week, but that's not something one could plan for. In retrospect, I do know my grey garden bucket I use for weeds has a big hole in it. Likewise the bottom of the yellow bucket I use to gather Kodi’s turds is dangerously thin. Perhaps the message is I should concentrate on the precariousness of the here and now rather than the promise of the future.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Conflict

Ho ho ho. Its almost Christmas Eve and I will spend the day shopping and preparing brunch for Lee's family visiting from Virginia for breakfast on Christmas morn. It will be fun for I do not usually plan to feed three sturdy men with hairy chested appetites.
Its an adjustment in expectations. I hope I get it right this year! Meanwhile I'm sharing an early childhood Christmas conflict of a different sort.

Christmas morning rather than the preceding eve was when we celebrated in my house. Santa was supposed to come after we two children went to bed, bringing the tree, gifts, etc., and restoring himself with the chocolate cake and milk I carefully placed by the fireplace. I remember coveting the cake. It had delicious crackly white frosting. I think all this was my mother’s English tradition, for my Dad grew up so poor they probably did not celebrate at all.

Daddy would jingle bells in the yard outside our window to add to the guise. Mother would stay up most of the night wrapping gifts and decorating the tree and in her usual style irrigating her vocal cords with whatever booze was available so that in the morning the living room looked like a magic show with twinkling lights and piles of packages. This meant that she would not drag out of bed until nine or so, usually hung over, and my sister and I would have to wait quietly in the dining room in agony of anticipation. Our ugly long brown socks which fastened with garters would be hanging by a clothes pin from the fire screen stuffed with tangerines and mixed nuts including one called nigger toes. I had no idea what that meant and I doubt my parents did either, though of course I wince now at the racial slur.

The big problem for me however was I knew there was no Santa. I was reading by age four and had spotted a Time magazine on the hall table with the cover story titled “Should We Tell Children There Is No Santa?” I remember feeling both smug and relieved to have that one settled. Then followed the burden of pretense. The last thing I wished to do was disappoint my parents and this farce seemed so important to them. I was very good at pretense but still it was a struggle for I had been taught that honesty was the greatest of all virtues. I remember having to sit on Santa’s lap at the Bon Marche in downtown Seattle and feeling like vomiting as I recited what I wanted. “Have you been good all year?” he’d ask. Of course I’d been good, but wasn’t I being bad by pretending and denying the truth? It was so confusing.

As I’ve looked at what’s happening in Congress this week I wonder if some of those elected officials aren’t experiencing that same struggle I did as a child: how to be honest and yet compelled out of loyalty to keep up the farce. I wish them resolution, relief from the conflict, and peace.

Its surely the right time of year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

All Things Electrical

This was the week that all things electrical tested my emotional stability. I longed for the serenity of Bali and wondered about chucking civilization for a quiet island retreat (complete with maid and food service and twice daily massages of course).

For a while I’ve noticed that two of the four burners on my electric cooktop are kaput and the replacement parts are no longer made so last night I ordered a new one, but in the logic of design the new one is ½ shorter and ½ inch deeper than my counter cutout, so I had to buy a kit to fill in the cracks. Drat. I hope it works.

Chris my usually invisible kitchen contractor appeared late Tuesday afternoon and started the ceiling lighting redo. He left at 9 leaving the fixtures hanging precariously by long cords and promising to be back in the morning. Ha! There they hang tickling my ear lobes with every passage and giving me the shakes.

The same day my living room tv reported “no signal”. Meanwhile some connection has been severed on my IMAC, new in February, so the mouse batteries wear out every few days. Or not? Maybe the machine just thinks they are worn out. Apple sent me a new mouse on warranty but the new mouse seems to have scrambled the cordless keyboard so now it won’t connect. Therefore they are sending a new keyboard as well. I wish someone would send me new body parts on warranty! I could use a new knee as well as a new waist line. So a nice direct tv service man just came and informed me my receiver was completely dead. I don’t know if he was referring to my brain cells or my libido but I can assure you that pretty much nothing works on all cylinders around here. Anyway, the tv now has many new parts and a new dish (again onwarranty) and boxes and cords. It also has an annoying blue light when on. The patient service man informed me that I could even get my horoscope on the menu. So after he left I looked for today for my sign and got this:

A burden is eased and the relief you feel about this will bring a surge of self-control. Does this mean I will stop hitting the ice cream when the next thing crashes? Certainly hope not.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Remembering Pearl Harbor Again

Its 4:40 a.m. and I am watching the western sky outside my kitchen slider in preparation for the spectacular lunar eclipse due about 6 Saturday morning. I'm annoyed because I will be alone. Until a week ago radio listeners would be calling in all over the greater Bay Area sharing their moment to moment celestial experience of the eclipse.

Whereas reading and painting are terribly important to me, radio is my dear companion, especially now that I live alone. Most tv bores me. Last Friday radio station KGO announced it was discontinuing its long policy of talk radio in favor of mostly news. Angry, despondent and devastated I wondered what I would do without my faithful old friend, KGO? I am in the habit of listening to it almost every waking moment and most of my sleeping moments too. That's over now. The new format stinks. Goodbye KGO. I'll survive, but not without a whimper. In the forty years I've been a KGO addict I've only called in twice, once to share the following story, so if you read it in my blog last year, bear with me. My writing is improving even if my disposition is not. Perhaps it will help you understand why radio has always been the media with such an imprint on me.

My father sits in his unmoving mahogany rocking chair good ear pressed to the speaker of the brown Philco radio console. I shiver watching the wetness from under his trifocals spread down his unshaven cheeks. Daddy never shaved on Sundays, so the dark stubble is normal. The other six days of the week he dresses in dark blue business suit, vest, tie and felt hat, his business clothes. Proud of his position, I often accompany him to work on Saturdays. He is a self-educated man but quite brilliant in math and engineering. At this time he is the district plant supervisor for Pacific Telephone and Telegraph in Seattle. His office and staff seem impressive to my adoring eyes. I know he is on the cutting edge of sonar and radar for other cities and government entities are always calling on him to consult. Sometimes I am allowed to ride with him on business trips or on the Telephone Company barge as they are maintaining underwater cable in Puget Sound. You can imagine how all of this is impressive to an adolescent.

What was unnerving on this particular day was that I had never before seen him cry, and in my eleven-year old eyes fifty years was very old to begin crying. It was Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, the day that President Roosevelt said would “live in infamy”. The radio announcer on KIRO was reporting the sinking of our fleet in Pearl Harbor from Japanese bombers. Battleships Oklahoma, Utah and Arizona were sinking, and the death toll was mounting to over 2,000 sailors and flyers. With each new report Daddy’s shoulders seemed to slump more. That’s all I remember of the day. Even now, seventy years later, I can feel the qualms of bewilderment I felt that morning. It was probably ten years later before my sister shared the rest of the story.

It seems that about July of 1941 my sister, four years older, answered our home phone. The party on the other end asked for our father stating it was important: the President’s office calling. Roosevelt was worried about inadequate communication with Pearl Harbor and he was requesting that my father take his family and move immediately to Honolulu to establish a system of better communication between Pearl Harbor and the White House. Daddy shared all this with my sister but I guess I was too young to be consulted. He was torn between answering the call of his country and moving his children to what was then considered a foreign country. Heavy hearted, he declined, mostly for the benefit of my education.

Much historical data now released confirms that Roosevelt was indeed expecting the attack. The bombing of Pearl Harbor served as a means to get Congress to declare war in Europe, something that needed to happen. Perhaps it was scripted. Sadly my father was never to know the true facts, and with each new casualty report Daddy’s pain and guilt mounted. He felt personally responsible for each death.

He lived another four years before his heart gave out. In retrospect, he never quite seemed to regain his spirit.