Tuesday, February 14, 2012

To Be Loved

When I came downstairs this morning, my mate took me in his arms, said, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweetheart.“ I smiled at him, reached up to kiss his neck, and whispered, “Just hand over the chocolate and nobody gets hurt.“

He knew I was teasing.

I would never expect chocolate before coffee.

This past week I’ve listened as women I know rub their hands with glee and whisper about anticipated Valentine’s surprises. At the grocery store earlier, I watched as rather panic-stricken men perused buckets and arrangements of flowers, balloons and chocolates. I smiled at the look on their faces as they paid, the conflicted look that says simultaneously, “Fuck me for trying,” and “Man, I hope she knows I love her more than this stuff can possibly say. I hope she smiles.” I’ve nodded in sympathy at single friends who decry Valentine’s Day as a bunch of corporate greedy bullshit.

Sure, it’s as commercial as any other holiday and it has as much to do with St. Valentine as Christmas has to do with St. Nicholas. But I’m not going to waste my time feeding peanuts to those all too evident elephants.

Sure, we should spend every day of the year making certain that the people we love know they’re loved. We should be doing nice things for them all the time. We shouldn’t wait for special occasions. But I’m not going to waste my time putting oil in a car with no wheels.

I’m not even going to point out that the more you saddle another person with expectations, the more disappointed you’ll likely be.

I’d like to talk about my morning. After I’d had the required caffeine and checked my email and all that jazz, I wandered into the kitchen looking for sustenance. Before I could so much as sigh at the same boring box of cereal, Steve asked, “Would you like to go to breakfast?” Of course I said yes.

On the way, he stopped and paid the utility company enough to cover three months. We went to our usual dive for breakfast - nothing fancy, just good grub. On the way back, we stopped and got groceries. He’s a self-proclaimed squirrel when it comes to shopping. If we need one, he’ll buy three… or eight. He buys yogurt for me even though he never eats it. He bought a new hair brush although his hair is so short it doesn’t even require a comb.

That was my Valentine’s Day. It was perfect. It was perfect because it was like any other day. I am loved beyond measure by this man and it shows in the way that he is there for me. Every day.

I know people who have that and take it for granted. I know people who think, “Yeah, it’s nice, but it’s not special.” I know people who have it but don’t trust it. I know people who want it but who are not willing to give it. I know people who give it but who are brow-beaten for it not being enough.

I was a florist for eight years, and I’ve been a card monger for nearly as long. You won’t hear me poo-poohing the commercialism of something that’s put milk on my cereal. And I don’t think it’s wrong to have a day set aside to haul out our sparkly best “I love you!” However, I do think it’s a stinkin’ shame that some folks think we need one.

Each day we have everything we need to give to another person. Each day we have the ability to appreciate what they give to us. As Eden Ahbez penned back in 1947, in that lovely tune Nature Boy, "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return."

Monday, February 13, 2012


In my new "I shall pick up the pen!" determination (see Friday's post), I'm being very brave. I'm going to submit an essay/article to The Sun Magazine.

I've been reading and admiring this wonderful mag for over a year now, thanks to some anonymous, beatific person who gave me a subscription. I'm not sure I ever would have known about it otherwise. Whoever you are... thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. There are two things that makes The Sun Magazine so magnificent. One is that it is void of ads. However, even better is the fact that it is written mostly by its readers. Let me tell ya, there are some stunningly good, completely unknown writers out there. Even so, every time I read it, I can't help thinking (and not in a pompous way at all), "Hey. I can do that." And, without fail, that's when I just so happen to flip to the page that offers monthly topics and welcomes readers to submit their take on the topics.

So, I'm a'gwain do it. I'm answering the call due by March 1st. The topic is "forgetting."



It's not that I don't remember, but looking back at those days is like looking at someone else's old home movies. Those days are grainy and without focus. I know I felt worse for him than for myself when I saw the devastating sorrow on his face as he muttered the words, "Cancer. I'm sorry, Honey." I know I spent months driving him back and forth to the hospital for appointments and treatments. I know we spent that last Christmas day together at the hospital - him getting a transfusion, me downing coffee and reading as he slept. I spent precious weeks caring for him at home, weeks that are now no more than a teary-eyed blur.

I know losing him that way is the worst thing I've ever been through, but it's gone soft and hazy. I don't remember the sickening death smell. I don't remember the way his body seemed to wither a little bit more with each passing minute. I don't remember who came to the house to visit or drop off food, their consoling whispers are as distant as the rustle of last year's leaves.

It's not that I don't hurt when I think back on that time. The pain lingers, but it is an aged sorrow. It no longer stabs with its attention grabbing thorns. It's more of a faded bruise, only a slight twinge when touched just right, a reminder that it happened.

What I'll never forget, because it is a greasy, filthy thing with beating charred feathers and sharp talons... what I'll never forget is the absence of him.

Friday, February 10, 2012

All the Write Moves

Alrighty then.

You probably thought I was never coming back. I almost thought so too. I've been going through a rather stubborn streak where writing is concerned. My PC's internet connection was so poor that it made me not even want to log in to check my email. Thanks to my new installation of google chrome, I'm back in the game. Also, I managed to lose my writing files. All my poetry, my novel, drafts of articles... *poof*... gone. Yes, I had a backup, but the backup refuses to cooperate. C'est la vie.

Both things had me kind of rattled. Both things had me kind of figuratively stomping off, and with all the savoir-faire of a surly toddler, muttering, "Who needs you anyway?!"

Truth be told, I do. It was as if my right arm had gone numb. While I could manage without it, life wasn't as good.

The other thing that threw me back into the fray is a discovery I made a couple of days ago while going through an old box of stuff. You know the box. It's the one with a couple of worthy items, but mostly made of I-Can't-Bring-Myself-To-Throw-Away-This-Uselessly-Sentimental-Shit.

Among the worthy items were a half a dozen letters from my Dad. They were written when he was away on fishing trips, when I was in Hungary... letters from whatever few times that we were apart. I knew the letters were in the box, but I hadn't read them in decades - at least two, and Dad's been gone for three decades now. That gives you some idea how old they are.

Now. Let me back up just a skosh.

I know I've mentioned before that I owe much of my skill as a writer to my Mom. She wanted to be an English teacher and instead gave birth to a rather reluctant classroom of five. Granted, I get my love of grammar and spelling from her. As well, I probably get my love of words from her. No denying it. However, as anyone worth his or her salt as a writer will tell you, there's a lot more to writing than knowing how to construct a grammatically correct and properly spelled sentence. Mom can do that with her eyes shut. Her letters are always succinctly newsy and proper, but without any great emotional pull. And it isn't that my Mom is void of emotion. Hardly. It just doesn't come out much when she writes.

Dad, on the other hand (as I discovered after all these years), could write. I mean... the man could fucking write! I sat here reading and re-reading the letters with my jaw perched oh so comfortably upon my toes. I never knew. How could I not know? Still, I never knew. Dad was always the artist, the visual guy. But as I read through the letters, I was drawn in by his vivid descriptions of even the most mundane things, by his abundant use (so like mine) of colloquialisms and slang. Even with all that, he used the right grammatical contexts and the spelling was all spot on (keep in mind, there was no spell check back then). The man could write. He could have been as brilliant a writer as he was an artist.

It made me wonder if he'd ever thought of doing that.

It kind of thunked me on the head in a way that said, "Wake up already!" Although I felt a lot of responsibility to write before, I feel an even greater responsibility to write now that I know that both of my parents contributed genes to that part of my brain. It's as if all the writing muses in the world formed a Greek chorus and sang, "Prithee, wilt thou but pick up a pen?!"

I will.