Happy Birthday, David


Dear David,

You’ve been on my mind a lot lately. Well, you’re never far from me. I see your face in the countenance of our sons as they grow, and in the sensitive and intuitive spirit of our daughter. I put on John McLaughlin Al Di Meola, and Paco De Lucia’s compilation Passion, Grace & Fire to welcome the Pisces sun into my office and lit a candle. Then I proceeded to do everything I could imagine to avoid sitting down to write, even though I knew this was my ultimate destination today. I could hear you laughing at me, procrastinating.

Last year on your birthday, I was neck-deep in writing part of our story. You always told me to write and damn the people who didn’t want me to say what I had to say. I hope you still feel that way; I’m not there yet. I was truthful, but I admit to handling you with kid-gloves. My goal was to preserve memories, so that the kids would understand why we loved each other, and why that love remained even after the fires and sorrow. I wanted them to know forever some of the funny shining rivulets of memory that would disappear were I not to collect them into pages of words. It’s incomplete, only a fragment of the whole, but it’s something. It seems to have had a powerful effect on some folks. It came out last July, Maybe I should have planned that better…

I’m not sure what’s comes next. I know there are several more books, but I’m contemplating something more academic first, though I’m wavering. What a surprise, right? I’m still distrustful of the season of quiet calm that has settled over my life. I know some people live all their lives so securely, but I am still…startled by it, like the falling-reflex in early sleep. Eventually my compass will find its direction.

Jeffrey just filled out the paperwork for his driver’s license this week. It’s surreal. He looks so much like you, only bigger. He’s at least two inches taller than you, but his muscular, freckled forearms are all you. He plays football every day, lifts weights after school, and he’s called Big Red. It’s almost a given that when Bean starts football this summer he’ll be Little Red. They are so clearly brothers it’s uncanny.

All three kids are excelling academically. All three of them got your love for math, analytics, geometry, and they all love Algebra. I love watching how Bean makes sense of math in ways literature and art will never matter to him. Abby has a creative vein running through her analytical math center, and it blows me away. She’s a gifted artist, working in whatever medium she can find. Her spatial skills are phenomenal. She’s shifted from wanting to be a geologist to a veterinarian, to a computer engineer. She’s also picked up the ukulele recently. It remains to be seen what path she’ll ultimately land on, but she’s laden with talent and will be able to choose freely.

Bean now towers over me, and even so, it’s hard for me to think of him as anything but our tiny Bean. He was complaining over the holidays that his back hurt. It turned out his feet had grown two sizes in as many months, and once I bought him new shoes, his pain was gone. I felt like a terrible mother. Two sizes in two months? Good grief!

Tonight we’re continuing our tradition of celebrating your birthday with a dinner you loved- Papa’s Pappas from Hobbee’s and Red White & Blue power smoothies. Then we’re going to walk to 7-Eleven and get a Blue Thing, while we tell stories about you. It’s turned into a bit of a tradition, and the kids really seem to hold onto it.  I hope keeping you a normal part of our lives will help the kids as they continue to process your death.

In my office I have a small table set to the side where I have your brass singing bowl, a small Buddha, and mala beads. The kids love to tap the brass bowl with the mallet. It’s a way we bring around, and I hope you don’t mind. Tucked on my bookshelf behind a few things is your obsidian obelisk and the moonstone egg that came from your dad. All of these things belong to the kids, and I am only the steward for now. It still hurts my heart that I wasn’t able to recover your gohozon or butusan.  Instead, Jeffrey has your football, a gift from your sister last summer. To him, I think it’s almost as good.

We miss you. Every day. Happy Birthday, dear one.


The Ides of Idleness

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 12.47.24 PMHey y’all. I’ve been cocooning to make it through the dregs of winter, and haven’t had much to say about anything, but life has carried on as it usually does. There’s been a lot of watching Star Trek, a lot of hot Moroccan mint tea, a lot of big dog sitting on my feet to comfort both of us, and a few movie nights with the family. (Wakanda forever!)

For some reason, I’ve been fainting. Doctors are involved, tests are being conducted, the Big Scary Things have been mostly ruled out, and it’s looking like anemia is playing a part, dancing with my inherited low blood pressure. Turns out, while low blood pressure is great, *too* low ain’t so great. Hence, passing out and bonking my head on the bathtub, floor, etc. Jon is making me eat all my food cooked in his cast iron pan in an effort to bring those HGB numbers up. I wonder if there’s something to the old trope about ice-chewing after all?

We all laughed last week when Virginia (oh, Virginia…) canceled school because of WIND. Not enough canceled days due to “snow”? Now we’re canceling for wind. Well, I laughed, Jon may have thrown things–he’d taken the day off and suddenly we found ourselves with a house full of kids instead of enjoying a quiet romantic lunch. It was all funny until the WIND actually started, and the siding began to peel off our house, the dog fence blew over, and our back gate was torn from it’s hinges. That’s some WIND. Jon was on the roof with a rope tied around his belt, screwing siding back on in 80pmh gusts, while Jeff anchored him from inside Abby’s room. There are no picture of this event, as I was hiding under a blanket in my room, too afraid to watch my husband and son being super heroes. So here’s a picture of Jeff deadlifting Tiberius:

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Kelsey turned fifteen. We spent the morning of her birthday with her, celebrating with presents, chocolate cake, sombreros, and huevos rancheros. She’s a remarkable young woman. I won’t embarrass her by bragging about her, but she had the amazing grace to ask for records for her birthday. Like, actual vinyl LPs; Jon and I had fun finding a record store and shopping. We gave her a copy of the Beatles’ Abby Road, and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA.

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For Lent, I quit Facebook. I took it off my phone, and removed all notifications. I checked back in after a couple of weeks, and I had a few messages, but since I didn’t make a big announcement, I’m pretty certain almost no one has noticed my absence. That’s a weird, yet oddly validating feeling.  I need to find another way to connect with local friends; I missed a few events and I don’t want to miss real-world interactions, but I just cannot deal with the…unendingness…of social media right now. I don’t know what else to call it. Life is hard, winter is long, and things are scary right now. I’ve been moderating my news consumption, and trying to take better care of myself, doing what I can when I can. It’s hard, because part of me wants to withdraw, but the propensity to become an introverted hermit is strong. I think spring will naturally help.

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Jeffrey is getting his driver’s license this month. He’s finally completed all the requirements and hours behind the wheel, and I finally had to admit that it was time to let go. It’s really hard transitioning from the intensity of parenting younger kids, with navigating them naturally starting to have more independence. There are bumpy days, of course, but I know the best thing I can do is to help him continue to trust me as he figures out more and more how to do things on his own. Parenting continues to be the best, hardest work.

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Abby has taken up the ukulele, and she’s actually really good at it. It’s fun hearing her and Kelsey play together. That makes a tuba, a trumpet, a cello, a guitar, a ukulele, a piano, and a set of bagpipes in the house. And I can’t play a damn thing. But I can make pavlova! Which I have, much to everyone’s delight, practically perfected.

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Bean is Bean. Peanut butter was on sale for 75 cents a jar at the grand opening of a new grocery store, so I bought six cases. He took a sharpie and numbered all 72 jars. Then Jeffrey dared to use one out of order. 500 pounds of boy was suddenly tussling on my kitchen floor. My kitchen cannot handle that level of tussle.

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There are crocus and tulips pushing aside the frost-damaged mulch from last year, and I am hopeful for spring coming soon. Because honestly, I’m going to do something drastic to my hair if it doesn’t warm up. As it is, I watched a YouTube tutorial and balyaged it myself. Judge for yourself, kittens…

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