Weepy, Raucous, Epiphanies of Grief



On Saturday it will be two years since my Dad, the Wisest Man in the Universe, left.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know it all really started around the time we learned he was dying and for the first year, I chronicled our long goodbye.

Really, it was such a blast.  It was one of the best ever times of my life.  In dying, Dad taught me more about living and life than I could ever hope to learn on my own without him.



God, I miss him.

If you've been reading my posts for very long, you also know how I struggled with losing him, looking for signs that he was still present, somewhere close at hand, perhaps on the other side of an invisible curtain, just not so far away.

There were a few dreams.  Powerful, intense visits in which he talked about Heaven or once, just hugged me so tight I felt it for days.

Then there were the pennies, mysterious pennies that appeared from nowhere and always when I needed him the most.  Signs, I felt certain, that he was pitching them from behind an invisible chink in Heaven's fence.

It was sometimes just enough to keep me from sinking.

But as this two year mark steadily creeps closer, I have felt nothing but his absence.

I am like Jodi Foster surrounded by a sea of giant listening satellites, listening to the vast, wooshing silence of outer space and hoping for a discernable signal.

The crushing grief is gone for the most part.  I have settled in for the steady, plodding marathon that is life without my mentor and best, true friend.

I know he's gone but I can carry him with me, always.

Still it would've been nice, would be nice, to reach out and hug him.

On one of those bittersweet, joyous days in which I hadn't been swamped with loss and was, in fact, having a blast with my boys, I walked into the kitchen and caught them, red-handed, hiding pennies for me to find.

I was devastated.  All this time.  All those pennies.  It had been my boys, tricking me and laughing behind my gullible back?

I couldn't let them see how awful I felt.

A few days later an epiphany, probably epiphany number 112 since Dad died, hit me.

Although they swore it was the first and only time they'd hidden pennies for me to find, I truly doubt this.  But I realized it was not done out of cruelty. My boys have always been too loving to hurt me like that.  They were doing something their grandfather would've understood completely- the good and the bad.  It was a sort of reverse-generation Santa Claus.

I remembered all their pats on the back and the awkward hugs they'd given me when I'd dissolved into sudden tears at some silly commercial that reminded me of Dad.


I realized, again, my father lives on in my boys.  His goodness, his kindness, his wicked sense of humor- it is in all of us and in that way, Dad is never truly gone.

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The last time I saw my sister we were sitting at the dinner table when she suddenly gasped.  Her eyes filled with tears and she reached across the table to touch my fingers.  "You have Dad's hands," she breathed. 

She stared at them for a long moment then smiled.  "That much be such a comfort, to look down and see his hands, always there."



I can't look at them now without remembering him.

And on the 27th, I won't visit his grave to pay my respects. I don't have to seek him out and honor a piece of granite.  I am my father's monument.  Each of us who loved, love, him and try to carry some little piece of his wisdom and mercy forward, we are the monuments to his life on this earth.  It's up to us to find him within us and carry his love forward into our own juicy lives.


Tuesdays at the Nursing Home- Missing Alice

Alice, my favorite nurse at the nursing home, is out on medical leave for a month and no one misses her more than Neva.

Neva's family has abandoned her.  They live across town, but they don't come to see her...not unless the social worker calls to say they're about to owe the facility money.  That gets the daughter in every time.

But on Mother's Day, on Neva's birthday, even on Christmas...Alice is the only one who shows up. 

I suppose Neva's not easy to love.  She's a crabby, sour, foul-mouthed, unsympathetic character.  If she were my mother, I suppose I might've written her off too.  She's the type who probably beat her kids, brawled drunk in the front yard and never forgave her beloved, alcoholic father for dying.

I walk in to her room and she's lying in bed, a shrunken, crippled figure in huge, oversized glasses.  Her tongue protrudes from her mouth, grotesquely thrusting a side-effect of the psychiatric meds she's been taking for years.

"Hey, Neva," I say.  "What's up?"

"Same shit, different day," she answers. "You bring me a donut?"

Every week she says the same thing.  But this week I say, "Bet you miss, Alice, huh?"

Neva's eyes give her away.

"Nah, she's coming back tomorrow. She was supposed to be here today, but she wasn't.  I told 'em get me up so I could be up there waiting on her when she came in, but she didn't.  Where is she?"

She is a little girl, her nose pressed against the glass, her eyes bright with longing and I have to break her heart.

I tell her it's going to be awhile longer.

Neva disappears inside herself.  She won't allow me to see her pain.  "I'm stubborn that way," she says.  She won't let me tell them when her arm hurts either.  "I want them to come down the hall and ask me if I need anything.  I don't want to ask them."

"So, do they?" I ask.

Neva never looks away. She meets my eye with an honesty that cuts through to my heart.

"Not hardly ever," she says.

I touch her shoulder but Neva's not the type to allow sympathy. It's too close to pity.

She pulls back a couple of inches so she can take in my whole face.

"I'd give my right tit for a donut," she says.

"Now, Neva. What would I do with a third tit?"

We laugh at the idea and for a fraction of a second, I'm allowed in.


A Halloween Cry for Help!

This summer my sister Darlene aka Sister Flea asked if I was coming to her son's wedding in Tallahassee.  "I need to know you've got my back," she said.  "It's going to be intense.  You know, the step mom issue...She thinks he's her kid.  I'll get swamped by her relatives."

The idea of another woman stealing my sister's boy was enough to get me to guarantee I'd be there and have her back.  "They'll know you've got family," I said, picking up the gauntlet.  But I was thinking "Hell, I haven't shown my ass in a long, long time.  I believe I'm due."

Then I found out the rehearsal dinner given the night before the wedding was going to be a costume affair as it is also Halloween.  Is this not awesome?

My sister is worried the stepmom's family will be drinking too much, along with her ex and that this will offend the bride's family because of their raunchy, redneck trailer trash air of cheap liquor and cheaper women.


I only have one fear...That I won't be able to handle both the camera and my beer bottle weapon of choice at the same time.

There is no way something with this much possibility could go undocumented.  I need material like this.  But I also have the family honor to defend...or ruin.

The real crisis is...my costume.  Who shall I be? It has to be something I can cram into a backpack, along with a dress to wear to the conservative, formal wedding.

My creativity has run dry...Who or what can I be that I can carry on board an airplane and zip into quickly?

Come on, you guys are creative....HELP!!!

Sneaking Up on Geezerhood...


This is the time of year when evening sneaks up on us early, filling up the hollar before we're ready to call it a day.  This one particular night caught me out wandering.  I'd stopped to examine some berries, take pictures of an old pot and to wonder if there truly were bears about.



At the edge of the property, down by the neighbor's creek junction, I sat down to stare up across the lawn from a new angle.  Then, on account of I'm getting old, it felt good to stay that way- slumped down in the teacup saucer shaped spot at the bottom of the yard, relaxing back against the grassy rim as I snapped picture after picture.


It's hard- facing down geezer-hood.  Deep inside, there's still this cool, hippy chick wanting to stay relevant...or at least fake it.


But age is sneaking up behind me, whispering in my ear as I visit the nursing home..."This is you one day," it says. 


I've got to turn this mess around.  I've got to retrieve my old lady mojo and get to steppin'!


Last Blush of Summer Blooms


I know fall is coming.  The vegetable vines are withering away.  The tomatoes are thick-skinned and pulpy.  But after the rain, a fresh, final smattering of roses appeared. 





And the phlox is just as robust as ever.



The Morning Glories are seizing their moment in the sun, piggy-backing along the arching branches of the Zephrine Drouhin rose bush.




The View From Posey's Holler


It was another beautiful weekend up at the little cabin in the holler.  The rains have helped, greening up everything and restoring the wilted, dry brown grass.



I woke up Saturday morning in time to catch the sunrise.





All in all, life's right good in Southwest Virginia.




Tuesdays in the Nursing Home- Part 2

Today I asked Anna how she could tell the difference between God's voice and the Devil's.

She barely hesitated, rocking back and forth in her chair she nodded, as if this were finally a question worth answering.

"I can tell," she said, smiling softly.  "Oh, it is very easy."

"It is?" I asked.

Anna was quite certain.

"Yes. The Devil is pushy.  God is not."

Tuesdays at the Nursing Home- Spouting Off


Waterspouts- taken by Capt. Brian W., Key West, Fla


In the nursing home, aides spin like waterspouts.  They rush across a vast and endless ocean, twirling dervishes in brightly colored scrubs.  At shift's end, they vanish, spent and wasted by the battle.

The ocean waits for another sunrise, offering its silent reminder of all that has been and all that will one day be.


Late Summer Sweetness

It was a lovely weekend after all.  Just what was needed for the Happy-End-of-Summer Fish-fry. 


Jim and Ellen's backyard is green and cozy, a shady outdoor dining nook, set up with Jim's grill and deep-fryer.


Comfortable and comforting.


Fish, hushpuppies, slaw, white wine cake- the generations-old recipe handed down to Jim, oatmeal cookies, strawberry cake (because the number of desserts should equal the number of "healthy" food items.)

And then there were the boys...


Where would we all be without them?


Why, if the Eldest Unnamed One hadn't stomped on J.P's paper airplane in Second Grade- this entire party might never have happened!




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Tuesdays at the Nursing Home- Bagging the Shrink

It's Tuesday, so I must be sitting in the nursing home, listening...

Today Anna, my little patient who is convinced the Muslims and Lesbians are taking over her soul, sits with me at "our" table in the empty dining room. 

For the first time, she is suddenly willing to examine her reality.

"Maybe these people not bad," she says, looking at me to gauge my reaction. "I am thinking maybe this is voice in my head and not the truth. I don't know.  I can't listen to it if it's...if I am, you know, crazy in my thinking."

She giggles, her hand held up to cover the escaping laughter at the very idea. Her eyes are merry, begging me to chime in.

"No, crazy's not good," I say, chuckling. "Can't go off following a voice if it's..."

"Cral-zy!" she cries in soft, broken English.

We sit at one of twenty square, four-top tables, surrounded on all sides by patients in various stages of dementia.  Are we not all bozos on this bus?

Behind Anna, outside beneath the shaded awning, a small crisis is brewing.  Maggie, my patient who wants to die because she is losing her mind to  Alzheimer's and knows it, is sitting in a rocker.  Her husband is standing in front of her, obviously saying something Maggie doesn't want to hear. Her daughter sits in another rocker, her hand on her mother's arm, trying to persuade her of something.

I know because I have witnessed this same tableau play out week after week, what they are saying.  "No, Mama," the daughter says.  "I'm your daughter.  He's not leaving you for me."

Maggie sobs, her grief palpable even through the thick, glass panes.

"It's all right," she whispers to the pretty stranger beside her.  "I like you.  I want him to be happy.  I don't make him happy anymore."

"Cral-zy voice!" Anna says, jarring me back to our conversation. 

I listen to her as she tells me how lonely she is inside her court-mandated home, how she longs to go outside and promises she won't run away again.

Maggie's nurse is outside now, sitting in the rocking chair vacated by Maggie's daughter, holding her patient's hand as she tries hard to coax her back inside.

"I don't know where my brother is," Anna tells me.  "I can't call him.  My pastor, he doesn't come to see me.  One night two peoples, they come in my room and inject heroin into my veins. They are drug people. Muslims."

I nod, diving beneath the words to find the feeling.  "It's hard to feel safe when you can't tell who is good, huh?" I say.  "That sounds scary."

"Yes," Anna says, nodding vigorously.  "God's work is dangerous."

I see Maggie shuffle slowly across the porch, her fingers clasped in her nurse's warm, reassuring hand.

Anna sighs and is saying she needs to fast in order to keep the voices away when I feel a dull, hard jabbing hit my side. I jump, flying up in my seat and whirl around, looking for the source of the attack.

"Ha-aah, ahh, ahh!" Bertie, another one of my patients, sits in her wheelchair, a ridiculous red fuzzy top hat on her head, screaming with laughter.  "Got cha!" she cries.

Bertie looks like a manic basset hound, the thick folds of her sagging skin pull her mouth down in what looks like a perpetual frown but she is smiling, her eyes alight with the glow of self-satisfaction.

"Ha, hah, hah!" She crows.

"Cral-zy!" Anna cries, jumping to her feet and clapping her hands gleefully.  "Good job! Good job, lady!" she yells and stretches her arm past my nose, her hand held palm up as she giggles and says "High fl-ive! High fl-ive, you lady!" to Bertie.

They are dancing in place, united in the awesome wonder that is pulling one over on their shrink.

"Look at me!" I shriek, pointing to the goose bumps on my skin. "You scared me so bad, the hairs stood up on my arm!"

"Ha-haa-haa-haa-haa!" The two women cry, practically collapsing with joy.

I am so proud- so very, very proud of them.


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