Thursday, September 6, 2012

Magic Carpets

Dad wasn’t one for magic, mysticism, or anything even approaching the paranormal. Dad was logical. Dad was practical (most of the time). Dad accepted anything he could put together with his left brain and a few tools. Having said that, it is also true that Dad had a wild, vivid, crazy imagination. When he gave himself permission, Dad's creative juices were amazing. I've often wondered what his life would have been like if he had really tapped into his right brain and expressed its full potential.

Late this afternoon I went outside briefly to check on the whereabouts of Uma, my black English cocker spaniel. I stood in the empty carport, the air warm and still, the cool concrete beneath my bare feet. And suddenly, for no apparent reason, I was instantly eight years old, in our garage in Redondo Beach, standing barefoot on the cool concrete, amid Dad’s workbenches and tools (yes, even those orange-handled files and chisels), labeled bins, and piles of wood scraps. The memory hit me like I was living it for the first time, eyeing Dad’s wood scraps, visually selecting just the right ones for my latest great idea—my very own, personal, amazing, fully magical, “magic carpet”……made out of wood and nails.

In my head, my eight year old self is gathering together the hammer, the nails, the wood, the four wheels, hammering together the wood pieces, placing the wheels just so…….and then Dad walks into the garage.

“WHAT….are you doing?” he asks, baffled, perhaps dreading my answer a bit.

“Making a magic carpet.” I answer matter-of-factly, with complete conviction.

Dad snickers. “A what?!”

“A magic carpet.”

There are so many things Dad could have said at this point—“That’s ridiculous!” “You’re wasting my nails and wood!” “Clean this up and go do something else!” “What makes you think you can make a magic carpet?!”

But Dad is Dad. Instead of commenting, he asks. “Well......where are you gonna fly?”

“Ancient Egypt.”

And Dad simply laughed that soft laugh of his, then turned and left me alone with my project.

At that point I was back in my carport again, just standing there, looking out at the sunlit garden from the cool concrete. Just standing there, still feeling the eight year old inside me, fighting off the 59 year old. Wishing I could stay the eight year old. 

If I had a magic carpet, could I go back?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

This is what friends are for....

12:30am. I call one of my best friends.
I’m having a moment. Again.
Sneaked up on me. Again.
Everything going along just fine and then, Pow! Some image of my dad pops into my head and it feels sooooo real, and then I realize that that’s as real as it will ever be…..ever!  My insides want to cough themselves up and onto the floor, My eyeballs glaze over and spew tears down my cheeks.  Geez I hate those sneaky-ass moments.

Thank goodness she answers. Thank goodness she listens. I tell her how I miss Dad, how most of me feels dead inside, how I can’t find my spark, how I’ve lost any motivation to accomplish anything, do anything, write anything, and on, and on, and on. As I’m talking I’m thinking I must sound like a broken record to her because this is not the first time I’ve called her in the middle of the night when I was having “a moment.”
“I’m so frustrated,” I tell her.
“I want to feel like myself again,” I say to her.
“I want to get excited about something,” I complain. 
“I used to be excited about things. Why can’t I get excited about anything?” I ask rhetorically.

I finally stop talking, not because I have nothing more to say, but because I've worked myself into such a mad frenzy of emotion that my vocal cords can't keep up with my brain.
And she says calmly and oh so logically, ever so reasonably, “Yes Denise, of course you feel those things. Your dad just died.”
To which I abruptly respond by pointing out a significant detail that she has CLEARLY overlooked and/or forgotten, “BUT THAT WAS TWO WEEKS AGO!”

She laughs.
No, I mean..........She really laughs.
She explodes. Like the top of her head just pops off and spills out cascades of beautiful, unexpected, delicious laughter—into her phone, through cyberspace, to my phone, and into my ear.
I have to hold the phone away from my ear it's so deliciously loud.
It's impossible not to laugh with her. 
We both laugh for a good thirty seconds.
We compose ourselves.
I bring the phone back to my ear.
I speak, into my phone, through cyberspace, to her phone, and into her ear,
“Oh yeah…..Good point.” 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Away From The Place That Aches

Away From The Place That Aches
5 May 2012

Two weeks ago today.
Thrust into a place where the only air I breathed,
Was born from a loss I had never known before.
Where the ache was everywhere.
Every second.
Every day.
Where leaving that place,
Seemed an impossible, unworthy, task.

The Place That Aches found distance.
Then four,
Then three times a day.

I choose when to breathe the air in that place.
I sit,
And think,
And remember,
Until the memories take me there again.
And I settle into it,
Let it wrap its tendrils around my grieving heart.
I unclasp the ache,
Look for fresher air to breathe,
And move away from The Place That Aches…

Monday, April 30, 2012

My Father's Hands

My Father’s Hands

My father’s hands had one purple, hammer-banged thumbnail.

My father’s hands were big and bulky; strong and able; kindly stern, and sternly kind.

My father’s hands were graceful and delicate one minute; clumsy and crude the next.

My father’s hands gave comfort, sympathy, understanding, delight, or a whimsical flourish to the simplest gesture.

My father’s hands tapped, trilled, and tickled the ivory keys; plucked and strummed the flamenco strings.

My father’s hands hammered, sawed, torqued, carved, polished, ground, wrenched, sanded, scrolled, …and screwed.  

My father’s hands splashed, and speared, and paddled through Pacific waters; navigated and flew through calm and stormy skies; wandered by foot and by car to discover abandoned shacks and broken down old red barns; pointed, clicked, and captured wind-blown waves, lonesome trees, rolling hills, and s-curved highways.

My father’s hands were the kind of strong I am still trying to be.

I would give anything to hold, just one more time…

My father’s hands.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fig Tree

Slogging through the grieving process here.
The going-to-sleep last night was not a problem. It was the waking-up this morning that didn't go so well.
Funny how as soon as your brain really wakes up to the day (i.e. reality), that wonderful warm and fuzzy sleep-state poofs away so effortlessly, like it was never even there in the first place. Then, the brain starts churning and rolodex-ing through all of the "things" that define your personal reality for that day.
So, when I woke up this morning, and my sleep suddenly poofed away, I was immediately tangled up in a  knotted up mess of memory fragments--my last phone call with Dad and how he answered the phone, "Nesie-Love?! This is Daddy-O!"; my last visit with him in February and how I hugged him goodbye and said, "See you in May!" and he threw his arms up and said, "GREAT!"; all the times back in the 60s, tidepooling at Dana Point, San Onofre, and San Clemente; his temper tantrums when we were kids; his laugh; his singing; the way he relished food; and on, and on, and on.

I remarked to a friend yesterday how I will always think of Dad when I see or eat figs.

And speaking of figs.......

There is a large fig tree just off the deck at the house where I now live. The tree has to be at least seventy or eighty years old. It's the biggest fig tree I've ever seen--all gnarled and twisted on itself and sprawled out in directions that defy the laws of gravity. The first time I laid eyes on it was when I came to look at the house as a potential rental. Honestly, the house could have been a one-room shack. When I saw the fig tree, I figured I had found the place I was supposed to call home, at least for a while. I signed the lease, and here I am.

But back to figs and Dad......

In the midst of my memory barrage this morning, I reasoned, (because, even in the throes of grief, the intellectual four-fifths of my brain never seems to take a break) that perhaps I should get out of bed and take the dogs for a walk.

Not more than a dozen steps from the back door, leashed dogs in hand, as we started to make our way down the street to "do" what dogs do, I happened to glance over toward the fig tree........

A proud, brown, beautiful buck, all antlered and all alone, was resting peacefully right next to that big ole fig tree. And I stopped, and caught my breath, and just stood there. And he turned slowly and looked at me, and just.....stared. And I stared right back. I daresay, there was a bit of attitude in that buck's expression.

I reached for my phone to take a quick photo then quickly realized I had left my phone in the house (where's that intellectual four-fifths when I really need it?), but before I could think what to do next, the buck rose slowly out of the grass and simply walked off, down the hill, through the hedge.....gone.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


An amazing life.
A remarkable man.
Many memories....

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Style and Attitude

When I was in eighth grade, I wrote a short story to submit to a writing contest the school was having. It was called, "The Adventures of Tommy the Tube of Toothpaste." Before I handed it in, I gave it to my dad to read. This was a huge leap for me. Dad has never been known to beat around the bush with his critique of anything. He is, IS, the proverbial bull in the china shop of people's feelings.

Nevertheless, I gave the story to him. He's my dad after all. He knows stuff.
He read it.
And the next day, he called me into the dining room.
"Hey!......." (yeah, Dad started his sentences with "HEY!" even back then.)
"I read your story...." (pause)
I waited for what I expected was coming: my lackluster character development, my failure to properly paint the picture, my lack of originality. Finally, the exchange happened.
"So I read your story."
"Yeahhhh?" And I'm thinking "Come on just get it over with. Just tell me it's a stupid, silly story."
".....You can write!"
Then he handed me my story and kind of smiled at me. "So you know what makes a good writer?"
"Yeah! You've got style!"
"And you know what else makes a good writer?"
"There's more?"
"Attitude. You have attitude too."

It took me a good couple of hours to process all of this new information, but mostly the concept that my dad was handing out a piece of rarely received praise. I The next day I submitted "The Adventures of Tommy the Tube of Toothpaste" and a week later, found out I had won the whopping $30 prize and publication of the story in the school newspaper.
But that's not the epilogue.

Over the last couple of months, Dad has fallen, fractured his left femur, undergone surgery to fix the fracture, contracted pneumonia, has been diagnosed with COPD, restricted to a wheelchair, and is now under hospice care. The prognosis on the paperwork is six months. I guess you could say we're all in wait-mode.
But as I was sitting here at my desk wondering what I could write about to keep the blog-followers current, the thing that just keeps popping into my head, over and over again, is how amazing my dad is. Why?
He has style.
And he has attitude.