Handyman – Protector

image:Mother's flower garden

image:Mother’s flower garden

 

Rock strength rescues fearful female,

bug halts in skitter across the floor,

spider loses its web

faucet leak, blown fuse, garden weeds

coughing carburetor, flopping slapping tire

dead battery, stopped up gutter –

no match for Daddy’s prowess.

 

Yet, not quick enough

or rescue sufficient

for Mother.

She fussed

worried

nagged.

 

Resolution required but patience,

Understanding carved from busy schedule;

Payment a smile, a hot meal,

cool lemonade.

 

Their dance of need and service

swung round and round across the decades.

 

Until he was gone.  Until I stepped into his

too big shoes.  Until I flopped around

unbalanced, sagging

under her “honey-do list.”

 

Her slightest whine, her merest look

should telegraph her need, right?

It did for Daddy.  I demand she ask.

I demand of myself that I wait for her to ask.

 

“Oh, for a man!” she laments when

anything goes wrong.

 

She lost her handyman, her dance partner. I lost

my pillar of strength, bedrock

who had freed me to wander far away,

secure the foundation would never waver.

 

She wobbles without him.

I carry on.

We miss him.

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Survivor

Winter in Sparks , Nevada 1960's

Crile R. Dean – Winter, Sparks , Nevada 1960’s

Daddy is from a generation that worked hard.  That never feared sweat and toil.  He grew up on the land, took care of animals and studied late in the night to be the best he could be.

All my life his big hands tackled plumbing and electrical and automotive tasks.  He climbed, fearless, to the roof to patch leaks.  He ascended to the top of the thirty foot apricot tree to cut off a dead branch.  No qualms.

I’m sick and can’t sit up in my seat in class any longer.  My third grade teacher says, go to the nurse.  The nurse feels my head and says, lie down awhile.  I remember thinking, lying down feels good. 

I stretch.  Open my eyes.  No lights.  Dead silence.  No kid noise in the halls.  No teachers talking.  No one laughing or running or hitting the tether-ball on the playground.  No nurse.

Where is everyone?  My heartbeat is so loud my ears hurt.  My chest hurts.  I’m hot all over.  My queasy stomach forgotten.

“What are you doing here?”  The principal says as I stand in his doorway.

“I was sick.  I went to the nurse.  She didn’t wake me.  She left me.”

“Let’s get you home.”

I hope I’m so small in the front seat of the Principal’s car that no one will see me.  We pass kids on the street.  Playing ball.  Walking. Talking. Laughing.  Every head turns our way.  Kids know the Principal’s car.  Now they know I’m in his car.

My face is hot. I want to disappear.  Everyone will think I’ve done something wrong.

“Thank you,” Daddy smiles broadly at the Principal, “for getting her home safe,” he shakes the Principal’s hand, “no harm done.”

No harm done?  I’ll never go to the nurse’s office again.

Daddy cared for us.  He mended the arm of my sister’s glasses.  He maneuvered tiny tweezers to repair Mother’s necklace chain.  He laid brick and cinder block walls.  He mowed the lawn and used the edger with gusto, all with pride in a job well done.  He planted grapes and fruit trees and worked hard in their harvest.  He shared the bounty with friends and strangers.  He loved life.  He laughed and smiled and believed all could be conquered.

I feel sick all over but I’d rather be sick in class than go to the nurse’s office.  That’s a place to avoid like the plague.  If I can hold on another fifteen minutes, school will be out. 

“Did you go to the nurse?” Mother takes my temperature, “Measles.  Sixteen is old for measles.  Go to bed.  Why didn’t you come home early?”

I just want to lie down and block out everything.

I wake to distant sounds of family around the supper table.  It’s dark in my room.  I’m hot.  Parched.  Safe at home. 

Then I’m eight years old again and waking in that deserted nurse’s office. 

I haven’t thought of that since it happened.  No wonder I avoided the nurse today.  I smile in the dark.  I’m not that little girl any more. I’ll be strong, like Daddy is strong.

Daddy working the trailer hitch, 1980's, with Uncle Bruce observing

Daddy working the trailer hitch, 1980’s, with Uncle Bruce observing

I remember Daddy working under the car in the garage.  Oil change, transmission repair, tires patched, some busted blown broken component replaced – whatever it took – so the car would once again go.

I remember we sat stopped off the side of Route 66, the Arizona desert undulating pinks and browns and beiges in the sweltering 100 plus degrees of an August day, while Daddy changed a blown tired.  We kids squabbled about the sticky back seat in the constant furnace blast of air that is summer, while in the front seat, Mother looked faint, anxious and exhausted.

It really ticks me off that I have Mother’s stamina.  Or lack of stamina.  She fatigued.  I fatigue.  I swore I’d be like Daddy.  Strong, independent, capable, positive. Healthy.

Not like Mother.  Tired.  Weepy.  Stressed out.  She spent three months in bed after a hysterectomy, then had pneumonia, then a lupus type flare-up that cleared up as mysteriously as it had come.  Always something wrong. 

I won’t be like her.  Yet here I am.  Had to change my entire diet to stop constant sinus infections that morph into bronchitis.  Funky hormones that don’t work right.  Thyroid disease.  I’ll be on meds the rest of my life.  Really ticks me off. 

Daddy did whatever it took to take care of us.  Even when it meant auto repair work that was dirty and greasy and often held up our well-laid plans.  I remember I thought when I grew up I’d have enough money to pay for such jobs.  No getting dirty for the man in my life.  No waiting by the side of the road for a maybe-maybe not rescue.

Except no man ever measured up.  No man ever rode to my rescue.  Instead it was me who had to pay for repairs.  It was me who had to find solutions.  I remember long distance calls as I sat alongside the highway waiting for the tow truck.

“Here’s what it sounded like, Daddy,” I’d say, “what do I tell the mechanic?”

Breathe deeply, girl.  How would Daddy handle it?  He’d be grateful for another day of life, another opportunity to be positive with those around him.  He was cheerful. He knew God made him and he could trust God for who he was.

I have to choose.  Believe.  Deal with who I am and what my body needs.  What’s the alternative?  Get mad?  Get depressed?  Avoid doctors and nurses offices?  Binge on problematic foods and suffer the consequences?  Give in to needing to be pampered, like Mother?

There’s no contest. I won’t be like her.  I can’t change the way I was made.  I can control how I respond.  Like Daddy or like Mother.

Daddy and Mother, Pomona, Ca 1990's

Daddy and Mother, Pomona, Ca 1990’s

I sit in the house that was Daddy and Mother’s and marvel that he was my retirement age when they moved in here.  My age when he poured concrete and installed the heating/cooling unit, built the back porch overhang, ran electrical wiring for lamps where the old Craftsman style house needed more electrical outlets, replaced the shower stall, added cabinets to a bare kitchen wall, hung a microwave, toaster and electric can opener under those same cabinets, hung shelf brackets on the walls for shelves that now hold books, two and three rows deep.  And he did all this while working a full-time job that included hours on the highway.  He may be gone now, his earthly productiveness finished, but I see him everywhere I look.

My retirement is an unexpected journey: freedom to not be in the mad paced work world; freedom to have energy for exercise; freedom to learn new things; to take classes; to write; to cook, which is a toss-up – successful meal or hardly edible – freedom to be the best I can be, and most surprising, freedom to be at peace with Mother.

By the time Daddy had slowed in age and had stopped trying to repair automobiles with their computer components and modern molded plastic parts, I’d learned to do some rehab and repair items with my own hands.  Though never as detailed as the skills Daddy had and never with the power that flowed from his large hands.

He walked three miles a day up until six months before he died.  Cancer.  Something takes each of us at the end, right?  He was six weeks away from eighty-nine.  He loved life and lived it fully.  He believed he was headed to a place without pain or limitations or suffering. I believe, too.  I’ll see him there, one day.

Meanwhile, life in this old house continues for Mother and me.  I’m here so her days will end in her own home.

She has surprised me by learning to let go of the expectation I could do what Daddy did.  While I didn’t inherit his big hands or his strength, I did inherit his work principle and his belief in joy and love.  The bedrock he gave my life lives.  I decide to laugh and believe that all can be conquered. And some days I see a glimmer of Mother deciding to give up her worry.

Mother keeps on going.  Through the pain of a twisted spine, crooked and hurting hips, heart disease, swollen legs, heavy medications with weird side effects, she keeps moving.  She’s nearly eighty-eight.  She might have it easier in these late days if she’d kept moving and walking years ago.  If she’d changed her diet and dealt with her swollen legs in the decades before heart disease took over.

Still, I’ve come to the late realization that she’s much more of a fighter than I ever knew.  She’s stubborn and no one will stop her until she’s ready to stop.

“Quit nagging me to eat,” she pushes her plate away.  She looks small and frail after two months bedfast with bruising and sores on her leg.  She lost her appetite and went down another ten pounds.

“Are you ready to quit,” I stand next to her in her permanent spot at the dining room table, hands on my hips, and try to keep the frustration out of my voice, “ready to go home to God?  Ready to finish this life?”

She doesn’t look at me.

“Because if you don’t eat, that’s what will happen.”  I watch her as she thinks it over.

She pulls her plate back and takes another bite, “No.  I’m not ready to go.”

Mother - all dressed up for church

Mother – all dressed up for church

That was last month.  Now she’s back making her own breakfast.  Gets herself dressed.  Pulls on compression hose.  Takes her vitamins and medications.  Moves around the house again.  Her weight is up two pounds.

Maybe it’s ok for me to be like Mother.  She’s a survivor.  Daddy was a survivor.  I can take the best from both of them.  I’m a survivor.

Softball

flowers in a sunny meadow

google images

We were twelve.  The sun shone.  Our hunger had been satisfied with grilled hamburgers and watermelon.  We sat Indian style on the grass.  He was cute.  Short blond hair, light brown eyes and nice smile made me happy to be with him.  He slowly leaned sideways, until his head almost touched his knees.  I watched his head lower, his face turned toward me, his eyes on mine.  I was fascinated.

KA-WHACK!  A softball smacked my forehead.  Pain exploded and my world spun.  I was knocked backwards like a bowling pin, my legs still tucked under me.  The world went upside down, voices whirled around and echoed from someplace far away; my ears rang like falling stalactites cracking on hard cavern ground.  Everything went black.

The softball game stalled.  Light came back and hurt my eyes.

“Didn’t you see it,” he asked?

It hurt to shake my head.

Someone yelled, “Is she ok?”

The men and older boys resumed their game.  My head still spun.

“Honey,” my mother called, “come over here.”

I got up on wobbly legs, climbed back through the fence and went to the picnic tables where my mother sat with the women and small children.  I needed sweetened iced tea and something cold for my throbbing head.

I didn’t need my mother fussing over me; telling me I should have known better than to get close to the ball field.

Meadow.  An impromptu baseball diamond in a grassy meadow at a Saturday church picnic.  But, it was pointless to correct her.  She would worry if I were wrapped in cotton.  As for me, I felt embarrassed and abandoned that no one had protected me from that ball.  Who was the outfielder, anyway?

In the summers since that sunny day, I never did do much baseball watching.  Didn’t get into the sport.  After all, I wasn’t there for the game, all those years ago.  I was there with the cute guy.  Apparently it’s a guy thing to watch the game and talk to a girl…and assume she’s aware of the game and will see the ball flying right toward her.

Age trumps…

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Spring.
84°F today.
Some places still
sleep in their winter.
It’s only March.

Spring, on my
dark, warm street.
It’s only 8:30 p.m.
Enough time later for
night’s cool
crocodile breath.

Sprinkler heads won’t
pop-up.
I pull, urging water
pressure on.
Finish the job.

Eureka!
Wet hands and feet.

I don’t shiver.
The day’s warm breath
that warmed the house.
means an easy task.

Nearly 80° inside.
Cooler out now.

“Close the door.”
She says.
She wears
pants, socks, shoes,
blouse, undershirt,
sweater, heavy lap blanket
over her legs,
light blanket around her
shoulders.

“I’m cold.”
She says.

She’s 86.
Age trumps 80°F.

Fly, Soul, Fly

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Stacked up newspapers
wait to be devoured.

Mother doesn’t do computers.
She’s old school.
She reaches to touch paper;
devour crosswords,
comics, recipes, an
historic article, anything
fauna or flora.

I take the pages up
one by one,
turn my fingers black.

Images flash, letters scramble,
words jolt. Stories full.
Big desire,
small attainment;
huge graft born of petty theft.
My eyes cross.

He suffers. She kills;
a dog is maimed,
orators promise,
a bird goes extinct,
blood flows,
a nation crumbles,
an infant cries,
an Oscar is won.
A child is sold in slavery.
Solutions hollow out.

Can I still breathe?
I’d swallow
if it would just go down.

His or her
way is as good as mine,
so they say.
Live and let live.
Yeah, dude.
Coalesce, co-exist.
It’s all the same.
We all die, right?

Mist in my eyes
bathes the trying of
life’s whirly cesspool.
I can’t read any more of this.

Just what has all this
inky pontification
to do with rescue,
relief,
regard,
reality?

On its own,
I see no freedom;
no fleeing the downward
pull of self
in this avalanche of
worlds and words.

Yet, still we drown in
the futility of trying.

Is there not some point?
Is there not a higher need?
Fly soul, fly.

image: google images

image source: google images

Is there not a bigger resource,
Is there not a healer
greater than life?
Fly, soul, fly.

Is there not a bigger help
than this spinning ball’s
undertow?
Fly, soul, fly.

I think I see a glimmer of
a grand design in
care for the
stray,
damaged,
irreparable.
Yes, there it is.

Fly, soul, fly.
Back to the start,
back to when it was beautiful;
back to the beginner,
back to the one who started it
all.

Hey, I hear you, skeptic.
You’re right, those who
seek a higher power
should be mocked;
unless that power can
eradicate
transform
transfigure
illuminate.
You with me?

Fly, soul, fly.
I admit I’m helpless;
any help must come to me;
from the eternal.

Fly, soul, fly.
I cry; I yearn.
Wash my soul, I plead.
Clean the black off my fingers;
dry the mist of my eyes;
open them to the beauty
of him who loves purely,
of him who can more than
repair
reclaim
rehabilitate;
of him who transforms.

Fly, soul, fly
To him who with a puff
of air
gave life.

To him who with a wave
of a hand divided seas
from land.

To him who spoke
and the world was born.

To him who put the survival
will
in each spirit
then set that
will
in a body.

Fly, soul, fly.
To him who loves us.

To him who grieved so at man’s
selfish choice,
he threw himself into the world’s
mad crush to show the way out.
Fly, soul, fly.

Hello, God.
I read the need for you
in the news today;
there in the pain,
there in the trying.

Who can go this alone?
I can’t.
Change me;
walk beside me.
Be my guide.
Make a difference.
It’s not real life without you.

I breathe deep.
I can make
it through this stack
of papers.
If you’re here With me.

You wash the black
off my fingers.

You wash the black
off the world.

Fly, soul, fly.

Write

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Plumb the depths
dig into the gritty nitty
else  i l q1 r b H  and
all aaaa—zzzz—2222
fall hollow?

Reach no heights;
pale to  f a d e , the flesh
unknown.
So they say.

Dig it up, serve in red
bites, chunks drip,
for drool’s only run where
pain lives.  Apparently.

Risk.  Fly off the rock.
The greater the heaven
the greater the soar,
the greater the fall,
the greater the splat.
Splat.
Splat.

Ah, splat into wisdom’s eye shine
or splat into vapid’s barren desert?

Turn the letter-word-phrase to
a golden, light, even crust on all
sides.  Perfection?

Beauty’s in the eye of
the beholder, I’ve heard.
Still, word’s truths live
tho’ understanding varies.

Does this depth skim
some other’s surface?
Miss their depth?
Is this as
deep as I get?

Perhaps it takes a dig
beyond their deep
to get me.

The do…

image source:picsbox

image source:picsbox

I wonder if we choose
cadillac shine with fingers to the keys and
synapsis firing
or do the pistons lift and fall to the unseen?

Fingers filled and colored bright        glued           stationary
where they   float   push    pull
GRASP             reach   tug      despair
d

r

o

w

n.

How they soar to the music and bleed into the camera,
emerge, wholly frac  tured.

I try to wrap my head around that beauty, that strange
drama of pain, fulfillment, Joy.  Driven determination.

They leech into my sleep.
Dreams skate across the wrinkled blanket and
fall into the abyss of sweet and fearful.

“Like a sparrow in his flitting, like a swallow in its flying,
a curse that is causeless does not alight.”

Proverbial sight pierces dark.  Not proverbial until birthed,
right?  I mean, the proverb started somewhere, get it?

Begin the beguine, trip the light fantastic
right down to the drive, the sit, the start, the do, the do, the do.

Was that really so hard?  The barrier releases and the flood
bursts
OR trickles, trickles, trickles,
rains, splatters, downpours, floods;

OUT they spit, the letters, the a, the c, the qu, the z
after one, two, three   Squat.

So, if outside, implore;
if inside, explore
else denying dry DIE crackle and Never have life.