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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Family Moves

I am twelve years old when Daddy calls a family meeting. We come together in the living room, the doors, windows and curtains closed against the deepening dusk. Outside it’s rapidly cooling down after a seventy degree, sunny, Southern California, winter day. I’m in the middle of family. Safe in the familiar routines. Cozy. We six against the world.

Little island of light and warmth
hold me tight, keep me safe,
here no dark dreams creep.

I sit in the middle of the sofa, excited and a little anxious to know what’s coming. Changes are not rare. Family meetings are rare.

Quiet, fervored wish.
Calm, budding hope.
Past anticipation’s dashed dreams.
Restraint. Restrain.
Be quiet, good little girl.

Mother looks relieved to settle back on the threadbare sofa after her day washing, cleaning and cooking, her stamina as faded as the design on her worn housedress.  Winzona, nine, dirty and grass stained from sliding across the front yard in a game of dodge ball, sucks her thumb and leans up against Daddy’s left side at the opposite end of the sofa from Mother.  Daddy, white T-shirt tucked into heavy cotton work pants, sort of perches on the edge of the sofa with his in-charge-alertness that he has on Sundays at church when he’s praying or at the front, speaking to the people.  Larry, thirteen, sits on the floor, Indian style, knees bent, legs crossed with bare feet pulled behind his knees; his white T-shirt neatly tucked into jeans, one knee poking through loose jean threads; his hands busy coaxing the purrs out of Buddy The Cat, whose contented hum deepens as he settles into the deep cavern between Larry’s crossed legs.  Trevie, fifteen, blond, wavy hair Brylcreemed into place, pulls over one of the metal, Formica kitchen chairs and sits. He’s alert.  Trevie always has a plan; is always on the move.

“How would you like to learn about our new home?”  Daddy opens the World Encyclopedia, Volume M-N, to the section on Nevada, “I’m being transferred to the Nevada desert where I’ll be testing rocket fuels.”

It’s 1962. The space race is heating up.

Caution fades, joy leaks.
Adventure! Off to new places.
No worries. This safe world is just
moving house, right?

Over the next weeks, as Mother packs up everything we own, we read and reread everything the World Encyclopedia, Volume M-N, has to say about the topography, the weather statistics and the historical information of Reno and Sparks, Nevada.

I know the decision to move was made between Daddy and Mother before we kids even knew a thing about it.  And before that, it was made by Daddy’s bosses at North American Rockwell, or Rocketdyne as we know it.  But this one somehow feels like a family decision where we all have a part. All the moves in the past just happened as a normal course of everyday life.  This one holds the portent of great adventure.

~

google images:Sears, 1960s

google images:Sears, 1960s

And we’re off!  We’re shopping at Sears for coats on our way out of California to Nevada.  We’re headed to serious cold weather, where winter means freezing nights and possibility for snow!  Some man is taking random pictures, trying to get shoppers to commit to visiting the Sears Photography Studio.

My picture shows me shy, barely smiling for the camera, arms crossed over my flat chest; my short sleeved, white blouse with Peter Pan collar, buttoned down the front and tucked into a pleated, plaid skirt.  The photo is in black and white, the colors in that plaid skirt lost with the past.  My chin length, dark brown hair has Shirley Temple rows of curls across the top; the sides sort of fluffy, like tight curls brushed out.  I’m standing in front of a stack of jeans in the boys department.  This is so rare.  Shopping together as a family.  Shopping at a store for something ready-made instead of watching clothing take shape on Mother’s sewing machine.  Having our pictures taken.  How did Daddy afford to pay for these pictures?  I feel the newness, the strangeness, the adventure.  Just don’t look for it on my face.

All reserve and shyness.
Eyes betray no excitement.
I’m long practiced.  Hold it all in.
But don’t pinch me to test for life.
I can strike back.  Ask my sister.

~

I did just fine at six different grades schools from kindergarten through sixth grade and starting a new school is just one of the things that happens. No big deal.  So, why does starting seventh grade at Dilworth Junior High in Sparks, Nevada, make my stomach hurt?

There’re the six different classrooms a day with six different teachers.  That’s new.  There’re the over one hundred kids in the seventh grade.  That’s different.  That’s more kids than I’ve ever been with in one grade.  There’s the fact that the seventh grade class all seem to know each other.  They started kindergarten together.

Expand little island of safety,
carry me through the halls.
Resilience take hold in the lunchroom.
At least don’t embarrass me in the locker room.

For the moment I can forget school.  The Truckee River is at flood stage in Reno, so school is let out early and Larry and I walk the mile or so of blocks at the edge of downtown Sparks from the school to our motel room.

“You’re off early, too?” Mother says as Daddy sweeps into our motel room, grinning and pulling off his heavy work jacket.  She’s wiping down the tiny counter space of the kitchenette portion of the large room where we’ve lived for a few weeks.  The room holds two double beds, a sofa, a roll away bed, a small bathroom and an even smaller closet.  Close to the kitchenette wall there’s a kitchen table, metal legged and Formica topped with six unmatched chairs crowded around it.

Winzona doesn’t have to go to school yet.  Until we know what part of town we will live in, Mother and Daddy have decided she could wait.  Hardly seems fair, but then, it feels like the baby usually gets special treatment.  If I were nine again, my stomach might not hurt.

“Get your coats, we’re going to watch the flood,” Daddy bounds across the room to the closet to get a change of clothes, then shuts himself in the bathroom.

“What?” Mother fusses, “watch the flood? That’s dangerous.”

Trevie, just arrived from his walk from Sparks High School, tosses his school books on the sofa, “What’s dangerous? Where are we going?”

Mother’s looking frazzled.  I wonder if living in one large room in a motel makes her stomach hurt?  Or, if it’s Daddy’s fearlessness?

The six of us pack the car tightly, warming up the interior and fogging up the windows.  Safe.  Together in a small space.  The motel is miles from the flooding river.  School may be new, but family is still family.

~

The wind whips up the collar on my coat and keeps flipping my hair in my eyes.  It stings my cheeks with each lash of my hair against my face.  The rain has stopped for the moment.  We’re standing on a bridge in downtown Reno, looking at the rising water.  Torrential rains for days have dumped so much water, there’s no place for it to go.  It just keeps getting higher, reaching its fingers up.  Reaching for the heavy, gray and black sky.

google images - Truckee River Flood stage, Reno, Nevada

google images – Truckee River Flood stage, Reno, Nevada

Rush, water rush.
Blow, wind, blow.
Crash, mighty power,
overwhelm petty fears, small
jealousies, school hall woes.
Eternity, huge
versus
 puny, momentary upset.

“Let’s go, honey,” Mother looks anxiously at the river and then back towards the car parked on the street.

I’ve never seen a flood.  Not in sunny, Southern California.  I’ve never seen so much out of control water.  It’s like the world is alive.  It’s like the leaden, heavy skies are breathing life into the high desert.  I like it.  I like the purple peaks that tower over the valley, their tips covered in white.  I like the cold nights and the thunder and lightning.  It’s the flip-side of never ending sun.  I feel exhilarated and free.  I breathe deeply and tight muscles relax.  The only thing my stomach tells me now is that its dinner time.

“Will the water come up over the bridge, Daddy?” Winzona tucks herself under his arm.

Embrace the storm.
Fly on the rain,
breathe in the wind,
relax in its grip,
float above the clouds;
up where blue skies and sun live on,
undaunted.

“Yes, it probably will, sweetheart,” Daddy hugs Winzona, then turns towards Mother, “Ok everyone, back to the car.”

Bloom

Bing images

Bing images

Pretty color.
I reach out, entranced.
The thorns prick.
My blood disappears into
the scarlet Bougainvillea blossoms.
I’m not fond of blood.

I slide off
the dizzying height;
past white striations on grey slate
that run southward and meld
with dark cave holes.
Grotesque shaped arms reach
out towards me.

I pick up speed and fly on.
Stop. Ahead.
Where sky
merges with Terra.

“Are you watching?”
She said as she
stirred the gumdrops
into the batter.

Instead of the
promised soar
I lie broken,
my bed a dry creek,
with pillows of brown dust
that billow and settle
into my cracks.
I turn invisible.

Whiffs of orange blossoms
stir the dust, tickle my nose,
and carry me back
to cool spring nights
under the backyard stars
where tiny pebbles in the ground
under the blanket
get on my last nerve.

“Be careful, or you’ll
end up burned,” she
worried.

“I believe in you,”
he smiled.

I was torn.
Caught in the middle.
I couldn’t believe
either of them.

In stops and starts
I ventured out,
flitted and floundered;
afraid to soar.

You’re not promotion
material,
he justified,
ticking off his boxes,
unless you can play
the politics game.

I gripped the ink pen
so tight it bent.
Not willing to
go so far as to
mortally finish
him or me,
I smiled.

A smile that never
reached my eyes.

Open up to the
decay, the
putrid slime
and drink in.
Smile the grin
of the damned
with Bougainvillea red
dripping teeth.

To accept
or not to accept
such an invitation?

I try.
Come on in,
the water’s fine,
they call as they
go down for the
third time.

Why is it not
that simple?
Just finish it.
Just do it.

Some primal urge
to survive wells up,
and drags me back from
the precipice.

Scarred fingers
pull against ragged
crags. Hands reach
out and pull me up.

At last I stand
on the jagged mount,
love healed,
my Bougainvillea bracelet
a scarlet reminder.

The Hole Inside

Bing Images

Bing Images

Couldn’t branch out at tender age
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t risk a verge to the unknown
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t risk propriety’s dress parade
were it not for the hole inside.

Painted on eyes,
colored up lips,
feather soft cheeks
façade for drab,
shriek out for worth.

Couldn’t learn to twirl debris
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t dance in battered sighs
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t sink beneath life’s heft,
were it not for the hole inside.

Painted on eyes,
colored up lips,
feather soft cheeks
façade for drab,
shriek out for worth.

Couldn’t embrace my solitary
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t reach life’s reason
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t find solace in the crush
were it not for the hole inside.

Painted on eyes,
colored up lips,
feather soft cheeks
façade for drab,
shriek out for worth.

Couldn’t escape the putrid pit
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t seek deep healing lift
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t evade death’s cold rattle
were it not for the hole inside.

Painted on eyes,
colored up lips,
feather soft cheeks
façade for drab,
shriek out for worth.

Couldn’t have a far view
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t have found solace,
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t have met the cure,
were it not for the hole inside;

Couldn’t fly on joy’s wings
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t learn love’s embrace
were it not for the hole inside.
Couldn’t have known my soul’s lover
were it not for the hole inside.

Shining eyes clear,
smiling lips and crinkled cheeks,
love and beauty merge at last
with wisdom’s perfect love;
my hole is day by day healed.

Disappearance.2

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

She meets no
strangers;
pulls every heart
close.
Sees every ding
in psyche;
wants to hold
them tight to
stop their leakage.

I need a breather.
I have to get some air.
Just for a moment.
I need to disappear.

Does she think I’m
unfeeling
when I don’t
clasp every waif
to my
schedule?

I need to disappear
to recharge.

He pontificates;
bonhomie
expands.
Every task,
large or small,
he has the cure.
Just ask him,
he’ll tell how it’s done.
Oh, wait,
I won’t have to ask.
He’ll tell me how
anyway.

I’m ok with his
solutions
just don’t try to
make them
my solutions.

I don’t need him
to fix me.
I need to disappear.
Back into my
core.
Solutions are
there.
Solutions
unique for me.

Do they think I’m
helpless?
Can they not see
the strength
that comes
out of my
disappearance?

She thrives on
challenge.
She rises up
to surpass
‘it’s impossible’
naysayers
in their
rational talk.

Does she think
my accomplishment
should rival hers?
Should equal hers?
In effort,
if not in exact
duplication of
the creative?

I need to disappear
into my
creativeness.

There’s no point
to a duplicate
snowflake.

Each
is unique.

It’s their
coming together
their melding,
their disappearance
into the snowbank,
the snow capped
mountain peak,
the ice cap, that
makes them
thunderous.

I’ll come
with you.
I’ll meld.
Just know,
I’ll bring my
disappearance
with me.
Just know I need
my breathers.

I won’t be her
or him.

They’re the
extroverts.
I’m not.

Disappearance
is part of me.

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.