Daddy’s Desk

image source: Bing images

image source: Bing images

In the top drawer is Daddy’s inexpensive silver wristwatch with its flexible, stretch band.  Without his warm flesh and steady heartbeat, it stopped.  I tried wearing it when I noticed, but it was too late.  So it lays here, the date feature, Mon 20, the time, 5:05 p.m. and ten seconds.

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Funny that, since Daddy died on Monday the 20th.  I wonder now, did it stop the day he died, or did it run longer?  I can’t remember, which is strange, because at the time, I thought I’d never forget.

I’ve kept the yellow post-it notes he wrote and stuck on the side of the filing cabinet by the desk.  Doctor’s number, appointment reminders, police and newspaper phone numbers.  I like looking at his handwriting.  Printing, really.  The only time he used cursive was to write his distinctive and legible signature.

image source: Bing images

image source: Bing images

I was an adult before he confessed his handwriting was terrible, so he printed.  I’d always thought his familiar script was his preferred writing; neat, precise letters in a straight line, the “a” like a typewriter “a” with the tail curving across the top.  Not like the round “ɑ” they taught me in grade school.

I want to remember him in his strength; when it was easy to open drawers, when his watch ticked efficiently; when it was nothing for him to write a note to me, or to write in the checkbook.  I don’t want to think about those days he wasted away to a potbelly on a skeleton frame, the minutes and hours and days of caregiving roaring loud in my ears as we inched across the horizon toward his setting sun.

His abdomen filled with fluid as his body failed from liver cancer.  I was clueless.  He hardly ate, yet his pants were too tight to button?  I cringe now to think of things I could have done to make his days easier.

I don’t want to remember the last time he wrote.  The first time we went to the lab to have 2 liters of fluid drawn off his belly, he signed and dated the forms with ease.  The last time we went, his consent signature looked like the illegible scribbles of a two-year old.  His precise, neat printing and his one concession to cursive writing were gone.  It wasn’t long before he was gone.

Crile R. Dean

Crile R. Dean

I come often to this place that was Daddy’s domain.  I sit at the big metal desk that’s marred by years of use and run my hands over the scratched and scarred surface.  I can see how he grasped the handle of each drawer, the black paint worn away to gun-metal gray where his thumb extended to press for leverage to pull them open.  In memory I see him here.  He calls me honey.  He sings, smiles, talks ethics, politics, religion and sports.  He remains in my heart.  Until I join him, I’ll hold on to the simple reminders.  I won’t forget.

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pain and love

Bing images

Bing images

We passed the KTLA5 News van just south of the exit to Isla Vista.  Apparently they were also headed back to L.A.

“Can’t see the water today,” Mother said, her head turned to her window as she looked to the south where the coast was hiding in a bank of clouds and moisture.

“No,” I said.  I looked left to check the fast lane, before moving into it to get around the car that was slowing us down, “but you can’t miss the fact it’s there with all this heavy marine layer.”

Yesterday, the trip north meant short sleeves, air conditioning and sun glasses against the bright sun and beautiful blue sky and water, but today was a long sleeve day, with the A/C turned off and vent air warmed up to 73 degrees.  It was overcast and cool out, 60 degrees at 9:45 a.m.

The Isla Vista murder/suicide tragedy was three days ago.  The town was probably still reeling.  Families decimated and shocked.  People would need jackets or sweatshirts when they took flowers to mark the spot of the tragedies.   And anyway, overcast, cloudy skies made more sense for mourning than a bright, sunny day at the beach, right?  Or maybe the gray sky matched the gray in people’s minds and kept them away from the scene and that was why the News Van was headed back to L.A.

“We never spent time at the beach,” Mother said, her head still turned towards the coast, “I was busy with all you kids, your father needed the car for work, and there was no money or time for trips to the beach.”  She sounded a little wistful at the missed opportunity.

“And when you did get away,” I said, checking the review mirror for a CHP as my speed increased down a hill, “you went to the mountains?”

“Of course,” Mother said in a tone that meant, why would they go anywhere else?  “Your father and I loved the mountains.”

I checked the rear view mirror to see if my visiting brother had anything to add to this trip down memory lane, but he was asleep, his white haired head against the head rest of the back seat, cell phone in his hand, the radio classical music his lullaby.

His week-long visit with his son, daughter-in-law and three grandkids in Lompoc gave me an excuse to talk Mother into taking a trip north.  What a trip of contrasts.  We’d gone from L.A. County to Santa Barbara County, from high rises, acres of concrete, bumper to bumper traffic, houses and small businesses as far as the eye could see, interspersed with strip malls and large shopping complexes, past ocean views, bougainvillea blanketed cliffs and para-sailing and beyond, to rolling green hills sprayed with yellow mustard blooms like dancing sprites over hills and vales that sloped down to the winding ribbon that is Highway 1.

It felt like another world.  It felt like the back of beyond where nothing lived except grasses and hills and dense undergrowth.  It felt hushed and beautiful, fresh and alive.  It felt like another place in time.

It felt nothing like the tragedy and blood and suffering of Isla Vista, where a rampaging, mentally stressed college student had planned for his pain to erupt leaving six dead and thirteen wounded.

Rather, it felt happy.  We found a busy and content family of two school teachers, their two teenagers, a ten year old and a Mother-in-law who just had one lung lobe removed in an effort to eradicate cancer.

They act like they are aware they have each other.   They act like they know who they are.  They act like they understand their place in life.  They act like they will take care of each other.  They act like they will be there for the recovery after cancer surgery; they will be there for each other after my nephew has back surgery this summer; they will be there for my beautiful, seventeen year old great niece as she makes a college choice, they will be there in encouraging my nephew’s wife as she finishes her masters and her doctorate, they will be there to support my nephew as he finishes his seminary work.  It isn’t that their life doesn’t have challenges.  It’s that they are determined to keep their lives simple, hang on to their faith and believe in each other.

How easily that tragic college student with long term self-esteem and mental health issues could have been me, or my brother, or his son, or his daughter-in-law or one of his grandchildren.  I think of the poor choices I made when I was young, that student’s age.  I cringe when I think of how some things turned out. I, too, was a failure.  I’m grateful I learned to move beyond.  I’m grateful there was healing.

I’m grateful, this gray morning, that life has given me time to get it right.  And I’m sad for the destroyed families of those six dead and thirteen wounded.  I pray there will be a way for them to recover; that there will be time for their lives to get it right.  Other than just screaming about guns.  Or knives.  It’s a deeper issue than a tool used for destruction.  It’s about value at the very core of our being.  It’s about compassion and forgiveness.  It’s about finding help when damage eats away at the soul.  It’s about love.

“I saw a whale,” Mother said, her eyes glued to the water, as the fog began to lift.

“Where?”  My brother woke, stretched and turned to his window.

We craned our necks to see the beauty of life that continues on.

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.

Liebster Award

Liebster award
A blogging award!  I’m honored and…overwhelmed. There appears to be lots of stuff that must be done to accept this award. Or nothing to do, depending upon one’s perspective.

I guess it’s up to me.  Do I want to honor and encourage others in their blogging efforts or just do my own thing?  When you put it like that, of course I want to run my fingers across the keys to investigate the creative waters out there on the blogisphere (or blogosphere, depending on who you ask).  So yes, I’ll go on safari and discover what mysteries lie in other blogs and ready my coffers for any recompensed ping-backs or links; not to mention digging into the treasure of rich and deep words that I’ll collect in my heart and savor. 🙂

Thank you, Trucker Turning Write for nominating me for this award. http://truckerturningwrite.com/2014/03/29/saying-thanks-starting-write-now/

Here are his questions for his nominees:

1. Tea or coffee? Tea – specifically Chai Tea.  Oh, if only it didn’t mess with my allergies.

2. Best piece of advice you have ever been given? Discover the lover of your soul, and don’t let go.

3. Which do you prefer Mountain or Beach? Mountains. My parents loved them and tho’ we lived a few miles from the beach when I was a kid, I never went there until I was an adult. We went to the mountains and as we were raised, so I remained.

4. Biggest lie you ever bought? I could change who I was to make someone else happy. They didn’t care and I wasn’t happy.

5. Your dream job? Meeting people’s needs – and having all the resources to do that. The challenge is, even if the resources are there, the hurting and needy people have to take responsibility in receiving or nothing changes.

6. Any phobia? Fear that incapacitates and interferes with joy and purpose.

7. Favourite holiday memory, if any? The Christmas I was eleven and the handmade gifts my father and brother’s made for my sister and me. You can read more here – https://victoriajodean.com/2014/03/19/wish/

8. Can you swim? Barely – no confidence I wouldn’t drown.
9. Apart from swimming, what should we all try to learn? Sing!

10. Do you have a pet? Not currently. Birds, cats and dogs over the years, but all aged and died.

11. Can you recommend an Author? Calvin Miller, his SINGER TRILOGY, a poetic narrative in the style of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. Beautiful and well worth reading.

ps…are you nosey like my wife? Yes!

Here are the conditions to earning this badge:

(a) Thank the blogger who gives it.
DONE
(b) Answer the eleven questions he asks.
DONE
(c) Nominate eleven bloggers with less than 500 followers.
DONE
(d) Ask these eleven bloggers eleven questions.
DONE
(e) Let these bloggers know that I have nominated them.
DONE

Here are the bloggers I’ve nominated:

http://scribbleholic.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-magic-of-mundane.html?showComment=1396952142874#c7877447260029325999

http://beausandbows.wordpress.com/about/

http://therussianway.wordpress.com/

http://thebottomofabottle.wordpress.com/my-poetry/

http://geosans.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/space-to-breathe/

http://gibsongirl247.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/a-woman-of-words/

http://starsrainsunmoon.com/boundlessly-arriving-evermore/

http://beingserbian.wordpress.com/

http://undercaws.com/2011/10/02/banana-split/

http://elementaryposters.com/2014/03/26/fero-cactus/

http://thatmontrealgirl.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/make-me-smile/

Here are some questions for them:

1.  Do I prefer real books or internet or audio books?

2.  If money was no object what would I do all day?

3.  Where do I most want to travel?

4.  Up to now, what has been my biggest success?

5.  University or Life experience, which prepares a person best?

6.  What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me?

7.  I have a ten minute speech to give at a high school. What will it be about?

8.  Favorite Ice cream flavor?

9.  Night person or Morning person?

10.  What book have I attempted to read several times but couldn’t finish?

11.  What book title best describes my life?

Congratulations, nominees.  Happy blogging !

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Attaché

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

I’d been trying to decide for weeks.  Or was it months?  It was the not deciding that was driving me nuts.  Should I or shouldn’t I?

The situation would never change unless I did something about it.  I went to sleep thinking about everything that was wrong and how it could be fixed.  When I woke, those same thoughts just continued on.  It was beginning to wear me out.

This could be resolved.  All I had to do was make a decision.

It didn’t start out so difficult.  Oh, sure, we had our differences.  Any two beings do, when they are required to work closely together and are thrown into a high pressure situation.

In the beginning, I was quite taken with the idea of a co-conspirator, or a collaborator, if you will.  What fun we could have being creative together.  We both had so much to offer.

I imagined the acclaim we would receive for our stunning performance.  Had any duo accomplished such sterling results?  None.  That I could think of.  Why, there could be honors and bonuses and perks and acclaim.  Wealth, perhaps.

The awards ceremony would be a night of glittering gowns and stylish tuxedos, flowing champagne, caviar and lobster, all beneath bright chandeliers.  Wonderful music would soar through the crowd, swirl around the vaulted ceilings, trill up the circular staircase and waft out among the stars.  All of it pointing to our success, our great, divine partnership.

People would talk for days about how worthy we were of our rewards.  They would go on and on about our uniqueness, our stunning beauty, our ability to thrill a crowd, our skill in bringing pleasure and enjoyment to the masses.  I saw it all in my vision of our future together.

I was holding up my part of the bargain.  I was groomed and pampered and manicured and styled and dressed for perfection.  I made the sacrifices for beauty.  I did what it took to keep my hour-glass figure.  I endured all the beauty treatments.  I knew my part.  I was superlative in my part.  I practiced my art and I was a master.

My partner, however, had become the bane of my existence.  He flaunted his beauty constantly, stepping on my toes and over my lines.  He didn’t share the limelight but hogged the show.  His voice was quite a terrible screech and so loud!

He had to go.  That was all there was to it.  Of course, there would be the reduction in novelty appeal without him.  There would be a risk in changing the show, but really, when you’re an entertainer and you’ve lost the attention of the crowd, well, clearly, something must be done.  Only one of us could survive this and I was determined it would not be that bird.  It would be me.

I had the solution.  All I had to do was make the call.  I picked up the business card from my dressing table,

FREDERICK ROTHSCHILD
Cultural Attaché to the Stars
Fixer – Problem Solver
1- 976-415-9862

I would do it.  I picked up the phone and dialed.

“Mr. Rothschild,” I used my most charming stage voice, “this is Mademoiselle Charmaine.  I need you to get rid of the peacock that’s in my act.  That stupid bird is ruining my fan dance.”

Wish

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

I was covered with dust and grime from digging through boxes in the garage when I found the one marked TOYS. Using a Swiffer cloth, I wiped off the small box and my hands.  What toys did we have that Mother would have saved and that Daddy would have tucked into the tightly stacked boxes on the shelving in the garage eaves?  We never had the money to buy anything expensive that would be worth keeping, so I couldn’t think what it could be.  I peeled away the packing and memories flooded my mind.

I was ten years old.  We had just moved from the San Fernando Valley to Simi Valley at the foot of the Simi Hills, close to Daddy’s new job testing rocket fuels at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.  Any money that Christmas season would go towards a modest Christmas dinner.  If there were any gifts, they would have to be handmade.

The weeks when Daddy and my two brothers spent time at night in the garage while my sister and I worked with Mother in the house to create something for Christmas seemed an eternity.  What could they be making for us?  There were many things I could wish for, but nothing I could think of equaled the sound of tools and the secrecy that barred us from the garage.

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

At last the day arrived and we gathered in the living room, around the spindly tree covered with one string of fat bulbs, lit in alternating red, blue, green, yellow and white; silver tinsel carefully spread strand by strand over the tree, a red construction paper chain and a few cardboard and construction paper figures we had made.  Mother had carefully kept a box of shiny Christmas ornaments.  We treated them like they were gold.  It was beautiful and mysterious.  We read the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth and then opened our gifts.

The gift from Daddy and my brothers to my seven year old sister and I was miniature doll furniture.  Wooden and handmade.  I was mesmerized.  This was a better wish than I could have dreamed up on my own.  The detail, the time, the beauty of the craft it took to create small works of art. I was overcome with joy and happiness.  It didn’t matter that we had no dolls small enough to play with on this miniature furniture.

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

“You made these?” I asked Daddy. “Did the boys help?”

“Yes, sweetheart,” Daddy’s eyes twinkled, “we worked together.”

All these years later as I stand in the garage and look at those labors of love and ingenuity, I am again overcome and need to share it.  I dig my cellphone out of my pocket and tap on my sister’s number, 500 miles to the north.

“I just found the gift from one of my favorite Christmases,” I said when she answered.  “The miniature furniture Daddy and the boys made for us in Simi Valley.  Remember?”

“Not now, Kenzie,” my sister said to her great-granddaughter, then back into the phone, “that stuff they made for us?  The worst Christmas ever!”

We talked and remembered and laughed and got caught up on current emergencies and challenges and said good-bye.

I sat in the dirty garage fingering those small pieces.  Funny how the same family experience can be so different, sibling to sibling.  I still felt the wonder of a Christmas wish that had no name, the beauty of just us six, our little oasis of love and security, wrapped in our own swaddling clothes of family working together, laid in the manger of belief and trust.

It was a wish I never knew I’d made but it was lived out by my big, strong Daddy who made Christmas beautiful for me and by the special treat of Mother’s Christmas turkey that was always delicious; it was the love we had that turned out to be the greatest wish.  It lived on as my brothers and sister built Christmas traditions with their families that in some form continue what we six had.  It still lives on even though Daddy is now gone and Mother’s strength is waning so that I do most of the Christmas turkey.  It lives on in eternity because it is the wish of the love and mystery and beauty of Christmas.