July 2011 Archives

That I just wrote to my mom.

:  halp?


One of the kids left an inside light on in my van last night and when I went to drive to John's at 10:30 tonight to drop off the coffee he got today that I put in my freezer and that I know he'll want in the morning, but he can't come pick it up because he's already asleep, I discovered the battery is dead.  I've got a portable jumper cable charger thing, and I knew it needed to be charged, so I went to get it and the cord out of the back of the van.  Turns out, the box with the cord that I *thought* was the charger for the jumper thing, is one of YOUR portable air mattress pumps, which means I never returned it after camping with the girl scouts last year.

So, if you have time tomorrow, I'd greatly appreciate 1) a ride over to Kragen's so i can buy cables and, 2) a jump start.  : )  And I can give you that pump back.  If last summer I gave you the box with the jump starter charger thing in it, we can even trade!  But, that jump starter thing is sort of old and crusty and I'm worried that if I plugged it in, it would explode.  Also, I bet that the box with the charger, which was smaller, duh, but the same white thin cardboard, got accidentally thrown in to the goodwill donation truck one of the times I was dropping stuff off there.  Or, it's actually in the back of my van and I couldn't see it because I was using my iPhone as a flashlight and there's a case of water, two backpacks full of old clothes for goodwill, a couple of lawn chairs and boogieboards in the back.  But, I didn't want to stand out there and keep looking any more, because the people across the street are moving out in the middle of the night, probably bailing on their rent, and so THAT was a little awkward, but then I thought what if those were robbers who might take me out if I looked at them too long, so I just came back inside.  

I unfortunately have to do a TON of driving tomorrow, because the girls are going to a party in sunnyvale in the afternoon but willow will be at camp and also need to get a gift.. Monday hasn't even started yet and it's already sucky.  Also, I haven't had a drop of booze.  I'm just stress drunk. 

Love you

On Saturday Scuba and I picked up Lex from his dad's at 9 in the morning and we drove south on Highway 101 and then south on Highway 1 until we got to Monterey.  Sometimes driving on 1 scares me so much I feel like I'm having a weird, hard to breathe through, out of body experience.  Like I'm driving the car from way up in the air and my arms are just really, really long.  Not the part that we take to get to Monterey, that part is all inland and goes past fields and fields of artichokes and strawberries.  It's green and soft and grey and foggy.  But if you keep going south on 1, past where we went Saturday, the road is literally on the edge of the land above the sea and there's nothing but your own attention keeping you up on the road.  That's the part that makes me so very anxious, though the anxiety is shot through with appreciation for the beauty of the place and I know when I'm driving on the perilous parts of the road I'll be okay if I can keep my cool by focusing on how gorgeous it is. 

There are roads like that in Hawaii, too, and I'm really glad that Scuba is the only one allowed to drive the rental car.

Once when I was ten or eleven and my mom's parents came to visit us, we drove somewhere, probably Big Sur, but maybe it was San Francisco, on Highway 1, and it scared my grandmother so badly she was shaking.  It didn't occur to me then to comfort her by telling her it had the same effect on me.  Or maybe it's just gotten scarier as I've gotten older.

But on Saturday we stopped at Monterey, before all the dramatic parts of the road, so instead of quietly hyperventilating at the edge of the map while wishing I could photograph how stunning it all is, I was calmly resting on a blanket on the beach, reading, while Lex and Scuba went diving. Lex is all certified now, thanks to Scuba, who got him to and from lessons one week and to the ocean by 7 a.m. both mornings weekend before last.

They're like astronauts without space ships when they get into the water.  It's not just that they have to bring their own air and they become kind of weightless; they're in a totally different world when they are diving and after they've been gone awhile, I watch the surface of the water for them to come back to Earth.  And they walk out of the surf and up onto the beach, looking very odd.  Scuba comes up to the blanket and stands over my legs, dripping cold seawater all over me, like stars.     
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On the floor watching anchovies swim
Monterey Bay Aquarium

Today makes one month since my dad died.  Today my air conditioner stopped working again.  Today I cried a lot, but there was also a moment when I thought about my dad and smiled - a really happy smile - at a memory and I did not cry.  Today I went back to yoga for the first time in a few weeks, and that was really helpful, except for the part at the end where the teacher told the class that we'd just added seventeen minutes onto our lives (it was a Bikram class, the most devoted Bikram fans think it's Super Duper Majikal) and since that's pretty much to the minute how much my step mom and I missed getting to the hospital to hold my dad's hand while he died, that undid me.

But I feel a little bit better lately.  It's not that I am, exactly, but I'm focusing on reframing the situation and it's starting to help.  I was so lucky to have him and he was a happy person, really.  What else can anyone ask for in their life? 


Scuba took the girls on their second-ever Math Night tonight.  He's the better parent between the two of us.  Witness: he bought the girls math workbooks, and takes them out to the coffee shop where he spent four years studying for his MBA and they work math problems and have hot chocolate.  I got to go to yoga while they were out, so I love Math Night more than any of them, probably.

Things move forward and get better and then they get cruddy and then they get really great.  Sometimes all crashed into each other.  I KNOW my dad doesn't want me to sit around and grieve for him and miss out on my life.  I'm sad enough to do that, so I'm going to have to watch myself. 

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My dad and I used to send each other links in email all the time and talk about stories we heard on NPR or This American Life or wherever.  Of course I'm doing that thing that everyone does when they lose someone so close to them; I'm finding myself reading something and thinking that my dad would like it and I should send it to him for just a fraction of a second before I remember that I can't.  Is it dumb that I'm really sad for him that he won't get to watch Treme?  He saw a couple of the new episodes in the hospital, on his laptop, but he'd been really looking forward to watching it this season. 

I don't know if I believe that he knows everything now, or nothing. 

Last night Lex and I had some time just the two of us, and we talked about my dad and cried.  A lot.  I told him about a dream I had: I'd gone to my dad's house and when I went to knock on the door there was a window in it (not so in his actual house) and I could see him inside.  And he came to the door to let me in, and the look on his face - I swear it was that he looked sorry for having died and left us all here, but his eyes were still smiling at me, like always.  And in the dream I said, Hi, Dad.  I can't remember why I came over, but I know needed to give you a hug.  And as I went to hug him, I sort of knew I was dreaming and that he wasn't really here anymore, and so I held onto him until he let me go and he took a step back.  And he kissed my forehead and that was all.  
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Lots of Bright Eyes on the rotation this week. 

I was a little over ambitious tonight when I went back to the yoga studio after a month or so off, and I ended up after the class sitting in my car clutching a reusable Whole Foods bag, certain I was going to throw up all that water I'd been drinking today to get hydrated.  But, I didn't, so yay!

I had to stop a lot during the class, too, and I didn't even bother with child's pose, I just flung myself down right on my back until the spinning stopped because I don't care if anyone thinks I can't hack it.  Right now, I sort of can't.  Turns out that all that crying has left me a little empty and weak.

Several times when the teacher talked about breath and focusing on it and appreciating it and cultivating it and sending it to tight places in your body it made me cry.  My dad had multiple medical problems, but the worst thing was that he couldn't breathe very well.  He died because his lungs weren't able to hold his breath anymore, so his oxygen level dipped low, and then lower and then so low he died.  And I was going back and forth between focusing on taking care of my own body, in hopes that something like that won't happen to me, and feeling this weird guilt that I can breathe so deeply and easily.  I won't ever take it for granted again after seeing him struggle. 
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Today my brother and I each found a copy of a letter from my dad to us in our mailboxes.

I knew it was on the way, and I had some idea what it said.  I also knew that it was written a long time ago, when I was only eleven, and that my dad thought better of sending it.  I guess he sensed that my brother and I wouldn't quite be able to understand it all and he didn't want to upset us.  It was about how much he was missing us, and how much he loved us as people.  As his children, too, of course, but he said that even if he weren't our father, he'd want to have us as friends, because he liked the kind of people we were.

I talked to my brother some this afternoon about it, after his copy had arrived and I was waiting for the mail still.  And his voice broke just a little when he told me that it was so good to see Dad's handwriting again.  And he was right.  It was. 

My step mom found the letter while she was going through my dad's things and so she finally delivered it to us, all this time later.  I'm glad she did, but I also had to read it through three times and then put it up, because I'm just feeling so sad and so broken. 

At the end of the letter, he asked us, if we ever did get the letter, to take it out from time to time and reread it.  And then he put it up someplace instead of sending it. 

For the last couple of months before he died we talked nearly every day, sometimes twice.  And he told me often how much he liked that, even though sometimes our phone calls were just thirty seconds or less of him letting me know that he couldn't talk and me telling him I was thinking about him.  But he liked hearing from me every day.  I liked it, too.  And I liked that he didn't ever tell me goodbye, but since I usually called at night, he'd just say Goodnight, sweetheart.

The very last time he spoke to me, it was over the phone.  He only was able to tell me, what? I think that he wasn't feeling well, that he was hurting?  That he kept asking for pain medicine but nobody would bring him any.  I think that was all, but for the life of me I cannot remember.  It's okay, though.  I'd much rather hear his voice, happy and sounding like himself, saying goodnight than remember him telling me, in his restrained way, the hell that he was living in with his lung collapsed.  He had to force air out with all his strength to get the words to come.  I could hear how difficult it was for him.  I think I told him that he'd better go rest up, save his energy.

I miss our phone calls.  So much.  I guess when I can stand it, I'll have his letter to read instead.  And I'm glad for that, I really am, but I still keep looking at his phone number programmed in my phone and I can't yet imagine this hurting less. 
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The girls had a party to attend today, so after a lovely breakfast out, Scuba and I took them to everyone's favorite store, Affordable Treasures.  When I got my first real job in 1986, Affordable Treasures was just a couple doors down.  Now they've moved to a bigger location, but it's pretty much the exact same stuff and it's just as magnetic to me now as it was back then.

Here's why:

Hangin with Justin B at Affordable Treasures
Everybody loves Justin, right?

What you can't see too well in this photo are the rows and rows of party supplies: Octoberfest paper plates, tiny bull pinatas, hippy paisley napkins, red and white checked tablecloths with ants on them, football lights, Corona wrist bands, and, featured, Your Own Personal JB.

This video isn't 100% authentic, because Sophie put these glasses on and started in on this and then I was all HOLD UP - DO THAT AGAIN!  But, other than that she had no direction.

And then there's this:

I don't even know, man


I don't even know.

The party was fun, they said, and they both came home sunburned and barefooted and exhausted from swimming and running all day.  Sometimes hanging out with my kids makes me really miss being a kid myself, until I put them to bed and kick back with my Kindle and a beer and the fan on high.  (We have no AC, which is fine except for the few days a year when it isn't.) 

So, Happy Fourth of July.  If you are looking for some good summer reads, I just finished The Paris Wife, which I liked very much, since I have a weird love of Hemmingway, and I'm reading The Winter Sea right now (so far, I like it, too).  A few weeks ago I read A Discovery of Witches for the BlogHer book club, and my review went up last week - it's here.    
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Today we needed to get out of town.  We're members of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Lex starts scuba classes next week and had some new gear (mask, fins, one of Scuba's semidry suits) to test out, so we packed up some sammiches and fruit and hit the road.

I love Monterey.  I'd move there in a heartbeat.  I never get bored with the aquarium.

I never get tired of this place
jellyfish on the iPhone

On the way to Monterey we drove through Sand City, which is pretty much what you'd think: a seaside town with giagantic sand dunes.  If you've been to Monterey, you'll remember the dunes.  In some spots they are smooth and in others they're covered with purple and green and blue and orange plants and flowers.  Willow and Sophie both started speculating on how much fun it would be to roll down one of the dunes as we drove by. 

On the way home it was still light out, and as the dunes came into view the girls started to imagine climbing up on them again.  Scuba looked at me, smiling (especially with his eyes), and took the next exit so we could go play.  The happiness coming from the back of the van when the kids figured out that we really were going to go up there made me feel better than I have in weeks.  I'm still thinking about my dad all the time, and I guess a lot of that thinking is me talking to him, so I thought, See?  I told you I'm lucky.  I hope you get to watch the kids for a minute.  Forever. 

It's a little tricky to figure out how to get to the dunes, but he did it and we parked and we all piled out of the van and stomped up the dunes in the cold, cold wind. 

Sand City sand dunes

Most people who were feeling rather tired and more than a little bummed that one of their insanely expensive dive suits was leaky and maybe worn-out, would probably not have stopped the car to let the kids run around.  Maybe even most people wouldn't do that on a good day, even.

It was freezing cold, so Scuba and I went back to the car and watched the ocean for a little bit while the kids played.  We maybe had to honk a few times to get them to come back. 

And then we drove home as the sun set and made that pretty orange glow in the air.  We came in and made popcorn and sat down with a beer and watched Alamar with the kids.  It was the story of a boy and his dad, and the boy's dad, too.  It's one of the most beautiful films I've seen.  Don't miss it.
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My dad's cousin used to be a professional opera singer and they were very close, so I asked her to help me with music for the service.  She and her husband brought me a couple of discs; one awesome opera/classical mix tape to play before the service, and then two selections to play during: Pavarotti singing a strikingly different-than-the-norm version of Ave Maria, and Dame Joan Sutherland performing O Divine Redeemer.  My dad loved both of them, and saw them both perform, in either Houston or Dallas, I don't remember.  The day before the service, I decided to add one more song, and so this one played after I spoke (which is good, because if it had been before, I wouldn't have been able to talk): 

Can you fix this? It's a broken heart.
It was fine, but it just fell apart.
It was mine, but now I give it to you,
Cause you can fix it, you know what to do.

Let your love cover me,
Like a pair of angel wings,
You are my family,
You are my family.

We stood outside in the summer rain,
Different people with a common pain.
A simple box in that hard red clay,
Where we left him to always remain.

Let your love cover me,
Like a pair of angel wings,
You are my family,
You are my family.

The child who played with the moon and stars,
Waves a snatch of hay in a common barn,
In the lonely house of Adam's fall
Lies a child, it's just a child that's all, crying

Let your love cover me,
Like a pair of angel wings,
You are my family,
You are my family.

Here's a link to my dad's obituary.  I wrote it in the car on the way from Houston to Sherman (north of Dallas) and I can't help but notice a whole bunch of errors, but I think it does get across how much we love him.  The version that was on the newspaper website had as many or more comments, too, but I think it's not up anymore. 

in Boston, 1946 (or so)

I don't really believe that I'm ever going to feel better and I didn't know it was possible to cry so much.  I haven't had any (good) dreams about my dad since he died, but last night when I was falling asleep I was remembering how when my brother and I were really little we'd get in the swimming pool with him and he'd bend low in the water and lace his hands together so that one of us could step onto them, facing away from him, and then with all his energy he'd stand up and raise his hands up and we'd fly up over the water and come splashing back down.  Then we'd swim back to him, laughing and wiping the water out of our eyes.  I can remember exactly what it felt like to hang onto his neck and how the water was a little bit cold and how my feet didn't reach the bottom of the pool and how happy I was that he was my dad. 
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