Archives for February 2012

Lents I Have Known: 1

First, thanks to all of you who left such kind comments on my last crazy poem. I guess grief is universal.

This Saturday marks two years since my mom died. Last Lent, at the one-year mark, I was still grieving hard. The year before, I was in shock because she died just two weeks into Lent. The Lents before that fall into The Cancer Years.

If you want to know more about Merry Nell Drummond, and if you have a thing for cancer poems, there are 72 of them here on the right-hand side of this blog marked “My Mother’s Diary.” They aren’t all good, but they were all helpful to write.

For those of you walking through grief, I want to say that it does get better, although it never goes away. My friend, Becca, who lost her mother right before I lost mine said, “For the whole first year, I felt like she had just died.”

Now, it feels like it happened a long time ago. When I wrote the marriage post, The Telegram it was the first time I had written about my mom without feeling the need to end it with “and then, she died.”

Despite the zombie dream, it’s like she’s no longer dead. She’s now eternal.

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Zombie

Makeup smeared, like a clown, like the Joker

Lipstick askew, eyeliner lying on her cheeks

Like she forgot how to put it on

(She’d never forget that)
 

I dream about Mom for the third night in a row

Everyone is humoring her, pretending she’s alive

She won’t stop talking about something from last week

As if she was there. She wasn’t. (Was she?)
 

“That was the worst hamburger I ever ate for breakfast,”

Mom said. Five of us leave the dusty diner

(She’d never eat a hamburger for breakfast)

I start to argue
 

Dad pulls my arm, shoots me that look that says,

“That’s enough.”

And then we are all walking to church. The wrong church.

I know it’s wrong because there’s standing, clapping
 

I yell “No!” turn, run away

To where I can kneel, where it’s quiet

Where there are no zombies

Only statues perfectly made up

Sitting in Estes: Mountain chickadee

Last Lent I did a series called “Sitting,” just observing what was happening in my backyard. I sat earlier this month in Estes Park, Colorado. Here’s what I saw:

This bird took a little more work to photograph and to identify. We found it at Loch Vale. It would only come around us when we were standing. Since we had somehow climbed up the gorge (more on that tomorrow), I was tired enough to sit, even if it was cold.

Sitting in Estes: Steller’s jay

Last Lent I did a series called “Sitting,” just observing what was happening in my backyard. I sat earlier this month in Estes Park, Colorado. Here’s what I saw:

At Alberta Falls, a black squirrel stole a girl’s energy bar, and the Steller’s jay took off after the squirrel. It didn’t get the energy bar, but it did get some of my Craisins.

Sitting in Estes: Gray jay

Last Lent I did a series called “Sitting,” just observing what was happening in my backyard. I sat earlier this month in Estes Park, Colorado. Here’s what I saw:

I heard it before I saw it. Who knew that when you stop to sit after hiking in the snow, it’s cold! I ate standing up, shifting from foot to foot.

I scanned Lake Bierstadt for the sound, but it was right behind us. The bird (which I did not identify until later) was sitting on top of the pine tree, just like a partridge in a pear tree.

Sitting in Estes: Elk

Last Lent I did a series called “Sitting,” just observing what was happening in my backyard. I sat earlier this month in Estes Park, Colorado. Here’s what I saw:

To get the full effect of this elk sighting, you must picture me wearing exactly what I describe—do not add clothing where clothing is not mentioned: flannel robe, wool socks, hiking boots, parka, gloves.

I spotted an elk off the porch, so I walked below the cabin to investigate. Then I realized there were a clump of five of them. I tried to walk on the patches of grass because they were quieter than the ice-covered snow. Once I got my camera ready, I saw a bull elk off to the right. So there were six.

I followed. More appeared. Seven. Eight. Wait, 11. Two bulls and nine does. Eleven elk a’grazing.

The sun was right in my eyes. If I knew how to do the Kelly effect and had a camera that could do that sort of thing, I’d have a great shot. But my best bet was to somehow get ahead of them without scaring them and shoot from behind.

They were relatively tame. Not shy, but cautious. The bulls eyed me at all times.

I moved to the road, which made me more silent. Finally, I could descend again into the grassy plain, with a ponderosa pine behind me to block the sun.

They grazed. Nuzzled. Nickered, like horses. One attempted to mount the other.

I kept watching. They decided I was probably not a threat, but two to three kept watch anyhow.

I got cold. Hungry. I climbed the hill, walking backward, keeping them in my sight. Then I turned away and headed back to the cabin. I paused at the door and turned around to see if the elk were still there, but the sun was blazing, obscuring them from my sight.

Sitting in Estes: Canada geese

Last Lent I did a series called “Sitting,” just observing what was happening in my backyard. I sat earlier this month in Estes Park, Colorado. Here’s what I saw:

These fellows were waddling around Lake Estes. They slipped on the ice, just like they were trying out skates for the first time. When we arrived, the weather was warm, so parts of the lake were unfrozen.

I love the trail around this lake, which reminds me a little of the trail around Lady Bird Lake in Austin. Lots of people and dogs. A few bikes.

Sitting in Estes: Black-billed magpie

Last Lent I did a series called “Sitting,” just observing what was happening in my backyard. I sat earlier this month in Estes Park, Colorado. Here’s what I saw:

I’m a sucker for birds, especially anything in the corvid family (crows, magpies, jays). I first discovered these birds when I was in Estes in August and wondered, “What are those black-and-white crows with the blue tails?” Well, they’re black-billed magpies.

Hint: If you need help identifying a bird, go to http://www.allaboutbirds.org, which is run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Someday, when I finish my crow story, I’m going to add in some of these guys.

Mexico

(Not the trip I just took with my husband. The one before. Please forgive the Spanglish.)

Mi amor.

Come to la playa. The Playa del Carmen.

El agua es blue. El hotel is muy nice.

Muchas margaritas!

You read Sports Illustrated in the shade while

I nado in el Caribe.

En la tarde, ESPN in Español—gol!

Venga at sundown, for dinner.

Afterward, we’ll caminar under la luna

watch for the first estrellas

—   dos.

The Telegram

This story is offered for Jennifer Dukes Lee’s blog carnival on marriage

If my dad had not complained about an anonymous telegram, he and my mom might never have gotten married.

My parents met in 1965 on an exchange program to Chile with the University of Texas. He was known as “the cowboy” (although he really was a farm boy — this will be important later in the story), and she was the cosmopolitan girl, fluent in Spanish, with good political connections. She was seeing someone else, but six weeks at the bottom of the world changed everything. She and my dad fell in love on the beach at Quinteros and stayed that way.

When they returned to Texas, Mom helped Dad campaign for student body president at UT, and he was elected. That meant he was rather busy — too busy to remember Valentine’s Day.

At least, that’s what Mom thought. Why else would a man forget Valentine’s Day? So she sent him an angry —anonymous — telegram.

A week went by. Dad didn’t mention the telegram.

They met for lunch at an out-of-the-way restaurant favored by members of the Texas Legislature. Dad talked about student body president stuff. Mom kept waiting for him to apologize for missing Valentine’s Day. Or, at least, to mention that telegram. Finally, he did.

“I got this strange telegram,” Dad finally said. “It wasn’t signed.”

I can imagine Mom pursing her lips together. “What did it say?”

“It said, ‘You’re a jerk!’” I can’t imagine who would send such a thing.”

“I sent it,” Mom said.

I can imagine Dad looking confused. “Why?”

She proceeded to tell him off, with four-letter words that I never once heard her say. But they included such sentiments as, “You forgot Valentine’s Day? We are practically engaged, you — !”

Dad took his lumps, but here’s the thing: he truly didn’t know that forgetting your girlfriend on Valentine’s Day was a crime. In fact, he hardly knew that Valentine’s Day existed. It wasn’t celebrated on the cotton farm in Hamlin where he grew up. Even birthdays weren’t always celebrated on the farm. There was too much work and too many durn boys running around. (Dad was one of four sons.)

Needless to say, Dad never forgot another Valentine’s Day. He said that other holidays could be adjusted a day or two. If Mom’s birthday fell on a Wednesday, she could wait until Friday night to celebrate. Not so with Valentine’s Day. It was celebrated on February 14, no matter what else might be going on.

“After that, I spent a fortune in yellow roses, dark chocolate, red wine,” Dad told me.

“Worth every penny?” I asked.

“Worth every penny,” he said.