Comebacks

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Happiness in life is making comebacks. We all experience loss. It lays us all low at some point. More than once even. The thing to learn to lean into is the knowledge, the self-assurance, you will get back to seeing and tasting and hearing. That the living will be vivid again. The joy full again.

I took a day trip to San Diego in the middle of last week. Put a message on my voicemail and toured historic sites. My brother and I walked through the Mission San Diego de Alcalá. We enjoyed its gardens and its sanctuary. Stepped down into the padre’s quarters.

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A desk and a cot by a door that opens to a view. It was a hot day but pleasantly cool in the padre’s room because of the thick adobe construction and the breeze through the open doorway. It was calming, peaceful in the simple living quarters. Solid walls, a desk, a cot, a door, a view. The makings of comebacks. Strength to simply endure, curiosity, rest, an open heart that seeks the world outside itself, looking and seeing.

Chimes for Kim

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I remember your deep laugh and how much you enjoyed rattling the neighbors by placing odd objects in your front yard. How it amused you that one neighbor kept asking you the meaning of the shiny blue egg placed by itself beneath an old pine tree.

“What do you think it means?” you always asked him in response. Then that bold, brazen laugh. “I’ll never tell him I simply like the color blue.”

Strange how much I thought of you yesterday when I heard wind chimes at the garden center–a serene tinkling. The sound gave me a sense of peacefulness. I needed to buy one. Out of yellow and green and purple, I picked blue.

What does a short video of a blue wind chime mean?

It means I simply miss you.

False Promises to the Dying

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Modesty is plausibility. The lie’s appeal. Chicago unacceptably and unrealistically far-reaching. So Fresno in July. Central California. Farm country.

Minor league baseball. Young, muscular, hopeful young men trying to hit doubles into the outfield gaps. The reaching. The smell of fresh mowed grass. Earth and youth and hay fever.

Eager whisperers. The believing. The wanting.

Plans of motels and cheeseburgers. Car rides and photographs and a coffee table book.

But she is 90 pounds and fading. The neither of us admitting.

Family Archaeology: Grandma Vera

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Grandma Vera fixed the roof herself and served lettuce in wedges. The metal gate to her back door was spring loaded. I climbed that gate as a girl and pretended it was a bucking horse. “Good land, that makes a racket,” she hollered at me as she planted iris. But she let me play.

Grandma Vera bought used polyester pants at yard sales. She grew up poor and unloved in a small Wyoming town. She was not a woman who said I love you. Instead she worked and skimped to give her four sons and their families a better life than she imagined possible for herself.

Her home consisted of three small rooms and a bathroom in the back of a gas station. Furnished entirely from bargains at yard sales. She put all of her boys through college and helped some grandchildren along the way as well.

Grandma hoarded junk–old shoes, paperbacks, table settings, broken lamps–she’d resell for nickels, dimes, dollars. She didn’t buy anything new for herself and she wasn’t attached to things. Except her first fancy purse. An outrageous luxury purchase made back when she taught in a one-room schoolhouse out on a lonely prairie. A finely crafted mesh metal purse. Delicate looking but strong. Enduring. With a rainbow of colors in the light like fish scales, only prettier.

Vera took the purse out once to a fancy dress dance party. Before she settled for a loveless marriage. Before she put the purse away in a drawer.

Now and Beauty

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The art of living well and the art of dying well are one. ~ Epicurus

I need to write about my friend fighting cancer but I am not. The fall leaves are golden and she still makes me laugh. There will be a time to write and to remember. Now is for being silly and making crafts together like joyful children. Now is for tracing leaves onto felt and for teasing. Tomorrow will be tomorrow.

Two Packs

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My dad surprised us with Sno Balls, chocolate cakes filled with a marshmallow goo and covered with pink dyed coconut flakes. He brought them home from the 7-Eleven. He came home with two 2-packs for our family to share. My mom, my dad, my brother, and myself. I didn’t really like them–so sweet they were too sweet–but I joined in because they were his favorite treat and it made him happy to share them with us. I wanted to like them for him and would try to eat them in three sloppy bites, same as he could do.

Family change is a strange thing. Whether the change happens from separation or divorce or the tragedy of death. Or the act of slipping apart and away from each other over time. We went from an even numbered family to an odd. Dinner meant four place settings at the table. Then it didn’t, even though I sometimes forgot at first and put a fourth plate on the table–an extra plate I’d awkwardly try to remove before it made my mom cry.

One lonely time I brought Sno Balls home from the convenience store. Some attempt to taste normal again. But then there was the outcast leftover Sno Ball in the torn wrapper that made us feel more pointedly the absence of being left behind.

And then eventually with hard change comes renewal and happy and better. All good. But always the quick shot of lonesome pangs whenever I pay for my gas at the station and pass by forsaken 2-packs.

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