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I can’t walk in them. They’re way too big. Instead, I keep them at my desk where, at the start of my writing day, I slip them on first thing. Chris always had a pair of these slippers. This was actually a fairly new pair, at the time they became mine. He hadn’t worn them down, or out, like the other pair I keep with his things. He’d worn these when he came home to visit, after he left home, and then when he moved back because things had gone so wrong.
He always had this particular kind slippers, because they cushioned the pain in the bottom of his foot. Walking barefoot was like walking on razor blades, so he never did it. Recently, I’ve had some issues with the bottom of my foot; that first step was excruciating. The rest weren’t quite as bad, but bad. While Frank and I were in Virginia, it hurt so much that he had to go get the car. I couldn’t make it back. And though I knew my son’s pain on an intellectual level, I was finally faced with a small portion of what he felt every day for ten years, what he would have always felt.
Instead of seeing a doctor about this sudden and inexplicable pain in my foot, I bore it knowingly. Purposely. It was my penance for getting it all wrong. I wanted to feel his pain. I deserved it. I owed it to him. I know–kind of sick. Terribly sad. I don’t care. It made me feel better somehow. Not just penance, but solidarity. I understood the draw of flagellants to the whip, the Albino monk in the DaVinci Code and his cilice.
I do have an aversion to seeking assistance when I’m in pain. I always have. It is partially because I have such a high tolerance for it, and things have to be really bad before I truly feel it enough to seek help. It drives my kids mad. But it’s also because I see myself as tough, able to take it. And I am. A point of pride. I’m also aware of just how insane that is.
This time, I wanted the pain. And I’ll admit that out loud now that it’s mostly gone and no one can make me go to a doctor. I was in no mortal danger, so it’s not like I was risking my life or anything. I don’t advocate this sort of thing. If any of my kids were doing it, I’d be a wreck. Funny, how that works, right?
Dear Trump supporters,
We get it. You won the election when every poll and every news outlet said it was impossible. Trump is our next president. You’re breathing a sigh of relief. Horray for you. But you know what? You don’t get to tell the rest of us it’s time to get over it and move on. You just don’t.
For eight years you despised our President. Eight. Years. You obstructed, you spewed derision, you cheered every time anything he tried to do failed and booed whenever he succeeded. Some of you have been absolutely disrespectful of his race, of his wife, of his status as an American citizen.
Eight years of, “He is not my president.”
Eight years of crying for Impeachment.
Eight years you carried on.
Eight years you didn’t get over it and move on.
So you don’t get to tell more than half the country (of those who voted) it’s time to make peace and accept our fate. My last blog post made it clear I am willing to see the other perspective and at least try to understand things from your eyes. I strive not to fall for click bait or believe everything I read on Facebook. I’ve listened, and I’ve absorbed, and I’ve even agreed on a few things. But that doesn’t mean I’m “over it.” No. I’m not. I won’t be, either, unless some Dickens-like miracle happens and Donald Trump changes the tune he sang throughout not only this election process, but at least the last decade. If he proves to be a damn good president, I won’t despise him simply because of how you despised Barak Obama (and Hillary Clinton.) I won’t hold my breath, either.
I dream in story. I always have. For me, it’s not only a matter of my brain sorting through the day’s events, storing memories and sifting them to the right places. (Pixar’s Inside Out does an amazing job of illustrating this process. So cool.) My dreams tell me stories, and sometimes those stories get written down into a book. Last night, however, was one of those bizarre dreams that stayed with me in sharp detail. That alone says something, but the components are a mystery to me…so I’m memorializing it here.
Frank and I were on our way to a wedding. I was wearing the dress I wore when he and I got married nearly 28 years ago. We were on Lincoln Ave, in Hawthorn, NJ. I was driving. Frank told me to get on Route 208 via the entrance ahead, but when I turned onto the road he indicated, we were in the woods. And on foot. And it was pitch black.
I had no idea where we were, but Frank noticed a Costco shopping cart off to the side in the bramble. He led me (and some other people I have no idea the identity of, but were also going to this wedding) to the back of a Costco parking lot. I went into the store, but it wasn’t a Costco. It was a movie theater. And Frank was no longer with me.
Instead, I was with a cyclops. Yup. A cyclops. For some reason, even in the dream, I had the sensation of Brian and William, (earlier that day, I noted how incredibly like his grandfather he looks.) The cyclops’ one, beautiful eye was very blue with the hint of green. He was young, and sweet, and he had this coupon that said all cyclopes got into the movies for free. I was referred to as “12-pack mom” because, apparently, I frequented that movie theater once a week with a dozen second graders, and thus qualified for a dollar discount on my movie ticket.
While cyclops was trying to use his coupon, I was singing at the top of my lungs with a very large, very talented black man. We were singing, “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough.” I knew all the words. A woman with very long hair was dancing beside us, breaking into the chorus whenever we got to it.
And then I woke up. I remember seeing it was just before dawn and thinking I wanted to go right back to sleep so I could continue the dream, but I, of course, had to pee, so I got up. I went back to sleep, but not to the dream. And still, it was clear as it remains right now when I finally did get up about an hour later.
If anyone has any interpretation to offer, I’m game!
What did I do Sunday? Here, let me show you.
Fifty pounds of plum tomatoes made twenty-two jars of sauce, plus enough for the really outstanding clam sauce I made that evening. It took four hours, including the clam sauce. It was fun! And I feel accomplished, culinarily speaking.
4 1/2 stars
WOMEN’S FICTION: Johanna Coco has returned to Bitterly, Connecticut to attend her grandmother’s funeral but misses it. Charlie McCallan finds her in the cemetery and brings her home. For Johanna, Charlie is everything in her past that she has tried to forget. For Charlie, Johanna is everything he wants in his future.
One would have thought that this was a straight love story, but the underlying sub-plot of finding Johanna’s mother, plus the mental illness that affects Johanna and her sister’s life choices, makes the story multifaceted and interesting. It is a love story revolving around the Coco daughters and their missing mother and the secret that their grandmother kept. To juggle more than one subplot to bring the love story, between a man and a woman, and among the women of the Coco family, forward is a feat in itself which Ms. Defino does very well. She has also allowed one to see the internal conflict of each of the characters in varying degrees (including that of the secondary characters) leading to a rich tapestry of the lives and loves of the people in Bitterly, Connecticut.
While the characterization was rich, the setting was limited only to the places where the characters went. Sometimes it came across like sets inside a studio. Nevertheless, the poetry that precedes every chapter more than makes up for this. Ms. Defino is one author to watch out for because of the beautiful stories she writes.
WOMEN’S FICTION: Benedetta “Benny” Grady is a widow who continues to pine for her dead husband. She religiously visits the cemetery and plants flowers around his grave, speaking to him and also to Mrs. Fargus and to August, each of whom died centuries ago. Benny has a secret, something that she only tells her dead husband and ghostly friends and would like to hide from one person she has fallen in love with – her husband’s best friend, Dan Greene. Dan has fallen for Benny and plans to woo her but she keeps on avoiding him until she finally gives in. But then Dan unearths her secret and it’s now his turn to move away.
Ms. DeFino is a remarkable storyteller. Her writing style is as beautiful as it is original. One wishes that they lived in Bitterly, Connecticut in order to know Benny and Dan, as well as a host of other secondary characters that give meat to the story. These characters have their own stories to tell and are not just included in the story as props. Readers will come to love August and Mrs. Fargus and get a glimpse of what life after death must be like. Their dialogue about the great beyond is as humorous as it is bittersweet. Ms. DeFino is definitely an author to watch!
I dreamed of Scott last week, and have been replaying it in my head ever since. It was so good to see him. Gads, I miss my son. I’ve never been to Portland (Oregon,) but that’s where we were. It looked like the city I’ve seen so many times on Unique Eats, on the Cooking Channel. We were chatting in what I assume was the foodtruck pod where he works. He was so happy. It radiated out of him. But the bandmates he went out there to be with were ready to come back home. He wasn’t. Plain and simple.
Chris was there in the dream, but I was the only one who could see him. Why is his hair always long and curly in my dreams*? And he’s always wearing a blue plaid flannel shirt he had years ago, one he rarely wore but looked so good in. As Scott and I talked Chris stood behind him, silently shaking his head. As if to say Scott was right to stay out west, and that he was staying with him.
They’d plans, pipe dreams, to go out west together. To have an adventure, see a new world, make a place that wasn’t here for themselves. When Scottie went out to Portland solo, I imagined Chris in the passenger seat beside him, silent and watchful, taking it all in along with the brother he adored. I wanted that for them so badly. Maybe they got it after all.
(*Because that’s how he wore it when he was at his best, his happiest, his most whole.)
I read every day. Though no one can actually go through a day without reading at least a traffic sign, thanks to smartphones, most people do read more than that on a daily basis. The kind of reading I’m referring to, however, is story. Fiction of whatever kind. Something from someone’s imagination turned into a small reality and shared. Setting my book down this morning–reluctantly–I thought to myself, How does anyone live without stories?
About 1/4 of American adults don’t read books. That 3/4 of the population does read isn’t really heartening. Most of those will admit to reading a book or two a year, and a large percentage of those read non-fiction. Few have read a book a month, and even fewer, more. Statistics vary according to the year, but they don’t travel too far. Readers are a rare breed.
Reading isn’t for everyone. I get that, but I don’t get it. I’ve been a constant reader since I could do so on my own. How does anyone live without novels? Sure there’s television, movies, plays etc. They’re stories we see with our eyes, leaving our brains to simply enjoy. But reading–it takes effort. It’s an act of creation on top of an act of creation, because though writers provide the words, and good ones do a fair job of providing cues and clues, the readers have to finish creating that world, those characters in their own minds. No matter what’s going on in the world, the separate reality within remains constant, and yet, depending upon what’s going on outside those pages, we’ll see different things within the text. It’s the same with any art, of course, your internal dictates its external. I’ve read The Giver (Lois Lowry) every five years since my twenties and I come away with something different every time.
I suppose, story intake is different for everyone. A conversation is full of story. Sit in a cafe, and there are stories all around you. Study a painting, a piece of music, a garden–stories, stories, stories. I know this as well as I know everyone is different, there is no right and wrong but only perspective, that people get what they need in the manner they need it. And sometimes they don’t. But for me? There is no living without story by the written word. There just isn’t.
How about you? Where do your stories come from?
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Seven months. Seven months. It seems impossible.Just the other day, I made him softshell crabs for dinner. And yet, it seems like he’s been gone so, so long.
We emptied his room out within the week of his death. I didn’t want to erase him from the house, (as if that were possible–he imbues every splinter, every molecule of air,) but I couldn’t bear to have it look like he’d be home any minute either. We moved his couch up from the basement–the one that was the scope of his world for months after his accident. Frank’s desk went in there. Pictures. Family Mementos. The antique table and all the games. We had it painted.
And there it stood still, a catchall for things we couldn’t deal with just yet. Not his room. Not Frank’s office. Not a game room. Just there.
The bathroom, essentially his, was the same. Stuff piled in the tub long after it was repainted. No shower curtain up. Just sinks, a toilet, and light fixtures.
I bought a new shower curtain yesterday, and put it up today. Then hung a picture, a big wooden star. It looks like a bathroom again. Frank and I also started putting his room back together. We hung pictures and rearranged the furniture so that it’s not all thrown in haphazardly. Best of all, we hung his bows–in all states of their creation–on the wall.
The top one is an arrow–two, in fact, from where he got a bullseye in a bullseye. If I remember correctly, it was at seventy yards. That’s where he usually shot from. Robin Hood would have been proud. That wasn’t the only time he did it, but it was the first. The rack it and the bows are lashed to? He built it as a frame to hold the bows while he varnished them. It was cathartic, putting it all together, hanging it on the wall. And not without a few tears.
This moving on thing is harder than anyone has any idea until they’re faced with doing it themselves. I’ll just leave that there now.