when the cicada sings and the blue moon rises

25 08 2013


This is the time of year when the crickets, frogs and cicadas put up such a racket at night that it can be a little annoying. That cacophony buzzed its way deep into the recesses of my brain during the final days of Billy’s life five years ago. I wouldn’t give you a nickel to go back there or to even step back another decade when Best Boy almost died in China at this same time of year. Sure, a month in the hospital here “saved” his life but not without great physical and emotional pain for every single one of us. The incessant whir, click, buzz of the IV pumps became the soundtrack of long nights punctuated by morphine induced night terrors.

Sounds will do that for me – punch holes in the present vortex of life and send me spiraling out of control into a time machine.  On the weekly pilgrimages to the Mrs.’ I will often listen to a channel on SiriusXM that transports me back 40 years and smack dab into high school. I missed the reunion that was celebrated a few weeks back. I had been sick and was headed to an out-of-town family wedding but I wasn’t sure I could have pulled it off anyway due to memory overload.

I never know where I will be or what I will be in the middle of doing when one of my senses will be a gateway to some memory. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of Billy at least once or that I don’t see hints of him in the goofy grin on Littles 10-month old face or in the pale hint of blue of his eyes.bnscu

A “worker man” walked by me the other day and if my eyes had been closed, I would have thought it was Billy climbing out from his NIPSCO truck, pockets bulging with booklets, pens, gadgets that had to do with work. A huge key ring jangling its unique jangle. It was the smell that got me. The blend of hot skin from hours of exposure to the sun and a hint of oil, gas and the distinctive sulfur smell added to the odorless natural gas. Fingers that wore their print mazes obvious to the naked eye as the deeply stained grooves could never really get 100 % clean, Billy spent hours a day exposed to the elements as he inspected high pressure meters from one end of the county to another.

But for all ways the dark tunnels of my mind are assaulted by unexpected sights and sounds that scream “something is missing”, I wouldn’t want to re-walk those summer weeks waiting for him to draw his last breath. I’d much rather be here in the journey. I’ve learned so much, laughed so much, cried so many tears, welcomed a new generation, celebrated gorgeous weddings, and weekly rubbed lotion on the parchment covered arms of the Mrs.

It is no surprise to me that life plows ahead. Travel schedules, day care drop off and pick ups, doctors’ appointments…so many calendar pages torn off, crumpled up and thrown away.  Just the stuff of life.  The sun rises and sets.  The moon gets fat and skinny right on schedule.  But once in a Blue Moon,  I get a second reminder,  that some days are special and I need to just stop the crazy and stare into space.  So when the cicadas can’t shut up to save their souls and a big Blue Moon is hanging low in the sky…I’m right back there.

Somethin’ to smile about…

31 10 2011

The house is silent save for the sounds of the dog as she re-positions her weary old bones on her bed.  There is nothing I have to do today – at least until sundown.  A bowl of candy perched by the front door, not as full as it once was, stands ready.  I know what day it is -it’s Halloween.  AKA : my Dad’s birthday and the birthday of a few other friends of mine.

My very evangelical, protestant upbringing doesn’t bode well for what I’m feeling today but I’m not about to entertain any kind of discussion about the matter so kindly keep dissenting comments to yourself – thank you very much.  The day in August (3 years ago) that Billy’s soul passed through the roof of that hospice facility doesn’t do much for me.  I have to stop and think about what date that actually happened.  In contrast, on the day he was ushered into the world some 89 years ago today– I am surrounded by his presence.

Maybe since the house is so quiet and I have no one to attend to – nothing pressing to do except clean up a half dozen shows stored on my dvr – maybe that is why I’ve been surprised by tears today.  Then I stood at the kitchen sink rinsing out my coffee cup and looked up, only to be met again by his gaze as it stared back at me via that silly cat.

There was no such thing as “take your daughter to work” back in the 50’s and early ’60s but I know of at least a time or two that I was inside theNipsco building in downtown Gary.  I remember a central staircase that was very ornate that stretched up through the center, floor after floor , like the spine keeping the building erect.  Somewhere on the first floor, toward the back of the building was an open space where it seemed to me that our basement was replicated.  Work benches piled with tools – the space smelling of grease and hot metal.  Over his “bench” was hung this little photo of “Smile! Kitty.”  There was great irony in that since I remember him to be distinctly vocal about his dislike of cats.  Nonetheless, it seemed that his whole life long was driven by that juxtaposition – something he disliked reminding him of something that he should do – and eventually something that would become a hallmark of his life.

Joy.  Laughter.  Joker.  An avid whistler.  Friendly.  Outgoing to strangers.  Generally a very pleasant guy to be around regardless of the circumstances.  Cool under pressure.  Not prone to lose his temper except when watching a Cubs game.

It is fitting that Jack-o-lanterns sport silly grins as he did most of his life.  Happy Birthday, Billy!  We miss you more than words can express but we know what to do to really honor you – we’ll smile instead.

p.s.  Picked the King of Pop to honor our ‘hood.  Here’s to Gary / Westside!!

the key to my success

5 08 2008

I think that’s it. The key to my success is in kitty’s face. Don’t ask me how – but I have been able to nab some of the most prized family possessions. It’s only right that the youngest pass down the family lore.

My dad worked for NIPSCO from 1948-1983 or there abouts and it is said that he never took a sick day. This little kitty pic hung over his work bench and was something he lived by. Things didn’t seem to rattle him much. He just pushed up his sleeves and got the job done. Blistering days, below zero days, days he probably should have stayed home – he’d whistle his way in and out of our house. Just getting the job done. He was forced into an early retirement and if I had to say what I really think…it was the beginning of the end. If they let 80 year old men fix high pressure meters so that banks, schools, factories and hospitals wouldn’t blow up from gas leaks…he’d be happier today than he is.

For most of us we really do find our deepest joy when we are doing what it is we are best at. We all can’t do the same things and some are just gifted in ways that others aren’t. Within the context of my husband’s family (5 siblings, 5 spouses, 18 nieces and nephews) that gathers for bi- weekly Sunday dinners at the Yaya’s house for about 9 months of the year – we take summers off – thank God, I am NOT known for my mercy. That ribbon goes to the one who has a heart as big and as soft as the clouds in the summer sky. But there is something deep within me that responds to a different kind of nurturing.

I won’t buy you birthday presents or even remember with a card. I won’t sponsor the sleep overs or even get excited if the “girls” are going out of coffee. But let someone in my smallest circle of family be in trouble-that’s my space.

I had a therapist once tell me that the reason things were going wrong in our family for a season was because I cared too much. He was so full of it (I can’t say what because I got kicked out of school for telling my Spanish teacher what he was full of…poor, sensitive Cuban man cried and I got in a –I can’t say what– load of trouble). But driving home from the therapist’s appointment that day I realized the guy didn’t know jack. Afterall, he had a ponytail.

He hadn’t moved almost 20 times with a family-overseas no less (would he even know how to pack a sea worthy 20 foot container with all his belongings). He hadn’t lived in a culture other than his own. He hadn’t made that family his universe because his extended family was 4000 miles away. He didn’t have kids old enough to go to school more than half a day. He hadn’t yanked his kids from the culture they’d grown up in and plopped them down in an American high school just to yank them out again after 3 years and make them move to another hell hole to finish off a senior year. He didn’t know jack (and I repeat myself for emphasis). And he’d never slept in a hospital room for a month straight listening to his 22 year old struggle for life. He has male anatomy – he is not and never will be a mother. But we still had to pay the guy for the “wisdom” bestowed on my troubled psyche. He still doesn’t know jack.

So where do I find joy? – in caring. But not caring in that superficial sense…in that deep place. It’s hard to be away from here when their lives are so complex and its hard to be away from there when their lives are slipping away. This will not last forever…I’ll be able to have that single focus far too soon for my liking. But these ones can manage for now. My phone will ring when I’m there and I’ll hear about the ups and downs of each day I’m away. But don’t get me wrong when I’m here – I really like being with them.

And the same exact thing is true of my parents. I like being with them and I feel a rightness in the universe when I’m there because they won’t be here for long. I just called to make sure they’d weathered a whopper of a storm last night – the kind that shuts down O’Hare. She said they didn’t sleep much, paced alot, it was rather “troubling” to Dad but this morning they were still in the jammies safe and sound. “Good,” – I said – “you can just nap till I get there.”

It’s taken me longer to get away this morning than I’d hoped. I had a different kind of storm to weather. But ain’t it just like life – we can’t be everywhere at once…and one storm keeps us grounded longer than we’d hoped. So I will gather my computer chords, phone charger and other essentials of my job – and head to the open highway with kitty’s face reminding me to smile. It’s just another day and there is a job to do. And I like my job – no thanks to pony-tailed psychiatrist – and I’m damn good at it. Thank you very much.