Everyone thinks they want time travel but I’m wondering about that. There are some dead people I’d love to spend just one more afternoon with, but I’d end up in the same place without them, so maybe not. To me the message is enjoy the moment as deeply and well as you can. Except the bad ones. Don’t savor them. If they have something to teach, learn it and get the hell out of there.
Woody Allen’s beautiful time-travel movie — Midnight in Paris — made the perfect argument against it which is no antibiotics or vaccinations and other medical miracles that have made it possible for me to reach 70 years old.
I think Ray Bradbury had the right idea in his story The Sound of Thunder. When you arrive in the past (or future?) you walk on an elevated sidewalk that keeps the present from touching the past. It is also the source for the term, “butterfly effect.” It’s a wonderful story and, in my memory (time travel?) I can still see myself on the floor in my bedroom in Nebraska reading a 35 cent paper back with line art illustrations. I remember I asked my dad and he said, “Ray Bradbury is right. We have no idea how things work, fit together, to make the present.”
It’s hard enough to pee here now, as was written on the bathroom wall of the Ladies’ at Muddy Waters of the Platte back in the late 1970s. Yesterday I got up on the step ladder and took down a pastel drawing my friend Wes Kennedy did back in 1979/80. I have it because he didn’t have any money and I had $40. He knew I wanted it, but he’d priced it beyond my reach. It was supposed to be of the vase of lilies and the grapefruit on my dining room table. The thing is my table was cherry and round and the flowers were, uh, yeah, lilies. Details, details. One afternoon, he walked over to my house (we both lived in Capitol Hill in Denver) and offered it to me for whatever I had in my wallet. That was a gamble. Lucky for him, I had two 20s. That would buy substantial groceries at that time, though, so it wasn’t such a bad deal, plus I took him to dinner at Zach’s
Yesterday as I cleaned the piece of art and its environs, I talked to Wes. I told him I still missed him and all the fun we had back in the day. I told him that I loved the drawing as much now as ever, and that it hangs where I can always see it, immortalizing a very brief moment of time. If Wes were that 20 something kid today, he probably wouldn’t die of HIV/Aids. So, time travel?
I’m seriously going to try not to write any more politics. I can’t promise, I can only promise to try.
Luck is an underestimated power in our daily universe. I remember the first time I had to think seriously about the power of luck. I was at the home of my thesis advisor and we were talking about my future. Since he was a literature guy and I am a literature guy (Huh?) and both of us had a strong interest in popular literature of an era vs. the official lexicon of literature studies, we were talking about Horatio Alger novels.
“The lesson everyone takes from them is hard work and determination lead to success,” said Dr. Richardson, “but every one of Alger’s heroes was lucky. And none of them aspired very high. In every single one of those stories the Alger hero meets a person who helps him. Luck. Of course, he’s always a good guy bringing in the point that virtue will be rewarded, but it’s not rewarded by luck. In real life, virtue might never be rewarded at all, and luck is luck. It’s not hard work and virtue in Alger’s books. It’s luck. You need some luck, Martha.”
I thought at the time that I WAS lucky. Dr. Richardson was my thesis advisor. Wow!
I think the occasion was that I had actually, finally, finished my thesis to his and my satisfaction. I wasn’t sure what to do next. I was pondering law school and business school. There were no teaching jobs in Denver at that point. I was working full time at the University of Denver law school assisting the directors of development and alumni relations — fund-raising. I was doing PR writing, and I liked it. I was a volunteer teacher at a literacy program. It was all pretty good, but…
I’d essentially been thrown out of grad school. When most of my peers were given a third year, paid, with a Teaching Assistantship to write their thesis without the pressure of finding a job, I wasn’t. “We don’t think you’re quite the thing,” was the message of the department head who told me I’d let the Department down. I had been given a full ride and a teaching assistantship, but no more. Why? Because I hadn’t “performed” up to expectation. It wasn’t fair, but it wasn’t wrong. I might not have been the stellar student, but I wasn’t the worst. Along with grad school I had to end a marriage to an abusive husband. And, what’s more, I’d served as President of the Arts and Sciences Graduate Student council and organized an event that made money for the college. I had some small features. I was a popular teacher. My thesis was 100% original research. “We’ll let you remain a part of the department for year,” said the department head, “just in case you actually DO write a a thesis.” A year later when I brought him my finished thesis to sign off, he had no negative comments except a typo on some page.
“I didn’t think you could do it,” he said. What a fucker. I got mine, though. I didn’t have the money to have two extra (the university paid for one to put in the university library) copies of my thesis printed — one for the department library and one for me. I had one printed for the department and I stole it. 🙂
Still, there is really something different about me, and I have no idea what it is.
The problem with luck is we don’t always know when we’re having it. Looking back over my life I can see some of the moments when luck stepped in — and often it was preceded by misfortune. This is a common feature of luck, I think, leading to the saying, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
Medieval people were all about luck, and that might be one of their charms for me. The Wheel of Fortune acknowledges that we just don’t have that much individual power over our lives, and it’s how we face the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that gives us a place in Heaven. I don’t know about Heaven, but how we approach the ups and downs of life certainly affects our happiness in the here and now.
Seeing the prompt today — “Wedding” — I realized that the only weddings I’ve attended have been my own. I’ve been part of some pre-wedding stuff for my cousins, but otherwise? No. The only person saying “I do” in my life has been me, and as we know, I don’t. I should have said, “I might” not “I do.”
My first wedding was the whole shebang with expensive white dress, people in the church, reception, all of it. I was 22 and had known my husband since 9th grade. Our meeting in Mr. Morland’s biology class was one of those movie things — eyes meet, sparks fly but it was years (four) before we went out together. We’re in some classes together throughout high school. Various girlfriends and boyfriends and finally we find each other. I seriously think this might have been made into a Hollywood movie… Hmmm. ANYHOO it lasted 6 pretty miserable and scary years.
Looking back I don’t know if it was a mistake or not. Back then, marriage was one of the “easiest” ways for a girl to get out of the family house.
The second wedding was a lot simpler. It happened in my mom’s backyard. I guess I shredded the photos of that in the great Purge of the Evidence of the Examined Life. BUT I had a GREAT dress and everyone had a good time. The only downside is that the man I probably SHOULD have married showed up a couple days before the wedding. I hadn’t seen him in years. He lived in Europe. He’d just packed up, crossed the “pond,” got a job delivering a new car across the US so he could get to me economically. Long story… Anyway, the Good X and I got home from ordering the wedding cake and found him on the steps to our apartment building. The day of my wedding, even my mom said, “So who IS the groom?”
When the universe speaks to me, even shouting isn’t loud enough.
The Good X and I had 12 mostly OK years together. We’re still friends and a kind of family.
There was a third wedding, and it was my favorite. Extremely low-key. It even had a reason beyond “luv'”. In fact the witness — my good friend — took me aside and said, “This doesn’t have anything to do with ‘luv’ does it?”
“No, god no.”
“OK. Then I’ll do it. Let’s go.”
Destiny designs rollercoasters for each of us and these were some of the “thrills” on mine.
Some weddings lead to happy, if complex, lives together. I admire that. Here are two that I know of. ❤
The featured photo is a car in Guangzhou decorated for a wedding back in 1983.
As a teacher, I was not a natural “lecturer.” And then, my first teaching career, teaching English as a Second Language, I learned that people learn skills — like language — through practice not by someone standing in front of the classroom divesting him/herself. It was best to “run” a “student-centered” classroom where the teacher facilitated learning. That meant class projects, group work, teacher checking in with students as they learn, conferencing with students. Great for me. I never learned much from lecture classes and was happy not to lecture. BUT, in 1999, when my career shifted to teaching writing to university students, I had to learn to lecture. And why?
Most people learn from lecture, from being told something. It’s a very efficient way of transmitting information. The thing is, writing is not exactly a “content.” Writing is a skill, but content is part of it. Once the content is transmitted, the students work, but at a certain point, usually the first two weeks of classes and whenever new material is introduced, a teacher has to lecture. I was so bad at it, and I wanted to get better FAST. Teaching at the university had been my DREAM, and I wanted to keep living it.
Some years earlier, I’d sat in on some classes with a friend — Introduction to Comparative Religions — taught by a guy named Dr. Mueller. My friend thought Dr. Mueller was the BEST TEACHER IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD. After I’d seen him lecture a few times, so did I. Searching for a way to improve my ability to lecture, I suddenly remembered Dr. Mueller. I decided to sit in on his classes for the first few days of the semester. In the back. He wouldn’t notice me and I had to figure out how he did what he did.
Freshman composition and Introduction to Comparative Religions might not seem to have much in common, but from a student perspective, they have a LOT in common. They satisfy requirements. Dr. Mueller’s job and mine were the same; get the kids interested enough that they show up for class and do decent work and — inshallah — learn something and develop some enthusiasm for the subject. It didn’t really matter that composition and philosophy are miles apart for the interested student; our “market” was the UN-interested student in his/her first semester at university.
Dr. Mueller was energetic, enthusiastic, captivating. He didn’t cling to the lectern, but moved around the room and spoke to the students. He asked interesting rhetorical questions and not-so-rhetorical questions. He related to the students’ actual lives. He was older than I was by maybe a decade, so it wasn’t his youth that appealed to his students (they are funny that way). It was his way of lecturing.
I sat in that class — and another of his introductory classes — for the first three lectures for, I dunno, maybe four semesters? I saw that he gave essentially exactly the same lectures every semester. I understood that this was theater, not lecturing, per se. A-HA! His goal was less about transmitting information and more about getting students curious. After that? I knew what would happen after that. They would start TEACHING THEMSELVES. Teacher as facilitator. I could do that.
The content of one of those lectures has stuck with me. Dr. Mueller made up a situation in which (as I remember) a guy (or girl, depending) got dumped for someone else. “It’s not fair!” cried Dr. Mueller in the role of the dumpee! Then, “Is it?” He’d look at a student for a response. “C’mon, maybe you’ve been in that situation. No? How about you?” He’d pick on someone else. “Is it fair?” The whole class would be engaged, wondering what was going to happen. Invariably the kid would shake his/her head.
“Fair is for soccer,” pronounced Dr. Mueller, returning to the front of the class, reassuming his professorial role, through body-language telling his class “OK kids, here’s the thing you need to remember from this play-acting. “Life isn’t fair. It doesn’t have a referees or rules. And if it did? Would YOU be the person who made the rules?” Heads shake all around the classroom. “No,” Dr. Mueller would say, softly. “Probably not.” Then he’d make his serious point, “Our sense of justice is centered on us, on what we want. If we get what we want, it’s fair. If not, it’s not fair. Is THAT fair?”
Years went by, and I was lecturing well on my own. Then, one day, I was teaching a class in the building where Dr. Mueller had his office. I came out of my classroom just as he was going down the stairs. Our eyes met. Of course, I knew who he was. He only knew he’d seen me before and felt he should say something. He said, “Well, hello! How have you been?”
I’m 100% sure he didn’t get the full message in my response, “Great, thank you!”
How did I do? Here’s my report card. My students wanted to make sure all my classes filled so they put up advertising all over campus. Business Majors do what they do. IDS 290 was Basic Business Communication.
Just shredded all the letters but one from my life’s first great love. They go back all the way to 1971 and stopped sometime in the 80’s. There were some emails in the early 2000s. I last saw him in 2004 at the airport in Atlanta. It was a wonderful meeting wherein we said what we needed to say to each other.
At first I wasn’t sure what to do with this manila envelope filled with airmail letters from Europe, Asia and Africa covering all those years. I found a way to contact him to see if he wanted them, then I thought, “You’re REALLY going to email this guy out of nowhere and ask him if he wants those letters?” I imagined doing that, letting it play out in my mind in all the ways it could and decided, “No. Do both of you a favor. Go shred them.” I saved one he wrote when the Good-X and I were in China. It is a reply to the first letter I sent him from China and it’s wonderful.
I shredded letters from me to my mom and my mom to me when I was at Colorado Woman’s College in 1970, but I saved the note she sent to my high school asking them to let me go early so I could help put my dad in an ambulance to take him to Penrose Hospital for cortisone treatments for his MS. It brought up a vivid, vivid image of coming home that afternoon to find an ambulance in the driveway with the doors open and the light flashing on top. Why? It wasn’t an emergency. I don’t remember how I helped. The paramedics did the work. I think it was moral support. My mom and I rode in the ambulance to the hospital with my dad. The ACTH therapy helped him and when he came home his life was less of a struggle for a little while.
There were a couple of letters from my mission trip in 1968 to Crow Agency where my mom taught in the 1940s. 16 year old girls are pretty silly 😉 I was thinking of that trip the other day as I was scraping flaked paint off my deck. I imagined someone asking, “Where did you learn to do that?”
I’d say, “On a church mission trip to the Baptist Mission at Crow Agency, Montana.”
The trip was absolutely magical BECAUSE of my mom’s connection and because I went there with that connection. I looked for the people she had known and met some of them. Our group got to attend a Crow funeral service (Crow + Catholic) at the St. Xavier Mission at sunset one June evening — and a June sunset after a thunderstorm in south central Montana is incredible, golden and slanty with a rainbow — all beyond words. The service was all in Crow.
My mom spoke Crow adequately, and when I was a kid she used Crow words to (secretly) get my brother and me in line when there were other people around. Two of the first words I learned in any language were “Stop that” and “Come here” in Crow. I learned more words when at Crow on the mission trip, and I haven’t forgotten all of them.
The whole thing was a strange journey for me first, because I’d been at Crow often. My aunt and uncle had run the general store there for many years. And then, we weren’t there to learn about the Crow or “fraternize.” We were there to live our very white segregated lives and paint the church. That made no sense to me.
I got in trouble on that trip because I took off with an Indian kid (really a kid about 10) on horseback. We rode along the Little Bighorn River. When I got back from that ride, I was in terrible trouble. Because of me the planned trip to Yellowstone Park on the way back to Colorado Springs was scrapped. Peculiar thing to punish everyone for the actions of ONE person, but there it was.
We live so many lives in our lifetimes. Anyway, that plastic bin the size of a boot-box was the hardest one to deal with — to my knowledge. There may be other booby traps as I continue this shredding operation, but none like that. As I shredded, it occurred to me that the papers and souvenirs aren’t my life, anyway. They are just a kind of reassurance that all that really happened and that all those beloved people were real. I feel a little melancholy, but I know in a day or two I’ll just feel lighter.
Long ago I had a family in Switzerland. It’s difficult to explain and kind of a personal story, but among the treasures I’ve carried with me from that time are two plates. My Swiss family wasn’t exactly Swiss; they were Italian. They’d gone to Switzerland at the end of WW II when things in Italy were pretty dire. One of them was from Puglia, the other from Trieste. Pietro and Laura weren’t exactly “mom and dad” — “mom” could have been my mom, but “dad” only a much older brother. I’m still close friends with their son.
I didn’t speak Italian or any form of German, but my Spanish was decent, and my “mom” had taken care of a Spanish woman in Zürich when she first arrived in Switzerland so she and I spoke Spanish together. My listening comprehension in Italian was surprisingly good, I guess from watching Fellini movies over and over for years. My “dad” and I developed a unique language that drove their son crazy. He is multi-lingual as are most Swiss, but Pietro and I did fine with our language and spent hours wandering in the forest with Daisy the dog — talking! He loved cooking and taught me to make focaccia like that his mother sent him north with when he left Puglia at the end of the war. There were no opportunities in war-torn Italy and Pietro’s large family was very poor.
The story of the focaccia he traveled with is at least as good as the focaccia (which is amazing). His sister was already in Zürich and he was going north to join her and, hopefully, find a life. He said he only had a small bag of clothing and a giant focaccia that was supposed to feed him all the way to Zürich. Half was for him, half was for his sister in Zürich.
My experience with Italian trains is certainly different from Pietro’s back in the late 1940s, but one thing that remains is that they are prone to going on strike. When Pietro got to Milan, there was a train strike and he was stuck at the “Monument to Eclecticism and Fascism” — Milan’s main train station — for several days. All he had to eat was the focaccia so, when he finally got to Zürich there as none left for his sister.
My Swiss family was the “reward” for choices I made that were pretty crazy at the time, a leap of very blind faith. That leap took me exactly where I needed to go.
I wear my Swiss dad’s gold chain around my neck and wherever, I live, I hang two decorative plates they gave me for Christmas. The Christmas before my Swiss “dad” died of lymphoma (soon after New Year, 2000 😦 ) I was able to talk to him on the phone for a little while and speak Italian. Laura returned to Trieste after Pietro died, and I visited her there in 2004 when I went to Italy to study Italian. We spoke on the phone often, and, in the process of cleaning out all those old journals, I found her letters and noticed the linguistic evolution from Spanish to Italian. Family is where you find it and I miss them.
Behind my dad was a book case he and I had built and on the bottom shelf were the 20 some volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia. Back in the day, encyclopedia salesmen went door-to-door in the post-war suburban neighborhoods, pretty certain the people behind those doors wanted the best for their kids, “Better than we had, that’s for damned sure.” My folks didn’t spring for the fancy white binding, but got the red library binding instead. *”Who cares how it looks on the shelf?” said my dad. “It’s what’s inside a book that matters.”
They had some pretty cool features like clear plastic (?) pages that you could lay one on top of the other and see continental drift — that kind of thing. I spent hours with it on the floor “looking it up.”
Fast forward, Boulder, Colorado, 1974. Fresh out of college, BA in English, married (shudder), employed by Head Ski for the Christmas production rush then laid off. Shit. I was the breadwinner. Not cool and very scary. Scanning The Daily Camera (which didn’t employ me because I couldn’t type fast enough) for job openings. Ah, here’s one. Publishing company. Call for an interview. A few hours later, sunny December day, I’m on Pearl Street, tromping up 20 some stairs, stairs right out of a Bukowski poem, complete with the bare light bulb hanging above the top landing. Knock on the door. There’s another young person — a guy — waiting. I sit down. “Hi.” “Hi.” We eye the competition.
Man in a cheap tan suit comes out, cigarette in his hand, and beckons us into his office — together??? We take seats facing his desk. He begins to explain that we will be going door-to-door selling educational materials. In very oblique language (which I don’t totally get, being a very weak aural learner) he explains the nature of the educational material. Suddenly the “competition” stops him. In the lilting tones of Flushing, NY, he says, “So, you want us to go door-to-door selling pornographic encyclopedias?”
The “competition” takes my hand. “C’mon. Let’s get outta’ heah.” We ran down the stairs and into the bright afternoon, still unemployed, but also not pushing pornography on unsuspecting parents. What?
Fast forward, 1992. My best friends are adolescent boys who live in my “hood,” a whole gang of them (5). We’ve spent all day at the BMX jumps working on our movie, then one of them, Jimmy, says, “Martha, can you help me with a report for school?”
“What’s it about?” He tells me.
I look at my watch. We have an hour before the library at San Diego State closes, and we’re only a few minutes away. “Sure.” I think of all the encyclopedias in the reference section. We park and run across the campus. We have 45 minutes.
These boys’ lives have never imagined a university. One of them even said once, “You’re just like us, Martha, even though you’re a lady, and you’re smart, and you work at a university.” That’s a compare/contrast essay I would LOVE to read. So, there you go. I was just like them even though I’m a lady, I’m smart and worked at a university. Fact is, I agree with that. I never had a group of friends with whom I felt so comfortable and authentic. Go figure.
As fast as I can, I teach them to use an encyclopedia and they — in all their post-bike riding afternoon blood and dust fall on the books in wonderment. Jimmy takes notes on the little papers left on the desks for writing down call numbers. He uses the stubby little pencils that go with the scraps of paper. It’s all we have.
A librarian, seeing us, comes over with a troubled expression. “Can I help you?”
I smile and say, “My son has a report for school.” She nods and hovers, but never bothers us again. A voice comes over the loudspeaker “The library will close in 10 minutes.”
“You about done, Jimmy?”
*Looking online for a photo of these books, I find they sell for $200 on Etsy as “shelf decor.”
I know how love is supposed to have been, But my love didn’t turn out that way. I have a stack of letters, tied with green And every letter came from Italy. A fall afternoon on a chaparral hill became a lifetime’s love story. Moon rise, while twilight held the day in thrall. The lovers’ hearts remained a mystery in that eternal moment. Letters filled These six thousand miles and thirty years. Journeys, losses, loves; time does not stand still. Their two hearts hid predicaments and fears, Written here, in my handwriting. Turning pages, I read bewilderment — and yearning.
I’m sorry. I got so wrapped up in this I forgot to use the word of the day, clink. Too bad, too, it’s pretty easy word to rhyme.
This is another Shakespearean sonnet (sort of) but it’s actually (OMG!) about love. I’ve been cleaning out and shredding journals and journal pages, but I found one yesterday I will not touch. For the most part, my journals are full of really dumb stuff. They aren’t “my past,” so much as me attempting to contend with some trivial problem in a former present. They are really mind-boggling examples of stream of tedium. As for my past, I’m its product, the fruit of it. I have kept things that I really do not want to part with — but it’s amazing after going through 7 of the 27 volumes of The Examined Life, the pile is pretty small. The question I ask as I work is, “How often have I needed to see this?” And most of the time the answer is, “I never need to see this.” ❤
15 As a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. 16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. (Psalm 103, KJV)
As any regular reader of my blog knows, I spent 6 years of my childhood two miles away from the #2 Cold War target in the US, Offutt AFB, home of the Strategic Air Command. Most people from my generation have experienced school bomb drills and air raid sirens. Many people built bomb shelters to protect themselves and their family from The Bomb.
Mad Magazine was big in our house (never underestimate an irreverent Irishman with a dark sense of humor and the highest government security clearance) and among the song parodies that filled that magazine was this:
“Mine eyes have seen the horror of the coming of the Reds They are tearing up Old Glory into 50 million shreds They are hiding in our closets they are underneath our beds … They are peeking through my window late at night when I watch (Jack)Paar I have seen them in the glove compartment of the family car They are hiding in the treetops they control the DAR Let’s fight until they’re gone” (“Battle Hymn of the John Birch Society” Mad Magazine)
And, of course, Tom Lehrer’s great song, “We’ll All Go Together When We Go.”
Dad had a poster that said, “In case of nuclear attack, put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.” Putting our heads down between our knees WAS one of THE bomb raid protocols.
None of this was very serious to me until I saw the film, On the Beach. It terrified me. I was 11.
For years I’d been lulled to sleep by the sounds of the B-52 jets down the street either cleaning out their engines or preparing to take off for the nightly flights to protect American air space. But the night after watching that movie, I couldn’t go to sleep. My dad came in to talk to me, and I explained that I was afraid of the bomb. I didn’t want to end up like Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck on a beach in New Zealand waiting for the fallout to get me.
My dad was very understanding and he explained that because we lived on a primary target we wouldn’t have to worry about fallout because we would be vaporized. Maybe not every kid would find that comforting, but I went to sleep knowing that a death like that was better than a long, drawn-out, painful, scary, debilitating death. At 11 I was concerned about the quality of life and death.
So that was my dad when he was alive, pretty young and pretty frisky.
Less than a decade later, he was dead, and not at the hands of the Russians in a moment of bright vapor, but after 20 years fighting a progressive, debilitating illness. It was my yellow cat under the bed, anyway, not the Red Army. He died of one of the many complications of Multiple Sclerosis, specifically, pneumonia. He was 46.
The last time I saw him alive was around February 18, 1972. I went to the nursing home to visit and do my homework as I did almost every weekend when I took the Greyhound home from college. He had been in a coma for a month or more. We knew what was happening. One of the tasks I often performed for him during that time was suctioning the mucus from his throat so he could breathe. A lot of things like that are deep down in my memory, like once (my brother told me) I’d done mouth-to-mouth on my dad because he stopped breathing. I think living through things like that, our memory just says, in the fullness of time, “Dude, I can’t handle ALL of this so some of it’s going into the vault, ‘K?” Anyhoo…
That afternoon I sat beside my dad, reading some poetry from some anthology assigned for school. I held his hand as I read. It was warm and alive, but not responsive to my hand, normally. But suddenly that afternoon, I felt him grasp my hand in return. That could be something awful — or not. I looked at him, and his snow-shadow blue eyes were open. In them was all the love in the world. We looked at each other for a long time, and I got the message that what was ahead of him was all right with him. Then I realized his sudden movement had pulled the IV out of his arm, and I had to call a nurse. That cascaded into having to phone my mom and my moment with my dad was over.
The next weekend I was up in Winter Park with my friend Susie and her family. Sunday morning, I wanted out of there worse than anything. They were hemming and hawing about driving down Berthoud Pass in the snow, and I was just, “We have to GO!” I was a real asshole, determined to get out of there. Their car was stuck in front of our cabin. I unstuck that mofo using cardboard. I wanted to leave Winter Park (instead of staying to ski?) and there was no real reason other than school the next day. Finally, we left. The pass was clear, the dorm was the dorm, and Monday morning came. I went to class. While the professor was lecturing, someone came to the door and the prof gestured to me to come up. “Your Aunt Martha is waiting for you in your dorm,” he said.
I didn’t need to be told, but she told me anyway. We went to my room, and I packed what I would need for a couple weeks. After that, all the bullshit of funerals and words began, and with all that, the important part; the inescapable personal lesson that death is irrevocable, permanent, non-negotiable, finito.
That was fifty years ago and the calendar this year — except for 2022 not being a leap year — is the same. Monday is February 28 just as it was in 1972. And, for some bizarre reason, I’m missing my dad more than I have since the year he died.
He wasn’t always my dad, and he wasn’t always sick. For a while he was a teenager attending high school in Livingston, MT and living with his aunt and uncle. He was — I know mostly from having found some of his high school homework — a pretty deep-thinking kid. As I wrote here a few days ago, he wanted badly to be a poet. His favorite book was The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam translated in 1859 by Edward Fitzgerald. Here’s a poem my dad wrote when he was 17, clearly trying very hard to imitate the poetry in his favorite book.
“And should it be, with yourself you are not ‘friends,’ How expect you more than the bitterest of ends? Where will you find life-long, true, companions?”
Nowhere. This is a lesson I have learned, dad, and you were right. ❤
My dad, at age 17, was pretty wise. When I was 40 or so I realized I was embarking on the part of life my dad didn’t get to live. I hope I did all-right with the gift I’ve been given. I loved my dad — and I liked him. I know that even though I only “had” him for a short time, I was fortunate in the man who was my father. ❤
It’s been years since I’ve labored under the fardel of a reticule — or partied on New Years so, Rag Tag Daily Prompt, perhaps I should write about New Years past. The most peculiar New Year’s Eve in my memory was 1978 going to 1979 (I think). In 1978 the divorce from my first husband was final. The year was hard, finances were tight, grad school seemed a million miles away, my boyfriend-like-person was complicated by which I mean mostly gay. That day I performed my clerical job at the College of Law and drove home in the cold, feeling like I might be coming down with something. Only part of that (awful) apartment in Denver was heated. Friends — a couple, Bob and Diane — had let me know they were bringing me a party.
I had no idea what that meant but at 10 I was dressed up and ready. They arrived with champagne and cheese and we proceeded to get lightly, happily, drunk. My neighbor called from down stairs to ask if we wanted to come down and join HIS party. He and his friends were doing lines. Uh, no thanks (shudder) but that was the late 1970s in my world.
At midnight I realized the point of New Years Eve. It’s the acknowledgement that a bad year is OVER and CAN’T come back. (That’s all well and good but 2020/2021 taught me that isn’t necessarily true. The possibility of a new and sinister status quo exists.)
My boyfriend-like-person called from Aspen to tell me he wished he were with me. Well, if wishes were horses, etc. At 1 am I knew I was sick and sent Bob and Diane home. I went to bed with a fever, and, apparently Bob and Diane didn’t fully close my front door.
At 8 am I was awakened by — God, what WAS his name? Mark… That was it. A law student who had come to fix me New Year’s breakfast complete with champagne and strawberries.
I did not like this guy, and I’d told him. We’d gone out a couple of times, and they were both absolutely not my cup of tea. Among other things, the guy was boring which is, truly, one of the bigger problems in a wouldbe boyfriend. The boyfriend-like-person was NEVER boring. I’m also a pretty superficial person and the guy wasn’t what I considered good looking. Yeah, I know beauty is skin deep, but we have to look at that skin. I’d already told him I wasn’t interested and I certainly did not want him in my house. But, being a law student (it’s all about argument, right?) he took it as my playing hard to get (who WOULDN’T want him?) and began serious wooing. Waking up to a pretty table with a breakfast on it after a night of drinking? A table set and breakfast prepared by someone who’d more-or-less broken into my apartment? Seriously. That was not to be born.
“What are you doing here?”
“Happy New Year!”
“I’m sick. Thanks but, no.”
“There’s champagne with strawberries and waffles!”
“Yeah, but why are you in my house?”
You see how it went. The good news is that he married one of my friends the following year. I introduced them to each other. Little match-maker me. ❤
The BEST part of that New Years was what I saw outside my bedroom window later that morning. Here’s the backstory. At some point(s) during the two horrible years preceding, my VW had been rear-ended AND I’d been in a minor head-on collision going the wrong way on a one way street, side street, near one of the dormitories of my university. Nothing that rendered the car undriveable, but I didn’t have the $$$ to fix any of this. That morning I looked out of my bedroom window to see that someone, driving home from a New Year’s Eve party, had skidded on the ice and hit my downstairs neighbor’s car so that it was up over the back of my VW. My neighbor and I went out that afternoon to look at this situation. It looked like his big Buick was humping my VW. Clearly I wasn’t going anywhere and neither was my cokehead neighbor.
Whoever had done it had left notes telling us he would lose his insurance if we called the cops etc. and he was willing to repair our cars outside the system. We were skeptical, but we called him. What else were we going to do (well, call the cops but…) The upshot was that my car was repaired — back and front — just like new. Thinking back to life in my 20s? Even at the time it seemed like total chaos.
The featured photo is me in my VW sometime in the late 1970s. It was taken randomly by a traffic camera and I found it online. How’s that for weird.
Later this morning I will head to Del Norte to take down my show and see if I made any money. I was thinking; how many of you never heard of Del Norte, Colorado until you read my blog? Well, here is a map so you can more completely imagine the wonders. The arrow points in the direction of Monte Vista.