Little Girl

(Now that you’re eleven-for Ava)

You’ll find your way….
Away from the brood,
Like a newborn kitten
looking for food,
Don’t doubt
what’s most nurturing
is mother milk;
Not as glitzy as diamonds
Or the feel of silk.
But when that first buxom feline
Raises a claw to your truth;
You’ll pull the warmth from your belly
And shed the soft petals of youth

Spiritual Awareness Tames Fire

7 hours we drove,
past mammoth peaks
just before sunset;
the world fittingly aglow,
peaks of Mt. Shasta,
peaks of my own centeredness
cognizant of the slightest wonders,
more grounded than yesterday
or the day before;
cities no longer just a map point
but rather a visual gift
of spiritual recognition,
more lasting than a tootsie roll.
What are the odds the fire jumpers
battling the forest surrounds,
picturesque outdoorsmen,
the pinnacle of masculinity,
rescuers of nature,
trailing our car
for miles will come to the same stop,
Thank you GOD
it doesn’t go unnoticed,
that a dozen or so firefighters
ended up at the very same hotel
as us?

If only we had some Wings……

I hear Band on the Run,
And see the carpeted brown stage,
I picture years of me bouncing about;
in the ugly golden yellow split level
We called home.
We had so many years there
I am realizing now
staring, looking for more,
meeting your blank eyes for answers,
Is this tease of death enough to wake you?
At least laughter still peeps up
in the clouds of blue
Purposefully and silly, you widen them
your eyes… at me,
you were always funny, always.
You see a whole life of me,
cause we celebrate the same day of our birth
cause we’re January 12ths
Your eyes dip and lull, vacant, then gone
Please smile inside for me, we’re here.
Oh Daddy, if only we had some

Part II: Mama Tried

Mama Tried
Galt California. It sounded like an affliction involving pain and inflammation, but instead it was a sleepy little cow boyish town with a small golf course and one main road. I thought Fresno was nowhere. One thing is certain, amazing things do happen off the beaten path in these nowhere towns you didn’t ever think about before.
Driving to Golden Living to meet our grandmother produced all kinds of feelings I’d never before sat with. The warmth of the sun was comforting. There was a flicker of teasing panic prickling my skin a mix of anticipation and nausea. Mainly it was radiating from Candice…My cousin was a bundle of nerves sitting in the passenger seat next to me. Would this spontaneous calling lead to a dry well much the way Philomena had ended her search for her son? Part of me even hoped that she was busy or out to lunch, but I was fully anchored by “if it was meant to be, it shall be.”
It is funny how fearlessly I usually delve into life like a journalist, intrigued and excited to talk to strangers, uninhibited like a news reporter on assignment. So much of my life after twenty is devoid of listening to those unspoken urges, because there is really no time for it with families and kids. I had blown out my hair, taken special care to look pretty, lips summer red, bronzed my skin with powder, muted my 43 year old dark under eye circles bulging from exchanges of childhood stories flush with shared tears from nowhere and everywhere. The upside down corkscrew in the roller coaster was just ahead. What a rare, emotionally matched treat; to have two walking wounded products of abandoned fathers side by side, hand in hand announcing they were the indeed, real deal, in the flesh, offspring of her deadbeat sons- sons who sent nary a birthday card nor a child support check, something we had buried deep and would not reveal in the toothy smiles of our first greeting with Lucille. To say that we felt courageous speaking to this woman, this stranger that was my grandmother, our grandmother, well…the only real testament to the power of it all was me shouting in the hot car as we were driving away from Golden Living Nursing care, after our meeting, “WE did it, we are so fucking brave, we did it! My cousin Candice was fully engulfed in tears.

It had gone like this. We had walked in holding our breath and our pee….we took about ten minutes stalling looking for the bathroom to make sure we were prepared to sit a half hour uninterrupted. We had to mentally prepare to be known, be witnessed, be outed as people-finally. We were ready to turn over stones, heavy ones, but age had made us strong enough to muscle those stones that blocked our way; stones that had so long ago been turned for us. We were like toddlers taking first steps. It would surely open avenues for more treasure seeking. To find answers to questions we wish we didn’t have inside gave us our lost voice. Our faces tried to hold in the truth… dare your lack of inquiry about us reinforce our lack of self worth, that we don’t matter, we’re here and we matter, a lot. We genuinely heard and listened to this woman’s stories, sometimes distracted by the several shades of violet purple hues in her hair a frilly service at Golden living where they clearly treat you like gold. It soothed me as I recalled Maya Angelou and her poem about wearing purple when she grew old.
Many topics prevailed on this road trip one stood out aside from filling in blanks. “I thought about moving to Washington but I never did” she told us. “Kids should know their grandparents” she said, she showed us cuties that belonged to her sisters kids hmm a sister? Her daughters child, their names-she clearly liked kids. Her grandmother status was clearly validated enough already. Then like a tropical storm or a scene from the Alfred Hitchcock The Birds, emotion flocked us after talking just a few minutes. How shitty it was…….the hand we had been dealt. It stood to attention before us all like a uniformed soldier holding a gun. We told her who we were, words were replaced by gasps to suck back tears. I was to learn later she thought we were sisters, not cousins. Who would want to fully go there, confront fact-her two sons had feared parenting as much as they feared putting down the bottle. We weren’t chosen. They had histories colored with alcohol abuse, too busy numbing to confront what was missing. I questioned Lucille about how much she had drank, she was a two drink gal and her skin told the tale she lived a moderate life. We listened, and the only time I chimed in was about wine and wine country and how I’d gone to Napa for my 40th birthday, she had never been. She showed us pictures of the man she may have been quite very friendly with in times her husband was shrouded in satin weakened by his fetish obsession. It’ not every day an 85 year old women brandished this kind of honesty straight up. She alluded to cozying up to a music producer California, cowboy type pictured on her wall, but this is just speculation. She’d several times gone back and forth on how she decided not to divorce her husband who had been their neighbor- her and Grandpas’ neighbor, a man she would come to witness bleeding out from his head, passing before her eyes. The one she had taken to sleeping with, perhaps looking for a livelier experience than staying home to parent her four kids. She had learned about his affinity for dressing up shortly after Vegas trips to do servicing business to hotel pools. But alas his crossing dressing was not a one time deal she explained that her friend, caught her husband at the Goodwill trying on a shiny sequined wedding dresses. She pointed to the musician in the picture, “he was a good, good friend to me. “ She told us tales of how she liked to go out, sing Karaoke, dress up, be the center stage, belle of the ball, which seemed obvious. She explained, the pictured friend on her wall nearest these other grand kids worked closely with the Country Singer “you know the one who sang “mama Tried” Irony overcame me. I too had a thing for old school country, and had just been to see Merle Haggard in Washington at our Winery, not a drop consumed of course. I had even bought a shirt that said “mama tried” One of the old school country greats, she spoke of, Buck Owens whom I just played on the record player with my sister as we enjoyed some old time fun. We were kindred souls. The outlandish expressive hair, the love of singing and music, the story of how she wore an off the shoulder dress just last night to the Friday gala event at the Nursing Home. She boasted her pearly, newly pierced ears, she resonated no fear, all FUN….My cousin agreed I’d met my twin, just add 40 years!
Several remarkable things happened in that room. We saw pictures of our aunt, we had a moment where we all wondered in unison where did the disconnect happen? Who were the wives that didn’t let us in? Why now, when life is nearly over, who were the keepers of us that held us tight like secrets? How could so many years go by without questions? It hung in the air before us like smoke and choked us with real, very unexpected tears. Together we shared a moment, a sad hot, dripping, stinging moment of regret.

Every day is capable of producing profoundly remarkable moments that change who we are forever. This was out of left field, this visit with our grandmother. It was remarkable, like a Special Olympics player breaking a world record, it just was heartwarming stuff. Candice and I are both in our forties we have rich life tales with nuggets of survival, escapes of close death, near drowning, seizures, blood transfusions, comas, car accidents, chronic illnesses, we were and are anything but bland people. But we listened for a ½ hour that turned into two and oddly we felt whole again. We cut into Bingo time and off Lucille shuffled in her walker, I didn’t even get a picture of me with her, we had stayed too long, but not long enough.
Karma was right out front with us as sure as the hood of our car, as sure as the belly of the Buddha, big spiritual presence at our heels as sure as the earthquake that was to happen hours after our visit. We drove three hours in front of it, pressing at twilight to get to Medford, our halfway point back home safe to Seattle. The day before I had helped Candice pick a nice bottle of red wine in the supermarket. When in wine country even a recovering alcoholic like myself can appreciate that she knows the grape is a good souvenir for a cat sitter. I had done so much personal research on wine why not? It had been three years years since I had even been in the wine section at the store. I read labels and paused to note vintages on wine… made me bit pale in the face. I medicated the pit where my father “slugged me” with proverbial sucker punches at aged two. I numbed it nicely with wine for years until it could no longer quench my thirst.

The next morning when I awoke at the Best Western to hear the news of the Napa earthquake I winked upward at the sky with my coffee in hand, the only drug I imbibe, caffeine. Just then an anorexic girl walked by me to get her coffee, food, the poison that Candice abuses with her lack of imbibing. “Yes God, I muttered to myself, I hear you.”
On this trip I had finished reading AE Homes. May We Be Forgiven. A lovely garnish on a perfect road trip in seek of the F word. The writing mimicked our trip in a way. Wacky, zany, spiritually rooting, full circle stuff that needs addressing, needs outing. It was a brilliantly written novel the perfect accoutrement to our trip, like red lipstick and scarves like wine and cheese, okay…just cheese it fed the heart. Lucille had ultimately paired up with a neighbor when our fathers were teenagers and was actually the first model of how to abandon a person and look out for your own needs before others. As hard as that is to put out there, tis true and what comes around goes around. Looking past that little nugget, the only thing I knew of her before we met, I had let it go. In order to make room for stories, important life lessons, forgiveness would be at the forefront of all my mature adult interactions it was key to healing. This woman I had just met filled a hole I didn’t know I had.
In our short visit we learned a few things. Lucille spent many years of success in the pool business but the story she shared with us for whatever reason, was the one that pained her; the one where her friend confided indeed she had seen Lucille’s husband standing in a dressing room in men’s shoes and a wedding dress. Her candor was sobering, and familiar to me. She was forthright beyond the generation of depression era button lipped, secretive savers, she was so much more. Her deep warm character was genuine, and there was something imperfect about her that the writer in me loved the most. Her candor was true beauty despite her obvious selfish ways, I had met a kindred soul that was my grandma.


Part I Half Way

Half Way

It was intended to be a visit in the beginning. A visit, to grandpa’s house in Fresno. Fresno, California…. in the heat of summer. I never drive that far. I partnered up, which is unheard of these days. A woman my age scarcely has the time to meet up for lunch. My wire thin beauty of a cousin is my age too, and we decided it was high time we took a road trip to visit our grandfather-rather than the other way around. She had just quit her “ball and chain” job of 19 years! Perfect. We were rearing for an adventure! We didn’t hem or haw or teeter on whether to go or not, we both agreed to it two weeks before leaving, and then we left Monday morning.

Ahh….. nothing aligns the spirit more than then the open road- The black of the pavement held straight like a good yoga pose, stretching and winding like Gardner snake, yellow racing stripe down it’s back. A road trip with two women in their 40’s assuredly has you thinking of a movie classic right now? Despite how hard it is to admit, we didn’t have a 1960’s freshly polished Cadillac convertible Sedan Deville or freshly polished chrome wheels on my red Prius even. It was 960 miles to Fresno by car, according to Our loose plan was to reach our halfway point by day two. Monday we drove to Medford, Oregon.

We pulled into Medford already having some laughs under our belts…. as well as a rock chip and a plethora of movies that the other just “had” to see. We were actively stockpiling little nuggets of irritants we were newly familiar with about our weeklong bunkmate….soon to be overcome of course. We channeled patience in trade for humor as if it were a spare tire. We had non-stop doses of humor daily, leaving rest areas….checking the other for toilet paper trailing out of their cracks, switching seats only to tidy the other persons spot obsessively, shrieking as if having just undergone the ice-bucket challenge, especially when an errant fly or bee entered the vehicle. I will from that trip forward forever fear trailing a logging truck on a freeway. It was a learning trip, times ten.

Suffice it to say it wasn’t the quintessential road trip. You know the kind. Usually you’re in your twenties or thirties and the urge comes to you like hot lightening in a Midwest summer, like a whim on a Friday night. Oh yeah, my travel buddy Candice….she doesn’t actually have a wild hair or any spontaneous inclinations, unless its advised by Linda Goodman, or whomever is the modern day expert on daily astrology predictions; we were an odd pairing for a road trip, while I was reading the business section, she was studying the horoscopes. It was a road trip still, minus the stops at seedy little taverns for a Friday night of Karoke… or stops just to listen to the Jukebox and whet your whistle. It was minus the whimsical natural accumulation of cute boys along the way, completely devoid of any alcohol consumption whatsoever, minus the carefree “drive all night for miles” plan of total escape, this trip was confrontation at it’s finest… anything but an escape, although I did call her Thelma often.

We wallowed in the realness of it all; having to be nowhere, and check in with no one. After an “oopsy moment” on the wrong 9th street, we indeed saw the other side of Fresno. Uh huh, our first brush with fear. We felt whiter than a sugar packet swirled into hot black coffee. It was picturesque danger, Mexican gangs meet Aurora hookers with bigger boobs and possibly more style. I whimpered secretly…. don’t smile, don’t look….hold the donuts, I was waiting for Ponch and John, where were they? Thankfully, we arrived Tuesday night to check in on my soon to be 90 year old Grandfather, in the 90 degree heat. Guess what!? Air conditioning is frivolous on a fixed income. Luckily cans of orange soda lined his refrigerator doors, nothing could taste better ice cold than orange soda! Doh!

What happened along the way still chokes me up inside. The backdrop of night from our car window was sublime. It just reinforced, that me must be on a spiritual mission, I just thought we were checking in on grandpa, but not so. We were experiencing a coming of age, mid-life sort of twisted saga; part drama, part comedy, with a tone of courage and a soundtrack as honest as Ben Kwellor and Amy Winehouse, whom I am still angry with. The drive dredged up our pained histories, both beautiful and scary, not unlike the blonde rolling hills outside our car window. It was twilight when we had left Yosemite and cut across through Raymond, CA. Absolute roadtrip perfection, up and down hilly roads as endless as the stories we shared, the impending dark setting in as real as sure as dredged up reality once buried but illuminated again yes two brothers, two fathers two middle aged women, remedying the hole from being abandoned by their fathers/ which we both were, she as a baby, me at age two, still it left us wondering. And somehow, in the darkness in the middle of nowhere on this road trip, we finally stopped looking for them. We stopped feeling jilted by Ed and Kerry and we started looking for ourselves. Comforted in unison, by the blonde rolling hills at twilight, and light against darkness. Oddly driving from Yosemite National park Raymond to Chowchilla had been just what the doctor ordered for those 40 some years of wondering what we did wrong. In the quiet, far, far from home, having to turn our “brights” on for the first time we were about to fill in the blanks of our own history. We were awash, and I don’t use this word often, but we had been transfuse in the epiphany that we had just begun the second half of our lives.

With the pressing reality of aging at our heels, we were unafraid to ask grandpa questions of his history, “our beginning” his life story, an actual headcount of grandchildren, sixteen in all. I have never felt that excited, Aawakening to drink the kind of coffee served in AA meetings. We wrote little notes to recant what the other had heard. At times writing a question to Grandpa Gordon so that we could give the shouting a rest for a bit. His tales of Navy life were horrific accounts of docking the ship himself on the shore of Normandy, France, on the the Amphibian Seventh brigade, battalion, whatever the Navy equivalent pings of gunfire bouncing off the ship, watching his friend parachute to their drowning deaths. Coming home to meet his future wife. After making him cry and laugh and tell us,” I don’t talk about this stuff,” we took mom’s advice, “you should go meet your grandmother” she had said. Hmm not a bad idea?

As was the pattern in the family, there was divorce and usually a second marriage. Our grandpa realized along with us, we may as well meet Lucille, our grandmother, it was now or never. We added a stop to our trip: Golden Living Nursing home in Galt, California. There aren’t words to describe meeting a grandmother after a lifetime of thinking she must not want to know you.

We wound the hall to the small dining room, unannounced, we approached without any need whatsoever of a nurse directing us we knew who she was. She was the most beautiful woman of 85 I had ever seen. She looked up and met our eyes curiously as we approached her. We told her, we were her granddaughters, and we had REALLY been wanting to meet her. She looked up, taken aback, pleasingly awed, smiled and joked, “well it’s about time!” she said.

Every Girl

Every girl should have
The kind of friend
That calls on cue,
That knows the dream
You MUST pursue;
Every Girl should have
A tube of red,
A strapless Bra
An unspoken bond
With her PaPA,
White fluffy pillows
To drown her tears,
A boyfriend she’ll NEVER forget
For at least five years.
A favorite book;
Where her twin appears
On every page,
A secret longing
for the stage,
A song that puts the bounce
back in her stride
Black, black doe-eye mascara,
That makes her tears appear dried,
A girlhood friendship that is fleeting
An inner child who’s finally given up the beating,
A “forever” friend who moves away
With all those words and memories,
up until today.
SO what, that you were NEVER part of the “wedding”
There’s GOOD in this life,
Are you forgetting?