Are you from Newton?

I nearly jump back in surprise, and mentally, I have leaped into an abyss of shock. Her hair, what she has of it, appears stuck to her scalp in buzzed patches — white and black and gray.

She sells the coffee I buy

The woman behind the counter at the Honey Dew Donuts says to me, “I like your haircut.”

My hair is very short, close-cropped. My hairdresser uses a number three clipper blade, which allows a hint of scalp to show for a week after a haircut. The cut is sharp, neat, and frames my face well.

“Thank you,” I say.

She lifts her Honey Dew cap. “Mine is short, too!”

I nearly jump back in surprise, and  mentally, I have leaped into an abyss of shock. Her hair, what she has of it, appears stuck to her scalp in buzzed patches  —  white and black and gray. For a woman with very little hair, hers is a mess. I eek out, “I like your hair, too,” because she seems so proud and pleased with her haircut.

“How much does it cost to get your haircut?” she asks. The woman is in her 50s, maybe her 60s, plump, cheerful.

I tell her my haircut costs $40 and when she asks how often I go, I say every four weeks.

“I go to the barber,” she says. That explains a lot. “It costs me $10 bucks. I can’t afford to go every two weeks like I want, so I go every four weeks.” She adds, “Are you from Newton?”

I’m dressed in a short winter parka and jeans, like anyone on a cold day in Massachusetts. But when she asks if I’m from Newton, I realize she thinks I’m rich; forty dollars for a haircut must seem extravagant to her. I tell her I’m from Stoughton, which is a middle-class town, about as different from “Snootin’ Newton,” as my mom used to call it, as you can get.

Mine is kind of like this but not purple

“Well, there are plenty of barbers in Stoughton,” she says. She wants to help me save money.

You may or may not find a woman with short hair attractive, but there is no denying that my not-quite-a-buzz-cut hair looks perfectly styled. There are no patches in my hair. It is clipped, shaped and textured expertly, and tapered in the back to add a feminine touch despite the short length.  I have a talented hair dresser, and that’s what I pay $40 dollars for – and because I can afford it.

“Hey, thanks for the coffee,” I say as I start to leave. “Have a great day.”

My house would be the small one in the middle. I wonder if she has a house.

As I climb into my car, something else she probably can’t afford – a good, newer model vehicle – I become aware of the great economic divide between us. We’re both middle aged, but she’s making minimum wage selling coffee and donuts and with a bad haircut.  I’m making a decent salary with benefits as a business analyst where I sit in a comfortable chair all day. Now I will drive home, to my house, a modest, but very comfortable and recently refreshed colonial with new paint, carpet, and furniture. I feel relieved that my status and quality of life are what they are. I’ve worked hard, after all, and for a second, I feel proud of all I’ve accomplished.

But…

I think of my parents who were solidly middle-class and who gave me every privilege: a house to grow up in, a good suburban education, lots of food, clothing, toys, and everything I needed to be successful in college and beyond. I imagine the Honey Dew Donuts lady grew up poor. Perhaps she grew up in a tenement or in a unkempt and broken house. Maybe people sometimes yelled out to her “Trash!” as she played jump rope in the yard. I could be imagining all this, I could be stereotyping her, but as I start the engine of my car, I feel no pride at all.

This is why I wanted a red chair

Recently, I purchased a red chair from Wayfair.com to spruce up my house, which I’ve had repainted and re-carpeted (upstairs) after years of shabby flooring and aging wall paint.  The chair is a faux leather red. It’s inexpensive as I have two cats, one of whom likes to scratch his way through the furniture.

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This is the new red chair. Note the cat toy on the bottom left of the screen. I find that toy all over the house, dragged there by the mama cat, Mia.

We had a red chair in my childhood home in the room we called “the den.” In that chair, I would color with crayons and coloring books filled with animal outlines, forest trees and fields of flowers. I watched The Lucy Show and Simba the White Lion, played with a Lite Brite, Legos, and Colorforms. I read my first books in that chair. When I was a young child, my mother spent time in the room, too, sitting in the red chair herself or on the couch, as we watched The Ed Sullivan Show or Red Skelton.

cindy mom red chair.jpg

This is the red chair from the den of my childhood home. One of my favorite photos because my mom and I are in it together.

It’s easy to idealize one’s childhood when five decades have passed since you were a kid. Of course the truth is things weren’t always easy in that house. My parents separated when I was four years old and eventually divorced, and my parents argued, especially after the separation. My father came to visit on Sundays and sometimes roared his anger. It could be frightening. My mother went to work and was out late most nights. She drank too much on those nights. That could be frightening, too.

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This is the house I grew up in. The tiny figure at the front door is my father. I can tell by the slope of his shoulder and his stance. I think the man in the driveway may be Mr. Budd who lived across the street. So often, I wish we could all go back to that time and start anew, do it right.

It is equally easy to forget that growing up wasn’t always bad. There were those red chair moments, for example, the great food my mother cooked for us, her generosity with buying us clothes and toys, her gentle demeanor and her sense of humor. And my father, he took us out for rides on his boat from Quincy to Cape Cod. I enjoyed those afternoons. I remember one day in particular when I was perhaps 10 years old. It was just he and I walking into a marina store so he could look at the latest line of new boats. He could be great company when he wasn’t angry. He could be funny and engaging. I felt happy to be out with him on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

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My brother and me in the den. If you look to the far left, although it’s dark, you can see part of the red chair. This looks like a good day.

Childhood was a mix of good and bad, which perhaps it is for many people. In my fifties, I choose to focus on the good that my parents provided.

The red chair of my youth represented happiness, so I purchased the new red chair to link it to the past. Sometimes when I sit in my red chair, childhood memories rush back, and it’s almost as if I am a child again. It’s almost as if my mother and father are young again.

Now I’m 56. Wait. What?

Slowly I disintegrate. The final years of middle age are upon me; old age is on-deck. I imagine a batter in a Yankees uniform (why Yankees?), wearing a saggy pinstripe uniform. Popping out of the top of the uniform is an old gray haired head. It takes ten minutes to make it to the plate, but “old” arrived in an instant.

It seems like yesterday when I posted about turning 55 in Happy Birthday Blog: All the Great Things About Turning 55

Alas (doesn’t anyone actually use that word nowadays?), I have turned 56. I closed my eyes and a year sped by; I woke up and I was no longer 55. I am now officially closer to age 60 than age 50.

Left: The good ‘ole days when I was 55.

Slowly I disintegrate. The final years of middle age are upon me; old age is on-deck. I imagine a batter in a Yankees uniform (why Yankees?), wearing a saggy pinstripe uniform. Popping out of the top of the uniform is an old gray haired head. It takes ten minutes to make it to the plate, but “old” arrived in an instant.

I have cataracts in both eyes. The cataract in the right eye is becoming a serious issue. When I hold the palm of my hand over my left eye, my right eye sees a slight yellow haze and a world with fuzzy edges. I will probably have the cataract(s) removed in 2019, because it hinders my ability to read, especially printed books, and eventually, the cataracts will make it dangerous for me to drive a car. In 2010, I earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Solstice MFA program at Pine Manor College, which required an abundance of reading – books, handouts, student drafts for workshop. To put the cataract issue in perspective: I would not be able to get through that program today because of the issues with my eyesight.  Usually, the condition is reserved for those over 70, but my mother had cataracts in her fifties.

Yay Mom! Yay 56!

My gums are receding.  Ice cold water or ice cream can set off nerve-ending pain that sears and shrills through my gums and face as if someone were beating me in the mouth with an ice pick. I have to stop what I’m doing and yell, “Owwwwww!” even if silently to myself.  The gums near the lower left molars are in the worst shape, although I have milder issues in other areas.  I have no doubt a root canal or gum graft (I don’t know the difference ) is in my future.  Right now, my dentist will fill the gaps between the exposed stem of the teeth with a tooth-tinted composite. This is what I’m doing Tuesday evening. Don’t be jealous. My mother had horrible gum disease in the last years of her life, and while I don’t (yet), I can see the potential.

woman in grey notched lapel suit jacket holding smartphone sitting beside wooden table
Do you think SHE has receding gums?

I weigh more than I ever have. This is due to eating more than I ever have. This is also due to aging, as one’s metabolism slows. I read in AARP’s newsletter (yes, AARP) that I can expect to weigh the most I ever have in my fifties.  So I guess I’m doing something right, right? I weight 40 pounds more than I did in my twenties, and 20 pounds more than I did in my forties. Most people don’t see too much of a difference, because I hide the extra bulges with blousey tops and less than skin-tight jeans. My stomach hangs out over tight pants where it used to be flat and muscular.  My body is starting to resemble my mothers: relatively slim legs and arms and a beachball stomach.

Yay Mom! Yay 56!

The membrane in my left nostril has deteriorated. Last summer, I found myself in the throes of a bloodbath, with severe nosebleeds bursting at will. Literally, I had blood vessels bursting through the worn nasal membrane.  Let me spare you the details except to say I wondered if I would drown in my own blood rushing down my throat or if I would be found dead from blood loss. (I guess I didn’t spare you.) Thirty minutes, sometimes longer, to stop these hemmoraging incidents. I finally went to a specialist who cauterized the the weak areas. For the most part, the worst of it is over. Now I imagine turning into an old lady who can’t stop the bleeding. Imagining the worse, staying loyal to my Zelman roots. (Nod to Dad!) Ah, well, no use worrying about something that “might” happen. I’ll just keep my nose to the grindstone (yeah, I know.)

Long ago and far a way, I used to be so skinny my ribs showed through. My eyesight was so strong that I could sit for hours in a poorly lit room and read, read, read. I had no cavities and perfect gums. The nosebleeds? I have struggled with them throughout my life, but they were so minor, nothing but a nuisance, not a (perceived) near-death experience.

But still, I count my blessings. I have seen so much in 56 years that I realize I am so far, one of the lucky ones.


Happy Birthday Blog: All the Great Things About Turning 55!

There is a small chance I can save my teeth if I wear a $625 (not covered by dental insurance) night guard, which is basically a very expensive piece of plastic. I saw night guards in CVS for $21. Hmm.

happy-birthday-grandmaAlthough I wrote this post months ago and am now closer to age 56 than 55, I stumbled upon the hand written draft in a little blue notebook I scribble in occasionally to remind myself to write. I hope you enjoy this post.

  • I am now eligible to buy a standalone dwelling in an over 55 community, and if I were to do so, I would be one of the “kids” of the neighborhood.
  • I now feel worthy of all those AARP benefits I’ve been getting since I was a young sprite of 50.
  • I can look at the pic of me in the bikini at age 42, cut and slim with ab lines (vertical only), and say, “I’m too old to ever look like that again” as I stuff my mouth with chocolate cake.red-bikini-cartoon-woman-manga-manhwa-eba78ced9994-breasts-eab080ec8ab4-korean-cartoon-beach THEN
  • Although I am 55, I still have the body of a 54-year old.10281217-Chubby-Woman-In-A-Red-Bikini-Stock-Photo NOW
  • When I say I have “old” friends I am not using figurative language any longer.
  • When I forget someone’s name five minutes after being introduced to them, I can blame it on my age so long as I don’t admit this has been a lifelong issue for me.
  • I no longer require tampons or pads. It’s been quite a number of years since I’ve had a period, but no longer needing menstrual paraphernalia is still one of the main benefits of surviving menopause, and quite the money saver. As well, no more hot flashes or hormone cream.
  • I’ve saved enough money to have my emerging double-chin removed.
  • The cataracts the doctor diagnosed are still relatively small, “normal for my age,” and I can still see a little.
  • There is a small chance I can save my teeth if I wear a $625 (not covered by dental insurance) night guard, which is basically a very expensive piece of plastic. I saw night guards in CVS for $21. Hmm.
  • I know longer have career ambitions. I just want to keep my head down at work until I am ready for retirement. (I wrote this before being laid off in June. I now have a better job and more ambition and realize job ambition is about motivation and being in the right place at the right time.)
  • I don’t have a sex drive anymore so that should help to limit my disastrous relationships (read any of my published work.)
  • After the many, many women I had in my 40s, I’ve only had one in my 50s, meaning I no longer need to think of myself as a slut. And no, I am not with my singular woman from my 50s. I live with two cats. See point above.
  • I’ve lost all the hubris I once possessed and realize what a jerk I was, so ytgggg5’m a much nicer and more compassionate person than I was 10 years ago.
  • In four and a half years, I can access my retirement savings with no penalty. And while I was unemployed, I learned that if you are over 50 and have no job, you can access the money with no penalty in that situation as well. That might be important to some of you.
  • I can appreciate more and see with a better perspective. I know you want a concrete example. I will try to think of one. Okay, here’s an example, albeit a general one: I know that I can find solutions to most problems or work on them to be less problem some. I can manage the bad shit.
  • I’m better at sticking up for myself. Earlier in the year, I was at a concert with a friend at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston.  To men sat down across the table from us and one of them said, “Which do you want? The blond or the brunette.” Eventually, after more suggestive comments, including “Well, girls, it looks like we’re on a date tonight,” I said (imagine snide anger in my voice), “We are not on a date and we are not girls!” Well, it’s an example.
  • As Kathy Bates said in the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes, “I’m older than you, and I have better insurance, as she slammed into a car with two young women into it that had just stolen her parking space. I could do that, too. Well, I have, although not on purpose.
  • Being 55 is better than being 56, at least in theory. I truly hope I’m wrong about this.

What Do I Have in Me?

20141224_002730503_iOSMia is my little 8-pound cat who I adopted, along with her son, Timmy, in 2011. From the start, it was clear that Timmy was the outgoing, affectionate animal, curling up on my chest, leaning his backside against my neck, and purring himself to sleep. Mia would let me touch her, sometimes. I could pat her, sometimes. It depended on how defensive she was feeling. She was not an unfriendly cat, just not very affectionate, not very trusting of the human touch.

Four years have passed since I brought these cats home, and now Mia loves affection. She will push her body into my hands and arms when I sit on the floor with her. Her purr is loud and wonderful. She will meow at me until I pick her up and kiss her head and cheeks. Again, her purr is loud and wonderful. The other day, while she was pushing herself into my arms, she performed one of those adorable signature kitty moves: She plopped on her back and exposed her belly with her paws curled in the air. The purr: loud and wonderful.

My mother was watching and said, “I didn’t think she had it in her.”

Still, Mia has her emotional and physical boundaries. When she has had enough, she swats at you with her paws. She does not hurt you, but make no mistake, she’s telling you she’s had enough.

Tonight after work, and after a swim at the local sports club, I ate dinner: a perfectly roasted chicken, red roasted potatoes, carrots, broccoli with fresh melted deli cheese, brown rice with dried cranberries, and cranberry sauce, fresh, prepared with an apple. I cooked all of these items myself. The chicken was spiced deliciously with fresh onions, garlic, orange and green peppers, and Goya Adobo, a mix of salt, pepper, garlic and turmeric. Some olive oil to baste it. The chicken meat was moist and nearly addictive. The brown rice with cranberries was a treat and the broccoli tasted delectable. Who knew broccoli could taste that good? The cranberry sauce was chilled and zesty and refreshing.

This was not just one of the best meals I have ever cooked, but one of the best meals I have ever eaten.

I didn’t think I had it in me.

My mother always cooked. She stopped cooking sometime last year, several months after being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, when the pots and casserole dishes became too heavy to pick up, like leaden weights hanging off her stick arms. Her arthritic fingers no longer able to grip. She lost most of her appetite. She can no longer pick up a 9 pound chicken, handle it, spice it, place it in a 5 pound Pyrex and get it into the oven. That’s my job now.

Except for a few forays on my own in my younger years, I have always lived with my mother or her with me. Who lives with whom is a matter of perspective and not all that important. I have spent my life with my mother, and perhaps that is one reason for my failures at romantic relationships, my strange commitment to her, leaving me noncommittal to whomever I have dated. That’s one reason. I’m sure I could come up with a few other equally fucked up reasons for my failures in relationships.

Let's Dance, put on your red shoes and dance...
No weddings in my future, just a cat or two or three

A successful, romantic relationship that lasts more than a year is not something I have in me, not now, maybe someday, maybe not.

Still, I am happy to say that one positive that has come out of my long-term relationship with my mother, and even out of her illness, is my new ability to cook – and to cook well. That’s one thing I’m sure have in me, which I never knew I had.

Meanwhile, Mia and I will make known our boundaries, growing wider, not yet wide enough, as we struggle with the intimate relationships in our lives.

Mother’s Day 2014 – I don’t remember writing this

Apparently, I wrote this in the spring, but I just stumbled upon it in my files. I don’t remember having written the piece, though parts of it are familiar when I read it.  I think I decided against posting it on Mother’s Day so as not to depress my audience during the holiday. Very thoughtful of me, right? You should know, that although my mother is still functioning all of these months later, the “decline” I mention in this piece has become more pronounced, which is to be expected, I”m sure. That doesn’t make it easy.

Mother’s Day, 2014, and in terms of the weather, it’s one of ten perfect days we get each year in Boston. A perfect day is 80 degrees, no humidity, no clouds, crystal blue sky, and soft breezes. Aside from these ten days, the weather sucks: it’s too hot, too humid, too cold, too windy, too rainy, too gray, too stifling, too raw, too anything. But today is perfect. There are nine perfect days left, so I expect a few in June and a few in September, and one or two sprinkled amid the stifling hot summer months.

There is nothing else perfect about today. I said it’s Mother’s Day. When I read Facebook I realize Mother’s Day is supposed to be a joyous event to celebrate our wonderful mothers, dead or alive. My own mother is in between dead and alive.

She should be out in this sunshine with the perfect breezes and sky, before it’s all lost to the body she resides in, the one that is slowly declining. But she can’t get out. I can’t get her out. It’s as if there is a glass wall between us and she must stay on the inside of it, while I look reluctantly in at her from the outside. I turn my head and  leave.

I am at the deli, cheered up by the endorphins and caffeine streaming through my blood, ordering my mother sliced deli meats, cream cheese, buying a quartered pullet because she wants to cook chicken soup. These are part of her Mother’s Day gifts. There was the time when she would have driven down to the deli and market herself to buy these things. There was a day when I would have driven her, but she would have gone into the stores herself. That particular day was just a couple of years ago. Now she can’t get there, even if I take her.

It’s Mother’s Day, the weather is perfect, and my mother is in decline. She has stage 4 breast cancer. She is 84.

Yesterday I was shopping in Bob’s to try to find her polyester stretch pants, the kind she wore in the 1960s and 1970s, like Laura Petrie wore on the old Dick Van Dyke show. I tried to explain to her that they may not make such slacks anymore, not in the way she remembers them.

“Polyester pants were now basically workout gear,” I say to her.

“I know that, I know that,” she said, a little abruptly. The answer was miraculous enough – that she knows that, which I believe she does, but that she heard what I said, without the nearly constant, “What?” .

As I was driving to Bob’s yesterday, and while I was in the store trying to find polyester pants, I kept seeing my mother bent over. These days, 90% of the time, she walks through the house bent over and gasping, as if she’s in great pain. For the first time since her cancer diagnosis, I thought: I think she’s going downhill, she can’t stand up straight. I felt so sad, nearly sad to the point of speechless, maybe to the point of tears, although most of the time, she makes me feels so frustrated. It’s very hard to repeat oneself up to four times in nearly every attempt at communication.

It’s Mother’s Day and I’m not even home with her right now. It seems cruel, on the one hand, to leave her alone on what might be our last Mother’s Day together, and yet, I don’t know what I would do with her if I stayed home. She would still insist on creaking up and down the staircase bent over in pain to do the washes, to load and unload the dishwasher, to get in my way as I try to prepare some food. I cannot offer to help her. I cannot say, “Look, let me do the washes.” She would look at me dumbly, as if I’d just spoken in Greek or Chinese. Her mouth would hang open. Her aged faced would look nearly ghastly and close to dead. I can’t take it, the emotions inside me crash and bang and I have to keep it all in so I don’t make the situation worse for both of us.

On a very bad day, she will let me load the dishwasher, and that’s when I understand she is terminally ill. I have been banned from the dishwasher in the past because I apparently am very bad at loading it. So I watch her load and unload it, and the laundry, bent over like a what? Like an old lady on her last legs. Like a dying woman.

I don’t know if being bent over so much of the time is from the cancer, the osteoporosis, the collapsed vertebrae, or just from old age. But she has most definitely declined. And as she declines, it becomes more and more difficult to talk to her.

I received a call a few days ago from a woman who works for the Steward Medical Group, a company that owns all kinds of doctors’ practices and medical facilities in the area. Although the call, and the knowledge the woman had of my mother’s medical condition, felt a bit like invasion of privacy, I suppose as owner of these facilities, they have access to medical records.

She was an older woman herself. I could tell from the crackle in her voice. She said, “I’ve seen your mother’s diagnosis. I’m calling to find out if she’s able to afford her medication. I see here that she just wants comfort. I’m trying to find out if she has the pain medication she needs.”

I tried to explain the situation.

“Well, she lives with me, you see,and right now, she’s still functional. She can go up and down the stairs, use the bathroom, take a shower, all that. I’m there with her, well, actually, I’m at work, but I’m home with her, I mean I live there. I mean, she lives in my house.”

“We will also be having a social worker call on a regular basis to see if she can be of assistance to her and to you.” That would be nice, to have someone of assistance to me. I could have used that person eight months ago, when I was trying to get referrals and appointments, but I am sure I will need the help now or soon.

“Um, okay.” The help sounded like a good idea to me, yet I’m always suspicious when some outside entity starts watching over you. Yet, what’s the difference if they try to control my mother’s life, which I don’t think they are trying to do, but if they were, what’s the difference? How much longer can she have left?

“You can try calling her if you want,” I said to the lady on the phone, since she had expressed an interested in doing so. “I will warn you that she doesn’t always get what you’re saying. You might have to repeat yourself. I don’t know if she’s kind of deaf. I don’t believe she is demented, but she’s hard to communicate with. Here is the number.”

When I arrive home in that evening, my mother tentatively walks into the kitchen and hesitates, and I know she has something to say about the woman who had called me, and then her, earlier in the day.

“I don’t understand what she called for. You’ll have to explain it to me.” I do my best, not entirely sure either what the woman had called for since she is not Hospice.

“It’s the Steward Group,” I try to explain. “You know, they own the hospitals and even Dr. Choi’s practice.”

Silence.

So I say it louder, no response. So I say it louder still, no response, so I say it perhaps a fourth time followed by, “Do you understand what I’m saying?” and a bit pissed, she replies, “Yes, I understand.” I guess she chooses not to respond

“They are a company that owns the hospitals and the doctor’s practices.”

“I know who they are!” she says.

I say, “Don’t worry, they are just calling because it’s their job.”

“She said some other nurse would be calling me. I told her to call you, that you are handling all this.”  It is the social worker who was going to call her, who will now be calling me. My mother doesn’t understand, and this makes it so hard to help her. And this is why she is alone right now on Mother’s Day, because it is so hard to help her. And I’m a bitch, or I’m at the end of my rope, but the rope needs to be longer, because she isn’t gone yet.

A few hours later, my mother says, “What a jerk that woman was. You know what she asks me? She says, if it’s an emergency, you will call 911? What does she think I don’t know that? Why doesn’t she call 911 for me?”

“She’s just trying to be supportive.”

“What?” That eternal “what?”

“Nothing,” I say.

I have been trying to decide about where I will live when she’s gone. Will I stay in my house, give it a makeover, maybe find a roommate and feel comfortable again within those walls? It is my home, after all, and there is so much good about it. But will her ghost in every room freak me out? Will the house just feel strange and bereft and make me feel insane with her missing from it? I don’t know.

I have been looking at condos in the area, most of which give me a great deal of anxiety – the complexes look horrible, some of them are nothing more than converted apartment buildings from the 1970s. Projects once, projects still with the low owner occupancy rate. I might be sharing walls with noisy neighbors, punks, screaming children, heavy metal played at full blast at 2 a.m., or maybe the condo association will piss me off and I’ll walk into a meeting with an automatic pistol. The automatic pistol, you should understand, would be my mouth.

But today, before I went to the deli, I drove into Knollsbrook, which is a condominium community I lived in as a teenager. It’s one of the nicer developments in my area, like a small town all its  own. Way, way in the back, there is a one-floor, 1,200 square foot, 2-bedroom- 2-bath unit for sale. I’ve seen those units. They are beautiful. I could afford it. The outdoor porch is enclosed in screen. The view is of the woods. I want to sit in that screened in porch with my two cats, listen to some soft music, read a book, do some writing, and start my life over. I want to buy this place, probably one of the nicest and one of the most affordable units in the complex, but I hear they won’t take animals. I hear you can get fined or even thrown out, if you have pets. Yet I hear they may not enforce that. And  as I drove in the first thing I saw was a couple unloading two dogs. They might have just been visiting.

I want to look out my windows and see the perfect landscape, the snow removed without any effort from me, swim in the three outdoor pools and the one indoor pool, as I did as a teenager.

I am searching for the place I will live when my mother is dead.

It’s Mother’s Day, and Knollsbrook looks perfect for me, but I have to leave and buy deli meat and a quartered chicken and cream cheese and bulkie rolls and bring them home to my mother and try to talk to her so she won’t feel alone on this day, perhaps the last Mother’s Day she will know.

This week’s Post: A few notes about trying to write about my dad

I am thinking of writing an essay about my dad that digs deep into my memory of what was good about him, in addition to the usual stories I tell about what was not so great about him. Below are just a few rough draft paragraphs that may not end up in the essay. But this is how the process begins: with exploration.

The memory involves sunshine and youth, and when you say those two words together, sunshine and youth, you might think I’m getting at something glorious and happy. That wouldn’t be true. It’s the song and the sunshine, the way the sunshine slants at the intersection of Pleasant and Central Streets, just at the moment Rod Stewart sings through the car radio, “Maggie, I think I got something to say to you…” that I see him: my father.

This is all kind of fucked up because I don’t think my father spent any time at the intersection of Pleasant and Central, which isn’t the nicest part of town so he would have had no interest. Yet I see him. He’s walking down the street in the 4 p.m. sun, not at its height and not yet set. Once he existed in such a space, perhaps at a different intersection, perhaps in a different town, but he walked in a 4 o’clock sun.

My father has been dead for eight and a half years.