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EASTER MORNING, 2018

Well, the Lord has risen, but the sun has not…looks like it might snow, but it’s still nice…Emil Catt ran out to drink his morning water from the bowl on the back stoop, and a fat Mama Robin has been twittering wildly at him…
Am boiling some eggs for Easter breaky, put in some food coloring for effect. I would have done it last night, then hid them for myself to find, but I would have forgotten where I hid them, so it’s safer this way. Interestingly, I used a Tilton Forest Green, which colored the water green, but the eggs are pink…hmmm…can’t wait to see what color yolks I’ll find. I actually do like green eggs and bacon, if they’re Tilton Forest Green.
Am reading a great book, OUT OF LINE, A Life of Playing with Fire by Barbara Lynch, that reminds me of all you brothers, and cousins and friends from back east (who made up that term, “back east?” “out west,” “up narth”)  It’s a memoir by Barbara Lynch, world famous, award winning chef, from South Boston. She tells of growing up in Southie, with her tough Irish mother and too many kids, “Uncle Charlie” Whitey Bulgur, who’s Ma lived in the house on the corner next to Barbara’s friend, Jane (I bet she says her name, Bahbra). It’s hilarious to read this stuff, because I’m thinking a lot of what the Southies say is similar to what the Townies say, some of which I remember hearing Dad, and Uncles Bill, Dickie, and Aunts Amy, Martha, Pat, Natalie, and Ma Herman saying… Love New England accents…and it’s always funny when I’ve been out to visit, that people think I have an accent – Mom practically beat accents out of me…when we lived in New Mexico, and I’d say walkin’, or comin’, she’d say “There is a G on the end of that word, try it again.” When, after visiting back east, I’d say Idear (“there is no R on that word”) or Aunt Mahtha (which I thought was her name), Mom would say “there’s an R in her name, try it again”- Mar-tha HAAAA…
Oil Well, c’est la vie…
Time to peel the pink eggs for my Easter repast…oh, and look! the sun is coming out full force.
PRAISE THE LORD ON THIS GLORIOUS MORNING!
 
AND THE PEOPLE SAID, “AMEN!”

DINNER AT THE GUGLIEMETTI’S

It was not often we, a family of six kids ranging from six months to fourteen years old (Eric was not yet born), were invited out to dinner at a friend’s house.  A large number of chairs were required, for one thing.  Sometimes two or three tables were necessary, too, depending on how many kids the hosts had.  Forks, knives, spoons, plates, glasses, FOOD enough for an army were required; and then there were all the other considerations: ages, left handed vs. right handed orientation, who would be forced to sit by whom and behave the entire time.

A lot of practice went into learning how to dine politely.  First, all boys and men had to have on dress shirts; not t-shirts, nor sweatshirts. No hats. Clean hands and faces.  No tipping in our chairs, no leaning on the table. Napkins on our laps, not tucked in our shirts. No slouching.  Wait with hands in our laps until all the food was on the table, and, at last, Mom (or hostess) sat down, and placed her napkin on her lap.  Someone would be assigned to say Grace.  Then, we could begin passing the serving dishes – always to the right after filling our plate.

Only after everyone had a chance to fill their plate, and, maybe,  a toast was made, Mom would pick up her fork, and everyone could begin eating, and make conversation punctuated by please pass the biscuits, or butter, or gravy.

No one left the table without permission. You could ask to be excused if you cleaned your plate,

“May I be excused?”

“No, you can sit here with all of us for a while.”

“But, I have a lot of homework (read, I have a new comic book).”

“You should have done your homework earlier. Just fold your hands and sit here with us.”

And, of course, you did.

Ted and Steve, “the boys,” could, no matter how smoothly ironed their blue buttoned-down collared shirts, be gross to the point of making me sick.  If sitting directly across from me, they would wait until I happened to look up. Then, as soon as my eyes met theirs, they would smile with big pieces of broccoli stuck in their teeth, or would quickly stick out their tongues with chewed up meat on them (“see food”),  or would pretend to flick a booger across the table onto my plate; all while smiling sweetly at Mom and Dad who were chatting away at the other end of the table, oblivious to the growing torment.

“Stop It!”

Mom and Dad would look down the table with raised eyebrows.  The boys would give  wide eyed grins, shrug, and focus on their plates, and for a minute all was nice.  But once I took the bait, I was had.  The effort to drive me nuts would slowly, and surely, escalate.   Disgusting burps would be followed by, “Oh, excuse me,” with polite hands across the offending mouths.  The burps grew louder and more frequent until I couldn’t stand it anymore;

“MOM!  They are bothering me!” <whining>

“Well, don’t look at them. Pay attention to your own plate.”

“But they’re bothering me!”

“Boys! Leave your sister alone!”

“Sorry, Mom, we were just eating our dinner.  We didn’t know we were bothering her.”

<Liars!>

The quiet torment would continue; soft, swinging kicks under the table, crossed eyes when I looked up to glare at them, them passing the salt back and forth between the two of them when I asked them to “please pass the salt.”

Finally, I would begin complaining loudly and crying, and Mom would say,

“Roxanne! You are excused from the table.  Finish your dinner in your bedroom!”

I would take my plate, and eat at my desk, furious and humiliated. Sure that I was the most abused girl in the world.     I didn’t learn until I was well into my 30’s that my brothers ate most of their dinners in their room, too, for tormenting me.  HA!  Justice!

But, back to the story about all of us being invited out to dinner.

The Gugliemettis were friends of Mom and Dad.  I am told Mom and Dad’s favorite Italian sausage recipe, with which they would make pounds of spicy sausage while drinking wine with their friends and neighbors, was actually the Gugliemetti’s recipe.   They might have been older, more the age of grandparents.  They had no kids at home that I recall.   They may have lived out by Mather AFB, where Dad was stationed.  We had to drive to get to their house, so they were not near neighbors.

One day, when I was about seven years old, the Gugliemettis invited Mom, Dad, and all of us kids to come over to their house for dinner – a big Italian dinner with special spaghetti sauce, and, no doubt, a relish tray, and cheese and cracker hor d’oerves.  I imagined there would be a green salad, and Kool-Aid, too, if not soda pop, which was a real treat (not a treatment, Mom would say).  Mrs. G and Mom had most likely planned it all out.  The grown-ups and big kids would sit at the main table, and we smaller kids would sit at the smaller, shorter table.    There would even be a high chair for Ruth, who was just a baby.

I remember it was intriguing to think about having dinner at someone else’s house.  I was a little worried it might not taste good.  I mean, if it had Italian sausage in the spaghetti sauce, it could be pretty spicy, and I did not like spicy food.   I hoped they would have garlic bread with lots of butter… mmm.  I did like buttery garlic bread.

Most likely, because there were so many little kids, Mrs. G and Mom decided we would have dinner early.  We all put on our clean, starched shirts and dresses, pulled on bright white socks and dress shoes, and light cardigan sweaters.  All our hair was brushed and combed, shining and smooth.  Those who were ready first waited on the couch, while Mom finished getting the little kids ready.

Finally, Dad came into the living room, clapped his hands and rubbed them together, looked around at all of us, excited.  “Everyone ready?”   Mom sashayed in, all decked out, and smelling good.  Dad gave her a  wolf whistle and a wink, squeezed her shoulders, then said, “Okay, everyone in the car!”

We all filed out, and climbed in the car. Mom and Dad sat up front, with Ruth, the baby, on Mom’s lap, and Bobby sat in the middle of the bench seat between them (this was before the laws requiring kids to be in car seats in the back).   I sat in the back by the left window.   I had to sit by the window, because I got car sick, and because I didn’t want anyone touching me.  Mag sat next to me.  Ted and Steve were squeezed on the right side of the back seat.

Off we went, Mom reminding us of the rules for visiting people’s houses: no running, no interrupting adult conversations, no making pigs of ourselves, pass to the right, wait for Mrs. Gugliemetti to start eating before we began, clear our plates from the table when excused.   We had them down, all the rules.  We were ready.   And believe me, no one wanted to see Mom shoot a warning look to Dad, or to hear her snap her fingers.  THAT would be then end of a lovely evening.

We must have made a pretty picture to anyone passing us.  A jolly family, all clean and shining in a clean, shiny car with dazzling white walls, which the boys had, no doubt,  spiffed up that afternoon before we left.  A handsome Dad and a beautiful Mom singing along with each other…smiling kids.  It promised to be a great dinner.

But then, without warning,  catastrophe  struck!  It happened so quickly, there was not time to open a window, or for Dad to stop the car.

Ruth, the sweet baby girl sitting on Mom’s lap, gave a small whimper, then threw up all over Mom and the dash board.   Bobby, sitting next to Mom, saw and heard Ruth throw up, and he vomited all over Dad, Mom, and Ruth in the front seat.  Mag sitting next to me, tried to hold her nose, but it did not help. Mag threw up all over her pretty dress, and I threw up all over Mag, and the back seat.  I do not know if Steve and Ted threw up, but it was a miracle, if they did not.

I am sure there was a lot of wailing going on in the car.  Dad pulled the car over, and Mom and Dad helped us all out to line up close to the car, while they tried to soak up the puke with baby blankets and cloth diapers.  Nothing could clear out the smell.

We were closer to the Gugliemetti’s house, than we were to our house, so there was nothing to do but to get back in the car, and keep going to the Gugliemetti’s.   Dad stopped the car in front of their house, Mom picked up the baby, and Dad and she led our sour smelling, bedraggled group to the front door.

Mrs. Gugliemetti threw open the door with a big smile that quickly changed to dismay as she realized what had happened.  I imagine Mom was just mortified, and probably wanted to just cry.   Without delay, Mrs. G gave Mom and Dad quick hugs, took the baby from Mom, then rounded us all into their house.  She brought us clean t-shirts, and soft sweatpants to wear while she piled all our ruined finery into her washer and dryer.  Probably Dad and Mr. G went outside to clean and air out the car.

We were all encouraged to “have a seat, have a seat!”  I have no doubt big glasses of wine were poured for Mom and Dad.  Just as I had imagined, there were two tables with cheese and cracker hor d’oerves, pickles and olives and cheese on something called an antipasta tray… who was anti-pasta?   A huge pot of spaghetti and sauce with grated cheese was produced.  Most of us kids were still feeling too sick to our stomachs to really enjoy the great dinner.   But we did relax, and felt at home, and our own clothes, warm from the dryer felt great.

We stopped for 7-Up on the way home, to soothe our sick stomachs.

It is true that were not too many invitations for all of us to come for dinner … but we always knew how to make an entrance.

six months

oh Ma —

it’s been one hundred seventy seven days today since I last spoke to him —

yeah

one hundred seventy seven days since he —

<died>

yeah…

gotta go, Ma –

 

love you

 

 

SWEET REESE

There once was a princess named Reese,

Who pulled on her coat made of fleece

pulled on her gloves, and her bright yellow boots,

then wiggled and giggled, shouting out great hoots,

as Great Aunt, Roxanna, tried to hug her great niece.

 

 

 

 

FLEDGLINGS

What privileged robins live in my back yard…

racing through the sprinkler, barely giving me any notice…

but WHO, may I ask, tipped over the big blue pot under the umbrella?

Hmm?

Emil Catt, was it you?

transcendence

If you have seen it, you know.

Life does not end.  It does not. No, it does not. 

It peels away and moves beyond this body, those once treasured plans, these sweet, dear beloveds.  Often not easily, nor willingly; sometimes not even completely, but eventually -when exhaustion prevails, organs fail, when all is ready, enough is said-  the anchor lifts.     And the soul’s strong sails spread on the wind, sailing, sailing  with sad, exquisite relief.

***

Brandon took sail Monday, March 27, 2017.  Wishing him a good journey…

 

GAD

Excuse me, what are you saying?

he is not a candidate for hospice?

he is not in enough pain?

he is not sick enough?

did not someone tell him yesterday there was no hope?

that he will not live out the month?

and that is why you called hospice?

do you not see that is why he said to leave him alone?

refused to eat?

asked that his children not be allowed in?

do you not recall his brain injury causes him to misinterpret what you say?

did we not leave requests to call his wife if you have something to tell him?

did you forget that he will forget?

Excuse me, what?

you called for a consult for the liver transplant?

did you not do that last week?

and what else?

you  are immediately transferring him to the transplant hospital?

today?

this afternoon?

so there is some hope?

or are you simply concerned we have finally had enough?

that we shall begin to question every word said?

every thing done?

will you even remember he and we were here?

 

 

 

 

HEARTACHE

Today she meets with hospice,

my darling heartbroken daughter,

to discuss how best to establish care

for her darling dying husband.

It is not the dead part I hate so much,

it is the impossibly hard work of dying.

DEAD

This is the truth I have come to know:

people are not dead until they are dead,

and maybe not then.

You cannot talk over them, pretend they are not there.

You cannot plan without them, assume they don’t care.

They are here!  They are here, and fully aware.

So quiet the panic as best as you can,

sit down, shut up, take hold of their hand.

Just at this moment it is not about you.

Cry if you must, wail and weep,

but sit there, and listen, and live in the moment,

while they are here living with you.

ASCITES

How can it be?

How can it be

that that thin, thin body

can hold four liters of fluid?

Four liters of fluid!

There is no room!

Certainly there is no room…

Certainly not.