Summer

it feels like she’s come too early

summer/with her slatternly, gaping smile

her too bright yellow view of the day

summer/when some of us are broken

our spirits crushed

when all that is left are mud puddles

and empty, hollow eyes.

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His mother’s oldest son

My son, Steve, was born the last day of June in 1968. It was a hot day long before noon came when I took the second half bottle of castor oil-the first have downed yesterday in an attempt to get labor started. I mixed both halves with orange juice, as that was what I vaguely remember in the story my Oklahoma Aunts and my mother discussed one summer sitting around our Granny’s dining table smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. I believe I was ten or eleven years old and it was a hot day. I was likely not in the room but rather in the bedroom with my nose in a book. I filed the information away in my brain under “might-be-good-to-know-sometime.” So now there I was, age nineteen and pregnant out to here (imagine outstretched arms circled very wide!) I waddled around in thrift store thin summer dresses purchased because real maternity clothes seemed very impractical to me. I spent the first half of the day finishing sewing baby blankets-yellow and green with a few blue just in case…Just in case was because I had been praying very hard for a baby girl. I almost did not even consider the possibility of it NOT being a girl. I prayed hard I am telling you! People, other women more experienced in those matters, all said it was going to be a boy. I informed them all that I thought they were wrong because I had asked God for a girl. I remember the knowing smiles on all their faces.
After finishing the little sewing project, I tidied up the small apartment and began to walk. It was well past 100 degrees when I started up the shady side of Hemlock Street that afternoon in Abilene, Texas. I walked up the mulberry stained concrete sidewalks and back down for several hours. Exhausted from lugging myself up and down the street in the heat, I went home to wait. I checked my suitcase and the baby suitcase to make certain all was in place. I waited some more. After starting dinner, late in the afternoon, I settled down to wait and read in my book. Rosemary’s Baby was a very engaging book and it seemed like I had read for a long time. Waiting sure was hard when it was well-past 100 degrees and I was so swollen my shoes barely fit on my feet. Supper came and went, as did my shower after dinner. I was more than halfway through the book before I felt a single isolated cramp. Hooray! I watched my little Timex wristwatch and started timing the pains. It was past eleven when I woke my husband and told him to call the hospital. The pains were about ten to twelve minutes apart. He was very excited! His excitement spilled over on what had been my sense of calm expectation. I went in the spruce up my hair spraying the teased hair with Right Guard deodorant. (That would explain where I used the Aqua net hairspray which later glued me to the labor room bed for the next 18 1/2 hours.) Several times the Dr. popped in, twice to flip my breech child. You have not truly experienced child birth unless you have a doctor manually reach inside your womb to flip your child who is begging to both be breech and to not come out into the world, all the while I still insisting on natural childbirth. No drugs, nothing for pain, and then the air conditioning went down in the small base hospital. My entire maternal-to-be demeanor changed. It was likely still over 100 degrees late into the night. It was daylight when the nurse, no doubt a childless hag, suggested to the doctor to rupture my membranes and perhaps speed the process along. Nurse Hag, my assigned nurse went off shift…she and I had long since passed exchanging pleasantries. After spending eight hours grunting and moaning and clutching the iron headboard in the squeaky small bed, I loathed her and somehow knew instinctively the feeling was mutual. The next nurse must have been to a different nursing school or perhaps given birth herself as she was so much more tolerable. I still whined and moaned and cried but she did not seem the least bit annoyed with me. The rupture of membranes did nothing. The sun grew high in the Texas sky and still no baby. Rosemary had her baby and the coven whisked her son away while I was stuck to the bed still laboring…held fast by aerosol sprays under my armpits and on my head mixed with the sweat produced by my futile pains and lack of air-conditioning. New nice nurse announced it was a record heat of 118 degrees. I really did not care at that point I just wanted that demon child out of me. It was nearly five pm. I was starting to move along with the pains. My back hurt like I had been thrown down the stairs, dragged up and thrown down again. When they finally all circled ’round the bed and announced it was happening. In almost no time the doctor sliced into my hemorrhoids and with a huge pair of tongs reached in and brought forth my first born son. The nurses held him above me while the cord was cut so I could see he indeed was not a little girl and took him away to wrap in swaddling clothes and whatever else they did out of my eyesight. The few tears shed for my little girl baby were obviously lost on the team who tended to the afterbirth and baby weigh in and assorted chores. A few days later, the nurse brought in the babies for feeding. Afterward I was allowed to change his diaper when to my delight I clearly saw girl anatomy. I stayed very quiet. For several hours I cooed and cuddled her before the mistake was discovered by the other mother who was feeding by son. We had the same last name…My son safely back in the nursery while they waited for me to confess I knew they made a mistake. For an hour I had a baby girl and that was all the proof I needed boy babies were just as great.
My son brought me years of joy and tears of pain for the next three and a half decades. It was twenty days until his birthday, and another very hot humid June day in Texas. Another phone call and another trip to the hospital, this time: his exit from the world and escape into the afterlife. The tears were all real and all for my boy who had lived and loved and brought such happiness to the world and then left without so much as a moment’s notice.
Today marks the twelfth anniversary of him going. My pillow was wet last night and still wet this morning. It is a hot day with clear blue skies overhead. It is, after all, his favorite kind of day.

Morning in the garden

I have just returned from the back deck in our small blue house on Bilbrook Place. I tool my favorite coffee mug, filled with coffee dark and rick and colored the nice shade of caramel that is my preference. The sky, a heavenly shade of blue, not azure, more Robin’s egg blue, with a smattering of wispy clouds drifting silently above. I sit facing the rising sun,which is beginning to break through the trees. My garden is lovely and the scent of several newly opened magnolia blooms is lemony and enticing. This morning the air smells clean and fresh, in part from our abundant cleansing rains from the past month or so. I believe the weather report said we totaled near 17 inches. What I do know is our local lakes are running very full, Lake Travis, the largest of the Highland Lakes is at 127 percent full, and still some 20 inches below the spillway. The massive dam has three of its flood gates open with enough water being released to fill over one hundred Olympic sized pools ever second they are open  These lakes, closed for much of the past years due to the drought and low water levels, some fifty to sixty feet low,  is closed temporarily now for an excess of water that has submerged homes and docks and trees and even picnic benches built at lakes edge which would be a hazard to boaters. I like this idea of Spring better all green and glowing. Soon enough the rains will cease again and it will continue to dry out unless a tropical storm forms in the Gulf of Mexico. Such is weather in south central Texas. This writer, for one, appreciates the mornings  just like today. I was going to insert a gorgeous Magnolia bloom but alas cannot make it happen this morning.

 

Taking better care

There is no new calendar for my wall but I am aware that there will need to be one soon. There is much to keep up with in the day-to-day world of busy humans                                         goals for a new year: only two                                  1. Take better care of myself and Romeo              2. take better care of our surroundings/home.  What that means is de-clutter and that involves a time-table because you have no idea how great a project this will be. A calendar will make me aware of the elapsing time and hopefully keep me on track, as I just naturally tend to backslide when faced with tasks of this magnitude.Sigh…                                Today I will write out the rough draft of steps to accomplishing both goals. Step one will likely involve the purchase of a new calendar.

Happy New Year to everyone. I will update as often as I can. Writing more is also an unwritten goal and an understatement as writing brings such JOY.

I am looking forward to a less complicated an cluttered life. When I have more room to breathe, I’ll be able to relax and take better care of myself and dear Romeo.

Right now, I am off to get dressed and make some waffles and then search for the perfect calendar!

Until the next chapter…

 

Birthday with Michael

My son has

simply been absent more

years than those spent with his

family…

His parents- now aging,

his Grandparents passed away, and

his children

and grandchildren grew, all

while he was gone.

Yesterday he turned forty-four.

I still see him

In a large, sad corner of my mind,

as a child.

Well, he’ll always be my child,

Of course,

However he possesses many childlike qualities…

Ingrained in the years

He was mine.

Now a father

A grandfather

He still has those entrenched manners:

Opens doors for ladies, always

Says” please and thank you and yes Ma’am” to

the waitress at the restaurant where his dad

and I took him

for his birthday lunch.

He was very appreciative

for his gift of matching thermal

undergarments;

because he knows

we remembered

how much he hates

to be

cold.

Weekend in the kitchen

This weekend I spent time in the kitchen! While normally one of my favorite things to do, canning, it seems that the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that has attacked both hands, seems to genuinely be slowing me down. I did not realize it was so severe, although I know it makes it difficult to fall asleep and wake up when neither hand can grip. There are mundane and basic tasks related to hygiene that are compromised, let alone filling and loading my quart jars into the pressure canning machine. Even the blanching and grinding of twenty pounds of Roma tomatoes was easier last year than it was this weekend. In  previous years, I could zip through the entire process in a long afternoon. This year it was a two day process. By late in the day, at last, the still bubbling jars, fresh from the pressure cooker, were  all sitting on the counter to cool, and I was sprawled in my recliner sipping a glass of Merlot. A look in the mirror as I passed revealed a look that was every bit as ragged as I felt. Perhaps I needed a  little tonic…at the very least some additional Merlot!

I make my mother’s recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce. It is a recipe I treasure because she welcomed me into the kitchen and let me watch the process. There was almost nothing we loved as children growing up, more than our mother’s spaghetti. I tried for years duplicating it, exactly as I’d watched her, not altering an ingredient or leaving out a step, before I finally realized that it was not so much the ingredients that went into the sauce,as much as the love . Once I mastered that step, I found license to experiment a little with ingredients…fresh tomatoes, blanched then slow roasted in oven instead of canned, and using raw veggies rather than sauteed.When I tasted the final product, I was certain mother would approve! The kitchen certainly smelled like her kitchen while the sauce was simmering.

Thank you for letting me hang out in the kitchen with you, mother. I sure do miss you!