The Struggles of Household Dwelling

Since I was a kid, my father used to joke that he wanted to become a recluse and live a solitary existence on “Carey’s Mountain.” I always chalked it up to his being slightly deranged by life with two daughters and a wife who was- and still is- prone to weighty emotions. I just assumed he wanted to live a simply mountain life because he was rarely alone is his own home, and I’m sure he always felt a little overwhelmed.

But now that I’m older and a homeowner myself, I’m starting to wonder if there was more to this, especially as I am more frequently addressing my own feelings of just leaving. Not in any sort of earthly permanence sense, but just in the sense of getting. the. hell. out. of. here. (Here= wherever I am, any dwelling I’m in, etc.)

In a romantic sense, one might call this wanderlust: the desire to be on the move, to never let the dust settle beneath you, to travel. However, if I’m being honest, there’s more to it than just this. Yes, I want to travel. Yes, I want to see the world. But, I also have to face the fact that I might not be destined for household permanence.

I am not destined to own a home.

I hate owning a home.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my house and what it signifies in my life. But, it’s a never-ending struggle. There’s the struggle to keep it clean: vacuuming, laundry, toilet-scrubbing. Don’t even get me started on dusting. There’s also the struggle to keep it standing; no one ever told me about the endless list of home-improvement “projects” that are a lot less fun than HGTV makes them out to be.

And, I might be bad luck. Just today, I was washing dishes at a friend’s brand new home; I’m here dog-sitting, and they’ve literally lived here for less than two weeks. A home does not get newer than this one. I was washing the dishes, and the water just cut out. The pressure went, and it only took seconds for there to be no water at all. I panicked. I text my friend. I text my handy cousin. I text my dad even though he is very comfortable in admitting that he is not typically regarded as handy. I even called my sister- more of a comfort than anything because I knew that b couldn’t help me.

I flipped breakers. I looked at the interior hook up of the well. I had no idea what to do. But, I got through it. I talked to my friend’s husband on the phone, and together we got the water back up and running. It took some random button pushing and more than a few prayers, but we did it.

Still, I’m taking it as a sign. Household dwelling is hard. I don’t think I want one anymore.

(Talk to me tomorrow…I’ll still be at my house, and I’ll still be complaining.)

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The Privilege of Aging

I see it when I look in the mirror to fix my hair: grey wisps peeking through the more familiar sea of brown waves, each a reminder of tough days and even tougher students.

I see it as I lean in close to find the wayward eyelash stuck in my eye: tiny creases at the corners. Some call them wrinkles; I prefer to call them laugh lines- subtle reminders of immense amounts of joy spent with families and friends.

I am reminded of it when I step out of bed in the morning: creaks and groans as my muscles stretch and my bones ache. Sometimes it hurts to take steps. What’s worse, I’m never really sure why.

I am reminded of it as my friends have children who can’t help but to grow up and older relatives say their final goodbyes. Both of these happenings have heartbreaking beauty to them; both of these happenings are as natural as lungs filling with air.

I was reminded of it as I sat at the dermatologist today. “…because your skin is changing. You’re getting older, you know,” said my doctor. I could have been offended or annoyed at the obvious nature of his statement. Instead, I chose to reply with my favorite response to remarks about the trials and tribulations of aging: “I know. It’s okay. Aging is a privilege denied to many.”

It wasn’t what he was expecting, but I thought he could use the reminder. We all can.

A Legacy of Love

It was a perfect beach day: blue skies, bright sunshine, a cool breeze off the water. It was the kind of day that makes you forget all of life’s worries and just enjoy the moment. It was perfect.

Despite the ideal conditions, a cloud hung over our family. A cloud of loss, a cloud of grief, a cloud of goodbyes. And so we did it.

At dusk, many of us donned in the bright colors that she loved so much, we prepared to say our last goodbye. We each took a bucket: small, metallic, some of them with “Trick or Treat” or “Boo!” etched on the side. Halloween buckets. A touch- a little bit ironic, a little bit whimsical- that she would have loved. We each held our bucket carefully, covering the top so that wind would not do our job before it was time. In our other hand most of us held a shot glass filled with tequila. Black, biter, and biting, it was discontinued after she died; it’s an unrelated connection but one that seems fitting since she loved it so much. She might have been the only person who did; still, we drank it to remember her.

Mike said a few words, choking back tears as he walked through his own memories of his sister. In his hands he held a cigar, another reminder of something she loved. She always talked about how her dad would use cigar smoke to cure pain and illness; I think it just helped her feel close to a man who was hard to understand. Donna was next, her time with husband’s sister the shortest of almost all of us. Her words were proof that one does not need to know a person for a long time to have an impact on their life. Some love is instantaneously significant. That was her love.

As the sun set and darkness settled over the beach, we poured her ashes into the sand. Each small pile, a lighter color than the sand around it, meant something different to each of us. Wife. Mother. Grandmother. Sister. Aunt. Friend. Memories of a life well lived and, more, well loved. She is gone but certainly not forgotten. Joined forever with the sea and, more, with all of us.

Childhood Memories

Two blue-collar Italian brothers. A damsel in distress. A reptilian king. The characters of my childhood.

Like so many other children of the 80s- or even the late 70s or early 90s- I spent a significant amount of my most formative years trying to save Princess Peach from King Koopa. I also navigated the jungle swinging from vine to vine; I even helped my pal Mario sort his pills when he journeyed into a career as a doctor.

Video games leveled the playing field. It made me- a “little kid”- a part of a something bigger than myself, a participant in a culture that was just beginning to explode. It gave a new meaning to the word play, and play we did. For hours on end: late at night, early in the morning, on sick days, whenever we could for as long as we kid until our parents made us stop.

Video games were where I made so many memories with my cousins and friends, huddled around that little grey box. I also learned how to problem solve around that console. We didn’t have a lot of money, so when the Nintendo didn’t work, we had to get creative. We blew into the console in an attempt to remove dust. We did the same to games. We jammed two games into the system to hold the one we wanted to play firmly in place. And that was just to fix the games.

We shared strategies and “hacks” before we even had the term: my favorite was playing a track game with a running pad and using our fists to “run” instead of our legs as was intended. Most of all, we made memories that bring a smile to my face even today.

Earlier this week, I received the NES Classic that I ordered. I have coveted this system since they were released, and they have been particularly hard to buy. But, I finally got mine. I leave for the beach on Saturday, and I can’t wait to play with some of my cousins just like we did so many years ago. We may have gotten older, but some childhood classics are always in style.

“No Response is a Response…”

June 14th, 2018: Hey girl…wondering how your life has been besides what I can see through Facebook[.] I know you’re very busy and you have lots of friends and kiddos to look after but sometimes it makes me sad when I read kids books at night and I see that their books are from you[. I] just wanted to let you know that I do think about you[.] …by no means is this message a guilt trip or anything like that[, so] please do not take it that way…”

How do I respond to that? Do I respond to that?

I decide to do something that I’ve never done before and stay silent.

June 17th, 2018 (1:39pm): Hey did you get my text

Again, I say nothing.

June 17th, 2018 (3:39pm): Hey girl are you getting your text messages

Ok. I realize the message I’m trying to convey through my silence is not being received, and I must respond with words. I draft my message:

“I am. I saw your texts. Not really sure how to respond after not hearing from you for a year and a half.”

I hit send and wait for the reply that I don’t want to read but am sure will come.

June 17th, 2018 (7:24pm): Ok. I reached out a few times. And you were busy with very good reasons…I thoght you got quiet because [R] was upset with me
I know you had a few deaths and weddings…around chrsitmas I sent you a giftcard to the movies…Sorry i just went silent because i thought you were busy and i did something wrong…We both fucked up i didnt call you you didnt call me lets fix it! 
I was angry. I was hurt. I was offended. I fucked up? I just couldn’t see it, and so I made a choice. I would not respond.
Simultaneously, a fist squeezed my heart and a weight was lifted from my shoulders.
“No response is a response. And a powerful one.”

Slice of Life: The Torment of Truth

I walked into the door, arms laden with the weight of my day. Lunchbox. Purse. Keys. iPad. I put my items down on the table and saw it:  an eight by eight envelope containing what I hoped would be another inspirational text for my summer reading. The book that I had been eagerly waiting for.

I tore into the envelope and flipped through the pages looking for the passage that my friend thought might be in the book. Her story. She gave me no details beyond that, but I paged through the book, searching.

“You may think that four years later everything is ok and I am back to who I am before I was raped.”

I never knew that words could take a person’s breath away, but as I read those words on the page, I was suffocated by the lump in my throat. I swallowed once. Again. Tears sprang to my eyes as I considered what I was reading.

When we look at a person we think we know their story, but really, we are all onions. Our hearts protected by layers of life, peeled away to reveal our individual truths. In three pages of text, I was brutally reminded of the need to pause, to get to know the people I hold dear, because even those we know best have hidden parts of themselves waiting to be discovered by the ones who love them. Reminded to look with my heart, to see the ones who are hurting the most, because they may never say a word, but their stories are there.

Remembering

In my summer grad class, we heard a poem by Patricia C. McKissack titled, “Remembering.” Written around the concept of quilting, this poem explores the memories that McKissack has of the pieces of fabric to be included in a quilt. This is my imitation of her beautiful work.


Remembering

I have always heard,

“A picture says 1000 words.”

I  hope

the picture of my four-year-old self yelling at my sister says,

“Even though we argue, I will always love you.”

I hope

the picture of my cousins posed on a curb in our colorful, coordinating, home-made pants says,

“No matter how far life takes us away from each other, together is where we always belong.”

I hope

the picture of Rose and I, smiling and snuggled together in a hospital bed,

Jet only hours old, held tenderly in my arms, says,

“Friends are a family who have chosen to love one another.”

I hope

the pictures of the places I’ve traveled to around the world say,

“Life is short. Time is fleeting. Cherish every day. Live well.”

If by chance

the pictures stop talking,

I want to always remember what they’ve said.

black and white rooftop camera picture
Photo by Demeter Attila on Pexels.com