Wednesday, November 11, 2009

To The Better Man

This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote November 25, 1991:

I waited forever. Night and day. As I stood behind the yellow ribbon marking off the large grassy area, I was still waiting. In the past eight months, I 'd watched the world go to war and endured one of my own too. On that cool, cloudy August afternoon, it was hard to believe the waiting was nearly over. I frantically watched for the greyhound buses to appear around the corner with the Marines of the 1/24.

It was hard to believe we had all stood here months before, on a sunny, cold December day. That day started this long journey. That Tuesday, we put the men on the buses and watched them drive away. Tommy watched me from his window, signed "I love you" and was gone. We passed through Christmas. We passed through New Year's. We passed through Easter. I sat through those months watching war on T.V. along with millions of other Americans.

We passed through the first day of summer. By then, many service men and women had returned home. Then when it looked like the 1/24 might return, Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted. The guys had been stationed there since April. For three weeks we heard nothing. No letters. No phone calls. Everyday I watched the news coverage of the eruption -- for a possible glance of Tommy. Their base was decimated. The jungle surrounding the barracks disappeared, replaced with mountains of debris and ash.

One early Sunday morning the phone rang. It was him. I started believing I'd really see him again. At the same time, I wanted to lie down and sleep. Summer was long, and hot and slow.

And then it came. He was coming home. I felt cheated. He would appear as instantly as he had disappeared, and I had no power over any of it. I'd barely accepted his leaving and now he was coming home. I realized then it had nothing to do with me, or what I wanted to change. That was irrelevant. I could never be master. This was life -- the thing I'd been saying I was ready to take on. It had taken me on.

Standing there with hundreds of other people under the dark clouds of that August day, it began to feel like we were just going to wait and then go home. And then the greyhound buses appeared around the corner.

And they were there and people were screaming running toward the yellow ribbon the guys were getting off the bus and being dismissed people broke through the ribbon everywhere they were running and yelling out names I couldn't find him I yelled his name Tommy Clark! Tommy Clark! his sister calling, "Can you see him?" Tommy Clark! seeing the back of his neck his beautiful tanned neck Tommy! slamming into him crying laughing kissing face in his neck smelling it dreaming all this time of that smell him picking me up and walking away from the crowd and family all around grabbing for him his father crying taking pictures and laughing hard deliriously hard crazy with joy.

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. ~John Stewart Mill

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ode to a Buyer's Realtor

Why will you not call, oh Buyer's Realtor?
What have we done to cause you to
toss us aside?

Did our floors not gleam? Did not the sunshine
stream unhindered through the windows?
Did we not create a balance of unhindered
possibilities for your clients?

Should I have used the Glade Scented Vanilla candle
rather than the Home For Autumn Cinnamon?
Were the pumpkin spice muffins too hot?
Perhaps the throw pillows were scattered too casually?

Oh Buyer's Realtor, why will you not call?
Did the bathrooms not shine?
Could you still detect a trace of fingerprints left the day before by
busy and anxious children who endured

Cross parents and a supper of PB&J eaten
Over the trash can?
Do you not apprehend the strain of preparation
Or does our desire to please distract you?

Oh Buyer's Realtor, we've waited 3 long days. Don't tell me:
You discovered the 4B, 3Ba, kitchen upgrade, priced to sell, ready to move in
Did you see the haphazard decorating? Did they serve warm baked goods?
Are you even a licensed realtor?

Forget that.
We'll drop the price by ten, throw in our Caymans timeshare and move out next week
Buyer's Realtor?
Why don't you call?

More and More, But Less and Less

His eyes met Isabel's, and he seemed to hesitate. There was recognition, but no recognition. We have met one another before, thought Isabel, and we both understand that. But we do not know who the other is, which speaks eloquently, she thought, of the way we live now, knowing more and more, but less and less. -Isabel Dalhousie, "The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday," Alexander McCall Smith

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Face of Forty

I'm in a little bit of disbelief.

Okay, I'm in total disbelief. In some bizarre twist of fate, I've joined millions of others in the 4-0 Lane. Before you think me completely vain, let me explain. It's not the concept of aging that throws me for a loop. It's what aging symbolizes or the symbols and ideas we as a society (and my neuroses) have assigned to this process.

First off, we live in a youth-crazed society, and I won't bemoan all the insanities of that. Women especially have to take that battle on every single day. I can accept that I'm a good 15 pounds heavier than I should be; that there are parts of me, that eh, aren't as perky as they used to be, although I am known for my "perky" personality :). I can accept that my life is firmly planted in a season that is all about my family, my marriage, my kids. You get one chance at this, I don't want to screw it up.

This is where the disbelief hits:

1. In another set of four decades, I will be 80. Hmmm. That one just plain freaks me out. Let's move on.

2. I have lived 40 years on this earth. Broken down in decades, it doesn't seem like much, but grouped together seems significant.

3. Because of that significance, I feel I'm moving from someone who is just accumulating experiences to someone who should actually be able to apply the principles of life to some of these experiences, otherwise known as "Wisdom." And I can actually see this coming into play. It's a good thing but it's sorta creepy. Wisdom is what my mom has (and tons of it). But now I am someone providing wisdom to those younger than me. That sort of shifts the playing field a bit in my mind. My words hold greater weight in some cases. Or I hold greater responsibility for them.

4. If I'm 40, my parents and my in-laws are getting older. I'm really not okay with this. My aunt died this past summer of cancer. She was in her 70s but seemed more in her early 60s. I know this is the beginning of a new process. A shifting up, if you will. The people who know what the heck is going on are moving up, and so am I. In the next several decades, they will leave. I will be left (God willing). I won't enumerate on this but I don't like it.

5. The stakes seem higher. What sort? I don't know. Everything. My marriage. My kids. What I'm doing with my life. I reflect on my mom at 40. She appeared really grown up. I still feel like a goofy, insecure 16-year-old. I wonder if my kids can ever guess I really don't know what I'm doing.

6. Youth is fleeting. Now before you go thinking I've got myself headed for the grave, that's not what I mean. I'm all for the young-at-heart approach to life. But incredibly, my 20s and 30s went roaring past and I'm not quite sure I was doing at the time. I spent a lot of time feeling frustrated because the "life ideal" in my head was not measuring up to the real one. I sort of miss the dreamy 20s where anything seemed possible. While there is still MUCH possibility left in my life, there are definitely things not possible. Doors closed. For a dreamer such as myself, that bitter taste of disillusionment must be replaced with making good on the real life happening right now.

Here's what I embrace in my 40s: A full night's rest; uninterrupted sex (yes, people-I said it); a refusal to be ruled by anxiety and guilt; liking who I am for the most part; my stretch marks (i.e. baby war wounds); my Opinion; not caring what others think (umm...okay, I still care); my boys growing up (this is a love/hate emotion); finally figuring out why I was sent here to earth. In other words, that my passions, abilities, faith and experiences would merge and set the course for the next 40 years with greater clarity. I'm hoping the 40s bring some personal fulfillment I put on hold in the 30s.

Oh, I would like to embrace a comfortable bra as well since I've been wearing one since time immortal. Seriously, I'm still on the lookout for one of those.