Vignettes

I officially get to list “AINS” after my name now that I passed the final exam in the program last month. It came at a weird time…my exam was scheduled two days after Grandma’s funeral and two days before her burial. It was a relief to pass because my mind and heart (understandably, I believe) were not in it. I’m about a third of the way through my final course to complete the API program—my test is scheduled for November 11th, and it will be here sooner than I expect…that’s just how time seems to work. Even—I’d even say especially—preparing for something, it happens…leaving you feeling off center and bewildered with its arrival. Anyway, hopefully more initials to add to my signature line by the end of the year.


After catching a Saturday evening movie at the theatre, we were in the car when a cover of “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling” came on the radio. Nick and I tried to sing along, but it just wasn’t the same without Bill Medley’s deep baritone. Inspired, I found the real song in my iTunes library and played in through the car. We were almost home, but we drove around the neighborhood belting out the lyrics (windows up, of course…it was late, after all)…me finding amusement that I automatically go to the low parts while Nick aims for the falsettos.

I looked over to him and felt tears gather. I was perhaps a little maudlin as this was around the time my grandmother died…but it was a living photograph. One of those perfect moments in time, over too soon, that I hope I remember forever. Laughing and loving and having a devoted friend when life gets hard…12 yeas ago, I was in a very different place, and I never thought I would find myself here, feeling so incredibly blessed with my life.


We attended a lantern festival two weeks ago. In my head, I imagined that it would be transcendent, and I was not disappointed. I don’t know what it was specifically, so I think it was a combination of everything—the black of night broken by floating flame, the cloaking music, the collective awe at seeing the lanterns pepper the sky, and the unity with complete strangers. The political climate has polarized us in so many ways…it was nice to have an evening when everyone just accepted one another, no questions asked. We were all there to experience the show and we were all there the create the experience.


Sick of the touchy-feely stuff? Well, I’ll leave with this little Nickism:

The news one morning reported that a bunch of clowns were going to show up at an IT movie premier to protest the negative impact the film is having on the clown profession. Nick added that the protesters were all going to carpool and arrive in a little car…I giggle whenever I think of it.

Over and out.

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Again

My grandmother—my mother’s mother—passed away in the early hours of Monday, August 7th. Her name was Grace, and it suited her. She was a special lady who I admired very much.

As someone fairly in touch with my emotions, I am finding it quite difficult to articulate my feelings on this.

She became the third person who I watched decline and fade away…who suffered until the end finally came. I imagine it would leave a mark on anyone, but I feel stained, stained by death, and I am beginning to realize that it has affected me more than I know.

I don’t get close to people anymore. The stain isn’t the only reason, but it makes me feel somehow damaged. Shut is the openness I once had. I mourn the loss of my younger self and the courage she had to wear her heart for all to see.

But then, she didn’t know how easily the heart could shatter or how much it would hurt. Courage comes easy when you don’t understand the danger ahead. My mother’s illness and subsequent death hurt me in a way that doesn’t heal. Whatever part of me that survived the emotional fallout fell victim to the strain of chronic physical pain.

I come from a line of women who never show their pain. I may write about it prolifically, but you would never suspect what lies beneath vis-à-vis. Like my grandmother and mother before me, I wear a mask, and it grows heavy. Frequently, isolation is easier to bear than the weight of the façade.

“So don’t wear it,” you say. It isn’t that simple. I don’t know how to leave the disguise at home; it isn’t what my family does. In its own way, the pain stains too.

With my baggage firmly anchored to my ankle, my last grandparent descended into the hell of terminal illness. She was the comeback kid. So many times in the last decade, Grandma had fallen ill only to recover. In the end, it wasn’t congestive heart failure, diabetes, or a stroke, but a fall that sapped the last of her reserves.

Not that she ever let it show, but I knew she suffered. I knew life had become a strain. There was a tightness in my last visits with her: two people trying very hard to pretend that nothing was wrong…and then she was gone. I’ve prepared for this so many times over the last decade, only to have her bounce back. I think a part of me believed that she was a force that could not be stopped.

My aunts were tireless in the care they gave her in the end. Your terminal loved ones can become someone else. They can thrash about in their delirium, call out, or say terrible, abusive things that are completely out of character…and while all logic tells you that this aggression isn’t truly aimed at you, how can you not take it personally? I was spared the last one with Mom because she fell into a coma, but my aunts have to remember those mean words for the rest of their lives.

Her funeral was last Thursday. I spent Wednesday night watching tearjerkers and scribbling out the first part of this entry, all in preparation to don the mask again for another public viewing. I was so, so proud of myself for staying dry-eyed through the service. I would NEVER expect anyone else to abstain from crying during a funeral, so why was it so important for me?

The burial ceremony was held at the cemetery this morning. I hate the cemetery. I hate seeing Mom’s name on a stone…I don’t want to look for her there, and it just so happens that my parents’ plot is adjacent to my grandparents’ plot. Nonetheless, I attended…on what would have been Mom’s 60th birthday. I left flowers on her grave before the ceremony started and struggled to keep the tears inside. My sweet husband came armed with tissues and a blanket should I want to kneel at Mom’s grave…sweetness has a way of unravelling me.

Mom's 48th Birthday Party
 
I don’t want to look for either of them there.
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Fireworks, Romance and Fireflies

I have known that my cousin Patrick puts on a fireworks show with one of his friends every year. I have been invited in the past, but scheduling never worked out. I wasn't too bothered by this because I assumed it was your average, run-of-the-mill sparklers and firecrackers type of gathering. Yeah, it would have been nice to hang out with my family, but I didn't think I was missing much of anything with the show.

Unfortunately, I have been lucky enough to see some glorious fireworks displays up close, and it ruins you a bit for other shows. All the years I attended Rhythm and Booms were spectacular, and I still get chills thinking how amazing that show was. I remember watching the show from afar as a kid, before Nick introduced me to the thrill of seeing it front and center. It became our annual tradition…but it just grew too big for the city to manage.

After Rhythm and Booms, we still had Disney. Fun fact: Walt Disney World is the second largest purchaser of explosives in the United States (second only to the U.S. military). The thing about a show that runs every single night? The people pulling the strings get realllllly good at it. The nighttime shows in WDW are stunning. It's a little tough to make it out to Florida every year though.

I'm rambling. Point being that when it comes to fireworks (which I thoroughly enjoy), my standards are a little elevated. Plainly put: I'm a fireworks snob. In my defense, I learned from the best of 'em—coughNickcough. Given all this, I need you to appreciate how wowed I was when I was able to attend the show this year. It was dazzling, and I'm kicking myself for not rearranging plans in the past to attend.

It was not, as you may have surmised, sparklers and firecrackers…but rather an aerial show that looked anything but amateurish. The snobs were speechless. I wish we had brought the Nikon, but the iPhones did a standup job on such short notice, hah!

Air explosions set to music! from Laura on Vimeo.

So sad and classless, but I think of Elmer Fudd hunting Bugs whenever I hear "Ride of the Valkyries" — could be that I'm overrun with rabbits in my flower garden this year though: “Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit!

(Music: “Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner)

 


The best part of the night was magic hour when the lightning bugs came out full force. Our view was quintessential Wisconsin in the summer as the warmth of the day eased into night. There was something very romantic about it all.

Fireflies from Laura on Vimeo.

While waiting for the sun to dim for fireworks, bursts of light glittered the dusk.

(Music: "Ma Belle Evangeline" by Jim Cummings feat. Terence Blanchard)

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Nudist Colony

My office building was constructed over an empty field several years ago. In the cooler months, I have heard “tails” of field mice getting into desk drawers and whatnot. I don’t keep food at my desk and I’ve never encountered a scurrying visitor. One of my friends squeaks and squeals and jumps atop her desk whenever she so much as thinks she sees something in the corner of her eye, however. 

I have determined in all my armchair psychology brilliance that it isn’t the rodent that offends her, but rather it is the mouse’s nakedness. My friend does not appreciate the suggestion that she is a mouse-prude, but just think about it for a moment. 

If mice scampered about in jumpers, bonnets, waistcoats and top hats, would anyone be rattled or would everyone be charmed? 

Discuss amongst yourselves. 

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Let freedom…sing?

Yesterday evening, the 4th of July, found us in the car, driving home from a tiring day of kayaking under the unrelenting sun. Nick pondered why the radio wasn’t playing more festive tunes and immediately I held up my left index finger as I started searching my iTunes account. 

Me: “Hmmm. I know I have it, I’m sure of it, but it’s not coming up in my search. ”

Nick: “What?”

Me: “Proud to be an American. I know, I’ll see if it’s on YouTube and play it there.” 

I did a figurative forehead slap upon my search, for I discovered the name of the song is actually God Bless the USA. Admitting my folly aloud, I easily found the song in my iTunes Library. 

Nick: “Why didn’t you just search for ‘Lee Greenwood?'” 

I pause. Deep sigh. I hate it when he makes sense. It gets old, I tell ya. 

Me: “Your logic has no place in my life, Nicholas.” 

After God Bless the USA concluded (and we both wiped away tears because it’s just that kind of song), I searched my songs library for America because my road companion demanded patriotic anthems to carry us home. Simon and Garfunkel’s America came next. I found American Pie and American Woman…a bit of a reach there though. 

Mr Know-it-all: “Why don’t you Google ‘patriotic songs?’ Maybe you have something else that doesn’t start with the word ‘America.'” 

(That last bit sounded a little sarcastic.)

Reading through a list, I squeal upon finding a song I overlooked. I turned the volume up in time for The Boss to start singing Born in the USA. 

I return to Google, searching for This Land is Your Land in time to realize that I already own a whole album (I was searching songs-only before) by the name of American Patriot…by Lee Greenwood. 

Me: “Hmm. Maybe I should have just searched by ‘Lee Greenwood’ from the beginning.”

Nick: … 

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