An inexplicable chain of gifts

On this, the day after Thanksgiving, I’m grateful that my father quit working one month shy of his pension. I was a peanut. He’d been a newspaperman for almost 40 years, and he’d burned out.

One month. He just couldn’t bring himself. He refused.

The financial insecurity that followed — combined with other health complications, mental and physical — forced my mother to earn a regular paycheck. She was a concert violinist of some global renown, but accolades were more easily earned than money. So she took a job  teaching chamber music at an itsy-bitsy arts school, a move that shaped my life, and continues to shape it, in fruitful and miraculous ways. It led to an inexplicable chain of gifts that I could not have predicted but I see and celebrate now, the crick in my neck a small price to pay for looking backwards.

At that school I met the family who became my own after I lost my parents and sister. From that family came my love of soccer. From my love of soccer came my decision to attend Hamilton. At Hamilton I met my best friend. Because of my best friend, I went to work for a paper in the North Country. Her parents lived there; and it was there, in Thanksgiving of 1987, where I ate a pumpkin peanut butter soup that I taste still.

Because of that job in the North Country, I met my husband, Chris. He had worked for the same paper. Had some of the same friends. Through him I made more friends, and more friends, and more — some of the people I love most in this world. Through him I met and married into the tender, loving, gracious family with whom, just yesterday, I shared turkey and turnips and laughter and pie.

With Chris I made our three children. With Chris I made a life. So much of the good in this life we once shared — and the life I now have without him — came from that one, irrational, mysterious decision made by my father 40-some years ago. It made no sense then, and it doesn’t now. But I’m overjoyed he made it.

Be grateful you’re not driving behind me this Thanksgiving

I have the world’s worst sense of direction. I mean this literally. On this entire spinning planet, no one has a pisser-poorer sense of direction than I do. You know that old biddy in the ‘93 Chevy Lumina you got stuck behind on the drive to the supermarket the other day? The one who blinked left for a block and a half and then, you know, TURNED FREAKING RIGHT, forcing you to swerve left to avoid smashing into the Lumina, causing thousands in property damage, ramping up your insurance payments and possibly injuring the poor fragile dear in the process, thereby plunging you into years of guilt and expensive coping mechanisms?

Her. I’m her. I am a somewhat younger, though no less grayer, version of the old blinking-tail-light biddy that every driver hates. Only I’m worse.

Example A: Continue reading

the fat keister of time

Tonight I would like to express my displeasure with time. It’s shifty and stubborn. Sometimes there’s too much of it. Sometimes there’s not enough. No, not sometimes. Always there’s too much of it. Always there’s not enough. Time is fulsome in its brevity, always present, never passing too quickly to suit us, and when it does pass, the absence of whatever was here before seems outrageous. It’s madness. An affront to our sense of self and our urge to control things. We don’t want time to go anywhere, and then we do want it go — quickly, tout suite, right now, boss-man — but when, after all of that lazing around, it finally gets off its big blobby tuckus and itches to move on, we bitch and moan in protest. Time! What the hell, dude! Stick around! But there it goes.

Chris’ time here came and went. Now I’ve had more than two years without him. They passed. Without him. Life accumulated. Without him. And when I make the mistake of looking too far ahead, I see a gelatinous, shuddering ass-mass of time — 20 years? 30 years? 40? — and I begin to panic. It’s too much, so I look back; and then, for a time, I stay there. Until that becomes too much, too.

If only we could freeze and un-freeze memories, fast forward and rewind scenes — like Adam Sandler in that peculiar tragedy of contemporary disquietude, “Click.” That was an odd movie. But I felt it. I understood it. Time flies not when you’re having fun but when you’re distracted and ungrateful, when you’re not paying hard enough attention to all the many graces before you.

They were before me when Chris was alive. Did I pay attention then? I hope to God I did. They’re before me still. Do I pay attention now? I hope to God I do. My oldest daughter, Madeleine, came home today for Thanksgiving, and the noisy joy of eating take-out with my three children in the kitchen gave me a moment out of time to notice — and to treasure.

I am woman, give me the jumper cables

jeanne - textsSee this flurry of extremely alarmed texts at left? They came from my daughter, and they interrupted my breakfast in Vermont this morning with my son and assorted members of my splendiferous non-blood family. (These are the folks who took over the business of being related to me after my parents and sister died in the early 90s. It’s a long story. I’ll explain it in full at some point, but for now, if you’re feeling up to it, and if you’re already sick of reading this post, you can hop on over to my column about them in the Times Union.)

In the middle of this, I got that thing at the left, a wild and hurried display of pronounced adolescent panic based on A) the realization that the Matrix was dead meat in the driveway and B) the worry that Mom Would Be Really REALLY Super Pissed. But Mom wasn’t Really REALLY Super Pissed. Mom wasn’t Pissed at all. However, Mom was in Vermont, and both the car and daughter in question were in Albany, and so Mom , be she Pissed With Qualifiers or Not Pissed At All, couldn’t do a damned flapdoodling thing about it. Not yet, anyway. Continue reading

Hi, blogging! How are ya!

So here I am. Blogging. Or rather, blog. ging. About shit! What?! Have I lost my mind? No, my people. I have not lost my mind. Instead I have gained a pair, or so I’ve recently been told.

This is what happened. I wrote a book. I’m not saying I succeeded, but I tried to write a very good book, and I’m using “very” as a qualifier despite the fact that it’s an exceedingly weak, puffy, flaccid, useless and gratuitous adverb that should be summarily ejected from the English language. Off with its head! But only after I’ve used it to promote my (so far) unpublished manuscript. Continue reading