Sunday, April 29, 2007


After a week of endless bitching about my in-laws, I managed to get myself invited to a family birthday bbq this weekend--which I then proceeded to resent, complain about, and generally act like a total ass regarding. Worse yet, in my stupid desire to get invited somewhere I didn't want to go by people I don't really like, I managed to create a train-wreck schedule for this weekend, wherein I left too little time for the grading, reading, and life chores that had to get done.

My daughter obliged me by developing a 101-degree fever while I was out today, thereby allowing me to cancel on the bbq guiltlessly, at the last possible moment. I mean, it's what any good mother would do, right?

Heh. Heh. Heh.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What do you say, dear?

My MIL called, somewhat out of the blue, to invite my daughter and me to lunch. Actually, I think she was expecting me to be sick, and was going to offer to take my daughter out for a bit to give me a break.

Very nice.

Obviously, we don't see the in-laws much (read, at all) since my husband's death. I can count our interactions on the fingers of one hand...and that's in 18 months (how can it have been so long? That seems unreal). So this was a nice gesture, and following my basic principle, which is "if they make an effort to see us or include us, accept if it is humanly possible," I accepted. So what if the papers didn't get graded for an extra day? My daughter needs to know these people, who can presumably tell her about her father (that is, assuming they will).

We had a very nice visit. Daughter was cheerful and loving and chose a special picture for Grandma. Grandma brought some books that were Papa's when he was a boy. We went to my favorite lunch spot.

Where my mother-in-law said, apropos of nothing, "You need to get married again."

In principle, I can't disagree. I loved being married, although I strongly suspect that had an awful lot to do with the fact that I adored my husband and pretty much enjoyed being around him every moment--which is not, given my cranky, crabby self, my typical reaction to lots of togetherness.

But I can't get past this eagerness on the part of my husband's family to set him aside and move on. It feels as though he has been erased; not only as if he is gone—okay, there's a certain reality in that—but as if he never was, and as if the momentum has to be all forward, all the time, with no space for nostalgia or remembering.

My plan is to do what I can to bring him with me, as my daughter and I move forward. It will never be enough, to be sure, but it's better than the alternative. I can't do it their way.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007


We're all overwhelmed, of course, by the tragedy unfolding at Virginia Tech. My students wanted to talk about it, briefly, although their comments were more condemnatory and distancing than thoughtful or profound. I know, however, that it is too much to expect profundity in the face of the inexplicable. But I had hoped for some glimmer of insight into the fraying fabric of society, the pressures--emotional and intellectual and social--of college life, the increasing fragility of our students.


After it was clear that we weren't going to get past the "what a pscyho!" sound byte, I asked if anyone had a segue from the tragedy of the world at large to the specific tragedies of the novel we were reading.

"I do," offered one student. "Next week my sorority is selling designer jeans for our philanthropy project. They will cost much less than usual." [Picture me, mouth hanging open. Making designer jeans available to the campus community, whose students are spending some 30K/year to study here, and who almost invariably drive a nicer car than their professors, is considered philanthropy? God help us.

I retain sufficient composure to ask, "Which organization does this benefit?"

Student [names national organization for girls which, to my knowledge, has no particular focus on the halt, the lame, the blind....or the poor, for that matter.]

"Well, okay then," I say, haltingly. "Let's start by turning to page...."

{Snick, remember that we are thinking of you all the time}

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Another light goes out

I am in mourning all over again, even though I never left it. Another family suffers an unimaginable loss; another wife and mother sets off on her impossible journey.

Godspeed, GH.

Snickollet, if nothing else, remember that you sent him off secure in your love.

Babe, watch for GH. Compare stories about the women who love you, and the children you adore.

This is too, too hard.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Never enough tears

No amount of crying will ease pain like this.

How I wish that no more of us had to go through this, and that these beautiful, courageous, loving fathers and husbands had not been so cruelly robbed of the lives they deserved.

I weep for Snickollet, for GH, for those beautiful babies, for badger and badger boy, and for all of us who are scared, grieving, and bereft.

There is something so startling about the absence such deaths leave behind. How can the universe simply continue?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Thumbs up, Thumbs down

First the up:
*the lady in line in front of me at the drive-through espresso place bought my coffee!! I don't think that has ever happened to me.

*a house with an otherwise drab front yard (that icky red lava stuff that is ultimately low-maintenance) and a small, riotous corner patch of poppies, daffodils, and other brightly colored spring blooms. Unexpected and delightful!

*a pretty solid assignment submitted by one class; a set of witty, creative pieces by another.

*a day without rain or freezing wind. One of the first this year.

*the nice lady at the grocery store who, after following my daughter and me up and down several aisles while my daughter chattered incessantly, observed, "She's very articulate," and then laughed when I noted, wryly, "That's one word for it."

the down:
*the grocery store at 4:30 p.m. The checker who was so busy "helping" the cashier across from us that she nearly deafened me by yelling past me, and kept stopping in the middle of my order to ask me questions she had already asked. Go over there, solve the problem, and then come back. I'll wait. Just don't talk through me.

*$50.00 for a tank of gas. 'Nough said.

*a student skirmish at the most wrong time of the semester.

*low enrollments in my fall courses. What am I doing wrong?

*Cancer. Effing Cancer.

*Easter with my in-laws. I spent my walk to campus envisioning all of the caustic confrontations I could stage--although, of course, I won't.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

20 things the world needs to remember about my husband (a partial list)

1. He was perhaps the kindest man I've ever seen. Once when our cat caught a vole, he held it tenderly, stroking it, and saying "it'll be okay, little buddy," as it died. Then he buried it in our yard. He cried at sad episodes of "ER." He loved "Homicide: Life on the Streets" and "Freaks and Geeks," and "Firefly."

2. He didn't want to be "entombed." He wanted to be cremated, as he was, and kept in a moveable box so that he could go with us wherever my daughter and I moved. We ended up with a marked place because he knew it would matter to his father. Of course, he goes wherever my daughter and I go, anyway.

3. He was never bored. He could find interest in anything. Where most of us have topics or activities that we find inherently boring, he didn't. He could find something to interest him in any topic.

4. He genuinely liked and accepted people. I am more pessimistic and suspicious by nature, and occasionally am prone to fits of disliking someone because they make me uncomfortable or insecure. He was interested in everybody. Except:

5. He hated mean people. People who were gratuitously nasty, or who acted out their psychodramas on hapless bystanders or family members.

6. He was unbelievably brave; not in a showy way, but in an almost scary ability to endure setbacks, bad news, and plain old physical pain. He had bone metastases for at least 2 years and was able to avoid snapping at me or my daughter, even when he was in terrible pain.

7. He loved his friends. He had a group from childhood, and he treated them (and they him) like the best kind of family. They made multiple trips to see him during his illness, took him to the doctor, and were amazing. And now they are amazing to my daughter and me. They are our family, too.

8. He had a fine sense for art and design. He collected antique bike parts, hoping to one day assemble a bike with them. He loved the purity of a form whose function was transparent. He had impeccable taste in shoes, and he favored fine imported leather shoes, and exquisitely patterned silk ties, usually with a sort of subdued retro quality. He bought a suit for our wedding off the rack at a second-hand store, and wore it with expensive Spanish dress shoes.

9. He ironed all of his own clothes, and mine, too. He could also darn socks. And he kept his shoes, and mine, in a state of perfect polish. Now that he is gone, my toes are scuffed.

10. He rescued animals. He couldn't drive by a loose dog without stopping to be sure there was an owner with it. If not, home it came with him.

11. He was witty and incredibly articulate, but willing to be silent for long periods of time. He wrote beautifully, with a spareness and economy I could never equal. He was startlingly original in his prose, and he wrote scintillating little emails.

12. He called up a radio show to give Calvin Trillin a lunch recommendation in our town. He introduced me to Trillin's works, and to those of MFK Fisher.

13. He had beautiful eyes; they were rootbeer-brown, with long, dark, curved eyelashes. And strong hands. He was amazingly skillful at tiny little manual tasks.

14. He read poetry. Derek Walcott. Robert Bringhurst. And bicycle manuals, and treatises on biodiesel, and the works of John McPhee.

15. He listened to Coltrane. Morphine. Elastica. Neko Case.

16. He and his father once won a sailing award as "Most Indefatigable."

17. He made delicious chocolate mousse. Early in our relationship, he used to make rice krispie treats for me while I was at my evening class. Then we'd eat them while watching QVC and mocking the merchandise.

18. He didn't get mad at other people; often, he turned it in on himself.

19. He hated fundamentalists (on any subject), self-righteousness, and cynicism.

20. His mother died before he was six months old.