Grateful

dadandi

 

A few days ago, I forced myself to do something which I rather dislike. Not because the task was unpleasant, which it was in the sense that all things associated with death are, but because I was terrified of that look I would see in my father’s eyes. That look of mortality, of fleeting time, of disbelief, of instant heartache. For a friend of my dad’s had passed away quite unexpectedly and being the good daughter that I am, I bought a bottle of whiskey and drove over the mountain pass to commiserate at his house.

Once I arrived there however, my solidarity faltered as I remembered that summer day, not too many years ago, when I had spontaneously driven over that same mountain pass and up my Dad’s gravel driveway into a memory of sadness and shame. As I pulled up to a stop & jumped carelessly out of my car as only a young girl can do, my Dad lurched forward out of his office and onto the porch in a way which immediately told me something was wrong. At first I thought he was in the throes of a heart attack but as he choked out the words while I rushed towards him, I understood that it was my Uncle Brian who he was talking about, not himself. And in that moment I experienced my first sense of shame, because I was grateful it wasn’t him. Whether it was right or wrong, that emotion was the first thing I remember about my Uncle Brian’s death. As a world wholly new and painfully sharp sprang up around us that day, that day of sudden and young death, my first thoughts were still, at least it wasn’t you Dad. Thank God, it wasn’t you.

And that is why it took me a few hours after driving that mountain pass to finally muster up the courage to go and find my dad.  I stood there, alone, with the bottle of whiskey tucked under my arm, and braced myself.  I knew that same look was coming and that once again, I would feel that guilty sense of gratitude that it wasn’t him. For the thought of a world without my Dad breaks my heart, it’s something that I fear I simply could not bear. So when I look my father in the eyes, his grief makes me sad, sad because his friend was a good man and the world is a little less bright without him, sad because his own mortality is something I cannot stop. Yet he is still here, we still have time, and for that, I am unashamedly grateful.

Advertisements

Jaded

PICT2742A few years ago, while I was living smack in the middle of Hollywood, I came home from work for a brief bite of something before rushing off again to go catch those LA dreams.  I most likely changed my clothes, since working with coffee all day tended to permeate everything with its blackened aroma and I know I watched a little TV.  During that limited time, that brief half hour lapse, someone or something was shanked, stabbed or seriously maimed right underneath my living room window. I did not realize this however, till I went to leave and found a rather large pool of fresh, sticky blood soaking into the sidewalk. I didn’t hear a scuffle, a yell, a shriek, or even a murmur. Nothing.

And as shocking as it was to emerge from my idyllic apartment and stumble into a potential crime scene; having already been properly jaded by city life, I tiptoed my way around the blood stained sidewalk & wearily peered into the bushes for a corpse. I made it to my car and drove off. I called my sister to warn her about the biohazard at the foot of our stairs and that was about it.

I did wonder how someone could lose that much blood so quietly and then simply vanish into the summer night even more stealthily. Yet it wasn’t until months later, when the great blood stain was brought up during a conversation with our downstairs neighbor, that I realized that maybe I should get out of the city for a bit. Apparently, he had recently been regaling his sister back in Wisconsin with hard-edged LA stories and had mentioned the giant puddle of blood. “What did the police say?” she had shrieked and I looked at my neighbor knowingly.  Cause he knew what I knew and that was this; that neither of us had bothered to call the police.  In fact, it hadn’t even occurred to us. For we were city dwellers, in one of the biggest centers of humanity on the planet and well, people bled every day down here.

Dagobaz

PICT2729

In the spring of 2005, my sisters presented me with an angry little ball of fluff which I lovingly christened Dagobaz, named after a battle victorious war-horse in an M.M.Kaye novel.  Dagobaz means trickster and the name was aptly picked for though he looked fluffy and dignified in his tuxedo of black & white fur, he was in fact, ornery as hell.  Nearly every house visitor was scratched by him at least once and his love was closely guarded & doled out sparingly to only a select few; and luckily I was one of those people-most of the time.

He grudgingly moved from Washington to Los Angeles with me, where his beloved green yard was replaced with a stuffy and sweltering Hollywood apartment.  No longer did he have the freedom to roam the outside world at his leisure and in my guilt of cloistering his wild animal nature, a cat leash was bought.  To say that was an epic failure of an idea would be a gross understatement.  My arms bore testament to his feelings about being leash bound and he escaped from its coils almost as soon as I had heroically wrestled him into it.  But then we moved again and Aubrey & Zelda joined us in a bigger, less stifling place so he once again had room to roam about…at least a little.  Our plantain covered balcony became he & Zelda’s lair where they would lay, catatonically on the stucco wall and soak up the endless LA summer days.

Then Edgar came and the two of them eyed each other warily and when it was clear that neither of them planned on leaving, a mostly peaceful and, at times, amicable bond developed.  They tolerated each other, simply put, though I suspect that a thread of love may have developed over the years or at least a sense of muted affection.

To soon it seems, we were headed North again, leaving Aubrey & Zelda behind-a crime which Zelda has never forgiven any of us for.  We were back in the land of green fields & evergreens and perhaps inspired by this change of scenery, Dagobaz took up midlife hunting, bringing in an array of both deceased and very much alive animals.  From roof rats to moles and even a baby opossum, it seemed that no prey was immune to his claws including us,  his human family.  Once London arrived and then Huck, this became a bit of a worry as we never knew when his ornery nature would emerge and possibly scar one of them for life.  In truth, he did scratch them both at least once though he quickly learned the error of his ways as Edgar put the Fear upon him & locked him out of the house for a day or two.

The boys too, learned to love or at least appreciate his cantankerous self.  Huck especially sought out his love no matter how many hisses Dago sent his way.  Never a cuddly animal; I could probably count on my hands the number of times I heard him purr, he became our token guard dog-chasing away actual dogs from in front of our gate and joining us on evening walks around the neighborhood.  He would lead the way up & down the block, dodging in and out of bushes, proudly & stealthily showing us the way.

For 13 years, Dago sauntered by my side doling out his aloof but hard-earned love when I needed it and scratching me just enough to keep me on my toes.  He was wild & dapper, as regal as a cat could be and my world won’t be quite the same without him.  He saw me at my worst and at my very best and through it all, he remained lovingly impassive.  He never demanded much from me, aside from the requisite food & water and I appreciated his fierce independence all the more as my life became busier & busier.  Yet he always remained my loyal companion, feisty & ornery till the end, and I will always love him for it.

The Heritage

mountains.jpg

My father’s lands and those of his father & his father’s father are still in my family.  We own mountains, rivers and trees as much as men can own nature and our name echos thru the history books of those wild places.  We were pioneers in the forest and explorers in the rugged, rocky landscape which surrounds the little patch of mountain dirt where I was born.  It is a place where a child can run free through the cedars, where seasons are strongly defined, and where everyone who knows anyone, knows us.

It is a legacy we struggle to hold onto~as we venture out of the shadow of the mountains and scatter throughout the rest of the world.  Yet, that untamed terrain has shaped us, and the same pioneering spirit which sent my great grandfather trekking across a dusty wagon trail flows through all of our veins, sending most, if not all of us, on our own twirling adventures across this great earth.  Yet that piece of mountain, that patch of blue, that dash of green holds us all captive and inevitably, we all return.  Whether that’s for a lifetime, a day, a month, a year or only for a fleeting moment, there’s something in that mountainous breeze which heals us, for it’s the place our blood calls home.

A Tangled Nest

I’ve long held the belief that everybody has at least one physical trait that others find beautiful. It could be the eyes, a finely turned ankle or a dazzlingly white smile, but there is always something. For me, it seems to be my hair. Long, thicker than a horse’s tail, and honey colored; I’ve always been a bit partial towards it. It’s embarrassingly easy to maintain and I suspect that my husband even married me because of it’s golden hue~after all, what true-blooded Latino could ever resist a blond?

All in all, I have been truly blessed by the hair gods. However I realize now that it really was never created for my benefit but rather for my son London’s; for my hair has become his nest, chew toy, blanket, teething ring and worry doll. Not a day or night goes by when he doesn’t burrow himself down in it, entangled in it’s golden tresses, and sooth himself to sleep. This process however, is not as gentle as it sounds, and my scalp as well as any loose strands are ripped and pulled in a most unpleasant way. In the dark of the night, when a violent tug has awoken me from a deep sleep, I often wish I could find a silky haired, lactating doll which I could easily switch places with.

Yet as my baby sister so graciously reminded me, this time is fleeting and it won’t be long before he’s 18 years old and I would give anything to have him small again, wrapped up in my arms, contentedly chomping on my split ends. So I’ll endure the nesting, the aching head and frazzled morning hair for now because I know that she is right.