Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The end of the dreaded month

Many folks suggested we move out of our house after Paul died there, but it wouldn't have made a difference. He is everywhere. So, to end this dreaded month, here's the poem I wrote at Esalen last July. -- about seeing him everywhere. It's a topic I have come back to over and over.

And, perhaps with a new month starting tomorrow, the topic will also be new.

Today I Saw You on the Hill

Just after my morning walk on the highway
up to South Coast,
just after my relaxing soak in the big corner bath,
just as I start my trudge up the hill,
towel in hand ready to dump in the box,
I see you engrossed in a conversation.

I know you instantly
the buzz cut
the long sideburns
the slight build
the intense blue eyes
giving full attention
to your friend
as you talk.

Today for some reason
the clothes are wrong.
Instead of your Doc Martins
you wear bright striped sneakers
Instead of the brown leather book bag
slung across your body
that I bought you for school
you have a backpack.
Still I know it is you.

Like on the other days when I see you
in your dark gray sweater
or black jacket
and levis crossing the street
or on the pier
or at the piano
or sitting outside Starbucks.
Like when I see you at work,
young, brilliant, and so sure of yourself,
I have no doubts.

Please go on, my beautiful boy.
Give it a rest.
I don’t want to think about you here
I don’t want to write about you anymore
I’ve written about you ad nauseum
and still you won’t leave me alone.
Even here among the hummingbirds
and the pines and salt air
I’m not safe.

You’re dead. Your choice.
So stop bothering me already.
If you wanted to stay in my life
and bother me
why did you choose to die?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

House progress -- week of September 21

New fence and gate -- prestain stage

Color tests in preparation for next week's painting and staining. Could it be almost finished at last?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The first day of the eleventh year

We went to the cemetery yesterday to visit Paul’s grave. We couldn’t find it right away, and my mind jumped to the thought that he wasn’t dead after all and of course it wouldn’t be there.

But that was just a fleeting thought. It was there – right in front of me. It had ants crawling all over it, and I wondered why they had chosen his gravestone and not the others. Could it be that he was so much younger and more succulent than the other dead people around him who all died in their 80s and 90s. Another silly thought because everyone around him had been reduced to ashes as well. All the succulence burned out of every last one of them.

It’s always anticlimactic to go to the cemetery. I worry over it, I think about it for days before, and then once I’m there, I lay down a stone, touch it, brush away a bit of the dust, shed a tear or two, and then we go. We spend maybe five minutes in all, and we drive away.

Writing poems about him seems more productive. Here is yesterday's tweet.

The color purple
Cat Stevens
Zen parables
Dungeons and Dragons
teeny trains
Mr. Rogers
formed his young years
until music took over.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Another tweet for Paul

Only one more day and
it will be ten years
since we found him
and knew we would never
hug him, kiss him
or have to worry about him
ever again.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Skin and cure

Last Monday, the 14th, the house got the skin coat. When I got home that night I thought I was having a deja vu experience -- my white rough surfaced house still looked like a strawberry ice cream sundae. But after two days of drying time the real transformation began -- application of colored stucco.


However, upon seeing the first completed section I had more angst -- the color looked way too dark - though the surface is indeed silky smoothe.

Cure - Day 1

In fact it looked like chocolate brown instead of light mustard. We called the contractor and he assured us our color choice would emerge after a week of curing -- or longer depending on the weather.

Cure - Day 4

Cure - Day 4

And, today, after 4 days our color is slowly coming through. Now wouldn't it have been nice to know a little bit about this skin and cure process at the outset? As far as I knew before we got started, skin and cure were just terms from a cookbook.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More short poems

And, all for Paul.

Cell phones, iPods, TIVO, DVDs, Wii,
arrived since he left.
But, his beloved vinyl records
still prevail. He knew what technology
would survive.

I would love to show him my iPhone
he’d figure it out immediately.
He’d know the Apps to choose
and within a minute or two
he’d make it his own.

I was shocked to learn
Joplin, Hendricks
and Morrison all died
at 28 in 1971
the year of Paul’s birth.
Paul was 3 months shy
of 28 when he died.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

More 140 character poems - remembering Paul

The 10th anniversary of his death is soon.

Even after 10 years I know
by the first note
it is Paul’s music. I try to listen,
but, usually I press the forward button
and shuffle through.

The sands of time don’t heal.
The memories, good and bad,
don’t leave
don’t lesson the pain I feel every day
even after living with it
10 years.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The house -- inching toward the finish

New molding

Progress is going slower than we expected. This week we got molding around the garage (made of foam) and reinstallation of our house number. But, having my number back at all and in such great shape makes me very happy.

We have been promised that the stucco skin process will start on Monday and that the fence and other painting will get going later in the week.

So, our house project won't be finished in three weeks as promised. Probably more like five (fingers crossed).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Speaking of choices

A friend sent me the following via email. It is worth the read and definitely worth passing on.

Two Choices

What would you do? make the choice. Don't look for a punch line, there isn't one. Read it anyway. My question is: Would you have made the same choice?

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by
all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:

'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection.. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do.

Where is the natural order of things in my son?'

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued.. 'I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature
presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.'

Then he told the following story:

Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?' I knew that most of the boys
would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and
the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'

Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy
at my son being accepted.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.

In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the
field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat. At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?

Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the
ball. However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.

The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game. Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first
baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates.

Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first! Run to first!'

Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!'

Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball . The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay'

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third! Shay, run to third!'

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!'

Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

'That day', said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, 'the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world.'

Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully
embrace her little hero of the day!


We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the 'natural order of things.' So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with two choices:

Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats its least fortunate amongst them.

May your day, be a Shay Day

Monday, September 7, 2009

140 characters (or less)

I've been toying with writing 140 character poems -- the length of a Twitter -- just to keep up with poetry's latest trends.

Here are my first attempts (with their character counts).

The B swaggers across the room,
looking from side to side
with a judging pursed-lip smile
on her face. Doesn’t she know
that will cause wrinkles?

Wildfire smoke obscures
the Santa Monica coast.
It dissipates into Georgia O’Keefe clouds
that hover over our quiet beach town
to the South.

Shopping in Beverly Hills
for finely tailored Italian clothes
after two drought years,
good for the economy
or just a way to shore up my closet?

Swarthy vs blonde
Artistic vs scientific
Insensitive vs an abundance of tears
One birthday is 2/3/1937
The other is 2/4/1937
I married them both.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What do you think?

Not a lot of house progress since the big sand blast last week. We got the electrical work done, and now we have a color sample on a square of smooth stucco. And, I think this first sample is the right one.

Here is a picture of the look I like (though the color in the photo is a lot more yellowy than the sample) plus a couple of images of the square against our naked outside walls. And, if I give the go ahead, I suspect the new stucco will go on next week.

Rght now we're living with the square up against the house for the weekend. If we still like it by Tuesday morning, it's a go.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thanks to the Crossroads class of 1989

for remembering Paul at your 20-year reunion.

Paul is one of two from the class of 1989 who is no longer with us. It made me cry to see your thoughtful "and as a whole we really missed Shaw C. and Paul S. They will always be a part of our class and in our hearts" comments in the 2009 Alumni News. It's so nice to know others remember him.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

September - the dreaded month

because it was the month that Paul died.

Bob and I were listening to Paul's music last night, and Bob started to cry. It became so intense I had to ask him to turn the music off. Sometimes I can listen and sometimes not. Not is probably right for this month.

I'll be posting more about Paul this month. I've been thinking about what he's missed -- mostly in technology toys. He was a computer geek as well as a composer and musician. I think he would have liked an iPhone. He probably would have been a champ at texting.

Not like Dana Perry who called her son's death, "Boy Interrupted," I call Paul's death, "Life Interrupted."