Perfect Cleverness

I once worried, if I understood how to control my approach to Life, Life would lose its mystery. On the contrary, it has made Life that much more mysterious to me. In honor of Its magic, I continue to trust in what I call The Perfect Cleverness of the Universe.

Making plans to head to L.A., my childcare falls through so I begin filing through my Rolodex of Plan Bs. As I am calculating various numbers, I get this really strong urge to call a couple just as an aside. You know, a Hey, just checking in! The first call is happy news. One set of the kid's favorite aunts and uncles is moving back from more than a thousand miles away. The kids are thrilled to reunite with their awesome cousins and look forward to meeting the second to the latest addition in this paternal clan. Of course, there is a moment when I consider that upon returning from the West, we can reunite but that is before I dialed in a second call. An unanswered call of unhappy news.

First, I am compelled to say, my real awareness of life starts in the 4th grade. It is the time where my memories are more sequential or fluid. Before that, life is fragments. Visual moments. Sounds. I am all over the place in my thoughts. In the 4th grade, I begin to focus. I remember vividly looking around the classroom during our reading time and wondering what everyone else is thinking. I wonder why we think at all. It has always been one of my greatest desires to know. Such a Clever Universe. Anyway, I remember catching the eyes of my friend. I can tell he is wondering what I am wondering. We will laugh about it in the years that follow Mrs. Osbourne's class.

We were thinking the same things.

We call my friend The Bod because he does not really have one. Even in 4th grade it is evident that he will be a shrimp for life. But what he lacks in muscle mass he makes up for in wit and intelligence. He is my best friend. Maybe I should be speaking of him in past tense. He's still here. Only he's not here. I tried to call him and because that phone call did not go through I began thinking of him: Why didn't he answer. He always answers. Within the day, I receive an email from my girlfriend who is worried and wants me to join her in visiting him very soon. In her letter, she tells me his drinking has destroyed him. She is preparing me for the shock of him not knowing us. As I read, I am thinking that kind of lightening never strikes twice. There is a place in you that gets grounded.

He won't remember our last conversation. The one where I tried to discuss his drinking. The conversation that made me into everyone else who didn't understand him. The one that almost ended our friendship. He also won't remember the Charlie's Angels scripts we wrote together or playing bass in his old band. No, he won't remember me. But he might wonder who I am. He might wonder what I'm thinking. Maybe there will be a visual moment or a sound that gives him a clue. He was always so clever.

Dear Grandma,
So much love to you for preparing me
for the fragments of whom I'm about to meet.

I Love You,

P.S. Mom and Dad love you & everyone's fine.



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E= _______



I don't know if I have the details of this memory correct. I could ask my mother but I'd rather not. I'll just tell it the best way a first grader might.

It's almost Christmas. The postman rings the bell. He has packages for my little sister, me and my brothers. There is a card for my mother. She hands me our box and my sister and I devour it. Inside, there are ceramic Raggedy Ann and Andy happy faces that we'll hang on the wall when my mother can finally collect herself. She's falling apart. I am thinking the postman will come again tomorrow morning but there won't be any more gifts. My aunt mailed these the day of her suicide.

This memory is present in mind because last week, in this small rural hole-in-the-wall, a mother of three, like my aunt, took her life. And like my aunt, there were many failed attempts. I'll detail neither account except to say, in the end, each woman was fully committed to success. Period.

Over the years, my mother has recounted my aunt's life to me. And in each story, there is always the underlying awareness that my mother's own survival had a great deal to do with her ability to restrain herself, her ability to stay within the lines even when the lines were drawn by corrupt and abusive adults. She knew when to keep her mouth shut. She knew when to hide. Through it all, she had the ability to laugh at her world. Sarcasm would become her art form. It was her weapon of choice. I realize now she had found a way to stay connected to her larger Her.

Not my aunt. To restrain was self abuse. To stay within the lines an act of torture. She was vibrant and beautiful. Voluptuous and untamed. And, Christ, she could sing. She was born for vivid self-expression that was never actualized. Her dreams were high and her disappointments low. One day, she just stopped dreaming. Low kept getting lower. Had she ever been connected to the larger Her? If she had never looked inside, she had certainly looked outside of herself for connection. Too much, too often...maybe.

After the funeral (another one I did not attend), my mother found her diary. Like a farewell letter, my aunt shared her darkest thoughts and secrets. I'll not detail those either except to say she was living in a world so dark there could be no other energy flowing to her but more darkness. That is when my mother made peace with her death. She knew my aunt had found a route back to Light.

Here, people are still talking about the beautiful woman I met only once. She was vibrant. I would not have thought she had attempted anything unkind towards herself when talking to her. She had a loving husband and amazing children. A husband who says he would do each moment over again. He makes me wish I would have known her.

To aid my mourning, I have to sow thoughts. Unclear ones but some stream of consciousness that says the world will turn its axis towards compassion for those so different that we're all, eventually, allowed to be who we really are...with ease.


Let Her Rest

At New York's Museum of Modern Art, I brought my (exhausted) face

within a few inches of Vincent van Gogh's painting The Starry Night. It looked delicious. I wanted to kiss it.

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I wanted to eat it. Its stars were throbbing and voluptuous. The night sky shimmered with spiral currents. In the foreground, the cypress tree flared like a shadowy flame.

I could also see that the artist had been less than thorough in applying his paint. Especially on the edges, but also in the middle of the painting, slivers of untouched canvas showed through. Fierce, innocent, nourishing, reckless, unfinished, this priceless work drank my attention for a long time, constantly refreshing my eyes with its ceaseless movement.

Can you be at peace with the fact that your masterpiece may always be unfinished? ~Grave Rob-ber

I am so down with that...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!


Before I Knew The Word Abuelita

"Hija, bring me the leche."
I ponder too long;
my grandmother waits
I go to the refrigerator;
I think,
pulling out the milk
as the cold air reminds
me of the winter to come,
how distant I am from her,
how different,
how badly I want to share
my thoughts with her,
but I'm ashamed
because I do not know the words
I wish to use.
I do not even know the Spanish word
for grandmother,
and I'm am ashamed.

'98 Blue Mesa Review


~ A Brief History ~

As an adolescent, I had an amazing desire to write about my grandma because, up to that point, I considered her life amazing. From the outside, it shined to me. Having been in an abusive marriage since she was 15, when her children were old enough and with their loving support, she left rural Kansas and made her way to the Alaskan pipeline. She would become one of the wealthiest in our family and she would return to Kansas somewhat of a hero. But I would learn in the quiet alone times we shared that there was more to her story. She grew to trust me. Perhaps it was that I trusted her to help me bring my child into the world or that she knew I had a deep and abiding love for her. But I knew things others didn't. What I had seen as a shining freedom was tarnished by an incredible fear of my grandfather. It would take 3500 miles to give her mind some ease. Eventually, she knew she would return. She wanted to retire around her children. I feel blessed that my life flowed in away that allowed me to briefly return as well because it was in this time that I learned the most about her.

My grandma had an older sister that enjoyed the company of boys. This was not allowed, of course, but free-spirits will be free-spirits. She was sneaking out and convinced my grandma to join her. They went joy riding with some of the wilder boys around -- my grandfather being one of them. The sisters somehow separated and my grandma found herself arriving home much later. The boy that had dropped her sister off had successfully been stealth about it. It was not the case with my grandfather. He was busted and so was grandma. They barely knew each other and from what my grandma said there was nothing between them but that did not matter to either set of my Catholic great-grandparents. There was a decision made between the four of them that there would be a marriage. It was made clear, the punishment would be a life together.

This was the story she told me as we sat on her porch swing during a calm day in late September. I remember looking at the leaves which were turning into the brilliant shades of fall and I remember a squirrel that had taken a liking to my grandma pausing at her in disbelief.

There was more than one irony in this tragedy. Having never wanted her, when she left, he made it clear that no one else would have her. He would be watching her. She believed him having little skill in trusting her own thoughts. Life was her own 3500 miles away but when she returned, as he promised, he stayed close. I loved my grandfather but I had begun to see him differently. He lived his life with a companion who was devoted to him but he could never relinquish what he thought was his rights regarding my grandma. From 15 on, he had been an incredibly intense influence on who she thought she was. One she would never shake. She became a No to any joy that attempted to enter her life. As time passed, she would become more and more unhappy living in such close proximity to him.

That is, until the Universe did a most clever thing.

It began to take her memory.

I was far from her when I came into full realization of how much of her we had lost. I was calling checking in and was often told she was sleeping. I was writing to her and sending the letters to my aunt who was caring for her. Or so, I thought. I know how difficult it can be to care for someone who has issues in processing information, speaking, and caring for themselves. So part of me understood when I made a surprise visit to see my grandma, I would not find her with my aunt but rather in a nursing home. But I was not prepared to meet the frail helpless woman that I had once known to be my grandma and who had once known me. I frightened her. They couldn't calm her. Then there was a moment when she paused and looked at me like the squirrel had looked at her...in disbelief. Perhaps, she was just my mirror.

While she lived in Alaska, we would write to each other. I wish I still had those letters. I have mine in my childish heart...easily stored since they were consistently alike:

Dear Grandma,
How are you? I am fine.
(Big Brother) found a (insert insect, reptile, small mammal)
and (Little Sister) is fine and (Baby Brother) is fine. I hope you are fine.

I love you,
(insert seriously over embellished signature)

P.S. Mom and Dad want me to tell you they love you
(sometimes this was true and sometimes it was not but
it was included because I like P.S.s and I knew, in fact,
that they did love her).

I wrote her one last letter when I returned home from that visit. I wrote of that deep and abiding love for her. I wrote that it was okay to let go and go Home and that we'd we always be together. I included a poem I had published about her. My aunt read the letter to her several times, I was told. Curiously, she stopped eating. She died a few weeks later. I did not attend the funeral. I tried but that's another story.

I wonder what her life would have been like if she could have told another story. I wonder in what way she would have shaped it with the knowledge that we create our world through purpose or by default and, sometimes, both. I know that she wanted me to tell an amazing story. After her death, I began to have reoccurring dreams of her. They were vivid and to the point. She would be standing silhouetted in my door frame gesturing for me to come while picking up my suitcases. Those dreams have been replaced. The other night, I dreamed of the beach. A beautiful sunset. Warm. I can feel a light breeze. A silhouette comes towards me. It's her. I begin to reach out for her but I can't move my arms. I look down and I'm holding my suitcases.

Yes. She wants me to tell the most amazing story I can. So I will.


Yul's Tidings

Guys! Why the long faces? This news practically comes as an early holiday gift!

I had an epiphany, a day or so ago while cleaning and purging life's accumulation of this and that, when I ran across my old wish box. It's simple cardboard that once housed, frankly, a comfortably kick-your-heels-up pair of shoes....the kind of shoes that I wish I had bought two pair of.*

Ah, the irony.

When I opened it, I realized that many of the scraps of scribbles I had place in it had indeed come true. And a thought floated between my ears and settle down the middle of my hemispheres:

So let it be written, so let it be done.

Another Silly Truth...