Family

 

Hand holding a snowman/woman couple holding a heart, labeled 2012I thought I was done with crying

Somewhere in the ninth month it occurred to me
The tears had not come in quite a while
I took solace in that ninth
Having never been certain of what comes after
If reincarnation really is the truth of it
Then nine months should mark her rebirth somewhere in this world
The thought comforts me

Then the tenth month came

While putting up the Christmas tree I found our ornament
She always bought one
A couple
Placed on the tree as one
One union
One perfect match
Now here in my hand was the last of our ornaments
2012
She was too sick to get one for 2013
I was too preoccupied
So here in my hand lies our last special bauble
A snowman and a snow-woman embraced
Entwined side by side
Forever joined
My tears return
Nothing, after all,
Is forever

 

A cartoon picture of Frankenstein.I let out a quiet curse as I stepped to the windows to draw the curtains for the evening. Dave’s car was just pulling into the driveway. My dear sweet brother, Dave. Goddammit.

Not bothering to close the curtains I made my way to the front door. I opened it just as he was about to knock. He stepped back, a little surprised, and flashed me his best car-salesman smile.

“Whoa! You startled me.” He took another step back to make room for the storm door as I swung it open for him.

“I saw you pull into the drive.” He nodded in understanding. “So, what’s up?” Like I didn’t know.

He gave a slight shrug as he stepped inside. His eyes scanned the hallway and the living room beyond. “Just wanted to drop by and say hi.” He started toward the kitchen. “Got any beer?”

We settled at the kitchen table, each nursing a bottle of lite beer. I opened a tin of nuts and we nibbled at them between sips.

“Haven’t seen you in a while,” Dave said. In fact it had been three months. “What you been up to?”

“Nothing special. Still the daily grind, down at the office.”

He bobbed his head up and down in commiseration. “Yeah, no rest for the wicked, eh? Can’t remember the last time I had a Saturday off. The car business has certainly recovered, I can tell you that. I’ve sold over a million dollars worth already this year.” He beamed with pride.

“Congratulations.”

“There’s going to be a banquet for all the million dollar dealers around Christmas time. You want to come?”

I frowned a bit. “Is it a good date?”

His smile looked somewhat forced. “Not sure yet.”

“Well, that could be awkward.”

He took a large pull off his beer. “Yeah, the 6th would be bad. Hopefully they’ll pick the 13th or the 20th.”

“Thirteen’s bad luck,” I observed. “Aren’t you lot a superstitious sort? And the 20th is awful close to Christmas…”

“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.” His good spirits seemed to be waning. His eyes darted around, not focusing on anything. He does that when he’s trying to change the subject. But what he wanted to change the subject to wasn’t much of a change at all. Not really.

“So,” he began, “we going to see you next Wednesday?”

Dive right in.

I sipped at my beer. Frowned. “I don’t think so.”

I saw the anger flash in his eyes.

“I’m really sick of Randy,” I said. “And frankly, the others aren’t much better.”

“You going out by yourself?” he asked, incredulous. “Lone wolfs don’t fare too well.”

“Wolves.”

“What?”

“It’s lone wolves, not wolfs.”

His face contorted into a grimace. “You and your freaking grammar. It’s shit like that that gets you picked on.”

“No, it’s Randy being a prick that gets me picked on. Alice and Fredda eat it up, which just eggs him on. I’m not doing it anymore, Dave. I’m done with the pack.”

He almost rose out of his chair.

“You can’t run alone. It’s too damned dangerous.”

He was actually concerned about me. How touching.

“I won’t run alone—.”

“You found another pack?” He was dumbfounded.

“No. I just won’t run.”

He stared at me in silence for a good thirty seconds, the veins in his neck visibly throbbing. He turned in his chair and looked at the basement door. “You don’t have a freaking cage down there, do you?”

I said nothing.

He jumped up, pulling at the hair on the back of his head and let out a howl toward the kitchen light. He slammed his fist down on the table so hard his beer bottle fell over. It was nearly empty, so no mess made. “No brother of mine locks himself up in a cage for a full moon! No, dammit! No!”

I shrugged, but made no reply.

He started toward the basement door, then stopped and whirled back toward me. “I can’t look. Shit, Tim, what will Mom say? It’ll kill her.”

“Not if you don’t tell her.”

He paced back and forth.

“You can’t do this. You’ll bring shame on the whole family.”

“I’m going to live my life the way I see fit, Dave. I’m done running. There are more of us then you realize, and we get along just fine without the pack.”

“What? You got a freaking support group?” His voice was heavy with sarcasm.

I nodded. “Yes, as a matter of fact we do. We meet the day before the full moon, eat rare steaks, have a few Margaritas, and give each other the kind of support a pack ought to give. We don’t have to bare our throats to some stupid asshole who thinks he better than everyone else. We just have a good time, help each other through, and go back to work the next day.”

He stood there, wild eyed, panting. You’d think the Moon was raising.

I gestured toward his chair. “You’re welcome to join us if you’d like.”

At that he spun on his heel and headed for the front door. As he jerked it open he snarled over his shoulder, “Mom’s going to have a fit!”
~
© 2014 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.

Image used by permission, © by Angie Capozello, for use with the #FridayFlash Halloween Humor and Horror contest.

 

I am currently in the midst of a reformation, or perhaps a recalibration. I let a lot of things go to pot over the last year – the yard, my weight, my language. During the course of Cyndi’s illness I became something of a short fuse, and could spew forth curse words at the slightest provocation, not at Cyndi mind you, nor the girls, but certainly within their hearing. I was circumspect enough to hold my tongue in public, but it was an effort.

Dropping a knife on the floor while loading the dishwasher would garner a few muttered choice words. Breaking the pull ties on a trash bag would generate a brief, though quite vocal, soliloquy. More serious matters would likely result in a regular diatribe of profanity.

I always apologized to those around me after one of these outbursts, and I felt bad for losing my temper, still the cursing went on.

After Cyndi died the cursing did not stop, nor noticeably decline all that much, despite the lower stress levels. Until one day, after apologizing to Em for going off on some insignificant matter within her hearing she said to me, “It’s like you don’t have a filter anymore.”

That really gave me pause.

That is not the person I want to be.

So, I have been making a concerted effort to cut down on my cussing. It had turned into a bad habit, and one I need to break.

Breaking bad habits is not easy, but I am making steady improvement. As silly as it sounds I try to give myself positive reinforcement simply by saying, out loud to myself, “I didn’t cuss.” It seems to be working.

Know what? I actually feel better about myself now. I only wish I had seen the light sooner, so my wife did not have to listen to my foul language in her final months. But regrets get one nowhere. All I can do now is continue to try to improve.

I am making steady improvements on those other fronts as well. I am slowly losing weight, and the yard looks much better.

I think Cyndi would be pleased.

~jon

 

C is for Cyndi

Two months now since you have gone
Two months which seem an eternity
And though my heart is filled with sorrow
It is also filled with hope
Hope for the future
Hope for the dreams
That you will not be here to see unfold
But which I am sure you will be happy with
Once they do
These dreams are for you, dear Cyndi
And they will, I am certain,
Make you smile.

 

I don’t plan to get all maudlin with these, but seriously, how could C not be for Cyndi?
~jon

 

Thirty years
A long time to spend together
Yet too short, really.
Thirty years of bliss
Thirty years of joy
Thirty years to grow together
And become one.
But cancer took you,
Stole the part of my heart
I cherished most.
You fought bravely
These last two plus years
And taught me,
When I thought I knew you,
Just how strong you were.
You never complained.
You never railed at the whims of fate.
You never quit the fight.
Such grace in the face of death.
Such beauty in a tranquil soul.
I will miss you Cyndi,
As will the girls.
Be at peace now and know,
Wherever you may be,
That you were truly loved.

Photo of Cyndi

In Loving Memory

Cynthia D. Strother
May 15, 1953 – February 2, 2014

 

My life has become rather complicated, so I will not be posting regularly for the foreseeable future, though I will post as I can. I wish you all a beautiful spring , or autumn in the upside down part of the world. :)

Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep loving. Keep laughing.

~jon

 

 

 

My mom with BobLike many Americans I have been doing some reflecting as 9-11 approaches. I do so every year. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the terrible attacks that occurred in New York, at the Pentagon, and in the skies over Pennsylvania. There is much coverage of the events of that day and its repercussions. While it may seem excessive at times make no mistake, ten years is a significant milestone both in terms of time and psychological effect. Please mark the day with respect and solemn introspection, but also with the resolve not to let the acts of a handful of fanatics rule the course of your lives.

My brother Bob died in a swimming accident when he was but 20 years old. The event shattered all of us, but perhaps hit my mother hardest of all. There is no greater pain than for a parent to lose a child. For her the events of August 2nd 1963 were just as devastating as the events of September 11 2001 were for the Nation, albeit at a much smaller scale. Mom found it quite hard to cope with the new reality that her oldest son was forever gone. Still she had four other children, a husband, and a house to manage so she continued on as best she could. People were amazed at her resilience. When asked about it she would simply say, “Life goes on.”

My mother never forgot the pain of losing her son – is was a heartache that followed her to the grave. Two dates forever caused her pause: Bob’s birthday of September 26th, and the fateful date of August 2nd. Some anniversaries were harder to face than others – “Bob would be 21 today,” she said on his birthday, just about two months after he died. The following year it was, “It’s hard to believe Bob’s been gone a year already.” Then after a decade, “Bob would be 30 this year.” All very somber moments indeed, as it is now for our Nation.

While Mom never forgot the loss of her son, neither did she let it rule her life. After a period of grieving she went on, raised her remaining children, reentered the work force, traveled, and enjoyed her grandchildren. America and Americans should never forget the events of 9-11, just as we should never forget the events of December 7th 1941. But we must as a nation refuse to be ruled by them. As my mother would say, “Life goes on.”

 

BucketThe house was locked up tight, as always – blinds and curtains drawn. My bet was the AC was off again. Anything to save a penny for Pop, the miserly bastard. Still, he is my dad and they keep harping about checking in on the elderly during this heat wave. He’d be expecting me. Since Pop fired the neighbor kid to save ten bucks a week I had to come over every other week to mow the lawn.

I let myself in the backdoor with my key. The front is so dead-bolted and chained it would thwart a SWAT team.

“Hey, Pop, you home?” Of course he was home. Where else would he be? I could hear the TV blaring in the living room. The house was hot, but not deadly.

“’Bout time you showed up,” I heard him call from the front room.

Nice to see you too. I checked the thermostat as I went by – set at a miserly 85 degrees. At least the AC was on, if only nominally.

“Pop, it’s like an oven in here.” I sat down on the couch across the room from him. No hugs or handshakes between us. While he accepted me as his son and I accepted him as my father, that was about the extent of it. “You want me to turn the thermostat down?”

His face bunched up in aggravation. “Electricity isn’t free, boy. Stay away from that dial.”

I threw up my hands in resignation. “Fine. Suite yourself.” I’d probably crank it down to 80 before I left. “I don’t think I’ll mow the lawn this week,” I said. “Too freaking hot. Besides, the grass isn’t growing much.”

He just shook his head. While he said nothing his body language shouted, “Lazy!”

“You had lunch yet?” I rose and started for the kitchen. Pop is perfectly capable of making his own lunch. In fact he’s a spry old guy. But when I’m around he expects to be waited on.

“No, no thanks to you.”

I opened the fridge and poked around. “Ham and cheese?”

“Had that yesterday,” floated in down the hall.

“Grilled cheese?”

“You know I don’t like grilled cheese.” The volume on the TV went up, indicating that I was annoying him.

I grabbed mayo, lettuce, and tomato and put on the coffee. I proceeded to make him a tuna fish sandwich. He’d bitch about that too, but I was done asking.

I stepped to the doorway so I could see him. “You should get out some, Pop. Do things. You’re cooped up in here all day, every day.”

“I’m fine.”

“You should travel. Mom always wanted to travel.”

He picked up the remote and the volume went up once again.

I went back into the kitchen and finished the sandwich. No sooner had I set the plate down beside him he barked about me not bringing his coffee. I took the remote and turned off the TV.

“It’s still brewing, you old crab. Maybe if you got out of the house once in a while and spent some of that money your attitude would improve.” He grabbed the remote back out of my hand, but he didn’t turn the TV back on. “You should make a bucket list and…”

“A what?”

“A bucket list. You know, a list of things you want to do before you die.”

“That’s just stupid.”

“I have one. I’ve even crossed some things off it already.”

“Like what?”

“Well, last year I went to Yosemite…”

He snorted and gave me a dismissive wave. “Your mother and I went to Yosemite before you were born. A big rock with a bunch of trees around it. You wasted money on that? You’re dumber than I thought.”

I spun on my heel and retreated to the kitchen for his coffee. I saw his pill bottle on the counter.

“You take your medicine yet?”

“Yes, I took my goddamned medicine. Where’s that coffee?”

I poured his coffee. Then, almost with out thought I opened his pill bottle and shook out three. Pop likes lots of sugar, so he’d never taste them.

As I was cleaning up I heard a thud in the living room. Looks like I can cross off another item from my bucket list:

Inherit large sums of money.

I went out to mow the lawn. No need to call 911 just yet.

~
© 2011 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved. Photo © 2011 by J. M. Strother.

 
Our Leftover Ham

Our Leftover Ham

I hate to admit this, but I may have actually started this little rebellion. On Monday, after having ham for dinner on Christmas, then again on Sunday, as well as having ham for lunch on Sunday and again on Monday, I told the family I was tired of ham and wanted to go out dinner Monday night. Once everyone was ready to go my wife and oldest daughter wimped out, claiming it was too cold to go out. So there I was staring leftover ham in the eye once again.

I refused to acquiesce and decided we were having jambalaya instead. I must admit I make a pretty passable jambalaya if I do say so myself, at least when I get a little help from my friend, Zatarain.® Still, my youngest daughter refused to eat it and satisfied herself with a PB&J.

We decided to save the ham for today, slice it up, cook it in Bar-B-Que sauce and have BBQ Ham sandwiches for dinner tonight. Or so I thought.

Then I got this plaintive phone call just before leaving work this afternoon. It was my wife. Could I go by Olympia and pick up some gyros for supper?

What? I thought we were going to have Bar-B-Que’d ham?

Gryos From Olympia

Gryos From Olympia

Oh please! Oh please! she begged. Seems no one at home wanted ham again.

That’s the problem when there are only four people around for big festive celebrations. We had similar problems at Thanksgiving, only with Turkey. And that was after wrestling the smallest bird in the bin from some gal who thought she could beat me to it. Amateur.

So tonight we had gyros. I have to admit I enjoyed them much more than I would have the ham.

But there is still something of the pork persuasion lurking in my fridge. Waiting. For tomorrow.
~jon

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