We Are Family


Feeling a bit like I’ve been shot through a wind tunnel or perhaps lived through an episode of the old Twilight Zone series, I am here in my office today. Hoping to catch up, but knowing better. My mind is spent. The last few days have been a rollercoaster ride.

Last Friday, I flew from my St. Louis home to attend my father’s wedding celebration in Phoenix. He was married on March 11, discovering 16 days later in a sterile Emergency Room that his bride’s body was riddled with cancer. Only a few hours earlier that day, I had called them both to wish them, “Happy Easter.”

My father and his wife, Eileen planned a wedding celebration before her diagnosis of cancer. Close family and friends had been invited. The room was reserved. Their favorite one-man-band was all set to play and sing, and the food was carefully chosen and ordered. Together, they decided the party was going to take place, regardless. It gave them hope, something to look forward to.  A goal in the future. Eileen had started treatment and was feeling pretty good. Things seemed optimistic going into the weekend of the party.

My father’s only living sibling flew in from Michigan to surprise him. My husband and I picked her up from the airport and arranged for her to stay with us at the same hotel. Upon landing in Phoenix there was a voicemail telling me that my father was on his way to ER with Eileen. And so, the rollercoaster ride began. Emotions ran high for everyone.

The next day, we were able to see my father and Eileen’s new little house for the very first time. She was resting in a chair near the patio. A card table and two chairs were placed near the open screen door. Sun was shining, cactuses were blooming and grasses were green in between desert coral sands. Their dog, a miniature collie never left Eileen side.

In the end, Eileen was too weak to attend her much-anticipated wedding celebration. My father came for a few minutes, just long enough to make a brief speech, thanking everyone for coming. He spoke for a minute or two before breaking down. This father of mine, the strongest man I’ve ever known.

And, so under the twinkling stars of an Arizona desert sky, a one-man-band played like an orchestra last Saturday night. Chicken and vegetables were served with pink, prime rib of beef. A beautiful rolling dessert cart passed, overflowing with white wedding cake, Bride and Groom decorated cake pops, together with pastel powdered sugar cookies placed in fluted paper tin cups.

For several hours, drinks colored of the desert filled fancy glasses and flowed freely while people danced under a golden moon before the last song of the evening was sung. Suddenly, every paver cemented on the patio dance floor was filled. People put their hands together high in the dark blue sky, clapping them in unison to, “We Are Family.”

*The next day, Eileen did feel rested enough to join everyone for a BBQ hosted by her daughter. Truly, a nice family gathering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost and Found


The last weekend of long was filled with anticipation for me.  I was off to visit my elderly father in Phoenix, Arizona.  I use the term elderly in a loose manner as he doesn’t look elderly to me, nor does he behave as such.  A boy’s brain in an aging body it seems.  I thank God for that.

I met my sisters at the airport and immediately our togetherness could have become a pilot for an unscripted reality show.  Even at the airport, we got lost before finding each other.  From there it went downhill whenever our sub-compact rental car opened it’s doors to us.  Contorted in every-which-way, we felt caged in small can of tin on wheels of four.  Minus an opener.

My youngest sister was the designated driver.  It was only after we made a wrong turn coming out of the airport that I realized she needed glasses for distance.  She couldn’t read a single sign.  “Kim,” she playfully squawked at me, “I’m a great driver when I know where I’m going!”  “Kellie, you don’t know where you’re going because we’re in Phoenix, not Dallas!”  “Yes, but I’m really good when I use your eyes!”  Seriously?  Seriously??!  “That’s fine,” I responded, “but my eyes are not behind the wheel!”

What should have been a 45 minute drive to my father’s house ended up taking two and a half hours.  My GPS helped to re-route us while my younger sister’s did the same from the back of our seats.  Every few seconds or minutes voices were heard guiding us.  “Make a U-turn, proceed to ramp,” or “Merge on to I-10.”  Again and again and again.  Have you ever tried listening to two voices at the same time?  It was very confusing.  Even more so because one of them had a British accent.  No luck in turning it off.  I tried.  Several times.  The British accent was along for the ride!

Finally we called my father.  Five or six times….At least.  I can’t imagine what he was thinking.  It was nearly 11:30 pm.  He had been waiting for our arrival since 9:00.  Like any father, he was worried and scared, wondering what could have happened to his three daughters.

Guiding us into a parking lot of a nearby restaurant, San Tan Flats, his voice crackled in disbelief through the speaker of an I-phone.  “Oh you girls, do you see the stuffed bear to the left?  Turn right.  Drive until you see a For Sale sign at the end of the parking lot.”  We did before somehow ending up at the restaurant’s hulking emerald-green dumpster.  Our bright lights caught a raccoon scampering off in the distance of the desert darkness.

“Dad, what do we do now?” my sister asked, in panic.  I could tell my dad couldn’t believe his ears.  “Back up, back up, turn around and follow the smoke from the campfire.  Go out the nearest drive to the first road.  I’ll stay on the line.”

Bless my father’s heart.  He did stay on the line, hearing a big thud as we drove over a Saguaro that had fallen during a recent storm.  Car lights, bright from our rental car soon shined on the best of him.  Standing in the middle of the dusty desert road he stood wearing baggy jeans and a loose yellow shirt.  On his feet were tennis shoes, glowing in fluorescent white.  His legs were balanced straight, even and wide apart.   His arms of two lifted high towards a clear endless sky with hands swaying back and forth in a frenzy as if to yell, “STOP!  Turn off the engine now, before it’s too late!”

In spite of our trials of lost and found my father together with all of his children had the very best time.  Rare because the five of us were all together with him.  During the weekend we went to the American Legion where he sang Karaoke and danced the night away with his girlfriend.  Yes, she is so kind and they are happy!

My sisters and I woke in early mornings to share coffee under quiet, peaceful canopies of leftover stars.  We walked at dawn to discover horses who neighed, mongrels who barked and flowers that bloomed “Hello” from nothing more than dry cinnamon dust of a desert crust.

Then the inevitable happened.  Such sweet sorrow to say, “Good-by.”  A whisper in my ear from my father. Choking up he said, “Your mother would love to see all of you kids together like this.”  Hugging him tight, I whispered back, “She does, Dad.”

That’s what life is all about.  Love and bonding.  Togetherness.  No matter how far apart, get together again.  Create new memories.  Laughter.  Even the mini-trips of lost and found with my sisters will forever be with me.  I dare say one of my ribs might be broken from laughing so hard.  No matter.  All was worth it.

From every second in the desert dark to each minute of my father’s mark…..All above is in my heart forever.

Desert Dreams


Ginger steps, tender toes, sink…follow 

Look behind cannot find

Disappearing into sugar bowl of nothingness.

Not too sweet take a bite spit it out

Poison dreams, dying….drying

Sucking marrow of abandoned desert bones. 

Persevere, don’t give up lift those feet

One-by-one eyes at me don’t look back 

Nailing winds of gritty breeze

A mirage perhaps? No, believe in me.

Striving, digging, sinking, deeper

Crystals in the sand cannot stop tomorrowland.

Out of breath no more rest 

Step-by-step do your best

Rewards await in oasis state.

Sighing, sipping, liquid, dripping

Soaking desert dreams….sprouting  life anew

One for me and one for you.

 

 

“. . . listen like saguaros listening to cactus wrens”


Beautiful poem making me long for my father”s desert Arizona home.   I love and miss you, Dad!  🙂

Becoming is Superior to Being

7 Falls (1 of 1) sepia blogSonoran Desert Moonscape — Image by kenne

. . . listen like a mountain

listen like saguaros listening

to cactus wrens, coyotes, night

owl: listen like the owl

listen like the owl’s prey

jittery in rocks beneath bighorn’s

clocking feet: listen to the clock

listen to time, listen

to rattler’s warning maracas

listen, like the culebra, with

your tongues . . .

listen

carnales listen

to the hymn of it, the lie of it, the

prayer of it, the voices

singing our names: listen

it’s our story, it’s our song,

you’ve got to hear it — 

listen.

— from Listen, by Luis Alberto Urrea

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There’s No Place Like Home


I was on the 5:45 last night.  Yes, sitting on a silver jet plane flying from Phoenix to St. Louis.  Beheld below was the setting golden sun among a massive crystal clear sky.  An orange fireball, surely sent by God Himself was there to say, “Good-by” to me.  Twinkling lights, a million or more reminded me of Christmas past, or maybe one in the future to come.  The sky was a lovely dusty blue with waves of muted grey clouds swimming slightly above shaped like shark fins.  I gazed at the beauty through my diminutive “port-hole” window site.

Closing my weary eyes to remember what I was leaving behind, I thought of my temporary desert home: of my “other” family, my mother’s house and the gift of my father.  Reaching for a Kleenex a single tear drop fell.  “Good-by,” is hard, you know.  Still, I looked forward to getting home where my grown children were surly cozy and warm.  I’d see my boys again, my “Gracie-Girl,” my “Doodle” dog, and the new snow on the ground.  How different it will be for me.  Am I prepared for it?  Only time will tell.

This morning I sit in my cracked and torn leather swivel chair.   I’m writing at my old familiar keyboard, the one with some of the painted letters worn and missing.   I must say, it feels a bit strange to me.   My fingers aren’t quite here.  They need to pick up the pace.  The rhythm is missing.  My hands feel clumsy and not “quite right.”

On the top of my half-moon desk I see nothing but a great big mess!  The mail is piled sky-high with un-opened glittering Christmas cards.  They arrived after I’d gone.  Over-due bills sit in a rattan corner basket with “junk-mail” not far behind.  I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with all there is to do.  My suitcases are un-packed; laundry will be next, piled to the painted ceiling, and there’s cleaning to do.  I can’t even think of it all.  Then, there’s my work; writing deadlines make me shudder to think of them!

I’ve got to “catch-up.”  Before I forget, I will tell you the temperature when I departed the plane was a shock to me.  18 degrees the thermometer read.   Yes, I’ve left the warm desert far, far behind for the freezing Midwest.

Still, there’s no place like home……..

Dorothy's Ruby Red Slippers from 'The Wizard of Oz

Bittersweet Dreams and Starry, Starry Nights


The sky was the color of dark black ink last night: crystal clear.  I peered up to observe starry, twinkling wonders.  Was that the “The Big Dipper” hanging from above?  Is the “The Milky Way” dangling in the distance there?  Stars are sprinkled like fairy dust or golden glitter, it’s true.  God drew perfect sketches in the sky.  Was I dreaming while I waited near the car?  Shivering with my jacket on, my eyes could not turn away.  The desert is cold after the sun goes down.

My son, the “Forecaster” in my St. Louis town hasn’t called.  He is too busy now.  Snow and freezing temperatures have left the city a mess.  Schools are closed, stores have shut down and homeless ones look for a bit of warmth in the hopes of getting much-needed sleep.  The contrast between where I live and where I am now is not lost on me.  I’m thankful to be here in this part of the country, but I think and pray for all the rest.

I’m missing my boys today, my daughter-in-law, my grand-daughter, my new “grand-son” to be!  I’ve gotten messages that my friends and family in the place I call “home” are waiting for me.  It’s wonderful to see and spend time with the rest of my family here in this desert land, of course.  A gift it has been to be sure, the “gift of my father,” especially.  Not many can do such a thing, I know.  It is not lost on me.  My work travels wherever I go.  That in itself is a present to me.  Soon, it is time for me to part.  A few more days.  I’ll be ready then.  Mixed emotions.  Tears of course.  It’s always difficult to say, “good-bye.”  Bittersweet dreams of my family here, and starry, starry nights twinkling from above.

A Desert Christmas


The desert view on this Christmas day is like no other I’ve seen before.   The bristled land is flat, sprinkled with cactus and sand: a few houses too. Majestic mountains lie in the distance near.  Surely the skies this dawn are a gift from God himself.  Colors of painted pots have spilled from Heaven above.  Shades of turquoise, tangerine, and mahogany are brushed loosely with uneven perfect strokes of color.  Birthday presents for us to share, a reminder of God’s son who was born today.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of my readers and your loved ones.  I wish you a very blessed holiday, much peace, rest. calm and happiness.

Desert Sunrise #1

Desert Sunrise