Tag Archives: children

Watching Pablo .aug13

Standard

It took me a while to muster the courage to walk into Rachel’s bedroom yesterday.  But I recognized the symptoms and I knew the outcome if we waited too long.

pabloprofilePablo followed me into her room.  He is a mixed breed brown dog with tan eyebrows.  He is about 14, I think, and is the best dog I have ever known, bar none.

I stood at the foot of Rachel’s bed for the longest time and could not speak.  Then Pablo began to cough, a deep, barrel-chested cough that left him panting.

“Pablo,” she said.  I nodded.

“I hope he has pneumonia,” I said.  “I’m afraid it’s his heart.”

She wept silently for a minute or so and then said, “I can take him to the vet.”

It’s a trip I know she’s been dreading.  So I told my editor I was leaving and made a bed in the back seat of my car.

Pablo weighs 50 pounds so it took both of us to help him into the car.  He was so weak he could not make it on his own.

As soon as the vet assistant heard him cough we were immediately ushered into a treatment room.  Mercifully there were two comfortable chairs.  Pablo stood the entire time. At one point I sat on the floor thinking he’d come over and sit next to me.  But he was simply too miserable to lie down.

Rachel and I pursued our ongoing conversation about relationships, trust, the difference between rejection and betrayal, and the parts of recovery we cling to, acceptance, service and Trusting the Process.

Woven into that were gentle (I hope) answers to her questions about why we were shuttled back so quickly (cough is a symptom of distemper), why a heart problem would make him cough (fluid builds up in the lungs because the heart is so weak) and what it feels like when your Coumadin levels are off (that’s another story).I was so grateful that the vet clinic had a full sized box of Kleenex in the room.  At one point Rachel just went over and got the box and put it between us because we were going through them pretty fast.

I was grateful for the intimacy of it all, the sort of miraculous energy around it. There was something remarkable about the way the vet looked directly into my eyes as he talked. It seemed that he recognized that I knew exactly what was going on and what we were facing.

I saw the color of Pablo’s blood as it filled the syringe and I knew he was in deep distress because he wasn’t getting enough oxygen.  A tech appeared to take him back for x-rays.

The room was quiet and I summoned courage once again to turn to face Rachel and say, “I need to ask you a question.”  She looked at me.

“Are you ready to put him down?”

She began to cry in earnest and said, “I want Elijah to be here.  He needs to tell him goodbye.”
The vet called us back to look at the x-rays, pointed out the fluid in the lungs and in the abdomen.

“So it’s congestive heart failure?” I asked, and he nodded.  He gave Rachel the names of two drugs he was prescribing and I said, “Lasix is a diuretic.  Is the other one a beta blocker?” And again he nodded.

Rachel asked him about life expectancy; the vet gently said it was different for every dog, and almost incidentally mentioned that it might be as long as a year.

“I want to do the drugs,” Rachel said, and I said, “Good.”

I knew even if we kept Pablo alive for another week it was worth it. There were family members to be rallied, a little breathing room in which to face the inevitable.

Advertisements

Affirmation June 18, 2012

Standard

I am coming to know myself as a living example of God’s mercy.

There for the Taking

Standard

Jones Orchard is just a nice drive into the country since they put Highway 385 into place. We, my daughter and I, had dragged her son along that afternoon to pick peaches with us. Elijah is a child of video games and books and the occasional jigsaw puzzle.  He wondered, as I would have at his age, why we were going to pick peaches when we could have bought some at the store and been back home in less than 30 minutes.

We prepared admirably for the excursion:  insect repellent, gardening gloves, a large Thermos full of ice water and plastic cups. Rachel slathered Elijah with sunscreen and I brought along a long-sleeved shirt just in case I was overwhelmed by sun, insects, peach fuzz or the outside chance of a cooling breeze.

What ensued was a memory in the making, the stuff of family folklore.  We had picked the hottest day of the season so far, and had gone out in the hottest part of the day. The Thermos had overturned en route and all our ice water was in the floor of my car. And somehow we’d managed to pick twice as many peaches as we could afford to take home. The guy in charge agreed to keep the ones we didn’t want. It seemed like he was getting a great deal. They were the prettiest peaches we could find among 50 trees.

We brought home 30 pounds of peaches. We’d eaten many, given away many more. Now we were down to the last bowlful, past their peak and facing a moldy demise without prompt attention.

During a summer of feast and famine we were solidly in the famine part. Pennies were scarce in the household, dollars even scarcer. We had slowly, slowly stopped treating ourselves to fountain Cokes and frozen custard.  We were trying to satisfy those cravings with PB&J and cereal.

The pantry was full of odds and ends that seemed mostly unrelated.  There was a Mason jar with a handful of old-fashioned oats, not enough for a decent bowl of oatmeal.  Some freakish sense of frugality had ensured the survival of a tablespoonful of butter-flavored Crisco. It was flanked by half a pound of flour, some sugar and some pancake mix.

While looking through the freezer for hope one hungry afternoon, I noticed a bag I’d stashed the summer before. It was a quart of wild blackberries.

Before moving in with my daughter, I lived near the University in a sweet old neighborhood.  During work breaks I’d walk to school and back to stretch my legs. I was keeping an eye on a clump of wild blackberry bushes growing at the edge of a campus parking lot.  One day when the mood was right I drove over to see them.

I stepped into the blistering sun wearing a dress shirt, jeans, tennis shoes and a baseball cap. I ignored the stares of passersby and picked as fast as I could, dark berries that bruised easily and bled purple onto my gloves. By the time I was dizzy from the heat I had a pailful, which I washed and promptly froze, forgetting all about them. And here they were, remembered on a day when I needed to remember them.

Cobbler takes hardly anything at all to be a wonderful dessert.  And we had plenty of hardly anything at all. But we also had hand-picked peaches, just waiting in the bowl, and wild blackberries.

In our refrigerator, amid two dozen jars of pickled and preserved things, I spotted a lonely pat of real butter.  And we had milk.  Thank God, we still had milk, for cereal and for coffee and today, for cobbler.

I set a pot of water to boiling so I could blanch the peaches, and filled the sink with ice water. I examined each peach for doubt. I melted the Crisco with the butter, and poured it over the oats. I tossed in enough flour to make a pea-sized meal. I padded this out with pancake mix and stirred in milk until I had a nice-sized ball of dough. Flattened out between two sheets of waxed paper it yielded a generous top crust.

I diced up the fresh peaches and sprinkled them with sugar, then added the frozen berries and added sugar to them as well. Something reminded me to throw in a little flour for thickening. This pile of fruit, shiny with its own syrup,  completely filled my old Corning casserole. The crust went on and curled up on the sides, almost running over the edge.

It seemed like a celebration sliding that cobbler into a hot oven. I reasoned that no matter what I did, I couldn’t have messed up such spontaneous bounty.  And cobbler is very forgiving, as long as you add enough sugar and don’t let the thing burn.

And so we were forgiven. The crust was perfect, rustic and crunchy, the berries and peaches singing with juice and sunshine. I may never make another such perfect dessert, because I may never again be so broke and bent toward improvisation. But I hope I remember that I was able to find everything I needed and more — it was all right there for the taking.

©27 July 2010 Stormy Bailey

Sparklers ~ Will Stanton

Standard

There’s an age that’s right for sparklers,
For igniting the dark of the lawn.
Then the afterglow grays on the wire,
And the sparkler time is gone.

I recall one evening grown smaller,
A neighbor from some distant land
Brought three dozen boxes; too many almost
For sparkler-hooked children to stand.

Like small demented blacksmiths
We forged white metal there.
In lances bright with glory
To slash the velvet air.

Glistening and breathless as lovers,
Lawless as swallows in flight,
Shrieking, careening, colliding,
Erasing our bedtime with light.

Except for a single small maiden,
inscribing in letters of fire,
Over and over and over,
The name of her small heart’s desire.

RONNIE, she wrote, and then RONNIE,
Arm weary but steadfast she stood,
RONNIE, new sparkler, and RONNIE
Till the fire was darkened for good.

Well, the age of sparklers is over,
And just as well I would say.
Dangerous, wasteful and surely
Too childish for children today.

Still–it might be nice to remember
When most nice memories are gone,
How your name–if it’s RONNIE–was written
One evening in stars on the lawn.

~ Will Stanton

Sunday Morning ~ Jack Grapes

Standard

Sunday morning. Spring. I wake to the sun lifting one leg over the top of the Ticor Building on Wilshire Boulevard. The new leaves on the tree outside my bedroom window are tinged with sunlight. If only I were a photographer or painter I’d freeze this moment and crawl into it.

Sunday morning. I have to get up but my body wants to drown right here in the bed. Spring ambles up the street waving its arms. A matinee today. I have to be at the theater by two. Yesterday, I find out from my agent that I didn’t get the part I was counting on.

Eat this, they say.
It’s good for you.
You’ve eaten it before.
The next one will be sweet.

I eat and concentrate on the window, on the tree, on the sun beginning to beat its chest as it comes over the top of the tallest building.

I drive down Beverly Boulevard, take the curve where it changes into 1st Street, turn on Grand and park right across from the museum. It’s just after ten, hardly any cars on the street. MOCA doesn’t open till eleven. The sun has followed me all the way, reflecting off the Security Pacific Bank Building, glass and steel going all the way up.

I get off on this urban sleekness, especially the unfinished building across the street, another skeleton of steel and concrete. Someone should stick a sign on it, make it part of MOCA, part of the Permanent Collection, and leave it just as it is, unfinished. No clear line where the museum ends and the rest of the city begins. One easy flow, stretching all the way back into our homes, into the very center of our lives.

I walk past the California Plaza sign, running my hand along the chrome and glass, then head downstairs for a cup of coffee and cinnamon roll at the “Il Panino.” There’s a girl two tables over, in the sun. We both drink our coffee in silence, checking our watches, writing something down in our journals.

She’s an art student from Santa Barbara come to see the Jasper Johns. She asks what am I here to see. “Oh,” I say, “the art. Just the art. I don’t care. Just something.”

I AM FIVE YEARS OLD.
I don’t understand anything.
Hot and humid days;
nights, dark and mysterious.
They take me to school.
I stare at the blackboard.
The kid from around the corner beats me up at recess.
Some nights my father doesn’t come home.

My mother shrieks on the telephone.
My pet turtle dries up in the sun.
My uncle dies on the floor in the empty kitchen.
Who is the world?
Why is the moon where the sun is?
If the street goes nowhere, why is it in my bed?
What is the rain that rains just rain,
and why does it rain crows, or bats, or baseball gloves?
How is the pencil writing my name,
and why is my name the name for the thing that fixes tires,
the name for the flag on the pirate ship,
the name for the clown crushed in the box?
Outside, the kids continue to jump rope on the sidewalk,
singing, “A my name is Alice,”
seeing everything, but knowing nothing.

I AM SIX.
The class takes a bus with Miss Cook
to the Delgado Museum on Elysian Fields Avenue.
We’re going to see Vincent Van Gogh.
Later, when I tell my mother,
who was born in Antwerp,
she says to say it like this,
Vincent Van Gough,
and she coughs as she says it.
Van Gough! Van Gough!.
But Miss Cook says Van Go.
We are marched single-file from one room to another,
walking past each painting that hangs just above our heads.

Vincent van GoghI look up at the painting.
I can’t believe what I am seeing.
Everything mysterious and horrible about the world vanishes.
He paints like I paint!
Trees outlined in black.
All those wavy lines, all those colors.
And he piles the paint on.
He’s wasting all that paint,
just like I did before they told me not to waste all the paint.


He sees everything I see.
The moon is where the sun is.
The street that goes nowhere is in his bed.
It’s not just raining rain,
it’s raining crows and bats.
He sees the blood, he sees the faces.
Everything so bright it’s on fire.
Everything so dark it swallows me up.
The man cuts his ear off.
The man leans against the table so sad.
The man dies on the floor of the empty kitchen.


I stop in front of the painting with crows above a cornfield.
The world I see is real.
I bring my hand up and touch the dried paint.
It’s real!
Mounds of paint,
swirls of paint,
rivers of paint!


But it’s not paint.
It’s real.
It’s the world.

“Don’t touch the painting!” Miss Cook yells.
She pulls my hand away.
She yanks my arm into the center of the room.
“Never ever touch a painting!”
She shoves me into a seat in the back of the bus.
It doesn’t matter.
The world is real.
I fold my hands in my lap.
I know what I will do.

I will write about the real world.



Frank Gehry11 o’clock. The girl heads off toward the Jasper Johns. I walk into the J. Paul Getty Trust Gallery and find the Geary cardboard chairs and cardboard houses. “Can I sit in them?” I ask the guard. “They can be sat in,” he says, “but you can’t sit in them.”

“Oh,” I say, and walk into the room with the huge pavilion shaped like a fish. I walk into the belly of the fish. The wood inside is so beautiful.

“Don’t touch the wood, please,” says the guard.

I wander over to the Nauman video. A clown is being tortured on simultaneous video screens. “Clown Torture,” it’s called. Later, in the Permanent Collection, I bump into the girl from Santa Barbara. In the center of the room, a metal sculpture of a man moves his motorized mouth up and down. A silent

YAK

YAK

YAK

This, I understand. I stand as close to it as I can. The guard watches me suspiciously.

Over in the North Gallery there’s an empty spot in one corner. Something was there, but it’s been                 removed. I make a sign for myself and hang it around my neck. I stand in the corner of the Permanent Collection, North Gallery, as still as I can, one arm out in the gesture of an actor about to speak.

Eat this.
You’ve eaten it before.
The next one will be sweet.
The street that goes nowhere is in your bed.
You know nothing,
but you can see everything.

A woman and her little girl walk up to me. “What does the sign say?” the girl asks.

“Touch me,” her mother says. “The sign says touch me.”

So the child reaches out a hand and touches my own.

by Jack Grapes