I read a poem

written by someone else’s daughter

About her mother, who has Alzheimer’s.

Judy spoke of her mother’s journey,

Of her need

To be let go.

She spoke of clocks, conversations, lunch round noon,

snow bout mid December,

and all the parts of life

that are defined

by knowing what is going on,

what has happened,

and what will likely happen next.

 

A million pieces of knowledge tether

Most of us,

To know the date most days.

Class is Wednesday night,

Colin plays on Saturday at nine fifteen,

I need to be at work by nine,

Katy’s birthday is coming in two weeks.

I am never sure what time it is, and sometimes

I think Wednesday’s Thursday, or I lose an hour or a week.

I’m not sick like her, or like you were.

 

When it took over,

your eyes were clouds,

your lips made shapes,

your tongue made sounds.

Your muddy eyes would take me in,

or the wall behind me,

or a angry nurse marchcing down the hall.

Your lips would purse, then open, close,

more like a fish

Than like a man.

You’d smile when I’d offer up

A cigarette

And smoke it

Unlit and upside down.

Your eyes were clouds,

They belonged inside a winter sky, not on a face,

but I never let them go.

I would

Bring you taboo cigarettes,

I would fix your shirt, wipe your chin

and when his mouth moved

I’d lean close.

I’d smell the spit, the sour breath, last week’s

applesauce, the sweat

And I would listen

Because I knew you

Would never leave without saying your goodbye.

You were a gentleman.

 

I never let my you go,

Not when you’d already left,

Not when you still looked at me

and knew my name,

Not in all those spaces

in between\

And afterwards

And now.

There was a band concert tonight at the high school. All ages were playing, in the post recorder years-. 6th grade thru 12th.
 
I don’t usually get that excited about school concerts. My daughter plays the flute in a sea of fifteen other flautists. Since it’s classical music, and she’s a little older now, it’s not considered good form to kneel down in the orchestra pit to take photos where I can actually see it’s her, instead of one of the other little girls with long hair and a silver rod sticking out of her chin.
 
The music was lovely tonight.This is the first time Kaitlin performed on the same evening as the high school band. There was a eclectic combination of jazz, a smattering of avant garde, I think, or maybe it was modern, and some haunting classical pieces. If I’d known I was going to write this down for the world to read, I would have stolen a program so I wouldn’t seem like such an idiot.
 
I arrived late. Right after I dropped Katy and her friend off to warm up (sorry about the insider musical terms, I was in high school band too,) I had a call to pick her big brother from a friend’s house.
 
I suggested Colin join us at the concert. He said “no, thank you”.
 
Actually, that’s not what he said. The terms he used would sound mean in print, and he’s not a mean boy. I don’t think he’s a mean boy, he’s a fifteen year old boy and he certainly acts pretty damn nasty sometimes, but when I took him to the drive thru he shared his french fries. And he’d been working out. Everyone knows french fries are a key component to muscle recovery.
 
So I had to pick Colin up, get him food, check my teeth for lipstick, remove lipstick, reapply lipstick and fill a go cup with yesterday’s coffee. By the time I was back and parked, far, far away from the front door, I was five minutes late walking into the auditorium.
 
Rock’n roll concerts start late. Band concerts start exactly on time.
 
I staggered up the stairs. In the very top row, and I saw a couple I knew. They did that wave thing, 2nd level, which means “we are saying hello, but we also have a spare seat for you if are willing to climb all the way up and over to join us.” I joined them.
 
I tucked myself into the folding chair and settled down to listen. I looked at all the people in the audience. Colin’s soccer coach from 2nd grade. My friend’s daughter. A yoga classmate and fellow church goer who gives the best hugs in the world. The two people who had welcomed me to sit next to them; they don’t know me well but they have offered me wine on more than one occasion and they’re funny and they think I’m funny so I think I love them too.
 
Small town concerts are different than small town sports events. I had a chance to take stock. I studied the faces of acquaintances, friends, neighbors, gym buddies, and kids. Kids that I’d known first in strollers were tiptoeing down the stairs and out into the lobby to buy snacks by the themselves.
 
I closed my eyes and was swept inside the music. In between songs, I peered onto the stage for a glimpse of my daughter, or Madeleine, or Andy, Colin’s friend from football playing jazz saxophone.
 
It was long. Sometimes it was boring. Sometimes it was fantastic. Sometimes it was sweet and sometimes mysterious. Throughout the entire concert, I felt so blessed to be there, at Milton High School with all of these people I’ve shared so many moments like these with, most of whom I don’t know by name.
 
We share a town. We are sharing our lives in this town in this turbulent, scary time. But inside this town, at the spelling bee and the soccer match, day to day life is still familiar and naive. Yes, there is bad stuff happening here, look at the thousands of beer cans in Cunningham Park.The high school has been on lockdown more than twice in the past couple of years. We fight like crazy people on Facebook, and then seek out a yoga class or head out the back door for a run in the hope of finding some peace.
 
But inside the high school, last night, we were all in it together.
 
I know your daughter, look out for my son. I’ll keep an eye out for your cat that sleeps sprawled in the street. I promise to buy cookies from your niece if you’ll smile at my daughter when you see her standing alone in the morning, waiting for the bus.
 
If you don’t know me, I’m Colin and Katy’s mom. Lately, they’ve been growing up way too fast. So be kind to me too. This is hard. Not just having teenagers in the house, but knowing that the days of band concerts, doling out money for ice cream, helping with homework, and liking the same songs on the radio are pretty much on the way out. All that’s really left are band concerts and football games.
 
I’ve got seven more years of concerts and games.
 
So when you see me, say hi. We will sit on the sidelines together. We will applaud for the people we love, the people we know and the life we are living right now- in the stands, walking the dog, and driving the streets in this little corner of the world.
 
It’s nice knowing I have friends, even if we don’t all know each others names.
 
I’m Julie.Band concert

Bliss

January 13, 2015

I’m driving to the library and “What I Like about You” comes on the radio.

There’s no one else in the car and I have time to listen to the whole thing and pick up the first season of Breaking Bad before I arrive, on time, to fetch my basketball boy and his friends.

I return home. The dishwasher hums, nothing is left in the sink but a half eaten sponge,

Sophie the Sweet just informed me she’d rather nap than walk in the rain, my daughter smells like lip gloss and soap.

My friends love me, my family still calls. I’m not close to being done with anything and I’ve still got plenty of time, (or the ignorant bliss of assumption)

I am just so damn happy to be alive.

My life is busy right now. Three jobs, two kids belonging to a total of four teams with a side of flute lessons.

I don’t have time to meander thru Sunday’s paper, I toss out the coupons, and the business and real estate, and get right down to Dinner With Cupid. I make food, and then we eat lots and lots of leftovers. I exchange quick texts to really good friends that go back and forth and back and forth while we attempt to find a mutual time we can both make it for coffee. I’m hoping they are reading the same subtexts I am- “I really love you and look forward to when we can spend time in the same room and I can see your face when I ask if you think this dress makes me legs look short or I can reach over and hug you when you talk about spending three weeks searching for just the right senior center for your mom.”

So, I have no time. The other morning, my daughter had created a beautiful picture to go along with a book report. I typed the report for her, it was much quicker than proof reading the damn thing, and I glanced at the outline she showed me. When she was walking out the door, I called out- “Make sure you bring that report home. I need to see the your beautiful illustration.” I’m pretty sure it is a “beautiful illustration”, but I still haven’t seen the finished product. She did mention she got an A.

But inside this life of mine, there is one luxury that is a necessity. Every day that the temperature isn’t below 15 degrees fahrenheit, and there aren’t sheets of rain racing down in my general direction, or snowflakes floating and sticking to the sheets of black ice all over the road- I take the dogs for a walk.

I carry Sophie and Coco to the car. I stuff them inside. I grab a coat, my headphones, my IPhone, and a cup of coffee from hours before placed in a really tall plastic water glass so it won’t spill.

We drive to Cunningham Woods, about a mile and a half away from our house.

When we pull into my parking spot, always the same spot, if the dogs got turned around by a particularly amorous, intact, black lab they’d be able to find it, the car of course. None of us like the lab much. I slide open the side door to the mini van and they spill out of their seats the way that Katy and Colin did right after they first figured out how to get out of their car seats without any help.

I sit behind the steering wheel, iphone in my lap, speaker cords tangled in the steering wheel. I open up Spotify, the magical spot that holds all of my songs. I pick a play list, I look for a song. I find what I need on that particular day, I place the headphones over my ears, I untangle the cords from the wheel and the gear shift and my foot. I put my keys in my pocket. I think about locking the car. I don’t.

I hop out of the car, carrying nothing more than phone, wearing nothing but my coat with deep pockets,(and clothes of course. This isn’t going there). Inside my coat are my keys, and maybe a piece of gum I seized in the most recent “you can’t have gum in this house until you learn to put it in the trash when your’e done.”

We all start our journey. Sophie is the slowest. She sniffs. She peers out at other dogs from behind trees. Coco dances, hops, races, skids, he’s a pinball mini doberman pinscher on crack.

I follow along behind. I’m not really following them. I’m just moving along a path we’ve taken a million times before.

Some days, I’m listening to old hip hop- “Get down with OPP, yah you know me…”, TLC, Mary J Blige. Sometimes I’m checking out the latest rap song I heard when Colin had radio control. Often, I’m dipping to old songs I’ve heard a million times before. One day I listened to five different versions of “Romeo and Juliet” originally by Dire Straits, but did you know the Indigo Girls did a cover? Another afternoon, I checked out Richard Thompson’s “One Thousand Years of Popular Music,” the highlight of which was his cover of Britney Spear’s classic “Oops, I did it again.”

These walks take anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour and a half. I take as much time as I can, or as much time as I need. I tell people that I have no choice, the dogs need their walks.

And they do. But I really need my ramble, and a little bit of time singing along to silly pop music, gritty rock and roll, ballads, and anthems. I’m taking moments to visit the person I was when that music was probably a pretty crucial way I defined myself. I remember as early as junior high. First week of school, first time someone new sat next to me at the lunch table, one of my first questions, or one of their first questions, would be- “who do you listen to?”

These days, I get a chance listen to a little bit of everything. But you know, it’s only because the dogs really need their walk.