A Year of Change

That smell of wet, burnt wood from a large fire bristles in my memories.

1971. I was fourteen. Dad had just returned from an overseas military assignment and took me in, a refugee from an unhappy time with Mom and her husband then. We lived in Dayton, Ohio, first in an apartment, and then in Wright-Patterson AFB base housing, in a place called Page Manor. We lived there from the beginning of July to the end of August. Then, an opportunity came up. He retired from the military to start a new chapter to his life.

He and I moved to West Virginia and he began his new job. Housing was limited so Dad bought a mobile home. A space was found for it in a trailer park. School started. A month later, the trailer burned up. Days were spent trying to recover what we could from the trailer. I carried a smoky odor around my clothes for months.

Dad’s co-worker let us crash at their place, but it was crowded, and the co-worker had a young wife and a new baby. Goaded by her disenchantment to be rid of us — nothing personal, and I understand it — we found a new place to live within a month.

Coincidentally, that was the same time that I met the girl who would become the woman who would become my wife. We married in 1975, less than four years after meeting. We’ve been together since then, although we’ve had separations and struggles. Amazing to think that I’ve known her since 1971 and have been married to her since 1975. It seems like a lot longer… Bet it seems even longer to her.

It’s all sharp in the head, strong in the memories, that period, a time of destruction, change, and beginning. I can’t say that I don’t look back; I’m always looking back, then turning around and looking forward, re-establishing where I’m at, and moving on.

Or trying to.

Heard on Zoom

A friend, Marsha, had her sister visiting. Knowing her sister, she’d thoroughly cleaned and tidied before the other arrived.

Marsha thought everything looked pretty good.

Toward the end of the sister’s visit, they were talking about the other sister, and which one was ‘the tidiest’. The visiting sister concluded they were probably about the same. Later in the day, Marsha’s sister indicated the trash can and asked, “Do you want me to wash this for you?”

That sister has left. The other sister is due Sunday.

Marsha begins cleaning today.

Friday Frittering

It’s me, so I’m going to whine first

  1. Arm continues improving. Strength, mobility, and flexibility in my fingers is returning. Improvement has been accelerating. Hoorah. Return to the doc in ten days.
  2. Fiction writing is sloooowww. Did nine thousand words in fifteen days. That should’ve been done in less than five days, easy. Such a whiner, right? Yes, it’s my nature. I let it out, and then affirm, but, hey, you’re writing. It’s something. Be an optimist, not a pessimist.
  3. By nature, I’m a pessimist and an optimist. I complain and release it, then address it to overcome it. Mostly. It’s all a sliding spectrum with moving targets every day. The thing I’ve recognized in myself is that while I go dark, I also return to the light.
  4. I enjoy eavesdropping on my wife’s exercise class. An in-person Family Y class in origins, it went to Zoom after social distancing went live in Ashland, Oregon. Mary is the instructor. She began the class in 1975. Held Mon-Wed-Fri mornings, it’s very popular. Going online has allowed people who moved away to come back and re-fire friendships. Attendees from D.C., Portland, Idaho, Florida, and California are now regulars…again. Such a positive thing, a testament to community and friendship.
  5. A beautiful night favored the area last night, wonderful for meteor spotting, except…cat. Two of the felines often accompany me as I go into the yard and check the sky. The house panther, though, kept winding around my legs and talking. Made it hard to move and focus, especially while craning my head back. I love my cats but sometimes, they’re a little much.
  6. The ginger boy (Papi, aka Meep) apparently had a misadventure yesterday evening. Gone for hours, he returned subdued and disheveled. I checked for wounds and found none. He, a young cat who usually prowls the night, stayed in last night. All night.
  7. Love this political ad. “Enough is Enough is Enough!” Vote Proud.

So, got my coffee, baby. Time to write like crazy at least one…more…time.

The Heart-Attack Dream

It began with me in bed, at night. Pain was rushing through me. I couldn’t see nor hear correctly. I thought, I’m having a heart attack.

No one else seemed present. The heart attack would come and go in waves. I tried calling for help but couldn’t. I decided that I’d work through it by thinking of what I was feeling and experiencing, and then countering those things with my mind. That seemed to work, as the pain faded and the heart attack passed.

The lights came on. A large spider, I’d say two feet tall, was to my left. I acknowledged its presence and left the room.

I’d survived, I decided. Outside the bedroom, in another room, were my wife, a few friends, and a dead cousin. As I looked around, familiarization flowed in. I knew where I was. We need to go home, I announced to the rest. They talked about this, objecting, how are we to do that?

But, I judged, the weather isn’t bad, so I’m walking. It’s only a few miles and it won’t take long.

They didn’t believe that I was serious. Shrugging them off, I left. My wife and a few others joined me.

The road was a rough, one-lane, dirt and gravel road that rose, fell, and wound through sparsely populated, wooded countryside. As we went, we’d see a car coming, call out, “Car,” and then step off the road until it passed. Impatient to continue my journey, I announced that I’m running.

At that point, I realize that I had a foot injury and had been limping. I thought, I’ll have to push myself through my foot’s pain and stiffness. Behind me, the others said, “He’s not serious, he’s not going to run.” But I started running, gritting my teeth against my pain. Soon I found a stride.

The others started running behind me, but I was well ahead. Seeing the road, I’d call, “Car,” as a warning to them, and step aside until the car had passed us all, and then resume running.

I reached home. Uncles were there. They offered me wine, but it was white wine and I turned them down. Dad arrived with a girlfriend. He offered me some white wine, but I turned him down. I wanted some wine, though. I was getting ready to go somewhere.

Passing into another room, I saw Dad’s girlfriend asleep in the living room. I went into the adjacent kitchen. I found a bottle of white wine but kept looking for red wine. As I didn’t find anything except white wine I thought, maybe I will drink some.

Dad came in. While talking to me, he produced a bottle of white wine in a light green bottle in a clear plastic bag, like a gallon-storage bag, and showed it to me. It’d been opened, but had a cork put back into place. “That’s what you’re drinking?” I asked. When he said that he was, and offered me some, I answered, “Well, pour me a glass, I guess.”

As he did, his girlfriend awoke in the other room. She came in and introduced herself to me, which annoyed Dad. We talked for a few minutes. Then we talked about cars, and who was using what car.

The dream ended.

Variation

They’d been doing together since they were wed forty-two years ago. “Everything that we can do together, I mean, of course.” She felt some things weren’t possible, “But we tried to do everything together. We were never apart from one another for more than a day or two, maybe three, tops.” She’d been a nurse, but was now retired; he’d been, and was, a doctor.

Travel was required for her to visit her father. “Dad’s really well for ninety-three. It’s easy to forget he’s ninety-three because he looks so good and does so well. But he is ninety-three, so I worry about him. Especially since he’s down there and I’m up here. He’s a retired engineer, and very particular about his habits. Everything must be done certain ways. He eats the same foods for the same meals at the same times every day,  breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s no variation.”

But this was about her husband. “He didn’t want to go with me to Southern California. Dad always watches Fox News. He’s completely apolitical, he’s not a Trump supporter, doesn’t have a MAGA hat, or anything like that, but he watches Fox News all day long. Henry just didn’t want to go, and cited that as part of the reason. So I flew down there alone.

“I’d been down there for a week when I received a phone call from Henry. He was frantic.”

“I’m out of clean underwear,” he said.

“Well, wash some.”

“I would, but I don’t know where the detergent goes.”

“It goes in the drawer.”

“I can’t find the drawer.”

“When I thought about it, I realized that it was the longest that we’d ever been apart.”

When she returned, she discovered his clothes in the washer. They were moldy, wrinkled and almost dry. She thinks that Henry just tossed the soap on top of the clothes, wasn’t satisfied with the process, and just quit.

They haven’t spoken about it, yet, but he does have some new underwear.

Recruiting & Black Powder Dream

Fade in…

They were trying to make me a recruiter. Military? I wasn’t sure.

A friend was a well-established recruiter and something of a star. They wanted me to be like him. When he appeared in my office dream scene, he was well dressed in a navy blue business suit with tie, clean-shaven, with tight, neat hair. He said some things that I couldn’t quite follow, and others asked brief, insightful questions. He answered those, and was gone.

Afterward, the rest said, “See? That’s how it’s done. That’s what we want you to do.”

I agreed. “That’s what I want to do. But how’s it done?”

They told me that I needed to begin by dressing right. I was dressed casually in jeans and a shirt. I need to change that clothing style, and also get a haircut.

I began by trying to cut my hair. It was short in the front, but grew as a long and thick, brambly bush down my back. I couldn’t see my hair, so I was trying to cut it by using my silhouette and a mirror that showed my side profile. Using a power hedge trimmer, I managed to cut some hair but it grew back.

Don, the superstar recruiter, returned. He sat in on a pitch I made. It was okay. I sat with him in his office as he reviewed information and made a pitch. I saw that it didn’t begin with the image. The image was a culmination and result, that his hard work behind the scenes, and intense activity was what created his success. I needed to put a lot more time in.

Fade out.

I’m at a house with Mom and her husband, and other family members. The house is large and the scene is chaotic. A lot of it has to do with everyone’s schedules and the bathrooms. There are two bathrooms, one on each level. Who is using which one? Mom is getting ready to go. It’s involved. She’s dressing, but also looking for her bag.

I find Mom’s back and help her with it. She wants a gun in her back. I find one and put it in. She’s still talking about that, but I keep telling her, “Mom, it’s already in your back.” She replies, “I want a different one.”

My sister is there, advising me on what to do. I’m confused. She tells me to use a litter box to go to the bathroom, then scoop everything up, take it to the bathroom, and flush it away. Her answer exasperates me because it seems ridiculous.

“I don’t want to use the litter box. That’s another and unnecessary step. I want to just use the bathroom.”

She and her friend laugh at that, irritating me.

I go up and watch a plumber work by the front door. An old friend goes by. He’s now my brother. I tell the the plumber that my brother does the same thing that the plumber does. He replies, “Yes, I know, I taught him.”

Scene shift. For some reason, I’m in a robe, in a tub, on wheels. The skin on my entire body is covered what seems to be blackface. It’s a powder, not a grease or lotion. As I rubbed it, I knew that it was sun protection.

My brother-in-law got in his car, a powder-blue Chevy convertible. I discovered that the tub was hitched to the car’s rear. As he started the car, we exchanged questions and answers about what he was doing. He was going to get the mail, it was just a short drive, and I could stay where I was. That horrified me. I didn’t want people to see me like this because they’d get the wrong idea.

Waving that off, he reversed his car. We were in a garage. He told me, “Just sit back and relax.” Then he backed the car up. The tub that I was in gently pushed the doors apart.

He backed into the sunlit driveway and the street with me in the bathtub in a robe in black powder leading the way.

I was mortified but I also enjoyed it. As promised, the drive was brief. People seemed to notice me but none seemed upset. The wind was blowing through my hair and the sun was warm and comfortable.

We pulled into the garage.

Dream end.

 

Sunday’s Theme Music

I encountered a friend on the street. He was coming out of a store and I was walking by. Eighty years old, his wife is two years younger. She’s having medical issues.

Married for fifty years, his only spouse, he seemed like he was going through the process of thinking about life without her. They’ve downsized their home twice in the last eight years, but her mobility is going, as is her vision and her mental acuity. In his words, “It all seems to be falling apart for her.”

Sad, and an often heard story. I commiserated with him, but what struck me was his comments about being nothing without her. He said, in his thinking, everything that he’d done after getting his college degree was about her, and then their family that they created, and their life together. It was his constant motivation.

After we parted and I thought more about what he’d said, “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence (1995) slipped into the stream, a song about being nothing without another.

 

Destiny

Brooding with leftover anger and resentment, he stared at the page, unable to read.

The book, by Lee Child (a Christmas present), was a thriller (which he usually enjoyed), but an argument was displacing his attention. It’d been a stupid argument, not worth even recounting, but it was another in a string of stupid, exhausting arguments. One a day? Hell, on a good day, it’d be one a day. Most days, there was one in the morning before they left for work and another in the evening. They were part of the routines.

He was tired of that routine. He decided that if he could, he would change his life so that he and his wife had never reconciled after they’d separated. That had happened less than nine months in (nine years ago). His life would be so much more pleasant, wouldn’t it? Her, and her attitude. It infuriated him.

Maybe, instead, it would be better they hadn’t had children. Much had changed when she’d become pregnant. The pressure to succeed, save money, and everything else, had ratcheted up, becoming relentless. Besides, they hadn’t been getting along well before that point.

He loved his children, though, although they worried and wearied him. A friend said that having children was all about the three Ws: worrying, wearying, and weaning. That sounded right.

Maybe, instead of not reconciling, he would not marry his wife. Then there would be no children. He tried imagining that life. He’d be like Grover, alone on holidays (and declaring that he liked it most times, but also decrying it on other days), but doing whatever he wanted, whenever. But he’d asked her to marry him because he loved her. Probably be better then, to have never met her. But if he’d never met her, would he have ever met anyone and fallen in love? (What an expression.) Yes, he had other girlfriends. He’d been popular.

Setting his book aside to watch football on television for a moment, he waited for some spirits to show up, someone to tell him how different his life would be if he’d never met his wife and married. That sort of tale had been written to death. Hadn’t there been movies with that theme? He waited for the television screen to change to a movie where he was the star and the plot was that he’d never met his wife and married. But that would’ve required many other changes, since he’d met her in high school as freshmen.

He had to consider all that would’ve all changed to keep them from meeting. One of them would not have been in that school (or maybe just not that year) (but both were good students), or their activities, likes and interests would’ve needed to change. He tried peering into the past to see what needed to shift to stop their meeting from happening. Maybe they met but didn’t fall in love. That’d seemed instant for both of them, like destiny.

Wiping her hands with a dish rag, she stepped into the room. “Kitchen’s clean.”

“Good.” He heard the dishwasher running.

“Are you hungry? Can I make you a sandwich?”

“Okay, sure, thanks.”

She smiled. “Want a beer?”

“Okay.”

“Anything else?”

“No, thanks, that’d be good.”

She glanced at the screen. “Who’s winning?”

“Titans, third quarter.”

“That’s not who you wan to win is it?”

“No.”

“Well, there’s still time for it to change.” Smiling again, she turned and left the room.

One child hit the other. A scream erupted. He leaped up, refereeing, consoling, explaining, parenting. A few minutes later, detente achieved, he sat down with a slow exhale and looked at the television. The third quarter was almost over but the score hadn’t changed. He picked up his book. He couldn’t remember where he’d stopped reading, what was happening, or what he’d been thinking about.

Turning the page back, he began reading again.

 

 

The Dreams Return – Lost Shoe, Found Dog

The dreams returned, which is reassuring. I dream often and vividly, and not having dreams was having a friend away. Good to have them back.

I found myself camping with friends. I say camping, but it was a shelter — roof, floor, and walls, cutouts for windows but sans glass — although it did have a door — where we stayed. That event took place and the others I camped with left to cross the river.

I went to places unknown and then returned to camp again. Unplanned, I lacked food, gear, and shoes. Just trying to figure out how I was going to handle that when I heard the door open.

A woman with her children had arrived to stay for the week. Speaking with them, I discovered that I’d been camping with the woman’s husband the week before. I told them I’d vacate the shelter for them, but they waved that offer away, and offered me their food.

I then I had one shoe (black walking shoe) but not the other. How — where — when — did I lose my shoe? As I’m walking around in one shoe, a small, injured animal, a dog, arrived. I recognized it as an animal I’d been feeding the previous week and that it was a pet that belonged to my neighbor. Grey and brown, the dog resembled a fox. Its wound concerned me. I cleaned the wound with help from the woman, and then fed the dog. The dog seemed pleased and started wagging its tail.

The dream ended.

The Chaotic Collage Dream

As far as I can remember, the dream began with me visiting my aunts and uncles and father. We were across the country somewhere. He needed to have his car driven home and asked me to do it. Sure, I said. He and the rest would fly.

I don’t know what the car was. Sometimes it was an exotic sports car but then it had a huge trunk, where I put several suitcases, along with books. Wherever I drove the car, it attracted a lot of attention.

I was supposed to arrive before Dad, but I was goofing around, playing with the car, and doing other things. When I realized that I was going to be late, I hurried up.

Driving the car down a hill, I passed a number of people. Somewhere going down the hill, I went from being in a car to being on a motorcycle. Going fast, I went up boulders and into the air with people pointing at me and talking about it as I did. Even though I was on the motorcycle and dozens of feet away from them, I could hear the people talking. They were really impressed with what I was doing.

After this huge jump over a boulder that was about twenty feet high (where people didn’t think I could do it), I landed and got off the motorcycle. Putting it into the back of the car, I raced away, passing a long line of people in cars and buses. There were many children on the buses, and some of the buses were school buses.

That traffic was all stopped, and was the opposite direction. As I sped past, they all pointed at me and the car in excitement.

I reached my destination. Even though I’d dawdled and had been running late, I was surprised to learn that I’d beat my Dad and his siblings. They were supposed to have already arrived. I was sort of relieved, too. Then, going into another room, I found them sitting around having drinks and laughing.

I thought I’d already gone through that room and that they hadn’t been there. I asked them, “Did you just get here?” Several replied, “Oh, no.”

Dad said, “No, we got here yesterday. We’ve been here at least a day. Did you just get here?” As I answered yes, he said, “But you left days ago. Where have you been?”

Two of my younger sisters and I ended up together. We were playing separate games. They were looking for game pieces. I noticed my game pieces were missing, too. We started investigating, hey, where did the pieces go? I started finding some and putting things together. But then, I realized that it was time to go. I didn’t want to go, so I tried hurrying. I then began writing. I said, “I need to write. Give me time to write.”

Dad come by. The scene changed. Several of my cousins, Dad, aunts and uncles were there, along with my younger sisters. We were browsing in a well-lit record store. As I said something about the extensive music selection, Dad said, “I’d go for Genesis. I like them.”

I said, “Genesis? You like Genesis?”

“Sure, Genesis, Journey…I like just about all of them.”

That surprised me. I don’t recall Dad ever listening to music or commenting on music or groups. It was strange, because Mom loves music.

Going outside, I found Dad squatting by the curb. He had a new car. Dad loves sports and luxury cars. He’s bought a few economy cars, and will drive anything, but he’s usually in a Corvette (he’s bought four or five of them), Cadillac, or a luxury SUV, these days.

This car seemed to be a Ford Escort. That’s a car that’s been out of production for a while, but this was a new one. Weirdly, though, Dad was painting or applying decals all over the car. I talked to him about it but I don’t remember the conversation, except that he seemed very matter-of-fact about what he was doing, when it was something that I’d never known him to do in his life.

Late for a flight, I headed to an airport. My flight was already boarding. The boarding process was random and chaotic. Seating seemed to be open. Inside the aircraft wasn’t like any aircraft that I’ve ever been in. Seating areas were in clusters of rows. The clusters seemed to be at forty-five degree angles. The seats were orange.

Many were familiar with the process, but I wasn’t. Everyone was rushing in. Confused, I noticed a few guys who seemed to know where they were going and followed them. They went down some steps and hurried into open seats. I followed but then, realizing that it seemed to be the flight deck, I stopped. As flight decks go, it was as wide as a house. The pilots were seated at windows up front but flight attendants were preparing food and drinks at counters on either side. The men I’d followed were seated. Other open seats were available. The seats were light gray. They looked like they were leather.

From behind me, a young boy, maybe ten, said, “Look at that dipshit. He’s going into the cockpit.” Many people laughed.

I turned to a flight attendant. I said, “Can I sit down here?”

My question seemed to surprise her. As she picked up a tray of beverages, she said, “Yes, if there’s an empty seat. And there are.”

Turning around, I said to the little boy, “You’re allowed to sit down here, if there are seats. People are already sitting down here. Now who’s the dipshit?”

We landed. I didn’t know where I’d landed. Well lit, with multiple levels and vast highways weaving in and out of buildings, it seemed like San Francisco with elements of San Mateo (CA), Pittsburgh (PA), Portland (OR), and Frankfurt, Germany. It teemed with people. Most were business people but some were shoppers. Somehow hurrying the place, I figured out where I was supposed to be going (although it was never stated). The next thing I knew, I was in a car and driving.

The dream ended.

It was an exhausting dream.

 

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