Rest in power, brother

Late Wednesday night, my brother-in-law died peacefully after a six-year battle with illness. Bob has been in my life since I was 12 or 13 years old — the vast majority of my time on the planet — and I’m struggling to adjust to a world without him.  I last saw him in person in March 2020 right before the pandemic hit hard and while I don’t remember specifics of any conversations, I’m positive there was much laughter. Bob and I always laughed.

Well, not always. Back when I was still a kid, my younger brother and I took the train from Wisconsin to Minneapolis where Bob and my sister were living at the time. Within minutes of our arrival, I managed to knock the tea kettle off the stove and make a big mess. When Bob pretended to be mad, I took his gruffness seriously and withdrew into myself. It took a while for him to convince me he’d been joking and throughout the rest of our lives, he’d tease me about our Teapot Dome Scandal.

I found ways to get back at him, though. During one of the many trips he and my sister and sons made to Colorado, I snuck a random item in Bob’s luggage right before he left. Ha, joke was on him! Except the next time he visited, he returned with that random item and locked it to the rod in our coat closet. Eventually, he gave in and provided the combination.

Another trip, he caught a later flight to Denver than the rest of his family and while someone distracted Bob at the baggage claim area, I grabbed his duffel bag off the carousel, removed his contents, and replaced them. When Bob unzipped his “oddly light” bag, he discovered a plastic pig mask staring up at him from a bed of popcorn. (Full disclosure: Bob wasn’t quite as enthused by this prank as the rest of us.)

While our relationship was laughter-based, it was deeper than that. Bob was my safe refuge. Our interactions were stress-free because Bob accepted me for who and what I was, without judgment. (With the exceptions of giving me shit about wearing socks with my Tevas and never ironing my clothes). I gravitated toward him whenever we were in a group setting. Bob was friendly and easy to be around.

He could also be intense, as in his commitment to health and strength. We frequently ran together (Bob easily transitioned from sea level to exercise at Colorado elevation) but that wasn’t enough for him, not even on vacation. He’d also lift weights, do yoga, push-ups and sit-ups, and climb 14ers. Bob was lean and mean his entire life.

Bob mid-yoga pose in August 2007.

Bob was devoted to his family. Here he is with my sister and their sons in 1994. They came to Alaska to visit during the summer, but didn’t think to pack for winter.  🙂  (My sister and nephew are each wearing one of my hats, the other nephew is wearing Zippy’s hat, and I think that’s my oversized jean jacket on Bob — but note that he’s bare-headed and impervious to cold!) Two vivid non-Bob-specific memories from that visit: the younger nephew, who was only six, carried his own pack the entire steep hike up to the Harding Ice Field AND that hike included my only black bear sighting of the six years I lived in Alaska.

A chilly tour of Kenai Fjords

Bob loved kids — his own and everyone else’s. Here he is conversing with Zebu.

And patiently enduring the construction of a stuffed animal tower on top of his head.

Bob was also a fierce advocate for people he’d never met. He was a lawyer who used his powers for good. Even while undergoing treatment, he led tenant meetings and fought for housing justice. In myriad ways, Bob worked to make this world a better place. I admired him greatly. And loved him even more. A quick search didn’t turn up any photos of the two of us and I’m too raw right now to dig deeper. But that’s okay because his smile and voice are imprinted on my heart.

Rest in power, Bobaloo.

Monday discoveries

While walking around our neighborhood this morning, we — Zippy, Wildebeest, Emma, and I — spotted what seemed to be a tiny bird’s nest dangling from the branch of a tree. Zippy went closer to investigate and declared it a seed pod. And after searching the ground below the tree, he brought us a sample.

We’d never seen anything like this . . . outside a Mexican restaurant. Using my keen online research skills, I typed in “bean pod that looks like taco” and learned this seed pod comes from a Kentucky Coffeetree. Who knew? Here’s a better shot of the interior that looks an awful lot like lettuce and/or guacamole, and enormous black beans:

Kentucky Coffeetree pod

As if that wasn’t enough natural wonder for our outing, there were also plenty of ice formations to admire along the way . I took this photo at the end of our driveway.

We’re supposed to get a bunch of snow tomorrow and again on Wednesday so I’m grateful for the blue skies and balmy temperatures of the past several days. Also? I’m exceedingly grateful that today’s High Wind Warning did NOT result in 80-mph gusts.

Conflicted

I’ve been struggling mightily with a family-of-origin issue and a while back reached out to the therapist I’d worked with years ago. Her client roster was full so I was put on a wait-list. Well, the wait is over. I’m both grateful and anxious she can now fit me into her schedule. My first appointment is in a few minutes and my insides are fluttering.

September 12, 2020

I know I need to do the work in order to move ahead. That doesn’t stop me from wishing for a magic wand that could make everything all better.

Waving goodbye

Wildebeest was with us for a little over two months, helping out with his grandma, before he left to spend time with friends in Denver. This morning, he made one more stop here where we had a socially-distanced visit outside in the sunshine. Then he went out through the gate.

January 4, 2021

He’s heading back to his home in Durango.

In honor of Wildebeest

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of Wildebeest’s graduation from Fort Lewis College. It was a happy day for all of us (including Wildebeest’s childhood friend, Kyle) and there was much laughter throughout, including the lengthy and bitterly cold search for our car in the crowded parking lot after the ceremony.

Zebu, Wildebeest, Zippy, and creepy lurker friend, Kyle. December 20, 2019

Younger brother warming older brother’s head.

It’s a huge relief Wildebeest completed his degree before the pandemic hit (and it’ll be even better if/when he lands a job during the pandemic).  In the meanwhile, he used the time off to come back home to help care for his grandmother. He’s a good soul.

All hail Wildebeest!

In solidarity

Today I’m in solidarity with this daffodil that bloomed last April before being buried by wet, heavy snow.

April 25, 2020

After the snow melted, the daffodil retained its vibrant colors but required support to keep its head up. A pretty apt description of me and my day. As ever, I’m grateful for my loved ones who prop me up.

Family dynamics

Presenting . . . A Brief Exchange Between a Mother and Son

Me: Hey, if right now you said, ‘Mom, let’s go run,’ I would run.
Son: Really? You’d run?
Me: Yep. (Immediately feels a weakening of resolve ). Or, I could have an edible and a beer, and get in the tub.
Son: Oh, do that. That sounds way better!
Narrator: This concludes our straight-forward story. No twist, no surprise ending.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

On developing curiosity

April 17, 2020.

It’s only Monday and I’m feeling anxious about various family members and all I want to do is hunker down with tasty snacks and forget about the rest of the week and everything that comes with it. Alas, life doesn’t work that way. Even this squirrel, who appears so content in the photo, was moments later focused on my intrusion. None of us are allowed to just be. Or, are we?

“There is a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born on earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable. You see this even in insects and animals and birds. All of us are the same. A much more interesting, kind and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our curiosity is bitter or sweet. To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more passionate, full, and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is. If we are committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up against the least edge of pain, we’re going to run; we’ll never know what’s beyond that particular barrier or wall or fearful thing.”
― Pema Chödrön

Out my window

I can vouch for my Stay-At-Home household in Colorado: we are NOT amused by this snowstorm and the accompanying cold temperatures.

We need sunshine. We need warmth. We need dry streets and trails.

Waaaaaah.

It was 20 years ago today

Today is Wildebeest’s birthday (which he shares with his cousin…Happy Birthday again, James!) I haven’t yet talked with Wildebeest today because he’s out doing fun stuff with his camera and friends. But here he was 20 years ago,  making a wish before blowing out the candles.

Wildebeest. November 4, 1999

I don’t know whether that particular wish came true, but I do know that today my son is happy and healthy, which means my wish came true.

Happy happy birthday, Wildebeest!

Thankful Thursday

Zippy and I are in Ohio visiting my brother and his family. We spent the afternoon hunting down hoop-making materials before returning home to make four hoops of various sizes. Much hooping ensued (including my niece and I hoop-walking to the end of the street and back as her younger brother rode alongside on his scooter). Then basketball was added to the mix.

Here’s my favorite action shot of their entire family:

Lots of smiles and high-energy. A very nice day.

My consolation prize

I’m at the Tampa Airport for my flight back to Denver. I arrived early, early Friday morning and later that day spotted a Roseate Spoonbill swirling its bill in the irrigation ditch running through the community where my mom lives. I was thrilled! I’d never seen one and ran back to my mom’s for my camera. The spoonbill was gone by the time I’d returned.

Later that day I saw one flying high overhead (the pink was the tip-off) and the following day was driving past when I saw a spoonbill in the ditch. Again, I didn’t have my camera but drove home, grabbed it, and sprinted back. Gone.

I went out early in the mornings and in the late afternoons during the time slots the locals suggested held the highest potential for a sighting. I brought my camera in the car.

No more spoonbills.

So now I’m headed home with nothing more than a couple mental snapshots of that unusual species. PLUS this photo of a Pileated Woodpecker I spotted at Kapok Park yesterday. The image isn’t anywhere near sharp, but I’m very happy for the sighting and this photographic memento.

I’ll be back for the Roseate Spoonbill.

Adopting a new outlook

I travel light. I think the most important thing is to be in a good mood and enjoy life, wherever you are.  ~ Diane von Furstenberg

Okay, my suitcase is a wee bit larger than the one in the photo but I am determined to be in a good mood and enjoy myself on my upcoming trip.

In fact, Ms. von Furstenberg’s outlook is very sound and I’d like to adopt it every day, no matter where I roam. Look out world, well-adjusted adult coming through!

Dessert is served

We’re having friends and family over for dinner. As always, Zippy’s doing the heavy lifting in the food preparation department. But I stepped up and offered to make dessert.

Aesthetically pleasing while also easy-peasy. Plus, I completely stole the idea from our friend’s dinner last week. I’m nothing if not a domestic goddess.

 

Sunday Confessional: I’m not feeling very neighborly

So many people in my neighborhood have signs in support of candidates and policies that are destructive and greed-based.  Candidates who want nothing more than to strip away our health care. Strip away protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Strip away health insurance coverage for young adults under their parents’ plans.

I tried explaining my family’s health care needs to a kind neighbor displaying a campaign sign for one such candidate, telling him it was hurtful to see that sign in his yard. He listened to what I had to say about my family’s medical needs and how that candidate’s policies would change our lives for the worst. He listened and then said he’d talk to A and D, two men in our neighborhood. Well, apparently my female opinion wasn’t enough in the face of men’s opinions because my neighbor still has the sign for the candidate backed by the Koch Brothers in his yard.

Then there are the many anti-Proposition 112 signs in the neighborhood. All of them saying it’s more important to save a few oil and gas jobs in Colorado rather than protect the health and safety of its citizens. Every time I see one of those signs I wish I could put a drilling rig/fracking site on their front lawn. It’s so easy to vote against public health and safety when you’re not at risk. There is zero chance we’ll ever have oil and gas operations in our neighborhood, so fuck everyone else around the state, right? Not to mention how insane it is to ignore the fact that the planet is on a crash course to extinction due to fossil fuels.

I apologize for venting here. I just wish my neighborhood was filled with people trying to behave less like ignorant greedheads and more like Mister Rogers. I’m gonna go back to my fictional neighborhood now . . .

Finding the balance

Some days are so hard that I’m tempted to give up and assume the fetal position. Over the last couple days a  young relative was diagnosed with a health condition and then a neighborhood family suffered a heartbreaking tragedy. I’ve felt overwhelmed and weepy. But I’ve also experienced joy as I hugged my son, watched a magpie take flight, and listened to my snoring dogs as they snuggle together in their bed. I’ve made progress on my new writing project and shared laughter with my visiting brother-in-law. I didn’t give up and curl into a ball.

Life is a series of sunshine and shit-storms, and as long as I remember to think of it that way, the better I cope. The key (for me, anyway) is tapping into the light amidst the dark. Finding the balance. I was reminded of that as I struggled to balance the light and dark in this photo of Marcel.

The result is nowhere near perfect, but then again, neither is life.

I get to hug my son

Zebu in summer of 1998

Today is Zebu’s birthday and I’m feeling especially grateful. He (and our other son) spent their entire childhoods with Zippy and me and while those years certainly held challenges, we remained intact as a family. The four of us were never forced to seek asylum, we were never denied refuge, and our children weren’t ripped from their parents’ arms. That kind of unspeakable trauma was never part of our lives. Not because we’re exceptional or more deserving, but because we were fortunate enough to be born in the United States. That’s it. Sheer luck.

Today is Zebu’s birthday and I get to hug my son. I’m weeping for those who can’t.

Sunday Confessional: thirsty edition

I’m working away on my manuscript, making progress and feeling a distinct sense of accomplishment. However, I’m also looking forward to when I punch out for the day and can enjoy this parting gift from my brother-in-law:

Two of my favorite things — hooping and hoppy beer. Thank you again, Bob, for the Palisade Brewing Company’s Hula Hoppie Session IPA. This beer is already making me smile.

Safe travels on your drive back east!