Double Glazed

“It’s my job, Rick.”

“Whoa, they laying you off?”

“Nah, I’m good, I’m good.” James took a drag from the fresh espresso. “I’m on the phone with a person for a minute, two max—except today. Today I get a 20-minute window into this couple’s life. He puts me on speaker phone and walks around the house. This woman’s voice comes on. They’re laughing together trying to get the motion detector apart. The guy finally manages it and she’s, like, cheering.”

Rick nods in the slow quiet between them.

“I could use me some cheering.”

©2015 Sandra R. Davidson (Image)

Learning Love

Your partner will teach you how to love.

Mine brings me fresh, hot coffee as soon as I wake up. When I reciprocate, the appreciation is wordless and eyes find mine with adoration.

When I make sounds of waking, I come to a computer already booted and awaiting my password. I don’t always remember to do the same for him; a gentle smile is my reward when I do.

It puzzled me when we first dated. He locked me in his truck. Each time he hurried off to fill the gas tank or pick up the mail, he checked to see if my door was locked. I asked and he said the prized possession in his vehicle is me and the world isn’t genteel.

He teaches me how to love him, how to show him I care. I’m demonstrative in my own ways, and in those ways I show him how to love me also.

Young

YA friend of mine is one of the youngest people I know. She’s also hovering around age 70.

Simply contagious. It is as if all the extra protons attach themselves to nearby electrons, even those of strangers.

Gregarious ought to be her middle name. She drives from the north to the south borders of the west coast and east a ways too. She teaches anyone who has an eye for artful craft. This is an annual odyssey. People remember her–hard not to–and return each year to see what new product she has brought along.

With her there is no pretentiousness. She has no patience for thoughtless people yet she will spend all the time it takes to teach a child who expresses interest in crafts. Adults too when she senses sincerity.

There will come a day arthritis claims the dexterity of her fingers; it is already working its way to the bones. I expect she may become road weary. If not, the financial hassles of buying, selling, tracking earnings and reporting taxes may erode her enthusiasm.

Hard to imagine her confined to fewer road trips. Harder still to know she may not visit each year on her pilgrimage.

So I steep in her company when she is here, phone and email between. And wish, fervently wish I had met her so much sooner.

©2014 Sandra R. Davidson

Whiskers

WOn a crowded countertop adorned with a black-and-gold brocade banner, a clear jar rests among cast iron and black lacquer. The jar lid is spiffed up with a colorful image of fruit.

“I know the jar looks empty. Just don’t toss it or wash it out.”

“What’s in it?” Passing curiosity orders he ask.

“Whiskers.”

“What?!” He lifts the jar. His vision is changing so the jar does look empty. He tips it back and forth.

“Remember when we had Simone put down? You wanted a bit of fur to keep.”

“Where did that end up anyway?”

“My jewelry box.” It is a place he is likely to forget and I am likely to remember. “Cats don’t have much fur and the dogs are both short haired. So…I’m keeping whiskers.”

He glances up to give me the strangest look. “How will you know which is which?”

“The longest belong to the Maine Coon. The next and blackest belong to the Siamese. The terribly short belong to one dog or the other.”

He laughs. “How exactly do you find kitty whiskers?”

“All over. The bathroom floor, my side of the bedspread. And the dogs are easy. If I find it in the bathroom, it is his. If I find any others near their bedding, they’re hers or theirs.”

His brows scrunch, “What are you going to do with all these whiskers, woman?”

“I will make a leather bag with a drawstring, one for each of us. Inside will be these and similar treasures.” I am remembering all the mourning lockets through history with carefully preserved hair of a loved one.

He tips the jar several times before coming around the counter to hold me and kiss my cheek.

His own hair I have set aside, a memento from when his hair was long.

©2014 Sandra R. Davidson

The Switching Station

SMy grandparents lived near an overpass beneath which a half dozen pairs of railroad tracks form a train yard, a switching station. This is where cars hitch up from one route to another, one engine to another.

It is a relatively quiet dance given the massive amounts of metal being shoved around. When the small town traffic and the highway noise reach a low, the steel wheels and rails sing. This became a lullaby of my childhood to which I fought sleep.

I returned at a point in my life when insomnia and had taken over my nights while confusion and sadness were starving me, literally. In three and a half weeks I had lost 32 pounds and could no longer keep water in my stomach. I didn’t feel and I didn’t care.

The first night, sleep wouldn’t come. I sat on the cement steps my grandfather had poured years before I was born; I fretted. I felt hollow of body and spirit. I felt a calm come on. It took some time to recognize the haunting lullaby still sings.

I slept.

The morning brought familiar smells and tastes at the table in my grandparents’ one-person kitchen. I ate some. During the day I ate the morning’s refrigerated ham between a room temperature biscuit. I sipped Southern sweet iced tea my grandmother kept refrigerated in what was once a one-gallon, glass pickle jar.

By the time I boarded the flight to Portland, Oregon, I felt physical relief. I was unsure what might have happened while I was in California. Sleep and time away helped me hold to the calming lullaby of the switching station.

Three children, my father lost to cancer left the two siblings. Eight grandchildren, one memorialized, and then great grandchildren. After 50 years of Grandma and Grandpa’s, we all mourned the day their home sold and they moved to another house.

Gone the scent of an old King James Bible read aloud in my grandmother’s cadence; the bounty of the garden my grandfather kept watered and weeded; the sight of their neat rows of multicolored canning jars on shelves beside his steel coffee cans filled with nuts, bolts and the aroma of WD-40.

The two-lane highway we used to cross to get to church three times a week is now two in each direction with the center turning lane bringing the count to five. Traffic never reaches a low.

I’m certain the wheels and rails still sing in the din.

©2014 Sandra R. Davidson

One Art

OI have been haunted for many years by Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle ‘One Art’.  Elizabeth Bishop chose a confining poem structure, the villanelle, to approach such a life-consuming event.

“The art of losing isn’t hard to master;” begins the poem.

I can’t find my glasses. I misplace keys then a wallet. I loan a book never returned. One starts early in life losing things. Some are of lesser value. Some seem devastating.

Read it. Find it in yourself and read it once more.

©2014 Sandra R. Davidson

With Child and With-Child

Dear Mr. Jesus,

“Unfortunately I can’t have any children, but I have raised and had several in my life. That ship has sailed so I just make the best of the little ones in my life now.”

via Not Mine | DEPRESSION: my muse.

You have grasped the solution I still struggle to accept. I don’t struggle often; with-child isn’t a title I will wear. Every now and again, my child slides its hands around my neck and squeezes until a lump forms, and then immediately am alone to recover in gasps, wheezes and tears.

Unlike you, children are a part of my life no longer. The children who were aren’t children anymore.

Your grace and acceptance humble me.

©2013 Sandra Davidson

Silence is a Workout

So much I haven’t been saying. A thought surfaces and I push it back under the quagmire with the others. I suppose I can say my metaphorical arms are getting a workout.

As the end of my first marriage stumbled into view, I had quite a collection of baby and parent books, items for a baby’s room, even clothing. Relegated to a small shed at the end of a small carport and packed tightly with a weed-whacker, mower and assorted seasonal necessities, the collection had been dwindling as one or another acquaintances became pregnant.

I had been nineteen. He had been twenty. Shamed from living together by both sides of our families, we married. The love between us is true; it still exists today in a different form.

At nineteen, I knew little about drug paraphernalia and less about drugs, alcohol or even cigarettes. I’m not a simpleton; I had little to no experience.

Ah, but he was vibrant, charming, gentle and loving. The requisite sense of humor was there. He played guitar, as much of my family did and does. There was a sincerity about him—on some levels. And I was nineteen.

Six years later, I picked up all the various pieces of child-wishing and donated them to the local women’s shelter. The end was more present than the present when he called from the middle of the town in which he had spent most of his life and told me he was lost. He gave me what he thought to be his location and I called his mother to pick him up. With me by his side, he had tried in-patient and outpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation; his family had made his brother and him addicts from birth. He had tried, for love; he had failed by biology.

Husband number two, I knew the night I married him I had erred in a ghastly way. He had some wonderful traits, including the required sense of humor, and was suddenly an alcoholic that very night, and then with increasingly nasty undertones. No children would come of this marriage and none did. Purposely.

With the first and second husbands, I could not imagine either of them as a sole parent to a child should something happen to me. It isn’t about wish or want. It’s about the child.

The baby collection turned into collecting babies from friends on occasion. That began to burn in my arms and my heart too severely; friendships dissolved, but one.

Four years later my second marriage ended in an act of violence against me. I packed my husband’s items, loaded them in his car; from his keychain I removed the house and related keys; and from his wallet I extracted the credit card to which I had added his name to my account. I woke him from a hangover and held out his items saying, “I want peace. I can’t have that with you here.”

It was twenty-two more months before he would sign the divorce papers. I wasn’t in a hurry. I wasn’t looking for anyone in my life. I began divorcing life along the way. I still worked, yet I refused friendships. I began to frequent 24-hour grocery stores at one in the morning.

In October 1994 after the divorce was final, I moved to a tiny apartment, the middle unit of a one-story triplex where my front neighbors cut into my electricity and I paid well over a hundred dollars a month for both units, me unawares but suspicious as the amount of the bills was well over what I had paid for the large house from which I had just moved.

In November 1994 I was diagnosed with melanoma, which was successfully excised. If I wasn’t well on my way to being a recluse, that bricked up some paths for me. I still wanted nothing to do with friendships or relationships.

My biological mother’s side of the family—dead young of cancer, including my grandmother (her mother) at age twenty-four. My father was already dead of esophageal cancer. My paternal grandfather had survived what was believed to be job-related leukemia and was my link to melanoma.

No children. Absolutely decisive. In a society that defines immortality and worth by progeny, offspring, what one leaves as a legacy in their own form, I felt meaningless. I began to plan a long path to suicide. I came within minutes of succeeding in 2005.

A few years on, I took a visit to my family in California. It did me good, made me feel I deserved a life of my own. On my return from vacation, my family encouraged me to look for friends with whom I might go fishing or enjoy other outings. At the same time, my adult life time diagnosis of depression magically became re-diagnosed as bipolar disorder. Yeah.

By then I had been corresponding and talking with a man who was moving to a house not too far from me. I broke the news to him as I found out. I didn’t really know what it meant. It felt the same as any other month and year. Another nick in the “no children” resolution I’d made. The last genetic brick in the wall.

I married that man. He has a grown son. He wanted no children, much to my relief. After some time, I secretly and openly cried; if there was ever a man with whom I would wish to have children, he is the man. I would trust him to raise a child without me.

My wall stands.

Last month I took a step toward health and a last step to reinforcing the wall of barrenness: I had the lining of my uterus destroyed. No more periods is the hope, therefore I keep more iron and my adult anemia will improve from a ferritin level of 1 to, oh hope of hopes, 100 (out of 300) or better.

So. I struggle still. It hasn’t been about babies for very many years. It’s about giving back more to this total environment than I take from it. It has always been about that, since I was a child hiding from notice.

Without Resentment

Waiting at the doctor’s office. Man wheels himself up to the counter and checks in, then rolls himself my direction. He’s been to the orthopedic department before. Silverish gray hair parted and neatly combed, short, trim. Handsome.

A woman joins him. Caregiver? She sits down in a chair beside him. I notice her posture is odd and follow her crossed leg to her shoe resting atop his shoe. Gentle, loving tone, easy motions as she reaches for his hand, entwining their fingers and laying her left hand on top of the both of theirs.

Love, without resentment. They were in their 50’s, late perhaps.

©2004 Sandra Davidson