there will be just 2 of us that can pick up a phone or get on a plane to visit in person with each other.
it feels very curious and strange.
As it looks right now it will be the youngest and the oldest of us to continue muddling about in this "sphere".
i just returned home from visiting the sister who lives a continent away and is in her final hours although she keeps surprising us "rallying" as they say. Gratefully, she stayed long enough for my big sister and me to visit and bask in her smile and sparkling eyes. The state of her mortal being confirms that she will depart, soon. The last 8-9 years have not been kind to her body and mind.
She is 70-something.
So startling to acknowledge that number.
My niece the one i chased on my hands and knees when she was 2 and i was 10 is a marvel and a wonder: she teaches high school "home economics" (or whatever they call it now) full time and has been the one to drive her mother, my sister 90 miles one-way to the doctor for chemo and the dozens upon dozens of other visits. She is the one who has held down the fort the 3 times her father was air-lifted to the hospital for his medical emergencies while raising her 4 children and juggling crazy family dramas, celebrations and church duties. She laughs easily it's a family thing we all cherish. It's what has "gotten us through". She is married to a gem of a man who helped me cross the divide between the sister i last visited in 2005 and who she is today.
i sit here humbled by their reality, their stories, their bravery trying to remember what it was that was so important before i got on the plane
It is Kelly's birthday and as i've been preparing our celebration (which means stocking up on favorite ice creams to consume in her honor, a tradition she observed in memory of her father who could tell you where to find the best versions in nearly every major city in the country) a very tender memory came to mind...
First of all you need to know that her father, Peter is a gifted muscian. His favorite instrument is the organ. Secondly, you must understand that Kelly was her father's only daughter and she, too was musically gifted. Her instrument: the piano.
We all know on some level or other how music well... how music can change us... alter one's self like nothing else can.
If you have ever been so moved then i do not need to explain (i couldn't, anyway) that Kelly and her father are connected on a level so few of us ever experience.
And yet you also need to know that Kelly is the last person to say anything about any of her gifts. She is chatty, very witty not ashamed to be silly does not suffer fools gladly and like her father a BIG tease. In other words: they are anything but boorishly serious muscians.
They rarely talked about it. They both played at home, daily mostly for fun Peter favoring any number of traditional American folk songs usually bursting out with boistrous vocals, as well.
Many years ago when the family was living in San Jose, California and Kelly was a teenager (i think she was 16 or 17) i was visiting for the Christmas holidays and disappointed that i had to fly back home late Saturday night before church services on Sunday when Peter and Kelly were to perform a piano and organ duet. Happily, there was time for me to join them for an afternoon rehersal before i had to leave.
Kelly's mother, other aunt and i went over to the chapel with them. They asked us to sit in the back to listen and give feedback re: volume and balance between the two instruments.
They both played a few bars Peter adjusted something or other on the organ they tested those few bars again and then father and daughter looked up at each other then back to the sheet music and muffed the beginning. Kelly sputtered they worked out a new cue and then began again. This time, Peter smiled and they continued on...
i do not remember the name of the piece. It was by one of those classical composers whose name i should probably remember also. i'm afraid to try and find and listen to it performed by anyone else.
Luminous. That is the word that keeps coming to mind. Their music filled the cool, dark, reverent space and it washed over and into each of us. The three of us sitting in that last pew could hardly speak we were so ...
i was so happy to have been a witness to those moments to be with family alone, in that space with Kelly and Peter as i'd never experienced them before.
i can see her now if she were listening to me tell you this she would shrug rattle off the name of the piece and then quickly ask, with a gleam in her eye, "When do we get the ice cream?"
and today i'm celebrating that young golden boy who stole my heart
who i created this blog for because he loved to see so many of the things i do.
And, one of my favorite things about that young man was his eclectic taste in music.
i remember the impassioned musicappreciation lesson he shared with me one evening on his last visit to this garden...all about the fine art of wailing guitars, Van Halen and what sets them above all the rest. Then, half an hour later, he was singing the praises of bass-baritone Paul Robeson. Then, he went online so i could hear another of his favorite songs:
Pamela loves trees and misses living here in the northeast where we are rich in arboreal delights
i know she would be charmed by the puddles of spring beauties flowering in the lawn of the sycamore allée
and the pristine blue sky-light illuminating the soft pink dogwood and new leaves of the giant chestnuts
And walking beneath these, i can hear her say, "So that's why it's called a copper beech"
Kelly, who adores her father and mother would be looking for the fruit trees (of which there are only ornamental ones) and asking all sorts of practical questions while her mother continued looking up, all around, and sighing with contentment.
Pamela loves her home, which was near her daughter's but has flown in the company of good friends to tour Eastern Europe where i trust there are many, many beautiful grand old and new, young trees marvels and wonders music, art and histories to pull her mind and heart out of the grief if only for blessed moments of relief.
Dear Father in Heaven, You have asked a lot of our sister, taking three of her children and her husband back to where You are. Please wrap Pamela--who has always put her full trust in You in Your comfort and love especially on this day and all the rest of her days here with us. You have asked her to endure much and therefore we trust You will honor her unwavering faith and continue to buoy her, and to help her find solace and balm in the company of her friends while she journeys.
i wake discover, mid breath that it is easier to breathe.
my hopscotch memory skips over the tense days of the last few weeks (reflecting, with knew knowledege, i now recognize it was months)
i remember your other nickname "Short Circuit"
for your twitchy tale--a dancing plume peculiarly yours and how, each time you stood under the empty piano bench that serves as our coffee table it played a delightful bumpity ditty. (camera photos are rarely very good, but often what is in hand)
Smiles coming more easily now hopping back lightly over anxious days to the all those moments to choose from (even the ones that leave the jute rug in my workroom with a shredded hem: "Bad cat!" i say and you look up at me not the least bit worried until i stomp my feet and pretend to attack with clapping hands as you trot off tail high)
the mind jumps back again to this place where the clenching ache is slowing loosing its grip and i see you and the rest of my family who move lightly walk silently where you do
Even as i shake my head knowing i'll never stop finding ginger cat hair here, there, everywhere Thank you, Kirby.
Thank you dear friends for your kind words here and elsewhere.
out of the corner of my eye curled up on this chair or that one or the corner of the bed or stopping, suddenly to carefully examine as he did everytime he entered the room the suspicious fringe on the rug before leaping over it and sauntering in. i keep waiting to hear his voice engage in our daily banter.
This sweet boy, Kirby, like his brothers and sister before him will live with me forever. i am one of those who, but for a very few exceptions, will choose the company of animals over humans everytime.
Long story short, we expected this sweet boy to rally, like his brother did, after vet visit and new thyroid meds. But there was a deeper, hidden problem...and his health declined quickly. So, Uncle Ted (our vet) came to the house Sunday and we said good bye to our dear little friend. i'm so grateful that it was a gorgeous day so that i could prepare a place for him in the garden. Afterward, we sat in the sun and listened to a very sweet little finch sing him to his happier place.
17 years is a nice long time...can hardly believe it's been that long. What was life like without him?
As a kitten, his nickname was "Motor boat" because he walked around purring, loudly. He was our little shepherd cat, who waited at the bottom of the stairs and herded us up to bed. He would not settle down until we both were both in for the night was always there to greet us at the door when one of us was away sat on the "cat tree" and talked with us every night as we fixed dinner was the world's best mouser--just two days before, he was on duty and caught one (poor little thing, but as always, you were so proud) twice daily he and his brother raced around the house, up and down the stairs, rumpling rugs, up and over books and tables, until just recently. When napping during the day, if you came into the room where he was he would lift his head and "meow" hello, and often keep on talking. He made sure to spend time with each of us, every evening, then curled up on the couch with his head resting on J's leg. Such a sweet fellow Such a good soul
The house is so heartbreakingly quiet now The shock is finally beginning to wear off and a new wall paper on this machine coupled with sweet memories are filling my head. Thank you, Kirby. Hope you're having fun with Nicolas and McKenzie again and enjoy Obadiah and Benjamin, too. i'm sure that Cheri, Jon and Kelly are having fun with all of you.
i find it nearly impossible to write these next words: My sister has said good-bye to a third child. Cheryl Kellene Paine Vella. Those who have been visiting over the years will remember my post 16 months ago about my nephew Jon. His sister--generous, loving, opinionated, happy, friendly, gregarious, fiercely competitive player of family card games, always-thinking-of-others--has joined him in that mysterious-to-us "next place." Their older brother passed away 1985 (or
there bouts), shortly before Kelly was married.
Theirs is one strong, never-loose-faith family. i cling to their apron strings, hoping with all my might that it's all true.
Here are Kelly and Jon, about 36 years ago. This photo is just so Kelly. As someone said at her funeral services, if there was a baby nearby, it
was soon in her arms.
We have always been a close family, but Kelly and i had become even closer this past year. And for the past couple of weeks...after she went into the hospital...i've been holding my breath. Unable to concentrate on much beyond the absolute "must do" deadlines, the Facebook game she lured me into, and watching the chimney swifts in the sky above the garden.
Their mother, my sister, has the strongest spirit, deepest abiding faith of anyone i know. She would say something like, "this overwhelming sadness is only our near-sightedness. I know I will see and be with them again."
For me and my adopted sister (Kelly's other "favorite aunt") on this side of the continent, the garden was our refuge on the day we received the awe-full news. It was a glorious, cool, spring morning. A brilliant sky. A soft breeze. And dozens of song birds eating, bathing, flying through.
And yet...and yet...this world grows just that much lonelier.
I hide myself within my flower, That wearing on your breast, You, unsuspecting, wear me too— And angels know the rest. Emily Dickinson
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)i am never without it... ee cummings
Lucy, when you get around to this...i'm so sorry that you know too well how this all feels.
i started this blog several years ago when i saw what artists were doing on the Internet, and how well photographs usually appear in this medium (i've always loved viewing photographs with light passing through them rather than reflecting off their surface). Once i got going, i immediately wished to share it with my Best Friend...my "Best Boy" ...a nephew. He has always been one of my dearest fans and his delight/enjoyment was my chief reward and i was always eager to see what he thought of each post. Then i told a few more "old friends" and then began posting on your blogs and have enjoyed this curiously addicting communication.
Dear Friends of the Internet...The Boy has left us. Not of his own accord. He certainly didn't want to...after all, he had just found the love of his life last spring and married last fall. But... i've been struggling, trying to find the words to say this without using the words "his heart failed him"
For a couple of weeks, he prepared himself to be placed on a transplant list. Then "last chance" treatments seemed to be helping. But, that's the way it goes sometimes...just when you think things are getting better...the bottom drops away.
so this is just me trying to say to those of you who have been kind, supportive visitors i had to say something here i couldn't just keep posting and not because this silly little fun thing was first and foremost one of the tender ties between The Boy and me
i know that all of you know this type of hollowness and i know he knows all too well loss is something he knew too early, too often and now again.
There is a list that keeps rolling around in my head: the heart of the matter ya gotta have heart it takes heart heart of gold brave heart heartland with all of my heart from the bottom of my heart heartache heart sick heart broken always in my heart bless his heart true heart
i will not keep saying, "he was"
He is gentle, funny, a tease, a flirt, truly guileless, and always in my heart, my eyes. He has tremendous courage. He has heart He never gave up. He is all heart.
in our joys and in our sorrows... how curious how strange that i would end up using this blog with and for the heart.
Jonathan Gerritt Peter Paine because of you, i am slowly becoming a better me this photo was taken about 25 years ago
"When you look back on a lifetime and think of what has been given to the world by your presence, your fugitive presence, inevitably you think of your art, whatever it may be, as the gift you have made to the world in acknowledgement of the gift you have been given, which is the life itself. And I think the world tends to forget that this is the ultimate significance of the body of work each artist produces. That work is not an expression of the desire for praise or recognition, or prizes, but the depest manifestation of your gratitude for the gift of life."
The anniversary of her passing has Stanley's words ringing in my ears, for she is gone too soon. We grew up downwind from the Nevada nuclear test site, standing outside in the evenings in awe of the clouds, the colors on those days they "tested". After our oldest sister survived breast cancer, Cheri knew; a voice inside her began whispering of what the future held for her. Only once did she make the most casual reference. (Is it necessary to ask me how i feel about presidents who have always lied about weapons of mass destruction in a nation where we pride ourselves on being...well...you know what i mean...and that's all i ever wish to say on the matter, here in the garden) Please, dwell with me instead on other truths..
There she is--a woman who never owned a pair of sensible shoes in her life but never said no to "you want to go?"-- so, there she was, on a raft in a river in Alaska. Before leaving she called to say, "You'll never guess where I'm going!" i told her to go buy some sturdy hiking shoes...she just laughed. And she was game for it all...the mountains, the river raft, the helicopter ride to the rocky island where she clambored up steep hills and collected eagle's feathers. Another photograph shows her in a sweater created with her own hands in a pattern inspired by Native American weavings that she discovered were somehow linked to our early Mormon ancestors...she was like that...following the still small voice inside that connected her to essences most of us cannot sense. Threads in her hands...that's what i remember...and her laughing.