Spun Gold

Father’s Day 2012

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair. . . .

This Father’s Day I knew Jim would want us outside.  It was a glorious day on the seacoast, with a cooling breeze uncharacteristic for June.

I looked at the sunlit gold in the lavish locks one of my daughters had woven and pinned up  in anticipation of a much warmer outing.   And this made me think of spinning gold and fairy tales and, well, Canterbury Tales.   (There is no accounting for how my mind works.)

Before we had children, we parents of tonsorial darker hues did not contemplate a high probability of producing a golden-haired child.  In law school I took up quilting, and I launched a fairy tale quilt series.  My first design was Rapunzel (surrounded by “Castle in the Sky” blocks), whose golden hair streamed down a castle wall and off the quilt’s edge, not unlike that of our fourth-born-to-be (were we to have plunked her in a castle tower, from which I assure you she quickly would have escaped; she has always been both nimble and quick).

Somehow our youngest child emerged blonde, resplendent with long curls which turned strawberry in her toddler years and then darkened to honey and amber.    Thus my first thought was of Rapunzel when I gazed at the back of her head, atop her gracefully-held dancer’s neck.

Then Chaucer popped up again in my jumbled musings about gold and silver, about sunlit hues and their place in the universe.

Jim was so much a man of vibrant color, and (as regular readers know) a reverent student of the heavens.

(c) December 2010

Continue reading “Spun Gold”

Parenting for Beginners

Jim with baby Sam

When I was in the hospital following my first son’s birth I was introduced to the wonderful world of parental paperwork.

First came our portion of the form for the birth certificate.

Under “mother’s name” I wrote my mother’s name, and under “father’s name” I wrote my father’s.

Embarrassed, looking furtively around the room as if the paperwork police might charge in the door and take away my writing implements, I realized I needed to cross that out and get used to the idea that this form wasn’t for me; it was for our child.  I was now a mother and Jim a father.

(In my defense, forty-five-and-a-half hours of unproductive labor–not that I was counting–and a crash C-section had not heightened my mental acuity.)

Talk about form over substance. Continue reading “Parenting for Beginners”

A Father’s Day Toast

One of my daughters had to explain to me the frequent appearance of Jim’s left hand–the one with the ring divet–among photographs he took from mountain tops: it was how he set up contiguous shots to form a panorama

My electronic inbox overflows with entreaties to make Father’s Day purchases at deep discounts.  Shopping is not on my mind.

Even my reliably soothing farm game saddens me with a “Father’s Day Quest” in which a brown-eyed, raven-haired girl pops up with bubbles of text recalling what her father has taught her, like looking at stars through a telescope and how to drive.  (It was I who had to ride shotgun for all of those hours with the daughter who just got her license.)

Last Father’s Day, not long after Jim’s death, I took the children who were home with me on the kind of family hike Jim frequently took with us.  He would clamber with his long stride up a mountain with our youngest jabbering musically in a baby carrier on his shoulders as the other three zig-zagged ahead, happily crying out “This way!” when they spotted the painted triangles which marked the trails.

Clusters of us would link and unlink  hands, helping each other over boulders and down slippery stretches.  Jim, who always carried the lion’s share of the weight, though it never seemed to burden him, would dole out water bottles and other supplies.  Small hands would grab fists full of his special gorp mixture.  (Despite the seemingly indiscriminate grabbing, the M & Ms and cashews always would go first.)

Of course this time, without Jim, I got us a little bit lost on the way up to the trail head.

When we finally arrived, all the trails we ordinarily took were obstructed by fallen trees, casualties of catastrophic spring storms.

One of Jim’s many photographs in deep greens and crystalline blues
(c) 2010 Jim Glennon

Continue reading “A Father’s Day Toast”

The Waiting Room

As mentioned in my first post (The World Still Out There), this blog grew out of  succinct administrative updates I sent out to a cyber-community (under the umbrella of Lotsa Helping Hands) of family and friends eager to do whatever they could to help us after my husband’s diagnosis.   The posts gradually grew more descriptive (if not outlandishly long-winded), and I found writing them vastly therapeutic.

“The Waiting Room” was one of the first posts that followed my husband’s death:

I have used the phrase “I’ve got good news and bad news” for comedic purposes, but I never used the words “I’ve got bad news” until the Monday Jim was diagnosed, when I quivered into a friend’s voice mail: “It’s Auntie Steph. I’m with Jim at the Lahey Clinic and we have really bad news.”   

I couldn’t break the news to my family, but for calling my younger brother the next day and saying his name in a way that made him ask if he should pull over the car. 

When I asked if he was driving, his drawn-out, somehow multi-syllabic “yes” made it clear the question had been delivered as if I had asked, “Are you sitting down?” 

Jim never used the phrase “I’ve got bad news” with me or our children.  

Perhaps the closest he came was the night of his  diagnosis, when we both independently tried to make arrangements with our sons’ friends to get our sons home–without panicking them–as soon as possible.  

Of course, there is probably no better way to ensure panic will ensue than to alert someone to the possibility of panic.  (My elder daughter later apprised me I also need to eliminate from my repertoire the opening line, “I don’t want to freak you out, but . . .”)        

Only after his death did I realize what it was about Jim that kept him from ever having told us “I have bad news” about himself.  

I began to understand this a few weeks afterwards, when I became increasingly irritated at the way someone else’s patient was prattling in another doctor’s waiting room.

The woman was morbidly obese and in her sixties.  When she checked into the orthopedist’s office she launched a loud, HIPAA-to-the-winds conversation which she made impossible not to overhear. 

After checking in with the receptionist and being told she could have a seat, she continued gratuitously to discuss her past cancer treatments.  No one had asked her about this: all the receptionist needed was her name.  But she announced she was doing quite well, although she mentioned being uninterested in hewing to portions of her internist’s advice. (Her internist, whose name she broadcast to the room, happened to be ours.)

Jim probably had had countless patients like this one.  In fact, our internist may well have inherited this very patient from Jim’s primary care roster.

I sat in a seat only a few feet away, waiting for one of my daughters. 

The woman made her way to a seat in the waiting room.  After a few minutes, a nurse opened the door to the examining rooms and called the woman’s first name.  She looked up. 

The nurse introduced herself by name, then directed to the woman the rote pleasantry, “How are you?”

“I’m a survivor,” the woman announced theatrically, in place of a “Fine, how are you?”  She made the declaration as if the fact of surviving cancer evidenced some personal virtue on her part.  Continue reading “The Waiting Room”

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