Be Mindful

Everything but Green (c) November 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon

Sometimes you know exactly what’s coming and sometimes, as Edward Gorey more poetically put it, you have no idea that tomorrow it will be raining.

Sometimes “It’s better not to know.”:

Either Jupiter says 
This coming winter is not 
      After all going to be 
The last winter you have,
      Or else Jupiter says 
This winter that’s coming soon,
      Eating away the cliffs 
Along the Tyrrhenian Sea,
      Is going to be the final 
Winter of all. Be mindful.
      Take good care of your household.

During our last Thanksgiving with my husband Jim, we all knew what was coming–very soon: my last birthday with him, his last birthday with us, a last Christmas together with our children, a final family trip.  His death, far, far too young, from pancreatic cancer.

It certainly would be Jim’s last winter.

But you would not have know that from Jim.  Apart from a dollop of intense afternoon weariness, he joined wholeheartedly both in the feasting and in the kind of family word puzzles which yesterday so unhinged my little brother that puppy-related threats were made.

Our Thanksgiving meal was served in the 1805 room he loved, which he had adorned with a large antique table he picked out just before we had our first child.  It was crowded with our children, and more.

Jim would die in the same room fewer than four months later, facing the same burnt orange walls from a hospital bed that replaced the family table he had chosen for his household.

I think for the rest of us it was better to know.  For Jim it made essentially no difference in the way he lived each day of his life: he was mindful, he took good care of his household, he would have lived an extraordinary life no matter what Jupiter told him.

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

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I’ll Follow Jupiter

As I limp and teeter towards verticality, there is no telling about what subject I will suddenly experience a bout of certainty.

I waffle over the simplest things.  I may be utterly unable to decide whether or what to eat or drink, or what semi-read book to pick up next.  I have begun to realize that my equivocation is most paralyzing when I am alone, when I have to make a decision without any cues or guidance from people who know me.

The person who forever will know me best is gone.

I would know what my husband was thinking from the look on his face.  He had such nuanced expressions, on a face I knew so very well, that I could tell from his profile exactly where we were in FAFSA season.  (If you have to look it up, then you need not develop a customized  expression of concern about it.)

We often didn’t need words at all, and could answer one another’s unvoiced questions.

In thinking back over the time I have spent without my husband, I see a period of vacillation punctuated by certitude.  As my husband always did, I decided to look further into the data, seeking truth in its innermost parts.

I thought about the rare instances in which I have an overwhelming sense of certainty: something I feel compelled to do, as if my husband is answering a question for me.  It was like this in planning my husband’s Closing Ceremonies: I hemmed about numerous questions, and then was unequivocal about my responses to others.  In retrospect, the certainty seemed to depend upon how the question was framed.

“When do you want to speak?” the Reverend asked me.

“Uh. . . ”  I shook my head, giving the universal palms-up shrug of indecisiveness.

“Let me put it this way,” he rephrased the question.  “What do you want to follow?”

“I’ll follow Jupiter” immediately rushed out, in my voice.

Continue reading “I’ll Follow Jupiter”

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