Happy Birthday, Lowell

 

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Dearest Lowell,

You’ve been on my mind a lot today. It’s cool and rainy in Napa, your son here is out back scrubbing the pool after a wet and dirty winter. I’m pretty sure I know where you are, resting in your recliner in you nice warm spot. I bet Rachel is right there with you.

Lowell -CCLowell, thank you for the amazing job you did with Rachel in raising up and teaching your boys to be the best human beings they could be. They are a testament to you. Loving, hard working fathers and husbands, always ready to lend a hand to honor, love, and support those in their grasp.

PopPop, you are the very best grandpa all our little grandchildren could ever hope for. Always ready to listen to their stories, find a treat, teach a new lesson in life or how to fix some thing or another, handing out a drum lesson, or taking them all, one at a time, on a motorcyle ride.

Thank you for being such a warm and strong beacon of light for Rachel. It wasn’t easy all the time, I’m sure. Falling head over heels as teenagers, growing into adults, and marrying the love of your life. Soon enough, picking up to move from your family farms halfway across the country to build a life in Arizona. 

miller thanksgiving 2015

The Millers

I’ve heard you and Rachel laughing about the years you carried water jugs spilling over to your travel trailer while you slowly but surely built up a home of your own on your own patch of land. I always feel so comfortable in your warm, safe, and cozy home in the mountains of Show Low.

You have so many blessings. I know there were difficulties. And struggles.

I’ve heard about your many adventures. Motorcycle trips, motorcycle racing, drums beating in the porch room and with worship teams. Annual trips to the family farm where you pitched in with the yearly harvest. I also heard you were still sitting up in the driver’s seat this year.100_2628

I’m so very grateful for the long trips you made to California. So happy we all went to the ocean, over the hills and down onto Stinson Beach. Did you really mean it when you said you never wanted to ride on that road again? Come on.

It was pretty comical, I have to say, after all the years of you worrying about our earthquakes, that you would be here for the last big one that summer of 2014. I cracked up when you told me you woke up thinking that it was Rachel shaking the bed. Like she would get up and do that.

Thank you for being there to help Mollie and Matt build their first house. Thank you for the new roof you and Matt put on my house a year ago. Thank you and Rachel for all your help when we first moved into our little compound almost four years ago now.

100_8824Yes. This is how you roll. Always in service. Partnering with each of your sons, and their families, to assure them a step ahead in life with their own families.

I know that you know this latest trip around the sun may very well be your last trip around that particular fiery globe of ours. It makes me so sad.

I’ve watched you and Rachel give this last year the fight of your life. I know the cancer that invaded you early last year hasn’t given up either. I’m so grateful that Hospice is helping you and Rachel to assure your last days on this earth are as caring, supportive, and loving as your first few days of life when you popped in here decades ago, right behind me.

I’m so glad we’ve had this time with together, you and Rachel and myself, growing closer over the years. It’s a special blessing that your dear Rachel and I found each other. Having each grown in a house only with brothers, we each have a sister now in one another.

All in all, you and your Millers are one of the greatest blessings that has happened to my family, and to my life.2015-10-17 12.58.41

My heart is full of love, sad with grief, and happy with wonderful memories. I don’t want you to go. It’s one thing to know that each of us is going to leave this planet for another place one day in the future. It’s another to see it happen in front of us.

So, today, with the joys of your previous sixty plus birthdays brimming over onto Rachel, your boys, your sweet grandchildren, your extended family, church, friends, and your beloved dogs, love must be the frosting on your birthday cake of life.

I wish you could stay here for a hundred more birthdays. And. I know you’re looking forward to a new world of hope and light and never ending love in your next life.

So, Happy Birthday, Lowell. I love you and wish you a birthday of peace and love and happiness. I wish I was there to see the candles.

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Christmas Lover

 

Rigid cold and white, a porcelain tub on four talons

Embraces her warm body as it languishes in misty

Bubbles whispering lyrics of tenderness in hot water

Streaming in a delicate dance on her pale pink toes.

 

Silent and alone beneath stars in a clear dark sky

Her memories keep her company

Recollections of three loving nights and days

Held in her heart now for safekeeping.

 

She can still feel the delicate trace of his fingertips

The soft aging skin of his body, passionate and burning,

Lips searching urgently beside the soft tunes on the radio

Their bodies stirring on cue, crying out in bliss.

 

Her tongue tonight, now sweetened only

By chilled Champagne in a Sippy cup.

Crystal flutes safe, high on a shelf,

His happy laughter brushes pain across her soul.

 

It was mere hours before that she watched him sail off

As it was the time before, and all the times before that

It feels like a hundred years ago,

Melancholy satiating her as a chocolate torte.

 

Their calendars on opposite ends of the planet

Will turn in the breeze a dozen spells

Before he returns to hold her again, for Christmas,

From the bed he shares with his wife.

                                                                                                                                                     KT/revised 1/16/16

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Jack’s Suit

Do you see him there? The little guy in the dark blue suit.

Carried into church by his Mama for his Auntie Karen’s wedding

Fall breezes quietly tickling his cheek

His bright speckled blue eyes missing nothing.

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Katie’s got him right there in her lap of dreams

Her little boy, full of wonder, in church again

Sitting close, so sharp once again in that cute little suit

Here in the winter cold, at his Mama’s Grandma’s funeral mass.

.

A few months later, Katie’s gone too, much too soon

Gone with her smile that brought the sun up in the morning

Her laughter that rippled the waters

Her bright blue eyes that she shares with little Jack.

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Little Jack is firmly in his Papa’s arms now

Sitting still and quiet on the dark and hard wooden pew

Wondering eyes topping his cleaned and pressed suit

Searching the sunbeams for his Mommy.

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Katie’s off onto a new journey now

Taking with her the love of a million memories

Leaving behind a world of hurt full of love

Sprinkled with shattered pieces of hearts.

.

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Written in loving memory of my wonderful grand-daughter, Katherine Patricia Green Broder. With gratitude, “Jack’s Suit” was recently published in the California Writers Club Literary Review, October 2015.

The Gift

I see her sitting there on a chair at her cool white Formica kitchen table in the heat of a summer day. 1980, Carson City, Nevada. Her blue skirt and sheer shirt hang loosely on her skin and bones. So thin – always so thin. My mom, sixty years old. In six years, she’d be gone.

For a long time now, I’ve carried the gift she gave to me. Not the watch, tiny diamonds walking around a silver oblong face. The time-keeper put on her wrist when dad was courting her.

A watch I like to wear on scattered days.

It’s not the blue sapphire and diamond ring given to her that she gave to me, that I gave to my daughter.

Total love and support with no judgment. A gift given, unsaid, unseen. Always there, always loving, when I stumbled.

That gift sprinkles on my own children, my grandchildren, and their children, with a handful of gratitude, cloaked in threads strummed along the years.

On a hot day this summer, ignoring pins and needles in a summer breeze just about stopped me in my tracks. Floating on an air mattress, bright yellow in a sparkling azure pool, my chest rising and falling. My breath catching.

Suddenly, clear as day, not heard in twenty-nine years, Mom’s voice shouting to me.

“Kathy, do what you’re told!”

Sliding off the float, a few short strokes, a quick step and the ‘whoosh’ from a small hand-held red and white inhaler. I felt that breath as sure as Mom was standing there beside me, breathing with me. Breathing for me.

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**This poem was formulated during a poetry workshop I attended today, facilitated by Gary Silva and sponsored by Napa Valley Writers. Thank you, Gary and NVW.

During the workshop, a choice of several prompts was presented for which we could write a short piece right then and there. I chose the following:

Write about a gift your family, or someone in it, gave you. It might be an actual gift – a baseball glove, a book, a necklace – or a more intangible one. Talk about how that gift was or could be transferred to another, passed on.

So, Dear Reader, a challenge. Do the same. What do you have to say? Let’s hear about your ‘gift’.

Berries, Brownies and Sunshine Daydreams

I met Karen in Yosemite last fall, both of us traveling solo, both about the same age. We hit it off right away. She totally cracked me up with this tale of a younger Karen and her best friend Jana.

In 1978, Karen and Jana lived in Santa Cruz. Karen was divorced, raising two little boys; Jana was single. They lived near each other, close to the Safeway store they were both employed and where they first met. Jana ran the office, Karen ran the produce department. Occasionally they worked the checkout lines. They shared a birthday and Karen remembered those years as some of the best.

They grew their own pot back then. Karen’s plants thrived, hidden in the berry bushes in her vegetable/fruit garden. The harvest dried in the tool shed. She laughed as she told me her ex-husband would have blown a gasket if he knew about it; he lived just across town.

Along with a couple of other friends, they’d bought tickets to the upcoming Grateful Dead concert that fall, up in San Francisco.

Karen says she made a tasty batch of pot brownies and they started cruising up the Coast Highway in her Blue Ford Econoline van. She’d had one too many brownies, so she wasn’t even driving her own vehicle that day. Jason was. She thinks that’s who it was.

Instead, she was lounging in the back with Jana, relaxing, excited, and keeping time to the music in the cassette deck.

Arriving in the City, they pulled into a gas station to check the wall map for their location and best route to the concert. She and Jana scanned the map, smiling.

“Karen, we’re clear across town from where we ought to be.”

Karen answered with her thumb and forefinger.

“We’re only this far away…”

Laughing, suddenly, Karen lost her bearings, and fell onto the cold hard pavement, passed out. Her friends couldn’t rouse her. They called an ambulance. They all them ended up in the ER. Karen smiled at me, telling me this part of the story had to be filled in for her.

The ER staff grilled her friends repeatedly.

“What’s she on? What’s she taken? Coke? LSD? What?”

Again and again, Jana and the guys answered, “It’s just pot brownies, it’s just pot, that’s all.”

Four hours later, she woke with a screaming headache of a concussion. The hospital released them. After missing the concert, it was a quiet trip back home. They were totally despondent. Karen pined that no amount of brownies would have helped them feel better.

She brooded for a few days before deciding to write a letter to the concert promoter. She related the entire story of why they had missed the concert. She placed the four unused tickets into the envelope, mailed it off, hoping for a refund.

A week or so later, she heard the mail as it dropped through the door slot. Return address, Bill Graham. She ripped it open.

No refund.

Instead, she found a small flyer poster and a one page handwritten note ‘Enjoy the show’, signed by Bill Graham (which she still has), with four tickets to the upcoming Grateful Dead All Night New Year’s Eve concert.

Grateful Dead

The upcoming New Year’s Eve show was set to be the closing night at Winterland. Supposedly, there’d been 500,000 ticket requests. By this time, Winterland was pretty much a dump of a concert hall. Everyone in the bay area knew the last show absolutely had to be the Grateful Dead.

The opening act was a groovy set by the New Riders of the Purple Sage. Up next, Blues Brothers live – the place was rocking. At the time, to the rest of the world, Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi were bigger stars than the Dead. The vocals, the dancing, the mouth-harp, and the horns blew the place out.

Just about midnight, the lights went down. The room tingled with energy. A burning light lit up in the back of the hall, high in the balcony. Jumping and turning, everyone looked to see what seemed to be a giant marijuana cigarette, flaring from one end, like a rocket.

The crowd screamed with delight as Bill Graham coasted along a wire to the stage up front. Just as he landed, fireworks lit up the room, the place erupted and Sugar Magnolia roared from the Dead – the rest of the night was a magical spectacle, indeed, a Happy New Year! All night long. And then, the famous Grateful Dead Concert Breakfast was served.

All I could say to Karen, sitting in the Yosemite trees at the end of her story was, “Wow.”

It was a sweet remembrance of hers that I could totally relate to. We made a plan to meet up again this summer. Her son answered the phone recently when I called to make arrangements. He told me Karen died a month earlier. Cancer.

That’s when I knew I had to share her story with you. It was too good not to.

Rehearsing this reading, I mentioned to my own son and his friends that I was going to use a little prop for the story. Thinking I might pass around a joint, he said, “Mom, they’re going to love your reading!”

I was actually thinking of the poster. He also said, “Oh, now I get it – that’s why we were always having berry crepes!”

Addendum: A half hour before I was set to read this live at a Writer’s Open Mic, I was walking and relaxing along the Napa River. I got the munchies (yeah). I walked around the corner to the local Ben & Jerry’s to have myself a nice Cherry Garcia ice cream cone. Perfect, huh?

I walked in to the Napa Bookmine, where the reading was to be held. Looking through the shelves, I picked up Bill Kreutzmann’s book, Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead in which he talks a bit about this last concert at Winterland. http://www.wsj.com/articles/grateful-deads-drummer-pens-a-memoir-1430236048

That’s the kind of day it’s been. Sunshine daydream; walking through the tall trees…