Taco Love: Ten for Today

Another night. Of course, I had to. He tries so hard. And it is taco Tuesday all over the world, right? Okay, all that matters is he wants to feed me to say thanks. He believes I saved his life. But I simply nursed him back to health. He saved his own life. No one can save another’s life, not if he doesn’t want it saved.
 
His meds have changed him. Some would say for the better. He’s loving, kind and sentimental. Before he was mean, sad, angry and mournful, broken up with biting moments of crass humor or cutting sarcasm. We actually were more amused when he was an awful curmudgeon. I mean awful. The kids laughed at his foulness, how he’d get pissed off and tell his grandchildren to fuck off, or I hate that fucking kid referring to one of the small neighborhood children.
 
Not that he meant any of it–or not for long. He had no patience. He still doesn’t; he just doesn’t care. He’s Celexa free-bodied now. Numbed to the pain. Some would wonder why all the pain. But I know. I see him suffer in rage and frustration. That life he thought was promised, the kind with growing old with your wife of 63 years, bickering, holding hands and reminiscing.
 
He was always himself with her, no matter how much that meant the ogre unleashed his ugly all over us, all over the place. But he could apologize and laugh and lie peacefully in spooned sleep, snoring away the reality of another 12 hour day on his feet in the noise, no one treating him right, yet his duty, loyalty and ethics marching on, always.
 
On time. He had to be on time, always. Not miss any days in the factory go round. Proud of his stamina and responsibility. If anything, he’s been responsible and enduring. Sisyphus and the invisible rock.
 
And after all those years, those endless hours watching, walking, minding the machines, his retirement a promise of hundreds if not thousands of dealt hands and studied numbers (he’s a card counter and that’s why he’s so good), he finds her gone, only her bodily remains shadowing him like the cool shady relief of memory. But she’s a wound too.
 
So he feeds me. He thinks it’s love. I take it. My belly begs me not to. Because it’s not enough to love me two tacos large. It’s always four taco love, despite my refusal. Today, I ate. Burp.   

Ten Minutes More

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June 28, 2016

I breathed into this one a great deal yesterday: Tomorrow will be a day full of challenges small and large, the largest being the lack of time to think. A day full of so much activity (appointments, work, work and work) without any time to ponder the condition of the day–and me–for a small yet centered bit of time used to be every day. And that was just fine. I rather preferred not thinking and just doing. It warded off the demons I was keeping down inside me, in that deep, deep place no one—not even I—can locate. The busier I was, the less time I had to reflect about how my life was going or not going. It suited me just fine and then, of course, delayed the inevitable revolt of the repressed, those wild demonic fears and dissatisfactions named “where am I going and where have I been?”

But today’s busy-ness did not arrive with relish. In fact, the scheduled activities brought nothing more than the challenges of practicing what I know I must do but find difficult to do: appreciate everything more. Yet there’s no question in my mind (first mistaken location to start the day) that I do not appreciate taking my father to his doctor appointment down south 30 minutes in weekday traffic, abiding his ever stream of mad rant. “Why are we going to more doctors? They don’t know anything and just want to take my money and make me miserable. I’d like to give them some of their own medicine. Why do they allow trucks on the freeway? In New York, they only allow trucks on the expressway so the shmucks don’t slow down traffic. Look at that asshole driving so slow, holding up traffic.” This is the running monologue I expect and too often get before he asks me what we’re going to eat when we get out of the good-for-shit doctor’s office.

Daddy Deep

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What sound makes hollow deep?

Not quite sound at all,

It is a missing knock, 

Soft and insistent,

Knuckles weak.

A buzz of silence

Just about where the t.v. 

Lies blank and mute.

A sneer faded to black

And a joke told 10,000 times

With a missing punch line

Or vaguely remembered,

Souring the laughter.

Questions unrelenting and inane

Will one day go unanswered

Not for lack of interest, 

Raised eye brow, 

Rolled eyes, but

For want of asking.

Some day the house

Will die without you,

Emptied of its anchor

And upturned root.

That day will gut us,

No doubt, but not today.

Not this day.

When a father…

We never carry them the way they carry us, but we carry, we do.

I may never lift my father in my arms and cradle him to sleep–

but I would if that were the only thing to do, if he withered away,

the blood in his urine signaling cancer gone cure-less, and all

of his 6’3″body shrunk to size befitting my strength’s capacity.

His burden was not the same as mine now, yet just as heavy.

I make his doctor appointments, petition his insurance carrier

for returns and permissions, for money owed and paid, due

promises others should keep, I track them and bite my nails

when he drives, counting the days til the inevitable unknown.

I am his memory and his nattering nit-picking conscience.

Parenting him is not like his parenting me–not like it at all.

He left parenting to his wife, my mother, who stares skeletal now.

My parenting is ironic, the young to the old, whereas his or hers

was right side up. Picking up my body in his arms to rush me,

bleeding, to the doctor downstairs when I cut my finger off in the

city apartment steel shut booming door I teased with my 3 year old

fingers til it bit my left forefinger, my pointer, right off my hand,

he carried me, but not like I carry him, in his arms, not in my arms,

but in my constant vigilance and resentment and worry and fear.

I watch him and struggle to be patient, to be nice, to be a daughter

not a mother or a wife or stranger disinterested in the outcome,

though that may be how it appears on the outside, estrangement.

But it’s never-without-burning back of the mind bearing weight,

loaded on a mind’s shoulders, sagged under heavy-careful love.

He held me in lightness and faith, worry, worship and wonder.

I speak him in my dreams, awakening to his anger and my own.

Shaking off our bodies to the dust is always on our minds, we two–

a father to a daughter-mother-mortal-stranger til the end, ours.

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You Want Fruit?

  
“You want fruit? I’ve got all kinds of fruit. I’ve got apples, pears, watermelon, grapes and bananas.”

It’s the same every day. R and I smirk at each other and silently mouth the words as they are spoken with our eyes rolled up. 

R says quietly to me, “It will be his epitaph.”

The old man talks banana, fish, ice cream, Snickers bars, BK hamburgers, pizza and spaghetti and meatballs, the gustatory language of care: communing in eating words.

On any given day, each member of the family undergoes the same interrogation upon first notice or first entering the house:

“You hungry? I’ll get you something to eat. What do you want?

“No thanks, I just ate.”

“No, really, it’s no problem. It won’t take me long. I can go right now. What do you want?”

“No thanks, I just ate.”

“Are you sure? You’ll be hungry later. You want me to get you something for later?”

“No thanks.”

“You’re going to be hungry later, you know.”

“No thanks.”

Like a song on repeat, he echoes an unstoppable refrain, worse than an ear worm. The first words of the litany dull my brain and my mood instantly. Even if I am hungry, I reactively reject the offer out of sheer negation, the will to make it stop, and discourage the behavior.

But I breathe, blink and behave: he only knows this way. He means well, and even if he doesn’t, he just does this, utters these syllables like a tic, an eye twitch or knee jerk when the rubber mallet hits the reflexive sweet spot. 

Because we will laugh at his eulogy reciting a thousand and one inanities, even as we cry the quiet of the house into our eyes, awaiting the ticking off the names of fallen fruit.

All Roads Lead to Anger

  
I am an asshole on the road. 

While I have never engaged in road rage, I rage plenty on the road in seething insults and strings of profanity that I cannot help but recognize as an inheritance from my father.

I always believed I was most like my mother: cheerful, determined, optimistic and rational. But that’s because my father was never around, working round the clock as he did. Come to find out after he moved in a few years ago, I am much like him.

I not only inherited my dad’s long, skinny legs and dark eyes, but also his temper. 

My Dad could be nasty. My memories soak in pools of chiding, my mother wagging her finger at her husband after yet another profanity blasted from his lips. His pet names for his wife included colorful epithets that would curdle any feminist’s blood–really any civil human being’s blood.   

My father’s vulgarity fully bloomed in a car. I drive like him: impatiently, erratically, and aggressively. All the curses I ever heard growing up fly freely from my mouth in explosions of hateful disdain on the road. I transform from human to monster. 

I know habit has a large part to do with it, but I am nevertheless surprised at the ferocity of my anger the moment I encounter a perceived slight on the road: it rises in a flash hotter and more suddenly than those that plagued me for years before menopause. It feels like a siege, as if I have no control over an acid-spewing alien cocooning inside me that bursts from my guts and spews terror. 

And when I have just spit aloud from clenched teeth the words: “You f#@*ing asshole!” with venom, I immediately catch myself, just as automatically as the words that flew out of my mouth, “What is wrong with you?!!” 

Therein lies part of the problem: not the knee-jerk flying foul language and anger triggered by insignificant, impersonal lane encroachments but the counter reaction of self-berating. It does nothing to change the reactive fury. 

Not that I condone the behavior, the lack of control in the face of something so irrational and trivial. Like any bad habit–smoking, nail biting, leg shaking (all of which I have had to beat)–the behavior masks some other neglected need, some other unattended emotion, unhealed wound, stewing conflict or ongoing unresolved problem.  

Most often, however, we seethe in separation, having polarized ourselves in opposition to those who would thwart our efforts, not only on our immediate but our larger destination–at least that is our perception.

When we lash out at the unknown ‘other’ out there in the world, someone we have reduced to a concept, a negative speed bump in our lives, whether that be the generic bad driver (or merely inattentive driver), not to mention the total road blocks–“the racist cop”, “the black thug”– or the more specifically named and reviled “woman” or “Asian” or whichever derogatorily denoted driver, we do so because we are isolated–and not just in the safety of our cars. We are closed up inside of ourselves, removed from our innate artist’s eye able to see the details of others. I know this because no one except the seriously ill or wounded cannot memorize the lines in his mother’s face as she sits paralyzed placid in her wheel chair or the dimples in her babies’ knees.  

The mind can see if allowed to.
 
The distance between us is self-imposed, learned, unconscious and/or conscious. It derives from the dis-remembrance of our primal past as cave-dwelling groups of protective survival and the ever-unfolding illusion of separateness, the change in us since those days.

Change comes from active awareness of our material being. If the scientists’ and spiritualists’ postulations resonate truth, we are all part and particle of the same star bursts, the same matter that existed eons before us, made us. Our DNA that shapes us is shaped similarly to that of the earth’s flora and fauna. Whether our individual components–genetic or nurtured–make us tall, short, dark or light skinned, good drivers or bad drivers, even-tempered or hot-tempered, we are all respiring sentient beings that matter, are matter, both divine and profane.
 
When we forget that, we other-ize, sense the loneliness of that disconnection, and get angry. And that’s okay. Eventually, we shift sight, change gears to lower breathing rpm’s, and recognize ourselves as the free-way, the one leading us all to the same exit and on ramps.

 
Photo credit:  wakeup-world.com

The Hunger

  

Silent morning crashed by knuckled knocking–

“Do you want breakfast?” he asks like clockwork.

A man who eats to fuel his quest for the next meal.
 

I remember the bed and breakfast crawl we made

visiting New England in late fall of the festival trees

the first snow of Vermont outside a barn-turned pub.

 
The magic peppered with the strafing questions like

“Do you want pizza? Are we getting soft serve?”

And we just finished breakfast not even an hour ago.
 

We laughed and sighed heavily too mocking the man.

Mom was herself then and could join in the jeering.

This man she married from birth delivering herself too.

 
Broken windows, airless in vomitous heat of rat breath

this sweat shop he worked in nearly all of his adulthood

feeding too many mouths that barely spoke to his image.
 

He convinced himself from so fateful a day–stay boxed

when only he tripped on the rug pulled under his feet

by friends joy riding days to sweet steals, jobs or dying.

 
A mind goes empty in the cabin of fear dank and dark

communing with foreign tongues, solemn shells of skin.

Like solitary confinement for 48 years, no one remains.

 
So we dwell on the asking, the feeding, breaking bread

we two who watch our center fold in on herself slowly

eking death out slow-steady for lack of a conversation.

 
“No, I already ate,” he hears expectantly but undaunted.

“Come on. You’re too skinny and you need to eat more.”

Words endlessly cut and pasted on a screen of our lives.

 
Other words fly scatter shot red-orange like those trees

the ones in New Hampshire that year we traveled miles

from my rage-ful grimace, head banging steering wheel.

 
Remind me of a father’s daughter teetered on seesaws

lifted by the weighted desire dreamed in obedient love

and grounded earth bound to shackled birthright chains.

 
Invisible strands heated like electric coils of metallic sin

knit our knotted ties seemingly eternal yet dust shallow

as we journey the branches we are and make complete.

 
The insatiable consumption of air heats the moving parts,

wills an engine movement to carry bodies across lands  

upon which fathers and daughters feed the mime of time.