I don't keep a diary. Except for this odd blog thing. When I was young, I kept a hand-bound diary. Full of weepy, dramatic, romantic childhood effusiveness. My sister found it and that turned out pretty much how you'd expect. Mockery is a sibling's job and bless her heart, she did it well (although I'm much better at it now than she is...overachiever that I am). I swore I'd never chronicle my life so nakedly again.
Of course, sometimes I did anyway. In fits and starts. More like random scribbled pieces of my life. The way you find bits of paper with notes or lists years later. Okay, the way I'm always finding bits of paper with notes or poems or wordplay or cryptic observations that are no longer decipherable. Even though they were mine.
Almost eight years ago I had one of those brief journal periods. I recently rediscovered (and transcribed it from handwritten to digital) but hesitated to publish it. It's so much information. However, I think it's worth it and the retelling comes just before the 7th anniversary of these events...so here goes Part One of Four or Five, I'm not sure yet.
Driving to St. Louis; Taking Daughter back to start her second year of college
The entire Natural State was under highway construction. Isn't that a contradiction? Added almost 2 hours to our 13-hour drive. I love that truck but a comfortable place to sleep, it's not.
Paul Simon's Graceland playing. Pair of billboards that read:JESUS/Denny's 4 mi. aheadandDonate Your Old Shoes for Orphans' Souls.
(Really? A whole soul for one pair of shoes?)
Picked up keys to Daughter's first apartment. It's in an older neighborhood of converted brick buildings about a block or two north of campus. Lots of trees and diverse architecture. Appealing.
Up early to catch the dozens of garage sales; taking advantage of the influx of fall students. Can't leave truck with items in open bed, so I stay put whilst they peruse the offal. Praisejesus. I hate garage sale shopping.
Morning and evening weather is blissful. In the 60's and breezy. How DO we survive summers in Houston? I sit in the cab with the windows open, listening to the Blues and writing. Don't care how many garage sales they want to pillage. Daughter and her roommate keep coming back to place their treasures into the truckbed. They are delighted with the bargains. So much shit for so little!
After unloading two truckfuls (including one FREE dining room table--missing only one leg!...looks like my project for the evening) we go to campus where these sweet, unorganized girls have storage bins full of projects and possessions that need to be loaded and unloaded. Stuffed animals trailing their stuffing, barbed-wire-wreathed furniture, materials of every kind waiting to be transformed. And everything in little inefficient clumps. Ay.
Exhausted but done with local foraging. On to Target and groceries.
Called home for phone messages, hoping one of them holds the offer of work.
Instead, my ex-husband's wife's voice is on the phone. She has a timbre to her normal voice that can be hard to listen to, and it seems moreso this time; I hold the receiver away from my ear a bit. Hard to understand at first but then the disjointed phrases assemble: my ex-husband is in the hospital/brain swelling/large inoperable brain tumor. The sound of panic in her voice and my intake of breath have Daughter sitting up in alarm.
How do you tell a 19-year old these things when at 42, you can hardly bear the thought of losing your own parents? She is an oddly stoic creature, this daughter. Refusing comfort until the reality sets in later when the enormous pressure inside her escapes in barking, staccato sobs. Then, abruptly she pulls it back in.
We hang around a little later than we'd planned to help set up the place and maybe make arrangements to send Daughter to Boston. I drill holes, assemble beds and make a damn good "peg leg" for the gimpy table. Daughter had tickets to go to Boston over Labor Day, so we defer flying her out for the moment. There is too much swelling for them to do a biopsy yet, so no real information forthcoming. He's always had migraines, but for the past year (we learn) they've become incapacitating.
We say goodbye to Daughter at around 4pm. Decide as we pull out to get a sandwich and some coffee before the drive. After eating, we sit in the shade in front of this shop while St. Barbara has a cigarette. The late summer sun is perfect, and a breeze is blowing. We read our books (flaunting good sense and the voice in my head that keeps saying, "shouldn't you be on the road by now?") for the next three hours. Spontaneity and Impulse. My new apprentice muses.
It's been a little while since a book has been so compelling. Bone People (Keri Hulme). I am enchanted with it.
Finally, we climb into the truck and start our journey back.
Relationships seem to work like tectonics. When you try to fit the plates together there's bound to be edges that crash/break off/need filling in. When you're young, the borders seem less clear, foggy and unexplored but certainly more pliable. As you get older you know the shorelines of your own peculiar personality, but they're more entrenched...less likely to re-form and mold to another. My relationship with my ex reads like a geographical history of how just how much work it took to erode so many areas and build up so many others. And that was when I was much more flexible.
Yet, I am shook by how desperately I don't want him to die.
My mind drifts to money and how I can cover Daughter's college costs without him. Thoughts of insurance policy coverage come unbidden and I am nauseated by the sense that there is comfort there.
[Side note: The closing chapter of marital history with my ex was fairly predictable, I'm afraid. My sexual orientation–which, by the way, sounds like I'm some sort of human compass pointing the way towards deviance–gave him the leverage to threaten, then fight me for custody of our two children. His wealth and my decided lack of it, made for the kind of unbalanced battle that left terrible scars. On all of us. I retained custody only because I am tenacious and stubborn...and godforgiveme, because he had spent all he had planned on spending on legal fees...information I learned the ugly way–from an ex-girlfriend of his who decided to spill her bitterness in one surprising and disturbing late night phone call.]
More billboards. Outside a Baptist church:Trouble often starts out as fun.
Goddamn those lifeless christians. Suck the marrow out of everything and hand you the dry husk of self-righteousness.
Then just before an adult bookstore:Pornography Destroys; The Citizens for Decency.
Would that I could take out the semi-colon. Perhaps I've misplaced my sense of humor.
Home at last
Stopped to rest for a couple of hours in Arkansas and didn't get back to Houston until after 2pm. Read some more. Reminiscent of how I felt reading Tom Robbins' Another Roadside Attraction (and I don't like it JUST because the main character is a Puerto Rican-Irish woman, though we are damn few and far between) and Skinny Legs & All. Not that Hulme is really like Robbins, just that my level of enjoyment is so similar.
Progress and Hope
Somewhat recuperated. Got a call from my team leader. Looks like I have at least a one-month reprieve from Corporate Cubedom! A good-sized job has come through, although the time frame is really crazy so I am probably going to be nuts until mid-September. But, like a good friend once said, the only thing worse than too much work is not enough. I'll try and keep that in mind.
My ex's wife calls. They're doing a biopsy today.
* serendipity as in unexpected and fortunate discoveries, such as finding these journal entries at this particular time; I'm not sure the adjective "fortunate" feels right...just couldn't find anything that came closer.part two