My father, who would have been 77. He would have been 77, but never quite made it all the way to old. Hard to imagine him grayer, balder, thinner, still swimming in the apartment complex pool in the mornings, still bickering with the neighbors. My father, who inched toward happiness and then tumbled backwards again. There were so many ways to understand how he lived those last few years, but perhaps the most real is to say he made me a wreath in a craft class, a tiny gold and burgundy wreath that the ladies helped him with, a small wreath with a big bow at the bottom. My father gave me a wreath, offered it with a shrug layered with pride and for a long time I hung it in front of my house, a little circle on the big brick wall of our fireplace. For his 70th birthday he received his first grandson, Ian, who turns 7 today, another thing we should be commemorating. So for Ian we took this goofy selfie and sent it through the sky to him and received back a photo in which his eyes have their wise gentleness and a smear of chocolate cake darkens his cheek.
July 27, 2015
To get used to: the reading glasses, the hair I no longer wear long, the too-red fingernails. But there is the birthday necklace, tea in a white pot, the exposed brick wall. When I was 27 I sat in an Asheville cafe with my boyfriend, bagels and coffee likely before us. We were so young. At the next table a couple, early 60s, sat reading the New York Times, glancing up occasionally to share something of note, to sip coffee. They held themselves with an easy comfort. Someday that will be us, I said to my boyfriend, and he smiled back at me. It was never us. But somehow it became me anyway, and across the table the right sweet guy reading too.
June 28, 2015
Which is not Papa Germano’s in a three-bed room, or her dorm in Brighton where I showed up basically unannounced and stayed for days. Which is not a visit in Evanston or London or San Francisco. Which is not hiking through Muir Woods in her big plaid fleece and rolling my jeans at Stinson Beach to walk through tide pools. Neither is it New Year’s Eve 2000 in her Noe Valley apartment or the weeks before her wedding when we painted metal buckets at my tiny Austin house then planted them with flowers. The deck tonight was not the Ojai hillside where she and Pat married and I read a poem, nor is it a rainy hike in Estes Park. It’s not filling compost bags at the Natural Gardener and then hauling back to my house, not rolling in the grass at Zilker, not tucking petunias into a few final pots for the tables at my wedding. It’s not Florence on the Ponte Vecchio. It’s not an Osteria in Denver. It’s not an Austin coffeehouse sipping cafe au lait under the oaks. It’s this one night in a long friendship, a night in which we pulled steak from skewers and I blew out candles on a birthday cake and we all talked a long time and then L climbed into her lap and said, “I’m tired.”
June 26. 2015
Dinner at home for Gary’s visit means chicken roasted with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme; salad with the sharpest blue cheese; carrot cake with birthday candles. Maryjean brings Apothic red and canvases. She’s been playing with painting Annabella, seeking the images less posed, more true. But the hair goes from blonde to red, from red to black. We nosh on olives and salami, Swiss cheese cut into little squares, and Annabella watches us–younger, older, shot through Maryjean’s imagination, her brush. Meanwhile, the real Annabella is in LA, doing we know not what, watching we know not whom.
March 26, 2015
For his birthday, we sat at a bar with walls made of salvaged wood, artfully assembled. We ordered the Moscow mules tinted with carrot juice, syrupy sweet. Because it was his day, he sent his back, got a Prosecco instead. Because it was his day, we kept going, away from the $9 tacos and strange grits to patatas bravas and paella down the street. We went to dance class, practiced the left side pass, the invitation. Without knowing it was his day, the women wanted to dance with him. He beamed. We kept going, on to a bar where a band spun Motown tunes, their claps, their side steps, their struts all in time. Ain’t Too Proud, Voulez-vous Coucher Avec Moi, September. We spun on smooth-soled shoes. We threw our hands in the air. He beamed. What I want for him in this year: a little of what the night contained. Bubbles. Dancing. Smoked paprika. Joy.
March 23, 2015