In May, 2013, l began a six-week online course on blogging. I wanted to learn how to do everything, not only the blog, but pictures, links, podcasts, slide shows, videos. . . It was an excellent course, intense, crammed with usable knowledge, free software, and how to use it all. About two weeks into the course, I hit a snag, a couple of weeks when I couldn't stay on task because of other events. The young me would have missed sleep and everything else to do the class and also the things that were holding me up. I would have done it all, just to save my dignity and $150. I have enough dignity, fact is I can get downright haughty if I feel like it. As for the money - well, I guess it's gone.
I enrolled in the same course beginning in August, which gave me plenty of time and a running start. I planned the first drafts and was ready to post on October first. I located Barbara Ras and got her permission to use her poem, "Bite Every Sorrow." I put three posts out there again, but the site was a visual nightmare. I had thrown everything I knew at it and it looked like things had been thrown at it -- hodge-podge, pathetic, the kitchen sink, macédoine, a mess. Did you see that, Kim?
I deleted the posts and began editing the blog itself. My editing was major, (croerden) a tweak here, a picture added there, and cutting stuff out with a hatchet until I was more or less satisfied. As a beginning computer programmer I had learned a very important lesson -- the KISS principle -- which had nothing to do with the guys in the machine room. Keep It Simple, Stupid. I guess I forgot that when I retired.
Blogger is simple and easy to use, if you are willing to accept its idiosyncrasies. Two that I remember are 1) it changes font size or underlining in the middle of a post and 2) it refuses to make all links blue -- seems to prefer this sickly wine color or black. Everybody knows links should be blue, even if color has nothing to do with the linking function. But if you see the word HERE in blue, sickly wine, or black -- it's a link. Click on it. Blogger does some really neat stuff, too, like anticipating my actions. I don't understand that one. It's kinda creepy.
When I was certain the site design was final, someone caused another change. Janice found the blog and said she went to the list of posts, but none of them worked when she tried to use the titles as links. Envision a light bulb. I changed that in a hurry. It's the hub now, the real center of the blog, because you can get to any post by going to the page WEEKLY POSTS by DATE. It's like an index, annotated.
Whenever I think I can do something without any help, I always get pulled up short by somebody who helps me. Sometimes they don't even know they helped me. (Now you do, Janice. Thank you.)
I was still editing daily with no deadlines in mind, then decided that since I've never kept a New Years resolution, I would make one for 2014 and keep it. I would begin on January 1st, and create a post once a week. One more little detail --- the journal pages I had started on October first? Writers hate to throw out words. I kept them.
My daughter Amy died in a car accident on October 22nd.
Her death was too shocking, too personal, too sacred for a blog that was supposed to be fun, so I trashed the blog. That was easy. I couldn't see myself writing with the usual joy and enthusiasm, maybe even fervor that visits me when l write. I thought the pain would consume me, and it did. I knew the pain. I had dealt with it before and won a diminished but richer life because Julie had been in it. This time the trench was deeper and grief kept plowing its way into every part of my life. There is no place where the memory of Amy fails to find me, sometimes with happy memories, but always leaving me with an emptiness I can't fill. I had lost close friends and grieved. I had lost our child Julie and knew the ultimate pain. This time I have lost both, my child Amy and my close friend Amy.
Three things in the blog helped to sustain me. I was working on the fairy garden piece and had just found Beatrice Lillie's performance on the Ed Sullivan Show singing 'There Are Fairies at the Bottom of Our Garden.' I played it over and over. I hope that somehow during her life she knew the soothing power of her very classy silliness.
'It's All I Have to Bring Today,' Emily Dickinson, was in my computer for quick reference on a melancholy day and I dragged it out for many more readings.
I had received a note from Barbara Ras with her permission to use 'Bite Every Sorrow.' I read the poem over and over and told myself I was practicing for a podcast. I hope to do that soon, but that's not why it was meaningful. These hunks of the written word sometimes consoled me for long periods of time.
Silliness, truth, and self pity continue to be comforting.
0n November 29th I fell down - hard! Our family was together for Thanksgiving, and they took good care of me. Even Lumpkin licked me as l lay on the ground after our adventure chasing the football between Bam and Charles. It happened on a Friday evening of course, so we went to Urgent Care -- I and my triage team of Emma, Bam, and Wes. We left Charles at home to look after the rest of the adults. The doctor took x-rays and said both wrists were broken and to see my doctor on Monday. Then he assigned Nurse Ratched to put temporary casts on both arms.
lt's not fun sitting around for three days with both your forearms up past your elbows in hard casts. I think l chewed the right one off. I should have warned them that I would be needing a cone around my neck. Luckily that was the wrist with the least damage. The other one required surgery, a little metal plate, and five wood screws. I have pictures. They are wood screws, five wood screws, screwed into my ulna or radius or whatever the hell that bone is. Physical therapy wasn't that bad, but just to show you how far I had to go, it was cause for celebration when I could once again use a door knob.
Not being able to do anything without pain, I sat a lot, in a rocking chair -- new model -- rocks, does a side-to-side move, turns into a recliner. Reading and TV weren't working any more than the rocking, side to side, or reclining. I wanted to write. The broken wrists prevented gripping anything like a pencil, or holding the position needed to type, but luckily my right hand needed only a soft wrist cast, which allowed me to hunt and peck with my index finger -- slow but possible, and I only needed possible.
All of the major blog decisions had been made and I had a need to write about Amy. Missing her is a great big part of my life now, and writing is what l do. Why on a blog? Why not? There's so much to write about her. She was my daughter, my friend, my goto for everything. Sadness follows me around, but we're already acquainted, so I think it's truly trying to be more gentle with me this time, and l keep going forward because I don't know what else to do. There is also my original intent for the blog, a place to write whatever non-fiction I feel like writing on any given day. I undecided my decision.
Amy was gone and so was Julie, long ago. It took twenty five years for me to pour out my heart in a poem for Julie, but I probably will use my blog journal to tell all the wonderful things I know about Amy, especially the thoughtful ones and the funny ones. I have fewer years to tell them and more years to cover. I am thankful to have had these two -- Julie and Amy, more alike than different -- daughters in my life. Wes has always been the anchor that holds Mom, Dad, and kids together, so he'll have to continue, but now he has his Amy to keep him anchored. No, that's not completely true. Yes, she keeps us all anchored, but she has her own grief for her new sister and friend. I think they liked the confusion over two Amy Antenens. We're so lucky to have her.
So what connection did Amy have with the blog before she died? Her favorite post of the first three was The Tale of the Multiple Margarets. It was all true comedy during the hamster adventures as well as when I was writing about them. She corrected the post about my flying lesson with what she had really said. I thought she had just fussed at me when we flew, but what she had said was, "Large pieces of metal have no business flying through the air." She made a request, too, that I write about what I was doing in the middle of the Civil Rights movement. I will sometime, but I'll have to get Marilyn to help me. When we lived in Florida, she was always able to find my golf ball for me, so she can probably remember what we did.
I want somebody to tell me how Amy learned that piercing whistle. It may have been Kenny because it's something you might do while life-guarding. You'd have need for a whistle occasionally if you forgot the one you were twirling around your finger all the time. Or maybe it was Johnna or Leslie. I already asked Robyn when we happened to be on Skype at the same time a couple of weeks ago. She doesn't know, so it probably wasn't tennis inspired.
It's all I have to bring today,
This, and my heart beside,
This, and my heart, and all the fields,
And all the meadows wide.
Be sure you count, should I forget, --
Some one the sum could tell, --
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.
BEATRICE LILLIE SINGING 'THERE ARE FAIRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF OUR GARDEN'
You Can't Have It All
by Barbara Ras and with her kind permission.
But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands
gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger
on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back.
You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look
of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite
every sorrow until it fled, and when it is August,
you can have it August and abundantly so. You can have love,
though often it will be mysterious, like the white foam
that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot over the red kidneys
until you realize foam's twin is blood.
You can have the skin at the center between a man's legs,
so solid, so doll-like. You can have the life of the mind,
glowing occasionally in priestly vestments, never admitting pettiness,
never stooping to bribe the sullen guard who'll tell you
all roads narrow at the border.
You can speak a foreign language, sometimes,
and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave
where your father wept openly. You can't bring back the dead,
but you can have the words forgive and forget hold hands
as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful
for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia, grateful
for Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels
sucking up the drops on your clean skin, and for deeper thirsts,
for passion fruit, for saliva. You can have the dream,
the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt and you riding in the hot sand.
You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed,
at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping
of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise.
You can't count on grace to pick you out of a crowd
but here is your friend to teach you how to high jump,
how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards,
until you learn about love, about sweet surrender,
and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel, farms in the mind
as real as Africa. And when adulthood fails you,
you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond
of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas
your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept.
There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother's,
it will always whisper, you can't have it all,
but there is this.
-- from her first book of poetry, Bite Every Sorrow, Published by the Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1998.