Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving with Ghosts

The weather cooperated today in spite of a forecast for showers and I was able to take my third annual Thanksgiving scooter ride to the parish cemetery. I remember a time when I picked on my parents for visiting there - back when I was in high school and knew everything - demanding of them the point of going to a place where only the bodies of distant relatives were interred. Now, the relatives entombed there aren't so distant. They are my own dear grandparents, their siblings who were all very much a part of my formative years, some of my mom's sibs, and a few of my cousins. Just as my mom and dad couldn't do when challenged, I could not put into words my purpose for going there to where my family is buried, but I am compelled to visit on occasion and on Thanksgiving Day as has become my personal tradition.

The camera sits atop the tombstone of my Grandma and Grandpa as I remember their parts in my life. Though years ago I might have played through in my head various scenes of the times I spent with them, nowadays I simply wallow in a vague but rich and deep feeling rather than calling to mind specific memories. I am Slovak through and through, tracing my entire ancestry back to that part of Europe known today as the Slovak Republic. We often joke in my family, though seriously, that the Slovak heart is a somewhat morbid thing. I felt that heart beating inside myself today, standing there and being somewhat cognizant of my own mortality, feeling an odd and compelling pull to the soil myself, almost hearing a whisper of voices from long ago calling in the breeze, "Lie down. Lie down with us, Joseph."

I fought off the urge to spill out my eyes and then I got a text from the love of my life. "Say hello for me, wish them all Happy Thanksgiving and consider yourself hugged and VERY loved!" That did me in and the dam burst. I was Grandma and Grandpa's little boy again, but realized that now, I am as loved as I was by them ages and ages ago. It was an overwhelming moment that I knew would be tempered later by a feeling of loneliness as wide as the Pacific. I worked my handkerchief, savored the moment, and steeled myself against the emptiness that would be coming. And then I rode some more.

It was the state park more or less just around the corner from the cemetery to which I rode as if somehow this recent Thanksgiving ritual of mine required it. The trees were barren as expected. The last time I had been there they were adorned with their richest fall colors but now they were barren and the anticipated lonely feeling began to grip me already. I sighed heavily a number of times as I walked around and took a few pictures. I made a call that lightened my spirit for a while but knew that it wouldn't last much beyond the click at the end. I rode off to face the rest of the ghosts that wouldn't be coming from a bad bowl of gruel but from my own heart.

I stopped here at what would appear to be a most ordinary place. Objectively it is, but it has much significance from two Thanksgiving ago. It was here, at this intersection, at which I offered up my deepest thanks of the day to the Almighty. And then, as usual, in my next breath I begged Him for a few things.

The cold was having a cumulative effect and though I didn't really want to come back to the house I did. Although I'd not walked through anything more wet than the grass at the cemetery, I had somehow gotten water into my boots. My socks were soaked and I was starting to feel miserable. I napped for about two hours when I got back, woke up with a sore throat, and then headed to my mom's for dinner. The food was good but my lack of appetite held me in check. In a while I'll light a candle, kick back with a glass of mango rum, and try to keep the chill at bay. I'll hope not to hear the rattle of chains. If by chance my own Jacob Marley shows up, he'd darned well better have some answers for me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lost on the Farm

So, where have I been? Stuck on a farm. A virtual farm. Farmville, to be precise, that accursed application on Facebook.

No, I don't use my real name on Facebook. I don't want my students "friending" me nor reading the things I'd be tempted to write if I used the social networking aspect of the site. All I do is plant my little crops and then harvest them. If anybody knows of an "antidote" for Farmville, send it along. Till then I'll probably be rotting away the winter months in this chair pretending to be Joe the farmer from Podunk. Meanwhile I'll be waiting for them to award a John Deere hat or something to all the poor slobs like me who are way too much into Farmville.

Friday, November 6, 2009

She's a Mrs!

It was a fairy tale wedding! I was going to write about it the day after, but apparently there was more emotion to contend with that I hadn't expected. When I got back here, having left early on Sunday morning to drive my mom, dad, and sister back to town, I faced an unexpected sense of loss. Nothing had changed, really. She'd been out of the house for a few years, at school, and got a job down there (a little over an hour away) more or less as soon as she graduated. For all intents and purposes she was already out on her own. Nevertheless, the heart is going to feel what it wants, and on Sunday I felt as if I'd buried her. Now? All seems to be well.

After spending Saturday morning here alone with my thoughts I made it down the aisle just fine and "gave her away" without shedding any tears. It was cool walking her down to the front of the church; it felt like I was back on stage, and I savored the moment in the sun.

No, I had NOT had my beard trimmed for the wedding. Actually, when I held my fingers around where I wanted it cut I hadn't realized that I was indicating for quite so much to be taken off and if I'd been conscious of it, I'd not have had it cut back quite as far. As it turned out, though, I thought it looked perfect with the tux, so I was well pleased with my overall appearance.

What Halloween wedding would be complete without pictures at the cemetery? Here's my little vampire and her old man hamming it up on the stairs of a grand mausoleum.

I think they make a beautiful couple. My new son-in-law does the same thing for a living as I do. How could I not love him?

After I danced the first verse of "Daddy's Little Girl" with her, I passed her over to dance a verse with my daddy. In doing so I touched him in a way that I never had before. It was one of the best ideas of my life.

The reception was amazing. The tables were festively decorated with skulls, candles, and black roses. The favors were Halloween treat bags which the guests filled at the candy bar after dinner. While we ate, the DJ played themes from classic horror films. I almost coughed out a mouthful of food when, during "Tubular Bells" (the theme from The Exorcist), my Aunt Betty leaned over and said, "This music is a lot nicer than that jitterbug music they usually play." Many of the guests wore costumes and they danced the night away.

My little girl is now a Mrs. A chapter closes. Another begins!