We are home most of the time. So when we leave, we can always tell that Gypsy has noted our absence. At least one house shoe and often four (depending on how long she’s alone) are in the living room when we return. She never chews them .. just hauls them in the living room for comfort and so we know she’s missed us.
This year I have done some missing myself. My mother’s pink flannel sheets have been my favorite ones this winter. And I saved one pink gown and a pair of pajama pants that belonged to her .. and I find myself reaching for them most often, too. After so many washings, they no longer smell like “Passion” (her go-to fragrance) .. but they feel like her: warm, soft and comforting. I hope she knows ..
My dad has been gone for over ten years. But it’s easy to know what I miss about him: his perfect, bone crunching hugs, the way his cheek smelled like cool air and pine, his laugh.
I miss my grandmother’s funny words: Warsh (for wash). Kindly (for kind of). And the way she said she was “proud” when she meant she was happy for someone. Some of my cousins still use “proud” like this .. and it warms my heart everytime I hear it. I only had Mama Neal for fourteen years so a lot of my memories have faded but some of the stellar ones remain. Like her tea cakes (made with Karo instead of sugar) and her laughter when she watched “The Monkees” with me. I loved that she loved them, too.
My “other” grandma wasn’t really my grandmother but in every sense of the word she was that and so much more. She lived down the road from us and she was the sweetest, kindest, loveliest soul. She loved me like I was hers and that’s what I remember most. That .. and she peeled my apples for me and bought me books at Christmas time. I still have “Beautiful Joe” and “The Black Stallion”. And the puppies. There were always sweet smelling puppies at Grandma’s house.
I made a friend in the nineties due to the creation of the innanets. He was a lawyer in Florida and called us up when he found our website, Zuni Spirits, where we sold Zuni fetish carvings. Our friendship quickly evolved into a brother-sister-brother relationship and and Dave and I thought the world of him. He was firmly in our corner whenever he knew of opposition in our way. He counseled me, emailed me dirty jokes and generally made us feel like we had a corner lot in his circle of friends. He traveled to Texas to see us a couple of times and met us in Zuni as well. He called me one day to tell me that he had been diagnosed with Polycythemia Vera. When he told me, I gasped because I knew what that was. I had just read the story of the woman, Susan Butcher, who was a renown Iditarod champion. She died from the disease in 2006. But my friend was private and I knew he didn’t want to let on that this was likely terminal. So I only said, “isn’t that a form of leukemia?” to which he replied, “no, I don’t think so”. He died in May of 2008. And Dave and I talk about him so often – and every time we see a Lincoln Continental (his rental car of choice.) Strange how someone so randomly appears in your life and wallows out such a huge whole that it can never be filled.
That is certainly true of my friend, Don, who passed away almost two years ago from pancreatic cancer. There are mileposts in life that we all measure from. Graduation, marriage, babies, divorce or the abrupt direction change that some people make in our lives. He was that for me. He was my vehicle to regular therapeutic trips to Big Bend, the Rio Grande and peace. He gave me confidence, made me fight for what I wanted, made me prove myself – to myself – and knew the benefit and medicinal qualities of a long, warm hug.
Last week, the last member of the Aldine family that I grew up with went to Heaven. She and her family were our neighbors for the fifty years my parents lived on Aldine Mail Route. The relationship was … colorful. She was just as opinionated as my mother was and so sparks were inevitable from time to time. But we kids just shrugged it off and continued our baseball games and tree climbing and swimming. To me, she was always supportive and loving and kind. And so I loved her and overlooked the contentious nature that she sometimes showed to others. I was able to see beyond that often gruff exterior to marvel at her humble origins and her devotion to her family. Her passing seemed to close a thick chaper in my book of life and I’ve been reliving lots of ordinary memories that ultimately make life extraordinary.
And so, these have left us behind.
But I still have their “house shoes”. I just hope they know how often I gather them up and lie in the middle of the memories and comfortable smell.