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My son Patrick and my sister Joyce understand me to the very fiber of my DNA.  Their understanding shines in the gifts which each chose for me this holiday season.  Patrick ordered a lens kit for my cell phone’s camera to help with my role as social media hant for the park where I live.  But he also gave me two books, a hard copy of Chris White’s The Life List of Adrian Mandrick, which I had previously read in digital orm; and The California Deltaa slim volume which I had coveted.  For her part, Joyce sent a vintage tin box; a little pillow like the one which our niece who just passed kept on her bed; and ribbon candy.

As I rummage through my day, doing laundry and writing post-holiday notes, the pleasant stamp of being cherished floats around me.  Wind snaps through the park, with a fierce roar and a somber chill.  I huddle in a sweater over which I zip a jacket, warm socks, hot tea.  Winter falls hard upon us now, with her voice in the trees and her kiss on the river.  Across the meadow, I see the lovely home of one of the tiny-housers, with its quaint white siding and crisp black trim.  Heavy covers swathe the furniture on the grand  drop-down iron porch.  The dog-walkers hurry by, no longer lingering in the meadow.

The last time I went back to Kansas City, I tried to describe life here to a friend.  Leaving aside my job, I talked about the park, my neighbors, the freedom of downsizing, the notion of home.  Her silence weighed on my words.  I knew what she envisioned when she thought of Northern California:  the beaches of Monterey; the mountains above Santa Rosa; the  bluffs overlooking the sea’s expanse; the exhilarating drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, I shook my head.  Those places have their own stunning beauty, but they have little in common with the Sacramento Valley and the Delta where I live.  It might be Brigadoon. The  notion of constancy comforts me: the ebb and flow of the seasons; the  lushness of spring; the unspoken promise of winter; the rise of the owl at dusk; the cheeky  crows; the patient weave of the wind through the barren willows.

It’s the fifth day of the sixty-first month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

 

 

 

Joanna’s gloves

Winter has settled on the Delta, though not the winter of my Midwestern life.  Nearby mountain ranges bear snow but here in the river valley, the temperature hovers near 40 at night. Fierce winds blow through the willows.  Migrating flocks rise over the river.  Rain soaks the ground and the rivers rise.

This morning I drew on my Ann Taylor coat, fifteen bucks at the local consignment store when I realized that I needed something dressy last winter.  I reached my hand into the deep pocket and felt leather.

Joanna’s gloves.

I found them in her dresser when we cleaned out her bedroom, a few days after the service.  I still could not believe that my mother-in-law  had died, though I had stood with her children and my favorite curmudgeon in the dim light of the room.  I tried not to impose on their grief.  I had no right.  But I loved her, despite the shortness of our relationship and my once-removed status.

She had never worn the gloves.  She kept them in their original box.  Perhaps she found them too lovely, like a candle in its cellophane, unlit and unsullied.  Maybe she had purchased them just before her long decline commenced.  They might have been a gift.  I opened the box and drew back the tissue.  I touched their pale surface.  My favorite curmudgeon said, “You can have those if you want, honey.”  He turned away.  I could feel his tears.  He died a year later; they said from lung cancer, but I knew better.  He died of a broken heart.

Over the last summer of her life, I did everything I could think of for her.  I brought potting plants.  I sang and read.  I drew her attention to the daily log which the cognitive therapist wanted her to keep.  I asked her questions about her childhood.  One day near the end, I sat with her in the dining room begging her to take just one more bite of food.  “Thank you very much,” she said, but she looked away from the spoon.  She gazed out over the garden behind the facility where she lived.  I could see the flash of heaven in her eyes.

I slipped the gloves over my hands as I waited for the car engine to warm this morning.  Their softness skimmed my swollen knuckles.  I’ve never owned such a beautiful pair.  

It’s the second day of the sixty-first month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Only under siege can we learn to rise above the complaint of others.

This might be my longest title in the history of titling blog entries.  But, hear me out.

As my Facebook friends & followers know, I recently received a verbal attack by someone with whom I have no daily relationship.  I mentioned this in Facebook and got considerable support for my decision to exercise empathy for the person.  I do not know the person very well, nor do I socialize with the person.  But this person made a decision about me based upon inaccurate information.  The person then lashed out at me and made numerous fairly negative comments to me about the person’s opinion of me.

Please note, I have deliberately avoided here and elsewhere, using the person’s name or gender; or describing the context of the person’s encounter or acquaintance with me. I harbor this person no ill will, and do not wish this person to suffer because I choose to reflect on this person’s statements to me and to try to feel empathy and grow as a result.  So, please, do not ask.

This blog is intended as a journal of accountability for my efforts to learn not to complain.  Sometimes I just talk about my day, and the little joys which I encounter.  Other times, I wax verbose, as my son might observe.  He has articulated a preference for essays which don’t spell out the intended message.

From time to time, though, I have to grab a situation by the scruff of its neck and glare at it.  Such a time presented itself with the words spoken to me by this individual.  The communication can only be considered a complaint in the most basic sense of the word.

After recounting mistaken beliefs about something I had done and the presumed, though inaccurate, intent that this person ascribed to me, the castigation of me began.  “You are a sad and obnoxious woman,” this person proclaimed.  “You foist yourself off on people.  You barge into their homes.”  More flowed.  This came by text.  To each of these blasts, I replied, “Have a nice evening!”  I had attempted to explain the incorrectness of the person’s understanding, but left off after one attempt.  It became clear five or six messages into the tirade that none of my texts would be read.  So I copied my wish and pasted it time and time again.  “Have a nice evening!”  Finally my son suggested that I simply delete the chain.  I did so, and we continued our drive from the train station.  We had a nice authentic dinner at a Mexican restaurant.  I only spoke once more of the incident.

“You’d have to be a pretty  unhappy person to blast someone like that,” I remarked.  My son just looked at me and smiled.  My son’s like that; he smiles in the quiet spaces between the sorrows of the world.

I didn’t think much more of the incident.  I posted my comments on Facebook, which kept the facts cryptic and exhorted everybody to take care of each other’s feelings.  “Ugliness can mask depression,” I said. “People who behave hatefully usually hide their pain behind their vicious words.”  Something like that.  I meant it, too.  I used to talk to my favorite curmudgeon about evil.  “People in pain come across as angry,” I would say.  “You’re too good, honey,” he’d reply, patting my knee.

But today, on the first day of a new year, I got to thinking about this person’s condemnation of me.  “Sad and obnoxious”, the person labeled me.  “Foist yourself off on others, barge into their homes.”   I wondered how many of the poisoned arrows hit their mark.

I don’t think I’m sad.  I’ve gone through some tough times, with health challenges, a divorce, and a ten-month period of bleeding money while I set up housekeeping here in California and looked for a job.  But sad?   I test that word, like a sore tooth in a poorly kept mouth.  I don’t think so.  Maybe the person meant “sad” in the sense of “pathetic”,  beneath that person’s standards of how people ought to behave.  Maybe so.  I judge myself by a different set of rules, so I’ll have to demure.

Obnoxious, I have no problem claiming.  I do tend to harp on what I believe.  It’s not necessarily always a functional approach to life.  But given my values, I don’t seem to have much choice.  Lately, I’ve tried to find middle ground with individual people.  But the big issues — caring for the downtrodden and abused; rescuing the forlorn and the abandoned; First Amendment rights; the need to protect children  — I blast these loud and long.  One thing’s clear:  If you don’t like my politics, you’d certainly find me  obnoxious.  I have never talked politics with this individual, though; but I have a social / political blog and I make my views on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness unmistakable.

As Melissa McCarthy says, if you want someone different, pick someone else.

“Foisting myself on others” might also be a fair characterization.  That could especially be so in the last year.  If you leave your home and all the familiar faces of a three-decade long life, you can either wither away or darn well make a few new friends.  I’ll take that jab right on my Irish chin. I’m not sure what this person knows about my proclivities in this area, but I’ll own them.  I cherish every new person in my life, too.  Anybody who doesn’t want to know me has the right to walk away.  I don’t take prisoners.

“Barging into other people’s homes,” though, that’s a puzzler.  The person in question invited me into the person’s home once.  It’s a lovely home and I admired it heartily.  I never went back because I never got invited back, nor has this person seen me in anyone else’s home since then.   We don’t socialize, as I said; and I don’t go to many other people’s houses.   I spend most of my time in my own house or at work.  If I get invited somewhere, I go.   But people’s lives are busy.  I spend a lot of time alone.  I certainly never barge into any one else’s house.

No, I think I’m innocent of this charge.  I hold my head high on this one.  I go where I’m asked.  I stay home when I’m not.

Like most people with mild tendencies to be obsessive, I internalize every condemnation.  All my life, I’ve tended to thrash myself with other people’s whips.  However, I’ve let go of that more and more as the last four years have weathered me.  When you get rejected as soundly as I got rejected, your wounds need serious nursing.  While cloistered, I smeared some of that Triple-Antibiotic on all the old wounds.  I’ve done a lot of healing.

I still live in a glass house, but I’ve installed shutters . When the rocks come, I don’t flinch quite as badly.   I’ve got a bit more protection.  But when the volley subsides, I go outside and study what’s been hurled at me.  I try to find the kernel of truth underlying any complaint.  I can learn from the negative as well as the positive.    If you never listen to criticism, you’ll never have anyone’s viewpoint to compare with the picture you’ve painted of yourself.  Only under siege can we learn to rise above the complaint of others.

If I have a New Year’s Resolution, it involves just that: rising above the complaints of others.  I can’t even say that I forgive the person who railed on me.  I let the complaint against me stand.  I examine my life to see where I can become a more authentic human as a result of the input.  Then I continue living, still striving, always, to surround myself with love and light.  At the end of the day,  I realize that everyone’s story has many layers.  We never know what the other person feels, or what their day has held, or who kicked them as they walked through the front door that evening, tired and harried, longing only to be cherished.

It’s evening; and a hoot owl calls to its mate across the meadow.  The clean clear dark of a Delta night lies outside my window.    Life continues.

 

Happy New Year

A group of folks gathered at the community room last evening to usher out 2018 and herald the dawn of a new year of possibilities.  Our gathering took a different form than originally intended.  A death in the family of the organizer forced her to leave.  The rage of the Delta winds cancelled the planned bonfire.  But we had snacks, and Apples to Apples, and five or six neighbors gathered around a table.

At ten o’clock, I knew, all of a sudden, that I had to scram and quickly.  I trusted one soul with the security of the place, wished everyone “Happy New Year”, left the champagne, and fled.

Two hours later, I woke with every muscle cramped in ways that I have not experienced in five years, since starting viral therapy and  regimented Botox shots on my legs.  I writhed and shuddered.  I pulled myself vertical and staggered to the bathroom, groping for Tylenol.  Eventually, the spasms subsided enough for me to crawl under the covers and fall into an uneasy sleep.

I’m convinced that allowing  myself the unusual luxury of unlimited chippage resulted in a sort of temporary sodium poisoning state.   I firmly believe that no party would be complete without Lay’s Classics.  Don’t bring the low-salt or baked variety.  Nobody can eat just one!  However, I don’t usually let the bowl hover at my elbow.  I typically sit as far away from temptation as possible.  Not last night.

I awoke before seven, relieved to be alive, convinced of the potential of this new year.  Songs and slogans rolled by as I scrolled through social media and enjoyed photos of other people partying.  I felt no envy; I’ve always preferred a quiet New Year’s Eve with family, friends, or a special someone.  I’m short on special somebodies, and my family spends their time in colder climes.  But new friends in my reconfigured world provided the perfect soiree, up until the moment that my body protested my careless treatment of it.

I’m not complaining.  Today the coffee sits hot in my crystal mug and Neko Case croons from the Bluetooth speaker via Spotify.  I can deal with this.  I’ve made it this far, and 2019 holds promise.  I’ve got this.

So here’s what I wish for each of you.

Hope to propel you forward.
Strength to steady your steps.
Courage to weather life’s battles.
And wisdom to know when to rest.

It’s the first day of the sixty-first month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

My First Steps

I recorded my first post in this blog on 28 December 2013.  I pledged to go “cold turkey” with complaining.  At the time, I lived in Brookside, an old neighborhood in Kansas City.  I took my inspiration from my mother-in-law, Joanna Mitchell MacLaughlin.  She had just died, and the priest who spoke at her service remarked on her uncomplaining nature.  At the time, I was married to her only son.  I had two step-children from that marriage; two from my first marriage; and a biological son, Patrick.

Five years later, as the sun sets on my fifth year of striving to forego complaint, I reflect on where I stood in that moment, the road which I have traveled, and the spot in the universe which I now occupy.

I live in a 12-acre RV / Tiny House park.  Ten other owner-occupied tiny homes, a host of RVs and trailers, and a handful of park models surround a broad expanse of meadow bisected by a stream of overflow from the San Joaquin river channeled into a natural creek bed.  Weeping willows rise above the rich earth.  Migrating geese, cranes, and other majestic fowl dot the sky.  A thousand small critters scurry underneath my house.  Cactus grow as large as cars in this pleasant climate.

I still have a warm, close relationship with Tshandra and Kim, my stepdaughters from my first marriage.  I’m divorced.  I never see or hear from my two beloved stepchildren from my most recent marriage.  I harbor no ill will to any of them.  I love all of them.  I mourn the loss of that relationship, just as I grieve the death of my favorite curmudgeon, my father-in-law Jabez MacLaughlin.

I closed my law practice, sold my house, and commissioned the construction of this tiny house on wheels which I named Angel’s Haven.  I came two thousand miles to start a new life.  I work in a law firm in Rio Vista, California, for a probate attorney who values my talents.  I’ve chosen not to get a California law license. I research, write, and draft estate planning documents.  I have my own little office.  I haven’t learned to use the inter-office phone system yet, but I did manage to program myself into the fancy-schmancy scanner.

Along the way, I’ve learned some valuable lessons.  I have not yet managed to go an entire year without complaining.  I don’t concede that I will not achieve that goal one day.  I have added some interim steps which I value as highly as the ultimate endgame to my personal quest.

Some cruel devices of life bludgeoned me into acknowledging that not everyone has my best interest in mind and heart.  I’m afraid to cite examples, because once in a while, someone recognizes themselves in even the most obliquely expressed anecdote.  I try to deny the accuracy of their suspicion, but I don’t fool them.  So allow me some generic observations here, for the sake of protecting the guilty.

I’ve learned not to let anyone know that you defended them to a good friend whom they cherish more than they cherish you.

I’ve learned that if I defend someone publicly, the person who attacked them will turn on me, and I accept that as a worthwhile risk.

I’ve learned that my title as the Energizer Bunny might have been justly earned, but even renewable batteries need down-time.

I’ve learned that I can combine resilience with relentlessness in any pursuit as long as my goals remain true to my values.

I’ve renewed my commitment to putting my best foot forward (thanks, Nana), to continuing to walk (thanks, Mom) and to living to be 103 and nagging my son every day of his life.  Okay, well, I’ve loosened my grip on that last bit, for which I feel certain my son would be relieved if it continues to be true.

I’ve learned that it is easier to refrain from complaint if one views the pursuit as an effort to live joyfully.

I’ve discovered that I do not need to defend my manner of expressing love.  I’ve accepted that others express their own love in different ways than I do.

I’ve learned that when someone decides that they do not like you, it reflects only their choice and not your intrinsic worth.

I’ve learned that being a bit easier on myself makes it also possible to be easier on others.

I consider these small steps, first steps.  I’ve learned enough in the last five years to wish that I had started sooner.

I remember the weeks when my doctor and I titrated me off painkillers for the first time in forty-five years as a wistful period at the very start of this adventure.  I knew that being off narcotics would open me to experiences which I had been able to avoid.  I would feel again, all the pain, all the aches, all the bone-crunching spasms — but also the fear, the anger, and the loss that life brought to me.

Getting off narcotics also restored my ability to feel joy.  It took longer, because I had so many years of repression for which to compensate.  Bile rises higher, harder, and faster than beauty.  But all the horrible stuff that I had shoved into my celestial gut eventually spewed upon the ground.  I raked through it, examining the disgorged memories.  I extracted bits of the grim refuse, turning it this way and that, examining its formidable contours.  I dragged a bag from the cupboard and filled it with all those dark images, securing the mess with a sturdy zip tie.  I hauled it to the curb on Bulk Trash Day.  I watched a grinning sanitation engineer sling the filth into the back of his truck and drive away.

It’s the thirtieth day of the sixtieth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

My neighbor’s son extended my year-old path by nine squares today. Next year, I’ll try for another nine.

No, I do not wish to complain!

I spent thirty-five years practicing law (so far), and I have formed a lot of opinions about customer service.  I’ve done my share of bungling but for the most part, my clients liked the work which my firm provided.  I had great staff and I worked my little butt to its bony base trying to do more than the meager sums which I charged would typically allow.  I considered myself a difficult boss but an earnest provider of legal services.

Today I reached my wit’s end with a company’s representative with whom I had contracted to do business.  I won’t name the representative or the company, so please do not ask.  In keeping with my mission of turning complaint into something more positive. I’ll share that I spent a lot of time trying to detail my needs for the company’s employee with whom I did business.  The individual did not wish to meet my needs in the way which worked for me.  Some time has passed during which I tolerated the difficulty.  I’m switching representatives first; and if I receive similar treatment, I’ll switch vendors altogether.

I wanted to reach out to the company itself to discuss the situation.  Blame had been heaped on the distant HQ by the local individual for that person’s alleged inability to meet my needs in an effective way.  Therefore, I wanted to hear from the  headquarters as to whether my needs could be met in a way which resonates with me. I asked the local person whom I should contact, and received a phone number and a department.

I made two calls.  The first reached an agent who clearly had a different view of the delivery of customer service than I do.  I explained that I needed to address discontent and he put me on hold for over ten minutes.  The line went dead.  I re-called, and this time, got what can only be described as a “nice young man”.  He provided a first name and an ID.  I generally protest the failure to provide a surname.  They have mine, after all.  But I’ll take a first-name only if I can ostensibly sort out which “name ending in Y or IE” made promises or assurances.  An identification number works for that purpose.

The young man First Name ID# carefully listened to my concerns.  I tried to phrase them clearly and logically, even calmly.  He asked a few questions, but mostly repeated some of my statements as though to clarify or keep track.  After a lengthy call, he said that  he could make a “verbal complaint” on my behalf.

I demurred.  “I don’t want to complain,” I emphasized.  “It’s not my place to change this individual’s manner of doing business.  I placed my trust in [pronoun omitted] and I feel abused, but I am moving past that now.  Now I want to address the future.  Will I be able to get the service which I need, or should I move to another company?”

“All I can do is make a verbal complaint for you.”  I did not relish the careful delineation of a “verbal” complaint.  I asked what that meant.  “I can only make a Verbal Complaint.  I will give it to the Verbal Complaint Department.  It’s up to the Verbal Complaint taker as to what they do with your Verbal Complaint,” he replied.

My uneasiness increased.  “Honestly, I do not wish to complain.  I just want to know if I can get the situation remedied for the future,” I assured him.  “Will someone call me?”

“No,” he admitted.  “I’m just taking a Verbal Complaint.”  He continued.  “If you want someone to get back to you, then you have to make a Written Complaint.”

“I don’t want to complain at all,” I insisted.  “I’m not [this person’s] mother or keeper.  I’m not [this person’s] supervisor or trainer.  I have no desire to influence [this person] whatsoever.  In fact, I doubt that I could.  [This person] seems comfortable with [this person’s] manner of treating customers.  I just want to know if that is typical of your company, because if it is, I want to change companies.”

“I can’t do anything for you other than making a Verbal Complaint.  If you want someone to call you back, you have to make a Written Complaint.”

I tried not to complain.  But I have ongoing business needs and if this company can’t meet them, I will have to change companies.  I took down the e-mail address to which I have to “make a Written Complaint”, and I thanked First Name ID# for his help.  I told him, with absolute sincerity, that I really felt sorry for him having to work for the outfit in question. I concluded, “You’re better than your employer.”  He thanked me.  We said goodbye.  I sat at my computer and wrote a brief paragraph, referring them to the notes which First Name ID# had promised to take, and asking for a callback.

The entire episode, not counting the many times that I tried to get help from the local agent, took two hours.  At its conclusion, I felt utterly exhausted, mostly from striving to treat First Name ID# better than I believe I have been treated for the last year.  After all, he did nothing untoward.  He and I both fell victim to a soulless corporation which apparently cares absolutely nothing about  its customers.

This not-complaining stuff drains me sometimes.  To soothe my battered psyche, I went to The Joint for a casual meal and heard live music at Mei Wah Beer Room.  I still have the grime of the greedy corporation clinging to my energy, but a good night’s sleep ought to take care of that.

It’s the twenty-eighth day of the sixtieth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Some damn fine friends

In elementary school, I socialized with a group of girls who considered themselves to be misfits.  We got that reputation for various reasons.  I walked funny; another had an Irish accent; a third acted tomboyish; another carried too much poundage on her tall frame for fashionable presentment in those days.  We knew that our classmates did not accept us; but we honored each other in the best way we could, banding together on the playground and hissing at the boys who tortured us and the girls who mocked us.

I’ve always had a group like that.  Though I never quite felt as though I belonged anywhere, the women with whom I surrounded myself took the edge off of my loneliness.  I’ve had some damn fine friends.  I won’t name them, because I would doubtless overlook someone.  But my tribe sustained me through the darkness which surrounded me time after time.  

In March of 2016, I acquired two more to add to my list of women who enrich my life and ease my sense of isolation.  I met Sharon Alberts and Ellen Cox, mother and daughter, at HI Pigeon Point.  They had come for the sea lions, while I had tacked a weekend on the coast to my quarterly appointments at Stanford.  We found common ground over coffee and yoga in the living room of the Dolphin dorm.

Yesterday my son and I spent our second consecutive Christmas in the home of Sharon and her husband Jerry.  Ellen had come down from Oregon where she has begun the final stage of her degree in civil engineering.  At a laden table, over Lodi wine, with the Alberts traditional “chocolate cake for baby Jesus’ birthday” at hand, we talked for hours about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Afterwards my son drove and I DJ’ed all the way back to the Delta.  A finer Christmas has not been had.  Just as fine, perhaps; but none finer.  

I’m missing the Gathering of the Usual Suspects, the annual  gift exchange at my house in Kansas City.  Dinner at the Alberts/Cox residence went a long way towards easing my homesickness, and created yet another in a series of  #christmastraditionsreinvented.  

It’s the twenty-sixth day of the sixtieth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Even Stephen

I vaguely recall the day of my brother Stephen’s birth in 1959, when I was a little thing, barely four.  My sisters tell me that we couldn’t play the noisy games which Santa had brought for Christmas, but I don’t remember that.  My mother went into labor during the morning festivities.  Dad took her to the hospital.  I imagine my grandmother had come down to care for us.

My parents intended to name our youngest brother “Christopher” because of his birthday.  When Dad came back that afternoon, he explained that they had changed their minds.  Mother always wanted the same number of boys and girls.  They chose “Stephen” because he made everything even.  Get it?  Even Stephen.

He had a sweet face and a saucy disposition.  You could upset him easily but he forgave with equal swiftness.  He loved dancing, the Grateful Dead, and snow.  He had a sense of style and poured a mean Stinger, something which I learned on the day of my mother’s funeral.  I woke the next morning in a heap behind the bar at McGurk’s in St. Louis.  Stephen had already started coffee and lit his  first cigarette.

He had a wicked keen humor with a sarcastic edge.  He once met me at the airport ahead of my boyfriend.  He swung me into the air and nestled me under one arm.  “Get the luggage, dude, I’m taking my sister to breakfast,” he told the astonished man who thought he would be retrieving me.  I shrugged and smiled.  What could I do, but laugh and go?

My memories of Stephen have been romanticized into oblivion.  But I have no doubt about the insidiousness of his addiction.  I once watched him shoot up with heroin while I sat nursing my son.  The sight drove me to stay with another sibling for the week of my father’s funeral.  I understood the pressure which Stephen felt, but I couldn’t expose myself or my infant son to such conduct.

Stephen had a lot of glory to him.  He loved fiercely, lived fully, and reached his hand to anyone within radius when the music started.  I realize the grandeur of his persona provides small comfort to those whom he disappointed.  I do not mean to belittle the loss which they felt.  I loved him, though.

His death by suicide gutted me.   His pain drove him to the trigger and has nothing to do with me.  I do not claim the anguish.  I merely survived while he died; and for that, I have the burden of my own impregnable suffering.

I see the stamp of Stephen’s face on his daughters, with whom I have developed some relationship.  They had marvelous mothers; and noble, wonderful adoptive/step fathers.  They made lives without my brother.  But he exists in them nonetheless.  I pray that they got the splendor of him, and not whatever drove him from all of us and from this life.

As I sit in my writing loft, rain beats on the metal roof.  The Delta has entered the rainy season.  No white Christmas here, I’m afraid.  But those days rise in memory.  I particularly recall the Christmas when my mother got sleds for my little brothers Frank and Steve.  They came into the living room early and beheld the shiny sleds with their gleaming metal runners and big bows.

Frank moaned, “Mom will feel so stupid, since we won’t be able to use these.”  Then Steve opened the curtain and saw the blanket of snow  in the front yard.

“It’s a miracle!” he shouted, and the two of them danced around making such a racket that my mother emerged from the back bedroom to shush them. They fell upon her with glee.  I will never forget the sight of my mother, in the glad embrace of her two baby boys, as the silent snow steadily fell outside the window.

I named my son after my brother.  He loved his uncle Steve.  Once a lady bent over him and said “Merry Christmas, little boy! Do you know whose birthday it is?”  Patrick chortled, “Yes, I sure do!  It’s uncle Steve’s birthday!”

Happy birthday, Stevie Pat.  I miss you.  I hope there is no pain in heaven; and that you’ve found a place to lay your head and listen to the music you love.  I hope there’s whiskey in heaven.  Cheers!

It’s Christmas Eve, the twenty-fourth day of the sixtieth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

 

IN MEMORY

STEPHEN PATRICK MARK CORLEY

12/25/1959 – 06/–/1997

BROKEDOWN PALACE – The Grateful Dead

#christmastraditionsreinvented

Last year, my son and I took BART to San Francisco on Christmas Eve.  Though we found it radically different than its normal bustling state, we enjoyed our walk through the nearly vacant downtown. We gazed the height of buildings that he wanted to see.  We found an open Thai restaurant.  But we did not get to view the city from atop the Coit Tower, which closed early for the holiday.

This year, we repeated our BART trip.  We ate Chinese just off Union Square.  We took a LYFT to the Tower and got our tickets.  We stood in line for half an hour, then assured the staff attendant that I could traverse the two winding flights of stone stairs for the last leg of the journey.  We made it to the top, only a year late.  It certainly did not disappoint.

My son takes me to the best places. 

#christmastraditionsreinvented  #mytinylife #lovingwhattheuniverseprovides

It’s the twenty-third day of the sixtieth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Winter solstice

My son and I celebrated winter solstice by partaking of the adventures which the Delta offers to those who wish to immerse themselves in its rich heritage. 

We started with a mid-day visit to the Michael David Winery.  Then we made our way to the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve, where we had been told we would see thousands of sandhill cranes.  None materialized other than a few broad sweeps on the distant horizon just as the sunset faded.  But a falcon struck spectacular poses for us.  Later we explored the burgeoning metropolis of Isleton, with its new Joint and the old standby, Mei Wah Beer Room.

We paid no intention to the shuttering of the nation, or his dwindling inheritance, or the disaster in Washington.  Back at home, we marveled over my new bench.  We walked down the row and took a tour of Derek Campbell’s home.  Derek built my bench.  He and his wife, Kelly, built their amazing THOW.  After our tour, Patrick and I brought the shortest day of 2018 to a close with Margaritas, using the last lime from my little tree. 

I have no quarrels with this day.  Not a blessed one.   I would not change a single second.

It’s the twenty-first day of the sixtieth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.