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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Box In The Closet

{ My dad's U of L t-shirt, it's my favorite and I'll wear it till it's in tatters }
My dad was a great story teller, but he told the same ten stories over and over again. When he asked if I'd "heard this one before" I didn't have the heart to tell him so I listened intently and laughed in all the appropriate places. These stories were often told around the kitchen table over beers on the first night of a visit. My parents divorced when I was 10 so visits were the norm, but we were always happy to see each other, especially that first night.

There was the one about his old roommates and the apartment they shared over a Convent in Louisville. Hygienically challenged, the brothers would only clean their bathroom once a year when they had a huge party because they put the beer in their bathtub. Then there were the ones about running around his grandparents farm in Lexington with his brother Jimmy causing general mayhem. Tractors were broken, horses were "borrowed" and cream was stolen from the basement.

{ My dad (in front) and my Uncle Jimmy (in back) on the farm }
Then there were the ones he told about his Dad. My grandfather William, or "Butch" as my grandma Dora called him, died of a heart attack when he was 53 and I never had the privilege of meeting him. She never talked about him much but my Dad shared a lot, both good and bad. We are all both I've learned. Sometimes in the middle of one of these tales his eyes would get wide and he'd jump out of his seat, stomp over to the closet and pull out a large cardboard box. In it he kept all of his father's possessions that came to him after his father's death. He'd pull out something to show me and inevitably we'd empty the whole thing on the floor and joyfully look through trinkets and memorabilia, mementos and history. Absent memories, the last fragments of a life.

{ My grandfather Butch laying telephone wire in Kentucky }
When my own father passed, also of a heart attack, I had to go to his house to get a suit to bury him in. This was the first time I'd been there since it happened and as soon as I opened the door I felt his presence all around me. There was a half-eaten sandwich on the kitchen table. His bed was unmade. His cherry Maalox and razor were on the bathroom sink. He had no idea that would be his last day. He, and I, had no idea we wouldn't get to say goodbye.

Nor did his co-worker know she would be the last person to speak to him as he realized his bus was leaving without him and ran to catch it. Nor did the Nurse on board know she would have to do chest compressions on the gentleman who just boarded and immediately collapsed until the ambulance got there. Nor did the emergency room physicians and nurses know their attempts to bring him back would be unsuccessful. We never know what will happen each day. 

{ Kentucky's Finest }
Back to my own tale....That night at his place I grabbed the suit I thought he'd like best and looked around the rest of the house a bit. The thought of going through everything and deciding what to keep and what to throw away was too much at the time so I resolved to get through the funeral and then begin to think about that. When we all did come back a short time later I already felt his presence less in the house. I don't know why but it felt like he wasn't there anymore. We did the best we could saving what was important and trying to figure out what he'd want. Then I drove home from Atlanta with a fully packed car, life moved forward as it always does and I got around to the business of mourning.

{ I got my Dad's record collection and my sister got his drum set }
Speaking of life, it's terrifyingly cyclical. The other day I was in my living room brainstorming ideas for a wall collage I'd like to put up and suddenly had a great idea! My dad's high school pins would look so beautiful in a shadow box on the wall. My eyes got wide, I ran upstairs to my back room and pulled out a large cardboard box from the closet......What a moment. I can't really explain how it felt so I'll just leave it at that.

Things are just that, things. They are not a person nor do they make up the value of a life, but for those of us who have lost someone close they are a way to hold on. Not so tightly that we can't move past loss, but gently, so it's safe to remember. The measure of a life is who you love and what you do while you're here.

{ My great grandmother's quilts and spoons }
I actually found quite a few things in the box that day that will shortly be making their way on display in my house. I obviously can't put out everything, my grandfather's duffel bag from the war doesn't really go with my current bedroom scheme. But more will find it's way out. More should find it's way out. And when my nephew Jack spends the night at my house I'll walk him around and show him things of Dad's and tell him stories. He will come to know him in the only way he can now, through these things and my memories. Hopefully I can bring him to life for Jack. Hopefully I'll do him justice. His life wasn't long, but it was complex and productive. 

My father's life wasn't wrapped in a bow. 

My father's life is something to learn from. 

My father's life will be more than just a box in the closet.

His birthday is this Friday. He would have been 64....

Happy Birthday old man......

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Black Heart

Can a person's heart be truly evil? This is the question posed and the journey Shakespeare takes us on in Richard III. I was somewhat familiar with the play but had never seen it live. It is alive and well in popular culture though, Kevin Spacey, who played the iconic character at the Old Vic in London, has said he modeled his character in House of Cards after Richard. From time to time I hear someone reference "the winter of our discontent", but other than that I didn't know Richard at all.

An insight into my personality.... I automatically think it's his childhood and deformity that hardened his heart and steeled his nerves. He could still be saved if only someone could reach him. But The Bard says different and when the ghosts of his victims visit him, he is not swayed by their presence or re-awakened a la Scrooge. He has a singular vision and is willing to cut down anyone who stands in his way.

Are these bad qualities though? Are they evil? There are positions and decisions that need to be made in this world that require a certain level of detachment, a certain level of decision making ability absent pity or shame. If history is on your side when you have to make these decisions you are lifted up as a hero. If history favors someone else you are labeled a tyrant. Perhaps, as Jack Nicholson said so famously,  sometimes "we can't handle the truth". Interesting questions that I'm sure we could spend hours debating over a bottle of wine. But for now, on with the show!

Richmond is extremely lucky. Agecroft Hall, a Tudor Mansion dismantled in England in the 20's and re-assembled here later, serves as a perfect back drop for an evening of theatre. The grounds are also beautiful and I was able to wander for a bit before the show and take pictures. I hope you enjoy them and I hope you will go and see Richard's story if you can before the company's run ends. Supporting the arts here in Richmond is a huge part of continuing to build on the amazing development and activities in the city.

Friday, July 25, 2014

It's Friday, Love

{ Wish I was back in West Virginia }

This week has been let down city. We talked about our West Virginia trip for so long and had such a great time that when it was over I got a little blue. Everyone else is apparently feeling the same way so we'll just have to plan another one for next year. I also walked into Target and the "Back to School" signs are up. When you're a kid this time of year feels like a new beginning, but for us adults it means summer is nearing it's end and the holidays will be here before you know it. I used to love the holidays. I also find myself going to that "this time last year" place which is doing me absolutely no good and I am self-diagnosing myself as a masochist.

It's the inevitable transition from summer to fall and I'm sure shortly I'll be in love with blankets and wine by the fire in my living room. There is still a bit of summer left though and I have a new mountain to explore shortly, a big conference for work and my annual staycation before Labor Day. The band has a bunch of shows coming up and then there's always the simple nights we spend laughing on friend's porches in Church Hill which are the best.

Dear Fall,

Hold of for just a bit.....


{ I love a man who likes to dress well but doesn't take longer to get ready than I do. Unfortunately, this one's already spoken for:) }

{ The band played an awesome charity show at Strangeways Brewery. Thanks to Strangeways and Happy Camper Productions for having us! }

{ Squeezed in a walk on Brown's Island }

{ Finally a rainy day for my plants this week. Not the perfect, and very detailed, rainy day I have in my head, but hopefully one day that will happen }

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Country Roads

This past weekend I found myself traveling down that most West Virginia of institutions, a country road. I traveled by bike, car, foot and river, sometimes pedaling with all my might and sometimes wandering aimlessly letting life show me which way to turn next. I wasn't alone in my travels, I secured a spot with a motley crew of lovely adventurers led by the vivacious Joey Pugh. I was told, by Joey, that I was to refer to him as the "best cruise director ever". Luckily for him I concur with his assessment, and I know I speak for everyone when I say thank you Joey for planning a great weekend!

I took hundreds of pictures and had the hardest time choosing which ones to include. That's the sign of a wonderful adventure I think. We biked the C & O Canal in Harper's Ferry, drifted down the Shenandoah River and enjoyed some great local food spots. On Sunday leaving the view from my balcony was painful, but an afternoon of antique shops and wine tasting made up for it. I'm exhausted and need a vacation from my vacation, but it was totally worth it. West Virginia is a magically wild place and a little slice of heaven that I will always keep with me.