Just Outside of Tucumcari

How many times did I hear my dad say, “…just outside of Tucumcari…”? A hundred? Only a dozen? I honestly don’t know. We took family road trips along I-40 throughout my life and even as a young girl, I remember Tucumcari coming and going.

My dad was laid to rest on Wednesday. I have not allowed myself to cry (much) because I needed to get beyond the funeral. I wanted to stand on the podium and say a few words about his eminence. His greatness. His overwhelming dadability.

Tuesday we were T minus 24 hours away from being the first family ever to play “Sweet Lips” at a funeral. My sisters. God bless them. My sisters brainstormed songs for the funeral and I handed the titles over to the funeral director without listening to lyrics. Mercifully, my mother told me that Sweet Lips is about a man cheating on his wife. Scratch that one.

And because my dad loved George Jones my sisters decided “He Stopped Loving Her Today” would also be swell. Why would we do this to ourselves? Surely this must rank as a Top 3 Cry Song of all time? The lyrics “and then they carried him away” actually happened. No. No. No. T minus 18 and Marsha, Mom and I substitute George Jones’ version of Peace in the Valley. Better.

We still played “Daddy’s Hands” at the funeral. This one made my mom cry. She, too, has been controlling emotion. But she cried and shook a little when Daddy’s Hands played. This is a mother’s love. Crying for her children (albeit in our 50s and 60s) because our Daddy is gone. Later, I encourage my mom to let it go, to grieve. She says she’s fine as she sips on a shot glass of Tennessee Whiskey. My mother does not drink.

David and I are headed west to Arizona today on I-40. I’m behind the wheel feeling fine. Then we get “just outside of Tucumcari” and my tears start to flow. God I’m going to miss my dad. I miss him already. I started missing pieces of him last August when he had his stroke.

After a short hospital stay, he was home on hospice care for only 18 hours. He had picked his funeral song. We had the song on a music box and played it for him while he struggled to breathe. He took his last breath when the song reached the word “Heaven”. The song ended there because the box ran out of time. Dad ran out of time, too.

At his gravesite as we were singing Amazing Grace, a plane flew overhead. We were minutes away from Tinker Air Force base so the plane was flying low and was obviously military. When the service ended, the funeral director said, “They got the branch right, that was a Navy plane.” My dad was a World War II vet and served in the Navy.

He could not have scripted a better death. A better burial. For a man who was tough and gruff in life, his death was nothing short of poetic.

So here I go crying, just outside of Tucumcari and I glance in my side view window to see this.


Just Beyond the Moon

Shoulders hunched at a 45 degree angle, he wasn’t the 6′ tall man he used to be. But we always reported his height and weight, 6′, 190lbs, anytime someone asked. Never mind his bent spine made him shorter than that. Never mind. My dad was tall and strong–I didn’t need science on my side. My brain said my dad was tall and strong.

It is Wednesday night in Shawnee, Oklahoma, the city where this dad of mine was born on February 18, 1925. I’m listening to the oxygen tank kick on and off while I hear his labored breathing. The tank sounds oddly like the air compressors he used when he was working. Back when sawdust reminded me of my dad. Back when he laughed when he shot a nail gun and Dorothy and I jumped three feet in the air. “Dammit dad”, we said. “Please yell ‘fire in the hole’, before you shoot that thing!” He loved his daughters learning “the trade” but it tickled him when we were afraid of his nail gun. And ladders. And roof work. We weren’t great apprentices, my sisters and I. Thank goodness his three sons followed his trade.

Now the oxygen tank kicks on and off and my dad’s labored breathing can be heard just beyond. It is Wednesday. Last Thursday my husband and I took him to several appointments and to buy a new wheelchair. He was on top of the world last Thursday. He said we kidnapped him and he was more than willing to be kidnapped on the next day but we were leaving town and couldn’t oblige. Last Thursday he ate 12 McNuggets on the way home from his kidnapping. Today he can’t eat or drink.

Sepsis, heart attack, blood clot…”nothing we can do”, came word from the doctor. My mom has been with my dad for 72 years. How can she hear “Nothing we can do?” There’s always something. DO SOMETHING!

Another doctor agrees there’s nothing they can do. They send my father home on hospice care. Little Heidi, his precious dachshund, gazes at us wildly when we come inside the house. She wants on his hospital bed which is placed now where the dining table used to sit. She smells his breath, sits on him and licks him endlessly. Dogs know. People are less perceptive.

My brother calls to say, maybe dad will have a better day tomorrow and he’ll sit up and drink a protein shake. Heidi has already told me, this is the end. My limited survival training kicks in and I remember: You can survive 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food. Heidi senses: he’s not had water for two days. She senses there aren’t better days. I believe Heidi.

How to feel? Sorry, sad? Grateful for having a dad for 54 years? Worried for my mother now? Just what is the “proper” way to feel when your dad is on oxygen, hooked up to a catheter, coughing and heavily drugged for pain? How do you feel when you can’t fix this?

I am “sleeping” on the couch at mom and dad’s house tonight. What happens when his pain is too great? Am I the right person to administer drugs every two hours? I don’t want my dad to die on my watch but you only have 3 days to live without water and he’s just slipped into day 2. My dad will die on my watch.

The night draws on and we slip into Thursday. Day 3 without water. Heidi is now huddled close to me on the couch. The oxygen tank continues its windup and hiss. My dad’s breathing becomes more and more labored and sometimes he cries in pain. My mom sleeps in their bed alone.

Morning came, my sisters and brother arrived. My dad would die but not solely on my watch. I am grateful for this. My dad took his last breath before 1:00pm just as the music box finished playing his chosen song.

I remember when you said you’d never leave me

Through these golden years I’ve kept the same vow too

But now that I am going please don’t leave me

I’ll walk just beyond the moon then I’ll stop and wait for you

You can look up every night and you’ll see me light the light

Where I’ll watch for you to join me someday soon

We’ll go lookin’ through the stars for the heaven that is ours

And I know we’ll find it soon somewhere just beyond the moon

I’ll just sit there on a star and watch you from afar

Till I see you walking toward me someday soon

Then together hand in hand we’ll find our promised land

And we’ll settle down forever darlin’ just beyond the moon

I don’t need science on my side. He was 6′ tall, 190 pounds. He was tall and strong. And he is waiting for my mom just beyond the moon.

Broke down just short of paradise…

This man’s description of what it feels like to be struggling to stay sober just touched my soul. He writes so beautifully about such a painful existence. Bravo, sir. Stay strong.

The Struggle is Real!

20170429_102241Good morning. Or is it? Are they ever really good from the jump or is it all just an illusion, smoke and mirrors? More lies and deception  than any one honest good man should have to bear. It feels as if the sun will never rise again. I just wanna go to sleep and not ever dream again. Because they always fall short of reality. Nothing is ever as it seems. Nothing is pure anymore, my heart is broken, ripped, and torn. Turning cold and barely beating, it’s end it will soon be meeting. “Pray”, I hear someone say from the other side of the universe, but I can’t bear to even do that for my God is a giving god, but only in opportunities  not what i pray for. And one more opportunity will for sure have my face to the floor. So I sit and breathe. Heart blackened…

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My Mom’s Tiny Twisted Heart

‘Twas the night before leaving our Paris home
My head was swimming with thoughts of my mom
We would arrive home on Sunday but by Monday A.M.
We would be taking my mom for a heart ablation

Our flight from Paris went without hitch
It was American Airlines who threw the first pitch
“We can’t fly you to Oklahoma tonight” they mused,
All flights have been cancelled and you’ve just been screwed”

“We must get there by midnight”, we warned,
“My mom’s having surgery first thing in the morn’.”
So we rented a Camry and set on our way
All jet lagged and groggy and feeling the pain.

Sleep would elude us; Monday morning was hurried
When mom got to the hospital, we were so worried
Gathered in pre-op the surgeon told us in part,
The surgery was easy (unless he punctured her heart)

Two hours we waited but finally word came
Mom’s surgery went well but something was strange
“Her heart was twisted and small”, said the surgeon,
“It was quite difficult to repair her imperfection.”

A small twisted heart, I rolled on my tongue
This I can work with, my blog post is done!
This woman who’s religion doesn’t celebrate Christmas
Has a heart like the Grinch, all tiny and twisted!

We are but Piermans and as is our way
Your problems, our folly; your troubles, our play
We rushed to her bedside and let loose a guffaw,
“Your heart’s like the Grinch’s, two sizes too small!”

We grew up in Who-ville each Christmas season
Our Jehovah’s Witness mom was the reason
“See the wonder of Christmas, Grinch-Mom, just try
And your heart will grow three times in size!”

We laughed and we laughed at her twisted small organ
Her mind is unchanged, that’s a foregone conclusion
We’ll keep living in Who-ville, no Christmas with Mom
But her small heart is healthy and now she’s back home.

This Cindy Lou Who went to bed that night
And slept like a baby all comfy and tight
‘Cause my Grinch-Mom’s heart was made much better
And the Who’s down in Who-ville are all back together

See You Soon, Paris

Salut! The French will say and then they will raise a toast to you, but you must stare them in the eye or risk seven years of bad sex. Then they will dine with you but look at you suspiciously if they cannot see both of your hands at all times. All while something very French such as “I Shot the Sheriff (but I did not shoot the deputy)” is playing in the background of the French brasserie with a Turkish toilet.  Bienvenu à Paris! Welcome to Paris!

This trip we’ve been social butterflies, flitting about to this dinner or that coffee. Plaudits are due when this occurs to an introverted-extrovert such as myself. But it has opened up a whole new Paris to us.

We had dinner twice with our French friend, Laurène, and suppressed laughter while she ardently defended her countrymen’s time-honored tradition of the benevolent Easter Bell which flies about the city dropping candy from the sky to the children (making our Easter Bunny seem wholly rational).

The Husband had me go with him for coffee with a Brazilian from his class. She spoke not a word of English and little French. I found myself staring at my Orangina wishing to hell it was a shot of tequila. I swear to you I do not know what language either of them was speaking. They were like those toddler twins you see on YouTube with their own special language. I’ll be damned if they didn’t work out “my nephew has Down’s Syndrome and my son is a pilot” in pantomime.

Then of course there’s Sally. She went with us on a tour of a park in south Paris moaning and complaining the whole time. I didn’t get to say goodbye to Sally because as another person in our group put it, “we put her in a cab and pointed her northward”.

We met new friends that invited us to their home and out to dinner. This is going to be a special relationship I can already tell–we have so much in common. They own and lease apartments in Paris; a Parisian version of our own lives back home.

Which brings me around to the most exciting people we met this trip–a property consultant and a real estate agent.

The Husband, usually resistant to my urges to buy real estate on a whim, has this time encouraged me to plant my nose against the windows of real estate offices, staring at property flyers saying things like, “We could put a pink couch there, and…”

So there it is. As simply as I can say it, I belong to Paris and someday maybe Paris will belong to me. To us.

À bien tôt, Paris. See you soon. To be continued…

Paris Will Always Be Paris

What do you do when it rains in Paris? Make lemonade. Or have lemonade. OK. Fine. We go have a drink at the Grand Palais restaurant (confusingly called the Mini Palais). We had their comfy couches all to ourselves. 
On our way to have lemonade, we stopped at the Eiffel Tower. I wanted to capture images of this AWFUL FENCE they put around it which makes my heart sick (a permanent fence will follow).

We then headed for our “lemonade stand” but it started pouring on us so we jumped on a river tour boat. I sat in one spot taking bridge photos listening to the narration of how the Seine is the heart of Paris and Paris is the Seine.

I beg to disagree. Paris is defined by its culture and its people. Build walls around the Eiffel Tower. I care but I don’t care because it changes nothing. Paris will always be Paris. Paris sera toujours Paris.

This is Paris. Parisians lingering at lunch and enjoying civil political or social debate. Shopkeepers, grocers, and vendors expecting a bonjour and an au revoir. Happy Hours (yes, it is plural here) happening on the sidewalk terraces under tiny heaters, no matter the weather.

Fresh bread at the boulangerie, delicate little pastries at the patisserie, and meat from a boucherie. Well-prepared Julia Childs’ style meals followed with frozen desserts purchased from Picard. There is only one kind of salad dressing. Nutella is everywhere. I repeat. Nutella is everywhere.

People flock to the parks and public markets in every Arrondissement. The Bouquinistes, though struggling, honor the tradition of their fathers and grand-fathers selling bad paintings and old magazines along the Seine.  People hog the sidewalks, oblivious that anyone should want to pass them. Children on buses behave like little adults.  Dogs ride the metro and go unleashed even though it’s forbidden. A dog at the dining table is perfectly acceptable but no one is scooping dog poo because that is uncivilized.

Terrorism has left an indelible mark but Paris est toujours Paris (Paris is still Paris).  Now who wants lemonade?

LVMH Is Changing Paris–LoVe eM or Hate em

Change is hard. Especially on the French. Some Royalists are still calling for the return of the crown.

Others continue lamentations of how Monsieur Haussmann (Baron was a borrowed title) ruined all of Paris with his massive public works projects a few years ago…you know, around 1870. And how about those who begged for the Eiffel Tower to be torn down? French writer, Guy de Maupassant, famously said [paraphrasing], “I eat at the Eiffel Tower every night for it is the only place I can escape seeing it.”

No wonder then the all the conjecture, controversy and brasserie blabbering about what LVMH, a $209 billion French enterprise, has done to the Paris landscape.

LMVH’s Louis Vuitton Foundation building, which opened October 2014, was commissioned by famed architect, Frank Gehry. The building sits now in the Jardin d’Acclimatisation which was France’s first amusement park. It opened in 1860 and was envisioned by Napoleon III but executed by Haussmann. The Jardin is now home to an egg-like art exhibition building. No less than 30 patents were designed and approved just to manufacture the building’s complex angles which Gehry intended to look like sails. Then along came French artist, Daniel Buren, who last year was hired to “complete the building” as he saw fit. Buren covered Gehry’s iconic glass panes with colors. Debate will never cease whether to praise or blame LVMH, Gehry or Buren for this building.

Here are photos, talk amongst yourselves:

On the other side of town between Quai du Louvre and the Rue de Rivoli, LVMH is undertaking a 500 million Euro renovation of the Samaritaine building. Even with the façade of the building covered, the imminent unveiling of this structure already has people angry. “It will not look like Paris”, is the general complaint. I told you. Change is hard.

The once empty and condemned Samaritaine building will house hotels, housing and retail among other things and intends to provide jobs in Paris and to bring life to the area which has gotten a bit down-trodden in the past two decades.

LVMH is one of the few French companies that hasn’t headed for the borders to avoid corporate taxes (though government subsidies are said to have countered any taxes paid). Millions of construction dollars have been spent and thousands of jobs were created. But still. Change.

So if you want to have coffee with a Parisian and just don’t know how to get the conversation going, ask the question: LVMH, LoVe eM or Hate em?