Tag Archives: death

Making the Dadland flag….

First, thanks to Laura for Dadland; that pretty much sums up where I’m living in the new normal.  Let’s say that Dadland is a county within this novel country, and this modern quilt constitutes the colours that once I get this baby completed will fly with honor.  Or drape over our sofa with similarly good intentions.

I’ll pull that Dadland flag over myself as I watch the San Francisco Giants this year, pondering what might Dad have thought of this or that play.  In Dadland, even if Dad’s no longer a citizen, the reverberations are lasting.  An improv quilt that initially held few notable qualities other than being my first attempt at floating squares morphed into a statement on the sinking of a British ocean liner, one hundred years ago might I add, then was truly revealed for its worth.

Although I still think of Winsor McCay when I stare at this piece.  World War I in 1915 in the blue, orange and beige, with a hint of green and yellow, representing the Lusitania’s passengers.  Some lived, many perished, as the Irish coast was in sight.

I rue not having snapped more shots as this quilt top came into being, but I found myself sewing even before I’d had a shower.  The thrill of piecing this project was infectious; every morning between sips of tea I fashioned small blocks, going between the grotto and the living room, not thinking about much else.  Which was a nice change, after the last couple of months, thinking about way too many things and not getting even close to my sewing machine.

I found that improvisational quilting requires the creative mental spark throughout the putting-together-the-quilt-top process, unlike how within my traditional patchwork scheme once the fabric goes on the quilt wall, it’s simply a matter of sewing those cottons into rows.  That part has felt tedious in my last couple of quilts, a sensation I couldn’t shake, nor did I appreciate.

Seams were pressed open, which was also a first, and most were of the quarter-inch variety, but not all….

Yet in making the Dadland flag, not a moment was dull.  It was at times slightly frustrating, until I turned a section sideways or completely upside down.  Then I was happier.  Of course it helps that none of the fabrics I chose were directional, a note to self for future modern quilts.

As the quilt emerged, it wasn’t until it was almost done I saw my father within it.  Wider at the top, it’s also more scattered in colour, much as how Dad’s early years were fraught with plenty of complications.  As he aged, his life settled, some difficulty involved of course, but he was sober the last ten years of his life, for which I am still amazed and grateful.  And that was while battling prostate cancer, which turned into bone cancer.  Which coupled with COPD and heart failure killed him.

The darker bottom prints signify that era of Dad’s life, but the hues are lively, the beige filler fabric not the same as what started out at the top.  I didn’t have enough blue and orange to fashion a decent-sized quilt, so I knew more colours would be necessary, and I’m partial to dark pink.  The navy blue and cream print isn’t one of my faves, but I had plenty of it, and didn’t want all solids.  And little by little, all of these fabrics turned into something far more than merely a step into the improv quilting realm….

This isn’t just floating squares, it’s about barely scraping the surface of comprehending loss.  But it’s also about life, for death is part of living.  Boats are sunk, men pass away.  Sometimes those men are fathers, of daughters who fancy themselves as artists of sorts.  And sometimes those daughters, even ones at forty-nine, still think of their father as Daddy.

The county of Dadland is an intriguing one, like no county I’ve ever visited before.  Looking forward to seeing more of it, day by day by day….

What does time mean?

A most contented abuela; all shots by a most talented Belgian.

A most contented abuela; nearly all shots by a most talented Belgian.

Days have passed and the burrito has changed into the happy chappy, little man, or when he refuses to burb, the twerp.  Burp twerp has become a late-night refrain, and I sing different songs, some of which aren’t even of my own creation.  We watched the Big Star documentary a few nights ago, and I’ve been humming Chris Bell and Alex Chilton tunes, thinking about my new world as an abuela, and about my dad.

The happy chappy will meet his great-grandfather tomorrow, when the home health nurse isn’t around.  My father is excited to hold the littlest member of the family, but I don’t think it will be a long cuddle.  Dad’s lower right leg has a bad edema wound, and he’s not firm on either of his feet.  He’s lost ground in the last two weeks, whereas his grandson has gained a foothold, and to be honest, I’m not sure how these two will mesh in the weeks to come.

Which brings me to today’s title; what does time mean?  My grandchild is hovering at a week old, my father is seventy years.  I’m forty-eight, but those are merely numbers.  Life is a constant pull-push of breaths taken, occasions experienced, then the slow (or not so slow) approach to the end.  Now, due to my faith, the end isn’t the end, but it’s still a cessation of activity, involvement, memory.  When my father takes his last breath, all he knows, and has known, will be gone.  What he’s shared with us shall remain, but those are fragments of what he has seen, done, felt, and at times, avoided.  It has become impossible for me to separate my father’s ill health with the emergence of the next generation of family.   I cannot look away from these issues.

And perhaps that makes all of this easier for me, in that my dad’s decline is balanced by the burrito.  He’s still a burrito at night, swaddled in his sleep sack, out like a light.  We put cloth diapers on him today; they make his butt look HUGE!  His umbilical cord has fallen off; we’re going to plant it under a hydrangea given to him by one of my daughter’s dear friends.  Not quite like planting a tree over the placenta, but it’s one way to mark this very auspicious occasion.  And I come back to this fact again and again; people are born, then they die.  I have no clue as to my father’s timeline, but equally I won’t ignore what is obvious.  It would be like closing my eyes and running right into a wall.

Seasonally, new life is blooming around us.  Almond trees are flush with white flowers, which fall to the ground like a carpet. Yes, it’s only February, but spring floods the senses with warm temperatures and lengthening days.  My grandchild is turning from a taquito into a happy fellow, with reflexive smiles that tease; when he starts to grin for real, no one will be able to resist him.  In the back of my head, I wonder how much of this boy my father will know, for how long will their paths cross.  I don’t mean to be maudlin, but it’s a study of life in real time, day by day.  Maybe that’s what time means, not the accumulation of seconds and minutes, but moments and learning.  Over time we accrue knowledge that enables us to love.  Sometimes we are caught off guard by events that derail that plan, but to me, that’s the plan: we are here to love.  If we can look past the hurt, our hearts are made stronger by that which has attempted to thwart the plan, and we love more deeply.  I adore my happy chappy, even when he’s being a burp twerp.  My father’s sufferings cause me anguish, but his perseverance demands my respect, right alongside my overwhelming love.

My dad in 1947.

I never imagined all of these forces colliding right now; just three months ago, my father carved the Thanksgiving turkey.  Now it’s like he’s aged those twenty-five years he thought he had back in September.  While I wish he felt that well now, I can’t do any more for him than I can for the little man.

Which is a very strange situation; right now the little man isn’t such a happy chappy.  It’s nighttime, bedtime if you were a baby.  He’s a wee bit cranky, as many infants are this time of the evening.  We rock him, change him, but we’re sort of helpless to completely soothe, other than his mum, but he’s not really hungry.  My father’s woes are similar; as a daughter, I accompany to appointments, I ask questions.  But my dad is in charge, and as his perseverance requires my respect, so do his choices.

My father and his grandparents, August 1946

My father and his grandparents, August 1946

This is the part of life that requires patience and acceptance; a fussy crying baby and the plethora of maladies that plague someone battling cancer.  These older photographs are precious to me, in that they denote my history.  I never knew my great-grandparents, but they are alive in my dad’s stories.  My mum is in fine health, but the burrito taquito chap will most likely know of his great-grandpa via my tales, and those of other relatives.  That’s not how I necessarily want it, but….

My dad, 1945.

My dad, 1945.

But time can only be measured by yardsticks our feeble cerebral mechanisms can harness.  Yet, what if time was without parameters?  Maybe it is.  Perhaps all this blog-blogging is just a way to unwind after a long day.  But I would love to convey, if I have totally missed the point, that time is what we make it.  Time is as fleeting as a goodbye wave, or as lasting as firm devotion.  Time is nothing we can truly qualify, if our expectations are turned toward an ethereal home.  Time is only a manner of one day’s end, another’s beginning.  Life is very much the same.

The violence inherent in the system

I tried to write something yesterday, after absorbing what had happened in Connecticut.  Several times I sat with the Add New Post page staring at me, but I just didn’t know what to say, what I wanted to say.  What is there to say?  Guns are bad.  Guns kill people.  People kill people, the NRA would argue.

Guns sure make it a lot easier.

But that’s trite, it’s bullshit really, when yesterday is considered.  I can’t even really consider it.  It’s so damn sad.

This morning, I woke next to my warm, loving husband.  I didn’t think about Connecticut, or guns, or the bleeping NRA, until he mentioned football, wondering when his Packers play on Sunday.  Football, huh!  I stayed away from the news for most of last week because the NFL has been a bastion of stupid violence, either with guns or alcohol.  I was up to my eyeteeth with stupidity and violence, so much violence inherent in the system.  Monty Python made a joke ages ago, as King Arthur rides up to some peasants in a field.  He addresses one as old woman, but the peasant informs him that he is a man, Dennis, and he’s thirty-eight, not old (although really, in King Arthur’s time, thirty-eight was probably fairly aged for peasants or kings).  Quickly the action turns silly; King Arthur tries to assert his rights as ruler, yet Dennis notes this is a self-governing commune.  Arthur gets angry, hauling Dennis from the ground.  Dennis yells that he’s being repressed (See how he’s repressing me?), then notes the violence inherent in the system.

My nation, the United States of America, is dying from the violence inherent in the system.

I couldn’t read any more about yesterday other than the basic facts, then one article in the LA Times about if this will change gun laws.  Then I moved on, trying to consider other issues.  I didn’t get very far, reading one more article, about this very theme; America is a turbulent, unhappy country.  It’s not just guns that caused yesterday’s massacre (even if they did make it so much easier to achieve what the killer wanted); it’s America’s thirst for violence.  Football fans decry the way the game is being made safer.  Talk shows ratchet up the noise; attack attack attack.  I never realize how violent a nation I lived in until I moved to Britain.  Violence was kept off TV until after the watershed, nine p.m.  Sex wasn’t the issue there, Janet Jackson’s nipple of no concern.  When I came back, I was appalled at how rough were the commercials during my beloved football; if they weren’t trying to sell me beer, they were forcing fights and bloodshed down my throat.

Adults watch football, okay.  So do little kids.

Two nights ago my husband put on the Thursday night football game, mostly out of habit.  The teams, Philadelphia and Cincinnati, didn’t interest us, and I picked up my book, Lonesome Dove, and read as the gridiron was trod.  Then I said to my husband that the recent tragedies involving football players had really dampened my enthusiasm.  Plus it’s getting hard to reconcile serious head trauma with a sport that I have loved and followed for thirty-one years.  Baseball appeals more, and not just because my team won the World Series.  Baseball is a gentler sport, also more demanding; one hundred sixty-two games spread over six months requires more of players’ attention.  I was just getting sick and tired of all the injury and death.  I am sick to death of death!

I write plenty about death, I won’t deny it.  I also write a lot about love.  No matter how bleak my plots get (and they get pretty damn bleak), love triumphs, love always wins.  1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 is often read at weddings; it was read at my daughter’s just this past summer.  It is usually attributed as 1 Corinthians 13, but that last verse of the previous chapter really nails it: But eagerly desire the greater gifts.  And now I will show you the most excellent way.

That’s LOVE!  Not violence, guns, hatred.  Yes, a writer needs drama.  Cain killed his brother Abel, conflict from the biblical beginning.  But good grief, can’t we have evolved some since King Arthur strong-armed Dennis the peasant?  My faith demands I remain optimistic, that two thousand years ago love conquered evil by dying on a cross.  But for God’s sake (and I mean that just as I wrote it), can’t we move past the blood lust and fury, the need to be number 1 no matter the cost.  All the firearms in the world won’t keep anyone safe; little children weren’t even safe yesterday at school!  When Kasandra Perkins was killed, the NRA said she might have survived if she’d had a gun.  Are they going to say that about the five to ten year-olds who died?

(Stupid NRA…)

This is an anti-gun rant (in case you missed it); it’s also an I am sick and tired of all this honk-honking vent.  In Britain, drivers rarely honk their horns; it’s impolite.  My husband and I used to joke that when it did happen (maybe once a year), what was it with all this honk-honking?  It’s Christmastime, believe it or not, which exacerbates yesterday’s catastrophe.  But maybe, oh please God maybe, that such awful wretched violence occurred so close to when many all over the world celebrate the birth of a baby, maybe someone will take life and love into consideration.

Yesterday, writing about the writing, I didn’t think so.  I was pessimistic, pissed off, weary.  I had not one iota of expectation that anything in this nation would ever, ever change when it comes to guns.  Today?  Well, I’ve had a night’s sleep.  I thought about Monty Python and The Holy Grail.  I lay beside my beloved, who erases all my earthly woes.  Then I took a shower, ate some Grape Nuts, the violence inherent in the system floating through my brain.

Many things have changed during my life.  Some will never alter.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, I have to have hope.  Miracles happen.  Maybe, one day, the violence will cease to be.