Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Amazing Race



Not long ago, a motley crew of friends, family and neighbors gathered together to watch the final episode of The Amazing Race on a large movie screen at Jordan Commons.  Now this was not just an exercise of happy, mindless people assembling on a Sunday evening to collectively break the Sabbath or provoke the wrath of heaven by engaging in felonious activities that are profoundly unbiblical. 


Quite the contrary.  Our dear friends, Dave and Connor O’Leary, were among the three final teams competing for the million dollar prize and bragging rights for enduring a series of wild and dangerous stunts that were deeply unnerving and left the participants without a recognizable center of gravity…or bladder control.  For some of us, this is a perpetual state of being.

Because of a 10 million dollar confidentiality clause and an unspoken threat of a contract on their lives with Guido, the “Thumb Breaker,” Dave and Connor took a vow of Omerta followed by a pinkie swear, and maintained a code of silence as to the results.  They divulged nothing. I know. I personally tried all manner of dopey tricks to get either one of them to hint at the outcome, including channeling the Oracle of Delphi. It was eerily reminiscent of trying to seduce a smile from the guards at Buckingham Palace.  Alas, to no avail.

So the congregation sat together in the theater, on the edge of our seats, biting nails, and erupting in a chorus of frenetic cheering at the conclusion of each leg, and groaning at the inane comments of the severely emotionally arrested couple who whined incessantly about needing the million dollars to have a baby.

NEWS FLASH  to those who failed Human Reproduction 1-0-1:  No monetary intervention needed for conception.  I know.  I had two children, and we didn’t have a dime!

That night was infused with such comaradery and unity, all of us caught up in the thrall of the moment.  I think we had intuited the outcome, but when the O’Learys won, there was an eruption of cacophony  and jubilation, comic book noises, simulated armpit flatulence, copious hugs, high fives and majestic silliness of fellow human beings connected by a single joyous mindset.  Shared moronic hilarity is a peculiar ritual and monumentally noble tradition of mankind. I was a privileged participant and noise-maker.

Now the O’Learys winning this competition is really no surprise.  One expects extraordinary things from extraordinary people.  The Amazing Race is not the first time they have embarked on a perilous journey.

When Dennis was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the first call we made was to our bishop, Dave O’Leary.   He was on our doorstep before we heard the dial tone.  As our family gathered together, he administered a blessing upon Dennis and our household that resonates to this day.

Our lamps were lit, and we could see the light.  Our hardship was easier to bear, because he assumed a large portion of the burden.  Dave O’Leary counseled us to put on our armor, and he promptly joined us in the trenches.

The O’Learys travelled our journey with us.  They went the distance, and we began not only to believe in miracles, but to expect them, and ultimately, to make them happen.

One should never embark on a pilgrimage alone.

The O’Learys have permanent residence in the Holy of Holies of our hearts.

Inspiration is contagious.  And as I watched Dave and Connor flinging themselves off cliffs, leaping out of airplanes and throwing themselves under the wheels of passing cars, I had an overwhelming desire to likewise gain enlightenment through reckless living and wild abandon.  I vowed to  DREAM. THE. IMPOSSIBLE. DREAM!  CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN.  FORGE EVERY STREAM.  CONQUER EVERY FOE!  MASTER MY SPHINCTER.

Yessiree.  I decided to accept any opportunity that comes my way to show my valor, bring home the ultimate victory, and wreathe myself in a crown of laurel leaves.

So, when I was asked by a stewardess to sit in an exit row on a recent flight home, I recalled the courage of Lancelot, the nobility of Don Quixote, and the permanent make-up of Kim Kardashian, and resoundingly answered the call to serve for all my fellow passengers to hear, “What the crap!  OK. “

The officious stewardess then provided me with a laminated card of instructions regarding how to proceed in case of extreme turbulence or danger.

Feeling the weight of such responsibility, I studied diligently in preparation for the possibility of hostile conditions.  The plane was a tiny world, a microcosm of humanity, but I was duty-bound by honor to focus on the inhabitants of this cocoon and do all my power to guard their lives.  I was determined to be the epitome of efficiency without obstacles…an icon of fluid motion.

In some mysterious transformation, I became everyone’s mother, (without lactation), and I embraced the mission. 

Now, according to the cartoon characters on the passenger safety card, in case of danger, the first thing NOT to do is use my cell phone or light a cigarette.

Check.

Then, as the plane hits land or water, I’m supposed to bend over, grab my ankles, and puke.  This is actually a maneuver I’ve mastered over the years. It is good to be one with your emesis basin.

OK so far.

After that, I try to figure out how the plane is constructed using my extensive knowledge of the first three letters of the alphabet.



Right.

Then I open the door, remove it from its hinges, and fling myself out the exit, which I locate by rapidly firing hyphens from my eyeballs.


Gotcha.

Finally, I just bob in the water with a frowny face and a seat cushion and wait for a baby to float by.


No problemo.

I guess we are all nomads on this planet. Life presents many sojourns.  Each destination is different.  We travel together.  

But, the next time anyone embarks on an amazing race, take me along.  I’m ready.  I’ll just review the instructions on my safety manifesto, grab a barf bag, locate my ankles, and replenish my supply of eyeball hyphens. 

I CAN DO THIS!

BRING IT ON!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

From Time to Time




Our family speaks proficient “soccer.”  It is the mother tongue.  And we consider ourselves articulate and bilingual (trilingual if you count fluent expletive a legitimate second language).  The World Cup is akin to the Second Coming, and when we speak in tongues, we utter names like Borchers, Messi and Beckham.  This prologue will be important later.

Experience has taught me that Grandmas seem to have a different relationship with time.  Now, that doesn’t exactly disqualify us from the planet.  We just view the world through our own peculiar lenses – with all the inherent distortions.

I am a fervent admirer of still lifes.  I guess that’s because basically I want a suspension of time.  Watching grandchildren grow up seems to violate my own larger order.  Time imposes this violation with dispassionate efficiency and offends the premise of stop-motion freeze frame.  Of course, this dispassionate efficiency frequently collides with my own sentimentality. Sometimes the collisions are violent, which compels a return to my third language (see prologue).   Time is a tyrant.  Time and I have an adversarial relationship.  And I notice a significant imbalance of power.

Ah, but I digress.

Almost every grandma I know tries to create a snakeless Eden for her tribe, so we can all be together all the time.  And then she must re-calibrate her mind as she wonders if she is capable of stepping up to the unavoidable inevitability…namely, kids must leave the nest, and she must let them go.  But I ask you, who would want to leave Eden?  Apparently, everyone.

As a grandmother, I can hardly grasp the concept of the grandchildren’s relentless drive to emerge from beneath my protective arm flab.  I suppose I fear they will grow into their own pre-destined design and rocket into their future, leaving us all in the Grand Suck of immense force.  But the Offspring seem to trust the purpose of their wings.  OK.  I’m cool with that.    

Coming of age is exhausting for all of us, but there seems to be a Grand Scheme in place.  That’s comforting.

Our oldest grandson, Abram, is a soccer savant, a phenom.  He plays on the JV Olympus team, even though he is still in Junior High. 

A while ago, the coach called him over to the sidelines and asked him to play the second half of the varsity game.  (Did I mention the kid’s in 9th grade?)

Well, for Abram, it was a terrific opportunity.  For me, it was a bladder check.  He stood, lanky and composed, with his velvety blond hair slightly wind-ruffled, and waited till the ref signaled the subs to enter the field.

I, in contrast, sat in the bleachers, midgety, like a citizen of a tribe of twisted aborigines, with tangled hair and a web of wrinkles spreading tentacles under my eyes, muttering unintelligible wordless growls, wheezing vocal punctuation, feeling slightly seasick, and praying I wouldn’t fling a tantrum if one of the brutes named Caligula and Vlad on the opposing team made felonious contact with my grandson! 

My heart was in freefall and rattling against my ribs.  I was a hunched bundle of mushy entrails.

Attempting some degree of sensory deprivation, I allowed myself only one liquidy eyeball to observe the action.  The other I kept hidden behind my coat.  In case of catastrophe, I could hide one eye quicker than two.

You don’t emerge from such episodes thinking clearly.  But as I watched, the kid was amazing.  His cheeks were pink and oxygenated.  He was confident, soldierly, and at ease with himself.  So I decided it was safe to unveil the second eye, exit my blankety cocoon, and amend my posture so I wasn’t scraping my knuckles on the ground.  I watched.  Abram delivered.  We both survived. 

Regaining one’s dignity is a mammoth task.

Life is a current of human experience.  And sometimes I feel like a camel on ice.  But I have decided not to waste time regretting the passage of time.  I’m calling a truce with the enemy.  Easier said than done.  I’ve held that image of Abram stepping up to the line when the coach called his name, and recorded it in my archival collection of memories.  That way I by-pass time and score a small victory over my nemesis.

Grandmas embody the sum of the experience of civilized man.  We are pilgrimage partners.

Years ago, when we got the news of Abram’s impending arrival, it seemed time went by so slowly, its passage was barely visible.  So while we waited, Dennis and I wrote a letter to the person whose four cells were already saturating our minds and hearts.  We didn’t know then who was on the way, so we addressed the epistle to the Wee Zygote.  He eventually entered the world with cacophonous lungs and gossamer hair.  He still has that hair.  He assumed the place we had saved just for him, and so far, the arrangement seems to be satisfactory for everyone. 

Nowadays, time passes so fast, it is barely visible.

Remembering takes us places where we should linger and forget about everything but the deepest things.

Of course, there are certain rituals to be observed where memory is concerned. As grandmas, we take an oath to forget certain things and make a promise to remember others. 

Therefore, history is usually agreed upon by mutual consent.

That’s how we put things in order. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Simplicity


Walking a road already travelled is not always easy.  Retracing steps often makes it difficult to contain one’s feelings.  I guess that’s the nature of memories.  They can arrive with overwhelming clarity, or in fragments, with smudged colors and contours, lacking distinct definition, untidy, but with fresh shock and frequently appalling weight of tenderness.

We all carry memories on our individual pilgrimages that bear witness to our joys and unique pain.  This is good.

I find I’m more reflective in Spring than I am even in Autumn.  And always when there are lilacs, with those noble blossoms that belie their delicacy.

Roses are mighty.  Lilacs have a compact dignity. 

All lives are governed by rhythms of their own.  I try to resist pacing mine by dates on a calendar.  But this weekend marks the second anniversary of Dennis’ passing.  We really have no protocol for such things.  Life isn’t nearly as stable as we might wish.

I acknowledged the occasion by arranging for our grave stone. It was not as unnerving as I had anticipated. No arches or columns.  It’s simple and unremarkable. It will do.

It is good to remember.  It fills the hollows. 

I understand things in a way I never have before.

That’s strangely liberating. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Person of Interest


Ok.  Question:  What is it about being blond, diminutive, antiquated and dilapidated that inevitably alerts the TSA that I am a nefarious terrorist with plans specifically engineered to annihilate the universe? 

What is it about my particular body plan – namely, a heartbeat and a full set of limbs – that piques the olfactory properties of airline security agents to sniff out the exceptionally delicate distinction between a grandma going on a road trip with friends and an emotionally disheveled, menopausal  bipedal hominid whose binary code includes a propensity for kamikaze suicide missions?

Now I realize I’m just one small part of a Sublime Whole, but maybe it’s what life is all about – you attract what you dread.

And I dread flying.

This is all prologue to an incident that took place recently when a friend and I were to fly to Palm Desert for a girls’ retreat. 

Sounds benign enough…four women with charge cards unleashed on Paseo Drive.

We could hardly wait for the flight to be over and the shopping to begin.  And I figured that with enough planning and forethought, things would go smoothly, and I just might make it through security without incident. 

WHAT WAS I THINKING???

My traveling companion is truly the sum of her parts.  Every joint has been bionically enhanced with titanium steel fashioned from the fires of Vulcan himself.  She is built for endurance rather than decoration.

I, on the other hand, have all my original equipment, derelict though it be.  However, my appearance suggests a life of deprivation. In addition, I am careful to observe cleavage protocol, although that is more a condition of circumstance than choice. Basically, nothing to attract undue notice.

In short, I was ready for my close-up.

I tried to reassure my friend that when her joints triggered the nuclear reactors, I would stand vigil over her belongings while the feds conducted a cavity search.  Humiliation minimizer.  That’s me.  What are friends for anyway?

Oh, how could I be a casualty of my own self-deceiving blindness?  Eileen passed through the featureless machines with nary a blip on the radar.  She emerged unscathed.  It was slick and unremarkable.  The gods were smiling.

And then it was my turn.  I was in a different line.  No need to fear.  Hadn’t I spent the past month preparing through meditation, medication, and meticulous packing for this very moment?

The instant I entered the time capsule, the entire alarm system was triggered, the whole airport went into lockdown, and the Navy Seals appeared with AK 47’s.  I stood in a warm squirt of adrenal fluid and a superabundance of secretions, as every saucer-eyed passenger knew with irrefutable surety that I, the anatomically threatening, was a strange and palpable menace.

An employee, looking cross and officious, with a name tag that I’m sure said ”Festus,” announced that they would have to do a “pat-down.”  I replied, “Don’t touch my junk, bro.”  But a woman was available to do the honors, which gave a whole new meaning to the term “drag and drop.” 

Meanwhile, Festus methodically unspooled the clothes from my bag with fevered delirium, checking for hazardous mascara and jammies that might indicate relaxed morality.  No offense to Festus, but where do they get these guys anyway?  He obviously wasn’t feathered with diplomas, and while not exactly hostile, he knew I was not a source of peril.  Talk about character assassination.

Then they dusted my hands for explosives residue.

I was mortified.  Why me?  Apparently, the guy in front of me with the dreadlocks tied back with a bungee cord in the shape of a noose, a mouth grill studded with spikes and inlaid with shrunken heads, and a tatt that read, “I know where the body is,” was no cause for alarm.  He moved through the system without skipping a beat.

Vaguely offended at the whole preposterous incident, I asked why I, in particular, had been selected from the herd for such scrutiny.  Why me?  Why did I trigger the alarms?  Why am I a POI…a person of interest?

Festus replied with cryptic clarity, “You didn’t do anything. It’s random.  Purely random.”

Random.  Really???  Just random.  OOOHHHKKKAAAYYY!

Well, sleep deprivation working on weak minds sent us into spasms of hysteria.  We laughed without shame, restraint or Depends all the way to Palm Desert.  It was the perfect beginning to our vacation.

There are still more days to travel in this life.  I guess one could do worse than be a “person of interest.”

 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bull's Eye


It’s been a busy week. I’ve been trying to discover the secret of life and the origins of the universe, solving for quadratic equations, and contemplating the Theory of Relativity.  I’ve observed Fat Tuesday, Pudgy Wednesday, Tubby Thursday, Flabby Friday, and Corpulent Saturday in an effort to purify my consciousness, plump my hippocampus and find the meaning of life.

Not as easy as it sounds.  As a member emeritus of the Boomer Generation, this is our constant quest for enlightenment.  Personally, I think it would be easier to sign on for Odysseus’ voyage to Ithaca than to become enlightened. I just want to take a nap.  Trying to manage all the stress coming at us inhibits the flow of our life force, shifts our energy from vital organs, and makes us REEEAAALLLYYY irritable.  However, just recently my accountant said I am “radically diversified. “ That’s a positive. (I think he was referring to my finances.) 

But I am training to be calm.  I am embracing my inner crabby as a means to cosmic wisdom.  

It’s easy to become emotionally eviscerated.  That’s life.  The other night I saw “Les Miserables” for the fourth time in a year.  Good ole Victor Hugo.  He says in his book, “Nobody knows like a woman how to say things that are both sweet and profound.  Sweetness and depth, this is all of woman; this is Heaven.”  WhatEVVVEER.  I set aside my book of social graces after the performance, and drove home entombed in a veil of tears and mucus and emitting decidedly UNheavenly guttural articulations.  From now on, I’m only going to watch brainless comedies, like presidential debates or the Oscars, those models of banality, whose main components comprise a checklist for depravity. Sporting facial orifices that are clammy and sodden is not the stuff of fascinating womanhood.   

Of course, changing the clock ahead and becoming sleep-deprived by the omission of one hour of rest each night is not exactly triage for ill temper.

I have a cartoon on my nightstand that keeps me focused on what is essential.  It says, “Life is simple.  You’re born.  You have birthdays.  You shrink.”  So far, I’m right on track.

At the moment, I’m involved in the planning of our class reunion.  I hope the event is as fun as the meetings.  We gather regularly to upload memories and reminisce.  Someone will recall an incident that is flash-blinding and leaves after-imaging of an event that had lain dormant for years.  I guess time puts a halo on a lot of things, but our memories are who we are.  The past comes again to the present.  Reunions, gatherings, are crucial to our identity, individually and collectively.  It’s how we measure our progress through life.

And all of us working on this committee are going through the stages simultaneously:  We were born.  We have birthdays.  We have shrunk. The fire within is often obscured by the waddlesome flab without. Being part of this informal clump makes for good fellowship.  We still have teeth in the sockets, if not the bite force of years gone by.  So far, there is no evidence of reduced autonomy in any of us…maybe a little automatic inertia.

However, my darling daughters, in order to preserve their places in my will, announced that the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) is coming to Salt Lake, and they purchased tickets for the tribe.  I am THRILLED!  In an instant, all their past crimes and misdemeanors were forgiven. 

These girls realize the glorious “divine bovine” is my passion, and making the arrangements to attend will be forever engraved in the Great Ledger of their recorded decisions. 

Mick E. Mouse and Asteroid are animal athlete superstars.  But Bushwhacker is on a par with the stallions that pull Zeus’ chariot.  This 2,000 pound parcel of hostility is dark, defiant, and belligerent.  He snorts and bellows menacing oaths reminiscent of a mother under stress, and can render cowboys perfectly stupid and acutely angled when he unceremoniously dumps them at a dizzying trajectory into the dirt, little pieces of wreckage, long before 8 seconds have ticked off the timer.

Bushwhacker owns the universe.  He is arrestingly handsome. This bull’s eyes are enormous and brown and  rimmed in long lashes.  His horns are precisioned brackets and crown his head like a laurel wreath for the Olympian god he is. 

Unlike his more infamous predecessor, Bodacious, Bushwhacker has no inclination to kill.  Oh, no.  He simply wants to eject a presumptuous cowboy from off his haunches, inflict some gratuitous bodily harm, (mangle, dent, wrench limbs from hinges, tear off lips, rip out tongues, and other vocal apparatus, etc.) and slowly swagger out of the arena with characteristic majestic disdain, irksome in his hubris. 

AND I CAAANNN’TTT WAY-ATE!!!

Bushwhacker is the perfect experience for the person, who, in fevered delirium, wants to experience it all.  How exhilarating.  And we have tickets on the third row, where the seats are up close and personal…if a little odd smelling.

Maybe that’s what life is all about.  In spite of the despair, the stress, the difficulty, there is beauty and lovely memories…and odd moments when you have the illusion that you’re in control of what is happening around you. Maybe the theory of relativity is, ultimately, about relationships – that Victor Hugo was right when he said, “ To love another person is to see the face of God.”  Perhaps  life can be even more adventurous and triumphant than 8 seconds on a bull named Bushwhacker.  That’s what we aim for.  That’s the bull’s eye.

Something to think about – and clasp to one’s bosom.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

When I'm 64

February 2014
It seems to me that history tends to celebrate itself in half-century increments.  Last year was the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.  The airwaves assaulted us relentlessly with repeated images of the carnage that have never lost their shock value. 

There is no harm in looking back – in occasionally going retro.  In fact, it’s an adventure to see where we came from and where we’re going.  It gives us perspective and reminds us who we are.

We tend to pace out our existence by the expiration dates on milk cartons.  And that can lead to quiet desperation.  It is crucial to review history from an unobstructed view.  It’s strangely agreeable, because it is easy to forget what it’s like not to be like this.

I’ve heard it said that the richness of life lies in the memories we have forgotten.  Perhaps it’s true.  Memory has a miraculous ability to adjust its contents to suit our needs.  Time ceases to have meaning.  Nostalgia provides us land vertebrates the singular gift of altering critical pressure points into quaint, snug, homey occurrences of fond remembrance.  It is healthy to summon deeply beckoning recollections.  But it’s a long and winding road going back home again.

And so it is with 1964.  Fifty years ago, the Beatles landed in America, and the cry went out all over the land with the fervor of Paul Revere:  “The British are coming!  The British are coming!”  (Of course, these were the prehistoric ages before twitter-verse!)

America in 1964 was an extraordinary landscape.  We dined on Swanson TV dinners as we tried to reconnoiter following the annihilation of “Camelot,” that pitilessly deceptive p.r. practical joke that exposed the show business of politics.

Lyndon Baines Johnson, the awesomely unlovely heir apparent, had assumed the throne.  As a nation, we were ragged and disheveled and acutely angled.  Life expectancy was 69.7 years.
And then came the iconic announcement by Ed Sullivan, the legendary variety show host whose Mount Rushmore features denied him the ability of facial expression, “Ladies and gentlemen…THE BEATLES!”

With that, all other rock celebrities, including Elvis, were rendered obsolete and unceremoniously turfed out.

The British Invasion was on the scale of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire in historical notoriety.  Perfect timing.  Being young was not a critical disease, although parents were disgusted and dismayed at what was trending, and expended great energy in their efforts to render triage and find a cure.

All things are balanced by their opposites.  Adults saw the new music as a great conspiracy to pillage and plunder the impressionable youth and give us a ticket to ride down a steep and precipitous descent into dereliction. Consequently, anything that’s confined has a natural instinct to escape.  And the teenagers embraced the movement as liberation – most definitely a clash of opposites – an ancestral rite of passage since Adam.

Society shapes itself by what it rejects.  Parents and offspring, through mutual rejection of values, cancelled each other out, and the conflicting generations, refusing to hold hands and let it be, hardly recognized the strangers they had become.

We never know when we are making a memory, until we look back and find we have quite a collection of yesterdays. 

I have always loved the music of the Beatles. The tunes are just made for road trips and disharmonic sing-alongs in high-voltage decibels.  I suppose if I had to narrow their songs down to a favorite few, it would have to be “Blackbird” and “There Are Places I Remember.”  After emerging from storms and finding calm again, the lyrics take a sad song and make it better.


Mankind is compelled to compile lists - rankings and gauges to quantify everything from the best to the worst of, well, everything.  I’m not sure just where the Beatles rank among the great artists and musicians of all time.  Probably ahead of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, and just behind David and his lyre.  No matter.  

Such inventories are best left to algorithms and quantitative data analysts to decide.  We don’t have to synchronize verb tenses. We can work it out. A good tune and lyrics of emotion transport all of us to a place where we are concealed and healed, and all our troubles seem so far away.  What more can we ask?  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tale Spin


I suppose that since man first evolved into a multi-celled organism and crawled out of the primordial slime, we have always loved stories.  Myths, legends, histories define us as a culture, and tell us who we are.  They are vital because they embody the mystical powers of mankind.  There is a magnetic pull to a well-told story.  It’s a kind of magic.

Every family should have at least one griot, one sage to relate the oral histories and tell the stories of the people that populate the Tribe. 

If it is true that your past forms you, I can see why Brodi became the designated storyteller.  She has always loved books, and began reading at the age of three.  Mythology was a particular favorite.  And every night, Dennis read to the girls.

It’s also true that all writing is, to some extent, autobiographical.  Nothing goes to waste.  All Brodi’s values, beliefs, experiences, memories, old wounds, and associations become the stuff of stories. 
I, too, love well-told tales.  Some of my favorites are those with tight plots that raise the hair on the arms or send a prickling sensation at the back of the neck, like the Weird Sisters in “Macbeth.”  Of course, less skilled stories, like vulgar reality shows, become mired in pointless notoriety.  Good stories don’t just fill the void.  They inspire us as a culture and as individuals.  Writing is an art. 

Brodi’s saga has magic.

Her book launch is next week.  It is the third and final installment of her “Everneath” trilogy, and it is quite a ride!  Brodi has a gift.  She is a spinner of yarns.  A fabulist.  A story-teller.  Now I’m not saying that just because I’m her mother.  On the contrary.  As her mother, I tend to give more desiccating critiques than had we not been umbilically bound. I don’t really know the source of her talent. Perhaps the explanation is simply that she is a collection of recessive genes.  Who knows?

It’s not easy being a mother under any circumstances.  Most of us are profoundly myopic.  I, in particular.  My emotions can fluctuate from solar flare to polar vortex in a twinkling. There have even been occasions when I have channeled my inner Nosferatu.  I guess it goes with the territory.  Sometimes motherhood is the ultimate blood sport.

And watching one’s daughter on the night of her book launch can be a real bowel scourer.  At moments I just sit there, toad-eyed.  At other times, I seem to have 10,000 hexagonal lenses, all in permanent winces.

Not so with Dennis.  He was always amused and delighted by her charming state of dishevelment.  Now, it isn’t that he thought our daughters could do no wrong.  Quite the opposite.  Experience taught us that if there was mischief afoot, our daughters were not only involved…they were the instigators…a mind-blowing combination of match and gunpowder. 

Talk about gluts and deficits.  There were times when a day without police or lawyers at our door was a good day.  Our girls were fueled by energy and felonious ingenuity.  They didn’t just run…they rampaged.  And there were stages when every request, rule, requirement was met with resistance.

No, Dennis never thought his daughters were perfect, but if they could get him laughing, which was not difficult, they could turn his delight to their advantage.  His forbearance for the specifics of each girl always had a sedative effect on me, and calmed the constantly shifting topography of my mind.

Being a father is different than being a mother. I guess it’s the laws of nature, but I think motherhood is the ultimate impossibility.                 

I have an amalgam of favorite female literary characters, who, though fictional, are riveting exemplars of what women are capable of.  Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta, Odysseus’ wife, the faithful and resourceful Penelope, Hotspur’s warrior-hearted spouse, Lady Percy, and Grendal’s protective and vengeful mother from Beowulf, just to name a few.  These women are spirited, flawed, nuanced and powerful.  Not exactly the stuff of “Fascinating Womanhood!” Good characters alter you.

Brodi’s main character, Nikki Beckett, is high voltage.  She is passionate, willful, impulsive, feckless (without feck), well-intentioned but often ill-advised, and should be saluted for her courage if not always her judgment.  Brodi sculpts Nikki with a combination of precise language, metaphor and a certain poetry that makes this creation flawed and authentic.  No empty rhetoric.  Nikki is a particular favorite.  She ranks among the notables.

In spite of Brodi’s efforts at invisibility, it doesn’t take a Rhodes’ Scholar to intuit the autobiographical elements.  Fictional writing is the ultimate reveal.  Brodi, like Nikki, would go to hell and back for those she loves…and has.

I guess in the end, each of us is greater than the sum of our parts.  That’s our salvation. 
I’ll be sitting on the front row Tuesday night, the sum of many parts…and two hearts…because daughter – Family – trumps everything.