In a Perfect World

September 5, 2010

Circa 1995, some of my son’s friends matched my daughter up with a date for a high school dance. I spent some time getting to know him. He was nice kid. He passed the “mom test” and I was comfortable sending Sarah off with him for a few hours. The dance came and went, and so did he. Their interests were different, he was a little older, and so it goes.

About ten years later, John and I made our first visit to the local butcher shop, and who do you suppose was standing behind the counter? Although I didn’t make the connection, he did, and came out from behind the counter to say hello and meet John. We quickly became regular customers and got to know the other good folks that work there, but his face is always the one I look for.

One morning, in the first part of 2009, my newspaper had an article about a crash involving two persons. The car had left the road and run into a tree. The driver had a blood alcohol level of .24 and was transported to the county jail after treatment for minor injuries at the local hospital. As it seems to go in accidents like this one, our young friend had to be extracted from the car, was airlifted to a Chicago hospital in critical condition with bleeding in his brain, fractures and other injuries. A month later the paper said he was still in intensive care and unable to speak.

The next time we went to the butcher shop, there was a picture of him taped up on the wall near the cash register with words written in black marker, asking customers to think of him in their prayers. Over the months, we heard updates with slow but gradual signs of improvement, more than often accompanied by “but it was a really bad accident”. At one point last fall, he had been moved to a rehabilitation center down south and the updates became fewer and far between.

Early this summer, the butcher shop opened a produce section in the rear of the building. John and I pulled the car around to the back and parked. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two men standing at the edge of the parking lot, in butcher’s garb. We made our way into the store and closed the door behind us. As I took my hand off of the door knob, it opened right back up and in walked our friend. He had seen us in the parking lot. I got a big hug and a smile.

As we talked, it became painfully apparent that he was having some troubles putting his thoughts together. His left eye was a little smaller and slightly drawn upward, but the sparkle was still the same. I told him it was so good to see him and that we thought about him often. I asked him how long he had been back. He looked at me, and then turned to his friend and asked how long he had been back. I found out I hadn’t seen him because he was working in the shop now a few hours at a time, instead of behind the counter. I told him it looked like he was doing well, and he took off his baseball cap, showed me the bare patch on top of his misshapen head, and said “Yeah and the guy that did this is in prison”. His friend reminded him that their break was over, took him by the arm, and they disappeared into the shop.

And we wept. We wept for our young friend, and we wept for someone at the butcher shop who has a heart of gold. Someone who found a place for him, when I have to think it would have been easier to close the door.


I have started this post several times, but the words wouldn’t come, so I just quit writing. And after all, why would you want to read yet another sad story about the leavins of a drunk driver? It happens all the time. There was a similar accident that happened this spring in a nearby town. The driver and one of his friends were banged up, and the other two were killed. All of them were just kids.

Then last week the driver and his parents released a video “to help other teens avoid what he, his parents and the community have experienced”. I watched it. It seemed sincere to me. But a mother of one of the fatalities objected to it. To her it was “inconsiderate”. This was not someone she wanted her younger daughters “to learn a lesson from”. Lives changed forever. And a mother lode of pain.

Yesterday we made our weekly trek to the butcher shop, and once again I rolled this story out in my mind. As I spit out the last few words, I can finally say that I’m angry. Oh sure, I’m angry at the driver. That’s expected. But I’m really angry at our young friend for making the decision to get in the car with a driver that was obviously drunk.

In a perfect world, there would be no drunk drivers. And if there were, they would be alone in the car.

Birthday Thoughts

February 28, 2010

My mom would have celebrated her 92nd birthday today. Her name was Viola, a name my daughter shares. Her friends called her Vi. My cousins called her Aunt Vi-lola. My kids called her Gram. Actually, my son first called her mom. Most likely because that’s what he heard me say.

She was widowed at 56, 57 when I married, and just shy of her 76th birthday when she died. I reflect on these numbers now because in my mid-fifties, I often find myself thinking about our similarities and differences. Being a grandmother has given me yet another comparison to draw from, being just a few years younger than when her first grandchild came along.

Except for brief periods of my life, we kept in close contact. When I was in college, we communicated on an “as needed” basis, admittedly more to meet my needs, than hers. After my father’s passing I moved back home. I wish she would have made me stay in school, but she didn’t. Within a year, I set up a household of my own. We loved each other, but didn’t like each other so much when we lived under the same roof. After a brief cooling off period, we spoke to each other almost daily.

It was a small amount of time set aside from a busy day to say good morning, what’s on your plate for the day, and I love you. It’s interesting to think about how communication has changed over the years. In the mid-seventies, the phone was our only option, limited by the length of the coiled cord, and the calling area. Remember long distance? There were no cell phones, but phone booths aplenty, if you had a quarter.  No e-mail, Twitter, Chat, or Facebook to read. For a young mother, there were no mommy-blogs, parenting networks, or Google. It’s hard to remember life without Google. But there was always mom. And she was only a phone call away.

After my brother married and moved away, there was the two of us.  We usually spoke in the morning, and again in the evening. She was alone and there was some comfort in knowing she was up for the day or home for the night. As she grew older, it was a necessity. But for the most part, I wanted to share my life with her. Still, after all these years, when something exciting happens I get the urge to pick up the phone and call, quickly followed by the sad realization that she is not there anymore to answer. And then I miss her.

Truth be told, she depended on me – our family. We helped with the yard work and the odd jobs that needed done. I went out once a week to sweep her hair up into that french curl. Sometimes the kids and I had to set time aside to make the drive out, but it was worth it to her. And as I look back, it was worth it to us, as well. As she got older, she would talk about how hard it was to get up and down the stairs. Now I walk the same stairs daily, and I understand. Often, more often lately, I find myself thinking this house is too big to keep up, and I understand. I think of my kids, and I understand.

It really wasn’t much different a relationship than most of my friends had with their mothers, back in the day. In fact I tested this theory with my friends at work and found that to be true, even today. For some time, I carried a sense of guilt about the close relationship I had with my mom. Perhaps over the years it had been at the expense of my family. It’s baggage I’ve decided not to carry around anymore. It seems like a little thing, but there is great comfort in this resolution. Sharing the sometimes menial details of our day-to-day lives was a good thing.

Finally there is a sense of satisfaction here. It was time well spent, even if only for two people. My mom and I.

my life according to dylan

February 20, 2010

or, listening to music like we did back in the day.

Dilling posted this meme few weeks ago, and today I had the time and good fortune to do the same. While fiddling around in the music, an interesting thing happened…

Using only song titles from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions…
Try not to repeat a song title. It’s a lot harder than you think!
Post as “my life according to (band name)”

In order to be successful, I would need to pick an artist that I liked, but more importantly, one that is a prolific writer. Bob Dylan fit the bill, although the true Dylan fan in our twodom is John. My taste in Dylan has progressed like my taste in wine. My friend Rita calls it “a more mature a palette”. I found a CD I really like a couple years back. That was all it took.

John sent me to My Back Pages, the ultimate website for Dylan fans, where I ended up in a mire of titles and lyrics. Then I had to listen to the songs. So we tapped his CD collection and he hooked me up to the links, by album. As I write, we are listening to Blood on the Tracks, Tangled Up In Blue. I love that song. Best of all, as we listen to the CD, I’m reading the lyrics. READING THE LYRICS! Flashback to the vinyl days when there was actually print large enough to read. Ah, those were the days!

In the midst of all of this, I sucked John into blogging again. He agreed to let me pull his blog into WordPress, and as I write, he is working on the same list I am. I can’t wait to compare his post to mine…

Bob Dylan
Just Like a Woman
Tough Mama
Like a Rolling Stone
Girl of the North Country
On The Road Again
Down the Highway
Forever Young
Shelter from the Storm
New Morning
Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee
Simple Twist of Fate
If Not For you
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Summer Days
Gotta Serve Somebody
The Times They Are A-Changin
I Shall Be Released
Blowin in the Wind
You Gotta Quit Kicking My Dog Around
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right

Like a Rolling Stone, kinda.

February 16, 2009

Today was a holiday for Willi and I. Not wanting to waste a day off, we headed over to Borders, which turned out to be a bit of a disappointment since their music department is all but gone. Low stock is probably a sign of the times. None the less, that’s where we chose to be “not at home and boring” on a holiday.

I moved from music to newsprint and wow, look what happened to Rolling Stone. Granted, several years have passed since I let my subscription run out, but some time or other Rolling Stone shrunk into a full fledged magazine. Slick cover and all.


I’m not sure how I feel about that. I can’t remember the first time I held a Rolling Stone in my hands, but the feel of the newsprint and oversized pages are now a comfort thing. I have all of my old issues stacked on shelves in the family room. Every once in awhile I page through them. They’re like old friends.

I can’t speak to the content yet although the article on Rod Blagojevich caught my attention. It was a good day when the mailman dropped my monthly offering in the box. I would comb through every page soaking up the music news. At one point our tastes in music went in different directions. That was about 20 years ago.

Results of the 2008 Rolling Stone Reader’s Poll has Bob Dylan’s Tell Tale Signs: the Bootleg Series Vol. 8 as #7 on the Best Album list.


That’s a pretty good sign. Willi and I finally saw Dylan in November. Willi is a huge fan. It was a good night. I am a mediocre fan. There have been some things I have really liked, and at the concert those were the things I recognized. Most of the other songs sounded like a blur. In fact Sam Kinison had a great shtick about Dylan that kind of summed it up for me. That’s why this cd was such a surprise. I can’t get enough of it, in particular the first disc. If the readers figured this as #7, maybe there’s some more in there for me.

The jury is still out for the time being, but it would be something to come full circle. Here’s some vintage Dylan to bring it home.

I Give.

February 7, 2009

I’ve been fiddling around with this silly blog for the best part of the day. All I really wanted to do was find a new look – something that would allow me to download my own pictures into the header. Like I have been. Only different. There were a lot of possibilities and I tried them all. Several times.

Then I got the bright idea to create my own custom header with a couple of pictures and a title. How hard could it be? My daughter did it here and here. Never mind that this is her profession. I’m her mother. She had to get at least some of it from me.

So for a good three or four hours I messed around with one little picture and some text. Oh. My. Gosh. It was much, much harder than I expected. I used to be pretty good with paper, scissors and glue, but I know when to call it a day. Or a night, as the case may be.

Clean and simple was what I was looking for anyway. Really.