Category Archives: Family Life

Straight Lines

There was a trick to ironing the crease in the pants of his dress uniform – wax paper – it set the straight line that started just above the tip of the mirror polished black boots and ended at the waistband of the blue then green standard air force issue. Mom ironed everything else in the house; sheets, dresses, shirts, blouses, aprons, the rain or shine laundry every Monday washing away the previous week. Every Tuesday creaking up the ironing board, pressing heavily, hotly down on cotton shirts and pleated skirts, a damp cloth to erase unwanted lines and tame our clothes, and hopefully us, into a kind of submission.

But never Dad’s uniforms. Ever. They had to be just so and he had learned to do them right in basic training, a wild young man tamed in every way into the straight, straight lines he lived/s by ever since those early days I only faintly heard of.

‘There’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything’, was something of a code for him. And every wrong way a deliberate act against the right, and inevitably against him.

I hate being melodramatic. My memories are just that – mine and memories – filtered through my admittedly hazy reflections. I cannot and do not speak for anyone else in my family. I need to be very clear about that. They have their own stories and I will not – no – I cannot be their voice. They will find their own.

What I do know is that I had a foolish boldness that couldn’t be suppressed; a need to have my opinion heard in the face of what I never seemed to learn was an uncommon rage that I interpreted to be directed at me. I also had/have a gift for losing myself constantly in a dream world, ‘Wendy would do better at school if she would pay attention’ – ‘She should be tested to see if she is capable of academics’ (general surprise all around when the testing revealed a high IQ) coupled with the audacity to at least verbally leap headlong into the constant ‘walking on eggshells’ situations – it led me into SO. MUCH. TROUBLE. ‘Don’t upset your Dad’ was (is) the soundtrack for my life, in all its various incarnations.

Oh yes – and park your emotions at the door ‘Wendy, don’t wear your heart on your sleeve’, and no hugging ‘We’re not that kind of family’, two other important rules although there were a thousand more. These are only blurred scenes – faint and fading memories – I’ve spent a lifetime of my own Mondays trying to scrub away the deluge that has re-emerged lately.

Why now?

Stripping the house bare, handing over the shell to someone else, it’s dredging through those hidden places again, at least for me. But I think for all of us because we’re all angry in our own way – and we are all taking apart these pieces of our selves, of our own lives as we dismantle the visible expressions of his.

The great fading is occurring for him now, the straight lines of his world collapsing. We talk about the weather, the birdhouses outside the window, the World Cup. I answer the same questions he poses, two or three times, ‘How are the kids? What are they doing now? What grade is Molly in?’ He is perpetually surprised that she is in university. A shocking truth that newly amazes him during the hour or so we are with him. I have learned never to ask about Mom, never to ask how he is doing. He has developed his own story, told in simmering indignation that fits where truth has no place. I want to ask a hundred things, I want there to be transparency, and a kind of open-ended, borderless love. No lines, no disgust, no conditions. When we leave, I feel sad.

And I know that what I’m really asking, after all these years of feeling the press of the iron to ‘straighten up’ my life, what I’m still trying to say – will you see me – when will it be enough for you – can’t you just put the iron away.


July 1, 2014
July 1, 2014

‘I never knew 31 years
could go so fast’ you said,
A morning reflection on this day
three decades plus a year ago
A day as warm as this
is turning out to be.

Among other things,
we declared then,
before our family and friends,
’till death do us part’
which has proved,
at times,
more a threat
than a promise
or at least an uncertain hope.

Our daily battle
(well mine at least)
that serpent promise
of autonomy
Give me the right
to define my world
create a framework
into which
you are welcome to live
until your own naming
violates mine
which it does –
all too often.

And in the authoring
of this creation,
our deliberate act
of joining,
we took
the reins of our lives
(or so we thought)
‘Two becoming one’.

Since that moment
(and before)
Death has
and is occurring.
either self
or this shared life
is cut down.
It really is either one or the other.

So in the speed
of this life
The either / or
of ‘me’ or ‘we’
I can say this,
I’m thankful for vows kept,
a lifetime of honoring commitments
and the mercy
that does not keep a ledger.

So How’s Your Day So Far?! OR Being a Roast Goat

Things that should NOT be said to me prior to coffee in the morning – or anytime really:

While I’m attempting to gnaw through the fodder self-described as a ‘healthy breakfast cereal’, the hubby declares the following, “I’m not eating breakfast here this morning (for the 3rdtime this week) – I’m meeting ‘insert fairly believable, faintly familiar name’ so don’t get out the cereal/toast for me.”

Torn jeans, t-shirt and hoodie wearing, hair parted somewhere near the top of her ear, 16-year old asks me, ‘You’re going to straighten your hair, right?!’  Tone, attitude and eyebrow-raised facial expression translate to mean, ‘Seriously Mom, you are not going in public with your hair looking like that are you?!! – thank goodness Dad’s taking me to school today.’  This just after spending the last ½ hour with my hair in hot rollers and thinking I look just shy of gorgeous.

‘Ooooo….are you wearing that?!,’ which depending on who says it and what the tone is and where you put the emphasis in the sentence, can be either good or great or awful.  This morning it came from hubby of the raised eyebrows and narrowed eyes and was accompanied by a series of PG 17 moves designed to gross out the 16 year old and impede me from getting to the car and to work on time.

‘Where is that note you asked me to look at?  I can’t find it.’  This statement was spoken while standing in the kitchen, at the counter a mere 10 cm from the aforementioned note.  Directly.  In.  Front.  Had it been a bear….ok – all the rest of my family finish that statement.  (Honestly – this didn’t happen this morning.  It actually happened last night.  Truly.)

‘I know you’ve wanted some help with de-cluttering the house so I’ve decided to make it a priority.’  Ok – where do I start with this one…nope – can’t do it.  Need at least two cups of clarity before I even begin.

Favorite quote of my day today:  “Without my morning coffee I’m just like a dried up piece of roast goat.”  – Johann Sebastian Bach

Here’s my empty coffee cup at work happily anticipating being filled with my current favorite coffee.