life can be such a wonder

One thing they often say in AA is, “Don’t give up before the miracle.” Easy to see the relevance for addicts, scooting so painfully through minutes and hours and days, but of course it’s true for everyone — and I’m so guilty of giving up too quickly. It’s one of my most problematic struggles; I hit a roadblock and throw up my hands, and some particular roadblocks are especially hard for me. I deeply admire those who persist, who keep coming back and trying again — gosh, I admire that so much. I can readily call to mind two friends whose persistence is a source of inspiration for me.

Waiting for the miracle requires patience, obviously, but I also think you have to be able to let be what is, without rushing to force it into where you want to be. I do think that’s one of the secrets of life, and of course I think you’ll only eventually get there if you keep at it. It’s not going to happen all on its own. (Although dang it, sometimes it does, and so maybe I don’t know anything after all. 🙂 )

So here’s the wonder, for me. The miracle. This thing with my dad. This thing with old deep wounds — deep, like a puncture, so they produce an ache instead of a wince. This thing with time. This thing with process. Yesterday I was doing some house cleaning, dancing and feeling so happy with the solstice, enjoying the very bright sunshine while we had it, and my playlist shuffled over to “Christmas Time is Here,” from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. The vocal version, the one that has, for 47 years, punched me so hard in the heart that I couldn’t not cry. I couldn’t not remember, and feel all those old puncture wounds so deep in my heart. I mean really, who breaks up the family on Christmas Eve MOTHER. Seriously.

I believe this was taken a couple of weeks before my mother left my father — we seem about the right ages. And HOW DECEIVING looks can be. We look like well cared-for children, happy kids. I had no idea what was coming, but my life was already sad and awful then…and I just didn’t know that it would get so, so, so much worse. I remember that dress, my mother made them for my sister and me, red velvet. We wore them with white tights and black shoes. And my brother’s shirt was blue velvet, with a blue and green collar. We were sitting on the coffee table with our legs extended out in front of us, and my brother Sam stood behind us. What we didn’t know, then. Grateful for that. I rescued this photo from a dumpster — Mother called me to say that she’d dumped everything that had me in it and there weren’t many photos, but this was recoverable.

And so I paused in my sweeping, and stood there, listening, and it was OK. I smiled. It’s OK now. I remember without the ache. Now I remember, and it’s OK. It makes me feel tender but not hurt.

OK, you might say, for God’s sake it was 47 years ago for heaven’s sake — and so you don’t understand how deep a puncture wound can be, when it’s made at just the right moment in a young girl’s heart.

One of my first Christmases — I was around 2 years old, and apparently very excited about my watch (what??), a pinwheel, a harmonica, a doll, and a pack of gum. Hell, most of that would make me happy today. I still make that face when I’m given a gift, but I no longer wear the Cromwell haircut.

Thank GOD for time and process. At my age, I hadn’t really thought I could fully heal those old wounds. I’ve been at it such a long time. So much trying, always with hope even if it was small. It’s such a wonder to be able to approach these things that have always hurt, and not feel hurt any more. Such a wonder. Such a wonder to feel real peace — not tentative peace, not partial peace, not an idea that I might one day feel peace, but real peace. The peace of letting it be, the peace of letting be what was.

I believe with all my heart Faulkner’s great line about the past: “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” I believe that. But what I learned is that even if it’s not dead, even if it’s still present, it can be OK. It doesn’t have to keep hurting . . . what a wonder! What a wonder. Grief can find its place and be OK, really OK. Still there but really OK. One of the puzzle pieces, that’s all – maybe the black piece there at the edge, or even in the middle, but just a piece connected to all the others. Pain can find its place and not hurt any more, even if it’s still in the puzzle. Just, wow. What a wonder.

And now, to shift the word wonder, I wonder if I can use this learning to help me do something with my mother — I’ve never tried to deal with her because she’s been too mysterious to me, but maybe I don’t even have to. Maybe all that I said in my post on December 20 can apply to her, too. Maybe I can just let her be, too. Maybe that was a huge enough insight to allow me that gift.

I wonder. And I wonder.  WOW.

feasts

NOTHING like this! Yikes/wow!

When my kids were little, I liked to break up our dinner routine now and then with what I just sort of slapdash named a “snacky snack feast,” which was just a cheese platter, essentially (though the quality of the cheeses definitely changed for the better as they got older) — cheese, bread, crackers, grapes, apples, pears, sausage, nuts, etc. Ours wasn’t at all fancy, for sure! When they were little, they loved little smokies, those cocktail style sausages, and I think they still do love them, and maybe not just for sentimental reasons.

Somehow that name stuck; maybe it was the fun of it, the kid-style rhythm of it….snacky snack….and sometimes the word ‘feast’ is included and sometimes it isn’t, but we all know exactly how to make a snacky snack feast.

So you know I was completely making it all up as I went along, as a mother, even more than we all are, since all I knew were the things NOT to do. I had no traditions to pass on, so I had to make them up — and this was before the Internet and Pinterest, so it was a challenge! 🙂 Later I learned that some of the traditions I made up were “real” traditions that others had, like new pajamas on Christmas Eve, although I’ll bet those people don’t call them “Waiting for Santa Nighties.” It was the one gift the kids were allowed to open on Christmas Eve, and it was fun when they didn’t know what it would be, and it continued to be fun after they did. I love to visit my adult daughters’ homes and see their husbands wearing flannel pajama bottoms, because I know those had once been their Waiting for Santa Nighties.

Of the many good things I made up for my kids, these two have really stuck, and you can’t imagine how much deep pleasure that gives me. And the most hilarious thing is the way they spread it around; Katie’s last boyfriend, before she married Trey, tried to make a little fun of it (“are we going to have foodie-food?”) and she was not having it — so even he still calls it snacky snack. (He may smirk inside, but he’s too kind to show that. He’s still our friend.) So when I hear my sons-in-law say “snacky snack” I almost burst of happiness. It’s a REAL thing in the next generation of my family. And I hope with all my heart that Oliver and Lucy and Ilan prepare snacky snack feasts for their children, and tuck WFSNs, as they’re now shorthanded, under the tree for Christmas Eve.

But here’s the most hilarious thing. You’d have to know my husband to appreciate this fully, but this year we are so happily getting to spend Christmas alone together. For the last five years I’ve been overjoyed to spend it with Katie and Trey (and then also Oliver, and then also Lucy), and I was also sad not to be spending it with him. So this year I’ll miss Katie and family a lot, and I’m glad to spend this one with him, here at our new home in the mountains. So of course I wanted us to have a snacky snack feast one day; he’s making a big ham and mashed potatoes for Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day we’re driving back into the city, so we will be having snacky snack feast together Friday night. And he just slid right into that phrase. “Honey, is there anything else I need to pick up for our snacky snack feast?” I almost died from the sheer delight of hearing HIM say that phrase. That’s where the “you’d have to know him to appreciate it” comes in, but it’s a bit of lighthearted child thing, that phrase, and that’s not him — but it can be now. And whether this is right or wrong, I’m taking that as a personal win.

If you love looking at cheese boards, you will LOVE Lilith Spencer’s Instagram account. She’s @cheesemongrrl. Here’s her latest post:

that’s a snacky snack feast I could totally get behind

RELISH your traditions, they are so precious — and oh the joy of seeing them continue into the future. <3 <3

Father

Oh gosh oh gosh oh gosh I have to write this down quickly while I’m able to see it, because it’s a big moving complex thing and I won’t be able to hold it for long but it holds the truth.

People ask me how I have been able to forgive my father — for the things he did that need forgiveness are truly terrible. Truly. Truly terrible. My favorite joke: I only survived him because he was usually too drunk to aim the gun well.

It has taken me 35 years, all together, to get here. That’s one part of how I got here. But the end point of the trip was this:

It’s all a universe. It’s all there in one big tangled, moving thing, and before I got to this place I could only see the HIM doing things to ME bit, and they were so egregious that I felt like trying to understand him as a human would be unfair to me, it would “let him off the hook” (my favorite really horrible phrase if you think about it). I recently said this in a manuscript evaluation to a client who’d written a father who was kind of one-note terrible. I told her that I understood that impulse: “It’s hard to give the bad guy a slug of humanity, because you don’t want your readers to miss the fact that HE IS SUCH A BAD GUY. But in doing so, he doesn’t read as a real person. He reads as a cardboard cut-out.” I understood that because of my sad 35-year wrestling match with my father.

But I’m old enough now to be able to step far, far back and look. And I see this very large, moving system — it isn’t just him and me, it’s him within his family. And his family within theirs. It’s patterns and dispositions and circumstances. And winding his way through all this complex universe is the small light that is my father….emerging into his original family of a hateful, cruel woman who didn’t want him and a vicious alcoholic father who wanted him even less, and in a context of extreme poverty, and cotton ginning, and alcoholism. And he was a sickly little guy, a bookish little boy, and both those things made his father beat the shit out of him even more. So this little light that was my father made his way through those horrors and thought he was jumping out of that hell only to jump further down into a deeper hell of my cruel, cruel, cruel mother, who lashed him and belittled him and shamed him and taunted him about not being man enough to kill himself.

And none of that is to excuse what he did to me, but it is to see all these moving parts, all these elements, and they’re all spinning and whirling, and connected and interconnected. His deep needs and wants and wounds found hers — she, who was abandoned and neglected to the point of huge bleeding sores because she lived in soaking wet diapers, and then adopted by her uncle who did what he was supposed to do, but his wife wasn’t interested in a little girl and was cruel and shaming. Etc etc etc. All these terriblenesses, intersecting and feeding each other and sticking each other with the sharpest knives in the hurtingest places, and then through all that, through all those ripples and whirlings comes the little light that is me, and I land in the middle of all that.

So where do I begin, really, to maintain a tight focus on how he wronged me? What all must I willfully ignore and pretend away, in order to hang onto the ways he wronged me? And yet he did, and yet and yet and yet. It requires a clinging to an overly simple story to insist on a child’s version of being wronged. It’s not wrong, and yet it is.

Finding myself here requires me to occasionally pant a little bit, like a laboring mother in transition who wants to push too soon. When the “yeah, but he….” impulse comes on, I pant in order to remember this larger understanding, which I deeply believe comes as close to truth as I can ever get.

So today, on what would’ve been his 81st birthday, I rang my Tibetan singing bowl three times into my valley. Each time I held the bowl until it was completely still before striking it again, and in the interstitial silence I told him I forgave him. Or I told him I’d loved him. Or I told him I was sorry it had been so hard. And when I struck it the second time, a large, brilliant male cardinal landed on the deck railing.

I was a newborn — less than a month old, probably — and I peer into my dad’s then-happy face as he held me and smiled at me, and I wish it had been easier for him.

It’s OK Dad. Go gently.

I’m 59. Fifty-nine years old.

No matter how old I get — or maybe it’s just true the older I get — I don’t think I’ll ever understand why people are unwilling to say their real age. (Or why they dye their hair to hide grays, for that matter, though dyeing your hair for a cool color really is loads of fun.) FOR ME, every day that I get to keep living is a wonder.

I’m 59 today: thirteen years older than my dad ever got to be; decades older than I ever imagined I’d see, since I never thought I would make it out of my teens alive; decades of life I got to live despite a couple of suicide attempts (thank God for guns that misfire and for other saviors); and today celebrating in a place I never could have imagined even if I’d tried.

Last year on my birthday, I thought we’d have our first female president a couple of days later so I was filled with excitement and hope for that. And then two days later — while I was still celebrating my birthday fortnight — the world crashed and burned around me and this past year has been its own kind of hell, that all of us around the world know, and we in this country are suffering through. It ruined my birthday joy last year, although that was certainly the least significant aspect of it that one could possibly imagine. It has been a brutal year. I’ve gained 22 pounds from stress eating, even though I’ve been essentially hiding in the mountains for the last few months and I have not watched anything on television since the election because there doesn’t seem to be any program that doesn’t include clips of him speaking.

SO, to happier perspectives. I’m 59 today. I have three glorious, glorious grandchildren, and my daughters are the light of my life. My son is still hiding from us all, and it hurts as much today as it did from the beginning, but he is alive and so there remains hope. My husband and I are enjoying our lives together, in this way we’ve fashioned that works so well for us both. I live in this glorious place — never would’ve imagined such a thing! — with my beloved creeks and bench, and mountains and forests all around, and beautiful solitude. I can also live in Manhattan whenever I wish or need, with my beloved Riverside Park just right over there, and people and buildings all around, and beautiful noise.

My mind still works, and as long as this sleep remedy works, my mind is working a little better every day, I feel the sharpness starting to be visible in the distance, at least. My body still works, and if I can just re-establish my yoga practice it will return to its strength and flexibility that it had before the election. My health is fantastic, not just in terms of the absence of illness, but in the robustness of life. I’m extremely lucky, and I thank whatever combination of genes and good fortune for it, and promise to try to help keep that going. I want to be around a very long time, until I’m just a dusty little bag of bones that hardly makes an indentation in the bed, where I hope to die peacefully in my sleep….decades from now. (I’m now only 5’8″!!!! I was 5’11” so this is startling, but I guess I’m on the path to the dusty little bag of bones. 😉 )

The state of my inner life is perhaps the best it has ever been. Getting older really does do wonders for you — at least, it has for me. It’s kind of hard to parse this, since the trauma of this Republican nightmare is an ongoing source of stress and awfulness for me, but if I pause and let that sit off to the side (as if you can do such a thing), I am more at peace with myself than I’ve been yet in my life. I’m at peace with my dad, I got to ‘thank’ my darling Big Daddy for what he gave me, I’m comfortable with my physical self, I can accept the good things I recognize about myself, and the bad things about me feel less stabby and hateful. Maybe this is an aging kind of laziness; when I become aware of my weaknesses and my flaws, I just kind of shrug — ah, well, maybe next time. And it’s hard to figure out why I’ve spent my life trying to act like I’m not an intelligent and serious person, but I have and I don’t feel the need to do that any more.

In my last year of life, we traveled to Indonesia, and we bought this house. We drove the 16′ truck from Austin to Heaventree, and I started an entirely new way of living. I visited my wonderful Marnie-family in Chicago three times (once in March, once in July en route to Heaventree with my car, and once in October), and I went back to Austin to see my marvelous Katie-family once in October. I had countless drinks and dinners with friends who keep my life filled with laughter and connection and our shared hearts. Lynn came to Heaventree, our very first visitor. I read a bunch of great books (the best being Her Body and Other Parts, by Carmen Maria Machado; Antigonick, by Anne Carson, Human Acts, by Han Kang; and House of Names, by Colm Toibin). For the very first time in our lives together, Marc and I didn’t take a fall vacation and I grieve that a little bit, but we bought the house and sank a lot of money into it so that’s the balance.

Here is my year in people-pictures, and seeing each one makes my heart swell to nine times its size. I’m not even going to try to put them in chronological order, and they don’t represent everyone I was lucky enough to see, but scanning through them shows me how very lucky I’ve been. (hover over a photo to see its caption, or you can click to see them as a slideshow if you’re interested.)

I also started doing my little daily “creekside chats” on Facebook and that has been an unexpected joy and growth experience for me. I’ve become so much easier with myself, as a result. I feel differently about my mouth, as a result, and those decades of shame seem to have crumbled and fallen away into dust. I have the deep feeling of having started my day with people I love, seeing your faces and saying good morning, and sharing my view of the world around me.

Thank you for your friendship, your comments, your presence here and in my larger life. Thank you for your well wishes, and for your care. Thank you for the various kinds of help you’ve given me over the last year, and most especially for the way you share your lives with me, however that may be. You definitely help make my life the full joy that it is.

So here’s to 59! May I gather myself together and lose the dreaded T-weight that signifies my trauma. May I continue to have good health, and may my children and grandchildren do the same. May you stay healthy and happy, and in my life. May I read good books. May I relish my solitude at Heaventree, and my noisy happiness in Manhattan. Happy birthday to me.

(And looking ahead to my next birthday, I put in my gift wish list now, so you can prepare. I turn 60 ON ELECTION DAY, the mid-term elections. I just want one thing, and for once I’ll ask everyone for a gift. Just vote blue. Just vote blue and that’s all the gift I need.) (Think about it, I’ll ask again a couple of days before the date.) <3

is it always just Groundhog Day?

So many crossing, parallel lines, so many coming-back-tos, it can be dizzying once you start noticing them. When I left New York in November, 2012, after a couple of weeks in Austin I had to fly back to NYC to pack up my books and ship them to Austin. I was sorry to leave my cozy new place that was still in pupa form, really, not fully created, not fully settled, not all the way mine yet, to return to a painful place that I had painfully left.

The emotion isn’t the same, at all, but I’ve been here a couple of weeks and today I fly back to Austin to retrieve my car — and I’m sorry to leave my cozy new place that is still in pupa form, really, not fully created, not fully settled, not all the way mine yet. The only difference is that I didn’t painfully leave Austin, except for the pain of parting.

And most disappointing, I’m only going to be in Austin for one full day (with a night on either side) and I won’t have a spare moment to see any of my beloveds except for Katie and family….so grateful to see them of course, and to spend as many hours with them, with Lucy and Oliver, as I possibly can. I am sorry I won’t get to see friends, and I will hold space the next time I come to Austin for a get-together. Since I just made the 2000-mile trip, making it again is just kind of mind-numbing, so I’m taking a different route for two reasons: first, to take a different route because for heaven’s sake; and second, to make a pit stop in Chicago to see Marnie and family, which will allow me to soak up a little Ilan and break the trip in half. All in all I will be gone a week, arriving late on Monday night back at Heaventree.

I’m sad to leave this beautiful place so quickly, and I’m so looking forward to hugging and kissing and soaking up babies, and to seeing my daughters and their husbands, and to spending one night with my dear Dixie, and to seeing a different part of the country — up and over to the right, instead of across to the right and then up. But then, when I finally make it back home, all my stuff will be in one place. Whatever I want, it will be available. There’s still some stuff at the apartment in the city, my big Nikon camera and a bunch of baking gear, but Marc will bring that or I’ll fetch it at an upcoming trip. My stepdaughter is coming to the city at the end of July so I’ll drive down for that weekend.

But y’all. Home. Quiet, beautiful home. Since I learned I would be moving here, I started following as many Catskills-related Instagram and FB pages as I could find, and yesterday a caption on an IG photo talked about how lucky the person feels to live in such a beautiful place — still, after all these years — even though it isn’t always an easy place to live. And it isn’t, I can tell already, for all kinds of reasons. I don’t even yet know what winter is going to be like, and I feel all Game of Thrones-ish about it (Winter is coming!!!!). I mean, if you do a Google Image search for ‘winter in the Catskills, you get shots like this, and I somehow think it’s gonna be harder than this great picture suggests:

oh sure, snowshoeing is going to be lots of fun!

So today is fly day, and I remember that other fly day when my heart was crushed and my bones felt too heavy to keep moving, and I’m so grateful that today my heart is light and my bones are eager to fly, even though I will miss my sweet home.

* * *

A couple of PS points:

  • Thank you for your extraordinary kindnesses to me in response to my last post. I wasn’t expecting it, for some reason, even though I know you are always so kind and generous to me. Maybe the “Lori who?” made me feel so small and invisible that I had forgotten that others know me. I don’t know. Anyway. Thank you for all the love and beautiful words (that I insist mean much more about who you are than who I am), and for the big-hearted and very wise advice I got. I’m OK. It’s not echoing in my heart any more. xoxoxox
  • SO! You know how I’ve talked about bears up here, but I hadn’t seen one yet.  There is a house at the tail end of the private road I’m on, and we were invited to a picnic there on Saturday, something they organize every year. It was nice to meet them (excellent politics one and all, including some old red diaper baby connections). At the moment they are just here on weekends, but in a year or so they’ll be moving here permanently. They have a webcam on their house and they frequently catch wildlife on it, including this great shot of “the local big fella”:
a couple of weeks ago, right before we moved in! COME BACK, BIG FELLA!

I won’t be posting anywhere until I get back to Heaventree, but I’ll be around FB and IG once in a while, probably with pictures of grandbabies and daughters, knowing me. You know. 🙂

xo

Lori who?

Friday evening a friend (who is some kind of distant family connection) messaged me on Facebook because my mother had contacted her completely out of the blue. My friend is the genealogist of our family, and so many wonderful things I’ve learned from her, photos I’ve seen from her, such a gift! She had written an article about some parts of her family tree and my mother saw it and wrote her for more information. When my friend asked how she was related to me, my mother said, “Lori who?”

her real estate photo — lots of bad plastic surgery since i saw her last.

In one way this wasn’t surprising; at some point in the 1990s, a different friend happened across my mother’s real estate website and told me that my mother said she had two children (she has three….the missing one was me, of course), so my mother has long been in the habit of not claiming me. And while I don’t see or speak to her, or ever want to see or speak to her, and while I feel like it would’ve been much less traumatic to have been raised by a wild badger, I do claim that she is my mother. I was given birth to by her.

It’s very complicated trying to understand how it made me feel to see that “Lori who?” in writing. On one hand, I was grateful that she didn’t put my friend into some kind of uncomfortable spot by trying to turn her against me, which has been another of my mother’s life-long strategies. I was grateful she said that and then moved right on to the questions she had about family. And I don’t want her to try to learn anything about me. But I guess the formulation of that question — Lori who, as if she never even heard the name — still hurt. And I wish it didn’t. Maybe it stung more than it hurt.

I immediately lost my appetite when I got the message, and started shaking a little. It felt like I had been walking around in this Edenic paradise, and then suddenly heard the rattles of a snake nearby, and I hadn’t realized there might be snakes in the garden. The way she can pop in out of the blue in the most random ways . . . and she wasn’t trying to find me or anything, it was just this unexpected appearance . . . unsettles me. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this since I got the message Friday evening. I will, it will fade, but for now I am ‘Lori who?’ Negated by the one who gave birth to me.

I mean, it’s OK. I’m 58, a mother and grandmother, surrounded by so many people who love me, and I have collected an assortment of chosen family members over the years, fathers and brothers and sisters, and I know who I am. This will be our relationship to the end of her life, and I don’t want anything else from her. I’m OK. It’s just …. something.

goodbye, Texas

Oh gosh. How many times can I say goodbye to Texas. This is the third and, I hope, last time I say farewell to Texas. (“I wish I could quit you.”) I left first in 1987 when I was 28, when Jerry and I and our three kids moved to Connecticut; second, when I finished graduate school in 2003 and moved to Rochester, with Will; and this time, all alone, as I am en route to Big Indian, NY, 58 years old, thirty years after my first leaving. This will be the 82nd move of my life (they say the 82nd time’s the charm! I swear!), although honestly it could be more; I counted conservatively, because lots of those years are a blur and I just counted “homeless” as one move. None of the other leavings felt so heavy, so filled with something worth noting. I stupidly skipped away from New Britain, CT, without realizing that I’d meant something to people; away from Fredericksburg, VA, with my eyes only on the next place; away from Huntsville, AL, with regrets for leaving deep friends and losing my much-needed full scholarship, but with hope for my education; away from Fayetteville, AR, with anticipation of graduate school and a PhD; away from Rochester with excitement of a new career in publishing; away from NYC with the shattering of my whole life. So they were various degrees of easy or hard, but they didn’t feel so momentous and noteworthy and heavy as my leavings from Texas. I realized I have such a literal idea that my bones are made of Texas dirt, as if I think they are just compressed caliche, shaped into bone shapes. Old timey Texans can understand that. When I die, I want some portion of my ashes to be mixed back into the caliche. Sprinkled over bluebonnets. Drifted over a Texas river.

a couple of weeks after I moved here, when I’d just received the divorce agreement in the mail.

Thank you, everyone I met in Austin. Thank you for seeing me through. Thank you for picking me up and holding me while I learned a whole new way of being. Thank you for your openness to meeting this new person who was so shattered, to sticking it out with me until I wasn’t. Thank you for the friendship, the happy hours, the evenings in your homes, the times spent laughing in restaurants. Thank you for holding my hand when I needed it. Thank you for all the ways you let me know that you saw me, that you were here for me. Thank you for trying to right my vision. Thank you for offering me hope and your friendship.

Thank you, my darling Katie, for everything. There just aren’t any words. Oh, I have words, but they are pitiful, small, pale. I remember the day I moved into this house, and your presence with me then, and I’m glad that I’ll end my day swimming with you and your beautiful family, before I climb into the car and drive away. How will I be able to bear that, I have no idea.

Thank you, dear Trey, for everything. I will always remember all you did for me, always and forever. Always. Forever. Your quiet strength and care. Always.

I just can’t name people individually because it will be too hard and I’ll cry too much—but I hope you recognize yourself in these words:

Thank you, friends who passed through my life for a season. You gave me so much and I will remember you with happiness, even if our friendship had its time and moved on.

Thank you, true friends who saw me through all my ups and downs. Who listened to me. Who cared for me. Who made time for me. Who allowed me into your lives and shared yourselves with me, what a gift you have been. Who held my hand when my hand needed to be held. Who sat hard next to me when I was in trouble. Who laughed with me when I wasn’t. Who waited with me through the anxiety of the births of Oliver and Lucy, and shared and celebrated that tremendous relief and joy — and the simpler joy of Ilan’s birth. Who helped me even when perhaps you didn’t understand why I was wrecked by something, like the frightening reappearance of my brother. I’m thinking of you individually as I write these words, seeing your faces, feeling your hands, your arms around me, hearing your laughs and seeing your beautiful smiles. Thank you John Fivecoats for being the very first friend in Austin who gave me hope and deep kindness, and thank you Karan Shirk for being my last-made but not least important friend — my sister. Thank you all for the beautiful gift of yourselves.

Thank you, friends who were in various book clubs, poetry groups, cheese groups, and Meetup groups with me. You delighted me so much in our shared pleasures, and I truly hope you know just what you gave me in those contexts. I think of every meeting with a glad and light heart, and I see your faces with the joy of remembrance.

Thank you, dear sisters I met in the resistance; it was my tremendous pleasure to fight alongside you. You gave me hope, and that was the most precious thing. I will remember you with a tremendous jolt of strength, and we will keep fighting until we win. I will support your hard fight from NY, and I will share my fight with you.

Thank you, Nancy, for . . . your quirt. I can’t say more because I can’t even see the screen, my eyes are too filled with tears.

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People outside Texas who don’t know about Austin often have the worst idea about us — our politics, our nightmare politicians, just so horrible. But I know you. I will carry every single one of you in my heart. I will talk about you, tell people who Texans really are, Texans with big generous hearts and good values, Texans who care about each other, watch out for each other, take in strays . . . and I was certainly a stray. You took me in, and forever, now, you will be part of my life and the stories I have to tell.

So I pull away from the curb tonight to drive off to my next adventure, away from you geographically but not away from you in my heart. You meant so much to me, more than you probably know, and will remain ever with me (for after all, you know how I do go on and on about things, and people and places from my life). You were my home, my life raft, my joy, my pleasure, my friends. If we are friends still, friends we shall be no matter where I roam. You have a standing invitation to stay with me at the Big Indian Palace of the Queen of the Pillbugs. We’ll sit on my back deck. We’ll drink coffee, wine, beer. We’ll make some delicious food, we’ll hike or snowshoe or toodle around the Catskills. Mi casa will always be su casa.

I love you.

I’ll let this picture stand as my last picture in Texas — the last one that isn’t with tears in my eyes, the last one that’s just me and not me with my extraordinary grandkids, or me with any one of you exceptional people. I hope you remember me smiling at you. That’s what I’ll carry with me on the long trip, and when I find myself alone in the Big Indian Wilderness; I’ll carry your beautiful smiles, looking at me.   xoxoxoxoxox