A while back I dreamed of my own funeral.  It was very simple and there was only one scene:  my four grandchildren sitting oldest to youngest in a church pew.  The oldest was nearest to me and grown, maybe in her 20’s, and wearing a blue suit.  Her hair was brown, and long, and loose.  All four of them looked sad and sweet and composed.

Calculating their ages in my dream I’d say I have seven to 10 years to live, maybe slightly more.  Or, of course, maybe less.

A few months after the dream, all four grandchildren were visiting us in Washington and I had agreed to sacrifice everything I value and take them to Dave and Buster’s for lunch. The oldest grandchild was about 15, maybe 16, and as she was ordering she turned into the young woman in my dream.  I saw her grown-up face, serious and smart and bright-eyed, asking for her burger to be medium and just a little pink and her potatoes to be hash-browns instead of fries.  For just that minute her face seemed finished, the sweet malleability of childhood gone, aplomb and wiseness in its place.

Now the oldest granddaughter is 18 and gone across the country to college.  All the way across the country;  she couldn’t be farther from home or from me.  She’s thriving, working, partying and figuring out life, far from home.  She’s far from the round-faced six-month-old who laughed and kicked and gurgled with me for half an hour while I very slowly changed her diaper.  Farther every day, from her childhood and her life as a daughter, being taken care of every step of the way.  She’s lucky;  she was nurtured and understood, sometimes left alone to make mistakes and other times enveloped in her family’s arms when that’s what she needed.  She’s doing her part;  they’re doing theirs.

When I was younger than my oldest granddaughter is now, when I was 16, I had an abortion.  It was illegal of course, and I had two conversations with my father about it.  In one he told me we were going to the family doctor, and in another he told me to make sure that after “this” my boyfriends used protection.  I remember no conversations with my mother about “this” and on the day of the procedure she stayed in the basement in her robe, crying.   Two years later when I met the man I’m still married to, I told my mother he had asked me to marry him.  She said “Oh, Linda, does he know?”  About the abortion, she meant.  Of course he knew.

I’m sure my granddaughter has secrets.  All children have secrets, things that are theirs alone, things they don’t have to share with anybody.  Lucky children have parents who don’t guess their secrets, who don’t suspect that their secrets are malevolent or evil, parents who don’t go through their diaries, whether emotional or written down somewhere.

I’ve always felt aborted, unprotected and raw.  I’m trying hard now to knit myself a coat, a protective covering that will feel like skin and keep out the childhood demons, the ones who were always saying “does he know?”  Because if he knew, he wouldn’t have me.

Because my oldest grandchild was protected and appreciated and told she was good, she’s free to move from the subway to the freeways, from icy winters to palm trees, from the caring eyes of her parents to the eyes of the world.  For me it’s a race to get some kind of skin before my oldest grandchild buys that nice blue suit.

What Bed?

One of my cousins was minding his own business at the county fair one summer day when Jesus called to him.  What Jesus had to say was more an order than just plain old wisdom or love.  “Buy the road grader,” said Jesus to my cousin.  So my cousin bought the road grader.  It was two stories tall so he had to build a whole new garage for it, and he didn’t really have any roads to grade (the town did that) but he bought it anyway.

This is exactly how I felt when I first saw Johnny Hanabi’s picture of the new big-boy bed, posted for all to see – all who had not been banned – on his Facebook page. Jesus came to me within milliseconds and directed me to dust off Grandma and Uncut her again.

Because Johnny is entirely about dogs and not at all about himself, there’s a dog on the bed.  This time it’s Hiro, who seems to have taken Zen’s place as the house favorite.  In any case, the fact that there’s a dog on the bed allows commenters to say things about the dog and not something like “Wait, is that a picture of your bed?”  It took almost 20 comments before somebody – the New Yorker, of course – referred to Johnny and Tabby sleeping in the bed.  Together.  She also mentioned the dogs so we could all picture a family portrait, canine and human sleeping as one, instead of J and T tied to the bedposts.

What?  Tied to the bedposts?  I refer to earlier declarations from the big guy about the Goth way of having sex, which involves temperature play (is that the one where you dab gasoline on your lover and light tiny fires on her?) and restraints.  I’m sure it would be only me who would notice that the headboard, with its open pattern of slats, would be perfect for handcuffs.

And of course I couldn’t help but think of the evening in Bolinas, fog circling the house, waves gurgling gently outside, when my family tilted their heads in pity and contempt as I tried to describe the eroticism of the night I think of as “Charlotte and the Thighs.”  Puppy Charlotte was the last one of the litter to go, so Johnny slept with her and before he slept with her he put on a puppy porn show that had the crowds weeping and rending their garments and getting new tattoos.

But we’re all older now.  The big guy wears specs and a paunch and is in charge of various things.  Lots of the old crowd has drifted away and the new crowd seems younger and more Californian and maybe in love but in a shiba kind of way.  (Although I stipulate I haven’t been within 3000 miles of any of it.)  Sad and desultory as it is, Johnny’s posting the picture of his new bed seems kind of sweet and proud (new bedding too!) instead of erotic.

Or maybe that’s just me.  Maybe I don’t care any more.  Maybe Papa, the man, the myth, the legend is just a tee-shirt now.


Grandma is thinking of foreheads.  Grandma is thinking about fate, and puppies, light and fog.  And she’s contemplating her feeling that something is going on in the club, something about ears or tails or championships or daffodils or babies.  Because there’s nothing at all to write about, nothing.

Conflagrations in Manhattan and Tikrit, the gorgeous ravines of the French Alps strewn with body pieces and plane parts and the ravaged soul of the guy who scattered them there.  Will the search parties be able to pick up every jagged piece of metal, every iPhone and eyeball?  And when they’re finished, will the spring be Arab spring again or will there be body parts strewn across the deserts and the oases and dark little towns huddled everywhere in the sand?  Will atrocities be committed according to the shards of religious words scattered in the valleys and across the mountaintops?  Will flowers ever grow there again?  Anywhere again?

My children went with their classmates to l’école de neige in those mountains, a long time ago.  The chef made blood sausages for them and their classmates, which they threw out the windows.  Then they fled to their rooms where they cried for their mamans and papas and were deprived of the chocolate packed for them at home that the Socialist monitors took from their hands and redistributed.

A forehead that looks like exposed brain.  Lobes pushing to be free, or dragging toward the ground exhausted.  Filling a water bowl for a dog.  My dogs like the water that comes from the tank, purified and cold as ice.  Put ice cubes in a bowl of tap water and they play with them, bat at the bowl, spread the water to the floorboards where it disappears and ends up back in Rock Creek from whence it came.  Capitol water, capital water, full of bitterness and confusion, brains twisted, bad brains, brain cabals and trysts, brain clubs (“hey, yours is twisted just like mine!”), clans hiding in dugouts beneath the Dome.

Yes, something is going on.  What it is ain’t entirely clear.  There’s a man with a gun over there.  The stitches refuse to form, fibers twist and go astray, awry, awful.   Fire in lower Manhattan, near my children, a building collapses like my daughter’s building, everybody out fast, leave the toys and the cribs and the new appliances.  And there’s another one, and another, and another.

One of us is going to a place with palm trees, where the sun goes down on the wrong side.  There are flowers there all the time.  The rest of us are staying put.

You Were Always on My Mind

Just shows how things change when you get old.  This Willie Nelson song used to make me furious.  So what if she was on your mind while you were boffing everything that came to a show.  Wanna come back to the bus?  But, yeah, uh, I was thinking of you all the time!

Now, however, after several decades more life experience, the song makes me cry.  Yeah, all those years you were on my mind.  Of course everything makes me cry.  Starlings at the feeder, sob.  Adorable puppy asleep five feet from me, fox-eared Shiba next to me on the couch, big poodle doing the head-hang out of a little dog bed, another big poodle stretched out on another chair, bb-b-b-b-b-bbbblubberrrrr.  John Mayer, oh yep.  He wants to run through the halls of his high school, what the fuck?  Tears.  Preposterous.

So I’m still kind of addicted to the SFShiba mystique, the suck-ups and the tongue-out Tuesdays and the 4295 likes for a picture of a dog.  Another picture of a dog.  The same dog, different angle.  The mini-lectures on San Francisco where he doesn’t live.  Still, close enough.  I’ve been past his house.  Actually his old house.  Anything looks good in that climate.  Sunshine.  I have a cousin whose son “takes care of rich people’s dogs” in Marin County, where the big guy lives.  She is contemptuous, since he was trained at Tufts to do serious work, like anesthetizing guinea pigs and sheep.

And what was it I thought when I saw the picture of BAF at a cult gathering?  Plump and pleasant and how does she have the cohones to show up out there?  It’s the old good girl thing.  No matter how hard I try I can’t figure out why the sixth-grade-girl analogy was so offensive.  It’s all like sixth grade, dude.  Any office, any classroom, any club or gathering.

I notice he’s posted an old picture of himself, during the happier days at LucasArts, in which he looks goofy and sweet and air-headed and buff around the neck and shoulders.  Now he’s bespeckled and I would have thought he’d prefer that image for the public one.  A student of the dog.  The doge.  Educating us about Japan and sharing the vacation photos.  Liking half of the 935 comments on every blasted picture.  How does he do it?

And the same people oohing and aahing and spewing life-sized emoticons.  Why does this still get under my skin?  BS, every time.  She once scolded me personally for intimating she shoved her way to the big guy’s side every time the cameras came out.  She does the same thing every time he posts a picture.  Does her computer send out some kind of alarm the minute he hits “return”?

My husband says if I write about this I “limit my audience.”  Well.  Not only do I limit my audience but I zone my audience, separating out all the people who don’t approve of me.  And this is what worries me, what I think about.  That and death.  SFShiba and death.  It was ever thus.

Knitting and Writing, Writing and Knitting

I’ve read all kinds of knitting books.  Some are instructional, some theoretical, some are art.  Now the scientists have found that knitting is as good as meditation for your health. Calms you down after a long day, allows even the clunkiest of us to create something beautiful, provides sensuality and beauty to the eye.

And The New York Times tells us we can change our lives by writing them.  Rewriting them.  Change the narrative.  Your father raped you?  Rewrite that.  Your father took advantage of you, was a weak man, but you were strong and you survived.  New story!

But it occurred to me the other day, as I slogged through the 406th row of knit knit knit, that sometimes knitting is just knitting.  It’s just repetitive motion that, when you’re done with it, has produced a mitten or a sock or, in my case, a sweater for a treasured granddaughter.

And sometimes your father raped you, and you never got over it.  Nobody including you believes it, and no matter how many times you write that you were strong in the end, and you survived in the end, and you understood in the end, you didn’t.  You don’t believe it, and if you do believe it for a minute you don’t understand it.  You’ll never understand it.  You can write it and rewrite it and write it again, and you won’t understand it.

I have things I’d like to rewrite, knit together again.  Many things I’d like to understand.  I’ve been knitting for decades, I’ve taught other people to knit, and I’ve appreciated the symbolic flash of Mrs. Ramsay’s needles in “To The Lighthouse,” and the prophetic knitting of death into Madame Defarge’s work in “Tale of Two Cities.”  And I’ve loved the idea that The Scarlet Letter is a feminist manifesto, with Hester Prynne standing proud at the jailhouse door, the scarlet letter on her chest having been embroidered by herself, as if she were celebrating, embracing and enhancing her sin with gold thread.

Sometimes knitting just makes your thumbs hurt, and no revelations come.  You don’t feel calmer;  you feel frustrated.  Thousands of stitches, repetitions night after night, and you don’t have a sweater yet.  Is that my fault too?  That it hurts?  The repetition, the same stitch night after night, the inching along?  Even with gorgeous silver stitch markers and the smoothest needles money can buy, yarn that came from happy sheep and was spun and dyed in wholesome conditions right here in the USA, it hurts.

And I’ve written about it, written about how it hurts, and how shall I rewrite it so it doesn’t hurt?  Writing hurts too.  My father didn’t rape me.  That’s my story.

Pixels and Loss

They’ve staged my house.  Because it’s all different now.  Like everything else, real estate happens online now.  It’s all about the pixels.  I’m just about to set fire to everything I see.  And of course that was a quote from a John Mayer song.  Can you set fire to pixels?  Am I crazy to adore the sight of the big guy bending over a dog bed, making it lovingly, tucking it in, making it symmetrical?  That’s what I want;  symmetry.  Symmetry makes sense.  Square corners, no flying pixels, no human slaughter, no bitter pills, don’t say a word just come over and lie here with me, whoever you are who can square the corners, make sense of a world that makes no sense, a world that explodes when you touch it.  

I stayed up late reading The Goon Squad, which is such a set of words as I’ve never seen put together before.  One minute the sad, loving boy is playing on a beach and the next he’s grown up and hanging from a rope.  That’s how it happens, life.  One minute you’re ordering up a paint job and the next you’re selling the house.  One minute you’re ecstatically driving in a small town in Illinois, blessed with love and security and the next your arranging your affairs.  I cling to stupid John Mayer songs, and I cling to the sight of a young(er) man arranging his dogs’ bedding with solemnity.

Okay, We Won’t Call It Porn

A couple of years ago my daughter gave me one of those porn-for-women books as a Christmas present.  One of the nicest gifts ever, full of cute guys doing laundry and dishes.  Yes, it’s that sad;  a man doing domestic chores is our greatest turn-on.  Nearly universal.

Except that this morning I looked in on the puppycam.  Do I do this often?  Let’s put it this way:  I look at it often enough that Chrome auto-fills as soon as I type the “U.”   Breakfast time for Yuuki.  Nice enough.  Yuuki is so appealing and so polite when she eats – no gobbling, no spilling, finishes everything.  Pleasant, and maybe better than watching my own dogs spit out their new, super-healthy, super-pure, super-expensive kibble with salmon and carrots, which they hate.

Then Yuuki and her bowl left and in came – hm, I didn’t even notice which dog it was.

Because about the same time SFShiba made the dogs’ bed.  Talk about appealing.  Talk about really really appealing.  A man who kneels, takes off the old bedding and gets out the new. Take deep breaths, because this is way better than any number of shades of grey.  He shakes out the new cover.  He lays it lovingly atop the white mattress.  He tucks it in on one side.  There are no wrinkles.  He smooths it, tucks it in on the other side.  Then he makes sure the sides are tucked too.  He smooths it one more time.  He leans into view, earnest, focussed, bespectacled so as to get things perfectly even.

While I get my breath back, I’m going to talk about how the man I know best makes a bed. Tuck in?  And the sheets are fitted, too, so what’s to tuck?  Sometimes I ask for help in putting a clean cover on the comforter.  This requires finding the corners of each, a feat outside the normal man’s range of skills. “Like this?” he asks, sweetly.  You have to match the corner of the comforter to the corner of the cover I say, again, as evenly as I can manage.  Then I usually say, as evenly as I can manage, that’s okay.  I can do it.  And he’s so glad to be relieved of this chore because it so often ends badly, with me shrieking about all you have to do is match the corners!  Really, all you have to do is match the corners.  Seriously.  Is there something in the male dna that can’t match corners?  You find a corner, and you find another, matching corner!!

But not only does the big guy get the dogs’ cover smoothed out and perfectly tucked;  that would be an incompletely made dog bed.  He also looks around for the right toys to put in the bed.  Some are passed over, others chosen.  He places them, he does not toss.  He checks a squeaker on one (no non-functioning squeakers!), then lays it against the edge of the bed.  This is the equivalent of patting the neck pillows into place after you’ve made the human bed.

And finally, satisfied with his work, he rises from a kneeling position without any sign of creakiness.  This is as appealing an accomplishment as anything I’ve seen in recent years.  We can’t hear if he groans or grunts, but I’m going to say he doesn’t.