Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Memorial Day

May 30th used to be Memorial Day, and that's how my dad liked it. This was his birthday, he was guaranteed the day off from school and in Holyoke, Mass they knew how to throw a parade. Besides, who could ever forget him when the ball of his birthday was so perfectly lined up with a holiday tee? 

Two things then happened to rain on his...celebration. One, his family forgot his birthday completely one year despite the obvious reminder. Two, the holiday was moved to a Monday with rotating dates. 

After that he figured out being memorable was up to him. 

He excelled at it for the rest of his seventy-five years.  The details  matter a great deal, as did the whole: Do for others, but have fun. Excel at what you love. Learn about everything you can,  then let that knowledge occupy a corner of your brain while you live.  See the world,  but know that everything important can be hugged at the end of the day. 

Today my brothers and I  (and sister in Philly, via the wonders of FaceTime) visited the gravestone put into place this morning. I agonized over this thing and when I saw it all I felt at first was relief that I hadn't screwed up. It's lovely, and fitting, and beautiful in a way gravestones can become when you've lost someone you treasure. 

Are you ready? 

I'm so proud to be his daughter. 

And Dad, let me tell you, no matter what day you were born on we would remember you the same. Epic and wonderful and terribly sweet. You were the dad of my dreams. 

Still are. 

Love, Lisa

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Cliff Songs

Having now been to parts of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales, I think of their interior landscapes as distinct.
  • England is more countrified in rural areas, and industrialized in sprawling cities.
  • Scotland is more spare and haunting in rural areas, and ancient in more contained cities.
  • Wales is more forested, interspersed with mining, and shire-like except in Cardiff.
  • Ireland is one farm rolling into another, with a few cities spaced across the coast.
These are generalizations, of course, but if I mix up all my landmark-free photos I can still pretty much tell one landscape from another, until I get to the coast. 

Because I'm not as good at distinguishing between rocky shores, inlets and especially cliffs. Without taking a boat and circumnavigating the islands you don't get the same repetition you do of the land when driving across a country. All I can say is there are some mighty daunting and beautiful edges to these lands, far more plentiful than we have on the eastern U.S. seaboard. 

I'm not saying we don't have striking stretches of coastline. Mt. Desert Island in Maine has fjords, of all things. Fingerling inlets carved by glaciers, bordered by immense cliffs. Every state and province from Florida to Nova Scotia has stretches of land that dramatically arch over water.  But beaches are far more common, bordering towns near sea level, collectively filled with millions of folks. Houses precariously perched on a sand dune are much more common than those on a bluff.

I love beaches, I’ve grown up on them and still head for them as soon as I’m out for a walk. But cliffs are dramatic, and in contrast beaches are boring. Cliffs are dangerous—you can slide off any moment—while beaches are wading-in-by-inches safe. Cliffs are isolated, no one can hear you if you scream, while beaches have lifeguards whose whistles summon help for miles.

I haven’t yet seen the more distinct cliffs. England has near-white Dover, and Ireland has Moher, in the running for the most beautiful in the world. The cliffs I’ve seen are similar, gray with white striations, a long hard rock face topped with a tuft of grass hair, banked at the bottom by rocks and crashing waves. Downright daunting to swim near, even if there is a spit of sand. Looking up, you gain perspective on your size and importance within the universe. Looking out, the ocean sings to your soul.

Living near the beach is fun but I imagine those who live near cliffs are wiser for it.

Love, Lisa

Thursday, January 12, 2017


My least favorite hours of the day are 2:00-4:00 in the afternoon. Hell is breaking out on the homefront, or at least minor skirmishes, and I have unfinished business of my own whose chances for completion are slipping away. Often there’s mindless driving, conversations on repeat, a million or two texts. Then things turn frenetic, like the Wall Street bell is going off at 5:00 and where are we at with our margin???

After five, there’s a lull. Can’t return that call because the office is closed. Today’s list is going to just bleed into tomorrow’s. I might try to finish a project I’m working on, but if I do dinner’s late and that’s not a happy repercussion. Yesterday I locked myself inside my office because I had a 5:00 deadline the kids and husband all knew about—or at least remembered when the door handle jiggled. But at 5:10 there was banging, “are you done?” and “we have a surprise!”, all silly nonsense meant to get the point across: evenings are time to love and be loved, talk and be talked to, smile and laugh because kids and dogs are cute and funny and my husband's a rogue charmer.

This is the best part of my day. I go to bed happy, with tea and a book, but usually only get a few pages in. I fall asleep easy because I’m tired.

A few hours later I wake up, like I have all my life. Sometimes my mind is leaking awful, crazy stuff because I have a vivid imagination, and plenty of real-life experience from raising nine kids to fuel a lifetime of nightmares about what could happen to them. But mostly I’m just…awake. I’ll slowly realize my light sleep/dozing stage is not sinking back into slumber and unless I do something else, all the pedestrian stuff I have to take care of between 2:00-4:00 the next afternoon will nibble away my peace until I start making lists and isn’t that a waste of time.

So I grab a book, pretty fast. I have books I can read on my tablet or phone, but I really love paper so that means I need a light. Any will do--bedside lamp, headlamp, book clip light, light wedge or flashlight. I’ll vary all these depending on my husband’s state of wakefulness, and whether I woke up anxious or scared or am simply gearing up for a good read. I might grab a ginger ale. 

Night walk through the house
These are my favorite hours, between 2:00 and 4:00 in the morning. I learn all kinds of stuff. I laugh. I cry. If a book’s really good I can’t go back to sleep so sometimes I’ll grab the snoozer, a book that won’t hold my interest in hopes I’ll doze off. My nightstand is a cluttered book repository and always has been, dating back to the bunkbed I shared with my brother for years, or the bed box I had my parents build in the one house they remodeled. One mattress, two bookshelves, three walls and a clip light.

There was an ad campaign for RIF when I was growing up, Reading is FUNdamental. Although the promised trucks never pulled up anywhere I remember I took the motto to heart. And since life is really busy with work and family, school and play, I take my reading time anywhere it appears and don’t complain.

My husband calls them zero hours, when the world has no expectations of me so they’re mine alone. And if I had a choice, I’d sleep through them. Some nights I do, magically.

But when I don’t I’m never lonely, and it’s not because of the books. It’s because for the last 12,775 nights (or so) I’ve shared a very cozy bed with a very lovely man. If I turn on the light he winces, rolls over and goes back to sleep. If I chuckle he pats my hand. If I’m upset he’ll scoop me close, and if I’m freaked out he’ll talk me through, often without opening his eyes.

If he’s awake I tell him stories. And though his sleep would surely benefit from fewer Lisa shenanigans, he radiates a sense that all is well and I’m free to do whatever gets me through the night. 

That’s side-by-side life with a nightwaker. New adventures every night.

Love, Lisa