Don’t Text and Hike-u

Like, what was I thinking this morning on my clear out of the blue get with it hike. One cliffhanging thought before the other on the side of a mountain no less. One smartie word wising up the other. A look mom no hands no helmet moment, stepping back so the trail bikes coming downhill don’t hit me. My knees shaking a finger at me at this brand new ‘new start day,’ saying, “let’s start tomorrow, let’s sit and have a listen up to the birds.” So I listen, sitting on a niche carved with the perfect shape of my imperfect, I’m thinking, this is perfect, time to wonder, time to enjoy. All the time in the world wondering, wondering deep and wide, wondering how’s it gonna turn out. Wondering God, are you out there, are we gonna be okay? No one answering me, me talking all the talking just the same, wondering should I maybe take some extra underwear in the great beyond? Will there be somewhere to wash out a few things? Maybe an electric outlet no one’s using, so I can keep up with Mad Men, tabs on my kids, up with my was-tow-head one, Mr. precious all 18 all grown up already, my second chance at pretty good, Mr. I’m not so sure about, he not so sure either, Mr. Between bi-moodals, Mr. So so, so afraid of being six.

Like who’s gonna put up with this set of petunia kids I got going on if and when I check out? This kid racket double sink full life, who gonna teach them to call home, separate the shouldas from the couldas, the whites from darks? From the do it now’s cuz I said so. Like who’s gonna remind them these are the good old days? So welcome home, shut up and eat your organic kale before it gets all commingled, cold, alpha omega 3s don’t grow on trees, and pass me the milk while you’re at it, and, thank God while your at it, thank God us being so lucky, us being us, thank God us being so well shod standing on gods green warming, us standing on someone else’s dime being so alive on the peeling back I’ve wanted to change all my granite years, thank God and bless Him, bless my own mom and dad while He’s at it, me, myself and I while He’s at it, and bless the mister, the mister kids, bless this head, this heart, these hands, until forever, until the 10th of forever, until the 10th of forever wondering.

Are the kids brushing right? Are they flossing and whining between meals?
Today, like all the rest, I quit it. Quit it about being lost in the lost in found, say ‘I love you,’ first and tell my kids there’s no more, no more better than this, no more there there, never was anyway, all smoke mirrors, no thing as lost, no thing as found, unless you decide, (no Oz, no Auntie Em, no clicking heels, TV for you.) I tell my kids, this would be a good time to write something down so I can remember I had half a brain once, somebody got a pen? I’m telling you what I knew too late to save you the google of it later. Mom, Dad, if you can see my face I love you, if you got one, I’m ready for it, I’ll take one, give one, I’ll take a hug for the road. 🙂

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Hambone Hammett aka Pecan Bill by Thom Smyth

Pecan Bill who knew?

Pecan Bill who knew?

Regarding Bill, a dear friend of my brother’s passed years ago, this, a note written by my brother today, alas, another poet slash creative (T., the greater) in the family)….a commemoration:

“Aka Bill Clyde Benton the third (and several affectionate labels only close friends would dare to utter) today a funny thing struck me, this is the anniversary of his passing, and my becoming focused on acknowledging to myself publicly that this terrific guy friend lover partner was REALLY here 22 years ago and that we made a difference . It occurred to me how silent I have become about
this and decided to find a ribbon – symbols are so powerful and this one
has been in my life very personally since May 22 1992. Funny thing I didn’t have a ribbon anymore and, as I was passing a “notions” shop ( what are the chances on Madison Ave in the 50’s near Bloomies) I went in and there nestled atop all kinds of ribbons striped laced and taffetaesque was a spool of the most perfect red ribbon $1.35/yd could buy. What happened next took me by surprise. I told the counter matron that I wanted a small piece. At first quick to outline the parameters of 1 yard minimums she paused as I said I would buy the yard and take …..( I folded the ribbon around itself to form that all too familiar symbol of a pinned ribbon) . Before I could finish she clipped 4 inches and gave it to me , thanking her I said I lost a very special man 22 years ago. Without saying more she took out a pin came around the counter and asked if I’d like a pin. She folded the ribbon and placed it on my jacket lapel. Thanking her as I left I was touched by this act of kindness from someone to help me witness that I knew a man by the name of Hammett and today I remember. Xo you all and cheers to Bill. Treat yourselves to a L’ll cocktail or piece of pecan pie today -Bill would like that!

Was Love

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Was love between us, a scent of danger, of linger, of orange and lemon, of salt and sand, of time dare not, of leave not please, of please come back, of one minute more, of one minute more, then gone.

Kid Blur

Some days I fake rigor mortis hearing my son race down the hall at a clip…five, four, three, two, one…BANG!…Six years of age, new to earth, he does not yet know a good life can be had in sip doses, how to walk the earth instead of run it, how to quiet himself.  A 10x box of sugar in a blender kind of kid, for who, standing still, is a challenge.  A blur hollerer, his  lemon Jell-o screams seep under the doors, find my sponge cake mind, cornered.  The quiet slammed to pieces.  Some days, I roll over.  Some days, I take a stand and say, lets eat cake.

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How To Make a U Turn

Today, on a hike, I decide to make my bed only on major holidays.  Awesomeness.  I then give myself a virtual star, pat on my back, for a job well-done, being solution minded, proactive, and out exercising with my six-year-old son as he runs ahead of me yelling at the mountain, the day, the path.

Today I am ahead, even thinking ahead, all points for me.

In wonder mode, I wonder how I could have forgotten my son’s meds yesterday, chastise myself about something I cannot afford — forgetting.  How forgetting sets off a sequence of awfulness.

Awfulizing anquishifications.  AaaaAAAAAAgghghgh!!!

I employ the only tool I have, try the “U” turn one.  The begin again one.  The one I learned from my son, his summer “camp” last summer.

“Try again.  Do over,” the teacher said at some behavior aberration.

Yesterday, as a result of his no medication midday, when I picked him up from school, he hit me flat palmed across my face while we sat in my car making plans.  I reached for consciousness, for that lovely responsive mother I want to be.  I found the glovebox empty.

A difficult moment, these, managing him in upsets, helping him transitioning from school to the next thing.  Me too.  Changing course, beginning anew, U-turn ones.  Even to remember I have tools, much less the finding of them, the ‘finding my breath,’ the counting up or down ones, practicing to get it in his practice, his toolbox, concepts he learns in therapy, I put in mine.  Some all but lost to me at crystal moments.

While he exploded, we sat in the car, my son screeching behind me.  I sat pointing at his car seat behind me, for him to return to it.  A sculpture holding the steering wheel with my other hand as my son twisted in his flailing lash-outs.  A regular front lawn Remington Mom fixed for time, something the world needs more of, bronze mothers, chilling.

Later, in a sensory seeking moment, his meds running low, he ran down the house hall crashing his right hand through a bedroom door window.  Needing something to pound, might as well be the glass.

How lucky he was not to have gotten hurt.  More, how lucky I was.

“Go get the broom,” I said.

Drama sucks.  And how it must suck to be caught in his dragon fire skin.  This, how I imagine my son must feel.  It sucks breath on my side too.

How, at his age, his can only mind himself in small degrees.  His caregivers — mother, father, brother, teacher, therapists — “outside brain.”  How he so wants to be in control, I do too.  Or, else the fears set in.  His and mine.  He just tips into survival mode.  Speeding to high, tipping to panic, almost unreachable for soothing.

Days I wonder how many meds, behaviorists, diet, exercise reiterations, new BFF-music-action-hero-mindful kite therapies must I throw at our tiny boy?

His autism lays me low.  Lays him lower.  Exhausted, I cannot unplug forever in a spa.  Today as good as any day to discover the almighty U-turn, begin again minute, the next minute one.

A day in a minute, I come to believe life, the work of God and His arsenal of earth workers, saint-sinner, angel-sentient beings, goodwill ambassadors, universe teachers, earth or heaven-bound, good triers, all supporting us.

A madness not to be in control of one’s self.

Today I feel his pain, hold tight on the wheel.  Form a triangle with my hands.  Grip thumbs on my wheel.  I do not say a thing, tell myself, to hang in one minute longer, re-frame life, fold up my hope tent, give-it-over, give-it-up to angels.

Soon enough some kind of grace comes, a low interest loan helping me keep my head as a special needs parent.  There will be many assumptions to untie by nightfall.

Some days the old adages seem best.  Tie, un-tie, re-tie, rather, than cut something out of the garden.   Do nothing, sit out the storm, sayings.

Times maybe I shouldn’t negotiate with Mr. Takeover but still I do, like today, when I said, “Let’s go for a hike.”

This pleased him to no end, “Okay!”

Play’s, the thing.  A language that does not come easy to my son or myself.  A hierarchy of play missed kids like mine.

Last summer we played according to plan.  Therapist-directed play that started with him as a lone player with his preferred toy, trains.  He played as if the two were one.  The goal, to progress up a play scale as neurotypical kids do.  Toy as agent-object, outside of the child, toward empathy.  Players playing, with other players, giving, taking, adding, sharing ideas folding, expanding, accepting.

A whole UN in a sandbox.  Peace has a taste somewhere between butter and fruit.

Our days of playing trains on the tracks started simple, we added buildings, airports, pirate ships, bridges, dinosaurs.

Moving up the play scale when we coupled our play with dolls — jumping in and out of the ‘doll as agent’ box — with our engineers, passengers, conductors, construction workers.  Change-ups my son allowed, affecting his senses  — boundaries — easing somewhat with peers,’ let downs improving with his flexible thinking.   His asking me to borrow a toy, a huge leap.  Rebounding, through failure key to games, sports, team, classwork, life.

What a strange country each day. His ‘visa’ not allowing us access to each other’s borders, language, ideas, much less moving along with other travelers, affecting his learning of social mores, ABCs, and numbers.

Kindergarten hard.

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Someday Trees

The chaparral ugly as sin.  Scratch hills, undergrowth, roots falling down cliffs, into the ebb flow stream – some trees almost airborne — knifing the air.

I, say, gimme the dirt, gimme the trees.

Some trees, half planted, half not.  Tree beast, they claw the sky.   The freak of nature trees with hallowed out trunks.  One tree, a mean protester over there minds an old offense still underway.  Another in the throes of surprise death — black as Stonehenge.  Some trees I do not approach.  I do not want to know what killed beauty.

And, what about the old oak tree growing behind the green house next door.  The tree grows through a granite boulder the size of Jupiter.  A big black scar on one side of the tree caused by a potted staghorn fern a prior owner hung for pretty’s sake — the water system withering the bark for years.  Eleven years forward, the tree, mends like a zippered scuba suit on its way to good health.

Crazy old tree I’ve got to run my hand over now and then.  To marvel at it — at the massive base, wonder how it still stands.

Nearby, a monument of tree.  A seven-hundred-year old beaut that sold us on buying our house.  A grand dame of a tree, a giantess, goddess tree.  Her dark trunk playing “tip the cow” with our house, limbs stretching over our roofline and drive, the span of which, a baseball diamond, holds up the patch of sky over the place.

This tree matriarch making no secret how she hates our sprawling house. Each of her ten trunks possess the girth of a well-fed carnival strongman, pulling at the house’s foundation and insides.  The charm of which the rooms a fun house slant in those rooms built around the tree over the last century.  Doorways unsquared, now complete with pass-through letterbox openings at their tops where door meets frame.  Hairline fissures crumbling plaster avenues where the frames meet walls.  The sock drawer sock sliding open all night and day makes for easier grab despite my husband’s country fixes at leveling furniture, sanding the cupboards.  For now at least we know in which corner to pick up our young son’s wheel toys.

This mature oak, majestic, could land us dead when it decides its time’s up.  And, me being Irish, long a believer in things invisible have taken the Hippocratic (Tree) Oath.  The “First Do No Harm to Trees” one, having gone so far as to have every passerbys kiss, hug, and climb this tree.  Earning, yielding us all fair measure of wee folk-channeled earthen blessings.

A full throttle treehug’s best.  What’s good for the soil, good for the soul.  Man, some days, beauty can be such a distraction.

Fergus, the Dog

Maybe it’s worth the extra fifty. Extra sixty, eighty, ninety bucks. One-hundred sixty. Six hundred sixty bucks.

For three months of sitters, I mean.

For one month of therapy, I mean.

For the paint and play class of mixsters kidsters glue-sters, pressing discard plastic Easter eggs into corrugated and clay in a class of parachute dance and art, the tot mountaineers with Miss Sandy, I mean.

Worth it for someone to run new figure eights on my old kitchen tarmac. The 60s pebble limey linoleum floor or outside, on the black top line going round our house, up the neighborhood drive. the money it takes for fresh horses, a sitter, to run with someone unseatable, our five-year-old, S..

Someone magic enough, with bubbling energy, enough day and night to follow ’round my little guy, stem my “I wonder if he’s feral (insert here. Help me reroute panic about his acronym diagnosis menu kind of thinking). Someone to follow Mr. Nonstop to the trampoline out back, jump their hundred plus along his forty-three prone flat on the mat. Someone to jar his noodle preschool body enough so my kid feels alive enough, enough to stop, pause, wait, calm himself back to quiet hands. Back to regular alive.

Parents in the know, know what I mean, know what I mean. Someone alive enough, to keep up with the alives. A Buddha Knievel type of helper. Buddha Knievel — Christ — “hey, what the Hell is he doing up on the roof of my car? — Yeah, someone so alive to take care of that kind of alive. Someone above humanity alive, but, but, but someone realler than that.

Even if this someone is a dog.

Someone dog enough — so dog un-tired running out the front door round back, out to the mailbox, out to the vegetable garden out by our foothill road where we live off the main line of Los Angeles.
Someone nice enough too. Willing to go the distance. There and back. There and back. There and back. Again. Again. Again. Just takes practice. A lot. And a village. Thank you very much.

Thirty times seven times three hundred and fifty two times infinity times.

That’s how much practice, how many times it takes to get it right, seconds to count to cool, to get chill enough to deal.

I need someone who can hang on. With clamped teeth hang on. Hang on a Frisbee. Hang in with the yelling, banging, tumbling, head butt leaping and transition switch-ups. Okay with playing too hard scrabble through dry grass, thickets, mulched oak to slick parquet. Someone like — Fergus — our neighbor’s dog. Fergus, the dog. I need someone like Fergus the neighbor’s dog, a Wheaton terrier.

A dog so good at being a being, that my afraid-of-dogs-little man now calls him his dog that we keep at her place, and my dear neighbor does not mind.

So good a dog that Fergus is I call him Sir.

Sir Fergus the Dog, thank you, very much.

This, the dog I want to be when I grow up someday. This the dog I want to be when I wake from the nightmare gnarl of autism tooling, paring our old parenting ways. The ups, downs of autism. Even high-functionaries like S. leave no room for rest. Fergus doesn’t need the rest. Fergus says, “Bring it on.” This pup wants action. I want to be as good as this dog, I mean.

So good is Ferg, that if he pushed a grocery cart, slid pot pie in the microwave by six each night, maybe, could type this when not ‘sitting freeway shevasana’ in daily traffic, could take over my daily meditations of ‘ohm building,’ run my son to his special behavior camp, us stuck in the 405 traffic school twice a day, stuck in the carpool lane, two to four hours a day — I’d be out of a job. Quite the pair.

So good at being a better me that Sir F. pup is that he gets the better of me. I have to laugh and thank heaven.

F. and S. on loops around our place, in and out of our falling down early 1910s farmhouse and barn, kicking gravel into piles, making train tracks, tug o’warring, F.’s rope knot in the dog’s mouth, the two begging favors for treats that I beg too, sit too, sit up too, sit back, take notes, watch the all day puppy fun.

Fergus and S..

“Fergus’s my brother,” my son said two days ago running past into camp kitchen.

His seventeen-year-old brother knows, laughs it off, knows S. is right. The dog is magic, transforms the day. Brother love flows rivers between our first born and the two ‘pups’ by different Dads. With F., S.’s so easy to have around, his fun side flips onto sweet, manageable, he even acts his age.

I pray the sweet days stick.

Give me that cuddle boy we adopted five years ago at birth, give me the kid who asks without grabbing, without impulsing heedless vibes into streets. Days, I pray someday he’ ll come back when I call, will be safe from his too-forward hellos to strangers, safe from his tippy-tip toes to his head, gain the tools for a future, not dip so much into sad.

Days on end I want to run away too. Or, take a clue, go outside and run with friends, be the third silly pup in the picture to the right, maybe be Fergus the dog for a day or two, hang loose, and be Ferg, be like him.

Me, as Ferg. Me as F. with S.

My son’s small hands running through my Wheaten dog dreads, my Wheaton hair (not-fur) messy shag, my ‘I-see-the-big-picture’ now clear, unteary,now, unshaken, me as pup. Tail wagging, my ‘don’t stop now boy’ springing, ‘we’re almost there c’mon kid, keep trying, keep going, going, gotta keep going, up, up, up, and away. Cool water just ahead. Days, I can see the long run from here. And, it’s good, real good, puppy-boy.’

Days on end I want to feel my dogface joyface in my son’s, my dogface joy licking my son happy. Hands, arms, legs. For my son to see me. My regular Mom lady face like he sees Fergus’ face. See my ‘I’m too tired,’ but I’m still a lover, still a giver face, you can count on me, your Dad, your big bro. All of us next to S. and friend F.

That day, I’ll declare a holiday, say, “Somebody play me something with trombones, trumpets, something Aaron Copland.”

Each day it’s triumph.

The days, I watch and learn from F..

This, I’m told our best chance. Learn to play. And, so I observe the two and I start again. I play, we play.

Ferg’s temperament not undone like ours, mine. The dog, not undone by S.’s close-range screaming. Days, I reach for my Bose headset and go toss a ball. Fergus,’ not frayed in the least, by the five, six door slams — nothing emergency — unlike myself. S’s dysregs., stims, almost-Tourettables, his “I hate you, Mama, hate you, hate you, hate you. You’re not my friend.” Blade turn every time.

Fergus, the dog saint, doesn’t mind the yucks.

“Tell me about that again puppy-boy,” I can almost hear him saying, “I don’t believe you mean that puppy-boy. Get ready to roll puppy-boy. I am going to nip you, frisk you, bite you back to happy puppy-boy. If you go too far, I’m coming back anyway, puppy boy, you unshepherdable, unshepherded friend, my Snaggletooth will test your Little Debbie Snickerdoodle arms and legs. I’m a lyin’ dyin,’ open invitation eatin’ Wheaten greetin.’ Nothing matters when I’m with you friend, nothin’ but your puppy-boy sunshine. Play me friend, neighbor, eternal friend of the special sunshine kind, let’s teach your parents it takes lots of practice to be special, to be the parent of a kid with special stuff. I see you’re in there kid. Come out and play.

Rain or shine someone puppy, someone people, loves you, kid. Someone is loving you, me, the kid. Someone knows you need a shepherd kid, maybe a fluff-ball shepherd who needs the work, works for cheese wages, someone who knows It’s just the work we shepherds do.

The Middle

My middle aged middle, getting too big to ignore.   A black hole in space on my sofa now, taking my body over, surrounded by asteroid blinkers.  You know, stars.  Like constellations gone Broadway pointing at my marquis middle, my thighs, like some melting pot junkyard in the Pacific, or creeping on earth fingery thing like the junkyard twenty minutes from here taking over the good earth, like the crazed duplication of found-agains, so many God-soaped faces in one place, so lost, so found, so lost again in so little time, like pom-pom pinks in rock gardens, stuffy straw hat garden parties way out of my league.  Showhouse gals, sipping tea, some flying high on morning cocktails without a net, no pain, no gain, pains in the arse, to be or not to be a somebody, to do so or not do so, to not die all pummel meat done in the end.  To do the day’s exercise or not.  Aw, the heck with it.  I roll over, roll the die again, then get up and go.  I just do it, walk first, then write my first line.

Afraid to Live, Afraid to Die

Afraid to live, afraid to die.

Afraid to live, afraid, afraid, afraid.

A too close fog horn sound fogging my ears,

a thunder drumming war drums drumming me,

get up, get out, go get getting, live, live, live,

begging, springing me to action, away from the itch to fear, gripping the news,

killing me mort, like a done for, afraid, a done for, in these rooms.

Yet, all of us now, still alive, a-murmur-mur-mur-murring,

a-purpurring, still alive, are still alive I say, still a-living.  But not like a-living living like still life fruit in a bowl, flowers spent already, all lived out.  A living it up kind of living, over here, over there, a life lived out to fullness, I’m just a-beginning everyday, halfway or not.  Not, not and not afraid to die.

Hold On World

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Hold on, don’t jump, slow down world, let me brush your wild hair, let me brush your teeth, let me gag you so I can skid the house, the world quiet.

A knot of candy hair hit, and off he soars, reeling.

What was between hands now all run away.

The whole world foaming at the mouth, unkempt, unclean, half-dressed, half-naked, in knots.

My own tiny world too dammed up, too damned behind thin skin, thin heart membranes, too thin protections.

Ahhhh, I sigh, I weep, for him, for her, for Boston, for the ache within, for the lost souls, for our innocence ebbing,

Ahhhh, I breath, ohmming for the unfeeling, ohmming for the feeling too much, ohmming for the breaking inside, for the too much that got’s a hold of the world at the minute, a hold on me.

Wait for me world, wait one minute more,

hold me world, hold on lover world, hold on lover boy, lover world, hold on and wait, wait, wait, hold on with me,

and I will hold you too.

It gets better, got to get better, wait with me world, and let’s just breathe.

Breathe an I’m-not-done-yet-breath, a-neither-are-you-breath, neither of us licked,

holding on together breathing, each of us warming the air between us,

holding on, lighting candles, breathing, holding, waiting.

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