Hi Michael. It’s that time of year again. That time you always hated when I was so, so very hot and sweaty and thus, always had the air conditioning turned down, the overhead fan turned to high and the small floor fan churning away all night long. Like living in a wind tunnel, you’d say. I’m sure you wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to learn that nothing’s changed. I climb into our bed, each night, still on my side, yours untouched, with the dull roar of all my cooling machines as my companions. The thin sheet quivers in the breeze. You’d hate it. I’m physically comfortable and I lie there, thinking. Look at this headline from an article I read this evening.
Scientists Have ‘Woken Up’ Microbes Trapped Under The Seafloor For 100 Million Years
I mean, really? While I was trying to wrap my mind around the impossibility of those numbers and the subsequent life options they revealed, I suddenly hoped that meant we had a chance of reuniting somewhere in this mystifying universe. Certainly our collective and relatively young microbes have just as good a chance at survival as those ancient ones. I’m positive that your microbes are all over our house, our garden and in the few personal items of yours which I’ve stashed away. There might be a few hairs in your brush. I wouldn’t care which version of us we’d be, young or old. Ish.
So then I was thinking about all the tiny details of life I’d normally tell you every day when you were still here in the flesh. I mean, I like your constant cosmic presence, but I usually turn to that with just the most important stuff. I’ve been dying to share with you all these strange little nothing thoughts that cross my mind. Mostly, no one has ever been able to put up with the endless stream of seemingly random, disconnected thoughts that pour out of me. My sister, Cheryl is probably the next best listener after you. As my younger sibling, she was well trained in the absorption of my peculiar brain workings. I’m lucky she’s still here. But there’s just nothing like you for that bottomless reservoir of acceptance which you provided for me. Isn’t it ironic that we both know you’d be appalled by me releasing all this private information into the faceless universe? I mean, I know some people who read my blog but mostly, they’re strangers. Honestly, except for a few private spaces in myself that defy language, most of the rest is just irrelevant in the long run. What impact do our little quirky selves have? I know you’d disagree but I need to survive now, in my own way. So here are a few random thoughts that beset me as I lie in our bedroom, my favorite space, while my mind wanders in the wee hours after I’m done reading, wishing I could talk to you above the whir of the fan blades spinning around me.
You’re the only person who knew that while I was listening to WLS radio during my pubescent and teen years in Chicago, I wasn’t just a rock and roll/rhythm and blues kid. I also liked gospel, jazz and classical music. I still remember that when you were working at the Record Service, you kept track of my favorites and made sure I always those albums in my stash. And then, you updated them to CD’s so I didn’t have to wear out my vinyl. I’m still listening to lots of different genres every day. I don’t think I could’ve gotten through this bizarre pandemic time without it.
Here’s another weird thing I’ve noticed lately. I don’t watch much television during the day. I turn it on for a few minutes when I get up in the morning, mostly a defensive move to make sure nothing impossibly earth-shattering happened overnight. That’s how things are right now – every day seems to bring a story that’s incomprehensible. Today the story was that after the worst economic quarter ever reported since they started measuring these things, Trump suggested that perhaps we shouldn’t hold an election this fall. This guy will sling any idea that he thinks will get him a second term. As an historian, you just wouldn’t believe how this country has devolved since you’ve been gone. Anyway. When evening rolls around, I’m tired from being outside most of the day. After dinner, I watch the news and then scroll through the tv guide, looking for anything that might distract me, amuse me or otherwise edify me in some way. Lately, I’ve realized that virtually every day, The Godfather, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Gladiator is playing. Often they’re on at the same time, while other times, they’re staggered. It’s so peculiar. Usually I watch bits of all of them. By the end of the week I’ve seen them in their entirety, albeit out of order. I’ll also pause for Sense and Sensibility, The Princess Bride, Pride and Prejudice or any Errol Flynn movie. Makes me laugh. If you were here, you’d be doing the same thing with The American President, To Have and to Have Not, You’ve Got Mail or The Maltese Falcon. Also Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale, or Stand by Me. I’m working my way through a decent number of tv series that I missed when we were too busy to watch them. But recently, I’m needing revolution. I’ve got “Z” and Battle of Algiers on my DVR. I probably don’t need to get more cranked up than I am these days, but I guess that’s too bad. Watching them anyway. I wonder how any new shows will be made for the fall? Better not go down that rabbit hole. They’re probably not going to happen.
I want you to know that in your honor, I have loyally kept up with a smaller version of your food garden. Not just the perennial herbs that still marvelously appear and make me feel that it’s you who’s emerging through our rich dirt. That’s kind of absurd because your ashes are sitting in a beautiful box in the house waiting to some day being mingled with mine. Then we can be in the garden together. That aside, I’ve also been diligently planting and nurturing the annual herbs and vegetables, although at the moment, I’m losing the vegetable battle with the squirrels and rabbits. I’ve managed to get about two dozen cherry tomatoes off the vines while I try to ignore the smushed ones on the ground with one bite mark taken before abandonment. All the low-hanging large tomatoes have been filched along with the green peppers. I’m holding out hope for ones that are a little higher on the vines.
I’m really missing your cooking, though. Yesterday, I started ferreting around your recipe folders and dug out the one for pesto which, by the way, wasn’t labeled. I’m going to make it. I don’t have as much basil as you would plant so I don’t expect to be spooning the mixture into ice cube trays that we could pop out of the freezer for pastas and pizzas. But I’m going to get it done. You really spoiled me. The good news is that I knew it and let you know. So there’s that.
Meanwhile, I’m being really mindful about enjoying every bloom in my flower world. I wait impatiently to make sure that my perennials return and get so happy when they show up. Then I try not to get sad because soon they’ll be gone. That’s something I have to work on – if I’ve learned anything, I know I need to stay in the present. So I’m out there a lot, with the butterflies and the birds, chasing them around with my phone to get good photos that I hope will be comforting in what I expect will be a socially distanced winter.
Regarding the birds. So far, since spring, there’ve been 50 species in the yard. I don’t know if you’d recall that I started drawing them and filing them in a binder called The Yardbirds. I know you’d get the music reference. Anyway, my renderings are improving. If I practice, I’ll get better. Here are a couple of my recent ones.
I’m really happy that I’ve created a great bird habitat in the yard. I’m learning a lot about their behavior. I love watching the hummingbirds and the house wrens. Tiny, but mighty. I’ve grown fond of catbirds which are showing up regularly at the feeders. They’re perky and curious and pretty brave.
I’ve done something pretty dumb, as getting attached to wild animals doesn’t bode well for a happy emotional outcome. But I’m very fond of the cardinal pair that lives here year-round. After a rousing rescue of one of their fledglings last week, I felt so familial with them that I decided to name the strikingly beautiful female who comes for here daily for a dip in the birdbath. I’m calling her Pumpkin. Now, how absurd is that? I like her boyfriend too.
Another thing I did after a good deal of thought was sell your beloved bike. That was hard for me. I know it was just a thing but you loved it so much. I heard your voice in my head saying, “don’t be ridiculous – it’s just sitting there being wasted. Get yourself some extra cash.” So I did. But I took photos first. All these things I have to do. When I lie in bed in the night, I think about how much easier it is to share the loads of life. I miss that a lot although I’m glad I have what it takes to manage on my own. I think back to my mom after my dad died. By the time she was my age, she’d been dependent on me for almost 5 years. Makes me shudder.
How could I not tell you this most important thing? Our daughter, who went from working remotely to having to appear in person in a closed courtroom, found out the other day that a court clerk had tested positive for Covid19. She was asked to leave her office, get tested and do another 14 day quarantine. Then the judge in charge pf hearing her cases tested positive as well. Ugh. That meant that all the rest of our little family bubble had to be tested too. So far, she and our son got negative results. Our son-in-law, both grandsons and I await our results. I hope we’re all negative and can resume our little intimate enclave. The months ahead look daunting to me. The virus is traversing the country at will with no definitive treatments or vaccines. I dread flu season adding to the complexity of everything. Feels positively medieval. In other news, I got an email from the park district informing us that the indoor pool was reopening immediately. The list of precautions and requirements is very long and detailed. I read it carefully while keenly aware of my longing to get back to swimming. In the end, I’ve decided against it. I just don’t think being in an indoor facility shared with high school students can be safe enough for someone like me, a member of what I call the “death group.” So I’ll just have to know that a block and a half from our house, people will be paddling away while I won’t. This adult decision-making of risk vs. reward is overrated.In other news, I actually wish I was more like my mom in her widowhood. She used to talk a lot about how all she wished she could do was hold my dad’s hand one more time. Lucky her. I remain deeply interested in resuming our intimate life for another 30 years or so. I hope if this reaches you, you’ll be glad to know that some of our best things are strong enough to survive death. So that’s all for tonight. By the way, I thought you should know that I just restlessly flipped on the television. There is Gladiator in the midst of the re-creation of the battle of Carthage. Round and round it goes, my dearest boy. Until next time.
2 thoughts on “A Message from the Wind Tunnel”
Wonderful essay Renee