Thursday, November 16, 2006


Like the Intrepid, I am stuck in the mud. No tug will arrive to pull me out, however, it's up to me to yank myself out into the open waters. I get like this after several days of rain, when the gloom and the doom overtake me and the entire world seems gray and dismal, with a persistent fog that invades your bones and your brain and makes you look out at the universe as a sorrowful, sodden sinkhole of despair.

Jedi joins me in my dislike of incessant rain. In fact, she holds me personally responsible for the weather. I swear, she would hold her urine for four days before venturing out into a downpour. I don't know what it is about the bladders of dogs, but it sure would come in handy if humans shared this ability.

When Jedi arises in the morning and I open the door for her to go out, she takes one look at the rain, then turns to glare at me, accusingly, as though to say, "What!! You want me to go out in THAT? Are you nuts? What kind of person are you, anyway?"

We have reached the Gloomy Season. We are dancing the Stuff Yourself With Turkey Trot. The skies are perpetually gray, the trees are like forlorn sticks, and the sun has gone South, along with the birds and flowers.

Why do I feel this way now, when I paid little attention to the weather when I was young? I used to run through the orchard in the sunshine, the rain and the snow, without giving it a thought. It was all beautiful to me then, the open sky, the old, gnarled trees, the shimmering gray of the lake.

Our farmhouse was always cozy on a rainy day. Pop would keep the fire stoked and the heat from the stove reached the corners of the rooms. Mom put strategically placed pots and pans under the various drips coming down from the ceiling. They made a musical chime as they landed in their pots, clinking and tinkling like tiny bells.

There was always the smell of wood burning in the stove, of hot coffee perking, or chicken frying in the kitchen. Eventually, Pop would slip on his coat to venture out to the barn to feed the animals, and the dogs escaped the rain by crawling under the porch. There were only one or two dogs we ever owned that Mom allowed in the house. One was Fluffy, the little toy Spitz Helen won on a punchboard and gave to Helma and me. The other was Puppy, Fluffy's son. We called him Puppy, but his name was Spot Ring Elmer Sweetness Grunt Frederick Alfonzo, Jr., because we just couldn't agree on a single name, so gave him all of them.

Sometimes we would hear the chug of an old motor and we knew that Herman and his family were arriving in his car, an old Pontiac that just kept going despite the passing of the years. Its floorboards had broken through, so one could watch the road below from a seat inside the car, and the heater didn't work, which I was unfortunate enough to discover when I rode with Herman to my first real job. And the car listed sideways, one side nearly touching the pavement, while the other hefted itself skyward. Some people said they were so disoriented they couldn't walk for a week after a ride in Herman's car.

All the kids were stuffed in the back seat, Eldin, Teddy, Dustie and Roger...with two more girls, Brenda and Sam, eventually joining them. Eldin was my shadow, following me faithfully as I traipsed around the orchard. I was the person he asked about if I knew anything about that subject. Heaven knows what I told him, and I may have traumatized him for life.

Then, too, Harry and Jewell might arrive, with my nemesis, Ronald, and his sister, Donna Belle. Harry and Jewell later had two boys, Lewis and Billy. We lost Lewis one night on a dark country road. Billy married his Sharon, and I see them as often as possible.

Donna Belle was the beauty of our family. Born a blonde, she looked like a golden goddess as she grew up. Then, later, she favored black hair and a Latin look. She had the kind of looks that people on the street would notice and stop her to compliment her on them. I think every family has one of those utterly beautiful people, and Donna was ours.

Donna married a jockey, a fellow I remember as being about four feet tall, with an abysmal temper. The marriage didn't last long and Donna married her first love, Jimmy, who adored her even when she grew old and sick, nursing her with a devotion that was inspiring. After she died, he spread her ashes across the Atlantic at sunset, when the world was pink and gold and orange, as though paying tribute to the lovely gal who had passed away.

There are so many in this enormous family, so many people to think about and write about. When Pop was very old and I was a young, married lady, he lay in a hospital bed just before the surgery that soothed his pain but eventually contributed to his death, and I asked him if he was afraid to die.

He shook his head and said no, my beloved father, gaunt, emaciated and old, his skin still like tanned, sun-dried leather despite his pallor.

"There's too many to love!" he said. "There's too many to leave!"

Those words haunt me today, as I stare out at the gray of November. Can there ever be too many to love? Probably not, until the Grim Reaper knocks at the door.