Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Day four hundred and ninety eight ... Love, always.

Time has always amazed me.

I enjoy how definitive it is, how it can be pinpointed down to the last fraction of a second, and how we all are tethered to one pendulum--always moving, always progressing for ever and ever, regardless of if anyone is around to notice. I also enjoy trying to stretch it's limits on a daily basis, which is, in itself, contingent on the aforemetioned method of assessing the progress of our world.

In fourteen minutes it will be my dearly departed mother's sixty eighth birthday, the third she hasn't been around for. I just went back and reread the post from last May 14. I had, on that day, focused on a happy time--the pedicure that I got with her in 2005--because I had just learned of my aunt's state of health. I was a mess over it all, to say the least, but I was focused and had gotten a few months of sobriety under my belt. That made everything so much easier, and continues to do so.

There were so many questions to be answered. There were stories to dig up, rumors to put to rest, people in old photos to identify, and promises to accept. We spent four months doing all of these things, and when I look back on it now it seemed like it took a good year or more to move through the different stages of my aunt's illness to get to the point where it ends, and the rest of the story begins.

That's probably because it happened so fast it didn't give me time to attach a chronological framework to the process. It just happened and then it was over and I was left with a house full of clocks and no reason at all to be anywhere on time.

And now it is eleven minutes past midnight and I just had a good cry over a picture of my mom. 

Happy Birthday, Mom! Stolat!

And the seconds just keep piling up and in a little less than 24 hours from now it will be May 15, and her birthday will technically be over.

But before that, I have a little celebrating to do. 

Lobsters and steamers. These two things were my mother's favorite thing in the world. Perhaps it's because they both come with melted butter, perhaps it's because it is so unbelievably representative of New England, just like she was.

Editor's note: And just like that I find myself awake at 8 a.m. on the couch I fell asleep on about fifteen minutes past midnight, as if my dear mother was saying, "Alex, go to sleep ... we can celebrate in the morning ... you've been going all day ... ".  

Sometimes it's all too much.

I went home yesterday to mow the lawn; the grass was getting to the point where I had no choice. I pulled the rider-mower out of the garage and filled it up with gas. I put in the clutch and turned the key.

It started.

But when I tried to drive it it just sat there like an old lazy dog that want's to do anything except play.

I poked around until I couldn't figure out what to do and so I went down to the power equipment repair place right down the street. My aunt had all of her outdoor stuff serviced by them, so I know they would know the machine and may even be able to fix it quickly.

Sara, the boss, came by and took a look at it. It was agreed upon that it was the drive belt that needed replacing, and that it would take a good week to get the part in and get it fixed. I told her I needed to get the lawn mowed and asked if there was there any way I could rent a mower for the day.

She said no. I picked a bad week to need a quick fix.

That's when she called Rob C. He was a good guy, so she said, who had bought all his equipment from them and was starting his own company. She said that he even took care of a couple of cemeteries in the area as well. She was going to see if he could help out.

Lo and behold, when she called, he answered his phone. Not too many people in business answer their phones when you call nowadays. Nothing's live anymore, as it were. Everybody has to leave a message. And then, even at that, you get to hear it back and erase it if you don't like it. You get as many takes as you need to leave that "perfect" message. And while you're doing that, the person you are calling has all the time in the world to decide if they want to call you back. Hardly anybody does it live anymore.

Sara gave him my info and she took off. She didn't have to have come down. She didn't have to do anything until Tuesday when they do all the repair pickups, but she left with the rider-mower that would start but wouldn't go anywhere.

Rob called me and I told him where the place was. He showed up ten minutes later and already knew a bit about the property as his friend was part of the crew that did the tree work two weeks ago. We walked around and I showed him what I needed done.

I waited for the estimate that was going to make me gulp.

Instead, it made me smile.

He said he'd come by today, the 14th, and take care of the whole thing by himself--mowed, weed-whacked, and raked.

I wrote him a check and we shook on it. He seemed trustworthy and I know his dealer, as it were.

Then he told me, "I'm off to Turk's to get some steamers."

And I smiled again.

"Me too," I said. "When do they close?"

"Twenty minutes."

"Then I better get moving. Nice to meet you and thank you so much, Rob."

"My pleasure. Call me anytime you need work done."

"Will do."

Lobsters and steamers. These two things were my mother's favorite thing in the world. Perhaps it's because they both come with melted butter, perhaps it's because it is so unbelievably representative of New England, just like she was.

I was planning, even before I got to the house to find a broken mower, to go to Turk's to get some steamers to bring back to Florence. Jodi has never had a clamboil, and I thought there was no better day to introduce her to one of the finer, simpler, messier things in life.

So, when Rob said he was going there--for steamers, even--I felt it was a sign. In fact I could almost hear my mom saying, "Go home Alex. You did the best you could do and the day is almost over. You can consider hiring Rob for the day as a present for me. You go back to Florence and take care of things there. Because that is where you live. It is your home. It is where your heart is. And you know I am there as well."

So now it is 10:04 a.m.. 

At my mom's house Rob should be whizzing and burring; mowing and raking. And I'm sure the next time I go there it will look amazing. 

In my refrigerator there is life. There is a bucket of steamers spitting and hissing. There is even a couple of lobsters clawing and banging (I thought it would be a nice touch). 

Outside my house there are workmen planting trees, moving boulders in place, and laying stones to walk on. Because this is where I will be spending my life now that I finally figured out how to do it right. This is where my heart is.

And tonight I will have a guest over, adding even more life to my environment. We will cook together and, I'm sure, share a few laughs. The smells of fresh seafood will waft through the kitchen, the living room, and out to the neighborhood in my little landlocked county. I will put out the special little tools that one needs to eat lobster. I will put out extra bowls for the shells. I will put out two hearty portions of melted butter, as well as the requisite broth for dipping. I will put out the potatoes, onions, hot dogs, sausages, and linguica links (a spicy Portuguese sausage). And I will put out a big roll of paper towels.  Any meal that comes with a roll of paper towels you just know is going to be good.

I will do all of this with great love and aplomb, introducing someone new to this very New England tradition. It will be a celebration of all that I know. It will be in honor of my great teacher, my provider, my inspiration, and yes, even, my chef. 

As I do it it will fill my heart with pride and joy. It will fill my house with smiles and smells. It will fill my belly with a food that reminds me of hundreds of shared meals. And all of these combined will remind me that I am alive, and as long as I breathe this air I hold her memory close.

Home is where the heart is, and in my home and in my heart a great woman lives on forever.

Happy Birthday, Mom. Sto-lat!

Love, Always,


Rest in Peace Judith Ann Johnson, 5/14/41-1/11/07

Thanks for reading,


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