I know it’s selfish. No one needs to give me a lecture on how selfish it is. Part of me has been dreading this day while the other part is so thankful that it actually happened.
Josefina Delores Lowery is officially one year old today. Josefina for my mother (who had a Spanish name but no Spanish blood, she was named after a heroine in a romance novel) and Delores for my grandmother (who had an English name but who was more Cuban than Castro, who was named after the woman that ran the orphanage where she grew up). I hope that when Feena gets older she’ll appreciate the irony of that and not judge people based on names or ethnicity. You are who you are based on your insides and the choices you make, not what you look or sound like.
A good example of that is Dorrie’s Uncle Darryl. He is good looking in a road hard and hung up wet kind of way; had a lot of advantages growing up too. But through his own choices he has turned into a Grade A donkey’s behind; and he’s only slightly mellowed by the tragedy of losing his hand. Although Dorrie has said he is better than I am giving him credit for being; that she thinks he may act that way around me in particular just to get my goat. Well he can’t have my goat or any other part of me. If he thinks showing his … er … attitude is going to get my attention he needs a seriously good knock in the head.
I suppose I shouldn’t be so hard on the man; I’m not exactly the model for unbiased thinking and behavior these days. I feel way older than I ever thought I could. And there are things that just start me down a thought path that is hard to get out of. If I ever had a cat scan you’d probably see ruts in my psyche. I said that once to Cal and he said I had the most vivid imagination. His exact words, I’m not kidding. He tickles me sometimes the odd things he says.
Speaking of Cal, he insisted on taking us to lunch to celebrate Feena’s birthday … a real restaurant … while we were in St. Pete today to celebrate. We went to Munch’s on 6th Street South. I’d never been there but had heard about it for years. It was on that old show … Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives … Or Dives, Diners and … whatever, that show with the guy that had the peroxide spiked ‘do that always made me want to give him a seriously deep conditioning. The burgers were incredible; Cal ordered for me while I was in the ladies’ room and since he was buying I didn’t complain, actually thought it was kind of sweet in a very Cal kind of way. He wouldn’t let me see the check either when it came which says more than it doesn’t. Sigh.
Next year I’ll try and do a cake and all that … or at least a cupcake depending on if flour is still as expensive as it is. This year I am ashamed to admit, it was just all beyond me.
I kept myself as busy as I could throughout the day and I did try and sing Happy Birthday to Feena – try being the operative word since my singing voice is so rusty that I don’t even think WD40 would help. But that fateful day kept coming back to haunt me. So did other things.
One of the things we did while over in Pinellas was to scope out the stores to see what they had versus what we had easy access to. We scored a few things as we stopped at three going out of business sales … all in the same strip center. I heard lots of hushed and worried talk from people wondering how they were going to make ends meet. Heard one woman mention that there was a waiting list so long just to get in the application process for public assistance that it would take at least three years to clear the backlog. Heard another man complaining that he had so many relatives wanting to come down and live with him he’d lost count, and most of them he hadn’t seen or heard from in years. Heard a couple of others say they couldn’t wait to move out of state because cold weather or not they never wanted to have to deal with hurricanes again. Each to his own, I’ll take wind and water over snow and who knows what else any day.
We also took a chance and stopped at a grocery store just to see what they had and while I was walking the aisles I heard a baby crying that sounded so much like the baby in my old nightmare that my brain went on autopilot and I nearly pushed my cart into this old lady; would have if Cal hadn’t grabbed the front of the cart.
He asked, “You OK?”
“Yeah,” I answered. Did … did you hear a baby crying?”
“Crying? Are you kidding? The kid was on his way to breaking glass. The mother never even looked at him while she stared into the meat cooler. Little girl that couldn’t have even been ten years old came running from down another aisle and picked him up out of the carrier. Mother looks messed up or high on something. Store employees are surreptitiously tailing her around the store.”
That was a lot of details but Cal is a very detail oriented kind of guy. Don’t ask him a question unless you are prepared for him to answer it. Rarely does he give a simple yes or no.
Then as we were walking out of the store my knees nearly buckled as a young man in fatigues walked in and I swear he could have been Daniel’s twin right down to the broken nose and dimpled chin. I started to fall and grabbed Cal’s arm so I wouldn’t go down to my knees on the black asphalt of the parking lot. Feena, who was on my hip in the sling, complained bitterly as she got mashed between the two of us.
“Hey, you really …” He never finished what he was going to say. I saw his eyes widen and his head turn and follow the young man into the store. Then he was helping me out to his truck. He took Feena and made me sit down while he buckled her in.
“You … you OK?” he asked.
I looked at him and realized he’d seen the same thing I had so at least it hadn’t been a ghost. I shook myself and tried to act normal. “Sure. We better get over to the nursery or they’re going to think I decided to give up my deposit on those plants.”
“We will but not until you can tell me you’re fine enough for me to actually believe you.”
I closed my eyes briefly then admitted. “I’ll … I’ll be fine. This is just a hard day. One of those milestones that part of me has been dreading but wanting to celebrate at the same time and the day seems to be conspiring against me by sending ghosts.”
I pulled my legs in and started to buckle up. He said, “Yeah, you WILL be fine. But you don’t have to keep it bottled up when you aren’t. You’ve let me vent more than a time or two about Lily. You can talk to me about Daniel if you need or want to.”
I sighed. “All I did was talk to you … and Lily … about Daniel there for a while.”
“So … I’ve got to … to keep this craziness that comes over me sometimes in check. If I don’t it might completely take over and I’ll … I’ll wind up completely useless and then what is going to happen to Feena and our plans to keep her safe?”
“Easy Aria … I like the way you say it. Makes me feel like my wheels aren’t as likely to fall off since I’ve got some purpose. If I didn’t have you two to look after I don’t know where I’d be right now. So that’s what I mean … you need or want to talk, I’m here.” After a moment he said, “Look, I’m not saying that you’re necessarily doing anything wrong and I’m probably the last person you should be taking advice from about this sort of stuff, but keeping it in check is one thing, trying to completely bury it is another. You gotta let some steam off sometimes.”
“Steam makes it sound like I’m mad and I’m not … not really … not anymore.”
“If you aren’t mad then what are you?”
“Some days I don’t think I’m anything anymore. I’ve pretty well accepted I can’t change what happened just sometimes … like today when everything is so … so in my face … it just really hits me.”
“What does?” he asked trying to understand.
“All of it. That it wasn’t just some poor girl whose story got splash across the tv with sordid sensationalism, it was me. That it wasn’t someone else’s crazy life, that it was mine. That it wasn’t some other woman whose husband tried … whose husband tried to kill her and their baby, it was me. And the rest of it as well. On some days … most days … it has already become a lifetime ago. But today it seems like it was just yesterday.”
He patted my hands awkwardly where they lay bunched up in my lap and then went around and got in. We were both silent on the way to the nursery but the heat and hard work of moving all of those flower pots into the bed of the truck and into the trailer helped me to find my balance again. Paying the remainder of my bill certainly brought me back to reality.
I spent the rest of the day intentionally playing with Feena but she was a little cranky. She’s teething … again. Anything that gets near her mouth gets chewed on, including other people’s body parts. She bit Cal’s finger when he was giving her a taste of peanut butter from his sandwich and he had a hard time getting her to let go. She’s going to wind up with as many teeth as a shark does if she keeps this up. She certainly has the temperament of one right now.
Cal is home tonight … I can hear his congested snores from here, I have got to find out what that boy is allergic to before he brings the ceiling down … but he leaves early tomorrow for a double shift. I’ve got oatmeal doing its thing in a thermos for our breakfast so I don’t have to cook first thing and heat the house up and his lunch is already packed; cold fried chicken, fresh tropical fruit salad, and a couple of hard boiled eggs. The next couple of days, but especially tomorrow, are going to be busier than normal as I get all of those plants and trees in the ground so they have time to take root before the weather changes and their growth slows down.