WanderingDan’s Weblog


Ends and Beginnings
August 13, 2008, 4:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

7/24/08 

It is what I imagine an out-of-body experience to be like.  You know, the ones you see in movies and hear about on talk radio?  Where you look down and see your own body surrounded by a crowd of people, and feel genuinely peaceful and detached from the entire situation…an objective observer content to drift away.  Work feels like that right now.  The normal problems are cropping up, with Bob or MB or Steve frantic about a fryer that should have been in two days ago, an oven that got nailed by a forklift from the freight company (or our warehouse), trying to get a large order together for a delivery next Monday…the usual frenetic chaos associated with a restaurant equipment dealership.  I am normally in the middle of this menagerie, on the phone with factories, company reps, putting out fires and creating solutions to problems.  But not now.  Carolyn has jumped into the pilot seat of this high-speed combat mission, and is anxiously engaged in learning and doing the job.  Leaning against the back of the sales counter, I see this ant hill of organized chaos in action…and feel completely detached.  Everyone knows it.  It’s 2:30, and I have an hour and a half to go before being officially unemployed.  My mind is trying to grasp what it is really going to feel like not having to wake up at 5:45 every day and drag my ass out of bed to spend the best hours of my day in an office.  A big grin creeps up on my face.  Jon walks by, sees me, and smiles back, slightly shaking his head.  He knows what’s going through my mind.  

Tai and I make it to Mint820 a few minutes after 5.  Janie is already there.  It’s a reunion; the last time Janie saw Tai was back in ’05, at that chance meeting on the street corner when Tai and I were moving into the studio on Park and Salmon…sometimes of late I stop and think to myself: wow, I was married for 5 years!  It’s been almost a year now since we parted, and I feel as if I’m leading a completely different life.  Okay, I guess I am.  Fair enough.  Digression is status quo for a wandering mind such as mine…where was I?   My first order is the avocado daquiri, ofcourse!  It is truly sensational.  We start talking about emails and blogs, and after professing ignorance to the world of blogging, Janie brings out her laptop and starts setting up this blog site for me.  Wow…proactive!  The three of us start thinking of possible blog names, and Tai spits out ‘wanderingdan’.  That’s as far as the brainstorming went.  It fit perfectly: simple, accurate, and catchy.   Now I have a blog…cool!  Trevor and Jon show up after a while, in succession, and the five of us have a great time chatting about our lives, circumstances, happenings, and dreams, all the while sampling eachothers’ drinks and munching on sweet potato fries and some funky raw fish salad Trevor ordered.   Tai and Janie leave around 6:30, right about the time Katelyn pops in.  The four of us keep the party going, and I unfortunately have to stop it at 8, in order to make it home in time to pack and head to the airport.  The crew doesn’t let me pay for anything, even though I insist on at least covering part.  Friends, gotta love ’em! 

Gemma and I pull up to Linda’s house in Bend around 1:30ish.  It would’ve been a bit sooner, but Elise’s directions were slightly hard to follow…Gemma called Jazmine to do a mapquest for us, which worked great.  Most everyone is already asleep, so we try to be as quiet as possible.  Evidence of a bachelorette party are scattered about the kitchen and living room…bottles of Vodka and Rum on the kitchen island, next to a phallic cake, mostly untouched…except for the tip.  I haven’t seen Elise since ’99; now she is a college graduate, school teacher, and getting married in 2 days.  Like always, she has a genuinely kind and cheerful smile. 

7/25/08

Bailey, Linda’s dog, licks my face at 5am.  I don’t get much sleep after, dozing here and there, but that is all.  Getting up I realize I have no responsibilties!  It is a little strange…I like it!  Despite Gemma’s assurance that my attendance was welcomed, I still feel awkwardly like a tag-a-long.  A living room full of blonde bridesmaids, scattered on couches, the floor, in sleeping bags and under blankets, begin to emerge one by one.  I haven’t shaved in three weeks, am wearing a black bandana, and have the haggard facial features of a man who was drinking the night before, then drove 4 hours in the dark, and slept horribly…not the most visually reputable of characters.  Oh well.  I try to be as smiley, inquisitive, and social as possible, attempting to break any tension that might exist as to who I am and why I’m there.  It seems to work…I think?  After everyone showers, half of them taking cold showers, we head out.  I took a quick rinse the night before, forseeing the inevitability of a depleted hot water tank.

We arrive at the wedding site, Mike & Glenda’s farm, mid-morning.  Fields of ripened hay lie at the back of a farmhouse at the end of a gravel driveway.  Across the street is a field of what looks like dill, but come to find out are carrots grown and harvested for seed.  It looks like a typical modern rural farm: large equipment sheds/barns near the house, silos, fuel tanks, various tractor attachments and vehicles, and a small fire of something burning, attended by two farmhands.  I love it!  Peaceful, productive, and visually stimulating, especially the gorgeous view of Mt. Bachelor (I think) beyond the carrot field.  People start showing up, and I feel like the uninvited guest again.  Fortunately there are a lot of preparations to be made, so my willingness and ability to help out allow me to get over my own insecurities of intruding.  Carol, Elise’s mom, puts me to work assembling Chinese lanterns…or maybe it was Glenda…I don’t remember exactly.  I do my best to figure out how it works, not quite sure if I got it right or not, since in the process I broke one of the pieces…oops!  While inquiring if my presumptions were correct, Kelly (Glenda’s daughter-in-law) commends me on my creativity, and proceeds to show me how it actually goes together.  It is very sweet of her to be so genteel.  The rest of Friday afternoon consists of a mix of various preparations, down time, eating, and socializing.  The most fun project of the day has to be rearranging Glenda and Mike’s refrigerator with Tiffany, to accommodate all of the food.  Apparently the food was supposed to arrive after the portable cooling unit…not so.  We play some serious Tetris with that fridge, and after a few trials and errors, cram that thing to the max in as organized a fashion possible.  You would think being as tentative as I am about intruding I would have asked Glenda first if we could wreak havoc on her appliances…but I didn’t.  Impetuous me.  There was a problem, and we found a solution.  To my surprise, Glenda compliments me later on such a good rearranging job; I make sure to mention it was a team effort.   

7/26/08

My first good nights sleep in a while.  In fact, last night was the first time I’d slept in a real bed in months.  Since everyone has breakfast plans and errands to run in town, I have the whole house to myself!  Wow, what trust!  I’ve known these good people for one day, and they trust me to run around their house freely.  Truly touched, I no longer feel like a self-invited guest…although technically I still am.  No sooner do I finish the lovely egg scramble I made for breakfast, am I again working, this time designing and manufacturing boutenirs and corsages with Linda, and James, her son.  Other tasks follow throughout the morning and afternoon.  Donovan and I have a lot of fun with Scott, Glenda and Mike’s eldest son, packing coolers full of beer, water and Dr. Pepper, and driving around pounding signs into compressed dirt and gravel.  Honestly, I don’t feel like I’m doing an extraordinary amount of work.  I mean seriously…seriously, if I did any less I would feel like a dead weight, which is why I am so surprised by the enormous gratitude and compliments directed towards me for my assistance…so many it makes me kind of uncomfortable.   While getting dressed, I watch members of the wedding party shuffle from room to room, bathroom to bathroom, prepping and primping, as energy escalates for the big event.  I am totally caught off guard when people emerge from the woodwork, and I find the house full of beautiful women dressed to the nines.  There is little time to ponder the scene as I am put to work once again.  This time I’ve been put in charge of pinning flower arrangements onto dress shirts and dresses.  Since Linda and James are still off-site getting ready, I am the official “licensed” pinner.  Unfortunately, I have never done this before…so despite being the proclaimed resident “pro”, I hesitantly take my list of names, a tray of boutenirs, and act like I know what I’m doing…hoping I don’t stick the exceptionally long pins into anyones chest.  Starting with the boutenirs was smart, because they are smaller than the corsages, and shirts are much easier to pin than dresses.  Besides, if you slip and stick a guy with a pin, his macho facade won’t allow him to fuss.  Fortunately I don’t stick anyone…except myself, once, while pinning a corsage onto a strapless dress.  I jam that pin a quarter inch into my thumb.  Ouch! 

The ceremony is sweet, a mix of casual and formal, and quite endearing.  Watching Elise and Matt tie the knot helps restore my faith in the viability of functional, long-term relationships.  Little time is wasted rearranging the tent into a reception area.  Many chiefs bark orders to eager, but confused indians.  Being one of the indians, I do my best to set up tables amidst contradicting orders.  The chaotic energy gets to me after a while and I look for some other way to be of service…ahhh….I can help bring out food.  Soon the party is under way.  One beer turns into two…followed by champagne for the toast.  Unfortunately it is flat by the time toasting is done.  No good, so I get some more…ahhh, much better.   I dance my ass off, mostly alone, because I prance all over the place like a court jester.  But who can resist rocking out with Larry and Donovan to Thriller?  I mean, seriously!   At some point I accidentally hit some poor girl square on the head with a water bottle…okay, it wasn’t just some poor girl…it was the best man’s wife! =0  I say stupid things.  I sneak a fresh bottle of champagne from the back refrigerator and share it with the bridesmaids…Molly seems especially anxious for a fresh glass of bubbly.  Tiffany and Molly inquire about my life…specifically about my previous marriage and religious beliefs.  The can of worms has been opened!  Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately being intoxicated leads to semi-coherent answers.  My answer to their question concerning my current theology is especially vague.  I explain I am on a personal spiritual journey…Donovan concurs.  If I was sober I would have sufficient focus and clarity to explain my views much more succinctly; namely, that ‘love’ is my religion.  All great spiritual or religious movements, stripped of their procedures, hierarchies, doctrines, formalities, cultural adoptions, and agendas, are rooted in the precept of love: pure, simple, beautiful love.  So whether people worship Jesus Christ, Buddha, Allah, Ganesh, ancestral spirits, or Papa Smurf, what really matters is the condition and application of their heart.  My religion is love.  If I can one day review my life and say with confidence that I have let the virtue of compassion permeate every aspect of my life, become the driving force of my thoughts, emotions, words, and actions, and by so doing be of benefit and service to humankind, showing reverence to all forms of life…then I will be able to say my life was well-lived and worth living.  So….Tiffany and Molly, if you end up reading this blog, I hope this explanation better answers your original question.  =)   It appears I have gone off on a tangent…where was I?  Oh yes, the party!  It winds down around 11 as tables start being cleared.  Almost instantly the dance party turns into a clean up party.  I participate as much as possible, although still rather tipsy my help is marginal at best.  Finally I go inside to grab my backpack and find Angele’s voicemail about Grandpa Earl.  Instantly I sober up.  She says he is not expected to make it through the night… 

7/27/08

After dropping Gemma off at the airport, I make a quick stop to Starbucks to pick up uncle Philip’s complicated latte request.  When we spoke previously, I knew I wouldn’t remember and had him text the order.  I’m glad, because there is no way I would have gotten it right….skinny this, dolce that, lots of Splenda.   I show up to Grandpa and Joan’s home around noon.  I am prepared for the scene…but realize nothing really prepares you to see loved ones, who only a week earlier had their humor and wits about them, breathing in gargles, unconscious, and rapidly declining.  A few of Joan’s family members were there, along with Teri, Dave and Jeremy.  They had been there all night, and show signs of fatigue, both physical and emotional.  I sit down and take grandpa’s hand, unable to let go of it for the next two hours.  Philip comes back after a few minutes and is happy to see his favorite latte sitting on the bedside table.  Happy to see me too.  He really looks tired and worn out.  In the next few hours more people come and go.  I am one of them.  Realizing I haven’t showered in nearly two days, and anticipating a long night, I go home to shower and change, then head back.  The scene hasn’t changed much when I return.  Jenny and Sabrina stop by for awhile.  I have a nice chat with Jenny.  It has been a long time since…actually, we never really had a good conversation before.  I really have been socially detached from a lot of my family for a long time.  Chastity shows up after a while too, and now the house is full of people; the ambient noise level approaches my threshold.  The noise is bothering Philip too.  We both sit back down in the two chairs along side grandpa’s hospice bed, me running my hands over grandpa’s hair, and Philip holding his hand.  We look at eachother, both slightly annoyed at how loud the women are talking in the room of a dying man.  Eventually everyone leaves except for the night crew, consisting of Teri, Steve, myself, and ofcourse Joan.  Curling up on the loveseat, I successfully capture vignettes of sleep throughout the night.  At some point Steve pops his head out from the guest room, and then goes back to bed.  Teri stays up for most of the night, finally surrendering to the sandman on Joan’s upholstered rocker.  Realizing it is 4:30, I get up to look at his logbook to see when grandpa’s last dose of morphine was given.  Nearly three hours!  I squeeze half of the dropper into his mouth, the same dose as given last time, and sit down next to him in the quiet of pre-dawn.  Eventually I doze off again…I never was able to pull off all-nighters.  When I reawake Philip has come back, coffee is made, and another day of attending and waiting is before us.  I leave to run a couple of errands, and go for a run to clear my mind, arriving back around noon.  The hospice nurse had attended to grandpa in my absence, upping his morphine to a full dose, along with some other pain killer.  He said it was only a matter of time…could be a couple hours, could be a couple days.  Another hospice nurse was scheduled to come at 3, but shows up a half hour early.  Startled by her early arrival, Bonnie rushes to give grandpa another morphine dose before the nurse cleans and changes him.  A little too rushed, she spills the bottle and is trying to suck it back up with the dropper.  Jeremy and Teri are having some kind of communication breakdown regarding the other medicine, and Joan and the nurse jump in to see what’s going on.  This is too much for me.  I decide to take a seat in the back yard until the hospice nurse finishes her job and hopefully everything else calms down.  About 20 minutes go by.  I know the nurse is waiting for the morphine to kick in before doing anything with grandpa.  Occassionally looking up, I focus my attention to the book of short stories in my hand.  I am halfway through a story about a boy who is hit by a car and slowly drifting deeper into a coma, when Jeremy comes to the back door and ushers me in.  I hop up and he tells me in a voice masking all emotion that grandpa is gone.  Joan and Teri are crying.  The nurse looks a little uncomfortable, and wants to finish dressing him before anyone else arrives after hearing the news.  Teri and Joan are in the backroom making phone calls, so a couple of us help out the nurse.  Grandpa looks both vacant and peaceful.  More on the peaceful side after the nurse and I grab a small sofa pillow to support his mouth in a closed position.  Two emotions fill the house: relief and sorrow.  He is gone.

 8/10/08

Since I crashed at 2:30am…this morning, it is no surprise to me I don’t gain a semi-functional consciousness until around 10:30, and probably only because my bladder is screaming bloody murder. I take my time doing everything. No hurries, no worries, no schedule until the memorial service, and absolutely no pressure. It almost feels criminal to be so carefree…apparently the hectic, over-scheduled, frenetic lifestyle of the status-quo still exerts influence on my psyche. Waking up alone in Philip & Judy’s house is a nice respite. Even though the house is half empty of furniture and slightly disheveled due to final packing, I feel at peace. I slept on a real bed again…several nights in a row now. I am getting spoiled. Enough of this and I may develop an aversion to my sleeping pad…nah! I love that thing. As I walk down the stairs of this empty house with vaulted ceilings, late morning sun pours through the eastern windows at the back of the living room. What to do first? Who cares…plenty of time for everything. I move from one task to another, working only in the order in which I recall what needs to be done: move some small furniture down for Philip, change the porch lightbulbs, make and eat brunch, shower, laundry, gather and pack up belongings, and clean up the evidence of my temporary residence.

It is quarter after three when I arrive at Grandpa and Joan’s church. Not long after arriving I notice within myself a social awkwardness as I interact with family in this setting. I really don’t feel like engaging in endless small-talk today, so after being greeted by Mark & Susan, and saying a quick hello to Barbara, Bruce, & Renee, I fruitlessly scan the crowd for Angele’s face. Not here yet I guess. I take a 2nd row seat behind Jeremy and his family, glance at the program the girl handed me on the way in, and notice grandpa’s birthday is wrong…he was born in 1932, not 1922.

A few minutes before the service begins I see Angele and the kids breaking away from a conversation with Philip and flag her down. I must have cooties, because Ariel sits half in the chair next to me, and half in the next chair over. Everyone is ushered in, about 150 to 200 people in all I reckon, and the memorial starts. Across the aisle to my left are seated Mark, Philip, Teri & Dave, with Mark the closest. He is wearing his emotions unmistakably…understandably.

The first pastor gives a humorous, but endearing biography of grandpa’s life: boyhood on the share-cropping farm, military service, family, character. I had forgotten he was born with an extra thumb on each hand…my mom had told me long ago, but, well, that was long ago. I didn’t know he earned the boyhood nickname “Tuffy” after unknowingly drinking copious amounts of moonshine his older brothers gave him, more than they thought he could handle, and still being able to function. I also didn’t know grandpa worked two full time jobs to pay for grandma’s cancer treatment and to support their four kids. Why is it I am only learning about these things at his funeral?

Teri and Philip take the stage and start singing ‘It is Well With My Soul’. Their voices are beautiful, and peaceful. Instantly I am transported to mom and grandma Janet’s funerals 13 years ago, and only a week apart from each other…it was the last time I heard my aunt and uncles sing. I remember trying hard not to cry while wearing my dress blues…didn’t work. Snapping back to the present…

The second pastor follows the singing. He is very smiley….why so smiley? It is one of those manufactured smiles, like the ones you see in beauty pagaents and parades, unnaturally held in position while they do their equally ridiculous wrist to elbow wave. Oops, digressed again, where was I? His candor just seems out of place for a funeral…not that he should put on a Johnny-sad-sack face…but perhaps a more neutral expression, so as not to confuse a memorial service with a revival? I ponder this thought longer than it’s worth, and start tuning in to what he is saying. It isn’t long before I tune back out. I have no qualms with a Christian service, really…especially since grandpa was a very devout Christian, and I greatly respect how he let the positive aspects of Christianity guide his ethical core. What I have an issue with is hearing ‘Jesus’ 30 times in such a short speech. I am hearing Jesus this and Jesus that…seriously, there has never been a figurehead in the history of this entire world with more aliases than the man know as Jesus: Son, Savior, Christ, Redeemer, Lord, God, Jehovah, Eternal, I Am, the list goes on and on. Looking at this scenario from a purely verbal aesthetic, for a church leader to communicate a message deemed so important as to affect the eternal well-being of the listeners, wouldn’t you want to keep their attention by having the most effective literary speech prepared? You know? For example, how does this sound (for comparative value): I like fruit. Fruit is sweet and good. I eat fruit everday, because fruit is so fruity. Fruit is healthy too. Have you eaten any fruit today. Do you know how good fruit is? Don’t you want to eat fruit everyday too? Come over and we can eat a good fruit salad, maybe a fruit smoothy, or even be daring and have a double-fruity cobbler. …..okay, the horse is dead, I can stop kicking it now. Please don’t misunderstand my intent of sharing this opinion. I have nothing against the pastor speaking; although the fill-in-the-blank feel of the memorial is a bit disheartening.

Aiden is getting very restless, which is a nice diversion for my attention. The speech winds to a conclusion, and we commence singing 2 hymns. The audience is having a difficult time singing along with the pastor, who is leading with only his voice, and is not keeping an even meter, sort of like those remake songs I hear on the radio. The ones where it is obvious the artists want to distinguish their version from the original, and hold certain notes longer and whatnot. I am not presuming the pastor to be doing this, but for whatever reason, his singing is extremely difficult to match…even for the pianist.  Singing is done, and now another prayer.  Then…it’s over. Really? Over already… Something just didn’t seem right about this whole arrangement…something was missing…but what do I know?  Whatever it is continues to plague my mind as I socialize with family afterwards.  I can’t pinpoint it, but something is just wrong…it shouldn’t feel like this. I can feel my own awkwardness as I converse with everyone to both catch up on the latest as well as say my goodbyes. I am bad at saying goodbyes too, which contributes to the weirdness factor.

 

Walking out of the church and towards my car, I relish a breath of fresh air. I guess now it’s time to move forward. I have seen and experienced a variety of ends and beginnings these past couple of weeks: work, wedding, funeral; all of which have reinforced my understanding of life’s constant flux, and the necessity of recognizing and embracing change in all its facets. I am now fully ready to embrace and create a new chapter in this crazy realm I call my life…next stop: California…

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5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thanks for the link! I hope you keep up the writing.

Comment by Dan

Dan, thanks. I will be reading this on the plane today on my way to LA. Maybe meet you there?

Comment by irina

Your writing is always so entertaining – thanks for your blog link to keep everyone posted. 🙂

Comment by Angele

Dan, I love reading what goes on in that mind of yours. I hope you’re having a great time in Californina.. Don’t get too happy playing in the mudd ;p… Please keep us posted on your grand adventures…

Comment by Linda

dan, been meaning to check out your blog for a while now. i guess this means i finally checked it out. read the whole thing too. wasn’t going to, but you made it sound so intersting. it’s good to hear what you’ve been up to at least during the summer. just thought i would reply.

Comment by josh




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