Fin in a Waste of Waters

"These moments of escape are not to be despised. They come too seldom....Leaning over this parapet I see far out a waste of water. A fin turns....I note under 'F.,' therefore, 'Fin in a waste of waters.' I, who am perpetually making notes in the margin of my mind for some final statement, make this mark, waiting for some winter's evening." (from Woolf's THE WAVES)

15 October 2007

My amazing life, remembered by my grandchildren

The morning after the day I die, my grandchildren will gather in my house. They will gather in my kitchen and drink tea from colorful, mismatched cups accumulated over years, using the leaves left in bright ceramic pots. Someone will have brought coffee, and mixed cinnamon in the grounds the way I will have for him when he used to for him whenever he visited. Sun will stream through the windows; there will be no tears on this morning. My grandchildren will have visited me in my home often, and each will drink from their own "special" cup, the cup that he or she has always drunk from when visiting. They will gather in the kitchen, some at the table, some on the floor, some on chairs pulled in from the dining room. My grandchildren will be many. Once they are settled, once they have their drinks, someone, the wife of my eldest grandson, perhaps, will begin: "She had such an amazing life..." There will be no regrets: no one will say, "I only wish I would have known her better." They all will have gotten to know me, and I them. Old photos will be brought to the table; stories will be recalled and recounted, stories that I will have told them, stories that Rasheed will have told them; and many stories that my mother will have told my children, their parents, who will have then passed on to them.

They will recall a story my mother told her grandchildren when they first learned to ride bikes: she will tell them the story of their mother and her little yellow tricycle, which she raced over and over again all the way down the long hill of her parents' nursery, only waiting for her mother, by then 8 months pregnant with the son who would become Daniel, then Danny, then Dan, and finally, "Lil' Bro,'" to come and carry it back uphill, and she would race it down again. Until one day, when the front wheel of the little bike got caught, perhaps a stone or a rut, and its rider, who could have only be just over 2 years old, went flying over its handlebars and face-first into the dirt. My mother, of course, started down the hill - until her daughter, to the horror of Ben, an employee of the nursery working nearby, stood up, stood her tricycle back upright, mounted again, and rode it at full speed down the rest of the hill! When she reached me, my mother understood the look of horror on Ben's face: my own was covered in dirt. She will tell the story to my own children when they learn to ride, and they will laugh at their silly mother, but when the time comes, they, too, will tell the story to their own children. And on this morning, my grandchildren will laugh at their silly grandmother. Someone will add between breaths: "Oh, she was so stubborn! Such determination."

This word will render the room silent, each occupant surrendering to his or her own memory. My youngest granddaughter will stand, wander the room, opening and closing cabinets, drawers, looking through my things. She will touch the tips of my knife set - "She always took such good care to keep them sharp..." - my tea kettle - "green tea, every day" - and she will open a drawer of utensils, take out an old wooden spoon, still smooth, carved from an olive tree. "Paris," she will say to the room, holding it out to Daniel, named after his father, in turn named after their great-uncle their grandmother's brother. Daniel is the cook in the bunch; and all will know that the spoon with all of my recipes was meant for him. "They got it on the first trip together to Paris," the room will recall. "It was her birthday. She had just finished two term papers at SUssex, come home that night and thrown a party - they packed the next morning and ran to the train station - theirs was delayed, anyway." They will laugh. Remember: "he brought her a croissant and orange juice every morning in bed while they were there. How they loved..." They will recall my travels, beginning with the move to London - "She was so young...only, what? 22? 23?" They will decide on 22. "Leaving everything she knew behind for him. So brave."

"Yes, she was." They will repeat. Their grandmother, who fought a brain tumor at the age of 20 and its recurrence at the age of 24 - during college; during her first year in a PhD program. "So brave." They will repeat, not with sadness, but with the fullness like that which comes from having eaten a good meal, a nutritious meal, a deep-seated joy in the life of their grandmother.

She lived in London and Brighton and California, saw Paris, Budapest...and later, Ireland, Istanbul, India, Africa, Japan, Canada. And so many more. They will go through my rooms, dividing among themselves the pieces from these places. They will not know it until days later, but in these pieces, their grandmother will have tucked little notes, scraps - written memories not yet divulged of these travels. Last will have been one more trip to London, a visit to see friends, and to see the places that were friends themselves. Oxfam and Apostrophe were gone, they recall, but not the building at 69-71 Queensborough Terrace. "But she could not bear to go in," a granddaughter will recall from our last conversation over tea, "she could not bear to see it changed. It will be, to her, always their first home, full of books, tea-stains on the arms of the couch - all her doing, of course."

They will roam my house, thumbing through my books. They will come to, tucked away in the bottom corner of a shelf, those written by their grandmother herself. They will pull them out: all will know who has read them, and who not (the younger grandchildren, who will look sheepishly at their shoes). Laughing, understanding, the elder will distribute them amongst the younger. Their names will be inscribed in the early pages, in the plot itself sometimes. They will study my picture in the back jacket leaf, my picture, together with Rasheed, high above the noise of the streets on our plant-filled balcony, progressively older with each subsequent book, but invariably happy, at peace. "How they loved..." My grandchildren will repeat, murmuring, fingers pressed against the picture.

Finally, they will find my first pair of dance shoes. They will still fit. "A dancer up 'til her last days," one of my grandsons will smile. Dancing everywhere she lived, and starting groups where she could not find them. "A dancing spirit, a dancing soul, she always said she had," my granddaughter whom I taught to dance will say. New dancing shoes for every birthday - she wore them out as quickly as I. They will burn me in my first pair of shoes at the crematorium; I will dance with them at the wake. Each grandchild will take a portion of my ashes to a place where I have lived, and in this way, my grandchildren will never be alone in the world, regardless of where they go. "What an amazing life she led," they will breathe, letting my dust go on the wind, into the sea, into rivers. "How she loved."

26 September 2007


Or rather: rrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn. Because that has been the high-pitched whine I've been listening to all morning. Never have I lived anywhere where they were so anal about keeping up the appearance of the lawn. Every day or so is there a team of men with lawn mowers, weed-whackers (don't know if that's the official name; it's what my dad calls it, so official enough), and blowers paroling our community and disrupting the morning peace. Not only my community's & my morning, but my character's morning - ironically, I am rewriting the nursery portion, and have been laboring at the early morning (ie, quiet & peaceful) opening scene. I have headphones (to little avail), green tea, and am trying to breathe myself into the stillness of his morning....

And the whine raises a pitch.

(I'm allowed to complain sometimes, right? At least they'll in all probability be out there when I'm working on the rototiller parts - LOUD parts... But right now, I just want them to go take lunch.)

16 September 2007


Last night, cooking for Rasheed & myself, I realized (not simply “thought,” but fully, forcefully [mentally, spiritually, bodily with every ounce of marrow] realized) that God has given us everything we need for health and happiness. I have more and more frequently in the last few years felt an increasing thankfulness for the good - nurturing, protective, healing, restorative qualities - in the foods God has given us, but last night, pausing over my dinner prep - the range of greens in the wakame, the asparagus, the green cabbage; the clean country rain-wet scent of the freshly cut carrots and the zing of the ginger - was the first time that I felt this staggering gratitude for what God (or Great Spirit, Allah, Yhwh, Supreme Being, Brahma or whatever name you know Him, Her by, speakable or not) has given us. Staggering gratitude, but sadness, too: God has given us everything we need, but we have pushed for more, we have thrown the balance off, poisoning ourselves with pesticides, GMOs, etc. While I have now more than ever tried to eat organic for my health, hoping to avoid these contaminants, it has until last night been science. Last night, it became an understanding of God's gift: He has given me everything I need to restore my health. And I thought: "this is Thanksgiving." Every day, every meal, I will approach with thanksgiving.

14 September 2007

An Open Letter to Zohreh Sullivan

12 September 2007

Dear Zohreh,

I’ve been meaning to write you for about a week now (the words were already coming to me as we sat across from each other at Espresso Royale), but then I had my doctor’s appointment the very next day, and this, with the move to California, has thrown off my writing, understandably, I suppose, though I feel that it is during these times when I should be writing, recording, remembering.

And the same for my dissertation/thesis: I was so exhausted by the writing of it that I still haven’t written about its writing, which is what I so wanted to tell you about at Espresso if we’d had more time – but it works out, because now I might write it to you instead of wasting my words by frittering them all away on talk (so ephemeral). Now that I’ve found a post office not too far from me, though, I can write it to you.

I wanted to write to tell you about the sheer intensity of writing about Woolf, an intensity that I had never tapped into until now (with the exception of a paper I wrote on Katherine Mansfield & “Bliss” – but that was an intensity so close that it terrified me, and I shied away from her, leaving the piece as “breathless” as its subject. Writing about Woolf, however, this intensity became rather a calm center of extreme focus, a gathering of fragments, a comfortable closeness (reading her letters and diaries, I began unconsciously to think of her as Virginia, or sometimes, if I was feeling particularly protective of her, as “my Virginia”). I realized towards the end of te writing process that (though I’d already had many undesirable interruptions during the summer) I was purposefully slowing my writing down, procrastinating not by avoiding the work but by sinking more deeply into details. I was reluctant to let either it or Virginia go; I regretted turning in what had nurtured me (if it tortured me at times) for nearly two years. (Luckily, I saved one of her novels, Flush, to read later, and carried it with me here to Irvine so that though there may be geographical disconnect, there is no severance.)

So while understanding the dangers of identifying with one’s topic (especially a subject like Woolf), I nevertheless allowed myself (or imagined?) an understanding with her, quiet, tender at times, undramatic (unlike the identification I imagined myself to have with Mansfield, which was destructive, frightening – like clinging desperately with no saddle nor reins to the slick back of a black horse who races through a lightless vacuum you know is Time; Limited Time; 5 year’s Time – while I loved her and her writing, working on her cut too close, fed my fears, would have been my collapse [here, I wanted to write “death,” but that seemed too dramatic a word]). In Virginia, however, I identified a quiet strength, a balance, a knowing guide. While writing her, I dreamed her, along with the Wars identified in her writing. During this year, these were the major moments:

An email from D.S., my first love before Rasheed (a young love – D. was a conservative who didn’t believe the ERA should be passed, but somehow he still managed to love my feminist tenacity – it was an inexperienced love that didn’t survive the year of my illness and finally the removal of the tumor in ’04, but everything for a reason – perhaps I wouldn’t have found Rasheed otherwise!). Years ago, when D. & I were still dating, I dreamt that he went to fight in the war (this must have been just before or just after Bush invaded; this of course is the ever-constant weight that bore on the writing of my diss.). In this dream, he was leaving for the service, and we stood facing each other on a wooden train platform (dusty & the color of his neatly pressed uniform – like he had never worn it before) saying good-bye. I knew in the dream I would never see him again; I knew it, and gripped his head between my two hands & sobbed, despite his calm, even slightly amused, reassurance: “It’s going to be okay. I’ll be fine.” Up until this point in our relationship (‘02-03), he hadn’t mentioned enlisting in the military. In fact, it wasn’t until years later, when I was living with Rasheed in London, that I heard from Dan that he was going into the service. I immediately recalled that dream. I phoned him the night before he left home for training to wish him luck, but didn’t tell him about the dream. I haven’t seen him since before I first moved to London, and indeed, had not even heard from him since he left, until, a couple of months ago, in the midst of writing about Virginia (and about Virginia writing about war), there was an email from him.

Then, the aeroplanes. This was nearly constant. During the summer, there were a number of air shows around Brighton – new planes & antique, show planes & trick planes. Again and again do the war planes appear in Woolf’s diary, droning over London and Monks House (she wondered that a bomb didn’t drop right through the glass ceiling of her writing house), sawing the air – it seemed as though as she wrote it, so, too, I read it – these lingering sounds (which are right now, appropriately, perhaps, if anticlimactically, the high whine of a force of lawn mowers and weed whackers driven by a team of lawn care workers attacking our grad housing grounds!).

And the death of my grandfather, a World War II veteran of the Navy. At such a distance from him, I wasn’t sure if I’d lost him at all, or if perhaps I hadn’t actually lost him already, long ago, before my birth, before the birth of my father (his son) even. If he wasn’t always-already lost to me, a casualty of the war. I dreamt the night I learned of his death that he had died in that war, yet somehow, I still existed, and more, was still his grand-daughter.

Finally, a visit to Monks House. Rasheed & I went together during his most recent visit (we went, too, to Hogarth House in Richmond). We went to see the House, their bedrooms, the balcony where she installed a telescope, the gardens where he planted & dug & declared famously that these plants would still be growing long after Hitler was dead, the small house with the glass roof where she wrote most mornings from 10 to 1 at a great butcher’s block table. I used the outhouse there just for the joke of it – the house has an indoor toilet which Virginia was so excited to have installed after Mrs. Dalloway sold so well, but now that the house has new owners, all visitors must use the outbuilding. Then, we decided to rest & relax outside for awhile as the weather had finally turned nice again (the sun came & went with Rasheed this summer), and R. let me choose out of all the gardens and lawns where we would sit. I chose a small, semi-secluded garden with a square lily pond in its center. We rested there on the grass for a time, then left the house to explore the churchyard on the other side of the fence dividing the property of “the Woolves” from that of the church, where/when I realized I had forgotten to ask where the ashes of Virginia were buried (I knew that they were buried under one of the two great trees the Woolfs had nicknamed “Leonard” and “Virginia,” but also that those trees have since come down). So we went back to the house, and asked directions which led us back to the same garden where we had rested, even to the very same side of it where we had sat. Approaching this garden a second time, I felt an overwhelming awe for this woman, and gratitude for the understanding I had been granted during my writing. Perhaps here she had found peace in life and now after; perhaps it was the sense of that peace that led me here years later.

There were, of course, other dreams (R. & I, war refugees, in danger still, running through the night, through gunfire) and many, many other moments (seeing the portrait of the son she lost to war which Vanessa had hung over her bed at Charleston), but these were the four main things.


22 August 2007


First, apologies for my long absence - it's the dissertation (UK)/thesis (US) grind, so I've been exhausting all of my creative energy on this paper, and have been going to sleep too dry to dream, it seems.

Until last night, when I dreamt I was cleansed. Of what, I'm not sure, but I know that I needed it. In the dream, I wandered I don't know where, until I found myself unknowingly inside of one particular building, directionless yet somehow knowing I had meant to be there. I don't think it was a church - if so, the sanctuary was hidden deep in its body - but it had the feeling of a church: all of the rooms had the feeling of not being a center in themselves but of centering instead around some much more important heart. I was met by an old-ish woman, a starched grey dress that buttoned stiffly over full stout breasts; thick, soft gray hair pulled into a knot at the back of her head; glasses; a gentle touch and discerning brown eyes that yet did not probe. She called me "dear." A nurse or an angel? - I didn't know. But a healer. She took me by one arm - light fingertips on my elbow - to a room where I could put down my bags. Then to another, grey like her, but darker. The only light from a high window, white sunlight. Below it, a deep stone & steel basin. A bath. She bid me undress. With no need for shame, but with exhausted arms and back, I removed piece by slow piece & put them in a heap, where, in the light of the window, they seemed to skulk like a small dirty animal - and I pitied them. I climbed into the bath & sat on one of its stone steps. She sat next to me with a nozzle in her hand, waiting patiently for the water; I asked, my limbs already trembling with chill: "Will it be cold?" She smiled down on me, "No, dear." And then, not with a gurgle or splash, the water came, a vital clear silent stream that she washed over my shoulders, my arms and my back; down my legs; and finally, over my head. She adjusted my head away from her, so that the right side (the bruised and bumped; the once-poisonous side) tilted up towards her. The water ran down it, soaking my hair and tingling on my skull; and she ran her hand again and again over that side, the third of the three most-sincere, most-intense & intensely-needed moments of touch I have had there (the first, in my fiction; the second, a friend, drunk). That someone would love that ugly, scary place. Then she shut the tap off, and took my hand, helping me up the slippery stone steps, water rushing, coursing in one clear cataract from my hair down my back down my buttocks down my calves. She gave me a towel, a white shift to wear. My skin was alive with cold, almost painfully alive to the rough-cotton feel of this short shapeless dress. She took me to another room, also grey, but lit with florescent lights, empty (though I implicitly felt the presence of other women in that building) but for a few brown couches whose rough brown covers scratched the backs of my legs when I sat on them. There, I would fast for the remainder of the day. There, she left me. And I felt my body clean, alive.

(Ironic, because I now go to make a cup of coffee to get going on the diss this morning after what was initially a perfect, beautiful, whole night, into which Rasheed threw a stone as into a pool...)

22 July 2007

Chasing down the Dance

Last night, one of those moments of beauty which life delivers at the most unexpected moments, one of those moments of complete understanding between complete, disparate even, strangers... A seemingly undeserved moment of reprieve that has come during unrelenting medical antagonism and academic stress; during flatmate (who has not yet forgiven me for missing part of her birthday; but I have faith in her goodness) & boyfriend (who has forgiven me) alienation; during this time of starvation when I have no time nor resource to refuel my exhausted mind, when tango even ceases to give me peace as my body fades, when what I crave most is to sit quietly, even silently, with good friends across a table of good food and let their presence fill the cracks in my own. Despite my downfalls, last night, life fed me -

I went (a wrecked ship), last night, to the Blues Brothers show at the Royal with my boss, who apparently asked me along because a) I'm as close to Chicago as he's ever gotten, and b) he knew I would dance with abandon, which I of course did - for the entire 3 hours. This latter meant leaving our cramped seats in the center of the stalls & moving to the side aisle where we wouldn't block our (incredibly disgruntled) neighbors' view & where we could actually dance. Out there, I met a couple of guys who actually work with the show (one, a 15-year-old, has been traveling with the Bros. for 12 years & will be the "new Jake" when the current Jake retires - what amazing lives people live!) - when they learned I was from the Chicago area AND danced swing/blues, I was named a "soul brother" & duly included in their previously double side-act.

Out there, I also noticed a young man, sitting with his father on the edge of the row, right on our aisle, with Down syndrome. A young man whose unadulterated rapture with the show, the music, the lights captured me (esp. after the late-middle-aged British priggishness of our row - "You know you've given up your seats for good now!" they snapped at us as we excuse me'd and apologized our way over their knees between songs). It was so pure - the entirely unselfconscious smile on this man's upturned face - such happiness - suddenly everything else seemed so unimportant next to this.

But one thing. As the music got louder, more and more people stood to rock & clap to the rhythm - except this man. He sat, rooted in his seat, hands gripping its arms; he still smiled, but occasionally, I saw conflict flit across his eyes. It wasn't until I saw him see me that I understood: I tapped into some of my swing footwork, my black&white saddle soft-shoes flashing - and I saw his eyes follow my feet up the floor and down again, and then - sensing I'd caught him watching - he looked into my face, and he grinned - I could only grin back - I understood. I didn't stop dancing the rest of the night, and waited to meet his eye again and again to smile again and again at him -

Until he at last stood up from his seat. He started slowly. He stood. He let his arms drop at his sides at first, then swayed them back and forth a bit, his smile tightening in concentration. Then his brown eyes wandered over to me again. I started rocking back and forth to the music, clapping first on the left and then on the right - and he rocked with me, to the left and to the right. And suddenly we hit the rhythm together - left, clap; right, clap - and his grin came back, and mine. By the time they closed with "Everybody needs somebody to love," he didn't even need me anymore, only the music.

And when the curtain dropped and as he was leaving with his father, he stopped to shake my hand, but I felt so much more that I should be shaking his for reminding me again of that unadulterated joy in dance, that connection (so strange yet so perfect that a complete stranger standing several feet away from me should do this), and that peace that comes when you finally chase it down, all the way down to the end of the world which you find suddenly, unexpectedly, is at your innermost center...

16 July 2007

A public elegy

An email from my mother early this morning (GMT)/late last night (central time): my grandfather died. A multiplicity of reactions:

The first, to do unthinkingly what I had to do this morning. A strange blurring of time and place and lives. The first thing I had to do was go to the hospital this morning, but for my own unresolved (and seemingly unresolvable; I mystify my doctors; I will have to go for more tests) medical issues. I ducked soundlessly out of the dark hushed flat, already running (literally) late for my appointment, roommates still sleeping, even Jess's cough quiet finally, and into the purgatorial fluorescent hall, elevator, finally plunging out the back door of the building into the cool grey day, still quiet and surprisingly clean for Brighton - perhaps there was rain last night, rinsing the car exhaust and bar fumes from the streets? I hurried out the gate, where I ran past Ray, the insufferable day porter (a bit of background: the man comes to our flat to shout at me [last, when our tap was dripping and I was concerned for the waste of water] & threatens that he'll have no more maintenance complaints from our flat; confrontations with him have triggered seizures in me, and so generally I avoid what I consider a presence noxious to my general well-being, though sometimes the inevitable encounter, such as this morning...) - he makes some comment on the morning, I don't even understand what, I nod my head as a response, hardly looking, and keep my stride. He shouts something at me, something rude and uncalled for, I can tell by his voice, though I still cannot process language yet... I turn and shout at him: "My grandfather died this morning!" I shock myself, there on the street, blurting it out - shouting it - to Ray - how funny, after everything, that Ray, intolerable Ray, is the first person I should tell. And funnier still: when I look, I find sympathy in his face. I've lost use of my language again; I put on my big dark glasses (indispensable for every doctor's appt, to the point where I pack them the night before) despite the clouds & run off for the bus. By this point I have a near-silent Rasheed on the phone; I've told him the news; I get nearer the bus stop: it's closed for construction. Having no idea where the next closest stop was and knowing I'd never make it to the hospital in time if I walked, feeling so pressed for time, and feeling, somehow, too, the press of mortality, I ran to the nearest cab corral & threw myself in the backseat of the first in line. At least it was quiet here; I could hear Rasheed on the phone now, at least his silence, and I felt for just a moment that he could help somehow, if I could tell him what I needed; I filled him in on the details, but when I had run out of them, and we lapsed into silence, I realized, looking at the brown and grey brick buildings go by outside, the futility of it - and so I arrived at the hospital to meet one of my doctors, and there found a waiting room full of old men, dying men, men in wheelchairs and men who slouched skeletal in cramped waiting room chairs pushing their dentures in and out of slack gums, and one old man who had come along with his middle-aged daughter & waited for her when she was called in to the office (he stood when she stood; "Are you fine waiting here, Dad?" she asked, and he sat) - and none of them were him - it was as if I had rushed to the hospital to be with him before he died, and I was too late - then, suddenly, I had no idea what I needed, if anything at all.

I was directed to another waiting room, where two old men were the only other occupants. They sat together - friends? They joked like they were, but maybe it was a generalized brotherhood amongst old men; maybe there is a universal language amongst old men who find themselves in hospitals (whereas we young people keep quiet as to cover ourselves from the curious, pitying stares of the old). I took out my book, but began to think instead. The nurse called me; I didn't understand my name; she called again. When I went to her, the men smiled kindly at me. I gave her the information she needed, sat back down, put my book away, and let myself think instead...

He is not the first I have lost since being here. It's so surreal a loss, the loss you will never know because you were not physically there to experience it. In a way, it is no loss at all. Mr G, Steve, Cookie (though she was a dog, she counted as human, at least counted herself as such), and now Pop - they all are both doubly lost (because even the losing has eluded me) and not lost at all to me - there is no closure. Pop will be the first for whom I write a "public" elegy. So, too, will we here give him our own service - a service on the sea, because he served in the Navy during the Second World War.

But it is important to avoid sentimentality. Pop and I had by no means an ideal grandparent-grandchild relationship. We saw eye-to-eye on very little, if on anything at all aside from our mutual love for my mother's Christmas sticky buns. There was his sexism; there was his racism. There was his joke about the old telephone he had picked up in a ruined Japan during the war which now sits on my father's bar; pointing to the Japanese characters on its face, he asked: "You think it says Jap-bell?" A joke my father has appropriated as his own. There was the day my mother had to physically drag me from the room after I had disagreed with him about something: it was not my place to argue with him, she chastised me; besides, she continued, he was old and too set in his ways for me to change him.

But, as he aged further & I matured, our relationship - or at least my feeling for him - softened. He softened, even so much so that I felt safe introducing Rasheed to him. I began to spend a few hours beside my grandmother on their couch before each "leaving" (whether to Champaign or Savoy or London or Brighton-via-London) going through old photographs. But more, I began to identify somewhat with him. My grandfather was one of those tough old bastards who just don't die. Though understanding it as inevitable, I think I never quite believed he would. After surviving heart attacks and heart surgeries (yes, that's plural), he kept on. In his 70s, he took up roller-skating. In his 80s, he was still driving. After my own surgery, I began to understand what this meant in a way that I couldn't as a child, when his surgeries actually happened (though his scars running purple and snakelike down his white chest chilled me as a child when we all went swimming in Sunday Lake; I suddenly recall him standing waist-deep in water, putting the pier together at the beginning of one summer). Against all bodily probability, he continued to live. And not only live, but do. He continued, after his surgeries, for many years, to take trips up to Sunday Lake with the family, where he fished & sometimes swam (and largely, sat in the sun or at the campfire, ate, drank, & generally enjoyed life). Mortality, be damned!

I recall my last meal with him. Beef-a-Roo (for all of the Illinois natives) at the last house he and my grandmother lived in together before she moved to her own apartment and he was put in a home as she was unable to take the care of him that he needed. He had onion rings, and tempted me to eat them with him; I ate the fruit salad my grandmother & I made together. (Mortality, be damned, up until the last!) We ate off paper plates. I teased him ("Have you been behaving?" "You know I'll hear about it if you're up to your tricks!") - as so many old men like to be reminded of their scruffy boyish glory days, making him smile and laugh his worn-out laugh. I told him about my plans for England, shouting, so that he could hear me, but I don't think he paid too much attention. I wondered where his mind was: maybe revisiting his own trip to England (one of a few, I think), decades ago? He had come on business, with my grandmother (the trip that gave her all her ammunition to protest very vehemently against my coming; better to stay at home, get married, and have children) - they had driven "on the wrong side of the road" with one of Pop's work friends who "drove way too fast!" and who had in a restaurant ordered my grandmother a "just terrible" dessert, "thinking he was giving her a real treat" - said she. I wondered what Pop remembered - I realize now I'll never know. I wonder what streets he wandered here; what pubs he drank in with his work buddies (because I know he would have). But, leaving that day - I stood on the step, in the doorway, to look back one last time - he was unable to stand up from the table, and I looked back into the room, into his face, and into his eyes which were suddenly a bright, clear, blue - the bluest I had ever seen them, as if a light beamed through them; it lit his entire face which was suddenly smiling ever so slightly, childlike, but knowing. And standing there on the step, looking back into his eyes for what must have been only a few seconds but felt like long minutes, I knew then that it was the last time I would see him.

Though there are so many other things (his 50th wedding anniversary; summers at the house on Belvidere; the war; the painting) - I will end here for now. There will always be more to be said, and somewhere, another elegy by the sea, a novel, I will say it.