Too Quickly, and So Slowly

I didn’t find my rhythm, but a rhythm found me. Practicing how to prepare meals, learning how to iron shirts and picking up on all of the things that Mr. Walton can’t accomplish in time, I was also building a pattern. It is the most considerate that I have ever been for anyone besides myself, in years.

Introduce more technology than he knows what to do with, but quickly leans to do well. Roku, Netflix, LG Tones to replace the guy who was always broadcasting calls from mom on speakerphone, the replacement parts he needs, the software to look in to his late wife’s locked iphone, the 3DS that admittedly sits more than gets used because ‘Mario is gay’ and ‘where are all of the shooter games’…I guess not everything translates.

Wake up when he does. Stumble downstairs and listen to ‘Breaking Bad’ playing from the den while you make a lunch. Put the food into the little dome-top, construction worker style box I found for him to replace the plastic sacks he had always used. Slip in a quote, this time, one of his own profound lines of wisdom.

“Fuckin’ A, swear to God.” –D.Walton

Feel happy when strangers approach you to compliment on the appearance of your couple hood, whether it’s because you ‘look cute together’ or because you’re bickering in a grocery store and everyone around you is laughing, insisting it’s love… then nonchalantly stroll off in to the void when he tells those people, who have just seen you enter their scene as a twosome, that his wife just died.

Oh, you must be the redheaded whore! It’s a pleasure to meet you.

Go with him to the radiology lab because he thinks his side pain could be cancer. Write in the journal, already filled with things about God’s love and the occasional torn out page, why you are there and about the TV show you caught Mr. Walton up on.

He enjoys ‘The Walking Dead’ and I believe it’s because people lose loved ones to a zombie outbreak and nothing is the same ever again – the tomorrow they anticipated is forever gone. I catch him wiping away tears as the main character, a sheriff, leads his pack of survivors through to the uncertain, unknown…

When I look at him I see a leader who is lost but a leader still. That’s why, when I see him struggle, I think, “Keep going, sheriff. I need you.”

Laugh with him later about how they neglected to tell him that the chalky sludge he was required to drink for his scan, would make him suddenly have to shit uncontrollably. In my car. Much later. In fact, we don’t laugh about that yet. His pride is an obstacle.

Take back a shirt because it says ‘fitted’ and he needs ‘classic fit’. Find better colors than the ones that Call Moms Cell selected from the Easter Parade Palette. When you get your schedule wrong and arrive at work too early, refuse to go home because you know his mother is there and still refuses to look upon you for the blasphemous way you came in to his life.

Drive aimlessly for hours, considering the concept of ‘home’, ‘hope’, and ‘worth it’.

“You don’t want to disrupt the balance of the universe. I love that about you,” he will offer, hearing of the afternoon I spent in hot parking lots, crying over how nothing ever seems to be working out.

When you warn him about the seemingly impending doom and he feels like you “threatened to leave”, find yourself speechless when he asks, “Notice anything different about the room” – and her photos are no longer on the mantle.

Act like you don’t notice, because you hadn’t. You were trying to look past them for months, anyway. Give him some credit and understand that he’s trying. Don’t push.

When you walk in to the formal dining room to water the plants, it takes a couple visits before you look up on the tall dresser and realize…the photos were never taken down. They were just moved.

Wonder if you ought to push harder, then…just don’t. You’re tired and officially know nothing, again.

Pick up the dry cleaning. Clean the house. Gather trash for him to push to the curb. Get better at ironing. Move some things around in the laundry room that cause him to bitch a fit, because he is neurotically obsessive compulsive, and have his mother insisting “that girl has an agenda, Danny. I KNOW it.”

She still doesn’t know that you have been sleeping in the same room. Always.

Try to look past the tacky Disney décor that She saw fit to put in every direction. Every Pooh bear, every silly, gaudy cartoon porcelain thing will be like he’s screaming ‘Team Dead Wife’. Pledge allegiance to The Mouse.

mickeyhat                                                    “Oh, Mickey, what a pity, you don’t understand.”

Let him take you out. Let him show you how to pick up the golf ball before the last hole swallows it and run over to the other side of the course and play more putt-putt for free. Roll your eyes when he says “Let me teach you something”, because he always says that, and love to hate him a little when he proceeds to make a hole in one.

Bring him to absurd places that he thought was beyond him. When the ‘Tiled Kilt’ waitress brings him a ‘blow job’ shot and everyone insists he takes it without using his hands, he will abide and they will all cheer. And when some of it proceeds to come out his nose on to the bar, they will cheer more loudly for him than before.

Smirk silently when you hear him say, “Mom, I can’t hear you; I’m at Hooters” and all you hear on the other end is Old Woman Screaming.

When he tosses the neighborhood picnic flyer away, pick it back up. Uncrumple it. Write a check for the two of you to attend and bring canned goods for Forgotten Harvest. When they call you and ask you to run the children’s games, say OK. Include Mr. Walton, who needs to get out and make friendly with the community. He will tug of war, speak through the megaphone, blow his whistle and everyone will love him for it.

You will bake a peach and pineapple upside down cake for the bakeoff and win that mother fucker. It will have to do with the power outage leaving many without ovens, but you made your entry ahead of time. You deserved to win, anyway.

princesses

When I saw the Disney towels in the other room, I suggested he give them to the little girls next door. This is them looking at their new reflections in the garage hutch.

Do so many things together with so much curiosity and good intention that he has to eventually admit that he is moving on, having fun and finding parts of himself that he had lost long before he lost anyone else.

When he’s off to work, open his closets and hold shirts up to ties until you coordinated a beautiful suit. Hang it on his bathroom door to save him a few minutes the following morning. When he asks where the ‘hook’ came from, you know he always means to ask if it’s something that came from you or something you found in his house of wonders.

Of the things that are yours – which he is slowly learning, are more than he realizes, answer, “I don’t remember. Too long ago.”

Wonder, when you see him moving on to the white coffee mug with black scrolls across the top, if he realizes that’s not another one of his late wife’s mugs that he has taken a custom to. It’s one of yours… but don’t ask him if he knows. When you feel brave enough to test and see, just say…

“That’s a really nice looking mug.” And decide in advance, when and if he says, “It’s my wife’s…”

How you are going to respond in this delicate relationship that flies by too quickly but changes so slowly, the two of you tend to overlook it.

Michigan Humane Society Mega March 2014

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Dear readers,

This is important to me.

I recently accepted the challenge to raise funds for homeless animals by participating in the Michigan Humane Society’s Mega March for Animals. Me and Daniel will be hauling our butts to Belle Isle with Duchess and Tess for the cause.

I would like to ask for you support, which will help animals directly by funding MHS’ life-saving services. These include sheltering and adoption, cruelty investigation, emergency rescue, and providing veterinary care for homeless animals.

Making a difference for animals and appeasing me is quick and easy – visit my dogs’ page at:
Autumn’s Humane Society Site

All donations are greatly appreciated, no matter the size.  Every dollar counts! Together, we will create a brighter future for thousands of animals in need, so they can go from Homeless to Loved. Please sponsor The Duchess and Lady Tessa. Comment and let me know if you were able to contribute so that I can send a proper thank you.

Thank you for reading,

-Autumn May-

That’s Not My Name

It was my idea, when he asked what he was supposed to say when the tenants asked who I was.

“Can I be Jane?”

And so his cousin Jane accompanied him to the property on Lighthouse Drive, and we walked around as Daniel realized that everything outside had gone neglected for the entire three year lease.

“That will have to be redone. This deck needs to be power washed. Look at all the dead shit. This was a beautiful tree…”

I worked, and I worked, and I worked like I had signed my life away. Not my home, not my idea of a good time, not my burden, not anything like the rest of what that town was doing for the Fourth of July weekend. I was on the ground in the kitchen scrubbing grime. Then I was taking a shovel to the root balls of hostas and hammering them apart, getting them properly divided and replanted. Meanwhile the lake was crowding with boats, jet skis and men standing in water to their waistline as they held fishing poles. I would see them all on our runs to Home Depot for tools, riding along with him, dirty, waiting to be whatever assistance he wanted.

Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t some kind of reward at the end of this.

“There’s just so much bullshit to catch up with Mom,” he said in to the phone. Always Bluetooth, always playing through the dash while he drives. ‘Say a command.’ ‘Call Mom Cell.’

“You and her shoulda gone out there every year, Danny-“

“She wouldn’t have come out here, Mom.”

By the time we were done Daniel was hungry. When he says we’re going out to eat, I don’t have the slightest disagreement.

He took me to a local Chinese place that he and his wife had frequented. When he looked down at the paper placemats he read the zodiac symbols for him and her.

I have a Chinese Zodiac, too, I thought to myself. I was starting to feel left out.

Later, during one of our unpleasant conversations he would reflect, “I’m sorry. I missed it.”

The Asian waitresses came over and recognized him. He relayed the news about his wife. He relays the news about his wife at every single opportunity, with every person he encounters. I don’t blame him – it’s just that it so happens to be every person I encounter as well, we when we’re together. We can encounter a lot of people. And it does begin to sound different towards the end of the day.

By the time we were done with our meal, he was standing at the counter talking with the staff and I found myself seated alone, watching everything as I always have, one world apart. I was nobody. I was just Jane.

Jane got really sad, hopped up and ran in to the bathroom to pull herself together. Jane fights with bouts of jealousy and depression because she’s the brilliant one who thought there was nothing wrong with letting her heart go to Daniel. I would suddenly seem different. I wouldn’t smile or look at him. I’d hold my head down or look out the passenger window until he made me tell him what was on my mind.

“Let’s not ever do that again,” he suggested on the drive home. I think I knew, even the moment I claimed it as my idea to be Cousin Jane, that it would only cause a problem. It reminded me of a song I had heard on the radio.

“So alone all the time at night
Lock myself away, listen to me, I’m not
Although I’m dressed up, out and all with
Everything considered they forget my name

They call me Hell
They call me Stacey
They call me her
They call me Jane

That’s not my name
That’s not my name
That’s not my name
That’s not my…name”

Maybe I just had to try to forget in order for me to remember.

There are a lot of things that Daniel planted of mine, at his home. He said that it would make me feel more comfortable, to have things of my own among things of theirs. He dug a lot of holes, because I lined my entire trunk with garbage bags and brought as much with me as I could.

We also shopped at a nursery together and picked out a few annuals to incorporate. Using some of my own things and mixing it with his, I filled several planters. Anything I’ve shared in the past doesn’t really compare to the creations on his property; it really is a difference of worlds. But I am trying to learn all of the time, how everything could possibly work together.

frog bikepot hostabox potnatural

sunpost

Sometimes it’s something simple that means a lot, like this pole I wanted to keep because the symbol means something to me.

shrub

This is my little shrub that now has accent rocks and better soil.

lilyss

pinklilz

My lilies are doing well, if not better than ever. I split them with my mom.

lantern

my lantern used to sit on concrete in a corner. It lights up at night.

greenrocks

this plant came from my mom and I think it looks good here.

begoniaheart

a begonia planter I bought; no matter how impossible it is to keep up with everything I still bought a new things because it made me feel better as I was moving.

cacti

in one of the dining rooms there are an awful lot of indoor plants; many of them from the funeral home. I have been rotating them, watering them and watching them grow. I want to try to space some of them out and replant a few arrangements, although it is always with a silent caution that I slip around, tending to these things, getting to know them.

rosegrowth

They have several rose plants that are not doing well, and several more that Daniel transplanted from a neglected rental house of his. He wants them to all be saved, as if in some way he can save a part of his wife. I have pruned them, fertilized them, watered them and disinfected them. Some of them are turning yellow while ones like this are spouting new growth. They are in shock, so many changing variables…it is a waiting process that makes me nervous sometimes.

One day we were out working together and he came over to where I was bent down, working on my arrangements. He brushed my dirty hair back with his hand and said, “Are you going to make me fall in love with you only to have you-“

I turned my chin away, breaking up the thought.

Rocks In the Landscape

When you’re picking up stones, there is no where to kneel.

I quickly realized this out under the hot afternoon sun with my pale, unprotected skin and not the single shadow of a tree in sight. Daniel had just landscaped along the side of one of his rental properties, a project along the way of many projects in a very long, hard day.

“Hey Autumn,” he always says when I am in the midst of completing something in the idea of him, “Can you come’ere a sec?”

Do I really have a second? I suppose all I have is an uncertain amount of time. Sometimes I worry about the time I lose for my tasks, accompanying him in his, but maybe I’m learning something about support. I stopped power washing his back deck and walked around the house.

“What do you think if I put those hostas over there, over here in this bed?”

The hostas wouldn’t have enough shade and they were overgrown, overgrowing as it was.

“How about we divide the day lilies.”

He practically breathes through his electronic cigarette, the drag and the long sigh I’m used to hearing before his sentences, “Alright.”

Such a long day. I got burned pretty badly and I was emotionally tired. Toward the end of what I personally refer to as my “shift”, Daniel had another suggestion for me.

“Hey, do you think you could just pick up those rocks out front and put them in this bucket?”

The previous tenants had dumped small gravel on to the front lawn, causing a mess. Simple enough, I should have believed, I looked out at that searing yard and I could not believe some of the predicaments I had willingly entertained at the request of this man. But they were what he wanted, what he believed mattered most – even if at the cost of his own well-being – so they were what I had to do. As long as I mentally and physically could.

These are our days, together. This is what we do. This is how we are.

When you’re picking up stones, there is no where to kneel. I laughed when I thought that to myself, the hard lumps in the grass digging in to my legs. And as I was reaching out, combing the soil, sweating, completing this task, the new residents pulled in and I heard Daniel shout excitedly to them…

“Come over here and look what I did.”

What I did?

“My wife would love this. I should have done this years ago. My wife would just love it.”

It is during moments like those, when I am pushed beyond my limit and tested to the fullest, that I understand why it is so highly advised to refrain from romantic involvement with a recent widow. It isn’t fair, that someone lost their life – but it also isn’t fair to feel how your heart’s desire would be happy only if their late spouse would spring up from the grave and fill in their ghostly, number one spot with flesh and bone again.

My image is instantly discarded. I am suddenly a fool, a mistress, an idiot. My chest begins to hurt and I wonder, what I could have to gain by being placed here by God. Did I owe the world more karma than I could have possibly restored if I wasn’t struggling now? Had I been selfish, had I walked away from too many things that I did not think would fail to follow me wherever I went?

Did I say goodbye to happiness? To time, to moments in the shade, to the peace I seemed to steal between the mundane things I called responsibilities?

Did I say goodbye to love?

Daniel teases me about everything, without reservation or consideration. Normally I welcome the challenge and I try to match the audacity. Today I said, after he had related the granola bar crumbs and abandoned yogurt lid on the counter as something only a breaking-and-entering-pig could have left (“I’m calling the police”)…

“So why do you always leave the empty toilet paper roll on, and the full roll on the sink? Why can’t you finish the task?” It was something I had observed on separate occasions, amusingly enough, and I always removed the cardboard and put the new one on for him. No big deal. It’s just something he’s done.

“You know what, Autumn,” he asked. It was the way he wasn’t really asking me anything. It sounded like putting on gloves. Rolling up sleeves. Picking up stones.

I am the hardest person on myself. I am not my biggest fan, although I know I ought to be. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I endure these rollercoaster days filled with grievance. Consoling. Suggestion. Accompaniment. Support. Affection. Tears. Survival. Work. Maybe I lack the self-respect, but I will tell you something. My name still means something to me. And the tone in his voice, when he said ‘you know what, Autumn’… it hurt. And I will be dammed if someone else takes my name, after everything I’ve been doing, and uses it like that.

When you’re picking up stones, there is nowhere to kneel.

He said, by means of a heated lecture, that the toilet paper was left on the sink because his life is over once he goes back to his teaching job in the fall and the seconds it had taken to complete the change were decidedly lopped in order to tackle the even bigger, more impossible, heart-wrenching duties that drowned his soul that day, that week, that month, etc.

I was just pushing back, mirroring the granola crumbs. He was supposed to call me a bitch and we were supposed to go back in to the living room and sit down together.

“You don’t have a clue. (insulting) You’ll see, if you last that long (I can’t believe you just said that), when I’m working, how hard I have to work.”

I stood in the kitchen, wiping the counter tops after a meal I had prepared for on his behalf, and I listened to many things I had heard before. About the absence of free time. The loathing and the misery. This man is surrounded by a lifestyle that he has, in part, created. I do not waste my sympathy on his decisions no matter how they have dominoed and snowballed with time. I listened to his speech, to the way he said my name, and my mind went back to the stones.

I felt the bucket getting pretty full.