Posts tagged ‘Pennsylvania’
November 29, 2011
I think of the piercing ring of the rotary phone: the wake-up call in the heavy-draped darkness of our room at The Holiday Inn.
This is Oil City, Pennsylvania, halfway to my Mom’s hometown in Ohio where we journeyed most summers of my childhood.
This morning, I thought of those trips, those first moments after waking, my sister and I sharing the double bed next to my parents. I hear Dad grab the phone from its cradle, groggily but politely muttering, “thank you” to the operator, clumsily replacing the receiver. I remember his eyes, slightly swollen with sleep, his sheet-creased face. I remember the sound of running water, as he showered, then shaved, brushed his teeth, and combed his hair, in his underwear and dark socks.
I think of the sounds and face he made when he splashed on his aftershave, a combination of “brrrrr” and a groan, a shake of the head, a furrowed brow, a wink thrown over his shoulder to me, and done. I remember he was ready before any of us, strategically packing the car to accommodate the largest amount of stuff. I remember his hand on the top of my head, warm, heavy, steady, as we walked into the coffee shop for breakfast and continued down the road.
April 6, 2011
I’ve written a number of posts about my Father. His life and death have served as my lens since that day in July, 2009. I talk and write about my Dad because it helps, because honestly I think I might go crazy if I didn’t. It’s also a way to keep him part of my life.
I worry sometimes about talking about him “too much.” Worry that friends and family will grow weary of me and my occasional tears. The other part of me thinks, why do we ever stop talking about those we’ve lost?
I’ve negotiated and endured grief the past year and eight months since he died. I’ve read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, and you should too, by the way. I’ve had long conversations with friends, colleagues and acquaintances about people they’ve lost. I’ve even asked friends to write about their grief. Maybe there’s a book in here somewhere for all of us.
I’m always fascinated with each person’s grief, as unique as their fingerprint and just as beautifully complicated.
Here again, is some of mine, from a journal I keep. Thank you for reading, and please feel free to share your thoughts.
March 22, 2011
Grief is not orderly – it follows a path only it knows. Talking to a friend the other day about her Dad’s dementia, I told her about the day we left Dad at Birchhaven. I use the word “left,” because that’s what it felt like to me. I felt as if we abandoned him. I felt as if we did what he said as my Dad he would never do – leave. I wish I could forget the way he hung his head when Steve so calmly explained things. I wish he hadn’t seemed so lucid that day – that it didn’t seem like the world’s biggest mistake to leave him in someone else’s care. There’s nothing natural about leaving your Father behind like that. It was the worst day of my life. Worse than laying my head on his still-warm chest after he died. Worse than imagining him in the frozen ground. Worse because I feel like we broke him. Worse because we have to find a better way to care for each other than this.
March 29, 2011
Dad’s birthday. He would have been 82 today. A terrible night’s sleep. Up at 5 am and cried over coffee. Huge spider in the bathroom that I caught with a glass and plate and put outside. I sang my heart out to Adele on the way to work. Korean for lunch with the boys. Ate bee bim bop – rice, five kinds of veggies, spicy pork. Delicious. Tried a taste of red bean ice cream. Lovely with a slight chocolate flavor. Will tells hilarious (though alarmingly awful) story of a centipede he encountered while living in Hawaii. They are large and move as if on ball bearings. Listened to Purple Rain on the drive home. Called my brother to talk about Dad and asked him for a story.
When Steve was 13, we spent a few weeks on North Lake. One day, Steve, Dad and Grandpa Ray took out the neighbor’s aluminum fishing boat. Three quiet men; lines in the water. Grandpa Ray suddenly passes gas, and the sound reverberates so much in the aluminum boat that Dad looks up and says, “Did you say something, Ray?” Without missing a beat, Grandpa says, “I said, ppfffffftttt!” mimicking the sound of his own gas. Steve cracks up with laughter and our Puritan father who never felt comfortable acknowledging bodily functions, blushes red with embarrassment.
Later, I kill an enormous bug, obliterating it to pieces. Which reminds me of how I relied on Dad, because he was the killer of bugs. The righter of wrongs. That evening, friends send me text messages telling me they just toasted Dad with a bit of whiskey. Little by little, I find ways to celebrate him.
April 6, 2011
Yesterday, I spoke with two friends at work about the moment he died. I talked about how surprised I was at how quickly after he died that he no longer “looked” like himself, how it has assured me all the more that our bodies are vessels for the energy, spirit or soul within.
I say that, though it’s nearly impossible to parse, because it’s their flesh and blood, hair, skin, laughter, smell that we miss. In the thick of life, body and soul are hopelessly, undeniably tangled. We forget where one begins and the other ends.
As I finished the story, one of my friends began to cry – and immediately began apologizing. Then, I apologized for upsetting her. And we all struggled for a moment: she embarrassed; me apologetic; the other friend nervous. It’s easy to forget how very close to the surface we carry our pain and losses. They exist like a first sub-layer of skin, so incredibly resilient you ignore them almost entirely. And then, like finding a massive, deep bruise on your skin that you have no recall of how you obtained, there too is that flash of pain, the sub-layer penetrated, bleeding now, tear ducts springing into action, your body reacting in turn.
September 9, 2010
Written for my big brother: a great writer, a dear friend and the brave soul who first tried to explain love to me when I was seven.
Set upon the cold steel
I could feel the rivets through my dungarees
Could see the river below
Midnight blue, swift, mysterious
Patches of ice scraping together the only noise
I sat with that sound
While you walked slowly back and forth
Gently explaining to me, your baby sister
That love takes many forms
I swung my legs to and fro to keep warm
To feel the satisfying thud of my sneakers against steel
The purpose of that night
The walk to the bridge
The reason for that conversation
Have no place in my memory
The sharp cold
The ice floes
The distinct, deep night
No match for the warmth of a brother’s love
March 12, 2010
My Dad grew up in Plymouth, Pennsylvania, a small mining town along the banks of the Susquehanna River. Even as a child, I thought of it as “the land that time forgot.” My sister and I spent many hours buying candy at Ben Franklin’s, the local five and dime. My brother and I made ourselves dizzy staring at the river rushing under the Casey Avenue Bridge, and my Dad took me for ice cream cones at Golden Quality. Yes, it’s safe to say I have a soft, nostalgic spot in my heart for Pennsylvania.
When Blue Ion asked me to join in on the Edgewater website, all of my Pa memories came flooding back. Edgewater is a new and beautiful extension of one of America’s best loved small towns, Oakmont, Pennsylvania, a lovely, idyllic suburb of the Steel City. The land that once literally stood in the shadow of an old steel mill is now being mindfully developed into a thriving community, a direct honor to what is wonderful and well-executed in Oakmont, and, perhaps even more exciting, finally returns the river to the folks who love it best. Thanks to Blue Ion and the lovely and talented Deirdre Zahl for this one.
Here’s a bit of the copy I wrote:
“The streets are familiar and perfect for walking; the homes are the best of what you remember. And still, wholly new. The river has returned.”
January 5, 2010
Hi, it’s me, Jenny. Whip Smart is me, if I may be so bold (and I will). For the record, Whip Smart is also a fantastic album by Liz Phair.
Anywho, let’s jump right into a recent project, shall we?
My pals at Blue Ion invited illustrator Jay Fletcher and me to play on this one. Newbury is a groundbreaking, new, mixed-use development in the South Hills suburb of Pittsburgh. Neighborhoods of tree-lined streets, energy-efficient homes with big backyards and front porches are just a walk away from the new town center where folks can dine, shop and even work. Not only is Newbury creating a viable and vibrant town center for the South Hills area, it’s also a revitalization project of incredible scale and commitment.
It’s always a challenge for me to create a voice, copy and energy for a place that doesn’t yet exist. What I love is doing the research: talking to the passionate and knowledgeable folks who make this work their life. And, of course digging into the land and culture of a place.Props to Jay’s super-stylie illustrations that kick off the site and of course, the B.I. team. Extra gold stars to Craig who brought Jay’s illustrations to life through the magic of the parallax effect.