Nightmare Scenario 

An old sink and faucet with an electric blue cast.

The sink got replaced. The new faucet sat shiny above it. I signed off on the project. It was now me and The Spouse.

Then, almost immediately—but not really immediate because it took at least a part of a second for the realization to reveal itself—I could see that the counter was a mottled mustard, flecked with dark brown. It was akin to a 70’s color combo, not the expected white quartz composite. Where was my pro-faucet? I expected it’s flamingo-like neck arching over the sink, but it’s just a workaday American Standard spigot that my big pot won’t fit under.

Wait, wasn’t the sink going under a new window? Hey, it’s in the same place it was before. There aren’t any new windows. And the cupboards are new, but they’re a dark wood and the pendant light emits a sickly yellow cast.

This is not my beautiful kitchen.

I turned, distraught, to The Spouse. The shock in my eyes was matched only by the slack in my jaw. I couldn’t even get a baleful “noooooooooo” out of my lips. We were going to have to de-sign off. Somehow. What do I do next?

I woke up. It’s not too late. We haven’t even started.

And yet, already it starts.

Green Screen

A wall lined with bookshelves, filled with many books and more whatnot.

I’m looking at the bookshelves lining the wall in the den. They are tall. They span from door jam to radiator, filling in all the usable space. They were an attempt to provide a library feel. I’m not sure we got there, but it definitely evokes that storage room feel. 

Where I’m looking right now will be a set of French doors, opening to the hallway. The doorway will be twin to the archway leading to the living room. So where this wall, stacked with a book buffer, currently stands will be a set of doors. I bet they end up with eight or fifteen little glass panels. We will be able to easily see from room to room. 

I really can’t quite see it now, though. I’m trying. Hard. I guess we’re in the imagination stage of the remodel. Where we make decisions based on ideas that seem good translated into line drawings. I feel like I’m acting with a green screen–I can’t actually see what it looks like, but I have to react. 

I’m spending time in the bathroom washing my hands where the appliance garage will be and leaning up against the wall oven. I have to move the back door over three or four feet and squint to see the new windows. My mind wanders to spatial relations. Will the dog food bin fit in the island cabinet? Do I want it there? Do dishes go in one of the roll out drawers? And what about the paper towels? They need to be accessible, but where?

I walk back and forth where the new bathrooms will be, thinking about lighting and the staging of towels and bandaids. I stand just outside where the new doors will be and mime opening and closing them. 

To get some perspective, my eyes dart between the drawings of the windows and the actual windows. I align my body with the frame and turn myself to the left to see how much wall space we’ll have. I think I sometimes open doors here, too. 

Once or twice, at night, I’ve had dream tours. These tours are always fantastical and absolutely wrong. My brain adds extra floors and maybe a slide. The rooms are not like the rooms in the drawings. Once there was a pool outside the kitchen door. I don’t want a pool. The colors are wrong, too. My sleeping house is viewed through hazy filters, like the old fashioned ones in Instagram.  There’s too much yellow, or it’s way too rosy. 

The next morning I wake up and pull the plans up on my phone, and walk through the rooms as they’ll be–hanging towels, pulling deodorant from the medicine cabinet, stepping into the imaginary walk-in closet. I hope that they don’t put any toothy CGI monsters in when we get to post-production.  

Living on a Prayer

A colorful rendition of a soon to fail, or perhaps failed, tub faucet kit.

So here’s what happens when you’ve been planning to do an upgrade for like, I don’t know–let’s just say, maybe like–twenty five years? Like literally since you bought the house that you walked into and it took your heart into it’s wood floors and interconnected rooms that made you feel like a child. The house that has windows that speak to you in tongues. Those windows that refract the light that streaks across those shiny wood floors that have been dulled over years of the tredding of sneakers and boots and paws and slippers and cleats and high heels and loafers. The house that you moved into and told The Spouse that this was your final resting ground. Like throw my corpse in the backyard when I die resting.

The house with the unacceptable kitchen that you ended up cooking for seventy revelers–actually between 55 and 100–for the past twenty five Christmases. The kitchen with the stove that your Dad saw when he met his four-week-old, Big Guy grandson and immediately took you to Sears to replace the 1940s stove. Really it looked super retro-cool, but was a disaster for cooking. And those few forties cabinets that you impossibly stuffed your goods in. But the door to that great back deck!

And now, we’re going to do that modernization thing. Including that bathroom.

Yes. That bathroom.

There is just that one. The one that was clearly very cheaply revamped to sell the house. You knew that when you saw the wallpaper trim tacked onto the subway tile that surrounded the tiny vanity with the door that you couldn’t open fully because the toilet bowl was an obstruction. Yes. That one.

The house that I love.

And, now, I am crossing my fingers and making the sign of the cross and maybe lighting candles with herbal essenses that are healing, so that the tub fixtures will allow us to take the number of showers we need until–well, until we move to the interim space.

Frankly, I know we are on borrowed time. Both the hot water and the cold water faucets are stripped. This is pretty recent–like two weeks. So there’s the most awesome pliers that we are using to deliver and adjust the water for showers. It rests on the edge of the tub, in case someone needs to adjust the water temperature. Actually, in order to get the water flowing. Currently, it’s just that essential.

When you’ve been planning to gut the bathroom for twenty-five years, and you are close to doing it, you just don’t want to invest in a new tub faucet system. Especially because you are living in a dream world. Where the tub is on the other wall. And there is room for your legs when you are doing your morning constitution.

And then, you look at the plans and realize that everything will be somewhere else. But not today. Not, yet.

Pray for showers. Just need a few more months. Just. A. Few. More.

Simple 

The Beast had a Merry Christmas. Somone brought him a rawhide. This was not me. 

I’m not against rawhides, mind you. It’s just that I didn’t gift it. It was anothet human friend. 

So if Christmas means that your dreams may come true, The Beast is squarely on the dream to reality train. 

It is good to have simple wants that can be achieved. This is success. And, that is all. 

Morning Mist

When she breaks the dream mirror with her dreaming brain in Inception.

I dreamed about Hillary Clinton in one of those in between the snooze alarms hazy dream sequences. It was one of those dreams you remember because you were just awake and then almost awake but only in your head.

I was someplace doing something. Oh, now I remember. It was at my mother-in-law’s. The new puppy my spouse brought home just peed on the treadmill. As I was cleaning it up, the house suddenly–but without surprise–morphed into some kind of market. Someone was asking me a question, and it turned out on closer inspection (or maybe a dream-swap) to be Madame Secretary herself.

I found myself walking with her through the market. She stopped when she saw a stroller. She asked me how old the baby was. I immediately went into staffing mode to find out. I was struck, however, that Clinton was by herself. I wondered about her absent entourage. She didn’t appear to have any helpers or handlers or protectors. Perhaps the crevices of my mind were a safe space for the candidate.

I moved the stroller canopy up. There were two babies in the stroller. The babe in the front was maybe 15-18 months old. I saw another set of little hands around his waist. The baby was in the other baby’s lap. I looked up and saw the mom. And the dad. And maybe a friend of theirs.

At first I couldn’t tell  if they recognized Clinton. Hillary gave the mom a pen that had appeared in her hand. It seemed like she was giving the woman a pen so the woman could request an autograph. She asked about the family. The woman looked off-balance and a bit overwhelmed, but said “Thank you.” I don’t know what for.

There was a deli in the market. As people surrounded us, someone in a white apron walked up. Clinton ordered a serrano ham and manchego sandwich. The deli person offered something different, maybe their speciality? Clinton crisply repeated her order. I thought it was a cool sandwich to ask for and wished that I was as well travelled and versed as Madame Secretary.

As I got jostled in the crowd, I lost Clinton. I returned to my search for the puppy urine cleanup solution. I walked out of the market and spied our car with its trunk wide open. It wasn’t actually our car, but in the dream it was.

Some teenagers were taking the beer out of the trunk. Other people were looking in the trunk for goodies they could nab. I shooed them away, retrieved my stuff and locked the car. The car was pulled up next to a motel. There was a couch that appeared on a porch that materialized. I sat down. The mother of the beer stealers sat next to me. She was watching TV. The TV was inside a room just off the porch.

I realized that my sweater was on wrong. I saw the beer stealing teenagers around the side of the porch. They glowered at me. They saw their mom and, like a switch, sat down and became friendly, in that sweet way that young people can be curious and engaging.

Someone else asked me about the puppy who I now saw. He had been sleeping next to The Beast in this other unknown space.

The alarm sang again, interrupting the dream. I cleared the madness away, stretched my arms above my head, swung my legs over the side of the bed and started my day.

What a disjointed set of thoughts, I thought. I don’t think that they mean a thing.

Fell Asleep Beneath the Flowers

Sherlock Holmes experiences a ridiculous dream.

Window down and the sun warms my elbow as the deep throated scream of a mouth organ asserts itself from the public radio Saturday blues show. Cue the dissolve for a flashback.

[Insert the the strums of a harp interrupting the bass groove. I’m shaking my head violently back and forth, trying to immerse more fully in the memory and erase that damn, incoherent harp.]

It feels like a day for a street festival in Ann Arbor. We’d sit on a paint-peeled porch as the sun was passing the noon mark. We didn’t drink in the morning. Our beverage of choice recipe included plenty of ice, many cans of frozen lemonade and Popov. Our people would gather with the supplies. Sometimes someone would get cocky and bring the Smirnoff. The one with the extra proof.

I don’t think the person who lived at the house with the porch had the blender. I’m sure that we left it there. I’m pretty sure that it was a yard sale find.

It’s a miracle that we didn’t burn that motor out. It’s not like it was a will-it-blend? Vitamix model. No. It was a lowly Oster that probably once belonged to a graduate student. We stuffed it with ice cubes and frozen lemonade and enough vodka to make a slush. We didn’t want to dilute the liquor too much. The ice should have been too much for that cheap blender. But it wasn’t.

Ann Arbor is small enough that the porch could be central. We could get back easily in between bands and when our cups were empty. Or we could just do the brain freeze downing of the slush and leave the cup behind. This method was optimal for dancing, if not for responsible drinking.

We’d find the schedule on a poster plastered on a wall or in the student newspaper. Someone or two would pour over the schedule to optimize our band selections–avoiding the bluegrass and making sure we hit the reggae cover band–and so we would know where to meet up if we were separated.

The best music was the blues. There were old bands and young bands. The young bands were usually made up of white kids who grew up in suburbia and had instruments and listened to Cream, the Stones and others in the British Invasion. They discovered that there was an entire history behind that music. That it originated many generations earlier. There were also the old bands. They were usually more diverse, and had traveled along the circuit from bar to bar. They were done with the circuit and now stayed closer to home. They played when they could. They had day jobs.

When we were lucky, when the sun went down there were bands that were still playing the circuit that would come through. They’d be in the bars after the festival wound down rather than on the street stages during the day.

We’d all be salty and gritty from sweat. Hair would be amuss. Sandaled feet filthy. Maybe someone needed a bandaid. Occasionally someone would bow out due to a sun stroke or bad meat*.

We’d try and get there early enough for a table. We’d order pitchers of the cheap beer. And we’d stand close to what would stand in for a stage, listening to people 10 or 20 or 30 years our senior playing the blues.

We didn’t understand the blues ourselves, but we felt that chord progression. We incorporated the growl of illicit sex–either the cheater or the cheat-tee. Sometimes we couldn’t tell exactly who was wronged. We’d feel the rhythm section through our feet and sometimes the bass would explode directly from our hearts. The thud of the bass drum and the hiss of the snare would knock us woke.

We would stand in front of that stage and sway. We’d sing. We’d dance. We’d make out. We’d feel it. We’d pitch a wang dang doodle all night long.

The tiny snug bars didn’t have dressing rooms or green rooms. The bands would come in, set up and play. They didn’t have a quiet space. For breaks they’d go outside to smoke, get someone older than us cheap kids to buy them a drink. They’d fade into the crowd or hang out near the dumpsters behind the joint. Once, I met up with Koko Taylor in the ladies room. There was a line of cocaine that disappeared from the restroom vanity. Gatemouth Brown and Bobby Blue Bland held services from those risers that stood in for a stage. There were guitarists, horn and harp blowers of renown. We didn’t know.

The bar was dark. It stunk. The floor was sticky. We didn’t tip for shit. We were just college punks, drunk, dirty and loving the blues. And, in festival season, we’d get up the next day and do it again.

What a beautiful day.

[Next time I do a memory, I’m going to fall into the pensieve rather than do the Gilligan’s Island dissolve to the next scene.]

* a euphemism for being sick from drink.  

Beds

I can’t really remember the beginning of this story. There have been so many versions of the beginning that I can’t quite place the proximate cause. And the initial what really isn’t important.

Where my memory–and this story–starts is driving up to Henry Ford Macomb Hospital on 19 Mile Road. It was dark, but that doesn’t mean too much in mid-December Michigan. If it was dark it could have been 5 pm, but I think it was closer to eight.

I don’t know if I checked into the hotel first, but I must have so I wouldn’t be distracted by that personal logistical detail of where I would sleep.

Although she’d been at Henry Ford Macomb before, I hadn’t. She had been abulanced to the ER the day before. There was confusion about whether she was getting admitted so I flew in to see what was happening.

I walked into the hospital to find her room. She didn’t have one. Somehow she was still in the ER and had been for 36 hours. The nice lady at the desk told me to get back in my car and drive around the hospital to the ER entrance. I asked if I could walk and she looked at me like I didn’t realize that I was in the Motor City where people do NOT walk when they could drive.

She was in an observation bay at the far end of the ER, a little bitty lump underneath a bunch of blankets that doubled her silhouette. She was asleep so I brushed a kiss on her wisps of white hair. Her skin was gray. I followed the IV to see that she was getting blood. To counteract that gray, I supposed.

There was a bunch of untouched food on the tray next to her and some empty blood bags.

This joint was a disaster. Patients in ER limbo for days. Improper biohazard handling. An impotent patient advocacy process. (Why would an organization create multiple ineffective avenues for remediation? You only need one ineffective procedure.)

She was surprised to see me when she woke up, except she really wasn’t. Waking up in a hospital bed is accompanied by a through-the-looking-glass haze, and, while I didn’t belong in this scene neither did she.

Her smile was weak, but it was sunny and I was so happy to be there: to advocate for her; to make the nurses really see her; to argue about a room with the moronic patient advocate; to steamroller through to the hospital president; and to get what she needed.

I was there to watch the miracle blood bring back the color in her cheeks and watch her lose her wilt. I sat with her for a few days. I held her hand. I made sure she ordered food and that she ate it. I positioned her poinsettia so she could remark again and again on how beautiful it was. I held her hand again, and rubbed her back. And she melted at the touch. I sat next to her with my computer on my lap so she would wake up and see me. We chit chatted about pretty much nothing.

I did this, I thought, for her. But when she peacefully died in her sleep in her own bed a short few weeks later, I knew that I had done it for me and that it was my hand melting when I touched hers.

How fortunate that the hospital was such a shit-show. I am grateful for a last intimate connection. I am happy that I was present with her and she with me. It was a good-bye that I didn’t recognize in that moment. But it was good.

Thinking about you, Mom, especially today, the anniversary of that last time you snuggled up in your bed and went to sleep. Sweet dreams.