Piecing Life Together

Thirty-two pasted up on seven walls. Vertical paneled partitions holding up thousands of glued pieces – each a part of individual displays. Pictures attached not only to wood paneling, but also to memories a mother left for her family.

She enjoyed this hobby. “Puzzle assembly”, simply stated. Somewhat simply understood from my viewpoint; however, I couldn’t put together hours with the shifting around of little pieces of cardboard – while figuring out which nub goes into which notch. If involved, once the straight-edge borders and four corners were set, I could very easy call the puzzle, “done”, and walk away.

Anyone who is an enigmatologist – as you may be – is certainly welcome to engage in puzzling. My mom did. Crosswords, word games, Trivial Pursuit, Pinochle, Games Magazines, etc … all of those (+) were, … err, fair game in her world. I could join in with her – except these oodles of pieces, boxed-up picture puzzle games aren’t my thing at all. And, yes, picture puzzles are games. Dump, sort, and sit for hours games.

I didn’t care for the huge, hand-sized, biggie, six-piece alphabet puzzles in first grade. The plastic, round, straight, or oblong “learn your shapes” jam into holes matching games didn’t impress me, either. Anything early in my life that suggested, “fit this into that”, I kinda told to hit the road.

So, Thirty-two puzzles. There were more, but they fell off. Mom’s interest never fell off, however. I can see her sitting in her dining room chair, hours at a time, during times when her mind needed to focus on a thousand little things other than one, or two, bigger problems. Diversionary, of sorts. Those thousand little pieces – working toward one large picture – was better than starting with the one large problem then breaking it down into smaller pieces. Her process, I guess.

It worked for her. During a five year cancer journey, this worked. She never complained that I saw. Privately, probably. Tears never flowed that I saw. Privately? Again, probably. These puzzles represent her life before, and during, cancer. Of all, the Mozart one is my favorite. Most are Charles Wysocki prints, as she was enamored by his style and class.

I don’t spend a lot of my time wandering through this room looking around this familial gallery. I should, though. One per day would give me a month of reflection upon a mom who would still be here if cancer wouldn’t have ended her life too early. It did, and that’s the way all her pieces finally came together.

At some point, these puzzles will need to be removed. Just when, is anyone’s guess. Mom used industrial strength glue on the backing and the double-stick tape to the wall is ridiculously tight. It’s gonna take some mighty panel-bending and puzzle fandangery to get these unfastened.

Seems like mom left us the biggest puzzler of all. For now, there’s no need to rush.

I never liked to do puzzles in the first place. I did, and do, love my mom. So, I’ll enjoy these while I still can. They’re pieced together and just as beautiful as she was. Memories and all.

Last Daisies

Angelic music from her voice, as I accompanied her, moved me to tears at times. Familiarity with the grace in every Greta-graphite picture I witnessed etched a memory into my soul. Through her patience, she loved, admired, and respected all that surrounded my life. With strength, she fought through until her body could no longer handle what appendiceal cancer threw at her.

Tuesday evening, Greta died. A very significant part of my life slipped away from me, … from us.

I miss her. Those three words have been repeating over and over in my head since Tuesday evening. No amount of distracting sunshine walks or meals with friends these past 24 hours seem to ease the pain. Brain tears have been happening behind my mask of pushing through the “need to be dones” in my life.

This is what death looks like. I don’t appreciate not having Greta to take care of today, or tomorrow, or … ever again. It’s painful to know there’s no more of that beautiful voice in front of my piano. Loss of this breadth is almost incomprehensible.

I’ve had loss, but not like this. It’s surreal. I’m on an unending carousel of memories with Greta. On this ride, we’ve been experiencing fun, exciting things together. Lunches at SAMA, picnics, Doug’s Dawgs events, pizza with my dad, … Seems like if we weren’t rehearsing, food was a major contributor to our experiences?🤔.

Life with her was an unending, somewhat unpredictable, fascinating twist of energy, love, compassion, heart, and fun.

Without her, it seemed as though that mix was no longer possible when I sat alone late Tuesday night on a dark patio.

Then, a few hours ago, I walked by where Greta made her graceful last curtain call from this world. Over on stage left stood the last vase of daisies I bought for her. She loved daisies. There in that vase, supporting cast members stood applauding a life filled with what she loved: her dogs, Rex and Murphy, music, art, her immediate family, close friends … and me.

Yes, me. That piano guy she decided to fold into her life with, maybe, two years to live. We got less together. But, overall, I got significantly more.

In a nutshell, I have a better understanding of who I am. My personal growth, with Greta’s tugs and halts, found a path forward. As a few stubborn rocks took some time to navigate around, she waited (somewhat) patiently for my opinions and behaviors to change. Some did, others didn’t. There are live-alongs in my life that will be with me forever.

In the end, I am a changed man because Greta took the time to love me.

We were all changed if Greta smiled in our direction. Our lives will not be the same without her here. Tuesday evening, the world lost a beautiful person. Our community lost a gifted singer and artist. Her family lost a daughter, aunt, and sister.

I lost a connection. A partner in that magical, mysterious, musical world where a pianist and vocalist could live without fear, anxiety, and judgement. A lunch date who helped me laugh at myself … and at her. She was a lover of my life and one who accepted my love of her life.

Yes, absolutely incomprehensible right now. I loved Greta. Her contribution to my life will never be forgotten.

If reading this as a friend of Greta’s, may your memories be wonderfully fulfilling as mine … and may her love for you extend far beyond the horizon of every daisy patch you see.

Greta, we miss you. Spread your energy to the world – be that guiding light to others as you were to me. Sing. Echo your songs across the cosmos. Paint the skies your favorite shade of purple for us sometime.

You were, simply the best – and still are. “Smile, though your heart is aching. Smile, even though it’s breaking.”

I will every time I think of you, Greta. I most certainly will 🎙️🎹💕

Muted Footsteps Exiting the Capitol Hotel

I swiped this menu a while ago. Don’t remember when it happened, or why I felt the urge to break the law. Did I really, though? All that happened, in my humble opinion, was the conversion from an in-house menu to a take-out one by walking out the very familiar glass doors with it in my hand. Strange, in a way, because I never ordered unless I sat at the counter, a back room table, or in one of four red vinyl booths.

“I’m glad I have it, officer.”

Today, I heard they are closing … for good. May I offer up another not so humble opinion? This information really sucks their really awesome steak salads!!

I don’t know why the owner decided to close. Could be a (late) pandemic response or he is, simply, tired of running a hotel restaurant. Whatever the cause, respect is due because so many memories from there are sheltered away in my treasure box of friendly conversational souvenirs. It’s been one of the few places in my life where words meant something when shared among close friends.

It was the first place I stopped on my way back from the hospital moments after mom died. My friend, Kevin, was sitting in the back middle booth to share in my grief. Although I haven’t seen him in years, that moment is as clear as this moment now.

During lighter times, my lame jokes – or, perhaps a few awesome ones – danced around one of two front booths where a bevy of bloviating bosomers sat. Chief among them, no one. All of us remained equal. Friends. Not one greater or lesser than the other.

Big heavy mirrors, old rotating chairs sitting partially occupied in front of the counter, stainless steel clanging about as breakfasts were served with a tinge of attitude … All of this, and then some, make the Capitol Hotel Restaraunt what it is – for one more day.

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021. This will be the day memories come to an end. Those warm, red vinyl booths will start to get an early fall non-conversational chill and remain so. Short, worn wooden bar chairs will be bound to their silent still posts as of 2:00 p.m. that day. A clean-up crew – and no others – will then pass through one of two entryways into the back dining room. The large grandfather clock there, sitting many decades removed from a big screen t.v., will no longer tick away pleasant fish Friday lunches for business companions, or retirees enjoying their sunset years.

The whole restaurant will be silent – as hushed as the last time a puff of air closed an off-white, laminated, “Since 1905” menu for the last time; Or, perhaps as one of a few times I sat extended, alone, in one of those very confidential front booths and wrote a blog entry. Possibly, muted tones from friends’ last footsteps leaving tomorrow will remain behind as reminders how special this place is to everyone.

Most likely, I will not be one of them.

This does not mean my heart will not exit through those double glass doors one final time with them, however. Hopefully, at least one of my brothers or sisters in crime will find their way into 300 Allegheny Street, Hollidaysburg, to swipe a menu for themselves.

I should remind them take-out could be tricky. Especially from the clink.

Corner Room, Corner Table

I had to reach back into my archives – four months, or so – to relive a blessed feel good moment in my life. It was an afternoon I will never again get with the lady who sat across from me during that beautiful, lovely afternoon in State College, Pa. A limited menu was offered to us. Two. A pair with unlimited possibilities for humor, music musings, and sweet couple words. The restaurant, “The Corner Room”, wasn’t aware of our silliness. Half-drapes in the window, overlooking a lightly attended summer session sidewalk, kept a summer sun off our tea as Old Main sat off in the distance.

We waited patiently for sandwiches and appetizers. What else was there to do? An afternoon in May. Two wonderers sitting comfortably among others who had their own wondering to do. I looked around, but nothing … no one … caught my attention more than the one sitting across from me in a high, dark vinyl booth.

I think it was her hair this time, although not always the case. Her eyes and smile could hook me in, too. Against the backdrop of a very accomodating, hugging booth (one I was becoming very jealous of, for the record), those golden locks bounced off my afternoon delight. Leaving me no choice, I parted from a semi-sweet tea to imprint this picture on my late spring, early summer’s soul:

Black and white. Simple. Complementary colors holding my hand during pre-lunch moments. Sandwiches hadn’t arrived yet. We were hungry. Even the appetizers were somewhere different than in our prior two-hours, walk-around town, empty bellies. Still, with those grinding away inside, we chuckled the time away.

There was no time limit on my preoccupation. It could have been two minutes or two days. She sat across from me before that day in other restaurants … in other cities … patiently caressing the time with me for meals taking longer than normal. Those times were endless fascinations as well.

Yes, no finish date at all on any of the words, at any time, with any fare on any plate in front of us. As far as that May day, I can smell the chicken sandwich with sides finally arriving along with roast beef au jus. Appetizers did come – spinach dip with chips – prior to those lunch munchies. A waitress, seldom seen, blessed us with her absence. Teas didn’t need refilling, plates were full until they weren’t, and two booth dwellers had a glorious feast … one for his eyes, the other for her tummy.

During this long exhale of our time together, a “today memory” I adore had to be written.

I will never have that chance again with Greta. Hundreds of pictures, but not bubbly-blonde booth dates from now on in familiar towns and restaurants. I will see nice, sunny days through café curtains again, for sure, but not across from someone like her. Smiles, eyes, hair, voice, and personality wrapped up in her is a once-in-a lifetime menu choice.

A corner room and corner table I had to revisit today. Life is black and white when it comes to a sweet woman I love and adore. Color through a camera lens and street window frames an afternoon I never want to forget.

Choose your moments wisely. Four months, or so, goes by quickly when you think more time is easily within your grasp.

Maybe our lunch was good? I don’t remember.

Time spent together that day? I will cherish forever.

Rex and Murphy

They stay very loyal. Of course, they do. Today, Rex and Murphy weave in and out between bags and boxes of medical supplies, legs and arms of strangers, and words coming out of mouths so unfamiliar to them. The past four weeks as well, they always found their way to Mommy. She is their rock, their comfort … their place to nestle two wet noses under a comfortable, familiar blanket.

Rex is about six years Murphy’s junior. He is Mommy’s little boy. The protector of all that is wrong with Greta, he is. These days, his job is overwhelming as Mommy’s appendiceal cancer has taken control over her remaining few weeks. Rex knows something isn’t right. He scampers about wondering where to be within eyesight … out of the way, but thankfully in the way of his Mommy’s over-extending heart. Close to her he dearly wants to be all the time. Sometimes, this isn’t possible.

Normal isn’t normal anymore. Every two hours, attention needs to be paid elsewhere. Rex must step aside. Elsewhere is Greta. I believe he understands. There’s a big picture window from which he looks out to gather his puppy thoughts. Rex will do what is necessary for Mommy. He’s anxious and unsure about a lot of things right now. Sure he is. We are, too.

Murphy is a fluffy tow-along. At an older age, his health isn’t a good as Rex. Just recently, a diagnosis of tracheal cancer put him behind the 8-ball a bit. He’s a steroid machine because of it. That medicine put him on an eating binge including a pair of glasses and pretty much any food – wrapped or otherwise – that isn’t at least 5-feet off the floor and 4-feet back off the front edge of any counter. He is laser focused on stuffing his snout.

Now, his love for Mommy is no less than Rex. A very comfortable little bed, at the foot of a larger Mommy bed, provides him a resting place almost every night. A low center of gravity, combined with nearly ninety-one human years muscled around his weary bones, makes jumping up on furniture for an ear scratch a bit difficult. He has the same window for reflection, but uses a lower bunked doggie bed, not the love seat. Granted, Rex has the same opportunity to it – and does. They are brothers through and through.

Rex and Murphy. Two canine companions trying their best to make a difficult situation make sense. In the furry brains as worried as all the human ones, their lives have been turned upside-down. Cancer – especially rare appendecial that strikes approximately 3 out of 1,000,000 people world-wide who are diagnosed with any cancer – changes everyone who cares for the loved one.

It’s never the obvious changes: bills, groceries, things-to-do that have to be altered. Those are (sometimes) the easy workarounds … short-term, anyway. Certainly, there’s no easy answer to any of this. I sit here not claiming a magic crystal ball. Yesterday, friends stopped by offering many open hands – as friend do.

The change is at a heart-centered level. Love digs deeper, care cores down, and tears are torrential during silent, solitary moments in the middle of the night.

Greta’s two boys aren’t immune from experiencing any of this. They sense the pain. Mommy isn’t well. Rex and Murphy are keenly aware of her missing their normal, daily connection through feeding, head-scratch, and hug set-aside times.

With this, however, hearts don’t miss a beat between a Mom and her two doggies. Eyes don’t miss every few moments available to catch a glimpse of each other between all the busy medical steps now woven in all our lives. Rex, Murphy, and Mom … a blanket of love with some snags now, but never to be torn apart by cancer.

That’s loyalty earned through years of patient petting and nurturing. Devotion in the midst of sterile equipment and impersonal, neutral medicine flowing past open valves and tubes into a body so tired of fighting … a loving soul still very much aware that two kind, devoted, four-pawed creatures still love her so much and feel every twinge of pain and also every smile.

This is a day for them, now. Rex and Murphy. I suppose, in a few hours, their wet noses will find warm spots somewhere. Wherever those may be, Greta will know. Of course, she will.

MPH

Endings.

Those three images usually close out a thought of mine on Facebook … in the order they appear. “M” for microphone, “P” is certainly obvious, and “H” … well, of course, right?

Miles Per Hour is more appropriate, however. Facebook musings aside, life the past month or so has seen a different application of MPH along a single-focus highway of missed exit ramps. Turn-offs I willingly didn’t take, in order to help care for someone who is dying, can wait until I circle back around later. Sure, there have been – and will be – some chances to exit and do necessary things; overall, though, life has been moving rapidly. For me.

Not so rapidly for sweet Greta who is dying. This is an ending we knew was coming – it just will come sooner than expected.

She is the vocalist, I am the pianist, and our hearts make wonderful music together.

This evening, I have quiet moments to watch her sit on a very familiar tan recliner five feet from me. The room is small. She’s protected by many books and miniature owls resting on two bookcases behind her. Surprisingly, she has some energy left in her body to look over my way at times. This day has been a busy one with friends and family buzzing about her already tired soul.

I don’t know from where her drive and determination comes. These are traits I find fascinating as her days linger on through pain management, sleep deprivation, and a determination to soak up every available blink on the clock. A wonderful, full, young life experience coming to an end is slowing her time down to a breathable crawl. Every second counts.

Last hugs from an only brother this morning forced time to stop. As a niece and nephew said good-bye, the early morning sun stopped to cry just a little and its tears were seen as dew on the grass in the rear view mirror on their hearts. Driving away slowly – with a 7 hour’s drive ahead – had to be the most difficult beginning of a trip … and ending … a family ever had to endure.

This afternoon, many friends stopped by for a rather nice patio visit with Ms. Greta. Pictures were perused, memories visited, and conversations had. She laughed heartily through a veiled smile – one that is barely half of what was once full-voiced and warmly engaging. Eyes beautifully sparkling, however, and no less attentive to everyone sharing some Sunday time with her.

Time well spent today. Exhausting for her, of course. She is the Captainess of this Cancership, I’ve always said, and when a post of today’s 11-4 plan was discovered (by me) on her Facebook feed last night at 9p.m., I was surprised, but not startled.

An exit ramp I may have missed last night, but sure as tooting would have backed up and taken at 11 a.m. today once folks started coming.

There is an ending. Just not today. I am moving at a certain MPH on a single-focus road for now.

That’s only one side of this story. The other side is pretty easy to explain. I am doing what I am doing on this road because of the Microphone, Piano, and Hearts.

Greta is a special woman. She connects with me. Musically, as a pianist, I’ve accompanied no vocalist in my career who has moved me to tears. Her depth, passion, and commitment to excellence pushed me beyond my 50 years experience behind a keyboard.

We had fun together apart from music. Loving life together. Eating out, working at my concession business, sitting around the local parks, watching game shows, etc …

Thinking we had more time together is where we are right now. Time is slowing down for her, yet fast for me. Endings are never easy.

Since they aren’t easy, let me finish by inserting a paragraph posted on Facebook by my friend Rick. He came by today. His words will be mine until we meet again. Hug a loved one today. 🎙️🎹💕

“(Landslide) is a very special song as of this moment. I had the pleasure of visiting my friend Greta today and this is one of her favorite songs. I visited her on her patio with other friends, her Mom, and others there. Today, this very special woman decided she was not going to die today. She was determined to welcome friends for a last visit, a goodbye. My friend is soon to be lost to cancer, but she knows it, has thought about it, accepted it. A very strong, charming, witty, and talented woman with a heart as beautiful as a sunrise on a beach. If this is farewell, I am a better person for have having her in my life if only for a short while.”

15 Stones

We had a few minutes. Greta and I weaved our way through the maze that is Shadyside hospital in Pittsburgh. Outside, across from a large slowly rotating door, in “The Garden of Distinction”, we sat comfortably on a weathered wooden bench. Finally, after 48 hours of hospital air, a fresh August breeze filled our lungs.

It is a meditative rock garden. Greta spent little time reflecting upon her past two days, of course. Any thoughts of IV drips, nurses, needles, or pain most assuredly was there but didn’t require her attention. The focus was her art … Needing to express herself by creating something out of nothing.

And that she did.

I watched the process unfold. With no fancy pens or expensive supplies available at her patient, artistic insistence, stones warmed by a late August sun were just enough to give her all she needed.

Specifically chosen by shade, stones were placed in rows and columns – darker to lighter – 3×5 to finish. 15 stones. On the top rests, perhaps even now, a pebble man on a chair as this artistic piece was not dismantled upon our departure. As we left, she stopped a few paces down a pebbled path to pick up that pine cone to return and place it gently on the corner. “Now, it’s complete!”, may have been the phrase so happily smiling in her head at that moment? I can’t recall what she said then, but I’m aware she knew those 15 stones, a pebbled man, and a pine cone brought closure to a wonderful time in a garden.

Yesterday was hard. A day that was supposed to be full of smiles and music presented an empty stage and lots of tears instead. When the day nurse wrote 8/22 on the daily board, it was difficult to see in the context of medicines and dose schedules. August 22nd was not going to be wasted, however.

I asked Abbey, her very kind day nurse, if it was possible to go outside after Greta requested a meeting with sunshine and nature. She pleasantly agreed and made arrangements for us to begin our trek through the labyrinth that is Shadyside. (Full disclosure here, I wanted to head out the nearest exit with Greta and not come back …). Slowly we headed out of the room, down 7 floors, past the cafeteria, then the gift shop, a few short steps until reaching a long, majestic entrance/exit to the rotating door …

… Out to a small driveway – then to a very peaceful rock garden.

Something out of nothing. 15 stones. Art is there for us to interpret. She is an artist who created a small work of art – a man in a chair on top of 15 stones … with a pine cone. It remains there as evidence of her presence during a very difficult time. I have my private ideas about what this means to me and would encourage you to look at that picture to consider how a terminal cancer diagnosis would change your perspective.

Music is art as well. We lost yesterday’s chance. As an accompanist, I lost the opportunity to perform with one of the best vocalists ever. What I have, however, is something much better. Time in that garden.

During an afternoon when we should have been on stage in front of many friends, we sat alone among many stones in a meditative garden. I watched as she worked her artistry … I was accompanying her once again – just not how we planned.

All in all, I figure the day was a success after all. My ideas and thoughts about her little creation, again, will remain mostly private. What I can share, though, is this:

Appendix cancer took the concert away from her yesterday – 72 hours short of our goal. 15 stones may seem small and insignificant to many, however, to me they represent the rock star Greta will always be to me.

7 Floors Down

Directly below where I now sit is a cafeteria. Beside that eatery is a small, intimate little sitting area with one bench. I sat on that bench – seven floors down – recording a 4:06 video. This happened nearly two hours ago here, at Shadyside hospital in Pittsburgh, during a time when I should have been somewhere else …

Life isn’t all smiles. Greta and I should have been rehearsing final notes for our, “Smile: A musical journey through life and rare terminal cancer” concert. Instead, we are quietly singing our way around nurses, beeping IV pole stand monitors, and shuffling feet noises outside a very accomodating western PA hospital facility. It’s been a difficult past few days. Six months of planning. We fell a mere few days short.

There is no quit here. The concert has been postponed. For those among my readers who are unaware, here is the poster:

I sit here at 9:11 wondering, “why?”. It’s hard not to ask that question. Why so close, yet so unreachable? During a small window of opportunity this afternoon, we had a moment when Greta’s vocal, quiet beauty met my pianist eyes. That one word fell into our near conversational silence. We knew it. It remained unanswered as time drifted into a lull. Seventy-two hours is all. After six months of planning and rehearsing, life came down to seventy-two hours.

I sat on a small bench recording a video, not another smaller bench playing, “Silver Lining”, or “Rainbow Connection”. There will be no beauty in song tomorrow. No daisies on stage or train whistle to begin the concert with Doris Day’s rendition of, “Sentimental Journey” ending with Greta’s A-major 7th she loves so much. “Chase” – with her brother, Bump – and Donnie & Marie’s closing theme will both have to wait until we decide to reschedule. There is no quit. No give-up. Twenty-three songs and pieces Greta and I have accepted as part of our souls are, now, archived in our library of memories … for now.

Seven floors up from where I was, I now sit. Sad, but so glad Greta is receiving the care she needs.

“Why?” still remains unanswered and will be so. I don’t want an answer. One week earlier this concert had a chance. Even this past Wednesday, she had the spunk and energy to do a full hour interview at our local radio station. We had a window. Small as it was …

Life with appendix cancer isn’t what anyone expects or plans for at any time … anywhere. As I finish up this short post, I am so grateful for the opportunity to share a smile journey. It’s, simply, not the way Greta and I hoped to dance happy memories past your ears tomorrow.

Below is a replacement video for the livestream we planned for 2:00 tomorrow. May you find peace and wonderment in all your smiles – and please listen to your favorite music not only tomorrow afternoon, but always. “Smile, though your heart is breaking …”

https://www.dropbox.com/s/4bzudec914h2ils/0821211840.mp4?dl=0

Somehow, I Made It

Nothing to write about with everything to say.

Finding time to sit down and type in a few words has been difficult since my last post. What I am not is an internationally well-established author with impeccable writing skills and multiple book tours in my past. With that in mind, missing six days wasn’t going to set off a major crisis in the literary, online, blogging world.

Taking time aside to care for loved ones, run a business, nap, and munch on a few snacks in between time crunch duties was important enough to step back from the interweb typing thing. Glad I, necessarily, did. Loving life, while extremely busy, is rewarding apart from online duties when serious concerns feel heavy on my heart.

There’s no picture. A tag-along above to assist is not here. Any photo or image to accompany today’s thought wouldn’t work.

Today is Friday. Finally, a day off from meats in buns smothered with gooey sauces and chosen veggies. No “famous” chili-mac-n-cheese servings or shouts of “everything” burgers with Doug’s Dawgs stickers being delicately handed out. No customers today … I’m ok with this.

Seven events. Four in 48 then three in 36 these past six days. Just enough hours to do all the normal prep and clean up required taking into consideration all the business shopping and bill paying necessary to keep that part of life up-to-date.

The other part? Personal concerns. There didn’t seem to be hours, let alone minutes, to use … However, I made it. Somehow, I’m here. It’s Friday.

Didn’t plan on the pieces of the other part separating at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning – a reverse puzzler, as it turned out. A nice picture minutes before fell apart before my eyes lasting into the late evening Thursday. Days and nights with little sleep – while maintaining a busy schedule – weren’t helpful.

I wasn’t in crisis, but someone else was. Nurses, an occasional doctor, emergency and hospital rooms, medicine, pain, tears, texts, calls, needles, beeps, beds, consults, fears, and anxieties … a not-so inclusive list of every hour mindful minefields of groping gadgets I wanted to share with the soul in crisis. With those came an exhaustive search for extra time and energy that never came. Somehow, I’m here. It’s Friday.

Yea, looking back I feel something was accomplished. In the middle of it all? Not so much. Getting the necessary things done didn’t allow for the successes I wasn’t sure to look for, anyway. It was, and is, a complicated thing … this cancer issue. “Helping” is not just a physical do-this I’ve come to understand … it’s a much bigger crisis to manage.

I feel rewarded by a simple, “thank-you”, graced upon me, but not by those two words. It was an eight-word phrase she may, or may not, remember saying. The words don’t matter to anyone else except me. I’m glad to have them in my memory as a reminder of why it was so important to act upon a 5 a.m. reverse puzzler expecting nothing in return.

The reason I didn’t include a picture is because there’s no image of pain close to what I saw. That’s just me, of course.

Until life decides to spread out the crisis/business/personal jam ups in a more tolerable manner, I suspect there will be indigestible, short, three day stretches again. Every time will be epic battles of wit vs. will and willingness vs. availability. Somehow, I’ll be there, too.

… And I’m glad I had some time to type today. With nothing epic to write about and everything to say, this much-less-than famous author is glad to simply have a day off to enjoy himself.

Somehow, I made it. TGIF.

Snuggling Buicks

Mark-56 was first. Slowly, Ms. Red snuggled in beside to Mark’s left. I saw this romantic gesture through a late dinner’s window pane at Denny’s tonight around 9:45 p.m. and had to investigate.

Starting with a, “What are these cars?”, text to a good friend, I waited for a reply. An answer didn’t come back quick enough, so I flexed my inquisitive muscles by accelerating out of a yet-to-be-tabled salmon order booth. I walked through a sparsely occupied Friday night eatery on my way out to introduce myself.

These two didn’t need an escort – especially one who thought moments ago only Sir Ford and Miss Chrysler were out for an evening stroll. Apparently, Mr. Piano Guy here has limited knowledge of classic cars manufactured in ’56. Peering through glass – while waiting for what turned out to be a less-than-stellar trio of fish, potatoes, and broccoli – isn’t an exact science. That said, I bet most late night beholders of parking space beauty would have guessed, “Buick”.

“Nice wheels”, finally. Yes, I agree. Feedback from my friend was certainly appreciated after a few minutes. Sure, they are nice. Old, possibly restored autos were really cool to look at under the lights of a lit, clear evening parking lot; However, at that moment, I was less interested in bling-bling appearances than the actual make & model of these two late evening embracers.

“Nice to see you…”, I mumbled under my exhausted breath while asking permission to take the picture above. It was ten minutes prior I slunk into a booth after working a concert event: four-and-a half hours of busy, hot, sometimes confusing “sammie” making where the customer decision process can challenge even the most patient of souls. A once friendly, but suddenly cantankerous, canopy caused fifteen minutes of delay due to its inability to snap open one of four legs. In the midst of this colorful language episode – and no indication of a condiment, napkin, or steam droplet from any pan – an hombe with no wits about him walked up and asked, “Hey, you open yet?”…

Ok, so I was asking two beautiful cars a question they couldn’t answer. In retrospect, the guy, hours before, asked me that question I’m convinced he really didn’t want me to reply with words I desperately wanted to say. Who looks at a frustrated vendor – clearly wrestling with a large white vinyl piece of crap while a van sits full of supplies and a cart as cold as ice – and thinks, “I should ask, 45 minutes before the concert is scheduled to start, if I can get a hot sandwich. Looks like this guy is up and running … even though half his body is up in that canopy’s face.”??

“Why, yes, Sir … May I help you? …”, were seven words not coming clearly into my mind. I struggled as much with staying silent as trying to get the little clip-nib to come out on the leg that wasn’t working on the canopy. By the time an appropriate reply, “I open at six!!!”, was about to free-flow from my overly heated body, he moved on. A moment of relief. Fortunately … because I don’t like to get upset with potential customers, but … really? C’mon, my friend.

I had a few seconds to take a deep breath and truly say, “Hello.”… Mark and his lady friend had no idea of my troubles earlier. How could they? During my time of duress, they were out cruising about town, perhaps together … possibly apart … although considering the graceful manner in which they arrived suggested to me a familiarity in their travels.

It’s what fascinated my attention from the start.

I looked out over a weakly-iced tea to see Mark slowly enter his space. Gently he arrived. Careful in his approach, yet eager to arrive. I don’t know why I was so happy when, a minute later, Ms. Red snuggled in beside and took her place. It was almost like the two of them were meant to be together … at that time, in those two spaces – beside one another. One, then two, but still one.

They were a couple out on the town content to just be together. No frills, no extra fluff. Being in their space was perfectly fine for their life. I swear her back right tire was nudging over against his back left as if to say, “We can be here now … just us. No worries.”. My hectic, frustrating moments passed as I watched her tenderly pull in beside her man. This paused my soul.

Yeah, I know … just cars. Just – as it turned out – Buicks, not Fords or Chryslers. To a guy sipping a three-cube iced tea waiting on what eventually was a disappointing salmon dinner, two beautiful cars in his line of sight, and a bit of imagination, finished off an aggravating day in a lovely way.

I don’t know. Could have been the heat or the hunger that caused this reflection through the pane of glass? Sorry, Denny’s, but your salmon dinner didn’t make the hunger go away … and the heat? Well, that has since cooled off under my skin since Brian – a wonderful foodie friend – fixed the canopy (for now) and I’m off for a double-event day.

I sure hope Mark-56 and his Lady of Red had a wonderful rest of the evening together. I can’t thank them enough for giving me a few moments of happiness last night. They were snuggly beautiful together and I’m so fortunate they understood my exhaustion when I asked, “May I interrupt and take your picture?”

“Why, yes. Yes you can. We’re just here enjoying the evening together. It’s such a nice night. Don’t worry about anything. There’s a safe space for you anytime you need one. Just look out any window and remember: take life as it comes – gently drive your soul and, most of all … remember someone special will always love you and be by your side no matter what.”.

Yeah.