About Time

From photobucket…though this looks exactly like our mongrel, Duke, from my childhood. A thoroughly mischievous dog (who soon disappeared from our menagerie), but full of joy.

As my husband has generously pointed out, the paperwork sent home with me the other day from the orthopedic visit specifies a lateral malleolus fracture. The x-ray report in my GHC inbox states:



I have been doing some time-tripping. I’m rereading Kate Atkinson’s 2013 novel, Life After Life…which is a time-trip even the first time through. Our heroine, Ursula (“Little Bear,” as her father affectionately calls her), dies at birth — comes back, dies as a very young child in a swimming accident — comes back, dies in a fall from a roof, and so on. In some lives she is brutalized by the sort of people she cannot comprehend (her mean older brother’s suave yet oafish American college friend, for instance); she meets Adolf Hitler; in one life she marries a thoroughly detestable man; in another life she marries a flawed man (well, are there any other kind?), but eventually, every time, she gets a chance to do it differently. It’s a brutal book in its way. So brutal that I hesitate to recommend it to you. But maybe that’s just me talking. (My mother’s voice here: YOU NEED TO HAVE A THICKER SKIN!) Meanwhile, lyrical passages abound. I am in love with Ursula’s childhood home, Fox Corner, and astounded to learn (I thought I knew!) how dreadfully Londoners suffered during the blitz in WWII. In a couple incarnations, Ursula falls in love with a German man and spends the war in Berlin. It isn’t men, Ursula (and Atkinson) concludes, it’s war that’s evil.

Meanwhile, my daughter bought me a copy of About Time, a movie by Richard Curtis, starring Domhnall Gleeson as the main character, Tim, Rachel McAdams, and Bill Nighy. Plus other notables. (Including Lydia Wilson as Tim’s sister Kit Kat, a personal favorite.) As with Atkinson’s Fox Corner, I wanted to come home to this family and have tea with them. On the seashore in this case. The premise of About Time is that the men in this particular British family can, after a 21st birthday, travel in time. Bill Nighy, as the wise father, says that going after money or prestige has laid waste to some ancestors’ lives, and he can’t recommend it. Tim, wisely, decides that the mother ship is love.

There are a great many things in my life I would like to do over. I would like to be very, very careful as I walk down the wet grassy hill to the St. Andrews lodge on Sunday, March 9, 2014. But like the About Time characters, I would also like to go back and experience my children as small children again. I would take a walk with them. We would get a dog.

Where My Heart Wants to Be

Okay, okay, so it really is broken. The fibula has a nice diagonal crack in it, and the talus is probably broken, too. (Treatment is the same, no worries the PA said.)

I’m not worried, I just don’t want to wear this dang boot 24/7. I don’t want to keep all weight off the ankle for the next four weeks.

In my roaming across the blogosphere today I came across this video of Steven Pressfield talking with Oprah Winfrey. I am going to take his advice to put my ass where my heart wants to be. I want my ankle to heal. I want to finish this novel and move on to the next. This chair (with this laptop computer, and wearing this extremely uncomfortable boot) is where that’s going to happen.

My daughters are working on final papers for history and English classes. This advice did not really work for them. “My heart is not involved in this paper,” one said. But is her heart set on getting an AA degree and eventually becoming a music teacher? Well, abstractions are hard when you’re 20. I get that.

But, still. Where does your heart want to be? How do you put your a** there?

Making Potato Salad

(image from tasteofhome.com — I chose this picture for the bowl)

I am pleased to share a poem written by my friend from Writing Lab, Kathryn Johnson. Feeding people seems to be one of our basic instincts in the face of grief.


Making Potato Salad

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2

A hundred miles away
Your voice crackles out the cell phone staccato message
Your father is dying.
So you’ll stay another day on the farm to arrange
The hospital bed in the windowed room
Where your mother
And your grandmother
Slept their waning nights next to the moonlit pasture.
I ask what I can do from here,
You list people to call, mail to send, then add
“Make potato salad.”

On the last picnic weekend twenty years ago,
The call came that the old man who had built our new church
Was dying of heart failure.
We arrived behind the ambulance
Too late.
You sat in the living room to comfort the widow and son,
I drifted to the kitchen with the at-loose-ends daughter-in-law.
Aimless strangers in a house of fresh mourning,
We found boiled potatoes and eggs
Pre-cooked for holiday lunch
Hours before this cloudless day tolled
Dark, somber, brassy.
I sliced the pickles, she peeled the eggs,
We measured mustard and mayo in a large mixing bowl,
Believing later
The grieving would be hungry.

But now, since you don’t eat potato salad,
I’ll mow the lawn, front and back,
I’ll wash your navy blue sweater and pin-stripe shirt,
I’ll pile up pictures of your father driving his tractor,
Smiling behind his commissioner’s desk,
Cradling his dark-eyed baby girl,
Sitting on the couch with his middle-aged sons,
Standing by the canal’s edge with the radiant blond wife of his youth.
I’ll fall asleep reading Ecclesiastes,
And tomorrow,
I’ll make oatmeal cookies, timed warm for your arrival,
In case you’re hungry.

Kathryn Duncan Johnson, May 2012