S-Brick

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When I was in high school, very briefly, I was on the debate team.  Turns out I was a poor debater.  One of the most memorable debate experiences did not happen in the debate arena but rather at a Super 8 in rural Kansas.  Debate trips in the mid 80s, if I recall correctly, were generally two-day events and high schools would travel to another town and the teams would be holed up in some inexpensive motel.  Boys and girls, obviously, were housed in different rooms, but there was a lot of time for socializing.  You would hear stories of some debate teams sneaking alcohol into their rooms or young couples pairing off for extended, unchaperoned make out sessions.

There was a girl who was my friend, I’ll call her Allison. I had a crush on her too, but more than anything, we were friends.  After dining at a local McDonald’s, a group of us were hanging out in one of the rooms, boys and the couple of girls that were in debate.  Allison was sitting on her bed.  At one point, I thought it would be funny, maybe even romantic, if I jumped on her and pinned her down.

In my mind, I imagined a comical, whimsical experience for everyone, like something John Belushi would do in Animal House or Tom Hanks in Bachelor Party. I thought Allison would find it hilarious and charming.

So I pounced, awkwardly.

Allison did not find it funny.  She hit me and called me a “shit brick.”  In front of every other person, our friends, she called me out for my actions and ashamed, I left the room.  The next day, my debate teacher talked to me about it.  I apologized, of course.  I do not remember whether or not I received a punishment.  From the moment Allison reacted, I had felt regret and shame.  I had never meant to scare her or harass her or humiliate her.

For weeks or maybe months, we were not friends and then somewhere along the way, we became friends again.  Ultimately, I believe, we became better friends than before the “s-brick” incident.  And now, in my adulthood, I certainly hope that is the case, that Allison and I are “good”. But, you know, we men, even us gay men, we have this way of crossing lines with women and thinking it’s funny or romantic or cool, and the women end up feeling the opposite of those things.  Sometimes they speak up and sometime they don’t.

I don’t think Allison remembers me as another Harvey Weinstein or Casey Affleck or Bill Cosby. I hope not.

I thought a lot about Allison yesterday when so many of my dear friends and relatives posted “ME TOO” on their Facebook and Twitter profiles.  Proclaiming, perhaps some for the first time, that they had been victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment.  It broke my heart to think of the millions and millions of stories that suddenly were attached to these two words.  Me too.  The pain, the self-doubt, the shame, the tears, the anger.  And I also hope that, for those sharing their experiences, it came with a freedom and an empowerment and a sense of community.

Of course, every woman has been sexually harassed.  I suspect every human has been sexually harassed at some point.

So, yes, I thought about Allison, but I also wondered about what other things I have done or said that would fall under the category of sexual harassment.  Have I told a sexually adventurous friend that she (or he, for that matter) is a “slut” before? Or dressed like a “ho”? I am 99% sure I have.  Have I snickered at sex workers when I see them on Santa Monica Boulevard or in fancy restaurants with old moneyed geezers?  Absolutely.

It’s easy to think that I don’t have anything in common with Harvey Weinstein.  What an easy villain and target he is.  While I don’t think I’ve ever done anything approaching his machinations, I have to acknowledge my own culpability.  I just don’t always treat women the way they deserve to be treated.

Thank God that Allison confronted me immediately.  While to me, it was a sophomoric antic, to her, especially if she had stifled it or laughed it off, it could have burrowed in her forever and done irreparable damage.

I believe, or hope anyway, that people think of me as a man who loves women.  My earliest, fondest memories were always in the kitchen with my Mom and Grandma and aunts.  In first grade, I was actually grounded for a week by my first grade teacher, Miss Bartlesmeyer, for only playing with girls at recess.  My entire life my best friends have been women.

Also on FB yesterday, I saw a couple of my male friends make posts along the lines of “if something I did ever made my female friends feel uncomfortable, I apologize.” I think this is a really important step for all of us going forward, to think about the effects of our jokes and actions. As much as I believe all women have been sexually harassed, I believe all men have said or done something to a woman that crossed a line into making them feel uncomfortable, or worse.

I have to be honest about the state of this world and my country right now, it feels bleak. Our president is a documented sexual predator who thrives off of the division that was here before he was elected and he has only increased the ugly polarity in the 10 months he had been in office.

This whole Me Too movement is one of the few things that has given me hope for our country. As heartbreaking as it is to have a FB feed inundated with these stories, it must be acknowledged that it’s a movement that has crossed party lines. Every woman, Democrat, Republican, Green, Independent, has found their common ground over this.

I don’t think Trump wants our country to come together. He glories in the vitriol that has become commonplace. But, our president is not America.

We are.  And with two little, but powerful words, in a movement created by a woman, about women but for all of us, we are telling the president and all the men like him just how united we really are.  Me too.

 

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Makua Kane

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My Mother has a hutch.  As with most hutches, especially in the midwest, hers is filled with old plates and bowls and glasses and mugs and pictures and greeting cards and tchotchkes, all holding some kind of sentimental value.  When I was visiting in July, I found a pair of ceramic mugs with the Hawaiian phrases Makua Kane (Dad) and Makua Wahine (Mom) on them.  I have no recollection of buying them, but it is assumed that these were gifts I gave to them when we went to Hawaii as a family in 1980.  Which means, those mugs have been collecting dust in that hutch for 37 years. Or, I guess I should say, had been collecting dust, because I asked my Mom if I could have them back.  “Sure,” she said and added, not for the first time, “All of this will be your headache someday anyway.” On that visit, one of our goals, the three of us, was to declutter some of their house.  We had mixed results.

Anyway, I brought my two Hawaiian mugs home to LA.  I showed Eric, we both have a thing for old stuff and tiki stuff and sentimental stuff so it was a perfect fit for our home.

A few weeks later, on the morning my Dad began his chemotherapy and radiation, I saw the Makua Kane mug hanging from one of the nails in the converted ice box (old building) that stores our plates and mugs and bowls.  I selected the Dad mug and began my daily coffee ritual.  One packet of raw sugar, a little half and half, poured cold, then the coffee.  I sat on the couch with my coffee and I thought about my Dad and Mom, in Bartlesville, kicking things off.  They were on my mind, in my heart, and in its way, this time was a sort of prayer.

The next morning, I did the same thing.  Same mug, same ritual.  My Dad’s early response to his treatment was exceptional.  For several days, he felt few side effects.  On one day, I skipped my mug ritual, and on that day, he hit a rough patch.  Certainly, I know the rough patch was not because of me, but still, I did not want to take any chances.  Except for that one day, every morning since August 14, I drank my morning coffee from a hotel souvenir I gave my Dad 37 years ago.

When I drove back to Kansas, to help in his final weeks of radiation, I brought the mug with me.  Too cumbersome to fit in the car’s coffee holder, I balanced it in my lap.  The next morning, I brought a coffee up from the hotel lobby and poured into my mug that I’d cleaned out with the hotel’s Pantene shampoo sample.

In Kansas, my parents did not ask me why I had brought this mug home.  No mention was made, but knowingly, as I packed to leave on Monday to return to Los Angeles, they both said, “Don’t forget your mug.” And then later, “You do have your mug, don’t you?”

On Tuesday morning, me just leaving Albuquerque where the dog and I had stopped for the night, my Dad took his last radiation treatment.  I drank hotel coffee out of my special mug.

On Wednesday, it occurred to me that I needn’t drink out of the mug, the whimsical deal that I had brokered in my mind, was just to get my Dad through his radiation.  I could drink out of my favorite dog mug now.

Of course, I didn’t drink out of my favorite dog mug, which is a very cute mug. (Fishs Eddy.)  I opened my packet of raw sugar, poured my cold cream then added the coffee.  And I sat on my couch and thought about my parents and all they’ve been through and how well my Dad navigated it all.  There were rough patches, of course.  Quiet moments and painful moments and worried moments. It will be weeks before we know the effectiveness of the treatments.

Until then, we wait, doing the things that keep our mind busy.  My Dad is golfing today, my Mom listening to her books on tape.  I go back to work tomorrow.  But every morning, until I see a reason to veer from the habit, I will pour my daily cup of hope and drink from it.

 

Notes from Kansas, Part 2

I am once again back in Kansas, visiting my parents. My days are mostly filled with trips to Bartlesville for my Dad’s radiation, several trips to grocery stores and bakeries throughout southeast Kansas and northeast Oklahoma, and driving around Independence, with my dog, looking at old houses and buildings. My Dad is doing well, all things considered.  

I get a little bored, our entire day revolves around a 10 minute radiation session. That’s not a complaint, it’s kind of beautiful really. Ten very important and hope filled minutes. 

I like the downtime. I like taking my dog Ricky out with me for a walk or a drive. I take him to Riverside Park and we walk around the fountain. Tonight, after two days of rain, the sun had returned, with a few lingering dramatic clouds. The trees a little greener, the sky bluer, I wondered if maybe this was the most beautiful spot on earth. Had I really travelled the world in search of paradise when all this time it was yards away from me?

I’ve said it before, but I can’t believe that after dreaming, moaning, bragging during my entire childhood that I would someday leave this hick town, that I am back, in awe of its beauty. Also, charmed by peeling paint on old Victorians, haunted by houses in varying states of decay. 

When I am in New York City, another place I once called home, I walk and walk and walk every day that I am there. I try to walk down every street and avenue. I ask myself when I was last on this block? Have I ever been on this block? I’ll see a structure, something noteworthy like a 100 year old church or a miniature park or a just a bakery and wonder, did I know about this and forget or never notice it before? 

And here, in my most hometown of hometowns, I find myself doing the same thing. I drive down streets just for the sake of taking it in, recovering old memories, like the SCF lock-ins at the Nazarene church or the carnivals that blanketed the Washington school playground or that library that I spent so much time in growing up, reading about people who lived in faraway places. 

Also, though, I discover new things, like an apartment building or a miniature park or a bottling plant and wonder, did I know about this and forget or is this completely new to me? 


And while I drive, and sometimes stop and take pictures, I wonder, why am I doing this? Is this going to make me smarter? More successful? What am I gaining here? 

To be honest, I don’t know. The other day, a friend, in all kindness, commented, “Your sincere wistfulness at the past is a lovely memory of the midwest.” I had to laugh as I wondered, am I the Miss Havisham of bloggers, weeping for a time that only lives in my memory which means maybe it never existed anyway? Am I the sentimental guy buying Don Draper’s Kodak Carousel slide machine? 

From that Mad Men episode: “This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It let’s us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.”

If you’re still with me, I reckon it’s because you have a place that holds that kind of weight for you too. I know I can’t say it better than Matthew Weiner, or Jon Hamm, but this week, these drives, these discoveries, these memories, they have fortified me. 

Maybe just as all children, whether they are close to their parents or not, must eventually make peace with the people who raised them, we must all make peace with the places that raised us too. Am I the only one who sometimes blames a weakness or failure in myself on the town that raised me? That thinks, I would have had so much opportunity if I’d just been raised in New Jersey?!?! (If I am the only one, don’t tell me, let me wallow in my delusions.) 

But this place, it’s pretty special. And not just because of Miss Able and William Inge and that first lighted baseball game. Much of what I am today is because of her. And just as we carry the people we love with us in our hearts, even when separated by miles and states, we carry with us, any place that we have ever called home. And Independence, I know this now, will always be my home.


How to Take Ambien. 

Tip #1. Don’t do Ambien every night. Once every week or two is ideal, that way, when you fall into this wizened, actualized state I am currently in, it will feel like a gift, but also, an earned gift. 

Tip #2. Drink some water, hydrate yourself.

Tip #3. Do a non dangerous household chore. No ladders. I walked my dogs and then cleaned out my freezer. It’s so orderly I could get a job as a Schwan’s ice cream man. Ambien helps us take pride in our work, even as it deters our ability to edit grammar and spelling.

Tip #4. Acknowledge what you are feeling. Today, I am sad, today, I am worried, today, I am grateful, today, I want to get in my car and drive to Kansas. 

Last week, I told my parents and Eric that I felt I needed to move closer to home, to be there for my parents. Eric and I talked about moving to Kansas City, a town steeped with the kind of history that Eric and I both love. I would not say his response was ebullient, but he said he would definitely think about it, definitely consider it. 

My parents, they simply assured me that I wouldn’t like living in Kansas OR Kansas City again. They remember the speed with which I fled my hometown. At 20, I thought there was nothing that was not only interesting to me but also representative of me. But now, nearing 50, all I dream about are home cooked meals and walks in the park and sitting by a fountain and contemplating life as the water rises into the sky and falls into the pool. Driving to doctors appointments with my parents, they are a sacred ritual, like going to church. The  reward a sticky bun from Laurel Street Bakery or a chocolate long john from Daylight Donuts. And at night, I read a library book.  Books about faraway places that at 16, I read and thought, I hope to live there someday. And now, I read and think, I’m so happy I lived there. I once said in a piece that the local library was my window to the world out there, the world beyond Kansas. All true, and now I find myself luxuriating in the memory of being that chubby teenager, behind that window, warm, wistful, emotional, dreaming. 

These big medical stories that come up in our lives, they suck. Definitely they suck, but with the grim prognoses, there comes a permission to tell those we love just how much we love them. We get to spend more time with them. We try harder to make them laugh a little. We hold each other’s hands. We hug.  These last few months, this is the closest I have ever felt to either of my parents.  My Mom probably wishes I listened better when she explains the plot lines to her Mary Higgins Clark books on tape. Some days, my Dad’s voice is stronger and clearer than others. And some days the strain of trying to get people to understand his speech probably weighs on him more, but these conversations, even still, are for me, and I suspect for them too, touchstones of our days.

In just a few days, ETD still to be determined, I will be driving back to Kansas. This time, Ricky will be my co-pilot as we cross half of the country. Millie will stay here in LA with her other Dad. I am truly excited about Roadtripping with Ricky, I just hope he doesn’t get mistaken for Guy Fieri at all the diners, drive in and dives we plan to stop at along Route 66. 

Driving long distances, I don’t know, it’s kind of like those “what did you do on earth scenes” Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep bear witness to in Defending Your Life. You hear a song or see a sign or listen to a podcast or drive by a car, and you are flooded by the big and small memories from your entire life. The things you did right, the things you did wrong. 

Tip #5. When you become very tired. Turn off the lights, climb into bed and close your eyes. You will still hold the burdens of your day, examine them, polish them. But you will find grace in knowing all decisions do not have to be made tonight. Or tomorrow night. Think about the things that excite you.

Tip #6. In the darkness, with eyes closed, plant a smile on your face. Dream happy dreams.

The Forty-Niner

On Sunday, Eric and I took a day trip to Santa Barbara. We visited the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and, while it is partially closed, we thoroughly enjoyed the pieces that are currently being exhibited. 

My favorite was a painting of a gold rush miner sitting in a small cabin, his dog nuzzling him. The young man reads a letter, and the dog stares lovingly at him. No surprise that it was my favorite. I read the placard on the wall. The artist Ernest Narjot, until yesterday unknown to me, had been a young man who was part of the California gold rush. In fact, apparently, the gold rush is what inspired him to leave his native France and go west. 


When I got home, I googled this painting in hopes of finding a crisper image. I couldn’t find one. What’s up, internet? What I did find were a few more biographical details about Ernest Narjot. How he wasn’t exactly the most successful gold rusher. And how now, many decades later, he is most known for his gold rush paintings. AND, most of his gold rush paintings were done in his later years, with a nostalgic element prominent in those works. It’s certainly here in this lovely portrait. He painted The Forty-Niner in 1881, when he was 55, a middle aged man looking back on another time. 

Time flies, I know. Seems just yesterday, I was a young man leaving my own home and traveling far away in my own hopes of striking another kind of gold. Because today is September 11, I searched my old photos to find an old picture of me with the World Trade Center in it. I found a picture from 1991, from my first visit to New York, on a trip where I fell in love with the city the second I crossed the Holland Tunnel. 

I was on a mission trip with my Bible college. I wanted more than anything to live in New York but I didn’t know if I would ever be brave enough to make such a big move. Clearly, it was a grim day, all clouds and some rain, but still to me, paradise. Less than a year after this trip, I was living in New York. There is a part of me that will always feel that the day I moved to New York is the day my life started. 

So, today, on September 11, I reflect on the great tragedy of that day, the lives lost,  the people affected in New York and Washington and Boston and everywhere else.  We say we will never forget and I hope we never will. 

But also, on a lighter note, I reflect on young Ernest Narjot who in 1849, left his own version of Kansas and moved to his own version of New York and then, eventually, created beautiful paintings that touched the hearts of wayfarers (and dog lovers) for years to come. 

Daredevils 

IMG_1011I am back in Los Angeles, have been home for several weeks now. The latest on my Dad is that, after a wait that was longer than we anticipated, he is three weeks into his seven weeks of radiation and  chemotherapy. I talk to my parents everyday and so far, he’s doing pretty well.

One of the highlights of my visit home was the day we went to a Kansas City Royals game.

I’ll confess I had an idealized picture of what our Royals experience was going to be: father and son, reliving some kind of glory days. When I was little, we went to a Royals game at least once a season. While it’s been documented that I was never a great athlete myself, I did love the spectacle of a major league game. Who doesn’t?

My idealized picture did not anticipate a temperature of 105 degrees. My idealized picture did not remember that prime seats behind first base lose some of their appeal when it’s hotter than blazes.

We both wanted to get to the stadium early. My Dad wanted to see the Royals warm up, I wanted to give us plenty of time to get situated. While my Dad is pretty stealthy for 79 year old battling cancer for the 4th time, he is still a 79 year old battling cancer for the 4th time. Also, it was Eric Hosner bobble head day.

After waiting in the heat outside for nearly an hour, we got into the stadium and ambled to our seats. Seeing the green field and the sparkling fountains, it was as beautiful as I remembered it. We took a selfie. I posted it to Instagram and Facebook. We watched the activity around us. I went to buy a 9.00 glass of iced water.

About 45 minutes before the game was to began, my Dad got up to go to the bathroom. He did not come back right away.  About 15 minutes later, an attendant asked me if I was with an elderly gentleman. I told him I was.

“He went down.”

“What? He passed out?”

“He went down. I’m going to take you to someone and she will take you to him. He’s in first aid.”

The gentleman passed me off to a young grandmother type who briskly walked me toward the first aid center.

“I’m glad they found you because you can help answer questions.”

“Is he not conscious?”

“No, he’s conscious, they just need help answering questions. Don’t get upset, he’s okay.”

She opened the door and the first thing I see is my Dad, weary but very conscious with a wry smile on his face.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, don’t tell your Mom about this until we get home.”

I half laughed, “I won’t.”

He then explained to me that he became lightheaded when he got to the top of a long flight of steps and his knees started to buckle. Before he knew it, several workers had caught and carried him to this office.

A nurse was taking his blood pressure and pulse. She asked me what year he was born.

“1938.”

“And he’s being treated for cancer?”

“Well, he will be, we are waiting to begin his treatment.”

They made him an ice filled  bandana to wrap around his neck and we sat there for a few minutes. I asked the woman in charge of the facility what was next. She told us we could go back to our seats or leave. If we wanted to leave they could golf cart us back to our car.

“Can you help us find shadier seats? Maybe higher up?”

“No.”

“Would we get a refund on our tickets?”

“No.”

My Dad asked the woman in charge if he could use the restroom.

“Yes.”

“So, what are you going to do? You can’t stay here,” she told me once he was inside the bathroom.

“I don’t know.” And I didn’t know. I didn’t know if we should leave and go home or rush to a hospital or what. I did not know if his collapse, while easily attributable to the heat, was going to be an isolated incident or happen again.

Why did I let us come here on the hottest day of the summer? What was wrong with me?

When he came out of the bathroom, I told him, only slightly louder than necessity warranted, “They’re kicking us out.”

He sat down again and I asked him, “What do you want to do? What do you think we should do?”

“I’d like to stay.”

And so we did. We made our way back to our seats and my Dad sat with his icy bandana around his neck and the game began.  In time, the sun dipped behind the stadium and the shade was upon us all. It felt like a sign. After the liveliest 6th inning I’ve seen in decades, the Royals pulled ahead to an unstoppable lead.

I’ll be honest, as exciting as the game was, the entire time I sat in my seat, asking him if he was okay, wondering if we had made the right decision.

During the 7th inning, a storm that had been predicted, gave the first thunderous indications of what was to come.  At the top of the 8th inning, the score 7-2, I said to my Dad, I think we should leave to beat the rain.  He agreed.  It was fortuitous that we left when we did because the minute we got on the freeway, it started to rain.  And then it started to pour.  And then it started to pound.  My Dad and I, we laughed.  A nervous, dark laughter, on my part anyway, but it just seemed so unbelievable after the events of the day.  This wasn’t rain, this was a midwestern monsoon.  And I, not the best driver on even a good day, was at the wheel.

Long story short, we kept driving through the storm. We survived.  And for most of the three hour drive home, the rain was our mirthful companion, sprinkling then stopping then pouring then misting then pounding then stopping then raining again.

About an hour outside of Independence, my Dad, his socked feet on the dashboard, wriggling his toes, said to me, “I don’t know about you, but I’m glad we went. I had a good time.”

I laughed. Afraid another flash flood might still await us, I cautiously said, “I’ll wait until we pull up in our driveway before I decide if I am glad we went.” He laughed.

My Dad’s oncologist, when we visited him while I was in Kansas, warned my Dad of how challenging his treatment was going to be, the enduring effects this round of radiation will have on him, the quality of life that might be lost.  “I know it’s a hard road,” my Father told him, “but I want to go for it.”

Maybe it’s kind of crazy, but my favorite part of our Royals adventure was the next day. How both of us were a little giddy from our experience. Every time I walked through the living room, my Dad was on his phone, recounting the events to friends or family. My Dad, he likes to tell a story too.

“I think I scared Ray Jr….”

“…I thought that nurse was going to make us leave…”

“…every time we thought the rain had stopped, it started again…”

“…I’m glad we went.”

Me too, Dad. But then, you already knew that.

Notes from Kansas


I am in Kansas, visiting my parents. My Dad’s radiation and chemotherapy were both supposed to start this week, but the doctors  are still trying to figure out the radiation part of his treatment. I’ve been here since Tuesday and since my Dad hasn’t started his regimen yet, it’s been kind of a lazy few days. 

I saw some friends from high school last night. We caught up at a restaurant and someone suggested we go to the park to look at the newly restored fountain. It was my third trip to the fountain in three days. We laughed and took pictures and, I’ll be honest, it didn’t feel like a bunch of middle aged friends, on escape from our adult lives, it felt more like being back home for the summer, in between semesters of college.

It’s so easy to fall into a familiar rhythm. Here I am typing this in my childhood room. My pennant collection still lines my walls. My U.S. map bulletin board still hangs above my desk. One can see the spots on the map where I wrote “Independence” in Kansas and “Sand Springs” in Oklahoma (because my church camp crush lived there) and “Guiding Light” in Springfield, Illinois. With few exceptions, the room is the same as the day I graduated high school. 

More than once this week, I’ve thought, hey, I could get used to this. I’ve even cut my antidepressant in half. There are moments when I forget why I am here, on loan from my regular life. It’s been really nice.

Before I came, my parents and I talked about getting rid of unwanted stuff while I’m home. I’ve been throwing out folders and class notebooks from my bedroom and we hope to have a garage sale next weekend. (And we hope for cooler temperatures to make that garage sale more bearable.) Tonight, my Dad and I went through three of the 4 freezers they have, tossing out anything with a date older than 2012. (Anyone want a refrigerator? We have 3.) It wasn’t too contentious though a couple things my Dad vetoed because he didn’t want to lose the Gladware the frozen items were housed in. A few years back, my parents bought themselves a food sealer. I don’t know how much they paid, but they surely got their money’s worth for the joy it brings them. 4 oz of leftover ham? Perfect, we’ll seal it! A half eaten baked potato? We can pull it out of the freezer in December and reheat it! That December comes and goes and that the 1/2 potato lives three winters in the freezer, in a way, is irrelevant. I think they just like knowing they have lots of food. If someone comes over, they can pull out homemade salsa or apple butter.

One of the things my Dad handed me to throw away was a sealed styrofoam container. I didn’t ask. A couple minutes later, he handed me another identical sealed styrofoam container. 

“Dad, this isn’t even labeled.”

“I know what it is, it’s a cinnamon roll.”

And then I remembered, yes, the cinnamon rolls. 

I always think everyone knows this, but since a complicated cancer-removing jaw surgery in 2012, food has not been his primary source of nutrition. He feeds himself through a tube in his stomach. Several times a day, he pours water and cans of an Ensure-like product into that tube. He does drink a little coffee and eats some cookies, but his relationship to food, to say the least, is not what it used to be. And I know what you are thinking, it’s what I am always wondering, would I be able to have a rich life without enjoying one of the things in this world that I love most? I’d like to think I would, but I don’t know.

The first Neewollah after his surgery, he bought a cinnamon roll downtown, at the same stand he’d bought one for the last 40 years. He couldn’t eat yet, so he sealed it and put it in the freezer. The next Neewollah, still not eating regularly but with the same hope that he would eat again, he bought another. They were the goal he gave himself of what he would eat when he could eat. And, now here we are, five years later.

Anyway, tonight, after the cinnamon rolls, my Dad handed me a few other items and I started bagging it all up to cart outside for the morning trash. He said he was going to go inside to collect more trash. And I stood there alone in our garage, this hot, sticky, familiar garage. All I could think about were those darn cinnamon rolls. I told myself that if he COULD eat a cinnamon roll, he should surely eat a fresh one instead of these old, crystallized objects.  But also, I wondered what might it mean, to him, to my Mom, to me, for those rolls not to be there. When is a baked good more than a baked good? Well, I think, maybe, it’s more than a baked good when there is some kind of hope attached to it. 

So, when my Dad came back to the garage, I told him I had put the cinnamon rolls back into the freezer. He didn’t sound surprised. 

“You didn’t have to do that,” he said.

“No, I wanted to.” I did not know how to say to him that I feared that throwing away those rolls might be like giving up hope. That I wasn’t ready for the garbage collector to pick up those rolls in the morning and fling them into their truck and cart my hope, our hope off to the county landfill. So, looking down, because I was afraid to look at him, I simply said, “It just makes me feel better knowing they are there.”