I write this at my dining room table, a custom built 8-foot, 250+ pound, white oak farm table, so new the clear coat has not cured yet. It arrived only two weeks ago, just in time for a Thanksgiving feast that will not happen.
For years, I hosted ‘Wayfarers Thanksgiving’, a dinner party for ‘orphans’, for those of us who left our places of origin for opportunities in the Twin Cities and had no family to spend the holiday with. I was in a one-bedroom apartment with a view of an alley and no dining room table. We packed in the living room around a coffee table and sat on paisley mustard pillows suitable for outdoor furniture.
I have my first home now, a condo with a fireplace, and a dining room big enough to host such a party. But there is no party, only dinner for two in the sunroom. I cannot risk COVID-19. It’s not for my sake, but for all the vulnerable adults in my life. I would survive but I cannot risk spreading it first, second, or third hand to others. I know everyone is sick of hearing about it, but COVID-19 isn’t over just because you’re bored with it.
I bought my first home February 28, 2020, a condo in a building built in 1912. I moved my possessions two weeks later on St. Patrick’s Day. I left for Peoria, IL four days later on March 21, to help my mother at the end of her life. She died on Mother’s Day and we buried her a week later. I returned to my home in Minneapolis, May 23.
Although I have owned my condo for five months, it does not feel like home yet. In my mind, my home is still a one-bedroom apartment in an old house off an ally behind a hair salon about five blocks from here. It was my refuge after my loft apartment burned with my belongings in May 2013. I lived there alone and rebuilt my life.
I trained for and rode RAGBRAI twice while living there. I traveled domestic extensively for work and pleasure and even internationally once to Turkey. I published a posthumous memoir by my friend Todd about leukemia, the disease that finally took my mother. I started this blog, wrote the material for the book I’m publishing this fall, and started attending poetry open mics around the Twin Cities. That’s where I met Loren, my partner who I live with now.
My last two moves were in the midst of major crisis and upheaval.
It doesn’t help that the jet stream often covers our state in a deep blue-purple swath or that International Falls actually went to court for the official trademark title: “Icebox of America”. Yes, by some people’s calendar, winter lasts six months here.
By the astronomical calendar, the winter solstice will occur at 10:19pm Central Time on December 21, 2019. This means in very real planetary terms that the South Pole of the earth is tilted toward the Sun and the Sun will be at its southernmost position in our sky, the Tropic of Capricorn.
But for those of us living in Minneapolis on the 45th northern parallel, which is halfway between the North Pole and the equator, winter has already arrived. As of Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport measured 9.2 inches of snow. We got an additional 2 inches last night and they expect another 4+ inches of snow tonight. Continue reading →
When I walked into my apartment on May 11, 2013 after a fire incinerated everything that I owned, I had little more than a garbage bag of clothes, a grocery bag of canned goods, an alarm clock, and a cot. The only piece of furniture I still had was a kitchen island with bar chairs that had remained in my car in its original box. I could not carry it up the three flights of stairs to my loft with a herniated back, so it survived and serves as my kitchen table now. Continue reading →
Every last Macintosh
Has a hole in it
No holes before
Now the tree sags
Weight of unwanted fruit
Scent hangs heavy
Rot on the ground
Apple pies, apple butter
Dad had a gift
To tend life into green
Twenty years later
It is old and dying
Animals live off its bounty
Insects, birds, and rodents
His care gives life still
No matter what the groundhog says, we are only halfway through winter. It is still 7 weeks to the vernal equinox and the astronomical start of spring. I have heard it said that there is no bad weather, only bad gear. These people have clearly never dealt with -55°F windchill.
Like most Minnesotans, I have multiples of all my winter outerwear: parkas, boots, hats, and gloves. I even have a sense of the temperature rating of my socks. You do not wear the same ones in 20°F as you do in -20°F. All cold climate residents will tell you, layering is the key to staying warm. Continue reading →
My father was a poor kid. Born in the 30’s, he grew up in the rough part of town and lived through the Great Depression and WWII. My grandmother was a single mom with four children for much of my father’s childhood, a time when there was a lot of shame, condemnation, and little support for that circumstance.
The local newspaper, the Peoria Journal Star, ran a toy drive during the Christmas season during those years. It was a charity of gently used toys collected then given new homes, distributed to disadvantage children. My father was a recipient of those toys. Continue reading →
When the flood comes into the house it leaves mud and mold. You try to clean up. It’s a bad day when you must throw the refrigerator and the flooring out- but what can you do? You have your life with you, the stuff of what remains- your mind, your experience, your willingness to move on or not.
Maybe that’s the real tragedy of it all. That the tragedy derails you for years. That passersby look on at the unfinished roof and are annoyed at your laziness. They don’t know that dad fell off the ladder, hit his head, and died trying to fix it.
And you can’t face it.
You can’t face the pain. Bills must still be paid and the collector doesn’t give a shit that your heart is in pieces. That you can’t think clearly enough not to pour spoiled milk on the last of the cereal in the box.
No one remembers your trauma and you are never over it fast enough for their taste. They’ve moved on to the next episode, the next season. As if life is a television series and they are sick of watching you.