Tag Archives: moon

Long Way from Home

Long Way from Home from Brotherly Love by the Vaughan Brothers

Crepe Myrtles, the trees Andrea favored

I had a rather unique problem tonight, one that I didn’t think would be any big deal, not for me at least.  It wasn’t even something I’d thought about since we moved out of our home and into the rental where we’ve lived for the last many months.

Abbi, my oldest, had ordered something from Amazon.com and had it shipped.  She was scratching her head at the kitchen table asking me if I’d picked up the mail or if there was a package.  When the box wasn’t there I looked up at her with a sudden cognition realizing exactly what she had done.  You see, Abbi hadn’t ordered anything online, particularly from Amazon, since last year – and I don’t mean last year, December 2011, but last year, January or February of last year.  When she’d ordered her box, she had never bothered to change the settings of her account and simply pushed the “order” button and said ship it off without realizing they were sending the box to our old house.  The tracking information said it was delivered at noon and it obviously was at the old house.

I saw her struggling with it.  Once before, in a bit of routine memory, she had accidentally turned into the road leading to our old house on the way home from school.  She couldn’t turn around, it’s a small 2-lane almost country road that led to our old neighborhood, so she turned into the cul-de-sac where we had lived.  The house was empty, the back yard being landscaped and everything just torn up.  Which is what it did to her, tore her up.  She was a bit overwhelmed.  She had to park the car and compose herself then continue home.

I didn’t think I’d have the same problem, I really didn’t.  I had moved us out of the house, done the walk-through and everything when we left, did the “broom clean” bit and even did the round about looking at the yard and everything to make sure we had gotten it all.  I left knowing full well that this wasn’t the home of our dreams.  This wasn’t my middle child’s view at all.

The day I announced we were moving Hannah went into a panic.
“This is our house, Daddy!  Mom wanted to live here!”

But she didn’t.  That was the only irony that kept me going.  Andrea didn’t want to live here.  Sure, she’d found the home, even slyly, using her very feminine wily ways of conversation to get me to buy into the fact we needed to buy into the housing market that was giving me heart palpitations because of the massive disparity in costs from the market in Texas, where we’d lived prior.  I said before, Andrea had ways of making me say and do things I would never have done before.  It was good in some ways, but in others, like buying a home right before the market tanked, that’s bad.  I don’t say this to make it sound like Andrea always got her way or tried to make me a virtual slave to her ideas and ideals.  Far from it.  In fact, there were moments where we nearly didn’t make it because I caved in too much and had to come to terms with the fact that I needed to help her since she helped me so much.

The ways it helped, of course, are evident.  I met a friend for lunch today and when I talked about my kids and going through teenage shyness and self deprecation I told her how I was shy, paralyzingly so, in my teenage years.  It was horrible, and I even regret it but couldn’t help it then.  I was so scared of rejection, so lacking in self-confidence I nearly couldn’t function.  In a group of friends I might be fine.  When I had a crush on a girl I so desperately wanted to ask out, I would – and this isn’t an exaggeration – dial the first 6 numbers and physically couldn’t get to the 7th.  I would hover over the number.  I had an old push-button phone that would dial out the number like a rotary phone and even if I got to the number, I’d hang up before the last number went through.  The few times I went out I was so amazed I’d gotten to the date I couldn’t think what to do.  I was quiet, shy, and just stupid.  Let’s face it.  Wish I’d been less of a dweeb, but it took Andrea to see that it wasn’t really me.  It took her not just befriending me, but loving me, showing me I was worthwhile.  It’s funny, just withing a couple months, when we’d just started dating, I must have made a pretty drastic change.  People I’d spoken with in my college classes normally wouldn’t have given me a glance – not because they were mean, I gave them no reason – were asking me to out for drinks.  Girls were saying hello.  I was actually being flirted with, even enjoyed it, but knew . . . I had found the person who really knew me and she was waiting for me.

My friend said they couldn’t picture that.  They saw me as so outgoing and confident, the complete antithesis of what I was describing.
“That’s Andrea,” was all I could say.  “She looked at me and saw something.  God knows what, but she saw it, pulled me out of there.  I have to wonder what her friends thought, because I know some of them had to be wondering what was going through her head.”  I’ve said it before, but I’m so much better for having fallen in love with her.  I just wish I’d told her that more often.

But where she made me better, she made me worse, too.  We bought our home, thought we’d argued and negotiated well. The price was far lower than market, by a lot.  But then the market didn’t just “adjust”, it tanked.  I liked the house, it was nice, it was big, and it was somewhat comfortable.  It had two ovens which was amazing.  But by the same token, the space between the kitchen island and the fridge was barely enough to fit one person, let alone two through.  The pantry was deep but narrow.  The light fixtures weren’t normal screw-in lights, but plug-in one-brand flourescent only.  The furnace filter was off-sized and had to be custom ordered.  The house was always drafty and the back yard was literally a mountain of a hill that couldn’t grow ANYTHING.  I tried, used a jackhammer on the rocks, tried to plant jasmine in the soil, planted carpet roses and hiked up the back yard.  But we never had the money to finish it.  The house cost so much we couldn’t afford to do anything else.  The enjoyment you’re supposed to get from having a home just wasn’t the same.  It echoed massively.  The place was loud.

We moved because we had to.  Financially, sure.  We didn’t have a second income.  I can’t use the social security for such a large mortgage payment.  I can’t do it without a second income, and it was just too much to handle alone. More importantly, though, my daughter and I couldn’t look around without seeing Andrea.  She was on the couch in the living room.  She was at the table, a mug of coffee in her hands.  Her form in the front room, where the Christmas tree was every year opening presents.  Abbi said everywhere she turned she saw Andrea and she just couldn’t take it any more.

So I took up the mantle of getting her package from the old house.  I thought it would be fine.  I wasn’t sure if there were people there or not.  I wasn’t sure what I’d say, but it wasn’t like I wanted to tour the home, I just wanted Abbi’s box.  But the closer I got to the neighborhood I started to feel like that kid again.  My heart started to beat so hard it was skipping, the tachycardia I had as a teen becoming evident again, making it hard to breathe.  I turned onto the road and started up the giant hill, the mile of asphalt leading to the small neighborhood.  I realized there might still be friends in the houses, maybe out and about.  I went from the strong, confident journalist to the teenager who was dizzy from the hormones and emotion of trying to ask out that girl all over again.  I told myself I didn’t know why I was feeling this way, knowing full well I knew exactly what I was feeling.  I hadn’t been back here since we’d packed up the trucks and moved.  I had no idea who was in there now, never really met them.

I pulled up and the Christmas lights were still up on the house.  A giant dumpster was out front, a Christmas tree in it, rocks and landscaping garbage in it.  I walked up and saw Abbi’s box on the porch even though the people were obviously home.  Through the windows I’d seen new paint, different colors even on the walls.  I grabbed the box and turned around and noticed something wasn’t right.

The lawn right by the front of the house, the small sections of grass that went on either side of the sidewalk normally bordered the two garages of the home – one a small one-car and the other the normal garage.  In the middle, when we left, were two trees, pieces we’d loved when we moved in because they were Andrea’s favorite.  They were crepe myrtles. The trees were tall, still young, and they flowered every Spring in beautiful colors and made her smile.  As I turned around, the front grass had been covered with mulch, tons of little tufts, desert kind of plants filling the whole area.  The trees were gone.  The things she’d loves so much had been ripped out, sitting in that dumpster, unceremoniously disposed.

I couldn’t take it.  That was the last bit.  I was glad I hadn’t had to talk to the people inside, but I couldn’t believe it.  I was angry, though I had no right to be, it isn’t my house.  I was sad, so much so that it just broke my heart.  I know it shouldn’t, Andrea didn’t like the house, she didn’t want to live there forever, or even much longer when we were together.  But now, the piece she liked, the bit that made me smile every time I marched up the walk to the door when I got home, was gone.  Not just gone, but ripped up, torn out and tossed aside.

I wasn’t bawling, not screaming or beside myself.  But it affected me.  I took the box, my eyes watering and sniffing a little as I walked up to the car and couldn’t bring myself to look back at it.  It’s not that the house had changed it’s that I just couldn’t face it.  I realized I was just starting to fall apart.  Simultaneously I was turning into the teenaged wallflower and angry, simpering man.  I realized that I’d weighed myself down this whole time.  I could tell you more about my shoes and the sidewalk than the world around me because I look down and trudge along like a man weighed down by a cord of wood.  After putting the box on the passenger side I looked up.  I inhaled a deep breath, opened my eyes, and realized I’d been staring at the ground wherever I went for the last nine months.  So I looked up and noticed up there, nearly at eye level, was the moon, nearly full, orange, and beautiful.  The woman’s profile staring back at me in the right lower corner and the stars around it.  The crisp air made the night clear and I saw the stars, brilliant and twinkling at me.

It made me think of her, of how her eyes sparkled like those stars when she smiled and of how the first time we visited my folks and it scared her because there was no light, just the stars.  I looked around me, seemingly for the first time in months, and realized even the neighborhood was dead.  Our home sat there, the lights and Christmas decorations still gaudily glinting there.  The house across the street empty, dead.  The neighbors selling, another house, vacant.  Andrea wasn’t here anymore, but she really never was.  I’d prayed this would make me more hopeful, but in the end it just resigned me to the truth.

All of it had changed.  We left and left it all behind.  The house wasn’t the house any more.  It felt like the place was just standing there while we moved.  Like Andrea, we’d left it behind, like so many crepe myrtles in a dumpster.

I try to hold on to my son’s analogy, that she’s there, in my heart, the biggest portion.  But I have been looking back so much to try and keep standing, to shoulder it all that I haven’t just . . . looked.  It’s really hard, nearly harder now than we even thought the holidays would be.  I think I realized, as I drove away, that it was because we want so badly to hold onto what is back there, but the more we move, the farther it falls behind us.  It made me feel even worse to finally realize it, and I had to pull out, into a Target parking lot, wandering the store aimlessly, because I didn’t want my daughter to feel like I’d been so affected by a simple package retrieval.

After a short while I composed myself, headed home and went to our new house.  I had to get the boys ready for bed, the midnight snacks going.  I had to get moving to the daily routine, knowing full well that with each little action, I was pulling us farther away from the world I’d just revisited.

And I took some solace knowing that even though it was left behind, Andrea’s body lies under two new trees, the same kind, those beautiful crepe myrtles, and at least there I can visit and know she might see them, wherever she is, and smile.

Bad Moon Rising

There she is, that damn lady in the moon!

Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival”

It all started with the covers on the bed.  Well, maybe it ended there, because it started with the moon coming over the foothills on my way home.  That’s probably most accurate.

Normally I get in around 8:30am to work and leave around 5:30.  Technically I am 9-6, but my boss said he doesn’t care what hours I work as long as I get the job done.  Between a discussion of several stories and the inevitable hour-long negotiation to try and get a photographer to shoot a sweeps piece I had reached a level of stress I hadn’t felt in awhile, and I still had the entire evening to deal with.

You have to think of my day as a kind of sandwich.  It starts, usually really early (for me) around 5:30 or 6am getting myself dressed, fighting with Hannah and the boys to try and get some semblance of their rooms picked up (usually with my miserable failure) and then heading down after showering to make them breakfast and readying them for school.  Then I drop them at school, talking with Abbi to make sure she’s got a handle on her day, then head straight to work so I can make it by 8:30-ish so I can get home and put dinner on the table at a reasonable hour.

But today went long.  Getting a photographer isn’t an easy prospect. Nine guys off, God help us if someone calls in sick, and if I have to travel very far (I do) then I’m taking a shooter for a full day.  This on top of trying to work a bunch of stories so we have some semblance of a sweeps calendar.  I don’t manage this anymore, but I still have to produce.  I’m it, for now.  So leaving around 6:15 or so puts me square in the nasty time of traffic and idiocy that is Highway 50 East.

And then I saw it.  The Bad Moon Rising . . . a full moon.  I’ve read all those studies, even listened to the unwanted lectures and unsolicited parenting articles that claim sugar doesn’t cause kids to get hyper (They haven’t met MY kids, then) and that the moon has no impact on people or children.

Bullshit.

Sorry for the profane language, but it’s the best descriptor, believe me.  I drove toward home, watching the full moon, that bad moon rising, beautiful, an amber color, with the craters forming an image like the left profile of a woman, staring at me with her one eye, smiling hideously, knowing full well that there’s loads of fun waiting for me at home, I just had to get there.  The traffic was nasty.  The drivers on the road was angry.  The syrupy color of the moon draining as it rose higher and higher, almost directly above my house.  It turned from its ruddy color to a brightness I can only describe as God’s flashlight.

I walked in the door and it was quiet.  Too quiet.

Abbi, God bless her, was crumbling cake into a bowl.  She’d found a recipe for “cake pops” and was determined to make them.  Her cake of choice a red velvet, the food dye everywhere, on the counter, staining her hands, in the sink.  I had grabbed a couple frozen pizzas, so I didn’t need the counter space, but it was an interesting project to start the night before she had to take her PSAT’s.  Oh, yeah, did I mention she had to take that tomorrow morning?  Guess she’s not too worried.

But the moon has a way of acting on the kids.  I know I sound like my mother again, but they went screwball, Mad Mad World, bat – s#*t crazy.  Hannah beating on the boys.  Noah trying to shove Sam’s face into a cereal bowl.  Sam screaming at Hannah because she skipped 3 frames past the commercial of some awful anime cartoon they were watching.

And then Noah told me what a girl in his class told him.  Now, bear in mind, I know Noah’s a handful.  He can have his issues, but he’s a good kid.  He’s very loving.  He’s hurt easy, but acts out when he is.  But this was over the top.  The girl looks him in the eye, sideways glancing at Sam (I added this for effect, probably didn’t happen, but Sam heard it so it makes me feel better to vilify the kid) she states “my life is better than yours because I have both my parents and your Mom’s dead!”

Now, Noah is usually reactionary.  He doesn’t instigate much, but he reacts rather angrily.  This just hurt him.  His eyes were teared up and he was hurt.  I told him, if her life was that much better, she wouldn’t have had to tell him it was.  She obviously is jealous of him for some reason.  I don’t know why, maybe her Dad doesn’t hug her as much as I hug my kids, I don’t care.  It was hurtful.

It also set the tone for the evening.  It’s why he went off the deep end, hit his brother, poked at his sister, and then that horribly cackling woman in the moon sent them over the edge.

So I got them going for bed.

But here’s where the bed covers come in.

Noah wasn’t happy his bed was messed up.  Bear in mind, of course, that they’re supposed to make their own beds every morning.  I’m not like a drill sergeant, by the way, I don’t flip a quarter to make sure it bounces off the covers or measure the corners to make sure they’re neatly hospital style.  But I make my bed every morning, they can too!

I read every night to them, so this night we were reading a book by my friend (read acquaintance) James Rollins: Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx.  Noah was upset his bed was messed up.  I told him he should have made it this morning and to put the covers back on himself.  His response was to rip off the bedspread and throw it on the floor.  I kept reading.  He ripped off the sheet, threw it on the other side of the floor.  I told him it would get chilly tonight, so if he’s cold, he’ll have to get up and pick up the covers.  I wasn’t going to fix them unless he apologized and asked nicely.

I looked and the moon, that woman’s crazy eye staring at me from the mid-point above the horizon.  The damn woman was pulling on their strings!

So, here’s where it really gets crazy.  I finished the chapter, said prayers, hugged Sam and told him good night.  Noah buried his head in the pillow.  He hugged me but wouldn’t talk.  I just looked at him and said “I love you.  Are you seriously going to go to bed and not say anything?”

I won’t put any of the kids to bed without saying I love them.  I told Andrea every night before they kicked me out of the hospital, and I said it every night when she was alive.  I’ll be damned if it’s not the last thing each kid hears before they fall asleep.  I ask the same of them.  They don’t have to like me very much, and on Bad Moon nights they don’t, but I hope they love me.

Sam was beside himself.  He wanted Noah to have covers.  He’s the protective son, the guardian of their safety and the carrier of the banner for our solidarity.  He wanted me to fix Noah’s covers.  I wouldn’t.  I told them both if he came and asked me nicely I’d do it.  Otherwise, he knows how to make his bed.  If he’s cold, he’ll get the covers himself.

I tucked in Hannah, scolded her for how bad her room was – so bad I can’t walk in without tripping over some little thing – and gave her a hug, told her good night and I loved her.

Then I went downstairs.  I watch so little television I’m still watching season premiers of shows from September and turned on an episode of some crime procedural while I got the materials for tomorrow’s lunches.

I heard the shuffling feet before I saw the little blonde head peek around the corner.  His eyes were wet, not tearing, but near there.

“Daddy, will you please come fix my bed for me.  I can’t do it right.”

It’s really all I wanted.  Yes, it was a battle of wills, but I won’t abide being rude or impolite.  He thought he was showing me, but he really was the one who got the lesson.

On the way up the stairs, as I turned at the landing to go up the second set of steps I heard it, quiet as it was:

“I love you, Daddy.”

Take that, you ruddy colored bitch.