He’s my brother. His name is Jeff

Do you ever get sad when you look at pictures from a long time ago? Recently, a friend posted some old class pictures from grade school. I noticed my brother in them. Second grade Jeff and third grade Jeff. I instantly became emotional. I really don’t know why that happens. Maybe because he looked so innocent and then endured such hardship later in life. I’m not sure.

I wish I knew why pictures affect me that way. I don’t know why I get so emotional. Something lost? Something missing? Wishing for more? Wishing for less? I don’t know.

My brother went through hell. I wonder why he had to. I’ve been lucky so far. Why not me? Why him? I have no idea. I always wonder how that works. He was the only boy in the family. Three sisters and Jeff. We are 13 months apart.

Growing up I looked up to him so much. I wanted to be like him. He was a good athlete. He played football and ran track. He had awesome quads. I remember going up the steps with him at the Prospect House. His legs were so defined. They looked so cool. I wanted to have definition in my legs like that. Maybe that was the beginning of my workout lifestyle. Luckily, we all got some good genes in that department.

But, isn’t that why sisters had brothers? We looked up to them. They were supposed to give us guidance. They were supposed to protect us and keep us in line. They were supposed to.

We weren’t close after we all left home. No reason. We just weren’t. But you can bet we were there for him when shit hit the fan with his health.

He almost died several times. He was diagnosed with a heart valve problem when we were in junior high. We were in the same grade and we graduated together. He was told that eventually he would need a heart valve replacement.

Fast forward to valve replacement. It was time. He was having a hard time breathing and doing day-to-day activities. So many things happened during that time. It was 2010.

He had surgery for the valve replacement on September 3rd. Things didn’t go according to plan and there were severe complications. He crashed on the table and they had to bring him back. Not a good sign for things to come. After the surgery he was recovering and then coded several days later. They went back in and replaced the valve again. He was in a medically-induced coma for quite a while. Complications were common for him. Finally on September 29th, he was discharged to a therapy place until October 12th.

In May of 2011, he ended up with an infection in the lining of his heart. Then on June 9th of that year he lifted a generator at work and had a cranial bleed from the blood thinners he was on. He ended up in surgery again. Everything was complicated with him. Nothing could be easy. Story of our lives. Same way growing up. Why should he change now?

I remember being at the hospital and in his room with his girlfriend, Linda. I felt God that day. I have to say that was the first time I really felt His presence. There was a pastor coming around to the rooms and praying for the patients. I recall he asked permission if he could, and Linda and I said sure. It was like the whole room lit up. I felt warm all over. I could feel Him so clearly and so strongly. It was the most comforting feeling I have ever experienced. I wasn’t sure it really happened. HE said Jeff would be okay. The pastor gave me a look. A look like, I know what just happened. Once the pastor left, I remember asking Linda if she felt that. She said she did. Jeff had more work to do. God was not done with him. He got out of the hospital June 20th back to Pierre for therapy.

Things were going good and then on October 7th, 2011, he passed out at a restaurant while eating with friends. He was taken to Rochester, MN, and had a 3rd valve replacement and bypass surgery. He was discharged on October 20th.

On October 29, 2011, he began to have seizures. He had a series of seizures through August of 2012. His last seizure was in May of 2013 and now they have been controlled with medication.

My brother is stronger now. My brother is a fighter. He always has been. I can’t imagine going through all that suffering and not wanting to give up. I remember clearly him being so mad at us when he had to go to the therapy place in Sioux Falls. He was sure we were leaving him and were never coming back to get him. It was extremely sad.

It truly is a miracle he survived. I often think about how I would have handled that situation. I know you can’t plan for things like that. You have to deal with them when they happen. There is no planning. There is no preparation. There is nothing.

I admire his strength. I admire him. I still look up to him.

The garbage can was tin

The garbage can was tin. That coppery color tin, about 12 inches high. It was my sister’s. David Cassidy or Three Dog Night was featured on it. The house was the Prospect House. Green stucco was the style. The drink was sloe gin, with orange juice and southern comfort. It was called a sloe comfortable screw. Nice word play. Nice drink for a 17 year old. The party was out of town on Bad River Road. That’s in Fort Pierre, for those of you who don’t know. A friend of ours had moved out there and they had a pool. It was a long way out there. I barely remember it. In fact I don’t think anyone was there when we arrived or very few people. Not even sure if the house owner’s kid, the party host, was there. This was one of the few times I got REALLY drunk. I was around drinking all the time, but I didn’t drink all the time. My sister turned me on to this drink. I was 17, I thought I was cool and the name was catchy. At this point in my life, I didn’t drink that much. I thought it was overrated. I drank enough at 16. But I did it anyway. I remember after this, I rarely got “drunk.” I may have drank, but rarely got even a little drunk.

The road was gravel. The car was Mary’s. The brown Toyota with the narrow stripes along the side, orange and yellow maybe white too. After we left the party house and were on our way back to town, she had to pull over so I could throw up. Everything was red. Everything was orange acid. Everything was whiskey. It was disgusting. I can remember being behind the car throwing up. But, drinking was cool, right? We were lucky the storm wasn’t perfect and disaster didn’t happen.

———This past Sunday night as I was getting rid of the garbage in the upstairs bathroom, the tin garbage can made that kind of weird noise like stainless steel bowls when one is tapped by something. The never-ending rattle was the garbage can. The unevenness of the garbage can. That noise. The kind that won’t stop unless you grab it to make it stop. The garbage can triggered the memory of the tin garbage can.

The time of year was late fall or early winter. I remember it being pretty cold outside. The bedroom was hot and I was miserable as hell. I don’t know what time Mary dropped me off. It had to be late. Or it had to be early. However your reference of time works. Late night/early morning, you know what I mean. I remember puking in that garbage can numerous times. Red sloe gin, acid orange juice and southern comfort whiskey, and then that fun part when you think you have to puke, but nothing comes up. You know that great ab exercise called dry heaves. Anything but comfortable. I’m not sure if there was even a bag in the can to line it. I can still smell it. I can still remember it. I can still remember how awful and hungover I felt. I hated that feeling. I hated not being in control.

One of Three Dog Night’s most popular songs was Joy To The World. Hmmm, that night was anything but joy and I’m sure the world didn’t care about me. There was no joy in my world that night.

I googled some of the drinks made with sloe gin. I’m super happy that I wasn’t drinking the Panty Dropper, or the Tie Me To The Bedpost Baby, but in that situation I think my signature drink should have been the Slow Painful Movement, which is sloe gin, beer and chocolate syrup. Now that makes me want to throw up!

—It’s funny how at that age we thought we were so cool. In reality we were so damn dumb. So many things could have gone wrong. So many things should have gone wrong. But they didn’t. We made it through the wonder years without getting in trouble. We made it through the wonder years without hurting anyone or ourselves. We made it through.

The garbage can was tin…

Because sometimes I think too much

Because sometimes I think about weird things. It’s what I do. It’s who I am. For the past week or so I have had this Hemingway quote rolling around in my brain. I can’t get it out. I actually don’t think I will get it out until I figure out my sentence. The quote:

All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. – Ernest Hemingway

I think about things. This is one of the things I have been contemplating. I am sure I am overthinking it, but it’s what I do sometimes. I am pretty sure the quote refers to writing and getting started writing, but I am actually having a little bit of fun wading through the murky waters of its meaning.

What would your sentence be? The truest sentence that you know. What is it? Does it feel hard for you to do that or hard for you to think about that? Does it scare you? What does it mean to you?

I have been thinking about this a lot. It’s hard for me to do. I don’t know for sure what it means to me. Would it be something bad, something good, something indifferent? So hard. I don’t know why. How can writing a true sentence be so hard? I think I want to overanalyze it. I want to think too much. I want it to be something. It has to be SOMETHING. I want it to be definitive, but then I think it can’t be. It shouldn’t be. I should just be. I should just stop thinking.

I had a super weird dream the other night. That has nothing to do with my true sentence, but I didn’t want to forget it and I was too lazy to open another page, so I will get it down here. But, who knows, maybe it does have something to do with my true sentence.

In my dream, I was walking. I think I was looking for or was going to meet John somewhere. There was a bunch of water that I had to walk along. I had three cats and a duck. The cats were gray, the duck was Mallard. I kept walking, looking for John. I didn’t know where I was supposed to meet him, only that I would know when I came to the place. It seemed like we, meaning me, the cats and the duck, walked forever. We walked along the water for a long time and then the water was coming to an end and it was just land, sidewalks and a parking lot. I had to let the duck go. I had to put him back in the water. I kept the cats and then went to the parking lot. That is when I woke up. When I woke up, I felt so weird. I kept thinking about it. I knew I wanted to remember it and I wanted to get it down on paper so I wouldn’t forget it.

Bizarre? Ummm, yeah! Weird? Ummm, yeah. I wonder if it has anything to do with my true sentence. Like I said, I can’t get that phrase out of my brain. I know I am supposed to be doing something with it. I just don’t know what it is yet.

My dream must have something to do with it, but what part of my dream? The duck? The cats? Me not finding John? I wonder about things like this. I can’t help it.

So, as I finish this blog post, I will continue to contemplate my one true sentence. I will continue to think about it. I will continue to wonder about it. I will continue to think and wonder. It’s what I do.

A broken bird and our cat is still missing

There’s a broken bird on my deck. A robin. I can’t quite tell what is wrong with him. He has a feather stuck in his eye and his leg looks broken. He keeps trying to get up. He keeps shaking his head trying to get the feather out, which does not help his concussion. I want John to hurry up and get home so he can stop the suffering. I feel so sorry for it. I’m sure it hit the window. That has been happening a lot the last few weeks. Loud bangs into the window and dead birds below. We even have things hung in the windows so they can see them and not think they go straight through.

Our cat is still missing. Her name is Sam. I hope she isn’t suffering somewhere. I can’t bear to think about it. She is an always inside cat, a never outside cat. I hope she isn’t broken like this bird. We have been searching for her since Saturday when we realized she was gone. We have not heard her meow at all. We don’t know where she would have gone. There was another cat hanging around and we wonder if that cat chased her away. We don’t think Sam would be able to find her way back home.

We have had Sam since she was about a year old. Tayler was little, about four. Sam is 14. Her birthday is June 1, 2003. I thought she was younger, but I looked up her vet records. We got her from the Humane Society. We saved her. She was really sick, although we didn’t know it. We weren’t planning on giving her soft food. Only hard food. She wouldn’t touch the hard food. John and I told each other she would eat it if she got hungry enough. Whenever she would try to jump off something her legs were really stiff and she could hardly walk. Well after about three days of not eating, we called the vet. She came and looked at her and she told us to give her soft food, because her teeth couldn’t chew the hard food. She was too weak. We felt awful! Here we were getting this cat to save her and we ended up almost killing her. Once she got some food in her she was fine.

She has been the best cat. She has been Tayler’s cat. She has been our cat. All of us. Even the big kids. She slept in the crook of my arm every night and then would move over to John during the night and sleep in the crook of his arm. When he would get up in the morning and sit on the bed to wake up, she would sit beside him, waiting to get petted and waiting to get water out of the bathtub faucet.

Every night when I would go to bed she would race me up the stairs and then plop down on her side at the top and wait for me to pet her. She was such a chill and cool cat.

We are holding out hope that she will come back or that someone will find her and return her. We live out in the country beside a sunflower field and across the road from the reservoir. There is plenty of brush and trees and things for her to get lost in. Odds aren’t good.

I pray that if she is no longer with us that she didn’t suffer. I can’t even imagine. It was so cold last night and she doesn’t have a winter coat or even know how to “be” outside. I can’t stand the thought of her suffering. It makes me sick to my stomach. I just pray that if anything happened to her it was quick. I pray that someone found her and took her in. Poor Sam. I pray she isn’t broken.

How do we sleep when our beds are burning

Why is fire so fascinating? It’s mesmerizing. I love it. Whenever we sit out at the fire pit, I find myself staring into it and getting lost in the colors. The dancing and jumping of the flames is fascinating. The colors are rich and vibrant. It is pretty and tantalizingly dangerous at the same time. Tempting and enticing, seductive even. I love the sound it makes when the wood cracks and the sparks release.

As far back as I can remember I have loved fire…

It was the Euclid house. My sister, Sherry, and me, alone in the bedroom we shared. One bed, one dresser and a closet. It was small. It seemed big at the time. It wasn’t. We locked the door with a butter knife. The kinds of door frames back then were the type where you could lock the door by sticking a butter knife in between the frame and the wall. I think that’s how it went. Anyway, it locked the door and nobody could get in. We stole matches from our parents. We were intrigued with starting things on fire. Little things.

It seemed like our bed took up most of the room. We shared it. It was either a full size or a queen. I’m not sure. There was a window on the south wall of the bedroom and it was pretty close to the bed. There was enough room for us both to crouch down beside the bed.

We had our stash, the matches and the fire starter—toothpicks. Apparently, toothpicks worked well to start a fire. We tested some toothpicks. They burned fast. As we were burning the toothpicks, we happened to notice there was a hole in the mattress with spider-webby fuzz and foam sticking out. Naturally, that was intriguing.

Sherry wanted to start that fuzz on fire. I didn’t. Sherry said we could blow it out. I didn’t think so. Because I was the older sister, 13 months worth, I was obviously more responsible. I kept telling her we shouldn’t do it. She kept telling me we could blow it out. Well if by blowing it out, she meant blowing it up, well then yeah, she blew it out alright. NOT. Obviously, it made it worse.

The fire started in the mattress. It got out of control. We didn’t know what to do. We were jumping on the bed freaking out. The fire was getting bigger. The flames were coming out of the bed, big time. We didn’t know what to do, so we hid in the closet. Yeah, that little closet that was on the other side of the bed. Like that was going to make a difference.

As a parent, you should never take naps when you have kids named Peggie and Sherry in the house. Especially 6 and 5 year old Peggie and Sherry. They will always get into mischief. We were much older than our tender years though, in case you are appalled by this story.

Mom must have smelled the smoke. Either that or we freaked out enough and were scared enough that we yelled for her. We were stubborn, so I am pretty sure she smelled the smoke.

I’m not exactly sure how she broke into the bedroom. Remember, the butter knife in the door. I guess it wasn’t mom proof. We were still in the closet. She came rushing in and then right back out. She got the bowl. The white bowl. The white Tupperware bowl. She filled it with water and came running back in. Back and forth with bowls of water. Water in the white Tupperware bowl. It seemed like it lasted forever. I bet she was tired. I bet her adrenaline went crazy. I bet she was mad. I bet she wanted to kill us.

Well, now what? We knew we were in BIG trouble. We were super scared, as you can imagine. We didn’t know what was going to happen next, but we knew it wasn’t going to be good. Once the fire was out, we were out. We were done. We were anticipating the punishment. I’m pretty sure she ripped the doors off the closet trying to get to us. I’m also pretty sure that I pushed Sherry in front of me, because obviously, she started the fire in the first place.

Sherry got the first ass beating. On Mom’s lap, pants pulled down, about 10 or 15 hard whacks and then she was thrown to the floor. Ouch. It was my turn next. Same scenario. Pants pulled down like they were made of paper, like there was nothing to them. I’m sure we covered up our butts with our hands. No go. That didn’t matter. She still found a way to get her whacks in. And then, just like Sherry, I was thrown to the floor. I’m pretty sure she threw us back in the closet. The same closet where we tried to hide. The comfort of the closet, which was not comforting at all after that.

It was over. Except not really. The bed was burned beyond saving. It was ruined. It was the kind of bed that had a box spring that was actually springs, not too comfy at all. We had the privilege of sleeping on those springs for over a week before we got a new bed.

Our fire days were over, or were they…