Sunday, December 9, 2012

So Long, Big Dog

I remember the day my brother brought the little dog home.

"Here," he said, "Look what we got."

He lowered a squirming, velvety black puppy into my sister-in-law's arms.

"What did you do?" she asked.  But she was smiling.

It is hard not to smile in the face of my brother's delight.  He is, like our father was, prone to extreme exuberance.  As I am.

"It's always a surprise being married to a Ward," my sister-in-law said once.
"You can say that again," agreed my husband.

We are exuberant and excitable.  Our emotions run high and hot and wet.  I say this for my own self, because I don't like to speak for my brother: I sometimes don't think things all the way through.  I love a good surprise.  I love to get a reaction, but on occasion I dismiss the long term effects of this need.

My father sometimes traded work for old wagon wheels or a batch of antique ice tongs.  He'd drive up to our house with a pile of deer antlers tied to the roof of his truck and step out grinning.

"Check that," he'd say.

My mother might have wondered where the grocery money was going to come from, but she couldn't deny the simple fact of his pleasure.

My brother's little black puppy grew into a big, black lab.  Edgar, in true Ward fashion, found the wonder in his world.  He chased flashlight "fairies" and soap bubbles and wanted little more than a good belly rub and fine friends.

He will be missed, this big dog.  But he is in good company.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Help From the Afterlife

My mom wrote today to say she'd seen a coyote drinking from her pond.
"The trickster," she called him and found some meaning in his presence.  To her, he is my father -- gone but still returning on this day to say a little hello.  Dad had a kind of sly smile, a wave that said he was coming and going at the same time, so maybe a coyote is the right kind of body for him to wear on his return.  At least it is for my mother.  I think she saw a coyote on this day last year and for at least a handful of the other years between now and when my dad was still on this earth.  Over a decade in New Mexico, coyotes are always possible.  On any day.

My stepmother often sees a hawk. These big birds circle over her on this day, though my father was afraid of birds.  He might choose to return in this guise, might want to take weightless flight for a spin.  A hawk is what my stepmother sees.

Once we found a beer bottle where there shouldn't have been a beer bottle.  More than once, we heard circus music like a distant parade.  On this day in the last ten years, we have lifted glasses in toasts and eaten green chile cheeseburgers.  We have driven to the desert.  We do these things to find him, to miss him, to be near what he liked.

Today I saw a butterfly, a hummingbird, I saw the curve in my own thumb when I rested my hand on the steering wheel.  I saw the way the hair grows at the base of my son's neck, the way my daughter can't help but pick up a bottle cap, a rock, a cardboard box.

Our dryer rattles with stones fallen from pockets.  These stones are weighted with memory for me, with possibility for my children.

Today our family is out in the world, looking up at blue skies and hawks, greeting coyotes with a smile.  We are eating and drinking and breathing with gratitude for our shared time.

"Give it a little juice," he used to say. "That's the stuff."

And we are.

The help from the afterlife is the way we remember and connect and continue to travel through this world.

The help from the afterlife is the nudge that urges us to look up and out and within.  We try new things and try to be a little more and a little less like ourselves.  Coyote, hawk, butterfly, hummingbird, blue sky, beer drinker -- all of us carrying on.