Friday, August 28, 2009

Unexpectedly Orange

Wednesday evening, After a long, arduous day, I joined the throngs of traffic on route 128, heading for home. I was soul-weary and contemplative. The sun was setting; my mind was everywhere and nowhere as I neared the Blue Hills.
Suddenly The yellow-gold light of sunset surrounded by the blue haze of the late day sky changed. In an instant the thick, puffy clouds overhead blazed with a brilliant orange, more Autumnal than summer, changing the hue and complexion of everything around me. The road ahead looked as if it was a movie shot with an orange lens. I had never seen anything like it.
"Wow. An orange-colored sky'", I mused to myself.
Suddenly I was grinning from ear-to-ear.
The song "Orange-Colored Sky" by Natalie Cole was one of Jenna's favorites as a child. She would sing it loud and often in the car with me. In fact, it is a staple on her I-Pod even today.
I could not help but appreciate the fact that the sky over my head - an orange colored sky - took place both on her birthday and right when I needed it most.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Thousand Words

Whenever possible, I have always kept a picture of my daughter on my desk at work. This served to remind me why I got out of bed and came to work everyday; to provide a good life for her. Even during the worst days in the office I was able to look over and see the picture of her smiling face. I drew comfort from her presence there.
When Jenna was five I was working in the admissions office of a local hospital. Her picture (the one seen above) was on my desk, which was situated right at the entrance to the office. In short, anyone who came into this office walked past me to do so. Of course, working there for a few years I had become friendly with many of the doctors and social workers. They would sometimes stop by during down times for a cup of coffee, some light conversation and some good jokes. There was much laughter in the office in those days. As people milled around my desk everyone of them knew who Jenna was because of her photo and my stories of her, even though they had never met her.
Because my shifts at the hospital sometimes required weekend work, Pam had agreed to drive Jenna to my work to meet me before the end of my shift. Jenna would come into the office, where I would have a paper and crayons for her to use while she waited for me to finish my shift.
On one of her first visits to my office word got around very quickly that "Jenna is here!" Soon there was a parade of women to my office, to meet the girl that they had heard so much about but whom they had never seen in person; only in pictures. Jenna enjoyed the attention and, proudly, so did I. I cracked a few jokes, everyone laughed, and then Anne arrived.
Anne always asked me about Jenna and she was tickled pink to finally meet her in person. Introductions were made and Anne asked Jenna some basic kid questions. "Do you like Elmo?" No, she didn't. "Do you like Rugrats?" Yes, she did - very much so. Now a few other clinicians as well as my co-workers were scattered around the office watching as Jenna worked the room, talking with Anne. Finally, Anne commented on Jenna's looks.
"You are a beautiful girl."
"Thank you," Jenna replied.
"You're welcome. Really, you're a beautiful girl and you look just like your Daddy. Did you know that?"
"Uh, huh," Jenna nodded.
"You're beautiful and your Daddy is handsome. Do you think your Daddy is handsome?"
Jenna paused, dead in her tracks.
She put her hand to her chin, swiveled her chair and looked squarely at me, deep in thought. After an eternity, Jenna turned to Anne and proudly proclaimed, "My Daddy's not handsome; he's funny!"
The laughter from everyone gathered was loud and long .
Finally, with mock indignation, I asked aloud, "Wait a minute. Did my daughter just tell all of you that I'm not much to look at but I have a good personality?"
It took a long time for the laughter to die down. Through it all, Jenna went back to her coloring, a slight smile on her face.
After seventeen years, I have many, many stories like this about my beautiful daughter and they are filled with laughter.
After seventeen years, I still have her picture on my desk at work.
And I still draw comfort and inspiration from it.
Happy Birthday, Jenna.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Paw

Last Thursday was Malcolm's twelfth birthday. We celebrated in our usual style - chicken and rice for dinner. He was happy.
Later in the evening I sat on the floor with Malcolm; scratching him behind the ears. As always, Malcolm draped his paw over my arm while I did so. If he misses with his first attempt, he tries again until he gets it right. Finally, paw in place, he lays his head down, contented, as I scratch his ears, his chin, his chest. He sighs deeply, contentedly, all while his paw rests over my arm.
I have never known why he does this. Is it because he likes contact? Does he enjoy the movements of my hand and places his paw there to keep it in place? Is it instinct?
I have no idea.
What I do know is that Malcolm has always been very generous with the "Paw of Love" (as Katie calls it) with me. While I think the name is silly, the sentiment attached to it is not. I know that I find "the Paw" to be as much a source of comfort for me as much as my hand is for him. There is a security found within this tender touch; this subtle reminder of our bond as a pack.
As Malcolm looks at me again I think that I catch a quick glimpse of his soul within his big, brown eyes.
It is an old soul.
More than that, it is a good soul, one that instinctively knows the power found within a simple, gentle touch.