Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chef Chaos

On my dresser is a small crystal bowl with a 15-watt light bulb in it.

I've kept it because I don't know why. I just have.

This past spring, I woke to smell of something burning. It was a thick, heavy smell and was coming from the hallway. Strike that. It was coming from Gavin's room. The realization immediately sent me into a panic. Not only was something burning, but it was IN MY SON'S ROOM.

So I woke the husband and we methodically searched the room, feeling walls for heat, checking outlets. We questioned Gavin endlessly, were you playing with matches, did you smell anything last night, did you jam something into the outlets? By the time Aunt Na arrived to get Gavin off to school, I had the husband in the attic checking the wiring by the ceiling fan in Gav's room.

The smell, however, kept getting stronger and stronger, but nothing -- and I mean nothing -- was burning. Nothing that we could find, anyway.

Then Aunt Na thought to check Gav's bedside lamp, the one he kept on during the night. There it was. The 15-watt bulb, burning sure and bright. Good quality those GE bulbs.

For Christmas, Gavin received an Easy Bake Oven and he learned that you could actually cook using a 100-watt bulb.

I bet you know where this is going, don't you?

Yep. Using his understanding of the Easy Bake, Gav decided to see if he could melt a foam sticker. On his light bulb.

So there's a 15-watt bulb on my dresser. Covered in melted foam. I'm still not sure what to do with it. All I know is that it makes me laugh every time I see it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Perhaps, if this makes you uncomfortable, you can blame the two glasses of wine. They made the words easier for me.

I've my iPod plugged in and am enjoying some golden oldies. The Skyliners are singing right now, but all I can think of is how Janet Vogel decided to turn start her car one day and leave the garage door closed. They lived just up the street from us, her youngest son is just a year older than me.

Morbid, no doubt. I'm good for that. My mind invariably goes to the process of dying, of what it's like to know your life is ebbing away. I think, too, of how I told my girl friend not to envy me the time had with my father. When Dad was first diagnosed, we were thankful for the time given. By the time he died, it was a curse. We didn't need that much time. We didn't want that much time. No one does. Twenty-odd months are too expensive, too high a price to pay for the chance to say good-bye.

We had time, in those long months, not to talk about the old days and say what needed said. We had time instead to smell death and hear its rattle. In the last month, I couldn't bear to walk into the same room, though I did, holding my breath, because he was already a corpse. But he just happened to be breathing. If that's what you wanted to call the gasp and hiss of air passing in and out of his lungs.

When you sit in the same room with the dying, it's a peaceful hell. There's a simplicity of the moment, for your task is just to be there. Helpless, but there nonetheless. I read, I wrote, sometimes I napped. At regular intervals, my mother or I would put on rubber gloves and rub morphine into the soft skin of his inner arm. We like to think it helped. And, though we each privately thought of it, we were never brave enough to give him more than the prescribed amount at the prescribed time.

The smell of dying goes away after you're in the same room for a few minutes. Olfactory fatigue, it's called. Your nose gets used to it and you begin to ignore it. So by the end of the chapter of the book you think you're reading, you can no longer scent the dying man.

You can still hear him, though. There's no fatigue of the ear strong enough to block out the inhaling gasp and the exhaling hiss, because, in the back of your mind, you're wondering if that gasp will be the last one you hear.


There's a box on my dresser. An antique copper box, probably a good 60 or 70 years old. In it are obituaries from the last 50 years. The fallen leaves from our family tree. My mother gave it to me some time ago. Her "Box o' Death," I jokingly called it. It's mine now, and my job is to keep the family obits in there. Someday, I suppose, it will be handed down to Gavin.

But that's a blog for another day.

Must I be so melancholy at the holidays? Yes. No. Perhaps. This Thanksgiving marked six years for my grandfather's death. This Christmas will mark five for Dad. As I said once before, any holiday without a trip to the funeral parlor or hospital is a good holiday.

It was a good holiday.