« The Flower »

virginia lucas, my grandmother in 2000 or so.G-ma Virginia Lucas, 1909-2001Maybe you've heard it said that only God can make a flower, and that nothing a human could do would create the beauty of a flower, no matter how we can mastermind the use of its component parts. We could carefully dissect it and try to reassemble it but it would not be the same. And especially so, we could not create such a thing of our own minds and hands.

I could never collect back the library she had. All the books are scattered, probably doing some great good somewhere else, but nonetheless irretrievable by me. I still have a few of her Bibles—I kept three of the nine she had when she died.

I could never collect back the assorted knickknacks she had collected from the various trips she took to the Holy Land, South Pacific, Alaska, Central America, and Europe. Similarly, all the little things that dotted her shelves, walls, and cabinets are mostly gone.

I could never take back all the musical and recording gear I bought in the summer after she died, using the inheritance she passed on to me. It's been sold in large part after the economic wipeout after 9/11, and sometimes to get yet other gear which I never used like I thought I would.

I can't even really live in the house we used to live in. That decision was made by someone else now.

I can't hear her voice, despite the pages upon pages of writings of hers that I kept. In the years I lived at her house, I spent thousands of dollars on music and recording gear, and not one minute taking any of it into the room neighboring my studio and using it to record any of her stories, poems, or just a conversation. My gear and my studio time was more important than that somehow.

last easter for virginia before dying a week later. includes ed, eda, rene, and jessicaEaster Sunday 2001, the last day I saw G-ma alive. Surrounded by Rene (Eda's son), Jessica (caretaker's daughter); Eda (my step mom); and me.No, even if I had all the pieces of her life back here before me, I still could not conjure up my grandmother Virginia the way God presented her to me and the world. The first woman to lead me to God has been gone for five years today. I saw her on the floor of my neighbor's house where she spent the last several months of her life in their care. She was in peace. The room was brighter and breezier than any room at our house. The people she lived with were outspoken in their love for her, and she for them. They treated her far better than we did. My father and I were there within minutes after she died. This was the first we had seen of each other in three months after a huge blowout, and this was the first he had seen of his mother since maybe two months before that in what was a similar explosion of wills over her property and how she'd live after a fall and mild stroke. My father and I shared no words to amount to much as we both sat there and counted our respective losses and possibly contemplated how we'd wrangle with each other over the resulting property and money that would only really drive us to more madness and dysfunction. I guess we both were selfish in the wake of her death. He made it a quick task to come over and begin the chain of events which led to my expulsion from the house last summer. Within three days of her death, he came over and began to make the garage modifications like he had always said he would. His mother was not even in the ground and he was already riding roughshod over her wishes and mine, as if to cackle and laugh like a madman who can't be proven wrong.

For my part, I promptly spent the $26,000 which I got in the summer after her accounts were closed, and spent it on things I thought would maybe not make me happy, but at least be the tools of musical self expression. Now they pretty much disgust me, and are the monkeys on my back.

I never cried buckets for my grandmother. I think all that has been set aside for this time. For some, it would be an automatic reaction to do so. But not in my emotionally retarded "family" which consists of my father and me, if you can call that "family." He cried some on that day, but I don't know why. His few episodes of emotional rapture confound me. I guess I shall never really know what is in that man. He has ossified layers upon layers of emotion-restricting walls built up over him. I don't suppose I can ever say or do anything that would shatter all that defensive material. The sight of him sobbing on April 23 and the sight of him bringing power tools and lumber to the house on the 26th only causes me dissonance in my mind. I'm pretty convinced she was only a roadblock to his plans for expanding his materialistic ambitions. For years immemorial, he's told my grandparents about his plans for their house when they can't manage it anymore. And so it was that April 23, 2001 was the day when there was no further barrier to setting those plans in motion. As she laid on the floor that day, my grandmother's silence was an existential scream for me, as I sat hesitantly a few feet from my father, knowing full well this was not the time that would bring us healing, but the time that would finally remove the last person—except for me, maybe—that got in his way, and that I was no match for him. Who else but his own mother could speak with any authority to him, to tell him for the Nth time what is right, or that so-and-so is worthy of respect? To him, I'm the kid, the ignorant kid with everything to learn. He can't and won't listen to me in any way. And in many ways, he callously disregarded even what his own parents said to him about their own wishes.

But enough about him. You get the picture. For me, it was that my dear little house and studio were in peril, and ultimately succumbed to his domineering influence. And it was painful as I imagined, though I handled it differently than I imagined, primarily because I am married and couldn't be as careless as I once thought I would be when presented with such a thing. But it backfired on both sides—not only did my father "win" the house from his unfair game playing and manipulation, but I also managed to effectively lose my once-rabid interest in recording and composition, and fell into a materialistic malaise of endless gear purchases and sales and more purchases, none of which led me to better recordings of deeper ideas. Maybe it never was in me. Maybe my muse was gone. Maybe I just lost it. But blowing my inheritance was not the answer—that much has come into focus, and has been apparent for a while now. Yet, I can't take it all back and even get the $26k. This tape can't be played backwards. I can't put the flower back together, even if I had all the pieces. I guess it's this helplessness that is driving me to denounce my lesser self that is consumed in materialism. I could use a loving grandmother in my life now more than a studio full of gear. I could use someone in my life who can tell me the old stories and share the old wisdom. I could use someone in my life who could be one of God's representatives who leads me along a good path dotted with righteous actions. I could use someone who feeds my curiosity about the world.

Once upon a time, when I was learning piano (barely) back in 1993 or so, my grandmother heard me playing some exercise which I probably was just not getting. She asked me if I'd play by ear some real common and basic melodies that everyone knows at least how to hum. I could not even get some of the easiest stuff right by ear. In one of those sorts of moments which can be polarizing if taken the wrong way, she commented that maybe I just wasn't meant to be a musician. I rejected it for a while. Still, she gave me her piano later that summer after she broke her arm, and eventually allowed me to have my studio exactly opposite her bedroom wall. She didn't give up on me, but I also hid most of my recording work from her because she never would have gotten it. That is an easy estimation; she thought that Elvis was the end of music, so she never would have understood any of the stuff I did. On her side of the wall, she only heard and felt the bass notes—she never really knew in any detail what I was doing. I guess what I was doing was channeling the angst that accumulated as I sat by and watched my family fall apart. Preferring not to be hassled by either my materialistic and sarcastic father or my pious grandmother in a time when I needed to find my own way, I just sat by, accompanied by the often dark soundtracks I cooked up and committed to hard drives and tapes and disks.

In bouts of self-hatred, I often entertain the images of all my DAT tapes, CD recordings, and all my guitars, drums, and other gear all in a smashed up pile on the road out in front of my house, for all to see. In bouts of father-hatred, I envision the same thing, maybe to demonstrate in some way that I have some control over my materialism in some way that it seems he does not. Either way, whoever I profess to hate at these times, it never seems to be the greatest idea to smash all my stuff up and leave it in a heap in the street. But I don't know what to do with it. Selling it is humiliating (when you realize exactly how worthless it is and has devalued even if fairly new), but using it is maddening. I keep telling myself to try to use it for some more noble goal than to create dark soundtracks of a troubled soul. If it can record that, it can record a poet's exaltation and sense of justice, or an old person's stories, or anything else that people use this stuff for. I guess what I need to do is find things that need to be recorded, instead of forcing my will on these items when even my will is uncertain of what it wants.

So maybe I can't reconstruct the old flower and marvel at its beauty the same as if it were whole and right before me, but I've come to see how there is this new flower in my life now that brings some of the good old flower's qualities to life for me now, at a time when I seem to be better poised to appreciate them. Of course I'm talking about Kelli, who now inspires my sense of wonder in the world again, and who has a great moral compass, and who embodies some of the most timeless and desirable things that my grandmother had. Little by little, some of my own pieces come out of retreat as I stop denying myself the ability to live and love and relate to things of beauty, which of course was a hallmark of the time I spent holed up in my shack full of devices which I'd hoped would help me channel life, but don't seem to do that anymore, at least not like they used to. It's hard to want to retreat to such isolation now that I've decided that isn't where it's at anymore. It's as if I were living in a freezer for so long and have decided that I rather much like the warmth of the outside.

I like the flowers.

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