Monday, October 25, 2010

Poems from the Past

The other night, Mr Wonderful and I were dining at his parents house-pasta with cheese and bacon, topped with a potato-chip crust. It was divine, but I digress.

During the meal, his father turned to me and began to recite: Oh Love! Could you and I conspire/ to grasp the Scheme of Things entire..." (It grew from a thread of the general conversation, turning it to a subject less tense than the political subjects we had been discussing).
He asked if I knew this verse. I admit, I had heard it somewhere, and being an English major felt pressure to rise to the occasion. Nodding, I waited for him to continue, however, I was asked to finish the recitation.

Ummm....I had heard it, but had no real idea where or in what context.I certainly couldn't recite it.

My future Father-in-law continued undaunted.

"Oh love! Could you and I conspire
To grasp this Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter them to bits-and then
Re-mold it to our Heart's Desire."

A beautiful verse made richer by his thick Lebanese accent.
He repeated the lines again, so I could learn it.

"Do you know who wrote this?"
"No," I had to confess.
"Omar Khayam. The Rubaiyat. Rubaiyat- for quartets- four." He smiled, repeated the words again.
They stayed with me long after dinner was over and Mr. Wonderful and I returned home.

In my mother's possesions I found some things that puzzled me. One was a poem, by Christina Rosetti written on a 3x5 card in a script much too neat to have come from my mother's hand. Or at least, the mother I knew. But I am sure it was hers, penned carefully and thoughtfully; the similarities to her hurried everyday penmanship were there:
For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.
-Christina Rosetti 1830-1894

Another was a tiny book titled, Sprigs of Persian Wisdom.

The third was a small coopy of The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayam.

An inscription just inside the cover read,"Aug 12 1965, Honolulu. Birthday greetings in a thought-filled book-May your life be guided by wisdom and a questioning mind. A happy day + life. Snooker"

And there, on the penultimate page, the verse recited at dinner.

My aunt, Snooker, moved to Hawaii in 1964 and stayed there until 1996. In 1965, my sister was six; I would follow three years later.

I guess, until I had found those artifacts, until my mother and aunt were gone, until I wrote pieces of their stories in my college thesis, I never really considered the depth of their relationship. They were seven years apart, my sister and I, nine. I assumed the younger relationship reflected the older. There was an ebb and flow to the sibling regard between my sister and I, so maybe we were following an iherited precedent. My sister and I certainly have come closer with time and semi-maturity (I refuse to grow up!)as did my mother and Snooker (who obviously had trouble with the aging process).

Wait! I take it back! I don't want to be Snooker! It's my sister that is collecting baskets and childrens books, and spending hours in craft stores!! So maybe that analogy doesn't work.

But I could see my sister sending a card to me with the Rossetti poem inside. I can imagine sending her a book of verse for her birthday.

There is pain there. These three objects, perhaps have more meaning in the absence of those that sent or kept them. Perhaps, my mother wrote the poem down in order to memorize it. It is possible to imagine her snickering at it, as if to say yeah, right. Or maybe, Snooker, in her usual last minute, but thoughtful modus operandi, found that book in a shop and thought, OOH! I can send that for Betty's birthday. A little Arabic verse will do her good.

Probably not.

The two Khayam quartets as they appear in my mother's copy of The Rubaiyat:

Would but some wing'ed Angel ere too late
Arrest the yet unfolded Roll of Fate,
And make the stern Recorder otherwise
Enregister, or quite obliterate!

Ah Love! could you and I with Him conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits-and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!

I wish that were possible.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Difficult Decision

Three years ago, my mother and aunt were killed by a drunk driver. I have written about that event, in poetry, prose, and blog. But I have not written much of the man who pushed his accelerator to the floor, rocketed his girlfriend's car down I-91, weaving around traffic, until, fatefully or not, he said "Fuck it," and slammed his vehicle into the rear end of my aunt's Ford Focus.

I use the term, man, loosley. Luis Medina had turned 21 scant days before that fateful night. He had been drinking, he had marijuana in his possession at the time of the incident. (I can't use the word accident, because in my mind, an accident implies a lack of control over events.) Luis was not known as a pillar of his community; he had drug offenses on his record. But he was young, and a new father.

The day after the incident, while my sister and I were reeling, trying to take in the immensity of what had happened, Luis walked out of the hospital. True, he walked with a limp and the inevitability of an arrest warrent, but he was alive and relatively well. In the months following, he would be arrested three times; for drug possession with intent to sell- in a school zone no less, reckless driving and possession of a concealed weapon- a gun, and for two counts of vehicular manslaughter.

I tried to fathom how this young man, who was nearly the same age as my own son, could have such a lack of... humanity. Or did he?

Could Luis' behavior be attributed to the harsher side of nurture versus a horrible inherent nature? It's true that he grew up in the rougher side of Hartford, CT. Perhaps, Luis never had a chance.

There are those, who believe that there is a cycle of behavior, prison, and recidivism in certain inner city neighborhoods that is nearly impossible to escape. This, I can accept, but there are casualties of this tragedy that stain only the hands that steered the car that night.

We went to the sentencing- my sister, her husband and son, myself, and my son- to confront the monster directly; we went to read a statement of loss to the court. I am not sure what we expected. For my son and me, it was a long drive and a longer wait for our turn in court. As a family, we watched others come and go, waiting for thier turns, each party secluded within a bubble of anticipation and apprehension, just as we huddled within our ballon of grief and anger.

The court advocate came and gave us updates; we were waiting for Luis's council to arrive. We ate lunch on our uncomfortable bench by the main door. We talked, we played games on our cell phones, constantly checking on each other-"you ok? Yeah, you?" over and over-as the time crept by. At long last, we filed into the courtroom. I held the paper on which our statement was printed. I had been elected, or coerced, into reading for the court and I shook with a heady cocktail of conflicting emotions and nerves.

Finally, all were present. Luis was escorted into the courtroom, obvious in his blaze orange jumpsuit. He was tall, dark-haired, left-handed, and so damn young. I held onto my anger, thought of my mother and aunt, remembered the words he had supposedly uttered before slamming into them and his apparent lack of remorse after the fact. I approached the bench when instructed. I read our statement, trying to control the quiver in my voice and slow my words for all to hear. I looked at my son, young and grieving, then looked at the criminal, also young. My son, surrounded by his family, Luis alone, except for an arrogant and uncaring public defender; no one, not a mother, sister, or his girlfriend and his child, came to support him.

He read his own statement, professing his remorse, giving us an apology he admitted was inadequate, admitting his guilt, immaturity, selfihness, and stupidity, none of which, he allowed, would make up for our losses. He was surprisingly articulate and seemed sincere. The judge heard us, then read the sentence.

It has been three years since the incident. My sister and I have gone back and forth between wanting Luis to suffer every single day and wanting to help him make his life better or offering aid for his child. We want Luis to pay dearly. We want something good to come from the tragedy.

He is so damn young. He was so selfish. He stole half of our family, destryoyed our lives. It cannot be undone.

Luis is serving a six year sentence and will be eligible for parole soon.

These days, we are trying to decide whether or not to visit Luis before he gets out of prison. My sister has written him and received an apparently heartfelt reply. If we see him, will we believe anything he has to say, will we accept any apology he offers?

I believe in restorative justice, the idea that through forgiveness we can reduce recidivism, improve lives, and, ultimately make the world a better place; it has to start somewhere. I want so badly to hope that Luis can turn his life around and become a productive and positive member of society. It's a long shot-he is a felon with a history of taking the stereotypical inner-city crime career route. He is a cliche of the times. And I don't want him to be.

There are steps in place before we initiate face-to-face contact, designed to assure the advocates and case-workers, that we are emotionally prepared to meet our offender. We cannot expect much and are left with the reality of a situation that holds scant possibility of hope. Is that not another tragedy? One of failure. We cannot dictate the future for Luis or his child. My sister are no more in control of this outcome than we were of a certain Nissan Maxima on the night of August 25, 2007.

It comes down to accepting a harsh reality or striving to change the future against nearly impossible odds. I guess, for me, it comes down to the attempt: if we try and fail, there will be a cost, another needle in this wound. If we try and fail, Luis will be no better off than he is now, having to succeed or fail on his own with the deck so stacked against his redemption. If we try, and we make a difference, however small, to help Luis become the kind of person that would never have committed this crime, who can make a better life for his small family, then...

I think it might be better to hope.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What Happens When I Listen to Beethoven's Ninth

Is unhappiness a human condition or simply a creation of perception, a foil to help us appreciate communion? Or is it a tool to help us recognize beauty and joy, allowing us to appreciate them through contrast, for even in the desolation of the desert there is splendor, magnificence patiently waiting for moisture and life beneath the shifting, impermanent land, and arid rocks. These are the secrets of the elements. Water, earth, fire, combine to create and destroy. Cosmically balanced in infinite ways. Endless marriages of these forces become myriad potentials. Some leave the paucity of physical limits and become intangible, immeasurable like air, spirit, and consciousness, existing in the space between science and belief, between physical and emotional, between proton and electron, the inexplicable essence of Being.

I search for a truth I can embrace, a wholehearted surrender to faith. I envy those who find comfort in biblical parable and rule. For me it has ever been a fiction, corrupted by the very hand and mind behind the written Word. I have always felt it was extreme hubris to try to know the will of God in whatever form or forms chosen, perceived, or accepted and yet, I long for the peace that others find there. Simplicity of belief is the source of my envy. Religion does not comfort me. It does not offer any answers my mind accepts, only begs for proof that cannot, by the nature of faith be found. Is there a higher purpose in my discontent? Is it possibly universal? Is it some cosmic joke? Are we not alone?

Do we, as humans set ourselves apart or are set apart, for wanting answers to the question of Why? Without access to the inner secrets of any other creature we will never have a satisfactory reply. Do plants and animals feel and think? Is this a purely human condition? Do the inarticulate and inanimate have gods? We developed religion and science to find out, but we are no closer to the truths we seek, only more questions. Perhaps this adversity is the meaning we all seek. The constant friction of enigma and solution motivate us. We have created a universe in our own reflection, molding it physically and perceptively for comfort.

If that is true, is not pain a figment of our own creation? Are hurt and anger narcissistic constructs which allow us to perceive happiness and peace. Agony defines our triumphs, is the cost of achievement, the price of reaching magnificence. It is here, in this synchronicity of pleasure and pain, where peace and epiphany are found. Pain gives realization meaning. Jesus became more divine through sacrifice, torture, and death. Can’t we all? Isn’t everything’s worth measured by the price paid?

Consider Beethoven, for me the embodiment of talent and despair. By all accounts a taciturn, angry man. He alienated his family, used acquaintances selfishly, was demanding and tyrannical. And yet. When you scratch the surface the paradox emerges.
Music defined his being, but he couldn’t hear it. The rage of his father stole the sense needed most for his chosen passion. Frustration at the loss defined the man and his relationships. This man, who could not hear, who could not bear happiness, created out of his own silence, the music of joy- a redemption of pain coalesced into symphonies that are both felt and heard.

This what I desire, to put to words the music I feel. To create, from pain and learning, something of peace, an ode to joy and perhaps some kind of salvation.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I began my day walking up to the barn, as I usually do, when it's not rainy or cold. As I started up the road, geese, flushed from the fresh-cut corn, erupted, honking and swirling, into the crisp, bright sky. I paused to watch them sort themselves into flocks, falliing into formation, thier vees like compass-points disappearing into the distance.

It is a half-mile stroll to the barn. Uphill.

At that precise moment, there were others, half a world away, gazing with appreciation or wonder or gratitude, at the same sky. Thiry-three miners, trapped beneath rock and earth for an impossibly long time, to them, what could that glimpse of air and atmosphere mean? I cannot imagine.

Years ago, when my mother was living in Arizona, our family visited the copper mine in Bisbee. Tucked between the hills, lorded over by a gleaming, white "B" blazoned on a mountainside, Bisbee bakes beneath the desert sun. Of course, our visit was in August, when the dry heat is not so dry. The copper mine was open for tours. As we awaited our turn to load onto the tram that would pull us deep into the mountain, we picked out well-used sweatshirts and sweaters from a bin. Outside, it was 100 degrees, but in the mine, the temperature could drop to forty. Over our borrowed, slightly moldy and odorific finery, we drew on yellow slickers, and covered our heads with construction helmets fitted with large lights on the brow.

Loaded onto the tram, the descent into the damp dark began. My sister and I pulled our legs in tight- she cringed with a fear of rodents, while I could only dream up the horrible huge insects that would call this place home. Our headlamps were the only illumination, the tunnel narrow as we rolled farther and farther away from the surface. We toured tunnels and caves, turning our lamps of at one point to experience the totality of darkness. Even in the large, carved-out chambers, there was a sense of vulnerability, a hyper-awareness of the immense weight of the mountain above; it was a feeling of isolation, a deep-rooted instincutal fear, being so far from outside.

The tour was an hour at most. Although it was refreshingly cool in the mine, it was an incredible relief to return to the oppressive sunshine.

I cannot imagine spending a work-day in the mine, much less keeping sanity and hope alive for days that turned into weeks. These men were lucky and strong. While those on the surface planned and worked to find a way to free those trapped in the earth, those below had to strive to keep thier sanity and health. Those of us watching from afar, on computer or television screen, who cheer as each man is shuttled to the surface, who watch as the cable winds down and down, preparing to bring up the next, may look to the sky and be thankful for its beauty.

That appreciation, no matter how transitory or short lived-until the bills are due, or it rains for days, or the minutia of civilized life harries or angers us- is an inadvertant gift.

A half-mile. Uphill. On a cool autumn morning, it doesn't seem so far. But it is worlds away.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I saw the movie, Secretariat, the other night. Did I like it? Yes, and no.

If I suspended my disbelief- looked at it for what it was-a Disney version of the truth and mainly about Penny Chenery- then I did enjoy the film. Especially the racing scenes.
To be honest, there was no way the movie could have lived up to my expectations.

To me,the horse, Secretariat is...beyond words.

I was strolling around the Waldenbooks in the mall, wandering up an down the aisles, trying to find something to read, and waiting for my parents to finish browsing-I must have been in elementary school, because it was before I started making others wait for me in a bookstore- when my dad brought over a book for me to look at.

"I think you would like this one."

A simple statement, but not one often made. For some reason, my parents, though proud of my reading accomplishments- reading sentences and simple books at three, writing by kindergarten- they rarely influenced my literary choices.(I do remember my mother saying I probably would not like a book I pulled from our bookshelves titled The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. I slid it back between it,s neighboring novels where it stayed for years, until I read it anyway. Loved it.)

The book my parents bought for me that night was Secretariat by Raymond Woolfe, Jr., a tome full of glorious photos of a pretty horse, a nice gift for a horse-crazy daughter. Or so I thought at the time. I didn't read the book right away, only flipped through the incredible pictures. I had never seen Secretariat run, had never watched the Kentucky Derby or Triple Crown, I didn't understand his greatness. My mother loved the beauty and tragedy of Ruffian, and, though I think she thought Secretariat was incredible, he was much too perfect for her to truly embrace. I think my mother was an unrealized horse-girl, that she felt that giddy swell in her gut whenever she saw a horse galloping. Or she liked Ruffian because she was a tragic female in a male-dominated sport.

That book began an obsession with a horse I had never seen. I wanted to go to Kentucky to visit him, and there was some talk of doing just that, but unfortunately, Secretariat was euthanized before that trip became reality. It was later, on a VHS tape, "Legends of the Triple Crown", that I finally saw excerpts from Secretariat's races, was able to watch him run, though I had seen the photos. I knew the facts, memorized from the Woolfe book and William Nack's version of the Secretariat legend Secretariat: The Making of a Champion. I have collected every other book on the subject including one about Secretariat's groom, Eddie Sweat.

Going into the movie, I repeated a mantra(borrowed from a post on a horsey discussion forum) "This. Is. Not. A. Documentary." I said it quietly when the facts of the movie were skewed, when the rules of space and time were altered to suit a 90 minute running time, and especially when common-sense horse knowledge was thrown out the window (wouldn't every girl or boy with the horse disease love to have that moment when you gaze into your mount's eye and know...everything.) It's Disney. I was mumbling a lot.

Then the horse began to run. In the Derby, the race footage almost made me feel like I was in the race. I added, through my imagination, the feeling of acceleration- Secretariat, in real life, ran every quarter of a mile faster than the last to break the record. The Preakness in the film was the actual television footage of the race. Goosebumps. He circled the field in the first turn like the other horses were standing still- he devoured the ground with his legs. And there is dispute over whether or not he broke the record there, too.

The Belmont. It's a good thing I brought tissues. I knew. After all, I can't watch the YouTube footage of any of these races without tearing up. There is a moment in the movie, during the Belmont, where there is silence. The camera shows the final turn of an empty track- the white rail, and the ridged sand. Suddenly, the horse thunders into the frame. Alone.

I wept.

There are those who believe that racing is evil. They have a point, there are many horrible stories from the nations racetracks. But no one could have ever watched that race, the 1973 Belmont Stakes, and not understood that this horse was running of his own voilition, for the sheer biological instinct to run that inhabits every horse, and, in that moment, he rejoiced in his own perfection.

In the movie there was a soundtrack of gospel music. At first, it annoyed me, but I understand the choice. Penny Chenery was heard humming a spiritual after the Preakness. And if anything could be truly called God's creature, Secretariat was indeed it.

For all of the inaccuracies in the movie- William Nack and Penny Chenery each have cameos in the film and were advisors, so really, who am I to judge?- I was given the opportunity to feel like I was there as Secretariat ran.

For that, I am grateful.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What Goes Around Comes Around

It's been raining for the last few days. One would think that inclement weather outside would encourage me to stay by the computer and write.


I've floundered about the house, battling my allergies and a sense of malaise that seems to have no genuine source. Though if I am fair to myself (which I rarely am), an inability to breathe freely did have something to do with my melancholy.

Of course, the constriction in my chest made me think of my father. You see, he had allergies and I had this rabbit...

The year I was nine (around Easter-time-thanks to some sadistic, marketing geniuses), I bought a small albino bunny from the mall pet store. I named him Twiddles. Hey. I was nine. But now you understand why my sister named all of the pets (though, for the record, our dog was named "Spoofer". 'nuff said.) The story is my sister even named me. I was supposed to be Megan, but my sister had a hated schoolmate with that moniker, so they went with what my sister chose- Nancie.

Back to Twiddles. He was a sweet rabbit. But he grew big and fat, as rabbits do. I should note, that the only reason I was allowed to get the rabbit in the first place, was that someone told my father that the pet would last only marginally longer than the string of hamsters I had owned through the years. (And before my sister comments, I take full responsibility for abusing my first hamster. Hamsters are very delicate creatures and they don't fly well or take to being squeezed like putty. I was six. But I still feel guilty.)

Enter Twiddles, the pet that was only supposed to last a few months. A couple of years at most. We set up his cage in the corner of the family room, near the pool-table. Sweet bunny. I would let him hop around the room. He would bounce around happily, thumping and leaping around the room, standing on his back legs, sniffing the air, rubbing his chin on everything. I could hold him, rub his ears, and he would lie on my lap, belly-up like a dog.

I loved that rabbit. My father did not.

Part of the problem was my lack of animal husbandry skills; I was less than diligent about cleaning up the trails of rabbit-raisins after a few hours of bunny freedom; I was a bit lax in the cleaning of the cage, too. A lot of yelling was usually neccessary.

Years passed. Yes, years. Many, many years. Did I mention that my father had allergies- allergies that increased in severity with the passing of time. By the time I was in high-school (I did say many years) and Twiddles was still munching hay and pellets in his corner of the family room, my father was taking oodles of medication to control the histamine levels in his body. And the main culprit? You guessed it- he was allergic to animal hair- particularly rabbit fur. Go figure.

It got so bad that he was rushed to the emergency room of the hospital and put on a nebulizer until he could breathe without distress. My mother went with him, was fairly (for her) sympathetic, I was given a stern lecture about cleaning more regularly and effectively after the animal my dad affectionately called "The Goddamn Rabbit."

And the ER visit was repeated more than once.

His doctor kept increasing his medication and I tried to clean better. My mother did not believe in letting something like an allergy dictate everyone else's life. Sometimes, I think seeing so many sick people in her profession made her less than compassionate toward the ailments of her immediate family. Either way, the status quo remained.

I was nineteen when Twiddles died. I had planned to go to the beach for the Fourth of July, but I just had a feeling. Twiddles had been starting to fail, so I stayed home, watched a movie, checking on him during each commercial(he'd been moved from the family room to the laundry room in an attempt to improve my dad's quality of life). When the movie ended, I checked, he was gasping for air. I picked him up a cuddled him, rocking him as he breathed his last. Even after he was gone, I sat with him on my lap until my dad came home. I was devastated.

We buried Twiddles that night.

I'm pretty sure the quick interrment had to do with my extreme grief and not my father's relief (maybe, glee?) that the G-D-rabbit was finally gone. After TEN years.

That was decades ago.

My son has a rabbit now. Which, though he is a college student, I cared for when he could no longer keep it with him. In the beginning, I called it my Grand-bunny. Except it is not friendly. At all. Now I refer to her as: Bunnicula, the Monty Python rabbit, and, of course, that G-D rabbit. (She attacks and growls. Really growls!)

Furthermore, as I have aged, I have developed allergies. And, yes, asthma. They flare when the seasons change, when there is a lot of moisture and mold, and when I groom the horses in the summer. I use an inhaler. Needless to say, the last few days have been hell. I can only imagine what I put my father through. The man was a saint. I understand that much better now.

Karma's a bitch.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Big Happy Birthday to my Sister

It is my sister's birthday today. I won't divulge how old she is, (yes, I do remember)but she is nine years older than me.

There are very few times I let her know how much she means to me. I regret that. Part of it is our family baggage-my dad was the sensitive one and my mother did not really appreciate that quality much, a piece is age difference- which has declined in significance as we both get older, and then there is my, shall we call it, lack of sensitivity other humans that I mastered at an early age- I'm getting better at it.

Let me tell you why my sister is so special. First, and foremost, I thank her for not letting me die of mysterious causes as an infant. I am sure it was tempting. Let me explain.

Our rooms adjoined; in order to get to hers, she had to walk through mine. And I was not the easiest baby to have next door. OK. It has been said that I was one of the angriest babies people encountered. I cried, no, screamed, a lot. My mother worked nights. My sister was in elementary school. Kids don't learn well when they have not had adequate sleep. My mother always claimed my sister had a comprehensive difficulty in math(that was not how my mother described it, but this is my version. I also think my mother was projecting her own insecurities with mathematical concepts) I believe that any difficulties can be blamed on sleep deprivation, which resulted in learning challenges. And let it be known, that she is better at math than I am.

The point is, at nine years-old, my sister suddenly had to deal with a screeching baby right outside her bedroom door. To say I disrupted her life is a gross understatement.

Despite this imposition, my sister always tried to take care of me when it mattered most. And she still does. Through the past ten years, my sister has gone above and beyond to make my life better. From sticking up for me even when I most certainly did not deserve it, organizing a bridal shower from seven hours away and keeping it a surprise until she ran into traffic(ok she kept the fact that our mom was with her a total surprise- even though I asked, with fear, if Mom was with her), ordering a months worth of food when I was first diagnosed with cancer, driving those same seven hours to go with me to appointments, taking care of me when I hit rock bottom, to shouldering the responsibility of funerals and estate settlement so I could finish school-actually, always being the responsible one (oh, except for that time she stole the car and went truant from school...).

My sister is the person that cured my ticklishness, who made most of my fingers curve in odd directions by bending them back whenever I annoyed her (it was a lot), who drove the 1966 Dodge Dart when I wouldn't (yeah, it's a classic now, but that was the vain eighties and I was sixteen), and most importantly, has always been there when I need her.

I wish I could give her a gift that would show her how much she means to me. I have tried in the past. She liked Carousel horses, so I designed, and was carving a carousel for her. I had one horse and a swan done, but then realized that the final product would have been too huge to display-I still have the unfinished pieces. (I did finally find her a little porcelain carousel horse, but much later.) The best one, for me, was when I was around eight or nine. I had saved up coins in a jar. My dad drove me to this odd little shopping complex, where there was a neat stuffed animal store on the lowest level. My sister had seen a stuffed raccoon there. I went in, dumped out my coins and bought it for her. She named it "Reynolds" and took it off to college.

Reynolds is a little worn and deformed now, but he still lives on the bureau in her bedroom. I am touched every time I see him.

That stuffed raccoon, in many ways describes the relationship that my sister and I share. I give her gifts that are usually late and always too small next to what she deserves. She takes my meager offerings, treasures them, and gives me so much more than I deserve in return.

Happy Birthday, Anne.