sisters, part 2

We’re all gonna be here forever
So mama, don’t you make such a stir
Just put down that camera
And come on and join up 
The last of the family reserve
— the prophet Lyle Lovett

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sisters, part 1

They’re crying. And laughing. And crying again.

I’m in the middle of a pack of sisters. Four generations of fiercely independent, strong, hilarious women. I suppose the textbook definition would say they’re grandmothers and moms and aunts and nieces, but we know better. They’re all sisters.

They’re here to share their grief at the passing of one of the tribe. There are long, unapologetic sobs while clinging to each other like life rafts in a sea of despair. But that’s the thing about sisters. When it’s too much for one, the others are there to embrace, to share stories, to prop each other up, to assure them it will be OK, even if they don’t believe it.

What is it about sisters? They have an intimacy brothers never knew existed (Yes, we are a flawed gender). They go out for lunch at the same place they frequented as girls. They fall into that easy banter of best friends. The newest member, just a few weeks old, is content to listen. She is wise. The stories are glorious.

Their time together culminates with their creation of a series of paintings. They pass them around, each making contributions to the others’. The fallen sister is honored. Fingers are white with gesso. Smiles abound. They shine through the endless tears.

And then, too soon, it’s time to go. There’s talk of closure, but they know there are some things that will never be closed. And that’s OK.

Still, there’s something comforting about the new sister coming aboard at this time. Stories end, stories begin, stories are passed through the generations.

They talk about their grandmothers and share stories that span the generations. Someday the new sister will hear the stories about the aunt she never had the chance to meet, but who will always watch over her. The circle continues.

More tears. More laughs. More hugs. So much love.

That’s what they do. They’re sisters.

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If you needed me
I would come to you
I’d swim the seas
For to ease your pain
— the prophet Townes Van Zandt

I didn’t know Sarah very well. The problem with being a recluse is that it makes you reclusive. But I knew her through Mandy.

Mandy was Sarah’s aunt. I accepted early on in our relationship that if she were forced to choose between Sarah or me, I would become a fond memory. They had a bond, a love, an understanding.

Sarah had an artist’s soul. She had her ups and downs, the way artists do. But she had a glowing spirit, that joy that is found only in artists and newborn puppies. I think Mandy, who has always been an artist whether she wants to be or not, was drawn to her because they understood each other so well. They were partners on the roller-coaster of life, screaming and laughing, terrified by the hairpin corners and exhilarated by the climbs, swearing never again, and then jumping back on for another ride.

When I would come home, I could tell Mandy had been talking to Sarah because she would be so happy. Sarah understood her. They would talk about things she could never share with me. Their jobs, their joys, their frustrations, their lives. They just got each other. I was always so grateful to Sarah for being there when Mandy needed her.

I asked Mandy today to tell me about those phone calls. What were they like? Exactly what did they say?

She just starts sobbing again.

She pulls her hoodie up over her face. “She’s … irreplaceable,” is all she can say. Then she can’t stop crying. My heart breaks for the hundredth time in two days.

Sarah was always there for Mandy when she needed her. Always. In some way, I suspect she always will be.

How can you know if you made the world a better place during your short stay? I suppose it’s all about whether or not you made a difference in the lives of the people you loved. She made a huge difference in ours.

I know it’s just a matter of time before you move past the profound sadness and start down the road to where just the happy memories remain.

I think it’s going to be a long, long road …

This is a photo of the refrigerator in our former home in Corpus Christi. Mandy says she wishes she could show Sarah. Mandy says she would tell her “HEY LOOK YOU’RE ON MY REFRIGERATOR.” Sarah would say “HEY YOU PUT A BOTTLE CAP ON MY FACE CUT IT OUT.” Then Mandy laughs, for the first time since the sad news. Thank you, Sarah. For everything. Safe travels.

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she hasn’t changed a bit

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my dream. a photo essay.

I’m running a marathon in my dream, which is odd because i haven’t actually run once since the mid-1960s. It’s going OK as far as marathons go.

It’s around the 18 mile point, which strikes me as odd. Everything is sailing along in a marathony way, until orange cones across the street direct the race through a library.

On the library door, a sign says we must find two books in the library using the Dewey Decimal System. The names of the books are on the back of our bibs. We must then write a short book review on a legal pad next to the Dewey index cabinets, and get two other runners to sign it.

This strikes me as highly unusual in a race. I know in the Barkley Marathons you’re required to find books and tear out the pages, but not actually read them. But rules is rules.

I HATE the Dewey Decimal System. When I die, I picture hell as nothing but Hannity and Ingraham while eating those creepy white popsicles. Why would you go to the trouble of making a popsicle and then coloring it all white? Why would you go the trouble of making a news channel and then coloring it all white? None of which has anything to do with the Dewey Decimal System, but still.

I dutifully (Dewey-tifully?) find my homework. One is a recipe book for tofu (seriously). I am relieved because it’s fairly easy to fake a review quickly. The other is “The Talented Ribkins,” a novel I had just started in real life, which I seem to be aware of in the dream. I skim through enough to make a valiant effort at faking it. Done and done.

I look around the library. The only other runner in the room is Tom Whitehurst Jr., a fine editorial page editor and a quality runner. Why is he in this dream? I ask him to sign my paper, but he won’t because I once screwed up his editorial page. This is entirely plausible, because I’ve screwed up a LOT of pages.

In the end, I just forge two signatures, scribbling them Mo Sheppo style. How would they ever catch me? I put my sheet of legal paper in the box, waddle along on legs that have long since locked up because they thought we were done, and get back on the course.

And then.

A mile later, I realize the awful truth. There was a timing mat on the way in to the library, and another on the way out. They will know who was in the library a t the same time as me. They will know the signatures are fake.

I freeze in the road. Do I keep going, with a DQ an eventual certainty? Do I go back and try to get legitimate signatures, even though it will add two miles to the course?

I am transfixed in the roadway as runners pass by. I look at my watch.

And then I wake up.

Some dreams are weirder than others.

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Mr. Pants’ Guide to Fancy Cooking ©, part 2

Oatmeal is truly the Aránzazu Isabel María “Arantxa” Sánchez Vicario of breakfast foods. Not flashy, consistent, an everyday go-to sure thing. OK, mostly I just enjoy saying Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. So how do you spice things up? No problema. Make Mr. Pants’ Oatmeal Fiesta ©. It’s easy, yummy (if you’ve been drinking enough) and all the ingredients can be found around the house or at Margaret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix. Ask for El Guapo.

Let’s begin!

  1. Make oatmeal. One half cup oatmeal and one cup water. Pro tip: After washing the bowl, rinse it to get rid of the soap. Who knew?

2. Add cinnamon, girl! You can do it by taste, but I usually keep shaking for as long as the Neil Young solo. Possibly the best one-note solo in rock history.

3. Add clumps of brown sugar. Imagine you’re in a traffic stop. “No, officer, really. It’s just brown sugar!” Sing Stones song while mentally adding Neil Young Cinnamon Girl solo.

4. Add the secret ingredient, while shouting “OLÉ!!!!” Don’t shout loudly enough to wake up Mo, since this stuff is fabulously expensive and she might not find the humor in the recipe. Mo’s sort of cranky before her seventh cup of coffee.

5. Add milk. This isn’t really essential, but it’s sort of funny.

6. Enjoy a delicious breakfast. Part nutrition, part rejuvenator, part Neil Young concert. What more could you ask of a fiesta?

7. Offer leftovers to the cat.

8. Endure Look of Scorn for duration of morning from the cat, who keeps a safe distance away.

We hope you have enjoyed this edition of Mr. Pants’ Guide to Fancy Cooking ©. Please tune in again for out lesson in How to Use Sour Cream to Cover Up Stealing the Olay Rejuvenating Cream. See you then!

Special thanks to Arantxa Sánchez Vicario and to Mo for sleeping in.

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Mr. Pants’ Guide to Fancy Cooking ©

Welcome to Mr. Pants’ Guide to Fancy Cooking © .

Today’s tip: When using a bowl to make oatmeal, check to see if it’s the same bowl Mo used last night to make spicy Spanish rice. If so, consider washing it first.

We hope you enjoyed this installment of Mr. Pants’ Guide to Fancy Cooking ©.

Tune in next time for Mr. Pants’ new recipe for Oatmeal Fiesta.

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