Tuesday, February 28, 2006
We’re at the Art Institute, and I’ve grown too warm in my wool coat. Nick reaches out to hold my purse as I shrug from the garment, and I chuckled at the picture he presents.
I borrow his camera and instruct him to nonchalantly regard the artwork as I frame the shot. “Nick: Whipped” I caption verbally. A good sport, he poses patiently while I figure out his camera, shooting once with flash (..and knowing TRUE fear, envisioning a round with the art preservationist firing squad…) and shooting video during attempt number two.
“Is this going to make The Lore?” he questions. He has always referred to this blog as such. I shrug in response.
We reviewed pictures days later in a slideshow, and I began to smirk as I realized the aforementioned picture was coming soon in the rotation. It illuminated the screen and I said something smug about Nick’s whipped-ness—which is more humorous when you consider that this is the man whose voice grew hoarse yelling “DEFENSE!” at a Badger basketball game who was now digitally immortalized holding my purse with a negligently saucy and slightly diva-inspired flair.
My smirk became more verbal as I imagine scenarios in my all too vivid imagination, and in little time my words could only bob incoherently amid the currents of my laughter.
“Oh yeah, ‘Look at Nick. He’s so whipped holding a purse,’” he mimicked, and I could tell he had a retort on the wings. “’…and staring at a painting of naked women...’”
Hmm. Yes. That does seem to cause some disagreement with the overall theme I was going for.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
We've been compared often, Brenda and myself. My attitude-full aunt has been my role model these 24 years complete, and I used to be a little afraid of her. She liked it that way. She liked having the power to make someone cry just by looking at them. I coveted that kind of power.
Now, either she's mellowed or I've sharpened (or a bit of both), but the scales balance differently these days.
The coffeemaker, toaster, and drug-drawer all exist in a tight little nook in our kitchen. The other morning, I noticed some tension in the air as I entered. With a single look her way, Brenda announced that "Debbie needs to take her pills and," looking over her glasses menacingly she continued, "I told her she needs to wait until I finish buttering my toast (which isn't even toasted yet) before she comes over here." I nodded. It made sense.
I wanted coffee. I reached around Brenda, elbows in her face, to get a cup from the cupboard. I then changed direction, reaching toward the carafe of coffee. Brenda jumped back and apologized for being in my way.
I'll say that last sentence again:
BRENDA JUMPED BACK AND APOLOGIZED FOR BEING IN MY WAY.
Debbie looked on in awe, and Brenda twittered in disgust. A new dynasty is taking hold.
Friday, February 24, 2006
During a record-breaking cold spell.
We had grandiose plans of walking everywhere, seeing everything. And we did, really. The condensed version...the highlighted attractions, if you will...
Sub-zero windchills and cappuccino form a couple, I discovered, of a knit closer than both bread and butter and peanut butter and jelly. The relationship might even rival cheese and crackers. Fortuitously, as Nick advised, there was a branch at nearly every corner...hell, we visited three of them on the same avenue alone.
And, speaking of which, our hotel was located right on the Michigan Avenue. Nice. Particularly with all those Starbucks. I typically take my coffee with a packet of Splenda, which Nick noted from our first meeting. Shortly thereafter, he purchased a box of Splenda packets to keep at his condo for my coffee-drinking pleasure. In a quiet moment there in the earlier days or our acquaintance, he feathered his fingertips along my jaw and said, "I don't know what I'd do without you." At a loss for words with which to reply, I remained taciturn and became glassy-eyed. "I have all this Splenda," he continued, by way of explanation.
Ok, ok...so sometimes, he's humorous. Just not when he beats me to a punchline.
It was a beautiful hotel, getting back to topic, and it managed to incur joy on the part of my companion. I had worried that Nick would be depressed all weekend due to unfortunate timing with the Ticketmaster in charge of scouring Chicagoland for weak-minded individuals whose arms could be twisted into exchanging currency to see BB King perform live at The House of Blues that weekend. It was a sore point that his weak mind had been passed over.
But, and don't let this spread too rampantly (or do, and just don't let him know that you have), Nick's easy: the plush terrycloth robe provided with the room perked him considerably. That, and other little touches. I'm sure that inside of 5 minutes he was thinking, "BB-who? Forget that! The end of the toilet paper is folded!"
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Sunday, at the Field Museum, we walked through a display of Chinese dinosaur remains, the little packets of soy sauce having not survived. Imagine my delight, or look at it for yourself if you click the above picture, when I stumbled upon Laurasia on the map. In theory, this is how the Northern Hemisphere looked before America dissed China's fortune-filled after-dinner treat as a hoax peddled by one stale cookie, and citing better results with The Psychic Friends Network...this, naturally, led to unflattering Dionne Warwick parallels which could be neither defended nor denied, so the land masses decided to part ways, never to cohabitate the the same continent again. Thank goodness we're at least on speaking terms again, but there are times when it still feels as though we're oceans apart.
But, back to Laurasia: once upon a time, I was a big clumpy mass!
(That seemed a lot more prestigious in my head than it does out.)
Nick managed a spot of amusement, as you can see. The skeletons of super-sized lizards entertained him substantially more than college basketball, as I could note from his state of "awake" throughout the exhibit. I have a theory, actually, that he only owns such a staggering collection of Wisconsin Badger apparel for the sole reason of distracting his acquaintances from his altogether froufrou interests. He is a little too overzealous on his fanaticism for it all to be real, you know what I mean? Me thinks he doth protest too much—but in reverse. I am waiting for the day that I uncover the entire DVD collection of A&E's Romance Classics in his condo. I'll out him yet...if it's the last thing I do.
Our day at the Field Museum was done in place of a shopping spree at Ikea, a place I have heard of in myth, and, well, budget-conscious home decorating television programs...but a place to which I have never been. Another time, perhaps. Before another outing with Nick, I must reconcile myself to the fact that he conjures punchlines (Although inferior to mine, I must say!) at a much quicker rate, and any utterance of my version would seem pat and overdone.
I'm funny, dang it—even if it is pathetic that I had to look in the mirror and tell myself so no less than 7 times after I returned home from our trip. Granted, my humor often elicits groans in place of laughter, but I am perfectly adjusted to this happenstance. There is but a select group who "get" my humor, and now that my mother has left the ranks, I must continue to amuse the rest of us, namely myself, in her absence.
But Nick!—Nick doesn't even afford me the respect of groaning audibly! Come on! What is that!? Like it takes any time at all to groan! We were walking from the parking ramp to the Field Museum elevators, and, noting our parking area, he said, "It's 1-B."
"Well, it's definitely not 'to be'."
So yes, this reconciliation is a precursor to adventure number two with Nick to the land of all things inexpensive—and whoa, my heart just skipped a beat there...reconciliation may be quick. I really am funny. Really. Aren't I? At least a little? Somewhat?
I need a hug.
The Field Museum though! The Dinosaur Dynasty! Yes, that's what this post is about! (Fooled ya, didn't I?) There were stations situated this way and that, outfitted with a red button that, when pushed, correctly pronounced the station's spotlighted dinosaur, along with its region of origin. After Nick pressed the button at a particular site the eighth-ish time, I was fairly certain that he was being irritating, not interested. It took the ninth depression to lock in my suspicions, however. The kicker is that I remember neither the dinosaur nor its home. You shoulda gone for an even ten, Dear.
And what I learned from the exhibit? Mostly that Nick is in his element with the non-responsive...but also that the Chinese are very sensitive about their fortune cookies.
Monday, February 20, 2006
I spent the weekend in Chicago, a Valentine's getaway compliments of Nick. Anecdotes to follow...
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Now, I've heard of Better than Sex Cake, Better than Sex Chocolates...
I've even heard of Better than Sex Girls' Night with a pint of Moose Tracks Ice Cream and a Golden Girls Marathon...but it wasn't until today that I stumbled upon what had to be a Better than Sex Ice Scraper.
It snowed here today. I know this might come as a shock to some of you...I mean, snow, in February, and in Wisconsin, no less...it practically has "falsehood" stamped all over it, but I lie to thee not. I drove Brenda's car today, a comely Pontiac she's christened "Honky"...because:
So, Nen's car it was. This idea had several pluses above having a second headlight, pluses including and possibly restricted to its reservation in the garage. Mmmm...garages. Anyway...
Poor little Honky was all but lost in the dizzying whitewash of storm! As I was digging him from the parking lot, thigh-deep in drifts, and cursing the one day I forgot to bring a pair of gloves in this weird winter that saw a mid-fifties day on Tuesday, I applied Brenda's ice scraper to the windshield.
I made special note of her ice scraper this morning. I wanted to make sure she had one. She acquired the car less than 2 weeks ago, and who knew if it was Wisconsinized enough for a freak-February snowfall? "Looks sorta pitiful," I mumbled to myself, but at least it was something.
But it was more than just something...it was everything. In that moment, it was my everything. It warmed in my grip as though it held a heat. I touched the windshield meekly, transiently even, and a flower bloomed, a fountain overflowed, and an angel sang...I blinked and the glass was clear. I blinked and my chore was over. I blinked and looked to the tool in my hand...I blinked and knew I would have one of my very own. I'm still tingly about it...
(or maybe that's my hand thawing.)
It was the evening of February the 14th, and we were returning home after a dinner on the water with a coffeehouse chaser. Nick asked inquisitively, "Do you have a movie we could watch?" I had to stifle the short burst of laughter, which might go by the name of "snort" in some circles. This was an absurd question:
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
There is a message saved in my voice-mail. I know every word, every sigh, every pause. I had just, moments before, sent a text message to Nick. It was the morning of January 26, and my mother had just taken her last breath. I text-ed something benign like, "She passed. I'm fine. Stay at work." I felt guilty enough that week. Nick had taken considerable time off of work to be by my side at my family home, during the stress and heartache of watching a loved one suffer.
He called me, and I did not take the call, could not take the call. I was too busy trying to hold my shit together, and I knew a concerned voice would be my undoing. He left a message. Called again, left another message. I waited an hour to listen to them. "Laura. This is Nick. I really need to talk to you. I don't need to be at work today. I need to be with you today." It had been his mantra through the entire ordeal. Fairly impressive for a man I had known less than a month, no?
I text-ed him that previous Friday too. Camped out at the hospital as we were that week, he requested nearly constant updates. One evening, he drove me to the hospital after work so I could space out about everything during rush hour traffic. Another, he picked me up from the hospital parking ramp on his way home from work to give me a reprieve from the weightiness of the situation. But that Friday, that Friday was the beginning of the end, and I knew it with absolute certainty.
Some of my family members would slap their foreheads and say, and sarcastically I'll add, "Duh!" But there have been so many bleak moments during Mom's illness, so many bleak moments that I knew in a secret place that she would overcome. We just had that link between us. But, just as she foretold, I knew just when things travelled past the point of no return. I messaged Nick, too grief-stricken to speak, "They're sending her home tomorrow...home to die. I am so cold."
Again, less than a minute had passed before he was calling, and I was willing voice-mail to kick in quicker. "Let me be there," was his theme—or, as a throwback to the Friends reference in the title, perhaps a little "I'll be there for you" instead.
And, he was. He first came to my family home that Sunday. He met all of my extended family after knowing me 22 days. All of my extended family, and under those conditions...I will never forget it...and he did it for me, saying he couldn't imagine me there, without having support, somebody there only for me. He also stayed at my side through the visitation, and through the funeral...during which I cried nearly incessantly—nice date material. He's of a quality that has become rare, invaluable, and he will always have a very special place in my heart and a lofty position in my admiration of his character.
He's opened up his home to me, a welcoming refuge from the dwelling places so full of my mother. They are getting easier to bear, but the emptiness whirs despairingly still, there among her things, and my memories. Nick keeps vitality vibrant and shimmery in its splendor, and he keeps the shadows at bay. He has been a true blessing, a wonderful friend, and something that seems too early to feel for knowing each other fewer than two months. In those two months, however, we've been through a situation that some do not face in 10 years of marriage.
So today, Valentine's Day, I am going to breathe life and tenderness through my sad moments, and cherish this magnanimous individual who held my hand through my darkest moment, and who just might be holding my heart as well. I hope to touch his life as profoundly one day.
Monday, February 13, 2006
So, Nick—and you'll be hearing more about Nick in the near future, I'm certain—Nick and I set out to make these tasty little morsels yesterday. Nick is a little intimidating in the kitchen. At least for me...and considering my genius with a cookie scoop, that's saying something. Really, what it is, is that he's so into presentation. I feel oafish in comparison.
But the long and the short of it is that we set out to make Granola Candy together. We were going to make cranberry oatmeal cookies, but he didn't have a cookie scoop and I was forced to pull the diva act on his kitchen and just refuse to make cookies of any kind.
They are the easiest things in the world to make, and we survived the incident with minimal injury. I highly suggest them...and at 40 calories a pop, you really can't go wrong. Hmmm...this is a boring post...but at least it got your appetite whetted...but for granola candy?—I'm not entirely certain.
Friday, February 10, 2006
I awoke with a conversation we shared replaying in my head. It was from this past Fall, as we rode together in her car, as my self confidence was splattered upon the ground in the shadow of my husband's recent departure.
"You know, Laur," she began. (It strikes me that I'll probably never be called "Laur" again...she is the only one who did so...but that's neither here nor there.) "If I were younger, or in a different stage of my life, I'd be jealous of you. And this is me speaking not as your mother, but as a woman. You're so attractive, intelligent, and talented...Hell. You have hair."
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