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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

nine lives

The sun is finally shining here and yesterday was gorgeous, mid-sixties—almost unheard of weather for this time of year in Minnesota. It’s amazing what this does to the way I see the world. Hopefulness bubbles to the surface, escapes through my pours. I start imagining long walks and bike rides and loping, solitary runs during which my mind is free to wander, to come up with ideas for essays I won’t have time to write.

I took the girls to my dad’s this morning for a visit, and I noticed that the first of his crocuses have poked through the dark earth, purple buds ready to burst open at the sun’s coaxing. Soon his whole yard will be covered with dark purple Siberian Squill, and he will ask me to come over to take a picture, as he does every year.

Now I’m sitting in my little office. Zoë is sleeping and has recovered from her fever of a few days ago. (Though, unfortunately, she’s also fully embraced the Terrible Twos.) Stella’s bus will rumble past the house in less than ten minutes, and then she’ll come bursting through the door, her eyes wide. She will say, as she so often says, “Mama, I have to tell you something…” And I will listen to the report of her few hours at kindergarten, nodding my head and saying “Oh really?” over and over to keep her talking.

When Zoë wakes, I’ll strap her into the Burley, which she pronounces “Booooley,” and the three of us will head out on bikes to visit my grandpa, who, miraculously, is much improved. Many of you posted kind and hopeful comments about him a couple of months ago. I so appreciated these, but frankly, I didn’t think my grandpa would live to see spring. But now he has gained some weight back and his skin as lost its sallowness. He’s ready to step outdoors. How is it possible that 101 he still is not ready to give up on life?

After my piece came out in Brevity a couple of months ago, I took my laptop down to his apartment in the basement of my mom’s house so he could read it. (He doesn’t really understand what I do, doesn’t ever seem to believe me when I tell him how busy I am, so I wanted to prove something to him with that piece.) He read it slowly, nodding his head. And then when I closed the computer, he said, “You know, I should have died about nine times.”

And as if he were composing his own piece for Brevity, he proceeded to list the times he should have kicked it. But he only got to eight. “Hmmupft,” he said then, shaking his head. “Maybe there are only eight.”

His swelling is down, his breathing normal—he’s on his ninth life now. At 101, he’s not ready to go.

I’m still struggling with what it means to be a writer (or maybe I'm struggling with what it means to be a struggling writer). I swing between feeling hopeful—on the cusp of something big—to despondent, all in the same day, sometimes multiple times a day. Still, I’m not ready to give up. I can’t imagine doing that, just as my grandpa can’t imagine giving up on life.

So instead, I'll keep doing what I'm doing and wait and hope. And in a few weeks, I'll go to my dad's house, stand at the edge of his lawn, and take comfort in the reliability of his Siberian Squill.


Mary said...

Beautiful, Kate. I'm so glad Spring is finding its way to Minnesota, and that you can run and bike again. You're inspiring me to get away from this computer and get outside myself.

And you know, for whatever reason, I can SEE your book out there in stores. Stay hopeful!

Sara said...

Let the hope of spring run through your veins like sap running through the trees. Even in my darkest days, I felt a quickening when I started smelling damp earth and seeing the tiniest, tiniest hints of green. I have a hard time imagining you giving up

Ines said...

Dear Kate, you *are* a writer. You know it and I know it. And, others know it too. But, still, I know doubt and hesitation has its moments. But they are just that *moments* that is all. I can hardly wait until 'our' class begins again.

Ines said...

I found this Haiku in the book I am reading. It is under Trust and Hope:
the packet of seeds
asking, are you still alive?
by Kiyoko Tokutomi

(I thought it very appropriate)

gillian said...

I was having a day like that today as well.

So glad your grandfather has improved.

Anonymous said...

"all of human history can be summed up in these two words--wait and hope."

there you go.

i so enjoy keeping up with your writing. :)

Susan Bearman said...

I so relate to your swinging between feelings of being on the cusp of something big as a writer and total despair. Sometimes it feels like I've gathered all the pieces around me and all I have to do is put them together. Other times I feel that it's all a waste of time and I should just get a job at Walmart (NOT happening).

Glad to have found your blog and glad you found <a href='>Two Kinds of People</a>. See you around.

Susan Bearman said...

P.S. Just read your whole bio. My twins were born prematurely at 24 weeks. It's been quite a ride. We have that in common, too.

kate hopper said...

Thank you all for your kind words of support.

Ines, thank you, especially, for the haiku.

Susan, I'm so happy to know about your wonderful blog.

Andrea said...

Lovely. Amazing what an unseasonable warm March can do for the soul. And how wonderful for your grandfather to still be here to enjoy it.

Unknown said...

This early bloom of warm weather has been like an unexpected gift, which is how I often feel after reading your posts, Kate. Thank you for sticking with it on the dull, gray days as well as the bright and beautiful ones.

kate hopper said...

Thank you, Andrea and Chris!

Kara said...

Can you tell I'm catching up here at your blog. This one brought tears to my eyes.