Friday, October 30, 2009

My Sepia Stare

A contemplative look? Well...yes, I suppose it is. I'm just thinking of how perfectly beautiful you all are, and I'm trying to find the right words to express my gratitude, for the way you have all attempted to comfort me, over the loss of my twin. Frankly, I'm at a loss. I've never been on the receiving end of such empathy before. Just know that I love you, each and every one!

I thought I would share some more photographs I took around my place a few weeks ago. These were taken about two weeks before peak fall color. I have some that were taken during peak color, but they were nearly all taken while driving into Richmond, to see my sister. I may show some of them later on. You can click on each pic and re-size it to your liking.

Mi Casa!
An eastern view across the pond, towards the dam.
Another eastern view of the dam, slightly more to the left. There is a beautiful dutch colonial log cabin, back up in that small clearing on the left. Unfortunately, it is mostly obscured by the trees that have grown up around it. It was still being constructed, when I moved in almost 17 years ago.
Another view, more to the north east.
Ripples on the pond. Probably from a bass, or blue gill coming to the surface. There are lots of fish in the pond. My next door neighbor once caught an eight pound large mouth bass.
And yet another eastern view.
The south bank of the pond at the north end of my property, facing west.
The path to Grandmother's house.
The woods on the way to Grandmother's house. Thankfully, no big bad wolf today!
A pen the former owner built, for his guinea hens. They all flew the coupe, and now it is being slowly, but inexorably reclaimed by the jungle.
More of the path to grandmother's house. (No.....not really, silly! Its just the path down to the pond, from my back yard, but a girl can dream, can't she?)
Can you see the squirrel on the branch? Click on the picture to enlarge then re-size if you can't. He and his friends are beginning to become fairly tame, now that my cat has been gone for several years. I still can't feed them by hand, but by next summer I hope to have to have their confidence. I've been putting out crusts of bread and pieces of fruit for them since last winter, and talking gently to them when I see them. They no longer freak out and run up behind a tree, the moment I emerge from the house.
Heading out of my driveway to the road out front.
Never be ashamed to be called a pansy! Pansies are beautiful! Just like you!

Melissa XX

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

We Held My Sister's Memorial Service Today


Isn't she lovely? Yes! That's her alright, and I really don't care who knows it. I posted this picture of my beautiful sister, to share with the people who read my blog, and who care about me. Anyone else, who doesn't share that love, and who thinks they can make trouble for me, by exploiting her picture, can take a hike! I don't care!

We held a memorial service for my beautiful twin sister today. I had no idea how beloved she was! The service was held at her church. It is a large urban church, with upwards of 1,000 congregants. I have no idea how many attended the service, but the nave of the church was nearly filled to capacity! I didn't realize it as the service was taking place, because I was seated in the front pew with my mother and family members, but as I walked my ailing 89 year old mother up the center aisle and out of the nave, I was nearly gobsmacked! I couldn't believe it! It looked like an Easter Sunday service!

I held my composure pretty good through most of the service. But being the only boy, and surviving "male" in the family, it fell to me to be the supporting son to my mother. I don't mind that. She is my mother after all. As hard a time as my mother gave me growing up, and as indifferent as she was to my transgender sufferings, I still love the old woman. She came from a generation that just couldn't fathom the idea of gender variance, and God forbid, sex changes! Today Mom is very frail, and requires a four footed walking cane at all times, because she is loosing her balance, so I walked her into the front pew, and sat next to her, supporting her with my left arm, and holding the hymnal in front of her with my right, as we stood to sing hymns. As I said, I held my composure through the first three hymns, but when it came to the last verse of "Just As I Am, I Come", Mom was sobbing so much, that I couldn't sing anymore, and it was all I could do to keep from bursting out into tears myself. I know that my very good friend Caroline, advised me to forget about trying to be manly, and just let the tears flow, but how can you do that, when your 89 year old widowed mother is relying on you to be her strength? This is something that only those of us caught in gender limbo, can fully understand. I wanted to sob away with her, and yet there I was in a black suit and tie, with the entire congregation thinking, "Oh how sweet! Jane's brother is is comforting their mom in her grief!" And yet, I did want to comfort her. How could I not want too? I love her and I share her pain!

Last night , while visiting relatives were discussing Halloween in her high rise apartment, Mom gave us all a really good scare, when in a sudden fit of rambunctious indifference, she leapt from the sofa, and immediately tried to squeeze herself through a narrow opening, between the arm chair I was sitting in, and the end table; all in a compulsive attempt to retrieve a silly little stuffed vampire bear, that was sitting on a shelf in the dining room. I attempted to move my chair to accommodate her, but she was too impatient and said. "That's OK. I'm fine!" she managed to hurriedly squeeze through, but no sooner had she done that, then this frail 89 year old woman, who truly needs a cane to walk more than two feet, lost her balance, and did a u-turn around the back of the sofa, taking a serious tumble to the floor, next to the dining room table! Now Mom has already fallen and broken her hips twice! A soon as I saw her go down, I thought, "Oh God, no! Not again!" I rushed to her side to help her. Fortunately, she rolled like a paratrooper when she hit the floor, and sustained no heavy impact to her frail porous ostioporitic bones. She did however, receve a beautiful strawberry to her left elbow, as it brushed the carpet, breaking her fall. Today, she wore it like a medal, for bravery under fire! She's beginning to scare me! She still has a driver's license, an often takes off in her Mercury Marquee, to take care of business, without consulting any of us. I'm afraid on day she will become a statistic.

At the reception after my sister's memorial service, I still couldn't believe all of the people who came to honor her. One guy, who I didn't recognize, came up to me and said "Hi........, I'm so sorry about Jane." I shook his hand and said, thank you, but who are you? He told me his name, and shamefully, I realized that this graying old guy with a mustache, was my departed sister's first husband, whom I hadn't seen in over 30 years! I immediately grabbed him, and drew him into me for a great hug! During their marriage, in a futile attempt to pretend I was a man, I used to go fishing with him. Their separation ages ago, was anything but friendly, yet there he was! I think I may have severely underestimated his character!

Shortly after that, while standing next to my mother, who thankfully now, was seated in a comfortable arm chair, I heard a women call out my name. I looked up, and although it had been at least 35 years, I instantly recognized my sister's first roommate, from back in the early seventies. Her name is Joy, and I will always remember her as a joy to my heart. Absolutely one of the sweetest women, I have ever known! I wanted to talk to her so much, but unfortunately because I had so many other people to greet, I couldn't stop and go over to her, and before I knew it she had left. I truly regret that! She was always a genuine sweet heart. She married my first roommate, when I got out of the Army after Vietnam. Withing 15 years, he would be dead from a brain tumor. I never had the chance to talk to her again. They were followed by many people we had become acquainted with far in the past, along with countless members of her congregation that I didn't know from Adam. While Jane was a devout Christian, I have to confess that I am an agnostic. Jane, if you are out there somewhere, and I dearly hope you are, and you could see how many people loved you and came to honor to today, then surely you must feel that your life was worthwhile! And yes, your blinders have now been removed, sweet sister, and you now know who I truly am.

God love you Jane
Your sister, Melissa XXOO

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Sweet Little Baby Sister Is Gone

I call her my baby sister, because even though we were twins, she waited for 45 minutes to follow me out into the world. We were preemies. I did OK, but poor little Jane had to spend several weeks in an incubator; but I think what will always make me think of her as my baby sister, was the fact that she talked baby talk way passed the age, when most children stop talking that way. She was no fool. She was just as cute as could be, and she knew just how garner the instant affection, of the adults who controlled her circumstances.

As we grew up, she perfected her skills, and became quite adept at charming people into giving her what she wanted. I on the other hand, knew that the quickest way to rejection, was to ask for something I wanted, so consequently I learned to go to Jane whenever I wanted something, and persuade her to ask for it instead. She was marvelous! She pulled off the greatest coup of our lives, when in our senior year of high school, while living in Frankfurt, Germany, she talked our father, who was normally quite the skinflint, into paying for a week long trip to Jordan and Greece. When she gave the news to me that dad had relented, and we were both going, I was completely flabbergasted! I knew she was good, but not that good!

It was probably the most wonderful trip of our lives. We stayed in the Mount Of Olives Hotel, overlooking the ancient walled city of Jerusalem, with it's gold Dome of the Rock. Later during that trip, we would take off our shoes, and walk on the beautiful oriental rugs, that completely covered the floor of that mosque, and would marvel at the mosaic art that surrounded the rock, that Muhammad allegedly ascended to heaven from.

From the Mount of Olives Hotel, we took day trips around the holy land, chauffeured about in a fire engine red 1959 Plymouth Fury, by our absolutely stellar Egyptian driver, Hassim Abdul el Neel (forgive me Hassim, if I have spelled your name incorrectly). Jane was always completely uninhibited, and consequently a joy to be around. One morning, during a ride from Jerusalem down to Jericho, Jane spontaneously started singing, "Joshua fet the battle of Jericho! Jericho! Jericho!", and the next thing we knew, me and the two other American high school kids traveling with us, began to clap and sing, "Joshua fet the battle of Jericho! And the walls came a tumbling down!" Well! You wouldn't believe the smile that this little impromptu display, brought to good old Hassim' s face, and on the trip back, he told us that if we wanted to go, he would treat us all to movie that night! Of course we accepted his kind offer, and that evening he pulled up in front of the Mount of Olives Hotel in his flaming red Fury, and we all pied in, and went to see Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, or How I Flew From London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 minutes. It was the first time in my life, where I ever saw people actually smoking inside of a movie theater. How wonderful I thought, and being the typical teenage miscreant that I was, I lit up too! Jane looked over at me with a frown, that instantly turned to a smile when I looked back at her.

I really came to love Jane during those high school years. I will never forget how proud I was of her, when I came home late one night, after we had both gone out together. We were living in a third flood, three bedroom, US Army housing area apartment, in Frankfurt. Being the good girl that she was, she had left the party at a reasonable hour, and gone home. When I finally walked home much later, Jane was hanging out of her bedroom window, and she called out to me. I looked up, and she started giving me the cover story that she had cooked up and told mom, as to why I was late. She wanted to ensure that we were in sync, and thus save me from my mother's volatile wrath. At that moment, all sibling jealousy vanished, and I knew that l truly loved my sister!

My brother-in-law called me this morning, and told me that she had passed at 9:24AM. I had just seen her the night before. She wasn't looking good at all, and I knew the end was near, so I was expecting his call. I drove into town today and joined my mother, older sister and niece at my brother-in-law's house. I've know him for 28 years, and this was the first time that the two of us ever embraced. It was also the first time that I had ever seen this steely retired Lt. Colonel cry. Am I sad? Yes, profoundly so. I've been enduring spontaneous fits of tears all day long, but I'm so happy that my sweet little sister isn't suffering anymore. God love you Jane!

Melissa XX

An Iddyllic Country Scene?

Well.......yes! That is if you are driving a vintage TR3...............................
......or an Austin Healy 3000!
Oh, how I would have loved to negotiate those tree lined, rolling, pitching, and yawing roads, in an antique roadster, like one of those beauties, instead of my Dodge Dakota Quad Cab pickup!

They just don't make them, like they used to.

On a more somber note, I drove into town today, to take my 89 year old mother to see my twin sister this afternoon. Say what you will, but mothers always have their favorites, and Jane (Yes, I am revealing my dear sister's name for the first time.) was always my mother's favorite. This is really taking it's toll on her. When we got there, we went into her room to see her. The poor baby is totally unresponsive. She was lying on her side, just staring off onto space. I whispered "hello baby" into her ear, and kissed her on her cheek. It was very warm. I commented about that to my brother-in-law, and asked if she had a fever. He said no, it was due to the heavy dose of morphine she was on. She was hot on one side, and cold on the other.

Poor Mom! We got there about 4:30 PM and I eventually left at 6:30 PM, because my older sister said she would be there at 9:00PM, and could drive Mom home. Mom sat next to Jane, just staring at her, for the entire time I was there. I couldn't take it, and went out and sat in the kitchen with my brother-in-law, who was unusually kind and courteous. He showed me a collage of photographs he had put together on a 4' X 4' bulletin board, that illustrated the history of my sweet sister's life. It was beautiful! He then showed me the obituary he had written for her and showed me the beautiful picture he was going to submit with it. It was one of the prettiest pictures I had eve r seen of her! I was able to control myself while looking at it, but thinking about it now has me fighting back the tears. She used to be so pretty! To look at her now, you wouldn't believe it. Chemo, and radiation has taken it's miserable toll.

She is no longer eating or drinking. My brother-in-law said the hospice nurse told him she would probably survive until Monday. The sooner the better. I hate to see her suffer like this. Thankfully, the end will soon be here.

Melissa XX

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It Was A Beautiful Warm & Sunny Afternoon For October

......and having a load of trash piling up, I decided it was time for another trip to the county recycling center. Either I'm shopping too much, or pixies are coming into my house when I'm asleep, and leaving empty cardboard boxes. Anyway, I loaded up the pickup with broken down cardboard boxes, and bagged trash, and headed out of the subdivision. Our mailboxes are the big black rural type, you can stuff fairly large packages into. You know, those big black mailboxes with the rounded tops, and a red flag on the side, to raise and let the mail carrier know there is outgoing mail to be picked up. They are all mounted on a rail at the subdivision's entrance, so on the way out, I stopped to see what might be inside of mine. I opened the door..........hmmm.......not much Appleseed's catalog, an appeal from an insurance company to drop the company I'm with, and give my money to them instead, and a curious little yellow envelope. I don't know if you remember or not, but a few blogs back, I mentioned that a wonderful woman who also blogs here, was doing something very sweet for me, and that in a week or so, I might just show you. Well, turns out that the little yellow envelope, was from her, and it contained a pretty little bracelet she made for me! You can see it on my wrist, in the picture below.
The fall colors are reaching their peak around here, so I took my camera with me and took a bunch of pictures of the countryside, on the way to the recycling center. Unfortunately, when I got home, I got a low battery indication, so I plugged the camera into the charger, but when the charge was over, the memory had been wiped out, and all of those pictures were lost. Drat!

Normally when I go to the recycling center between 4 and 5 PM on a weekday, hardly anyone is there, and the attendants are either in their shed, or sitting out in front of it, having a smoke. Today there was more activity. When I pulled up to the recycling dumpsters, there was another woman there, unloading her pickup (seems like almost everyone drives pickups out here in the county). She looked at me for a second as I pulled up behind her, but showed no alarm at all, and just as quickly went back about her business. There were two pickup trucks backed up to the bagged trash dumpster, and one of the attendants was heading up there from the his shed. As I got out and began to unload my cardboard, the other attendant started walking up to the bagged trash dumpster as well. It took several trips back and forth from my truck to the recycling dumpsters, to unload my cardboard and newspapers, and by then the two pickups had departed the ramp at the bagged trash dumpster, but the two attendants remained there. One inspecting the contents of the dumpster, then engaging the hydraulic compacting ram, and the other one sweeping the ramp above the dumpster.

I was dressed exactly as you see me in the picture above, with the addition of a pair of denim capris and a pair of black patent loafers. Because one of the attendants was still sweeping the ramp, I couldn't back my truck up to the dock, so I parallel parked at the bottom of the ramp, and got out. I had four bags of trash to deposit in the dumpster, so it required two trips up and down the ramp, passed the two men. I was no more than six feet away from the guy sweeping and no more than ten feet from the guy inspecting the contents of the dumpster. They paid absolutely no attention to me whatsover! I didn't know whether to feel relieved, or insulted, but as I turned to go back to my truck, a black pickup with two rednecks in it, pulled up behind my truck. The passenger had his window rolled down, and he definitely gawked at me. I don't think he necessarily made me as a male. I think he was just surprised to see a six foot two inch, 200+ lb woman walking towards him. We made eye contact for a brief second or two, then I just did what any respectable woman would do in that situation. I totally ignored him, and walked back to my truck. The more I do this, the less I care what people think.

Melissa XX

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fall Comes To the Mid-Atlantic Piedmont

Mid October is peak time for fall color in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but I'm located in the piedmont about 29 miles east of Charlottesville, so we are a week or two behind the colors on the mountain ridges. Still, depending on the type of tree, we are beginning to get some pretty good colors. Maples, Gum, Dogwoods , and various small weak woods seem to give the best reds and oranges right now. Other trees remain green, or are becoming golden, or simply (and sadly) just fading from green to brown. I will keep my eyes out for better color, and try to capture it for you. If luck has it, I may even make a trip up to the mountains. No promises there, just a chance.

I love you all so very much, and I promised to post some pictures for you. I had some difficulty at first, but thanks to my very dear friend Caroline, I am now able to do just that! Please bear in mind, that I am a rank amateur when it comes to photography. I have a lot to learn about capturing images, and I welcome any criticisms, or advice any of you can give me to improve picture color and clarity. The photo above is view of the cul-de-sac on the road out front. The roads in this subdivison are not maintained by the county, therefore they are only gravel. If you click on each individual photo, you should be able to get a larger image, that you can size up or down. And now, for your enjoyment:

This is a shot of a dogwood in my back yard. A couple of weeks ago, it had beautiful red berries on it. I guess the birds ate them. It blooms early in the spring with lovely white flowers.
Here is another shot of it, off my rear deck.
This is a view from my driveway, out to the road in front of the house.
Here is a view from the inside end of my driveway, looking into the back yard.
This is a view of the top of a gum tree, in front of the house. It is usually much redder in the fall. Maybe the red is yet to come.
Another view of the gum tree out front.
I-64 heading into Richmond.
I-64 heading into Richmond.
I-64 heading into Richmond.
I-64 heading into Richmond.
Entering Richmond's north side.
A shot down Laburnam Avenue in north Richmond.
A maple tree in front of a Baptist church, on Confederate Avenue in Richmond's Ginter Park, in Richmond's north side.
The same maple tree from another angle.
The path down to the pond from my back yard.

This is the path that I would skip down to grandmother's house, if I only had a red hooded cape, and a wicker basket.
The path emerging onto the pond.
Tree tops.
A view across the back end of the pond.
Another view across the back end of the pond.
A view from my rear deck. The driveway is just to the right, around the corner of the house.

A view off my rear deck. No, I don't have a dog. The dog house was an outdoor shelter I purchased and stuffed with soft bedding for a cat I used to have. He went inside of it once, for about two seconds. When he realized it was dog house, he walked out, and shunned it for the rest of his life. It is now a shelter for wasps and hornets.

A view into the woods, behind my house. The red tree in the middle is a dogwood.
The Wolf's Lair: This is the silken tunnel of the wolf spider, I wrote about a few blogs ago. She has since abandoned it, but she left a cocoon of silk to house her developing offspring, on the window above.
The wolf spider's killing field. May her victims rest in peace.
Melissa XX