Friday, February 24, 2006

A Moment of Forever

Dear Rach,

It’s that time of year when the weather can’t seem to make up its mind, teasing us with heavenly temps as it did today (a whopping 64 degrees in February!), or reminding us exactly where we live with bitterly cold mornings as we experienced last Friday (with a bone-chilling negative 2 degrees). Your dad and I were laughing later in the week as we realized one has lived too long in the Midwest when a morning temp of 10 degrees is something in which to rejoice.

Every year, just about this time, I begin to wonder what ever possessed us to move from beautiful, sunny San Diego to Lincoln where the weather is always the topic of conversation. But just as I start my annual whine to Rod, I see the first hints of spring -- the tips of the tulip & daffodil bulbs peeking out from under the mulch; the ubiquitous gardening catalogs spilling from the mailbox; pitchers & catchers reporting to spring training; and that pesky rabbit who knows exactly where my coral bells and yarrow are planted, eager to nibble at the first sign of any foliage. I don’t recall much of a change in seasons when we lived near the beach (unless you count the Santa Ana winds and brush fires as part of a season). The palm tree fronds didn’t bud out in March; the tarantulas and rattlesnakes ignored any new growth on the oleander bushes and aloe vera plants; and we never worried about snow filling up the basement window-wells. After all, there was no snow, and no basements, either. So, I really don’t mean it when I whine and stomp my feet and say I miss California. But I do get awfully anxious for spring (and then summer... and then fall...) right about now.

I realize we still have several more weeks of winter, with a very real possibility of at least one or two big snow storms, but I can’t help but feel the itch to dig in the dirt and get started on my new shade garden on the east side of the garage. I’ve always enjoyed gardening and spring in Nebraska is so much more exciting than in San Diego. All those perennials that have been lurking beneath the cover of mulch (or snow) slowly emerge, looking fresh and healthy, bringing a smile to my face as I sip my morning coffee and wander around the yard, checking to see what else has sprung forth from its winter slumber. OK, and maybe checking the downspouts to make sure they haven't come loose during the past six months, threating to flood the basement in the first spring downpour.

I don’t think you had the chance to appreciate the incredible delight a garden can bring. You were just beginning to discover the joy of cooking and reading for pleasure, but without a home of your own, a yard was simply a place for Shaylyn to run around in, burning off the boundless energy of two-year-old, chasing the dog, tumbling down a slide, or digging in a sandbox. You might have enjoyed the beauty of someone else’s garden, but you had yet to own your own home and dig your own flower bed. Yet that didn’t prevent you from appreciating the beauty of flowers. Star-gazer lilies were a favorite and coincidentally, last Friday we received a gorgeous bouquet from Dad and June in memory of you on your birthday, and nestled in amongst all the other spring blossoms were four Star-gazer lilies! I found myself smiling every time I walked past the arrangement. Simply perfect.

During your last summer visit to Lincoln, we decided to wander around the Sunken Gardens, hoping to take advantage of the beautiful setting for our annual Christmas card photo. We’d done this once before, many years ago when you and Amy were still fairly young. Could it have been almost ten years ago?? In any case, you had been to the Sunken Gardens but never had the chance to see it after its major renovation last year. As a matter of fact, I have yet to visit the newly renovated Gardens and am anxious to see it this coming spring. And thank to some truly wonderful friends, your memory will live within the beautiful landscaping for years to come. Quite literally, forever. Linda, Bob, Scott, Cindy, Cami and Chad touched our hearts with their loving birthday remembrance of A Flower Forever in the Sunken Gardens. I don’t believe you ever knew any of these friends of ours, although both Linda and Scott worked with your dad at Cliffs Notes and, so you may have met them at some point in the last 12 years. However, I think they all feel like they’ve come to know you over the years, and most especially this past year, as they’ve helped us deal with our loss -- listening to us when we needed to talk, hugging us when the tears flowed, and consoling us over these dark, dark months. These are the folks who make up what I often referred to as our “gourmet dinner club.” I don’t know where we’d be today without the loving support of this special group of friends. Quite honestly, it has been the unending support of all of our friends, near and far, that have given us the courage and strength to go on with our lives.

A Flower Forever. Forever. That’s a long, long time!

Yet spring is just 24 days away and I can’t wait to wander around the Sunken Gardens. It just better not snow!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Grandpa (tell me ’bout the good old days)

Dear Rach,

Today is Papa Bill's 75th birthday. Until our mass exodus from California (me, Amy and your dad to Nebraska; you and your mom to Virginia; and Nana and Papa to Oregon), the two of you celebrated your birthdays together. I'm not sure how many candles we put on the cakes!

Thinking about those birthday celebrations, not just yours and Papa Bill's, but all the cousins' and aunts' and uncles', brings back such happy memories. Sure it was noisy and chaotic, but that was part of the fun. Even though we all lived in San Diego County, we often didn't get together until it was time to celebrate the next birthday. Of course, with a big family, that didn't take too long. I think we had every month covered!

Nana and Papa welcomed you (and your daddy) into our family with open arms, never once thinking of you as a step-granddaughter. They loved you and mourn your death with deep, deep sadness.

I wish we could all be in Oregon to help Bill celebrate his milestone birthday, but we'll be there in spirit.

All of us.



Friday, February 17, 2006

Forever Young

Dear Rachel,

Today is your birthday. You would've (should've!) turned 25.

This week has been pretty awful for us. It feels like a dark cloud has been hovering, casting a pall over everything we do (or try to do). It feels like depression, but then that's what grief feels like. It feels like we're back to those early days when emotions were close to the surface and all we wanted to do was hide away from the demands of everyday life. I want to crawl back in bed, pull the sheets over my head and stay there until the sun comes out again. Which it will. And I will. But for now, I'm just going to think about you and remember your smile and allow myself to miss you, even though it hurts so damned much.

Your mom mentioned that she's had a tough week and I suppose Amy has, too. Hell, anyone who knew you and knows what today is must be feeling pretty sad. This is such a more difficult day than Thanksgiving and Christmas (and those weren't exactly easy). This is your day. And a milestone to boot. But you won't be out celebrating with your friends tonight. And from here on out, you will remain forever young in our hearts and minds.

I've had a tough time trying to figure out what to do for your birthday. Obviously it's not a day we feel like celebrating, but we do want to celebrate the life you lived for 24 years. Some people like to release balloons or have a party with cake & ice cream to mark the birthday of a loved one who has died. Neither of these appealed to us, but I hated the thought of not doing anything. So we'll have a quiet dinner with friends and raise our glasses in your honor.

As far as a gift, we decided to make a contribution to a local women's shelter. Your murder was the ultimate example of domestic abuse and we felt it only appropriate to make the donation to Friendship Home in your memory. It's the least we can do.

Happy Birthday, Peachoo.

I miss you.



Saturday, February 11, 2006

Frosty the Snowman

Dear Rach,

It snowed this morning. Pretty wimpy storm, though. I doubt we even got an inch. We really haven't had much of a winter this year. I shouldn't complain, but I'd really like a bit more snow. Just 3-4 inches. Preferably on the weekend so I can enjoy it from inside. Not too cold either. Not too much to ask, right?

We get a daily newsletter (via email) from Shaylyn's preschool and yesterday her teacher mentioned that it had snowed. I don't think Virginia Beach gets a lot of snow, so Shaylyn must've been very excited. It reminded me of how much fun you and Amy used to have when we go to Nana and Papa's cabin in Big Bear. Growing up in San Diego, you didn't get to see much snow so a winter trip to the cabin was always lots of fun. After making a few snow angels and the obligatory snowman, you and Amy would slide down the hill on saucers (your dad and I even got in on this!). I think at some point Amy decided to skip the saucer and went down on her tummy instead.

Those were fun times.

Maybe we'll get a heavy snow in another winter or two when Shaylyn is visiting. I'm sure her Aunt Ammy would love to help her build a snowman and teach her how to make a snow angel. Not sure about sliding down any hills, though. This is Nebraska. ;)



Friday, February 03, 2006

The Day the Music Died

Dear Rach,

Last weekend your dad sold his electric guitar on Ebay. Made more than he originally paid. Wonder why this never happens when he sells a car (or house!).

It's been over eight months since the music died at the Scher's house. FatBlueCat ceased to exist on May 28th. After more than a dozen years of standing in a kitchen, listening (and occasionally singing along - hoping nobody could actually hear me) to Rod and his band practice classic rock for a couple of hours once a week, the band packed up and gave me back my laundry room.

I miss hearing Brown Eyed Girl, Tiki Bar, Give Me One Reason and Better Things. I miss sitting out on the porch chatting with Rod, Steve, Ray and Kim before practice and joining them for a beer during their break. I miss the thrill of watching your daddy lose himself to the joy of drumming before a real live audience (sometimes even getting paid to do so!). I became the unofficial band roadie, but I felt more like a groupie. These guys were really good! And I always hoped you and Amy could manage to time one of your visits so you could hear them play. Who knows. You might have even recognized a song or two.

We got up early on the morning of your murder. We'd loaded the drums the night before and planned to have a light breakfast before heading down to the Farmers' Market for the gig we'd all been looking forward to. After a couple of disturbing phone messages and a call to your mom, we'd learned that something was terribly wrong, but at that point didn't really know anything specific. We didn't know where you were. We were both desperate not to utter a single word that might tip the balance of fate and simply hoped you were safe and unharmed, merely scared and possibly in shock after witnessing the horror of that early morning nightmare. A nightmare we had yet to learn of.

Rather than sit and wait for the phone call that would forever change our lives, we drove downtown, prepared to keep our original plans with the band. Who were we kidding?? Rod simply couldn't allow himself to think the worst. Maybe he felt if he could go along with the original plan, he could keep the nightmare from unfolding. I wasn't as brave. I had a terrible sinking feeling, somehow knowing we'd need to be on the earliest flight out to Virginia (hoping the worst case scenario would be a rush to a hospital bedside, not wanting to even imagine anything worse than that). I even went so far as to look up some flight options on Travelocity, shaking my head and muttering to myself, "You're such a worrier. Be optimistic!"

I wish that's all it could take to keep that awful news from coming our way.

It was a beautiful morning. Summer was just around the corner. The sun was out and I had originally hoped to bask in its warmth as I listened to the music with some of our friends who planned to join me.

I don't remember what we said as we drove downtown to the Haymarket. I may have been silently saying, "Please, please, please, please, please" while Rod was focused on simply getting through the each minute without falling apart.

We never even unloaded the drums. The call came from the detective just as we pulled into the parking lot and turned off the engine. It still breaks my heart to think of all that died in that single moment.

I have no idea how we managed to drive back home, but we did and the band (and various friends) appeared on our front porch to comfort me yet allowed your daddy the privacy he so needed as he wandered back and forth from the house to the back deck. I finally got a hold of Amy. I hated having to call her with such terrible, terrible news. My heart broke all over again. God, what an awful, awful day.

When we first moved to Lincoln in '92 your dad happened to mention that he'd always wanted to learn how to play the drums. He also said he'd always asked his mom for a pony for his birthday. I encouraged him to buy a drum kit and take lessons (notice how I wisely ignored the pony hint?). That's all it took. A friend introduced us to an incredible guitarist and from that moment on there was always a band in the house. As with all bands, I suppose, members came and went depending on their own life circumstances (and of course we moved to Texas, but Rod was able to find a group of guys to play with for the short time we were there). But through all the changes, Rod and Steve stuck together, even practicing when they were between bass and rhythm guitar players.

The drums were never unpacked from their travel cases. A friend bought them last summer. The electric guitar was shipped to a stranger in Las Vegas. However, an accoustic guitar remains in the living room and every so often Rod will pick it up and play a song or two (as I type, I can hear him playing it right now). And just the other night, as we were driving home from having dinner out with some good friends, Rod began to sing the first few lines of song that I hadn't heard him sing in over a year. It almost made me cry, realizing the music will never really die. Just as your memory will never die. It's a part of who we are and of who we've become.

Maybe some day Shaylyn will decide she wants to play the drums. I'm sure Debbie (or any sane grandmother) wouldn't appreciate Nanny and Grandpa sending her a drum kit for her birthday. But if Shaylyn ever decides she wants to pick up some sticks, I know someone who'd be more than happy to give her a few pointers. Hmmm, maybe we can find a digital kit on Ebay...