I'm sort of in the process of just working on what is speaking to me at a particular moment. That's very common for me right now. --Bruce Springsteen, January 9th, 2014

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

"River Daphne"

Blogging Friends.... I hope you like Bruce Springsteen-related fictional stories, because.... More to come!! Every single day--except for rare occasions when I am reliving The River Challenge {then I close with 'Tenth Avenue Freeze-out'!! Because that song started everything for me.... Everything.... It was the first of Bruce's songs that I hip swayed/danced/cut loose to.... Oh yeah.... And I also included it in The River Challenge ten times!!} or when I am doing an all outtakes-themed Bruce Springsteen Workout {and.... 'Spirit In The Night' doesn't qualify as an outtake!! Because it is not!!}--when I hip sway/dance/cut loose to Bruce, 'Spirit In The Night' is always, always, always my closing song!! Why? Because I can easily tackle insane three, four hour-plus long Bruce Springsteen Workouts!! So I literally need Crazy Janey to say 'it's time to go'!! She is real, man.... Not a fictional character that Bruce created!! 'River Daphne' is what I am calling my 'Spirit In The Night Story'.... It's how that song transforms and transports me!! {Bruce wrote the lyrics.... I am not taking credit for his song!! I typed Bruce's lyrics in italic. I created this fictional story!! I made very few changes.... I had to, though, so that it fit my fictional story!! What I altered, I put in parenthesis!! And I did not use italic for those changes!! Anyway. I used Bruce's lyrics from his live version that he performed on July 7th, 1978.... He changed some words along the way!! Oh yeah.... I also gave Bruce's character a name!! Because everyone else had one!!} By the way? River Daphne is, I believe, so far my most wildest fictional character that I have ever created!! She was a lot of fun to imagine up!! 'Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive', Raelyn

PS. I think I accomplished a lot yesterday.... I played Wii with my brother, Michael, as we listened to Zac Brown!! I cooked chicken fries!! {From a box!!} And, yes, we did listen to Zac Brown's song, 'Chicken Fried'!! I tackled a three hour-long 'Born To Run marathon'!! I cleaned and vacuumed my bedroom shortly thereafter!! Twain things that fell off the 'balance beam of Life'? I did not mop my sweaty-smelling bedroom. And.... I did not post 'River Daphne' on this Blog. Better late than never?
     
Thank-you, Bruce, for continuously inspiring me as an artist!! This fictional story is 'for you'!!

Note Number One.... I totally dig 1960's/1970's hippie era America!! I have ever since I was, like, a teenager, and I'm thirty-three now!! For 'River Daphne', I Google-searched '1970's slang words'.... You know, like 'groovy', 'far out', 'jive'.... And I used them!! I also Google-searched everything hippie.... And I saw way more than my share of pictures of completely topless--most likely stoned--women!! Ah, but those were 'the times', right? Moving on!! I am not in any way, shape or form making fun of America's hippie era!! By the way? While writing this fictional story, I realized that--unlike River Daphne--I couldn't be a hippie!! I am not 'wild child' enough!! For my Blogging Friends who were actually alive in the 1960's/1970's--unlike me--I hope that I did it justice!! Anyway....

--1970's slang words/phrases--
Boogie on down/Get the groove on: Dance
Dig: Enjoy/Like
Jive turkey: Full of it/Crazy
Funky: To be cool/Something cool
Jive: Talk nonsense
The man: Any authority/Corporations/Police/Government
4-sho: For sure/For real
Up your nose with a rubber hose: No way
Freak: a strange, abnormal, or unusual person
Gee wiz: Oh, wow!!
Outta sight: Cool
Groovy: Cool, man!!
Far out: Cool
Awesome: Extremely good/Excellent
That's boss: Cool/Incredibly awesome/Great
Right on: Correct
Foxy lady: Beautiful/Sexually attractive
Can you dig it: Do you understand?/Can you feel it?/Can you take it?
Peace out: Gotta go
No way, Jose': I disagree
The crib: Going home

Note Number Two.... This is actually my third version of 'River Daphne'. Let me explain.... My first version of 'River Daphne'? This wonderful, trusty, old desktop computer who has served me so well lost it!! My second version of 'River Daphne'? It was written in longhand in a journal!! My third version of 'River Daphne'? Well.... Little Miss Perfectionist decided that version number two was 'not good enough' and 'I can make it better'!! So, I behold.... Version number three!! Enjoy!!

"River Daphne"

Transforms me. That is what Bruce Springsteen's song, 'Spirit In The Night' does whenever I listen to/sing my little heart and soul out/boogie on down/cut loose as that song blasts away every single day!! Why? Because 'Spirit In The Night'--which was written and recorded before I was even born, before I was ever a thought, dream or glint in anybody's eyes--transports me. Mentally? That song just takes me away!! Emotionally? That song just takes me away!! Spiritually? That song just takes me away!! To a world--and an era--which happened before my time.... To America's hippie movement days!! Just give me a drink--or several--of Wild Billy's rosé and take me there, man!! Because whenever I listen to/sing/get the groove on/cut loose as 'Spirit In The Night' plays--whether it be Bruce's recorded version {which I affectionately call '73'}, or either of his live versions {which I affectionately call '75' and '78'}, I'm both magically transformed and transported!!

And suddenly I--River Daphne--am a 'crazy cat' hippie too!!

What was that? You have never heard of River Daphne? Why am I not surprised?! See, I am the chick who Bruce's character {I think he needs a name!! How about Lover-Boy Bruce? Yes, that is totally perfect!!} Anyway, Lover-Boy Bruce did not mention me in his song, because, you know, he was too busy 'digging' Crazy Janey!! Oh well!! I just so happen to forgive and forget easily!! Because I am a peace-giving chick!! I also strongly believe in second chances and the concept that people do, in fact, change!! So, yes, I will forgive Lover-Boy Bruce!! I'll forget that he neglected to mention me in his song!! So yes, I will give Lover-Boy Bruce a second chance!! Because, why not?!

I have nothing in my heart but peace and love, man!!

Crazy Janey and her mission man were back in the alley trading hands. 'Long came Wild Billy with his friend, G-man, all duded up for Saturday night. {Wild} Billy slammed on his coaster breaks. "Anybody wanna go on up to Greasy Lake?" he said, "It's about a mile down on the dark side of Route 88!! I got a bottle of rosé, so let's try it!! We'll pick up Hazy Davy and Killer Joe and I'll take you all out to where the gypsy angels go!! They're built like light!! And they dance like spirits in the night!! In the night!! Oh, you don't know what they can do to you!! Spirits in the night!! In the night!! Stand up now and let it shoot through you!!" Wild Billy was totally vehement about these so-called 'gypsy angels' at Greasy Lake, you know? Well, not me!!

Because I was equally adamant that they don't exist!!

"'Gypsy angels'?" I said, as my fingers did air quotes, "You are such a jive turkey, man!! 'Gypsy angels'.... Yeah. Right."

Did I just call Wild Billy a 'jive turkey'? For believing in so-called 'gypsy angels' at Greasy Lake? Why? Am I not a hippie, too? Just like Wild Billy, Crazy Janey, Lover-Boy Bruce, Hazy Davy and Killer Joe? Yeah, baby!! I am a flower child!! I wear friendly-looking daisy headbands on my beautiful, long, straight, thin brunette hair!! Because I totally believe that flowers symbolize peace and love, man!! I wear multiple earrings.... But my long hair always covers them up!! Oh well!! I wear rainbow-colored love beads around my neck!! Because, you know, {just like flowers}, I totally believe that they symbolize peace and love, man!! I wear long-sleeved tops!! However. I always roll the sleeves up so that my forearm tattoos are visible!! Because I totally dig body art, man!! On my right forearm? I have a funky orange-colored butterfly tattoo!! On my left forearm? I have a rainbow-colored peace symbol!! On my right ankle? I have a red-colored rose tattoo!! On my left ankle? I have two hearts.... One is pink-colored and the other is purple-colored!! I totally want more body art, man!! I also wear several rainbow-colored love beads on both of my wrists!! Every single finger has a gaudy-looking ring!! I wear bellbottom jeans!! Unless, on the rare occasion when I'm actually feeling girly. Then I wear long, flowing, brightly-colored skirts!! Bras are constricting and uncomfortable, man!! So I feel way more liberated when I'm not wearing one, you know? I am anti-Vietnam war!! Actually, I oppose violence of any fashion!!

I have even partaken in literally countless political rallies and marches!!

Because I strongly believe in 'make love, not war', man!! Yes, yes.... Free love is totally alright, you know? By the way? I know that I called Wild Billy a 'jive turkey', but I think I'm in love with him!! Or maybe.... I have a crush on Hazy Davy? Yes, I do like Lover-Boy Bruce.... But he is obviously already taken by Crazy Janey!! And crushing on boys who have girlfriends? I don't do that, man!! Alright.... Maybe I am just a little flirt!! What about Killer Joe? Do I have feelings for him? Nah, that is a bunch of jive, man!! Because he's totally not my type at all!! Well.... Whatever 'my type' in boys is, you know? Because I honestly have no idea.... I just feel attracted to hippie boys with long hair!! I like handsome guys!! I just feel attracted to sweet-talking Romeos.... And Wild Billy is totally the one, man!! But, either way....

I have made love with literally countless boys, you know?

Yes, I called Wild Billy a 'jive turkey'.... Just because he believes in so-called 'gypsy angels' at Greasy Lake!! But am I not a 'crazy cat' hippie, too? Yeah, baby!! I am a wild child, man!! I talk the hippie talk and I walk the hippie walk, you know? I strongly believe that psychedelic drugs expand my own consciousness, man!! Yes, I have been stoned, drunk and hung over!! Rules? I make them up as I go along, man!! Laws? I do not care if the man catches, arrests and sends me to jail, I break them, anyway, you know? Yet it will totally take a divine miracle, I think, to convert me into believing that these so-called 'gypsy angels' at Greasy Lake are 4-sho!! And, you know....

I guess I just do not strongly believe in miracles, man!!

A bottle of rosé wasn't the only thing that Wild Billy brought along with him to share!! Because.... Well, now Wild Billy was a crazy cat and he shook some dust out of his coonskin cap!! "Trust some of this, it'll show you where you're at, or at least it'll help you really feel it!!" he cried. "That is totally far out, man!!" I exclaimed when I saw Wild Billy's bottle of rosé and dust, "Yeah, baby!! Let's try some rosé!! Yeah, baby!! Give me some of that dust!! I want to really feel it, man!!" So everybody {Wild Billy.... Crazy Janey.... Lover-Boy Bruce.... Hazy Davy.... Killer Joe.... Me....} all hopped into Wild Billy's stick shift-operated, jerky, red and white-painted Volkswagen bus with its noisy, rumbling engine!!

Then, he drove us toward our destination!!

By the time we made it up to Greasy Lake, {Lover-Boy Bruce} had {his} head out the window and {Crazy} Janey's fingers in the cake!! {Lover-Boy Bruce} thinks {he} really dug her, 'cause {he} was too loose to fake!! "I'm hurt," {he} said. "Honey, let me heal it!!" she said. And we danced all night to a soul fairy band!! And she kissed {him} just right like only a lonely angel can!! Well, according to Lover-Boy Bruce, anyway!! She felt just right, just as sweet as a spirit in the night!! In the night!! Baby, don't know what she do to you!! Spirit in the night!! In the night!! Stand up and let her shoot right through you!! And I repeat.... According to Lover-Boy Bruce, anyway!!

I may have been a skeptic about those gypsy angels at Greasy Lake at first, but I strongly believe in them now!!

"Yeah, baby!!" I hollered as I was real stoned and drunk, "Spirit in the night!! Spirit in the night!! Spirit in the night!! Spirit in the night!! Spirit in the night!! Wild Billy? I know that I did not believe in all of your talk, talk, talk about these gypsy angels at Greasy Lake!! I called you a 'jive turkey'!! I may, or may not have even thought 'up your nose with a rubber hose', man!! But, Wild Billy? You are no jive turkey, baby!! You're not a freak, man!! Because these gypsy angels?! Gee wiz, they are outta sight, you know? These gypsy angels?! Groovy!! These gypsy angels?! They are far out, man!! These gypsy angels?! They are funky, you know? These gypsy angels?! They are awesome, man!! These gypsy angels?! That's so boss!! Wild Billy, you were totally right on about these gypsy angels at Greasy lake, baby!! I am a believer!! Gypsy angels!! Gypsy angels!! Gypsy angels!! Gypsy angels!! Gypsy angels!!"

I was talking at one hundred miles per hour, I was babbling on, I was flirting with Wild Billy!!

Now the night grew bright and the stars threw light on {Wild} Billy and {Hazy} Davy dancing in the moonlight!! We were down near the water in a stoned mud fight!! Killer Joe passed out on the lawn!! Well, Hazy Davy got really hurt!! He crawled into the lake in just his socks and a shirt!! {Lover-Boy Bruce} and Crazy Janey were making love in the dirt, singing {their} birthday songs!! Meanwhile, I--obviously real stoned and drunk--ripped off my braless shirt!! Just like the lady--I mean hippie--that I am, man!! And then I shamelessly threw my shirt in Greasy Lake's dark gray-colored sand!! What happened next was totally beyond anything that I have ever done before, you know? Even though I am a wild child, man!! I recklessly ran toward Hazy Davy, I slobbered kisses all over his face and I made love with him!! We must have been quite the sight to behold, you know? Hazy Davy and I were both real hurt.... He's already butt naked and I was totally shirtless.... Yet we were making love with each other, anyway!! Yes, totally out in the open where onlookers, passersby and hikers can see, man!!

But I thought that I was in love with Wild Billy, not Hazy Davy?

Oh, I am!! And what happened next was totally beyond anything that I have ever done before, you know? Even though I am a hippie, man!! As if I were playing some weird game of 'sexual musical chairs', and our tune randomly stopped playing, then started back up again, I quickly changed boys!! I recklessly ran toward Wild Billy!! I gave him passionate kisses!! We ripped each other's clothes off and they were strewn everywhere in the gray-colored sand!! I kissed Wild Billy, he kissed me back!! At last!! Yes, totally out in the open where onlookers, passersby and hikers can see, man!! Oh, yeah.... They're built like light!! And they dance like spirits in the night!! In the night!! Oh, you don't know what they can do to you!! Spirits in the night!! In the night!! Stand up now and let it shoot through you!!

 I think Wild Billy even said that I'm 'a foxy lady' in between making love!!

It all felt so magical, as though I were dreaming!! Me and Wild Billy making love at Greasy Lake.... Out where the gypsy angels go!! It was totally funky, outta sight, groovy, far out, awesome and boss all rolled into one, you know? Yes, yes, Wild Billy felt just right, just as sweet as a spirit in the night!! Can you dig it, man?! That was until Crazy Janey rudely awakened me from my magical dream!! How? By having the nerve to say eleven bossy, control freak words. "Hey little brother, don't you think it's time now we go?" said {Crazy} Janey {to Lover-Boy Bruce}.

Meanwhile, I was still making out with Wild Billy....

What?! I mentally protested, It is time to go?! Are you a jive turkey, Crazy Janey?! Huh?! Oh, you are!! You're such a jive turkey!! In every single sense of that phrase!! What do you mean 'don't you think it's time now we go'?! Just when things are finally, finally, finally heating up between me and Wild Billy?! They're looking good, you know? I mean, impeccable timing, Crazy Janey!! Now suddenly it is peace out, man?! No way, Jose'!!

Meanwhile, I was also still real stoned and drunk....

Do you have some serious commitment issues, Crazy Janey?! I could not help but wonder, Because things are not only finally, finally, finally heating up between me and Wild Billy.... But they're also looking good with you!! Yet now we are going to the crib, man?! Just like that?! Now it is peace out, Greasy Lake?! Peace out, gypsy angels?! Peace out, spirit in the night?! Why....?! Who died and made you the boss?!

Serious commitment issues or not, when Crazy Janey says that it is time to go, it is time to go!!

Why? Because Crazy Janey said so!! And she is totally always right on, you know? Somehow. Why? Because Crazy Janey also happens to be a fortune teller.... And like every other soothsayer or psychic or sibyl, she simply knows!! Why? Because I will let you in on a little secret.... Ready? Crazy Janey is a gypsy angel, too, man!! So now you know!! Crazy Janey is a gypsy angel fortune teller, man!! But do not tell anybody, alright? Because Crazy Janey already knows!! So we closed our eyes and said goodbye to gypsy angel row!! Felt just right!! Together we moved like spirits in the night!! In the night!! Baby, don't know what it do to you!! Spirit in the night!! In the night!! Stand up and let it shoot right through you!!

Before we all drove away from Greasy Lake, I carved these twelve words in a tree....

'River Daphne LOVES Wild Billy!! He gets me to feel the spirit!!'

Yeah, baby!! Can you feel the spirit?! 


Monday, April 10, 2017

"Conversations With Grampa"

We're gettin' there. We're not there yet. But we're gettin' there. --Bruce Springsteen, 2005

Blogging Friends.... This has been my mantra--a reminder to be patient--as I have worked hard from before sunrise, all day long, and in between Life's busyness on writing/editing April's fictional story.... Thanks, Bruce!! 'Conversations With Grampa' was finished on Wednesday and I finally completely edited it today!! During The River Challenge {read 'Triumph' to understand what I am talking about!!} Life definitely did not stand still. And among all of the deaths that happened in 2016, {sadly} 'The Grim Reaper', claimed my Grampa. On March 19th, he lost his long battle with cancer. Death won. This is an emotionally autobiographical, fictional 'book'--with true stories throughout it--that I wrote in Grampa's memory!! {Three times!! It took about twain years for me to write 'Conversations With Grampa'!! The first version--'Remember When'--sucked.... My second attempt--'Purple Balloons'--was good, and written in longhand.... 'Conversations With Grampa' is the third {and final} version!! Well, what do you know, I actually like it!!} Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive, Raelyn

Note.... It just recently occurred to me why my fictional stories are as long as they are!! Because I do not write 'books'. No, I create 'movies'--with scenes literally playing in my head--and films are always at least two hours long!! So there you go. 'Conversations With Grampa', this particular fictional story, this 'movie' {or however way you want to phrase it} is what I am calling a 'Hallmark'-like movie!! And, yes.... I did take out a 'deleted scene'!!
   
"Conversations With Grampa"

Cancer sucks. So say patients, family members, doctors, nurses and scientists alike. Cancer sucks. And they are absolutely right. Cancer does, in fact, suck.... When--after a long, arduous, physically, emotionally and mentally painful fight--my beloved Grampa succumbs to that devastating, Life-changing, godforsaken disease. Cancer sucks. I have seen this oh-so truthful phrase Online. But when that disease ruthlessly 'chooses' my Grampa {with two completely different variations of cancer, one of which spread} and, ultimately, it contributes to taking his Life? Cancer does not just suck. It is deeply personal. When Grampa was still alive, I would frequently drive my 'old' 1970's red-painted Nissan pickup truck and I'd visit him.... Either at his house or at the hospital. I talked to Grampa. I gave his wife {my Grammy}, a much-needed break so that she can go shopping, one of her favorite pastimes. During which I helped care for Grampa. I served him.... When he was not on a feeding tube, I heated Grampa up some soup. I brought him crackers. I made Grampa coffee. I brought him water or juice. I helped Grampa with his medication. When he was not on a catheter, I supported his ailing body toward the bathroom, if necessary. Should Grampa need to sleep, I either quietly wrote, or I read. But mostly?

We exchanged a Lifetime--for me, anyway--of stories and memories....

"Grampa," I said one day, "Do you remember when my youngest brother, Thomas was born? We saw his tiny little body for the very first time. He sure was a cutie!! And then, as we walked through the hospital parking garage toward your car, you teasingly, jokingly said, 'Well? We gonna keep him?' Which was the same exact thing that you said after my sister, Joy was born, too!!"

I smiled.

"You need some new jokes, Grampa!!" I said.

"I do remember that!!" said Grampa, "And speaking of Joy.... Do you remember what her point blank reply was to my silly question?"

"Yes!!" I answered, "She said, 'We can't give him back!!'"

"And Thomas is, indeed a keeper!!" said Grampa, "You all are!! My grandkids. My children. My great grandkids. You are all keepers!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "You {and Grammy} are a very supportive Grandparent!! I was never the athletic type. I did not play soccer for years and years and years like my oldest brother, Matthew. I was never the agile type, either. I did not perform in dance for several years like my cousins, Lushelle and Celine. However. I--as well as Matthew--did sing in the choir during Easter and Christmas programs at my family's church every single year!! Remember that? Because you {and Grammy} were always there, sitting in old, antique church pews, watching me sing!!"

"I remember...." said Grampa, "One particular Christmas when you were finally given an acting part in that year's program...."

"And she was the main character!!" I exclaimed, "Ah, Bethany.... That was my character's name!! Of course, our Children's Church leader, 'Dan The Man' gave me a script to read. Which was an incredible help, because I am visual!! But 'Dan The Man' also gave me a cassette tape of our Christmas program that I could listen to."

"I remember...." said Grampa, "That you put your cassette in tape players.... And.... You listened to Bethany's lines, memorizing them!!"

I laughed.

"Over and over and over and over!!" I said, "I was probably a cosmic pain in the neck who drove everybody absolutely crazy!! But I gave Bethany my one-hundred and ten percent!! Although, I did not really act out that character.... I impersonated her!! My unnatural, high-pitched 'Barbie' voice sounded just like the recording on that cassette tape!!"

"You did great, Rae!!" encouraged Grampa, "You're an incredibly beautiful singer and a talented actress!!"

I smiled.

"You are just saying that because you're my Grampa!!" I said, "But thanks!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "I recently mentioned that that you {and Grammy} are a very supportive Grandparent. Do you remember when I participated in an annual pro-life fundraiser/two-mile long walk downtown called 'Steps For Life'? I did it every single year!! And you sponsored me!! All because I am your granddaughter!! Thank-you!!"

"You're welcome!!" said Grampa, "You were very passionate about 'Steps For Life'!! So.... Of course we would support you!!"

I smiled.

"And not only that...." I said, "You encouraged me to raise even more money year, after year, after year!! 'Think big!!' you said. 'Aim higher!!' you said. 'Shoot for the moon!!' I think you said. Guess what, Grampa?! Think big, aim higher and shoot for the moon, I did!! Because one year? I raised a thousand bucks for Pregnancy Resource Center!! And it was all thanks to your sweet encouragement!!"

"That is wonderful, Rae!!" encouraged Grampa, "I knew you could do it!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "Do you remember when I was only two years old and I performed a face plant against my cement city sidewalk? I had been riding on our horse 'car' when an uneven crack in the sidewalk caught a wheel or two. And that was when I did my face plant!! I probably got a huge fat lip.... Because that face plant knocked out my two front teeth!!"

Grampa winced at the memory.

"I remember," said Grampa, "You have certainly suffered from a lot of injuries throughout your Life!! Rae.... You are one resilient girl!!"

I smiled.

"My two front teeth did not grow back in until I was, like, six or seven years old!!" I exclaimed, "Each holiday season, whenever the radio played 'All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)'--whether it was sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks or someone else--you would teasingly, jokingly declare, 'They're playin' Rae's song'!!" Oh man!! Now that song is stuck in my head!! But 'All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)'? Well.... It is my song!! I love that story!! Every time I hear 'All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)'--whoever is singing it--I think of you, Grampa!! Every single time!! I probably always will!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "This is going to sound weird, quirky.... And maybe a little bit cute. But hey, I am an oddball, alright? As a little girl growing up, I loved to sit on your lap, because you were comfortable!! This is also going to sound weird, and quirky. As a little girl growing up, {if memory serves me right.... No one else seems to remember this part.... Maybe I imagined it!!}, I called Grammy's lap 'bony'!!"

"That's right!!" said Grampa, "Someone asked you who your favorite Grandparent was. And.... Your answer was 'Grampa'!!"

"Well, although I do not like to 'play favorites' when it comes to people or loved ones," I said, "You are still {to this day}, my favorite Grandparent!!"

I smiled a cockeyed smirk.

"But just do not tell Grammy that I said that, alright?" I finished.

"Your secret is with me!!" said Grampa, "My lips are sealed!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "I--as well as Matthew--used to 'work' for you as a girl growing up. We did some 'odd jobs' here and some 'odd jobs' there!! Before your retirement, you worked at our local newspaper office. So.... We delivered daily newspapers!! You taught me how to throw them and aim at people's front porches.... Or at least hit their lawns? And, guess what? I actually hit some front porches!! Even though I have an incredibly wild aim!! I mean, I throw like a girl!!"

"You did great, Rae!!" encouraged Grampa, "I appreciated yours and Matthew's help!!"

"Then, when we were finished delivering the daily newspapers, I would eat cheeseburgers, French fries and I'd enjoy myself a strawberry milkshake at Burger King!!" I said, "Matthew did too, of course!! Only he enjoyed a chocolate milkshake!! That was lunch and our 'thank-you' treats all rolled into one!! We probably got paid, as well.... But I only remember lunch!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "Before your cancer struck, you {and Grammy} used to drive me downtown so that we could attend the largest Christmas bazaar together!! Joy came, as well!! It was an all-day event!! Because there were literally thousands of booths with various diverse, unique, for the most part hand-crafted items!! And we tackled that Christmas bazaar every single year!! The entire thing.... From its first booth to their last!! Grampa, you always stayed by my side the entire time {watching me like a hawk} while Grammy hung with Joy!! I've always considered that a unique bonding experience between you and I!!"

I smiled.

Grampa is always overprotective of me, I thought, It's as though I am still a little girl!! Even though I'm a adult now in my early thirties who can--and does--look after herself!! I wonder if he still remembers me as the wanderlust little girl who I used to be? But I do not know.... Grampa always takes care of me.... And everyone else who he loves--

Suddenly, Grampa interrupted my thoughts.

"I remember that your Grandmother and Joy always had to look at every single booth where jewelry was being sold!!" he complained, "Necklaces. Rings. Bracelets. Earrings. Anklets. Toe rings. After a while, you'd think that every single piece of jewelry would look the same!!"

I laughed.

"Oh Grampa!!" I said, "You always say that!! You're so predictable!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "I recently mentioned how when we strolled through the Christmas bazaar side-by-side every year, it created a unique bonding experience between you and I. Well, here is another example!! Do you remember our vacation to Maui, Hawaii?  We met Grammy and Uncle Robert on the island.... Because they were already there!! Joy and Celine flew with us, too!! Well, neither you or I can swim. So, while Grammy, Joy, Uncle Robert and Celine went snorkeling? Or when they all partook in boogie boarding? You and I stayed on the beach together!! We sat side-by-side each other!! You and I watched them boogie board!! I collected seashells, we talked, I made mountains in the dry sand!! While Grammy, Joy, Uncle Robert and Celine swam in our condo's pool? We sunbathed!! Somebody once told me that she could not imagine flying all the way to Hawaii without even touching its warm ocean waters. But, honestly? I have absolute zero regrets!! For it was because of that mutual thing which we have in common {being unable to swim} that created our unique bonding experience in Maui!!"

"Yeah...." Grampa regretfully said, "It is a shame that you never learned how to swim, Rae. Like I didn't. Swimming is a good ability to have!! If you were ever in an unfortunate situation where you're drowning, it can obviously be Lifesaving!!"

"I know, I know...." I said, "But I could always rely on my 'superpowers' of being hard to kill and, one way or another, I'd survive!! Somehow!! You know I would!!"

I smiled.

"But you did go in the pool during our vacation to Maui, Grampa!!" I suddenly remembered, "I even have a picture of it as living proof.... You and Joy are in the pool together, smiling for my camera!! Was it Celine....? Or Joy....? Who teased you, begged you and annoyed you into {finally.... According to Grammy, you never did that for anyone!!} putting your swimming trunks on and going in the pool? Because I do not remember!!"

"It was probably Celine," said Grampa, "What does your Grandmother always say about her....? She was the one who constantly tried to shock us!!"

"But then again...." I said, "Joy had an unbelievable personality change while she was in Maui!! So you never know.... Because Joy went to Maui as a shy girl who would not talk. But then.... She came home as a talkative, bold, friendly, outgoing girl!!"

"You're absolutely right!!" said Grampa, "So you never know!! It could have been Joy!!"

I smiled.

"Whoever it was--Celine or Joy--she would not quit!!" I continued, "'When will you go in the pool, Grampa?' 'When are you gonna go in the pool, Grampa?' Either Celine--or Joy--asked that question day after day after day!!"

"And what was my answer?" asked Grampa.

"'When hell freezes over'!!" I replied, "And you said that teasingly, jokingly, with a smile written on your face!!"

"Well, I guess hell froze over!!" said Grampa.

I laughed.

"Our vacation to Maui, Hawaii happened in April 2000!!" I exclaimed, "Wow. Time flies, huh?! April 2000.... Where does the time escape to, outer space?! I was sixteen years old!!"

"You were young, Rae," said Grampa, "Time certainly does fly!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "I recently mentioned how when we travelled to Maui, Hawaii, it created a unique bonding experience between you and I. Well, here is another example!! Do you remember our 'whirlwind trip' to Conroe, Texas? You and I flew together {just the two of us!!} so that we could attend a Houston Astros/Boston Red Sox game on June 28th, 2008!! We also, of course, visited with {Great} Aunt Zoe and Wyatt!! {Great} Aunt Zoe's nice, generous, well-to-do boyfriend, Alberto--who works for the Houston Astros--purchased both our airline and our baseball tickets!! I was a shameless, proud Red Sox fanatic, an outsider!! You and I sat next to each other at that baseball game!! Our seats were absolutely incredible!! They were located right above the Astros dugout!! Do you remember those seats?! I screamed my vocal chords and lungs out for the Red Sox--they lost by one lousy run--but I enjoyed that edge of your seat, uphill/downhill, 'it ain't over 'til it's over' game, anyway!!"

"That was very bold, Rae!!" said Grampa, "Your {Great} Aunt Zoe commented that she was surprised no one kicked you out of Minute Maid Park!!"

I laughed.

"I was called 'traitor' by a curly brunette-haired Astros fanatic, though!!" I said, "Who I affectionately named 'Frank'!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "You and I both have January birthdays!! Yours comes first, though!! Every time that I have a birthday, you always say {teasingly, jokingly}, 'I wish you'd stop gettin' older, kid. 'Cause every time you get older, that means I have to!!'"

Grampa smiled.

"I was neither teasing nor joking, Rae!!" said Grampa, "You are in your thirties already!! Me? I am in my eighties!! I remember when you were just a little girl...."

"Well, it is like we were recently saying...." I said, "Time flies.... I swear it does escape into outer space...."

I blinked back wet, hot tears.

Damn you, cancer!! I frequently thought as I drove home in my 'old' 1970's red-painted Nissan pickup truck, Damn you!! Why did you have to go and attack poor Grampa's body? What did he ever do to you? Damn you, cancer!! Damn you!! Damn you!! Damn you!! Damn you!!

It was Saturday, March 19th, 2016. Weather-wise, God had given us a lovely pre-Spring day where there were blue skies, fluffy white clouds and sunshine!! It was exactly the kind of environment that Grampa loves.... No rain, no ebony-colored clouds, no snow.... It was a perfect, seemingly carefree March day!! I had just finished hip swaying/dancing/cutting loose/working out for several insane hours. I was still high on adrenaline, endorphins, chocolate and sugar. Then our phone rang. Which I answered. It was Grammy on the other end. Her voice sounded emotional, it sounded distressed, it sounded urgent.... And rightfully so. For my always high pain-tolerant Grampa was in excruciating, unbearable pain. No paramedic, no doctor, no nurse--nothing--could make him feel better. Grampa had suffered from a blood clot in his lungs. He was dying, the inevitable was happening, and death--as well as cancer--unfortunately, ultimately would win that day.... I could feel it.

And suddenly, I felt my entire world come crashing down....

Fast forward to ten months after Grampa passed away. January rolled around, which only meant one thing.... Grampa's birthday was fast approaching us!! So, to celebrate an incredible Life well-lived--a husband, a father, Grampa--everyone.... Mom, Dad, Matthew, his wife {my sister-in-law}, Margaret, their daughters {my nieces}, Amethyst and Opal, their son {my nephew}, Capricorn, Joy, Thomas, me, Uncle Robert, his wife {my Aunt Pearl}, their son {my cousin, Alexander}, Lushelle, Celine, her husband, Wilson, their daughter, Bristol and their sons, James and Aster {my second cousins....} All drove to Grammy's house for Grampa's favorite dessert of home-baked carrot cake, as well as ice cream and brownies!! Which, truly honored Grampa's memory, because he loved it when his family got together more than anything in the world!! Then, as we each carried purple balloons {which was Grampa's favorite color!!} in our hands and Grammy carried a Mickey Mouse head-shaped balloon {which was Grampa's favorite classic Walt Disney animated character!!}, everyone all stepped outside in the backyard, released them and watched a sky of purple balloons drift Heavenward.

Happy birthday, Grampa.... I thought, as wet, hot tears streamed down my cheeks, Thank-you for the memories....