But the big karmic boot was not done stepping on me and mine, yet. Yesterday morning, my aunt PJ, Mom's older sister, succumbed to a swift and wicked pancreatic cancer. She went to the doctor complaining of a backache and jaundice; she was diagnosed about a week after my dad died, and bounced from ER to rehab center and back for a month. She never made it back home, even, and I don't have any more eloquent words for that particular denoument than to say that it fucking sucks. It is the complete shits, and I honestly don't know, can't fathom what lesson I might be supposed to learn from this, from the last six weeks of the Shit Train Express. Unless it is, simply, that Warren Zevon was right: enjoy every sandwich. You damn well better, hadn't you?
The optional theme, for July's NaBloPoMo, is "Food." Well, there you have it: run, don't walk, and make yourself a fried-baloney-on-white, or a PB&J, or an egg over easy, mashed between a couple of toaster waffles. Or, hell, a huge obscene Dagwood hoagie, folks, because damn, it is a short trip. Even the long trips are.
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I don't want to end on a totally black note. Instead, I'll share PJ's 15 minutes of childhood fame. After WWII, my grandfather, her dad, was stationed at the local Sand Point NAS (now decommissioned and a park, where things like the Friends of the Library book sale are held). For Christmas, 1950, they flew Santa in to the base on a Navy PBY Catalina, "specially painted"--though to look like what, it's hard to say--a reindeer? At any rate, for some reason my aunt was chosen to be Santa's first guest; she made the back cover of the December 1950 Naval Aviation News. She's about six, here:
I love how unperturbed she is, held aloft by Santa Claus astride a bomber. In the full-size version, there's a glimmer of tooth in her smile, and a visible gap where more teeth are pending. Every page of the magazine says "Restricted," top and bottom; on the front cover, beneath a cartoon of another Santa hitching a ride on another military aircraft, a subdued but direct headline in small type mentions "Warfare in Korea." But this picture takes up the entire back page, bigger and brighter, its "XMAS GREETINGS" dominant. This little girl is looking forward no further than Christmas...certainly not as impossibly far ahead as 60 years on. In this moment, she's anticipating only the very best things: toys, sugarplums. Would that we all could stay suspended in that kind of jolly bubble, for just a minute or an hour or half a century longer.