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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2002 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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Return to lately 2002.

and then made that wall be heaven
december 14, 2002

We've spent a lot of time this past week driving around Dallas, visiting different shops to pick up supplies for Joe's visit over the holidays.

Joe is Mary's dad. His website is located here.

The shopping is fun. Having lived in Dallas for over ten years now, and by our nature being inclined to check out specialty food markets, we know where to go to get the best imported butters, chewiest rolls, tastiest prime rib roast, freshest jumbo shrimp, crispiest vegetables.

Before each of Joe's visits, we send him a menu of his dinner choices. The menu is a lot of fun to create, four pages printed portrait style, on stiff, heavy-weight paper. We try to make the menu look like something you'd find propped between water and wine glass on a white tablecloth.

Here are the dishes Joe chose this year:

Live Maine Lobster (Which we'll serve the first evening, Monday, December 23)
Spaghetti alla Carbonara (Christmas Eve)
Prime Rib Roast (Christmas)
Veal Picata
Shrimp Etoufee
Lobster Thermidor (New Year's Eve)
Pork Loin Roast (New Year's Day)
Scallops in Cream and Basil Sauce
Salisbury Steaks with Macaroni and Cheese

Two of the nights we'll get take-out.

When we haven't been shopping, we've been tidying up the house, steaming the carpets, polishing the wooden cabinets, pulling down all the drapes and curtains, putting them in our washer.

One window treatment gave us a particular problem when it came time to reassemble it.

Most of our windows have arched windows above them, each like a half-moon on its side.

Most of the arched windows we leave uncovered, since they're high enough no one could see in unless they got up on stilts, but for this particular window, on the landing halfway up our stairs, you can see in through the street, so we have a fan of white linen across the arch, with a rosette of the same material at the bottom center of the arch. The whole thing is held in place shirred on plastic tubes. It looks really nice. Mary found the treatment years ago in a catalog.

The thing about the rosette though is it's real complicated to shape it. When you take it down to clean it, as we did, you rediscover it's all held together with tiny metal snaps, and once you unsnap these, you've got an exceedingly long, straight strip of fabric.

After the rosette was cleaned, I stood on the landing with the long strip of fabric draped over my palms, like a priest given to extravagance, looking up at the arched window, realizing I didn't have a clue how the whole thing snapped back together.

Mary dug out the original instruction manual (Which includes the line, "Now fold it all in half, taco-style".)

(One thing I've noticed about manuals is they've started using picto-graphs to explain how to assemble a product, I guess as a way of getting around choosing a particular language. The first panel usually shows a silhouetted man pulling the product out of the shipping box. Then we have the panel showing the man squatting, the various components of the product laid out on the floor before him, which I think should have a huge exclamation point over the man's head, but of course it doesn't, then you get a lot of panels, in kind of a 3D drawing effect, where you've got a huge screw in the high foreground, with a long, thin arrow leading down to a poorly drawn rendition of the product's right side. All this is fine, but what I want to see are picto-graphs on page four of the manual showing the product "assembled", all these leftover parts still on the carpet, the man tearing his hair out; a 3D drawing focusing on the electric power plug going into the wall socket, an aura of straight, slanted lines emanating from the socket, the man's head on fire; and a final panel showing the silhouette with his right foot raised above the product, wavy lines on either side of the foot indicating a kicking motion).

Anyway, we finally figured out how to get the white linen rosette in place, which means we'll have more time to rehang all the ornaments on our Christmas tree (the five kittens have discovered they can climb up its interior branches, poking their small faces out between the angels and ribbons, which looks cute as all get-out, but we've wound up with a lot of upside-down angels as a result, plus the tree shakes constantly, as if possessed, top ornament tilting).

This will be my final Lately for 2002.

We're all tested at different times in our lives, there's no one reading this who doesn't know that, you've had your own tests, with more to come, and the tests almost always come when we least expect them, completely out of the blue, that wonderful phrase, like stepping off the curb and the last thing you hear before the beep beep beep of a bedside heart monitor is a truck's loud horn.

When I think back on this year, I see myself picking up the phone at home on an absolutely normal day, thinking it's Mary, hearing the voice of Gayle, Mary's assistant, instead, telling me Mary's had a stroke and has been rushed to the emergency room.

All the medical professionals we've seen this year (we've seen a lot) have been amazed at the speed of Mary's continuing recovery, given the size of her clot, and its location.

Therapy helped, drugs too, but most of her recovery is due to Mary alone, her own determination to get better. She's a fighter. She's never given up, never surrendered hope, never lost her sense of humor.

Because of her efforts, she walks freely now, climbs stairs, gets up on ladders. Her ability to speak continues to improve, to where she's now starting to get out some pretty good sentences.

As I've written before, neither of us is bitter about what happened. We don't curse our bad luck, but instead are so grateful for our good luck. Mary could have died. Nearly all stroke victims with a clot that size do. Instead, we've been given the gift of still being together, still waking up next to each other (you can have a lot of friends, but the one person who really counts is the person you wake up next to at the start of each day). Some of my best memories this past year are the two of us sitting down at the breakfast nook table in the evening, the autumnal yellows and oranges of our backyard garden framed in the wide window, cats playing as we work on Mary's lessons. I see her, seated beside me, her beautiful profile, gentle green eyes pointing to the left as she imagines what the next word in her exercise sentence should be.

Mary has started painting again, creating a beautiful four-wall mural in one of our downstairs bathrooms, starting another mural on the half wall of our dining room.

Yet another example of her determination not to accept barriers.

The mural in the dining room shows a crowd of cherubs, floating among clouds in a blue, blue sky. You can look as deep into the blue paint of that sky as you want.

Where others would see a wall, Mary saw Heaven.

And then made that wall be Heaven.

The next Lately will be January 11. I hope all of you have a joyful holiday season.