Tears sprung involuntarily this morning when I realized the date while writing a check at Matt’s sawmill for the new log.  May 23 is my father’s birthday.  Dad would have turned 73 today.

Yesterday I stumbled across an email written to my aunt during the trip to Nebraska a year ago to bury my father.  She never got it.  The email was returned unsent but surfaced since I’m still trying recover data and a zillion email addresses lost in the recent computer crash.  Since today is my father’s birthday, somehow it seems right to share a bit of rambling that poignantly popped me back to the plains where my father grew up.  Memorial weekend is nearly here.  Below is an intimate slice from life at this time last year when I drove Mom to Nebraska in her Lincoln Continental to bury my father.

Written to my aunt:

Chance of “a scattered thunderstorm” was posted on the TV screen above the coffee machine in of a small lobby at the Super 8 in Kimball while I checked in.  The sky was perfectly clear.  A vivid pink red splotch of sunset sat on the horizon behind the trees and the interstate like a wine stain on a pale blue dress.  One would imagine that the sun would stretch itself across the mountain-less landscape, settling itself lazily with glee across the low rolling hills but it just hovered over one small area of sky.  Contained –by what?  The sunsets back home in Big Sky country spew all over the place.  Like an overzealous dance number in an old Hollywood musical, they go on and on taking up the whole screen (and then some).  I didn’t see a thundercloud anywhere when I parked the Lincoln and gathered things out of the giant deep trunk where Dad’s and Taz’s ashes are stored beneath a plaid blanket.

Mom carried her tiny 16 x 12 x 6 inch peacock blue bag that was part of the new set of luggage I helped her find for her trip to Denver last winter.  She carries on and on with amazement about how HEAVY the bag is (insert multiple exclamation points here and imagine plenty of wide-eyed huffing and puffing with a bit of exasperation.)  Both nights on the road I’ve left her with the one little bag to carry and each time she pokes along like a delicate wingless little bird strapped down by something that weighs 8 times its own body weight.  Considering her tiny size 1 frame and the contents of the bag – maybe the little bag does weigh more than her.  The heaviest thing in it is the giant can of aerosol hairspray, then her light-up makeup mirror, two small flowered makeup bags, underwear, socks (which she wears with her sandals) and a few zip lock baggies of misc.  The bright blue bag doesn’t weigh much.  I worry about how physically weak she is.  That and the fact that Mom coughs like grandma did, soft and phlegmee in the morning.

The “one scattered thunderstorm” struck.

Storms smell, sound and feel different in the plains –but perfect somehow.  The loud whir/whine noise of semi trucks and the interstate are woven with deep throated thunder in my memory of this place.  Cottontail rabbits, lawn ornaments, oil well rigs and grain silos punctuate the landscape of my memory of Nebraska.