MacBook Technical Specifications Finish. Size and Weight. Height: 0. Graphics and Video Support. Wi-Fi Charging and Expansion. Stereo speakers Dual microphones 3.
Keyboard and Trackpad. Battery and Power. Up to 10 hours wireless web 3 Up to 12 hours iTunes film playback 3 Up to 30 days of standby time 3 Built-in Electrical and Operating Requirements. Operating System. Closed Captions Text to Speech. Built-in Apps 4. Voice Memos. Photo Booth. Time Machine. Limited Warranty and Service. She was alone, with KarenCherylLeif riding shotgun in her car. By then we lived in a small town an hour outside of Minneapolis in a series of apartment complexes with deceptively upscale names: Mill Pond and Barbary Knoll, Tree Loft and Lake Grace Manor.
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She had one job, then another. She waited tables at a place called the Norseman and then a place called Infinity, where her uniform was a black T-shirt that said go for it in rainbow glitter across her chest. She worked the day shift at a factory that manufactured plastic containers capable of holding highly corrosive chemicals and brought the rejects home. Trays and boxes that had been cracked or clipped or misaligned in the machine. We made them into toys—beds for our dolls, ramps for our cars. She worked and worked and worked, and still we were poor. We received government cheese and powdered milk, food stamps and medical assistance cards, and free presents from do-gooders at Christmastime.
We played tag and red light green light and charades by the apartment mail- boxes that you could open only with a key, waiting for checks to arrive. Sarsaparilla or Orange Crush or lemonade. She would spread her arms wide and ask us how much and there would never be an end to the game. She loved us more than all the named things in the world. She was optimistic and serene, except a few times when she lost her temper and spanked us with a wooden spoon. She dated men with names like Killer and Doobie and Motorcycle Dan and one guy named Victor who liked to downhill ski.
They would give us five-dollar bills to buy candy from the store so they could be alone in the apartment with our mom. Karen and Leif and I fell in love with him too. He was twenty-five when we met him and twenty-seven when he married our mother and promised to be our father; a carpenter who could make and fix anything. We left the apartment complexes with fancy names and moved with him into a rented ramshackle farmhouse that had a dirt floor in the basement and four different colors of paint on the outside.
The winter after my mother married him, Eddie fell off a roof on the job and broke his back. A year later, he and my mom took the twelve-thousand-dollar settlement he received and with it bought forty acres of land in Aitkin County, an hour and a half west of Duluth, paying for it outright in cash.
There was no house. No one had ever had a house on that land. Our forty acres were a perfect square of trees and bushes and weedy grasses, swampy ponds and bogs clotted with cattails. There was nothing to dif- ferentiate it from the trees and bushes and grasses and ponds and bogs that surrounded it in every direction for miles. And, slowly, it did.
Trees that had once looked like any other to me became as recognizable as the faces of old friends in a crowd, their branches gesturing with sudden meaning, their leaves beckoning like identifiable hands. Clumps of grass and the edges of the now-familiar bog became landmarks, guides, indecipherable to everyone but us. For six months, we went up north only on weekends, working furiously to tame a patch of the land and build a one-room tarpaper shack where the five of us could sleep.
In early June, when I was thirteen, we moved up north for good. Or rather, my mother, Leif, Karen, and I did, along with our two horses, our cats and our dogs, and a box of ten baby chicks my mom got for free at the feed store for buying twenty-five pounds of chicken feed. Eddie would continue driving up on weekends throughout the summer and then stay come fall. We were twenty miles away from two small towns in opposite directions: Moose Lake to the east; McGregor to the northwest. We fought and talked and made up jokes and diversions in order to pass the time. Who am I? Are you American?
Are you dead? Are you Charles Manson? We were swarmed by mosqui- toes as we worked, but my mother forbade us to use DEET or any other such brain-destroying, earth-polluting, future-progeny-harming chemical. Instead, she instructed us to slather our bodies with pennyroyal or peppermint oil. In the evenings, we would make a game of counting the bites on our bodies by candlelight.
The numbers would be seventy-nine, eighty-six, one hundred and three. There had always been a television in our house, not to mention a flushable toilet and a tap where you could get yourself a glass of water. In our new life as pioneers, even meeting the simplest needs often involved a grueling litany of tasks, rig- orous and full of boondoggle. Our kitchen was a Coleman camp stove, a fire ring, an old-fashioned icebox Eddie built that depended on actual ice to keep things even mildly cool, a detached sink propped against an outside wall of the shack, and a bucket of water with a lid on it.
Each component demanded just slightly less than it gave, needing to be tended and maintained, filled and unfilled, hauled and dumped, pumped and primed and stoked and monitored. Karen and I shared a bed on a lofted platform built so close to the ceiling we could just barely sit up. Leif slept a few feet away on his own smaller platform, and our mother was in a bed on the floor below, joined by Eddie on the weekends.
Every night we talked one another to sleep, slumber-party style. There was a skylight window in the ceiling that ran the length of the platform bed I shared with Karen, its transparent pane only a few feet from our faces. That someday I would be grateful and that in fact I was grateful now, that I felt something growing in me that was strong and real. The thing that would make me believe that hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was my way back to the person I used to be. All through my teen years, Eddie and my mom kept building it, adding on, making it better. My mother planted a garden and canned and pickled and froze vegetables in the fall.
She tapped the trees and made maple syrup, baked bread and carded wool, and made her own fabric dyes out of dandelions and broccoli leaves. I grew up and left home for college in the Twin Cities at a school called St. Thomas, but not without my mom. My acceptance letter men- tioned that parents of students could take classes at St. Thomas for free. Much as she liked her life as a modern pioneer, my mother had always wanted to get her degree.
We laughed about it together, then pondered it in private. Plus, St. Thomas was a three- hour drive away. We kept talking and talking until at last we had a deal: she would go to St. Thomas but we would have separate lives, dictated by me. I would live in the dorm and she would drive back and forth. If our paths crossed on campus she would not acknowledge me unless I acknowledged her first.
She replicated my worksheets, wrote the same papers I had to write, read every one of the books. I judged her a shaky student at best. She went to college and earned straight As. Sometimes I hugged her exuberantly when I saw her on campus; other times I sailed on by, as if she were no one to me at all. We were both seniors in college when we learned she had cancer. Thomas anymore. I was married by then, to a good man named Paul. After she got sick, I folded my life down. I told Paul not to count on me. I wanted to quit school, but my mother ordered me not to, begging me, no matter what happened, to get my degree.
She herself took what she called a break. She only needed to complete a couple more classes to graduate, and she would, she told me. She would get her BA if it killed her, she said, and we laughed and then looked at each other darkly. She would be strong enough to start in on those last two classes soon, she absolutely knew.
I stayed in school, though I convinced my professors to allow me to be in class only two days each week. As soon as those two days were over, I raced home to be with my mother. Plus, I was needed. Eddie was with her when he could be, but he had to work. Someone had to pay the bills. I cooked food that my mother tried to eat, but rarely could she eat. I took everything from the cupboards and put new paper down.
My mother slept and moaned and counted and swallowed her pills. On good days she sat in a chair and talked to me. There was nothing much to say. I knew that her love for me was vaster than the ten thousand things and also the ten thousand things beyond that.
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I knew the names of the horses she had loved as a girl: Pal and Buddy and Bacchus. I knew how she met my father the next year and what he seemed like to her on their first few dates. Cursing and sassing off to her mom, bitching about having to set the table while her much younger sister played. I wanted to know. But now that she was dying, I knew everything. My mother was in me already. Not just the parts of her that I knew, but the parts of her that had come before me too.
A little more than a month. The idea that my mother would live a year quickly became a sad dream. By the third of March, she had to go to the hospital in Duluth, seventy miles away, because she was in so much pain. She sat on the bed and I got down on my knees before her. I had never put socks on another person, and it was harder than I thought it would be. They went on crooked. I became furious with my mother, as if she were purposely holding her foot in a way that made it impossible for me.
She sat back, leaning on her hands on the bed, her eyes closed. I could hear her breathing deeply, slowly. It was a word she used often throughout my childhood, delivered in a highly specific tone. This is not the way I wanted it to be, that single honey said, but it was the way it was. It was this very acceptance of suffering that annoyed me most about my mom, her unending optimism and cheer.
Her movements were slow and thick as she put on her coat. She held on to the walls as she made her way through the house, her two beloved dogs following her as she went, pushing their noses into her hands and thighs. I watched the way she patted their heads. The words fuck them were two dry pills in my mouth. Until she was dying, the thought had never entered my mind.
She was monolithic and insurmountable, the keeper of my life. She would grow old and still work in the garden. I held fast to this image for the first couple of weeks after we left the Mayo Clinic, and then, once she was admitted to the hospice wing of the hospital in Duluth, that image unfurled, gave way to others, more modest and true.
I imagined my mother in October; I wrote the scene in my mind. And then the one of my mother in August and another in May. Each day that passed, another month peeled away. On her first day in the hospital, a nurse offered my mother morphine, but she refused. She slept and woke, talked and laughed. She cried from the pain. I camped out during the days with her and Eddie took the nights.
She was preoccupied with nothing but eradicating her pain, an impossible task in the spaces of time between the doses of morphine. We could never get the pillows right.
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He was young, perhaps thirty. He stood next to my mother, a gentle hairy hand slung into his pocket, looking down at her in the bed. And also I wanted to take pleasure from him, to feel the weight of his body against me, to feel his mouth in my hair and hear him say my name to me over and over again, to force him to acknowledge me, to make this matter to him, to crush his heart with mercy for us.
When my mother asked him for more morphine, she asked for it in a way that I have never heard anyone ask for anything. A mad dog. He did not look at her when she asked him this, but at his wristwatch. He held the same expression on his face regardless of the answer.
Sometimes he gave it to her without a word, and sometimes he told her no in a voice as soft as his penis in his pants. My mother begged and whimpered then. She cried and her tears fell in the wrong direction. Not down over the light of her cheeks to the corners of her mouth, but away from the edges of her eyes to her ears and into the nest of her hair on the bed. She lived forty-nine days after the first doctor in Duluth told her she had cancer; thirty-four after the one at the Mayo Clinic did.
But each day was an eternity, one stacked up on the other, a cold clarity inside of a deep haze. I was in heartbroken and enraged disbelief.
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One friend told us he was stay- ing with a girl named Sue in St. Another spotted him ice fishing on Sheriff Lake. Mostly, I watched her sleep, the hardest task of all, to see her in repose, her face still pinched with pain. But it was just me. My husband, Paul, did everything he could to make me feel less alone. What did he know about losing anything? His parents were still alive and happily married to each other.
My connection with him and his gloriously unfractured life only seemed to increase my pain. Being with him felt unbearable, but being with anyone else did too. The only person I could bear to be with was the most unbearable person of all: my mother. In the mornings, I would sit near her bed and try to read to her.
So I started in, but I could not go on.
Each word I spoke erased itself in the air. It was the same when I tried to pray. I prayed fervently, rabidly, to God, any god, to a god I could not identify or find. I prayed to the whole wide universe and hoped that God would be in it, listening to me. I prayed and prayed, and then I faltered.
God was not a granter of wishes. God was a ruthless bitch. The last couple of days of her life, my mother was not so much high as down under. She was on a morphine drip by then, a clear bag of liquid flowing slowly down a tube that was taped to her wrist. Sometimes when my mother woke she did not know where she was. She demanded an enchilada and then some apple- sauce. During this time I wanted my mother to say to me that I had been the best daughter in the world. I did not want to want this, but I did, inexplicably, as if I had a great fever that could be cooled only by those words.
But this was not enough. I was ravenous for love. My mother died fast but not all of a sudden. A slow-burning fire when flames disappear to smoke and then smoke to air. She was altered but still fleshy when she died, the body of a woman among the living. She had her hair too, brown and brittle and frayed from being in bed for weeks. From the room where she died I could see the great Lake Superior out her window. The biggest lake in the world, and the coldest too. To see it, I had to work. I wanted to take her from the hospital and prop her in a field of yarrow to die.
I watched my mother. Outside the sun glinted off the sidewalks and the icy edges of the snow. It would turn out to be the last full day of her life, and for most of it she held her eyes still and open, neither sleeping nor waking, intermittently lucid and hallucinatory. The nurses and doctors had told Eddie and me that this was it. I took that to mean she would die in a couple of weeks. I believed that people with cancer lingered.
I decided to leave the hospital for one night so I could find him and bring him to the hospital once and for all. I looked over at Eddie, half lying on the little vinyl couch. None of us will leave. I rode the elevator and went out to the cold street and walked along the sidewalk. I passed a bar packed with people I could see through a big plate-glass window. They were all wearing shiny green paper hats and green shirts and green suspenders and drinking green beer.
A man inside met my eye and pointed at me drunkenly, his face breaking into silent laughter. I drove home and fed the horses and hens and got on the phone, the dogs gratefully licking my hands, our cat nudging his way onto my lap. I called everyone who might know where my brother was.
He was drinking a lot, some said. Cloud named Sue. At midnight the phone rang and I told him that this was it. I wanted to scream at him when he walked in the door a half hour later, to shake him and rage and accuse, but when I saw him, all I could do was hold him and cry. He seemed so old to me that night, and so very young too. We lay together in his single bed talking and crying into the wee hours until, side by side, we drifted off to sleep. I woke a few hours later and, before waking Leif, fed the animals and loaded bags full of food we could eat during our vigil at the hospital.
We listened intently to the music without talking, the low sun cutting brightly into the snow on the sides of the road. This was a new thing, but I assumed it was only a procedural matter. When I opened the door, Eddie stood and came for us with his arms outstretched, but I swerved away and dove for my mom. Her arms lay waxen at her sides, yellow and white and black and blue, the needles and tubes removed. Her eyes were covered by two surgical gloves packed with ice, their fat fingers lolling clownishly across her face.
When I grabbed her, the gloves slid off. Bouncing onto the bed, then onto the floor. I howled and howled and howled, rooting my face into her body like an animal. Her limbs had cooled, but her belly was still an island of warm. I pressed my face into the warmth and howled some more. I dreamed of her incessantly. In the dreams I was always with her when she died. It was me who would kill her. Again and again and again.
She commanded me to do it, and each time I would get down on my knees and cry, begging her not to make me, but she would not relent, and each time, like a good daughter, I ultimately complied. I tied her to a tree in our front yard and poured gasoline over her head, then lit her on fire. I dragged her body, caught on a jagged piece of metal underneath, until it came loose, and then I put my truck in reverse and ran her over again.
I took a miniature baseball bat and beat her to death with it, slow and hard and sad. These dreams were not surreal. They took place in plain, ordinary light. They were the documentary films of my subconscious and felt as real to me as life. My truck was really my truck; our front yard was our actual front yard; the miniature baseball bat sat in our closet among the umbrellas. I woke shrieking. Paul grabbed me and held me until I was quiet. He wetted a washcloth with cool water and put it over my face. Nothing did. Nothing would. Nothing could ever bring my mother back or make it okay that she was gone.
Nothing would put me beside her the moment she died. It broke me up. It cut me off. It tumbled me end over end. It took me years to take my place among the ten thousand things again. To be the woman my mother raised. To remember how she said honey and picture her particular gaze.
I would suffer. I would want things to be different than they were. The wanting was a wilderness and I had to find my own way out of the woods. It took me four years, seven months, and three days to do it. It was a place called the Bridge of the Gods. To Texas and back. To New York City and back. To Wyoming and back. To Portland, Oregon, and back. To Port- land and back again. And again. The map would illuminate all the places I ran to, but not all the ways I tried to stay. It would only seem like that rough star, its every bright line shooting out. Which meant that no one would.
I finally had no choice but to leave her grave to go back to the weeds and blown-down tree branches and fallen pinecones. To snow and whatever the ants and deer and black bears and ground wasps wanted to do with her. I lay down in the mother ash dirt among the crocuses and told her it was okay.
That since she died, everything had changed. My words came out low and steadfast. I was so sad it felt as if someone were choking me, and yet it seemed my whole life depended on my getting those words out. She would always be my mother, I told her, but I had to go. The only place I could reach her. In me. The next day I left Minnesota forever. I was going to hike the PCT. It was the first week of June.