Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Getting Lost on the Way to the Short Cut

I learned something this weekend. I learned that there are no short cuts on the way out of grief. You just have to do the work, you just have to do the time.

This was my big weekend away. With Mother seemingly convinced I was both a liar and a thief, I decided I could skip visiting her for a couple of days to allow that thought some time to pass. I had a full agenda to fill all this free time. First there was the Pow-Wow. This is a time honored tradition for me actually. This was the 18th annual event in South Austin, all but four or five that I have attended. Originally sponsored by Native American parents of Austin students who wanted their children to understand their heritage, it has grown to an ambitious single day Inter-tribal event, the largest indoor Pow-Wow in the country. At first, I went with both the girls, then only with Marissa, then Marissa made sure she had a friend along and then, finally, I was on my own. But, I look forward to it anxiously every year. For me, there is something calming and cleansing about the experience. I call it getting centered. I recharge my battery by listening to the drums, the stories, watching the dancers, walking among the vendors, and eating fry bread. For the longest time, however, I watched the traditions play out with a tinge of bittersweet longing. The sense of belonging and family I would see amongst the dancers and their families was something I was both drawn to and jealous of. Finally, I reconciled myself to the fact that I was an outsider invited to look in once a year and learned to simply appreciate the invitation. Last year I snuck away from Mother's hospital room to grab a couple of birthday gifts, eat my piece of fry bread and catch just a couple of dances, only to find out a month later that someone had gone into Mother's room while I was gone and made $350.00 + worth of calls to India. This year, I was determined to allow myself as much time as I wanted, maybe all day, to soak in the atmosphere and watch the dancers. I have never had the luxury of staying all the way until the end of the competition, which wraps up at about 10 PM. This year, I thought, if I wanted to, I would. No one cared where I was or what I was doing. I was totally free.

But, I hadn't counted on a couple of things. First was the drive down there. Every year it has been held at an Austin Independent School District sporting facility called The Toney Burger Center located off Brodie Lane in far South Austin. Every year I have gotten lost on the way. Nowadays, I only become vaguely lost, taking a wrong exit or turn, quickly realizing my mistake, and finding the right way. This year was no different. I almost automatically took the exit that dumped me by Kelsey's old apartment. As I swung myself around, I passed the book store I had taken her to when we were looking for a planner to help her track her bills, and the restaurant where we ate lunch and the market she liked to shop at. This was her world. South Austin has a vibe to it that suited my daughter better than the staid, conservative bedroom community I raised her in. I felt her everywhere. I thought I could shake it off once I got into the facility. But, then came the Grand Entry. Generally my favorite part of the entire day, it is an awesome display of all the dancers accompanying a color guard into the arena to "open" the competition. Since this is more of an educational event, this Pow-Wow has three. As I watched the midday Grand Entry, they came to the traditional Memorial Song, and the Emcee asked the audience to remember those who were no longer in the arena or in the stands. I became so emotional, I drew looks from the audience around me, but I endured it. However, I found that sitting on the hard bleachers of the auditorium hurt my back, and I ended up leaving even before I usually do. I'm not sure what I felt as I left and drove back, once more, past the places Kelsey frequented, but it wasn't centered.

Not to fear, there was the David Cook concert the next day...


  1. sometimes having those memories are better than not having them. South Austin is a pretty awesome place, it's nice that Kelsey got to experience living there, that is very cool.
    I would love to go with you next year hopefully!
    oh and MUCH easier to read with the gray :)

  2. Good, I am glad. On all accounts - I love the Pow-Wow and would love you to experience it with me. But, I confess, it hurt my eyes too, I thought it was because I'm old. This stays true to a Steeler theme - Steel grey - so I can handle this!