Sunday, December 26, 2010

Rabbits and Babies and a Brown Corduroy Sportcoat

I own a new condo. It's the penthouse in a crumbling historic building managed by my college. It's a remarkable place. Turrets and towers and balconies on all sides. The views are alpine. It looks like Julie Andrews might come singing down the mountainside--except that the place is in Minnesota. I've been renting it to my daughter's friend, Lily, but she's moving out and I'm going to move in. I've brought my friend Suzanne to show her what a spectacular place I'll soon be living in, and Lily's parents are there too, helping her pack.

It should be a glorious day. Except that it's Sunday and the college allows visitors to this historic monument on Sundays. There's a line of folding chairs snaking through the rooms and each one has someone sitting on it. The balconies are thronged too. The view. People want to see the view. This is the first I've heard of this sanctioned invasion of tourists. Shouldn't that have been disclosed when I bought the place? Shouldn't Lily have told me? I don't quite know what to do, so Suzanne and I pull up folding chairs near the balcony off of the compact kitchen and take in the breathtaking mountains. The trees on the nearby lower hilltops are swaying and through the lacy branches we ooh and aah over the peaks.
"I've got to be going," says a man sitting next to us. He extracts a brown corduroy sportcoat from a teetering hall tree--then realizes it isn't his. Someone has taken his coat by mistake.
"You men have such similar clothes," I say. I want to make him see how easily the mistake could have happened, but he's offended. It's obvious by the way he's handling the left behind jacket that his was far superior. "Gray, navy blue, pinstripes, the occasional brown corduroy," I say, still trying to redeem myself. The people around us chuckle, but the man goes off in a huff. I feel bad and I wish these people would leave. The babies, especially, are beginning to get to me. They are everywhere. Parents have pulled all the pots and pans out of the cupboards and the babies are napping in them. Tiny ones swaddled in loaf pans. Hefty ones stuffed into soup pots and dutch ovens. Little by little the babies wake, and parents bundle them up. "See you next Sunday," they call to one another. We'll see about that, I think.

It's getting late, and I want to help Lily so I offer to bathe her pet rabbits and put them into the pet carrier. As I'm toweling off the second one, I notice it's a cat. By this time, Lily's parents have reappeared and her father is unloading the freezer. I've been buying Lily's groceries to help her, and I want her to take whatever is left.
"Look at this fish," Lily's father says, holding up a frosty packet."Bottom feeder. Not good." The implication is that the fish is contaminated. I've bought his daughter contaminated fish.
"Don't worry about it," I say. We can feed it to the cat."
"What cat?"
"The cat that isn't a rabbit."

Just then the grounds crew/maintenance crew arrive. They're fitting a new railing onto one of my balconies. It looks like it's been salvaged from somewhere else, but they're making it work. Shouldn't it be custom made? I think. All those people leaning over it every Sunday. The boss of the crew is notoriously mean and gives me the evil eye which discourages me from telling him what I'm thinking. I've got to talk to the college, I think.

But I'm too busy worrying about the rabbit. How does a rabbit turn into a cat?

When I awoke with the man who loves me lying next to me in my bed, he began to tell me his dream of wandering through the rooms of a strange house, meeting a  round-faced little boy and finding the backpack he left behind.

photo credit: council of independent colleges historic architecture project

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On the sixth day of rain

In the country of Rainland, there is an autonomous nation known as Dogland. Dogland lost half its population last fall--but somehow has managed to maintain the output of its main resource, Love love love. Love love love is mostly consumed within Dogland by residents and visitors alike, but small amounts are sometimes available for export. Interested parties may contact the Queen Mother of Dogland and come for a visit. Travel by boat is advised. While Rainland was formerly known as Smogland and required breathing apparatus, a snorkel is now required.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Blog Gems # 5/ or Why the blogosphere amazes me

It's another festival of fantastic blogging with Jen at Blog Gems. Step right in and take a look. See what turns a person into a Blogger.
Here's how it happened to me.

photo credit:

Why I Hate You More When it Rains

I hate you, Mr. Ex.
But I hate you more when it rains.

I was in a hurry to buy my own place. The Little Missus (she was still "Miss" then) had already slept in our bed. She'd cooked in my kitchen, stuffed her leftovers into our fridge. The candles on the dining room table were burned lower, and two empty ice cream dishes flaunting pink plastic spoons basked on our patio. A bar of sandalwood soap perfumed our shower.

Yeah, I was in a hell of a hurry to make my escape. Running for my life, I looked at twenty townhouses searching for the one that could accommodate two big dogs. I pondered hallways and elevators, stairs and patio walls, neighborhoods and parks. It was September. An easy time in Southern California to forget about rain. In September we think of wildfires and smog and is the heat ever going to break, and why do some people say "Santana" while others call those evil winds "Santa Anas" and we know  it doesn't really matter because we're all thinking of The Devil and praying that hell hasn't burst  through some fault line to colonize the City of Angels. In September.

I didn't notice the place I chose had no kitchen door. No island of tile or linoleum on which to coral a soggy dog.

And now it's another December. My patio is a sewer.

And I wish you were floating in it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Another Piece Published

I love the look of this Lit Mag.   

 A perfect fit, I think, for this piece of mine which is the first two pages of my memoir.
 I have a completed manuscript and I'm looking for a publisher.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Divorce in a Box Grows Up

It was a little divorce at first. A divorce with a sense of humor. Cute in a twisted sort of way.

But little D. is all grown up now. 
A big boy.
He has teeth and drinks from a cup.
Doesn't dirty his diaper.
Wears big boy pants.
And he prefers black.

Little D's extinct  carcass has been  sacrificed.

I won't bother to keep his ashes in an urn.

And as for my new little man--well looks like he'll be too big for his britches someday soon.

But then again....maybe not.
I'm watching his diet more carefully now.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Maybe this means I'm not listening

The writer's retreat is going wonderfully. I'm with my tribe--mentors, teachers, other writers--and our candlelit dinner is a feast in a lush garden. But my ear hurts. Just a minute, says one of the writers. She's also a doctor, and she goes to get her black bag. As she peers into my ear, I laugh and tell everyone it doesn't really hurt that bad. Be quiet, she says as if my words are in the way of what she's trying to see. Not good news, she says. You have two veins in there that are completely unattached. You could die at any moment. Great, I think, when I fly home and my ears pop, it will kill me.

When I wake my head is stuffy from the cold I'm fighting, but I don't feel like I'm dying.

My therapist told me the other day that Jung identified 250 dream symbols. I don't know if the ear is one of them. But it seems to me there's some kind of connection between the ear and the heart--or listening and feeling--that I might want to ponder. Or somethin'.

image from:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gem of a Blogger & Blog Gems

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they say. When it comes to blogging, I imitate my friend Elizabeth. There's a list of things that she's done with her blog and I have shamelessly copied them. My latest bit of flattery is Blog Gems. Elizabeth is posting there, so now I am, too.
I like the idea--the connectedness of it all. If you're a blogger or a blog reader, check it out.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Naked and Shoe-less

I am in my old house--the house where Mr. Ex and the Little Missus now live. I've come to get something, but I forget what. They're going on a trip, and I thought they would have left by now. But they're still here, flinging things into suitcases and shouting instructions to one another from room to room. "Raj, can you get the ice chest?" Mr. Ex calls to his brother-in-law. They're going on a car trip, I surmise as I dash around the corner just out of Mr. Ex's sightline. Now I'm crouching behind the couch. What have I done with my flip-flops? I have to get out of here. This place is a wreck, piles of clothes and junk everywhere. The blinds are drawn and it's hard to see what's what. Shoes. I see shoes. But not mine. Green brocade sling backs with kitten heels. I can't wear those. I root through the two-foot-high pile of sweatshirts behind the couch still looking for flip-flops--the bronze colored ones I really like. My daughter C. comes into the house from the back hallway. "Hey-hey," she calls. She's there to say good-bye to her little brother, but she practically steps on me on her way around the couch. "WTF???" she mouths when she sees me. I shrug. Now I've lost my clothes, too, and it's only because of the pile of sweatshirts that I'm not trapped on the family room floor stark naked. The coast is clear, and I dash for the coat closet by the garage door just as the Little Missus clip-clops down the  back stairs, cursing under her breath. Uh-oh. She bangs the closet door open, and there I am, panting behind the coats, my heart pounding so raucously it's a wonder she can't hear it. "God damn it," she says. She's looking for something too, I guess. She bangs the door shut and heads for the kitchen. Now's my chance. I slip into the garage and out the pedestrian door into the dog yard.
I'm wearing a stolen coat and it barely covers my ass.
My favorite flip-flops lost forever in the rubble.

When I wake I'm floating in a pool of sweat, my throat full of needles.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Transparency of Winter Forests

When I say I'm over Mr. Ex, I don't mean I've forgiven him.
When I say I don't care what happens to him, I don't mean the shadow of his swath of destruction is invisible.
When I say I would never go back to him, I don't mean that I would have coffee with him.
When I say I don't believe in Hell, I don't mean I wouldn't be happy if he rotted there.

photo is the property of the author

Sunday, November 21, 2010

After a November Rain

Buried under a stack of reading, the couch is your burrow. 
But then you look out of your window and see this.

You catch a glimpse of your  rose bush, an orange flame tilted upward at the same sky.

You can't resist.

 You are taken in by 




not yet ripe, but promising something

So now you have the courage to leave your house and visit your favorite neighborhood tree--
a tree you think of as a vanquished giant rammed headfirst into the earth by an enemy

 strong legs visible while his heart beats beneath the ground
eyes and mouth and nose filled with dirt. 
The leaves he drops are offerings 
and you bring one home to remind you of something but you're not sure what

so you make an offering of it too.
And when you stand at your patio gate
you see the beauty of all of it 

and you give thanks to your made-up gods--
to the guardian of the camellias

and to the god of yellow

and the gray god of rain
because when he stops hurting you
the world looks like this

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My Pinteresque Marriage

I just read John Lahr's piece on Harold Pinter and his play,"The Homecoming" in the Dec. 24th & 31st 2007 issue of The New Yorker. Okay, so I'm a little behind. It was the week I started grad school. Five months after Mr. Ex dumped me. And I wasn't reading much due to an inability to concentrate, an inability to comprehend a more than a sentence at a time, an inablity to breathe in and breathe out. Not a good state of being for a student in an MFA program in creative writing. Oh well. That was then.

I loved Harold Pinter. He, along with Edward Albee, were the playwrights of the moment when I began college in 1970. A word about the pre electronic-connectedness time warp of the era; it took time for what was new and hot and interesting to work its way from England to the American Midwest. Unlike the Beatles, Pinter didn't do the Ed Sullivan Show. (Pinter joke: And if he had, they probably would have edited out the pauses.) "The Homecoming's" New York debut occurred in 1967, and John Lahr, who was a schoolteacher then, writes, "I didn't quite know what I'd seen; I knew only that the play's spectacular combination of mystery and rigor had taught me something new about life, about language, about the nature of dramatic storytelling."

I'm sure I couldn't have put it that articulately, but I knew something was up. Pinter's plays frightened me--and they also made me laugh. But like the first director of "The Birthday Party," I wanted someone to explain to me what they were about. "The weasel under the china cabinet," I remember reading in some interview with Pinter back then. That made me laugh too. Lahr writes in the New Yorker that Pinter refused the director any explanation. But Lahr quotes something Pinter did write about his work, "We are faced with the immense difficulty, if not the impossibility of verifying the past. I don't mean merely twenty years ago, but yesterday, this morning. What was the nature of what took place, what happened?" This is what Pinter's plays ask the reader/viewer to figure out.

And there are those famous pauses Pinter wrote into his scripts. "The speech we hear is an indication of that which we don't hear," Pinter wrote. "It is a necessary avoidance, a violent, sly, anguished or mocking smoke screen which keeps the other in its place."

It's not that I didn't hear Mr. Ex's ruthless indifference. I just didn't want to. Anymore than I'd want to admit there was a weasel under my china cabinet.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Adrenaline, Addiction, and Jerks

I don't watch TV. I have basic cable though--for house guests--and because I always think that maybe I'll watch a movie some night when I'm home alone. But I never do. Until a couple of nights ago. My body was (and is) still supercharged with adrenaline from an anxiety attack, so  I've been working on some couch time under a blanket with a stack of old New Yorkers and a cup of tea. Two nights ago I watched The Kids Are All Right. Last night: Freakanomics. Tonight I got better acquainted with the Pay per View menu. There are other categories beyond "drama," "comedy" and "romance." My cable company has a category called, "Battle of the Exes." At first I suspected I might be hallucinating or  having some kind of psychotic break, but no, there really is a category of movies about break-ups and the conflict that ensues. The list includes Fatal Attraction and the Kill Bill movies, but I went with Addicted to Love. Meg Ryan and Matthew Broderick in a revenge/comedy/romance. I was entertained.

There are other categories that I was unaware of: "Single Ladies," and "Political Thrillers." And two categories  that might have some overlap--"Thankful Flicks," and "Thanksgiving Movies." Really, I'm not making this up.

I'm thankful that Meg Ryan fell out of love with the jerk who used her and fell in love with someone sweet.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Credit Card Company Caves to Divorcée's Demands

I won.
But if no one tells you you've won, is it really a win? I think perhaps it is.

Back in May when I was already nearly three years into the warped world of divorce, it suddenly occurred to me that I still shared credit card accounts with Mr. Ex. I had tossed the cards into a box under my desk when I began receiving alimony, but he continued to charge things as if he was channeling Eloise in her room at the Plaza. The debt he racked up was impressive--and my name was attached to it.
"We don't recognize divorce," one of the credit card companies told me. My contract with them superseded  a piece of paper from  Los Angeles Superior Court, they said. My determination supersedes your dictatorial attitude, I thought. I had already gone to Mr. Ex's office in person to get him to sign their form, and when that didn't work out, I went again.
I worked diligently on  second my letter to that financial fiefdom known as C____ that is holding on to some views on marriage and divorce that belong in the dark ages. Then I let it go until I began pawing though my "divorce in a box". (Everyone needs a hobby, right?) That's when I found that I had a need to view an old credit card statement I couldn't seem to find, so I tried to view it online--without success.
I called customer service.
"I'm sorry, you're not allowed to view this account because you're not on it," the woman on the line said.
"Really?" I said. And then I asked her if she could confirm that my name had been recently taken off this account and that my ex-husband was now solely responsible for it.
"No," she said, "I can't do that because you're not on the account.
"Thanks very much," I said.

Love Conquers All

You can read more here:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Can't Buy Me Love, Oh

I've always been somewhat the reluctant shopper. There was no money for new clothes when I was growing up, and other than what my mother and I sewed, the gifts that  magically appeared under the Christmas tree were pretty much the only injection of fashion into my sparse wardrobe. But those presents were so fabulous that I remember them all these decades later--a faux fur "maxi" coat, lace up suede boots, a red and white sweater that conjured an elite ski resort. During my college years it was fashionable to shop at The Salvation Army and Goodwill, but I didn't do much of that either. When I moved from the midwest to L.A. in 1975 all of my clothes fit into one suitcase.

But even though I had nearly a decade of living near the poverty line in Los Angeles, I began to acquire more clothes. Thrift stores and garage sales were a cornucopia of bargains, and the wholesale prices in the fashion district beckoned. Soon I needed a closet organizer system. Then garment bags and storage bins for the off-season items I stored in my garage. I was an actress then, and I needed a large wardrobe for auditions--or so I convinced myself. Then came maternity clothes, tops that accommodated breast feeding, ensembles suitable for law firm parties--all in a range of sizes as my weight fluctuated between 114 and 180 pounds.

These last few years, I've engaged in a constant culling. I  now have two pairs of jeans, a drawer full of t-shirts, a drawer of exercise clothes, and a shelf of sweaters. Everything else fits comfortably in my closet--but these nicer things in my closet aren't worn very often. I remind myself of this whenever I have the urge to buy something new. Retail therapy seems to promise sanity and salvation whenever I'm in the vicinity of the two banks that house the joint checking accounts I still share with Mr. Ex. A particular store in this neighborhood sends out its siren call and, before I know it, I'm in there fondling bowls and dishtowels, and  trying on things that  somehow channel the fashions of my own youth while managing to also be the style of the moment. The merchandising alchemy in this place is formidable. But I've figured it out. They have perfumes that smell like an amalgam of the two scents most popular when I was a teenager--Heaven Scent (if you were trying to be a good girl) and Tabu (if your impulses were a bit more daring.) The dishes and furnishings look like they hail from places I want to travel to. They have displays that include the books I most loved to read to my children. And, for the coup de grace, a slim volume of poetry, The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, selected by Caroline Kennedy.

But I look awful in most of their clothes. I have no more room for dishes or rugs or embroidered pillows, so I'm saved by vanity and lack of space. But they've got me.

If only this merchandising genius could be applied to the things the world really does need. Things that we would hold dear the rest of our lives.

Friday, October 29, 2010

One is the loneliest number, but it's nice to write alone.

About the time that my marriage dissolved, there was a deluge of other things. My nest emptied, and the birds flew far and wide. I moved out of the nest and let Mr. Ex and the Little Missus have it (since she'd already slept in my bed.) Three of my best friends moved away. My agent gave up on my book. Then last summer my mom got cancer. This September one of my dogs and one of my cats died. I realized that in the great infinity of possible bad things, this isn't so much, really. And I feel weak and indulgent when I find myself struggling. So then I buck up for awhile until I decide to have a bottle of wine for dinner. Which has struck me as really stupid recently. So this past week I went to bed extra early on the nights when the man who loves me wasn't around. And lo! And behold! I awoke yesterday morning with an idea for an essay, and I fired up my computer instead of crawling to my espresso maker. Imagine that. An idea that I didn't have to pay someone to wrench out of me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blah, blah, blah

I had my friend Suzanne over for dinner last night. We talked about many things. Politics and the upcoming election. Her job. How the plans for building her house on a lake in Montana are on hold. The menu for the Thanksgiving dinner we are planning to cook together.

And we talked about my divorce. Again.

Let's talk about something else.

I'm over at  again today.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Friend Lauren's Book

I have amazing friends, and Lauren Ward Larsen is one of them. This Saturday night I was her date for a shindig at UCLA where she was celebrated as one of the most distinguished alumni to graduate from the Anderson School of Business MBA program during its 75 years of existence.
Oh--and she wrote a book. Not a business book. A memoir that is chilling and brutal--and also delightful and funny. If you know anyone who has suffered a devastating illness, anyone who wants to seize life like there's no tomorrow, tell them to read it. Pre-order before November 15th and Lauren will donate 100% of her royalties to either blood donation, preeclampsia research, or clean water wells in Sudan.

Another Autograph

Downtown again, papers in hand for Mr. Ex to sign. His secretary riding a lunch rush elevator between me  in the lobby and Mr. Ex ensconced above us in one of his two offices in a shiny downtown high rise. I had three forms for him to sign. Two versions of a form designed to release me from responsibility for a joint credit card account I haven't used since my alimony began, and a form from an investment account that has been designated as my sole and separate property by an Interim Division of Joint Assets signed, sealed, and delivered by the L.A. Court.  It should have been simple. It wasn't.
Mr. Ex had already signed off on the Interim Division of Joint Assets which awarded a few things to him and a few to me with more yet to be divided if he's ever cooperative enough to do so. The investment firm had already received the official court documents, but they had a little form of their own for Mr. Ex. to sign. "Where are the forms for the things that I get?" Mr. Ex reportedly asked. "I'm not signing her form until she signs forms saying that I get my things."
Um. No forms seem to be necessary for you to get your things.
Poor secretary.
I called my attorney and left a message suggesting we look into a contempt of court filing. I called my financial guy.
About an hour later, thanks to the financial guy, things were sorted out--at least for the investment company's form.
As for the credit card account, Mr. Ex won't divulge his "gross household income"--a necessary number before the credit card company agrees to let him be solely responsible for the account. But I'm not giving up. I'll figure out a way.
Meanwhile, it cost me 13.50 to park. If I asked him to reimburse me, do you think he would?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Another Essay Published

Today is the release date for the anthology Saying Goodbye. I have an essay in it called "Holding Him Softly"--it's about handing my son over to the adoption agency when I was 17 and he was was just a few days old.

The book is a satisfying mix of sad and funny.  It would be a great gift for someone who is moving, retiring, graduating, grieving--saying goodbye to people, places, or things.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Handsome, Dark... and fits in my purse

Say what you want about the feel of a "real" book. The smell of paper, the way it feels in your hands. You can keep your dead trees and sniff all the glue that your heart desires because I'm in love with Mr. Kindle. I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's "The Lacuna" on my Kindle, and after I "turned" the last page I went to "My Notes and Marks" to re-read my favorite parts. Things like,"This is what it means to be alone: everyone is connected to everyone else, their bodies are a bright liquid life flowing around you, sharing a single heat that drives them to move all together. If the shark comes they will all escape, and leave you to be eaten." Or, "The past is all we know of the future."
Imagine my surprise at the next item on the Kindle menu, "View Popular Highlights." Yes. The favorite passages of other readers who have enjoyed "The Lacuna" on Kindle. Everyone is connected to everyone else--in a good way. Or at least those of us who read a book on Kindle and like it enough to mark the sections that mean something to us. From the top ten of  the most popular highlighted passages, there is this: "The most important thing about a person is always the thing you don't know." And this: "Mr. Shepherd, ye cannot stop a bad thought from coming into your head. But ye need not pull up a chair and bide it sit down."

My daughter M. and I once shared a paperback copy of "The God of Small Things" by Arundati Roy. M. read it first, underlining liberally and then gave the book to me to read. I loved seeing her markings-- knowing what had moved her, which bits of prose had leapt off the page and into her heart. I made my own marks and notes as I read, and then she read the book again, taking into consideration what I had noted. Reading as dialogue. Reading as love of a book and love of a person who loves the same book.
Okay, so maybe my experience today with my Kindle doesn't have quite the same depth as that. But the sea of book-love with Mr. Kindle is wider and has more fish. As both a reader and a writer, I have to say it's pretty big stuff to feel the ripple of a beloved writer's words and know immediately that other readers, even anonymous ones, are being encircled by those ripples too.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's Not a Trojan Horse

Beware of Ex wives bearing gifts?  No need. 
Call me a fool, but I'm having another go at it.

Dear  Mr. Ex:

I send you these mementos of happier times, and I ask you to consider the significance of each one. Think. Remember. We had a pretty good run.  In fact, at the risk of beckoning a visit from depression, I’d even say that some of the years I spent with you were among the happiest in my life.

All that’s finished now. You have a young wife, a beautiful son, and the beginnings of a whole new life complete with a prestigious career that you worked hard for. The beginnings of that career grew from the seeds planted by the two of us and nurtured by me.

You might recall that I made a conscious decision to “put all of my eggs in one basket.”  I gave up working to raise C. and M. I gave up working to support your career and your efforts. Every place we ever lived together, I made into a beautiful home. I did my best to do all of the errand running, the chores, the household management, the home improvements, and the child rearing so that you could put your energies into your work. My appointment books and day planners from the years of our marriage are records of intense devotion and a full schedule of domestic engineering.

All I want at this point, Mr. Ex, is that we finish dividing our joint assets.  I ask myself daily why you have not given me what is mine under California law. Is it the influence of your partners? Your wife?  Do you think I don’t deserve it? Do you harbor secret fears of severing the final ties with me? Do you think I will give up? It’s only the last question I can answer. I won’t give up.  So please, let’s not waste our time and energy on this any longer.  I’ve spent pretty close to $50,000 on attorney fees.  It’s sickening to think what that money might have bought.  I do not know what you have spent—I suspect it’s dramatically less, but the two of us could have done a lot of better things with that money.

Please. Raise your son. Love your wife. Do your work. And finish your business with me.



Hotter than Hades/Hot Dog

Los Angeles had the hottest day on record today. It was 113 degrees, and this evening when the temperature was still edging 100, my dog Layla did not want to go for a walk. Good dog. Smart dog. Except that she didn't eat much today either.  Her food dish is inside, and it's a comfy 78 degrees here in my living room. She spent the day sleeping on the rug in front of the couch.  Layla is essentially an indoor dog and she spends almost all of her time in my living room.  And she lives to eat.  So  I've spent today  wondering...
My cat Snowflake died on September 11th. My dog Lola on September 22nd. Um--hello grim reaper of the pet world....can you hear me? I would like to keep Layla, if at all possible, for a while longer. Pretty please? Three pets in three weeks would be excessive, don't you think?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thank You, Everyone.......

for your condolences.
We're getting by.

Piper the cat, always reclusive, has come out of her shell since Snowflake left us. She has a whole new personality now that she's the only cat in the household.
And Layla is better than I imagined she would be. She's a high strung dog, and I thought she'd pace around endlessly looking for Lola. But she's sleeping more. And following my every move when she's awake.

I think she harbors some suspicion that I've allowed Lola to come upstairs (both she and Lola were/are confined to my downstairs due to their inability to cope with the steps.) She spends quite a bit of time time poking her nose through the cat door in the gate and  sniffing.

Piper and Layla have always been tolerant of one another's presence.  Maybe now they'll get cuddly.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Loss, Coincidence & Consoling

My condo complex is resurfacing its interior streets so, for the second day in a row, I had the choice of being held prisoner for several hours while the "slurry coat" dried or vacating the premises before 7:00 a.m.  and staying gone. Yesterday I let myself be held hostage. Today I chose freedom.
I had an elaborate plan--a sort of "me morning." Breakfast out with my laptop, jazzercise, a pedicure, and then downtown to spring my dogs from boarding, which I elected not to do yesterday due to fearsome visions of eight paws and a set of sneakers tracking fresh asphalt into my condo and simultaneously incurring the wrath of the H.O.A board.

Things were going well as  I took the last bites of my Starbucks veggie panini while emailing my attorney. Then the phone rang.

It was Stephen, the guy from the dog boarding place, telling me my dog Lola was completely uninterested in getting up this morning. Lola is old. She has a heart condition. She nearly died when I was out of town visiting my mom in August. But she rallied and had a great month at home with me before it was time to visit my mom again last week. I told Stephen I would meet him and Lola at the vet.

It so happens that the Starbucks I chose was the one in my old neighborhood--the suburb where I lived for twelve years with Mr. Ex.  It was difficult backing out of my parking place at 8:15 in the morning on the busy street that leads to the Freeway. But after several cars zoomed by someone gave me a break, and I proceeded to the onramp, calculating which route would get me to the vet the fastest. It was a second or two after I merged into traffic that I realized the big fat Acura TL in front of me was none other than Mr. Ex.

There we were, Mr. Ex and I, crawling west in tandem while Lola was in yet another car heading for the vet. I thought about calling Mr. Ex. "Hey, I'm behind you right now," I might have said. "I'm really sad. Please talk to me because Lola is dying, and I'm on my way to her." I was thinking about making that call. I really was. Mr. Ex was always the dog guy at our house. The walks, the feedings, the runs to Petsmart. Mr. Ex and our daughters and I went to the dog rescue place together and adopted Lola and Layla one February morning five or six years back.  Then the four of us drove back downtown to pick the dogs up after the rescue folks had groomed them for us. All six of us rode home together, the scent of fresh dog shampoo nearly inebriating us while we discussed names.  Helena and Hermia? Bianca and Kate? This was what I was thinking as I crept through rush hour behind Mr. Ex.  But my phone rang. Stephen again. Lola was dead.

I remembered then what had happened last month. I'd gotten the call that Lola was sick--very sick-- while I was at my mom's place. I sent Mr. Ex an email asking if he wanted to be there if she had to be put down before I flew home. No, he wrote back. I don't need to be there.  

So I didn't call Mr. Ex.  I called the man who loves me. He had said yes to my request last month. Of course he would be there if Lola had to be put down. But he didn't wait for that to happen. He went to visit her at the vet hospital. Hung out with her. I hung out with him this morning. Crawled into his big fluffy bed and cried.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Forgetting

"Penny for your thoughts," says the man who loves me.  He's just blown the candles out, and we're lying in bed in the dark.
"What if we get old and forget any of this ever happened? What if Alzheimer's erases you and me and all I can remember is my marriage to Mr. Ex?"

This morning Don't let me forget this is the prayer  still mantra-ing in my brain when I wake.

I returned just yesterday from the east coast and the celebration of my mom and my aunt's 86th birthday.  My aunt has Alzheimer's. By now, she's forgotten that I was there.  On Sunday, the day after the party, she'd already forgotten the celebration, the presents, and the cake. "Yesterday was my birthday?" she asked as my mom, my other aunts, and my uncle, and I sat with her at the nursing home. "Well, happy birthday, Millie!" she said. She knows she can't remember things, but I don't know if she knows how much is missing.

I thought short term memory loss meant that you couldn't remember if you took your pills, fed the goldfish, or remembered to eat breakfast. Or maybe it meant that you couldn't recall the appointment you made with the cardiologist last week. But I guess short term memory is a relative concept. If you make it to 86, twenty years isn't so long. That's about how much my aunt seems to be missing.

I find it intensely interesting to visit her. So far she's always recognized me immediately. And she knows that I've come from California to see her.  I find it curious that she asks about my daughters, yet not Mr. Ex.  I always hold my breath a little bit after she asks, "How are the girls?" She cried when I told her about the divorce originally, and I would feel awful making her sad all over again. But Mr. Ex, it seems, has fallen into the chasm of Forgetting.

My aunt's husband died more than twenty-five years ago, and she used to love to tell the story of how he was "back-dated," as she called it.  He thought she was his sister. Unless she was on the phone with my mother (whom he never liked.) Then he'd call her by her right name and shout at her to hang up.  

Maybe memory loss is somewhat selective.  In those chunks of time that fall away, maybe the passionate dislikes and the great loves remain.  

If I make it to 86 and the Forgetting scythes out a section of years, I don't want to be left with Mr. Ex.

Please don't let me forget this.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Population of Pleasure Palace and Pet Hospice Declines

Snowflake the cat departed this world an hour before sunrise on September 10th after sixteen years of prowling the earth in the company of those who loved her.
Snowflake  and her sister Piper joined their family the summer of 1994 as a means of consoling two little girls who were distressed over the disappearance of former family cat, the much-loved Big Mac. To the surprise of all, Big Mac performed his famous re-appearing act and did a bang-up job as welcoming committee for the two small kittens who had just left their mother.
It's uncertain what Snowflake thought of her new life in the hills of Los Feliz with a family who already had three pets. Those who knew her often wondered if she mourned the loss of her former Hollywood life in the household of actress Drew Barrymore. Nevertheless, the hunting was good in the spacious grounds of her new hillside home, and in the years before she became an indoor cat, Snowflake terrorized the neighborhood lizards and doves with her talents as a huntress. 
Snowflake had more peaceable abilities as well. In addition to her piercing meow, she had a range of vocal capabilities that rendered her excellent at mimicry and conversation. When she channelled her opinions through the mother of the household, she was known to speak English with a French accent and sometimes French itself.
No doubt tutored by her predecessor Big Mac, Snowflake honed a stupendous disappearing act of her own much to the consternation of pet-sitters who often felt they'd failed miserably by letting the cat run away. In her most recent residence, her favorite hiding places included a bathroom cabinet, a cheese cake pan in the far corner of a kitchen cupboard, and behind the washing machine.
Snowflake pursued amazing athletic feats until the last months of her life. At the age of sixteen she was still able to leap from the railing of the loft over the living room, glide across a narrow support beam, and jump onto a 2-inch wide window ledge where she could watch the squirrels cavorting in the grevalia tree.
Snowflake is preceded in death by family dogs, LuLu and Freckles (who once tried to eat her),and the cats Big Mac and Little Guy. She is survived by her sister-cat Piper,dogs Lola and Layla, the two little girls who are now grown women, and their mother who no longer has anyone to speak French with.