Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Report from Pillville: Seeing Where You're Going and Going to What You See

While I'd say that my Mom's overall health is a tad bit more robust than it was when she arrived in Margaritaville, her feet continue to hurt her, and lately she's complained about her eyes, too. We went to the eye doctor today and found out that there is a bit of cloudiness in her lenses (the ones implanted in her now more than a decade old cataract surgery) and that there's a simple laser procedure to correct it.

I'm a tough customer when a doctor or a nurse tells me whatever cure they're hawking will be simple. These things are simple for 50-year-olds, maybe even 70-year-olds. They are most decidedly not simple for 89-year-olds. Even getting in an out of the exam chair flanked by equipment in a dimly lit exam room is not simple.

I'm pretty sure that on someone's death certificate somewhere the cause of death is listed as "foot rest on optometrist's chair."

In my high school creative writing class we once spent an afternoon leading one another around outside with one person in each pair of us blindfolded. The idea was to experience the world with our remaining senses in order to put more tools in our writer's toolbox. I wish someone would invent an old person suit--something one could zip into to experience the lack of strength and flexibility and balance along with a fairly constant level of pain and impaired hearing and sight and cognitive powers. Zip into that and then try to get in and out of that chair--or a car--or whatever. Been nice knowin' ya.

Geriatric Pain Simulator

So I asked about the eye procedure--is there any pain at all? Is there any recovery time required? Does this procedure work on people my mom's age? Seems like a go, but you know that I will have to Google it and read at least a few horror stories. And I did not schedule it right before the Christmas Holidays office closure. Having kids taught me that those frightening little medical things always happen at 5:01 p.m. on Friday evening so you have to tear your hair out all weekend wondering if you should take your kid to the ER for a dose of pink eye and meningitis while you're trying to find out what's wrong them. 

A few weeks back my mom got custom-made orthotics from her podiatrist. They were supposed to provide more cushioning that would relieve the pain from her bones spurs and disappeared fad pads. Things disappear when you get really old. Did you know that? Tonsils, for example, according to one of mother's doctors back in Maryland. Nope, he told her, your sore throat can't be from your tonsils. Your tonsils dried up. Boobs disappear. And body hair. If you live to be 90, you might want that stuff you're waxing off now--so save it for a transplant. And the fat pads on the bottoms of your feet? Poof.   They ran away with the tonsils. 

That's a tonsil on the left, below. Fat pad on the right.
About an hour after we got home with the orthotics, my mom said the right one hurt her foot, so I took it out and put it in my going-to-the-doctor purse. Two weeks later when it was time for the follow up, I asked her to put it back in her shoe about an hour before we left the house so she could provide some good specifics for the doctor regarding how it wasn't working for her. The other orthotic was missing. We looked in every drawer and pair of shoes and ended up driving across town to tell the doctor that we lost one of  the orthotics. Even though we still had the troublesome one, she thought it was best to have my mom wear both of them before an adjustment was made. A couple of days ago the missing orthotic turned up in mom's bedroom slipper. I thought I'd put the other other one in her sock drawer. It wasn't there, but I'm happy to report that it was still in the purse.

A friend in the know about Hollywood things suggested the injectable plumpers/fillers starlets use to pad their feet for their 5-inch heels, but it's probably not workable for someone like my mom who is on blood thinners. New idea: remember this photo from its roundabout on the Internet a few months back? 

Wouldn't those feel like pillows under a pair of bony feet?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Another Margarita Monday

Clouds are featherbeds for greedy gods

while top-hatted trash cans stagger toward safe harbor

and the tern's hairdo is made either more ridiculous or more fabulous by the wind.

The color of the ocean is as un-nameable as fear

And there are no lifeguards who will save us.

A note on the photographs: Except for the tern, all were take by me. Tern photo from www.nambucca.com.au

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saturday Morning Beach Report/Saturday Night Street Report

On the horizon, a broad chalkmark of lavendar clouds hiding the islands.
The ocean dotted with surfers.Galloping sailboats.
And me, walking.

Boats full of costumed pirates.
A couple walking a dog named Bo or, perhaps, Beau.
Two middled-aged women doing that excersize walk thing with swingy arms.
A teen-aged couple tucked into one of the nooks on the big bridge. She says to him, "Don't you know anything about your body? Your bladder is here. Your stomach is there."
And me, walking.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Grand Canyon of Writing

My writing life has felt like the Grand Canyon lately. Vast and empty. Varied and full. A journey I should have started when I was younger. A friend once told me about his hike down the Grand Canyon. It was a spur of the moment thing with a best buddy just after college--or maybe it was high school. A few cans of beans and some beer. They made it, somehow. I think he told me they almost died, and improbably, it was incredibly funny. 

So here I am. Got the beer and the beans, and I'm old enough to know better, but I still want to plum the depths that writing holds for me. I seldom feel like I have the proper preparation, and I often feel that I just might die trying. Why do I do it, I've asked myself this past month. It's just a giant whole in the ground, this writing thing. Is it too late to go back to school and become, let's say, a paralegal or a dental hygienist?

This past week I took 1379 words of out a short story that I wrote first draft of maybe three years ago. If this story were a hike down the Grand Canyon, it would be like I was stuck at the Phantom Ranch, plundering the canteen day after day with only the vaguest plans of ever hiking back out at again. But hey, it might be finished now--and if only finished meant published, that would be swell. I could say, hey everyone, I hiked the Grand Canyon! Instead, it's like I've bought all the maps and the gear, and in every conversation, I tell people about how I'm going to hike down the Grand Canyon, but I never actually lace up my boots and go. So here I am, now peering into the abyss that is called Sending Work Out. 

And meanwhile as I progress through a weird and difficult week of real life, the words of one of my favorite teachers have come back to me. "Take notes," Barbara Abercrombie says

And then there's this from another of my favorite teachers and writers, Abigail Thomas, on the subject of writing memoir.

Writing is the way I ground myself, and it's what keeps me sane. Writing is the way I try to make sense of my life, try to find meaning in accident, reasons why what happens happens—even though I know that why is a distraction, and meaning you have to cobble together yourself. Sometimes just holding a pen in my hand and writing milk butter eggs sugar calms me. Truth is what I'm ultimately after, truth or clarity. I think that's what we're all after, truth, although I'd never have said such a thing when I was young. And I write nonfiction because you can't get away with anything when it's just you and the page. No half-truths, no cosmetics. What would be the point?

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/How-to-Write-Your-Memoir-by-Abigail-Thomas/2#ixzz2igGVMrPN

So I'm taking notes on real life while I write fiction. I'm binge watching Breaking Bad, cooking dinner for my mom every night, and afterwards walking off into the quiet suburban dark while I let my mind wander. Mornings, there's yoga and t'ai chi chih, the minute-by-minute life with my mom and everything else. I'm taking notes. Those notes might be a long, long hike toward fiction or memoir, or maybe just calm.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What did you do today?

I took care--or tried to anyhow of some stuff for my mom. Medicare, prescription drug coverage, catastrophic insurance. The letter she got from CareFirst about how her drug coverage might be changing was just a form letter, and didn't really apply to her. Thanks, CareFirst.

I emailed my doctor about some stuff for myself. God, I LOVE how Kaiser has email and lets you view every record of every little thing electronically and how you don't have to call them on the phone.

But I did call Kaiser today--I called a couple of different Kaiser offices about my exploding premium (it doubled--okay, I exaggerate it only went up 96.6%) and to see if they could advise me on a different policy. The thing is that the two policies I'm considering are vastly different. Example: An ER visit  has a 30% co-pay under one plan and a $300 co-pay under another. Trouble is no one can tell me the basic charge for an ER visit is (or an x-ray, or a CT scan or anything else) so I can't compare a dollar amount to a percentage. Yeah, I know. First world problems. One of the people I talked to said they might have some sample rates for various procedures available sometime next year.

So, dear readers, should I spend $610 more per year on top of the $6,504 per year I will already be spending in premiums? If I do, my co-pay will go down from the 40% on my current plan to a mere 30%. Is it worth it?

But rejoice. I will not think of any of this tonight. I've decided to finally join the party and watch Breaking Bad. I'm on Season 1 Episode 7. It's waaaaay too gory for me, but I have to admit it's engrossing. I watch it on my iPad so I can use my hand to cover up the bloody stuff. But I'm fascinated by those do-every-possible-fucking-wrong-thing-out-of-desperation dramas. And let's just say that right now, I need some engrossing real bad.

I'm wondering what it would take to make me cook meth. Of course since the only element on the periodic table that I remember is H20 (you probably think I'm kidding, but I'm not--and I just Googled that and found out that water isn't on the Periodic Table. Hahaha. So there--I'm an idiot.) And I would rather do just about anything other than a sales job, so I'm probably pretty safe. Meth cooker/drug dealer will probably not appear on my resume.

But just for the record--I have, in the past, been driven to some pretty serious desperation.

Monday, October 21, 2013

In Which We Step Through the Looking Glass


"Come here," my mother said. She wanted to show me her twin sister's obituary in their hometown paper--which we read daily on my iPad.

 A few days before, according to my mom's wishes, we'd selected a photo of my aunt from 1988 to run in the obituary with a more recent photo. It was a Christmas photo of the two of them standing in front of the fireplace at my cousin's house, and they were bedecked with dangling earrings and shiny necklaces. My mother wanted a photo of her sister that people would recognize from the days when they lived in Iowa together. She liked the photo I showed her, and so, I cropped her out and made a headshot of my aunt. My mom gave her approval, and I emailed the picture to my mother's only remaining sibling who had taken on the job of writing the obituary.

"That picture of Millie in the red dress--that younger picture--it's me, not her," she said. I reviewed the chain of events relating to the choosing of the photo while I opened iPhoto. "See?" I said, showing her the original photo. "You're taller and bigger. Millie was a slightly smaller person."

"I don't know," she said. "I think it's me." I must have looked stricken because she assured me then that it didn't really matter.

Sometime later she retold a story from her childhood I've heard before. How in the afternoon when chores were being parceled out, it was one twin's job to walk towards the factory where their father worked and meet him on his way home with a sandwich and some water. "Hello, twin," he would say. "Which one were you?" There's a story or two from their Baltimore days too where they filled in for one another at their nightclub jobs with no one the wiser. There was a cop on the beat there, though, who would swing his nightstick at the pretty brunette with the identical sister. He knew that my aunt was the one who would flinch.

Or was it the other way around?

Last evening, my mom shrieked when she saw what she thought was a spider in the bowl of grapes on the kitchen island. "I'd rather see a rat than a spider,"she said. But I remember a decade or two ago when my aunt and my mom would come to visit regularly. "Ethel, spider!" my aunt would call. "Help, Ethel!" My mom wouldn't smash the spider. She'd capture it and suffocate it, then pin it to a piece of cardboard, legs artfully extended. She'd spray it with hairspray and later, with a hint of sisterly torment, show the spider to my aunt.

Sometime in their 70s when my mom and my aunt were beset by a variety of health problems, I was visiting my mom when my aunt was in the hospital. My mother called her sister to tell her goodnight. "Where are you?" my aunt asked.
"I'm at home," my mother said.
"I thought you were in the hospital," my aunt said.
"You're the one in the hospital," my mother told her. I suppose that bit of weirdness could have been a miscommunication. Like maybe, my aunt thought my mom was there somewhere on the hospital grounds. I don't know. But I know what my mom thought about the conversation because we talked about it. She thought her sister was mixed up from the drugs. However, the whole thing gave me goosebumps.

As you might imagine, I've been fascinated by twins my entire life. A mother who's an identical twin, a fraternal set of twins for a great aunt and uncle, twin cousins--who have a sibling who has twins. Did you know that there's such a thing as vanishing twin syndrome? While I'm not entirely sure how much I trust the source--or the ABC News stories for accurate science, it's pretty captivating stuff--though a bit off the subject here. But nevertheless, I sense that, in my mom's grief, there's something odd happening here.

Friday, October 18, 2013


There were many herons in the dark last night.

I'm not fond of the fading light. I think I may have done better with the autumnal devouring darkness in a previous life. Sleeping in a one-room cave with other hairy people. Gnawing giant hunks of meat around a blazing fire. Popping the cap on that firewater we've been fermenting all summer.

In this current life I turn on extra lights and grumble silently about my electric bill. I fight the urge to hibernate. I wonder what it would be like to run into the marine version of sasquatch (Replace hair with scale and fins--see it? Yeah) or an ax-murderer on my evening walk. I find myself in a Day-of-the-Dead mood at night. Honestly, with the natural death and decay and darkness that visits us this time of year, I so wish everyone did an all out Dia de Los Muertos. We should set up those altars on our patios and porches and light them with hundreds of candles and make a pilgrimage every night to visit one another's dead.

I find myself driving by the pumpkin fields near my house every chance I get. Orange is good this time of year.

But those dead lost ones are still with us. Even when they're not.

Here's a Jack Gilbert poem for you.


She might be here secretly.
On her hands and knees
with her head down a bit
tilted to peer around the doorjamb
in the morning, watching me
before I wake up.
Only her face showing
and her shoulders. In a slip,
her skin honey against the simple
white of two thin straps
and the worked edge of the bodice.
With her right hand a little visible.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Grief/Joy Syndrome

If there is such a thing as grief/joy syndrome, we have it bad here in Margaritaville. My mom told me at least half-a-dozen times how delicious dinner was last night. I baked a delicata squash, poached a piece of salmon in my usual manner--in dry vermouth, seasoned with dill, and dabbed with butter (my aunt's recipe,) and steamed a bag of Trader Joes's super greens with absolutely nothing to jazz them up. My mom ate like she was thrilled to be alive, and I have to say I'm taking particular delight in the end of season yellow plums from the farmer's market. Each and every one tastes like the best plum ever. Saturday's left over black bean and sweet potato soup might have been the most delicious breakfast I've ever consumed, and the water and the sky here are a blue beyond reproach right now. There are butterflies and dragon flies on the beach and on our patio, and they are an orange so bright I expect they might combust spontaneously. This year's pelicans dive into the ocean ever so much more dramatically than last year's, and the sand has gone from, well, sand-colored to almost white. We are drunk on life here in Margaritaville.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mourning in Margaritaville

My Aunt Millie, my mother's twin sister, died this past Friday evening. She and my mom recently celebrated their 89th birthdays together on the east coast. The trip was wonderful for my mom, and although her sister's health was more frail than her own, my mother began enthusiastically talking about next year's trip immediately after our return home. "I just can't believe it," she says over and over again when she considers the fact that Millie is gone.

I loved my aunt. I met her for the first time when I was a teenager. She lived on the east coast while my mom was raising her family in Iowa, and in those days, distance and lack money for travel kept the twins apart. It was eerie waking up on the sofa in her Baltimore apartment--like I'd been transported to a parellel universe where a woman who looked just like my mother was making my breakfast in a city I'd never been to.

In the 80s after my mom and my aunt were both widows, they moved back in together and were housemates for decades. Every year they came to visit me and my family in California. My daughters sometimes referred to my Aunt Millie as a "bonus" grandma. The twins were a package deal--no doubt much like they'd been as children

My mother's loss is profound, and I try to imagine what it's like to experience her particular grief. My own grief at the death of my aunt feels as though it's waiting in the wings while center stage a weeping old woman looks in a mirror and there's no one looking back.

Maybe 4 years old?

Age 7 /First Holy Communion--
my grandmother cut her wedding veil in two to
make their veils


Last month

Friday, October 11, 2013

REPORT FROM PILLVILLE: The Pacemaker, the Flu Shot, and of course the Pills

lest I go insane...again

Things got crazy with the pillbox while my mom was sick last week. She got confused, and I had to unravel it all. It didn't help that one of the pills looked completely different from the way it used to due to the fact that we recently got a generic or some similar version from a new manufacturer. Also there are three round white pills--two of which are scarily similar, their distinctive markings visible only to super hero marksmen with bionic eyes. Hello, pharmaceutical industry? Colors are good. Think lollipops, jelly beans, sodas, popsicles! Haven't we been conditioned our whole lives to distinguish flavors of junk food by the color? Well, it could work with pills, too. I might even go so far as to make the color of the pill relate to its function. Years ago a doctor told my mother that Plavix would keep her platelets from sticking together. She still remembers it. How about making it red? And why not put a giant P on it in a contrasting color? Seems like the company making Loperamide (that's the yucky brown and yellowish-brown capsule) is kinda on board with that. 'Nuff said.

The pacemaker checked out fine this morning. Another couple years, the tech said. I'm thinking of a betting pool. We all throw in 50 bucks and wager on month and year that the thing quits. When it does go kaput, she'll have to have outpatient surgery to get a new one. Now that is an example of thinking waaaay too far ahead. Hereandnowhereandnowhereandnow. Okay. 

My mom got her flu shot at CVS after the pacemaker check, and we combed the store in a mad shopping spree with her 20% off coupon. Marketing genius. She got some pink lipstick called "Fruit Punch" and it looks great on her. We stocked up on Ricola lemon sugar free lozenges, which I admit to having a bit of a hoarding problem with. My mom bought a bunch of those tiny toothbrushes for between the teeth. I'm pretty sure she's hoarding those. And I threw in a bag of Peanut M &Ms-- an example of completely gratuitous but somewhat entertaining junk food color. I just might get myself a pillbox and keep it filled with those.

It's a beautiful day here in Margaritaville. Wind+sun equals lots of shimmering color.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mediation with a Stranger

art by MarlinaVera--on Etsy

I've got one foot in Divorceville since the mediation last Saturday--like I've blown out a flip-flop and can't quite limp back over the line into Margaritaville. I've felt shitty all week and on top of that, felt shitty about feeling shitty because, well, there's good stuff going on too, and I want to punch myself right between the eyes when I focus on the negative.

THIS piece in the Sunday New York Times explains a lot. Maybe the person who wrote it bored a hole into my head and has been walking around in there--you know, making herself at home, ordering out for pizza, drinking my gin, and getting comfortable on my cerebral couch. Here's an excerpt in which the essayist, Anna Fells, writes about the difference between the betrayer and the betrayed:

And to an astonishing extent, the social blowback for such miscreants is often transient and relatively minor. They can change! Our culture, in fact, wholeheartedly supports such “new beginnings” — even celebrates them. It has a soft spot for the prodigal sons and daughters who set about repairing their ways, for tales of people starting over: reformed addicts, unfaithful spouses who rededicate themselves to family, convicted felons who find redemption in religion. Talk shows thrive on these tales. Perhaps it’s part of our powerful national belief in self-help and self-creation. It’s never too late to start anew.
But for the people who have been lied to, something more pervasive and disturbing occurs. They castigate themselves about why they didn’t suspect what was going on. The emotions they feel, while seemingly more benign than those of the perpetrator, may in the long run be more corrosive: humiliation, embarrassment, a sense of having been na├»ve or blind, alienation from those who knew the truth all along and, worst of all, bitterness.
Our societal soft spot for the prodigal son fucking pisses me off.
And bitterness? Well, just the thought of being a bitter old woman makes me, well, bitter. So, kind readers, what follows is a purge.

Want to know how I spent the week before I was told my marriage was over?
Playing gracious (and I might add, sincere) hostess to a group of in-laws, arranging entertainments,  dinners out, excursions, shopping, etc.--because whatever they wanted, I wanted because they were family.

Want to know how I spent the night before I was told my marriage was over? Dinner with friends. Were there three couples? Four couples? Just two? I don't remember, but for once, I was not urged out the door subsequent to his last hastily swallowed bite. We closed the place down. Goodwill and friendship were savored like wine. Lingered over like coffee and dessert. My around-the-next-bend post empty nest future wavered in front of me like a mirage that was just about to materialize. Less than 24-hours later that evening, like the 32 years before it, was wreckage.

I have shelf after shelf of family photo albums. Photographs are a somewhat skewed toward the rosy as a record of reality, but I regard them as proof that I am not delusional. Those pictures, I tell myself, are record of my life as I lived it. Still, if the present could be scrutinized frame by frame, I'd too often find myself looking at happy moments with suspicion. Why that exact inflection? Was that irony? Disapproval in the raised eyebrow? I don't want photos. I want x-rays. Of everyone.

I am fortunate to be a writer. Writing helps me sort through a lot of bullshit. And the page, the screen, the blogosphere are probably better than the bottle for dispersing bitterness. Or maybe it's just smarter to be bitter and sober than it is to be bitter and drunk. So, bitterness, be on your way. Go find the prodigal son. Seduce him. Turn him back. Take him out for drink--a tall drink of you.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Devices, Dessert, and Other Good Things

There are three main indicators that my mom is feeling well: 1) She heads for the coffee pot immediately upon waking. 2) She has a martini at 5:30. 3) She spends a lot of time at the kitchen island reading the newspapers on the iPad. Her iPad (well, mine actually) is behind the Kleenex box in this photo of the goings on after dinner last night. If you look past the ice cream and the cake, you'll see her not-quite-finished martini, but she did indeed drain it sometime after dessert.

It was a pretty fine weekend here in Margaritaville. We didn't just stare at our respective screens all weekend.

There was beach walking.

And coffee-talking at  a quaint place with crocheted table legs.

On Friday I installed some of the crochet-work of my mom's that we brought back from the East Coast.

my bathroom window
the bedspread
All in all, it was a more than fine weekend with the many good and sweet and amazing things over -shadowing the alimony mediation that swallowed a portion of Saturday. My mom is recovering. M was here all weekend. And the man who loves me managed some extra hours in Margaritaville too.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

My Out-of-Body Experience

Floated is not the right word. Not rocketed. Sprang is not right either because we think of that as employing the feet. I was in a chair at the end of a conference table, the mediator on one side, the Someone on the other. The Someone and his overstuffed tote bag laying behind his chair blocked access to the door. The anger came on like a sickness, like a posion filling my body. I became light-headed with it. The lightness blinding me until all I saw was white, and the weightlessness spread into my body. A giant parade balloon. A ridiculous caricature. La Furiousa, the Ex-Wife. I did not stand. I levitated. Lifted off. Stretched the tethers that held me to the ground to their breaking point, then snapped free with a pop. "I have to get out of here," is what I think I said. By then I'd already risen to the ceiling, pried open the door, and sailed down the hallway away from him.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Poseidon's Horses, Dominoes, and Roulette

sea spray being blown backwards by the Santa Ana winds

"Here in Pillville the winds can shift pretty quickly." At the risk of seeming completely self-obsessed, I'm quoting the final line of last night's blog post. The winds have, indeed, shifted here--the literal winds, that is.

The Santa Ana's kicked up this morning, blasting off the desert, with the potential for wildfires, psychic mayhem, and projectile palm fronds and patio umbrellas at a dangerous high. I don't know if I believe all the hoopla about the wind-borne positive ions driving us to desperate acts. But I don't rule it out.

My own patio umbrella had to be wrestled to the ground and restrained this morning. I'm hoping I don't suffer the same fate. When my mom is unwell, I don't feel it's right to leave her here alone, so I'm housebound, forsaking my morning walk and trip to the gym for T'ai Chi Chih. My concentration goes haywire and all the big questions ask themselves over and over. This morning there were doctor's phone calls to await with the answers to somewhat smaller questions. Do we hold the digoxin if she takes the antibiotics? What was found on the chest x-ray? Does she have a urinary tract infection? Currently, I only have the answer to one of those questions.

It was the antibiotics and their side effects that sent my mother to the hospital in June. INR levels off the charts, nausea that caused severe dehydration. We have a different antibiotic waiting in its nifty bubble packet on the kitchen counter. Spin the wheel. Stack up the dominoes. Which way will they fall when the wind is blowing everything backwards?

My friend Ellen and I drove the one mile to the beach this morning where we walked for twenty minutes while my mom was napping. The spray from the waves is blowing backwards--back out to sea. The waves looked like nymphs rising from the deep, their  platinum tresses trailing behind them. The especially long curls of waves brought to mind Poseidon's horses, white manes unfurling in the wind, galloping towards...whatever comes next.

photo credit: medeaslair.net

Report from Pillville

Today started out to be a better than ordinary Thursday. My friend Ellen planned to drive up from L.A.. We texted back and forth, confirmed....and by the time she got here, I'd already rushed off to the doctor with my mom.

My mother woke feeling sick and slipped a little farther down the slope pretty quickly. Last night's half-drunk martini should have prompted a premonition, I guess. "Just call the ambulence," my mom said as she lay half asleep in her recliner instead of having her coffee. I talked her into a trip to the doctor instead-which turned into a trip to the hospital for a chest x-ray, too. No one seemed surprised that she was in her purple plaid pajamas--which might say something about the laid back fashioin world of So Cal--or perhaps it's proof of the invisibility of old women.

In any event, we've avoided the hospital for now. Which means a more normal up and around routine for her. Which I hope means no scary circulation issues and no weeks of physical therapy to get her strength back. But who knows? Here in Pillville, the winds can shift pretty quickly.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Ensure Cocktail: Happy hour for skinny senior citizens

"You have to start feeding me more calories!" my mother said. We were in the podiatrist's office talking about her aching feet and how, due to age, the fat pads on her feet have disappeared. The doctor shot me a look that, for a moment, I construed as an admonishment--but then she smiled.

I doubt that anything I feed my mom could put a layer of fat between her shoes and her bone spurs, and no doubt the doctor realizes that. Hopefully the new orthotics will help. Mother Nature is weirdly cruel sometimes. Creaky joints, failing ears and eyes not enough to slow you down? Okay, how about we dissolve the fat in your feet so your bones are practically poking through your skin?

I confess I did go on a bit of a tear though. Tonic water has more calories than plain water, I told my mom. Drink that! I bought her a six-pack of Ensure. Drink one every day! I told her. I bought brandy and creme de cacao and extra ice cream in an attempt change up her cocktail. Her mom liked Brandy Alexanders on those rare occasions when she drank. Give up the martini and drink those! Last night before dinner I garnished her new drink with fresh ground nutmeg. "It was good," she said. And then she went on to tell me she wouldn't really want to drink one every day.

Tonight as she sipped her martini, I googled "Ensure Cocktail" and found THIS. Ha! Anyone care to stop by for a "Sure Thing?"--which is what I plan to call my fabulous concoction:

1 single-serving bottle of Ensure (chocolate or vanilla)
1 small scoop ice cream
1 shot creme de cacao
1 shot Kahlua 

Blend and pour into fancy glass. Dust with cocoa powder if desired.

I'm not sure I can lure her away from her beloved martini, but at least I persuaded her to have a little ice cream tonight before bed. 

What I need is a high calorie drink made with gin. She loves the taste of gin. Suggestions?

photo credit: the purloinedletter.blogspot.com

Les Plesko 1954-2013

It sinks in slowly-- this thing called death. And it's different somehow, losing a writer who's left behind his books. All those words. His notes on pages of my own writing. Lists of of books to read. His own little booklet of rules and instructions that he handed out in his classes.

The memorial was a writerly comfort. Readings of tributes. Readings of Les's own work. Pictures, stories.

Death frequently carries a suitcase stuffed with regrets. I truly wished that I, with all the money I had to spare in those days, had offered to foot the bill for fixing his teeth. He was beset by health problems--especially this past year, people said. And there were people who did come to his aid.

He was tortured by insomnia, others said. Last night was the first I slept without waking several times in the night since I heard of his death. That waking a small connection to be grateful for. A space to lie in the dark and stretch out a hand.

I am thrilled to have known him.