Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It's Been a Rocky Year

2014 began with the countdown to surgery for the man who loved me, and it's come to an end with me stupidly losing the voicemails from him that I'd saved since his death in June. T-Mobile is holding fast to their position that these words from him to me are forever consigned to the ether. I'm still in shock.

And yes, of course, there were good things in 2014. Sweet tastes to wipe the bitter away.
As always I am awed by the love, generosity, and graciousness of friends and of my children.

I give you no resolutions. No particular plans or hopes. But with all my heart, I do wish you smooth sailing in 2015.

Friday, December 26, 2014

It was all declicious.

Yesterday's Christmas dinner was delicious. I was pretty sure it would be, so I'm just going to skip all of that. We had a wonderful family/friend gathering.

We had a full day scheduled with a caregiver for my mom today, so we all did what we wanted--or what we had to do. M worked from home. C & N slept in and walked on the beach. I got up early and cleaned the kitchen, then walked for hours--first in the morning, bundled against the cold wind.

hooded sweatshirt over baseball cap--attractive!
Then I sought out an art installation I'd seen in the paper.

I had to trudge a long way through paradise to get there.

Oh, and when I woke up this morning, my bathroom looked like this.

I don't have the energy right now to explain.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas from Our House to You and Yours

Our tree with handmade snowflakes crocheted by my mom

I've just unloaded bags of groceries from my car for the second day in a row.
This evening daughter M will arrive.
Tomorrow I will bake gluten-free lemon bars and a flourless chocolate cake. I will stencil a powdered sugar snowflake on top and serve the cake with coconut gelatto and/or lemon sorbet for Christmas dessert. You can of course take the road more traveled and have it with vanilla ice cream instead.
Tomorrow evening daughter C and her multi-talented husband N will arrive. On Christmas this husband will make a ham. Friends will arrive bearing delicious things to eat with the aforementioned ham. We will eat and talk and laugh uproariously because that's what we do with these friends. We will drink punch (and the punch will have a very fancy ice-ring in it if all goes well.) And we'll drink champagne, and other stuff, and lots of water because that's healthy. 

Wishing you uproarious laughter and good health. I think one leads to the other.
Fabulously festive  ice ring waiting in my freezer

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday Beach Report

It's wild out there. The surf is high with pools of water still standing on what is normally dry

The remains of somebody's worst beach day--or who knows, maybe it was the best beach day....at first.

The dry sand begins way back here. My toes are on the line that divides wet from dry.

Marbled godwits feeding on the wet sand instead of in the surf.

But I had a walk all the same and let Mother Nature impress me with her power.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Proof that there is a parallel universe after reading "What We're Searching For" in the New York Times

Happy Christmas Warmth from My House to Yours

I kept scrolling back to the top as I read this damn piece, certain that I must be reading the Onion. I Googled the writer's name to see if he wrote comedy or satire. Holy Christmas hell, Seth Stephens Davidowitz, maybe depressed people, particularly people who are depressed while being aurally assaulted by Joy to the World, don't Google "depression." Maybe they Google "anti-depressants." Maybe they Google "Cymbalta" or "Prozac," or "foods that elevate mood," or "happy pill." Maybe they are nearly comatose with the covers pulled up over their heads, or desperately shopping, hoping against hope to finally get the gift-giving thing right this year, or just gone to bed early because it's already been dark for hours by the time they've had dinner.

And do suicidal people actually Google "suicide?" I did not. Of course I didn't actually commit suicide so maybe my Googling habits are irrelevant. Why would anyone Google "suicide" unless they were writing a piece about suicide? I suspect that people who seriously contemplate ending it all by their own hand have a pretty good idea how they're going to do it, and Googling suicide would royally screw up your life insurance benefit if there was an investigation even though you managed to make it look like an accident.I will say  that committing suicide during the holidays would be fairly ungainly with houseguests occupying all the nooks and crannies of the house, and Christmas parades and Santa Fun Runs snarling traffic on the bridges. 

If indeed, there is a post-Christmas surge in Googling "divorce" and if "Christmas allows for some reflection about family life. Searches for “dysfunctional family” reach their highest point every year around Christmas. Searches that include the word “hate” and a family member — “mom,” “dad,” “husband” or “wife,” for example — also rise on and around Christmas," the conclusions drawn earlier in the article don't make a lot of sense to me.

I did feel like I was almost invited to the party though after reading this. "....whether consciously or subconsciously, people delay bad events until after the holidays. Dec. 26 is the date with the highest search rate for “doctor,” following a dip leading up to the holidays. Our bodies even somehow manage to delay trouble: Health researchers previously found a 33 percent increase in heart attacks in the four days after Christmas." Thanksgiving was not mentioned, but I guess that my mother is growing more compliant now that she's 90 since LAST THANKSGIVING was a bit different from THIS THANKSGIVING. This year's Christmas/hospital scenario has yet to reveal itself, but LAST YEAR there was no putting off the trip to the ER until after the stockings had been hung by the chimney with care. And at no time during either of the holiday seasons, this year or last, did my mother Google "falling." 

Anyhow thanks for the heads up re heart attacks in the four days after Christmas. I'm lying on the couch as I type this having green tea and dark chocolate, which I think according to the Internet, is good for cardiac health, but you'd have to Google that to be sure. My mom is an avid newspaper reader, but she prefers the Dubuque Telegraph Herald and the L.A. Times to the New York Times, so I'm hoping she won't see the bit about post-Christmas heart attacks. The house will be stuffed with guests during that time so finding a moment to Google "depression" might be tough if she keels over then.  

Merry Christmas one and all. May your Holidays be filled with Happy Pills--whatever that means to you. And I seriously hope you're one of those folks Googling "condoms" on New Years Eve. I'll let you know what I searched for. xoxoxox


Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Coming of the Light

Solstice sunset with Buffleheads

Suddenly it's here, this tide-turning solstice where daylight inches its way back to us. For the first time ever, the months of darkness didn't seem to matter to me. But not necessarily for the right reasons. The past month I've rarely gone out of the house in the dark since it's impossible to leave my mom alone. And I've kind of had my own dark mood going on, so the dark outside was just one big meh. It's only just now, a couple of hours before the calendar flips to tomorrow that I even realized it was the solstice. Which is a round about way of saying that the darkness didn't really get to me this year the way it has in the past. And even if it was for the wrong reasons, it seems okay in a way.

Here's what's different:

I've gone to bed really early and actually gone to sleep many nights before 9:00 p.m. Supposedly, this is what humans are meant to do when the days are short. It certainly has felt right to me. And by going to sleep so early, I'm always up by sunrise which is just plain good for the soul.

Also, I'm not drinking any alcohol unless there's someone else here in the house with my mom and me. So that means no drinking Sunday through Thursday usually. Why has it been so damn hard for me to grasp the fact that alcohol is a depressant and just plain not good for me when I am struggling?

When grief is a big thing in your life, the smaller challenges seem, well, smaller. Or I suppose they could seem bigger...so the fact that they don't is really good, right?

So here I am sitting in my living room in the dark, the Christmas tree doing its job as a symbol of light and life. M put up our outside Christmas lights this weekend and they are casting a lovely glow on the patio and the lighted tree is reflected in the patio window, making it seems as if it's both places at once. It's unbelievably pretty and quiet here. Well, my mom's in her room shouting in her sleep, but as unsettling as that might seem, she is not shouting in pain, she's just dreaming.

Detail of our Christmas tree with the snowflakes my mom has crocheted
So I'm content and happy. Seizing one of those rare moments when I am actually able to grasp for more than a second that I'm responsible for creating that for myself. That there's light inside me all of the time and that light is not at the mercy of the sun.

I'm really pretty thrilled at the way that everything has worked out. That I was dumped by the ex-husband and got to meet Dan. That my mother came to live with me and has spent two and a half years here in this beautiful place watching the birds and getting to spend more time with my daughters and my son and his family. And that we'll all be together over the holidays. Well, not Dan. But yes, him too in a way. His light still shines. I can see it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Self-Portrait with the Dead

I didn't set out to make a selfie. Dan's memorial was just so pretty I ran around taking photos of everything. I look hunched up and sad, and that's how I feel these days. Like the couch is made of flypaper and I'm a bug who can't get off. Until I'm forced to manufacture some kind of dinner for my mom. Last night was an embarrassing array of no-effort leftovers. Tonight I'm making lentil soup if I get up in the next ten minutes.

I've been in the weirdest state of mind. Like I could sit all day and Google how to bring a person back from the dead and then actually read the shit that comes up.

It's fixing to rain here. I like the feel of it. Like at least the weather is doing something.

And now I'm doing something too. Soup. I'm making soup. I'm making soup. Well obviously, I'm not. I'm typing. But now really, I'm making soup.


I made soup. I chopped up an onion and some celery and sautéed them in olive oil. I added chicken stock and seasonings and lentils. We'll have soup and some sliced avocado and persimmons, and could anything be better? I'll toast some french bread and butter too.

I just made my mom her 2 oz. doctor-permitted martini and if all goes as usual, she'll soon be having a pre-dinner conversation with her dead sister and who knows who else. She's got a talent for talking to the dead.

God, don't you just wanna come over here?

And did I mention that the non-alchoholic gin arrived? I'm going to have some with a little ginger beer--which y'all might think is ass-backwards. Like maybe I should be the one drinking and not the 90-year-old. Truth be told, I'm pretty sure she'd know the difference and be pissed as hell about it, and I really don't feel I can drink while I'm responsible for her. Any minute I could be following the ambulance to the hospital, then acting like a fool when I can't remember shit when the paramedics or the doctors question me about this and that. That's how I am stone cold sober under pressure.  I can act like a drunk with no help at all from a little fermented bunch of berries. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

View from the Couch

I'm here. Silent as the farthest star. Reading your blog if you have one. Cruising through your Facebook posts. Saying pretty much nothing. But I'm thinking of you.

My heart is full. Thanks for the visits. For the light. For the warmth. For filling my house. The candy, the sangria, the wine, the laughs, the texts, the gifts, the ideas, the books, the music, the help, the love.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Party for the Afterlife

It's weird to throw the perfect party for someone, but they can't be there because they're dead. Glittering candles, favorite foods, the musician friends making music, friends and family from far and near.

People ask me how I'm doing. Oh, you know, I say. Or I might try to explain that the loss feels worse the longer it goes on, but that's not really something you can get into with everyone. Yet maybe we all feel that way. And so we fill a room with things that Dan would have loved. We comfort our bellies with pad thai, stuff our ears with favorite songs, tell stories, look at photos, kiss cheeks, hold each other, spill tears and drinks.

Today I thought of the dream I had not long after he died. I was on the phone with a friend but a call from him broke through. Hey baby, he said I just want you to know I'm okay. Things are good here. There were party noises in the background and he was a little bit distracted. And he couldn't stay on the phone. He had to go, he said. I hope that party was as good as this one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Here. Right Here.

Here's where I'm not:

Not in Maui, not in Kauai, not in pretty downtown Hilo, but yeah, follow that arrow. I'm in my room. Which is fabulous since I slept downstairs in the hallway outside my mom's room for six nights. Things are okay in Pillville for today. And thank you, all of you for your comments. I now know about executive function, complicated grief, and that there is support and love if you ask for it.

Oh, and I'm also over HERE.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Setting Moon/ Rising Sun

Life in Pillville feels mostly unbloggable these days. I tell myself it can't be worse than holding your dying lover. It can't be worse than being dumped for a woman twenty years younger. It can't be worse than wailing in the doctor's office that anti-depressants are needed right now. It can't be worse than standing on a bridge and looking at your shoes and imagining them wet, the wet crawling upwards.

All those things happened. And I think that might actually be why things feel so bleak. I've got some kind of cumulative thing going on here.

But really, I'm all right. Every morning I wake delighted with the day. Good morning, world, I say aloud. And I am truly so happy to be alive to see the full moon set and the sun rise.

And I ask myself what kind of person I want to be. Kind, I say. Patient, I say. Full of love, I say. And each moment feels like erosion. Like sandpaper to the soul. Start over, I say. And I do. I do. I really do keep starting over.

But there's nothing like a situation that feels stuck to prompt one to get other stuff done. That tree that's needed trimming? The cruddy under-the-sink spot in the laundry room where the catbox used to be? Done and done. New hairstyle? Why not. If you can't change your life. Change your hair.

And I'm working toward some other changes too.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Of Tributes and Trees

This magically appeared in my Dropbox yesterday. After the tree planting ceremony a couple of weeks ago various friends asked me what kind of a tree had been planted in Dan's honor. I was at the ceremony, saw the tree, took a picture of it--but I had no idea, really. Some kind of evergreen, I said.

So it's a deodar. One of my favorite trees, though I've never seen a young one, which I guess is why I couldn't put a name to it. In adulthood, deodars are massive beings with spreading branches that seem like arms, ready to envelop everything. I fell in love with them decades ago when my children began attending a school whose campus was graced with nearly century old deodars. And the only Christmas attraction that I truly love is Christmas tree lane in Altadena. I've even blogged about it. Really, click on that Altadena link and look at the photo. At Christmastime the trees are hung with colored lights, and people walk silently in the dark or drive two miles an hour with their headlights off under the spell of those trees. The street is as  hushed and holy as any church.

When Dan and I took walks together, he always seemed impressed because I knew the names of trees and flowers. When I moved from the San Gabriel Valley to the beach, I took on i.d.-ing birds, and he would always listen while I explained how to tell a long-billed curlew from a whimbrel or a marbled godwit. How did I know these things, he'd ask as if I were some sort of naturalist genius. I've always thought that because I'm a writer, it's just my job to know.

Anyhow. A deodar.
And two Christmases ago, there he was.
My mom looks about a million years older now.
Well, so do I.

Birds, Bullshit, Sunshine, and Santa

It's a beautiful day full of birds and sunshine here in Pillville. The buffleheads are buffle-ing. the hummingbirds are hummering. My mother's bruises are transforming from purple to green. She's busily pinning out her snowflakes and starching them.

Bufflehead ducks wintering here from the far north
Hummingbird at our kitchen window
The one-armed snowflake maker at work
I see the same look of concentration here in Vermeer's famous painting The Lacemaker
And me? In just a bit the nurse who does the intake for the caregiving agency will arrive. Better than Santa and his eight tiny reindeer, if you ask me. I spent all morning trying to log into my mom's credit union accounts--let's just shorten that story and let me say that experience made big banks look really, really good. It took weeks for one of credit unions to really fess up that the problem was on their end. They had to add my i.p. address so I could log on. Whaaaat? And the other lost the Power of Attorney paperwork and would not speak to me since my mom could not understand the person on the phone who was hell-bent on verifying her identity. Oops. I didn't make the story short, did I? But I feel better now. Thanks.

And I'd like to feel even better, so let me just remind the great Interwebs and everyone out there that here under the GREATEST HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IN THE WORLD (cough, cough)  Medicare does not cover dental work, eye glasses, hearing aids, or custodial care. I feel fabulous now. Thanks.

My antidote to that bullshit is going to be Christmas lights. Everywhere.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ventura Highway in the Pouring Rain

The title of this post is a song lyric I imagined into existence. The lyric is really "Ventura Highway in the Sunshine" (from  the band, America, 1972) which makes a lot more sense. It is, however, raining here in southern California as I write this. My research does support my recollection that there was another 1972 song called "It Never Rains in Southern California." We are obsessed here with rain in this very dry place besieged with wildfires and besotted with swimming pools, golf courses, and non-native greenery. So it's raining, and there will be mudslides in the area that recently burned. If I were to turn on the TV which I won't, there would no doubt be a newscaster in front of a graphic titled Storm Watch or Storm of the Century. It's all hype as many things are here--except of course for the poor people whose houses will fill up with mud.

The batten down the hatches oh my god it's raining mentality is a southern California phenomenon that used to bemuse me when I first moved here. I was doing theatre then and a rainy night always meant no-shows and the not as cozy as it sounds experience of having more people on stage than in the audience. But I've lived here far longer than anywhere else and now I feel that way too. I'm sitting on my couch watching the rain hit the water and waiting for my mom to wake up. I'm still in my pajamas and I'm thinking, wow these are nice pajamas and I just might not get out of them today, because, you know, it's raining. And of course I can't really go anywhere anyway since I don't have a caregiver lined up for my mom yet.

And now she's up. Question for the day. Will I be at the orthopedist's office this afternoon....or drinking champagne in my pajamas with friends.


This just in. Orthopedist.