Thursday, January 29, 2015

Report from the Abyss

Today's evening beach walk. (thank god) There were hundreds of gulls.

I heard THIS today as I was driving and had to pull over. If you're a regular reader here, you'll remember that about a month ago I LOST DAN'S VOICEMAILS. I was overjoyed to hear that after three days the 11 engineers working to recover the lost message from this guy's wife succeeded. If you Google "lost voicemails from loved ones" you'll see that is not how it usually goes. I recommend you have a box of kleenex handy if you do Google that. Just reading the search results page without actually clicking on anything is enough to shatter your heart.

Here's the thing. A voicemail is not just a recording of a person's voice. It's a recording of them speaking directly to you and only you. Those words are for your ears only. And they've had a few seconds to gather their thoughts while they listened to your outgoing message. They want to talk to you. They have something to say. They want to talk to you so bad that they're going to talk even though you're not really there in person listening.

So yeah. Fuck you T-Mobile.

And speaking of the voices of loved ones, it's monumentally ironic that as I type this, I'm opening up my iTunes to drown out the sound of my mother who is on one of her moaning jags. Are you okay? Do you need something? Can I help you? Do you need a pain pill? These are the questions I've politely asked while my brain is screaming shutupshutupshutupshutupshuthefuckup.

So yeah. Fuck you old age and all the meds with the weird side effects and every other degenerative thing that can make a person moan and groan non-stop without even knowing it.

Yeah. It's 9:00 and I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

So. A Seahorse Walks into a Bar...

Beach goer art 
When I walked by this piece of driftwood stuck into the sand today, I re-called one of the spontaneous games that popped up with the grandchildren this past weekend. I suppose not every grandma would begin a game with young grandchildren that begins with someone or something walking into a bar, but the game was essentially word play which all three of my grandchildren enjoy.

So, a crab walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "Sorry. We don't serve crabs here." So the crab says, "Aw, c'mon, I won't be shellfish."

So, a fish walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "Sorry. We don't serve fish here." So the fish says, "What's the catch?"

So, a whale walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "Sorry. We don't serve whales here. So the whale says, "Hey, it's not a fluke that I'm here. I'm here on porpoise!"

So, a seahorse walks into a bar.....go ahead you finish it.

Yeah, grandchildren. We had "tea by the sea," which is the best excuse ever for eating lots of sweets with lunch.

We took a whale watching boat ride, but did not, unfortunately, find any whales. There were, however, bottle nose dolphins. The ocean was mindbogglingly blue.

Today there were clouds that looked like dollops of whipped cream. Beauty. Whether it's art or nature or grandchildren, I'm always amazed.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Morning Beach Report

The ocean was brushed with silver this morning. Surfers and pelicans amazed each other with their feats of grace and skill.

As an added bonus, the local fire department water rescue squad was out drilling. With bright red shirts over their wetsuits and matching red helmets, they divided into drowning victims and rescuers. When the victims got quite far out beyond the huge waves and began waving their arms, the rescuers skipped into the surf with flippers in one hand and a life belt on a rope in the other. Once they were knee deep in the water, they put on their flippers and stroked like crazy to the victims who were then belted and towed to safety. It was heartening to know these guys practice these skills.

And meanwhile, some of those clouds looked like they might be making big plans.

Blessings to all those in the east coast blizzard.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Envelope, Please.

Not quite what I have in mind. But close.

And.....the award for best doctor in Pillville goes mom's neurologist.

The things he said to me at my mom's appointment this afternoon, not in this exact order, are as follows:

You are doing a big important job.
You must have two full days off every week. Full days. I insist. You have a brain and a body that need caring for too.
Your mom is lucky.
Your job is hard.

These are the things he said to my mom:
You are really lucky to be alive and enjoying life.
You look great.
Half of all the 90 year olds have Alzheimer's. Your brain is pretty healthy.
You absolutely can't smoke.
While I don't endorse alcohol exactly, I want you to enjoy life, so you can drink a little. But only a little.

He went on to tell my mom that if she was going to drink when I wasn't in the house, she should wear a helmet. (He's very concerned about her falling.) Can't you see it? A helmet with a martini glass on it?! Just think all 90-year-old tipplers could have custom cocktail helmets like dog lovers who get baseball caps or bumper stickers that say "I love my golden retriever," or "I love my dachshund." Just think, helmets with beer steins, martini glasses, champagne glasses, etc.

I love this doctor.
I want to marry him.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Absence and Presence

this morning

I'm grateful for the honest question: Is it still really painful being without him? (Answer: It's horrible.)
I'm grateful for absence of the question. For just the being. For just the doing.
I'm grateful for the birds I see on my morning walk and how the sky looks each particular day as the sun rises.

the same clouds, reflected in the water with two bufflehead ducks
Below are some photos from earlier in the week:

Coots. I think I had some fun with filters here. But maybe not.
Mallard Hang-Out

Grebes. Maybe grebes and coots. I can't focus with my iPhone worth a damn.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Morning Beach Report on Martin Luther King's Birthday

Islands lost behind a smudge of clouds.
Lone surfer.
Man above it all in an improbable flying machine.
Weekenders debating the temperature of the water.
Young couple overheard: How long do you plan to be out here? he asks.
I'm walking all the way to the harbor, she says.
Get on a boat. Sail away from him, I telepathically advise.
And me. I clumsily drop my mug of coffee into the sand, filling its spout with grit.
Cursing the loss of comfort's brew, I pick it up, spilling what remains on my pants.
Later, in the coffee shop, a young black man enters with his two children. His tee-shirt reads
"I can't breathe."

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Another Sunrise

Walking through my neighborhood before my mom awoke, my brain momentarily flashed to sneaking out of the house as a teenager. Waiting for the moment around 1:00 a.m. when the rattle of a train masked my footsteps and the click of the closing door. The memory sparked a millisecond of adrenaline. The worries then of being caught, of whether I would actually make it to college, did my boyfriend really love me, would my back ever stop hurting, how soon could I possibly get out of my small town, and how would I explain all those mosquito bites? Now the worries circle around my mother. Will she spill hot coffee on herself if she wakes up before I get back? Did I remember to lock up the booze? What the hell, why is my neck hurting? Did I sleep crooked or are my vertebrae dissolving because I'm going to have arthritis just like my mother? Where are all the herons?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thursday Evening Beach Report

My friend Ellen, visiting from L.A.

We watched the sun set behind Santa Cruz Island
The willers watched it too.
And for some reason, this photo of Dan appeared with the other photos that I selected from my iPhoto for this post. I uploaded this picture of him about six weeks ago when we were putting together a slide show for his memorial. I didn't choose it for this post, but here it is. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My Secret Life

 Some people make gin in their bathtubs. I mix martinis at my bathroom sink.

Then I pour two ounce portions into empty jam jars and hide them in a secret place behind a locked door. Then I hide the key. I can't tell you where. If I told you, I'd have to kill you.

When 5 o'clock comes around, I unlock the hidden stash and bring a jam jar down to the kitchen and pour the two ounces into a martini glass and serve it to my mother. She's living a mere shadow of her former martini-fueled life and she doesn't like it. But I'm rather fond of her not falling over.

Here's the recipe. Just in case you'd like to mix up some secret martinis. You can have more than two ounces if you want. But don't blame me if you fall down.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday Morning Beach Report

Trinity of boats.
One island gone missing while the other holds
holy vigil for its safe return.
A single willet screams in the surf
and an emaciated mermaid breathes her last,
her ruined jewelry next to her on the sand.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

If the man who loves me is really gone from this world, I'd like a plane ticket to somewhere fabulous.  I'd like to go out every night to some bar with colored lights and live music. I'd like a couple glasses of wine right now and a signed contract stating that I will not have to follow the ambulance to the emergency room in the dark in the rain while slightly impaired. Yeah.

Well, what I have is a fairly peaceful house tonight. I don't understand the moaning thing that my mom does. Sometimes it's frightening. Sometimes only moderately disturbing. This evening, it's been downgraded to mere mumbling. Soon she'll come out of her room and want her bedtime ice cream. Ice cream before bed is a family tradition. She and my Dad had ice cream before bed every single night of my growing up years. I'm hardly ever in the mood for ice cream these days and haven't been for ages. If I could have any dessert I wanted right now, I'm not even sure what it would be.

I started keeping a private journal of how I'm feeling. I did it one day. The next few days I felt so shitty about everything that I didn't even want to write it down. But I've been hurting less. It's like my mother's moaning, I guess.

I feel lucky to be keeping company with so many good people from T'ai Chi Chih and yoga.

Two more excellent grief links here. Did you know that grief theory has evolved in recent years? The five stages model is considered passé. Read this: Getting Grief Right

And as someone who practiced attachment parenting, why not Attachment Grieving? I'm fond of attachment in general.

Right now I'm re-attaching to Downton Abbey. I was getting tired of it,  but I'm interested in the plot line that has to do with Edith and her baby. After that, if this bout of sleeplessness I feel coming on endures, I'm going to work on a new short story.

How did you finish up your weekend?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Real Life Bird vs. Birdman

Tern contemplating fork in the road. Oh, wait. Terns can fly.
I'd like to say I'm contemplating a fork in the road, but I'm not really. I'm not even envisioning a road right now. More like a merry-go-round. This is one of those times in life when the "it could be worse" conversation is actually helpful. Because things could be so much worse.

And I don't mind really that in the past hour my mom has asked me three times what time her doctor's appointment is tomorrow. Tomorrow's Sunday, I say. Oh, I'm confused because M went back today, she says. Right I say. M went back, but it's Saturday. No doctor's appointment tomorrow. Right, she says. Repeat. Repeat. The thing about losing your cognitive faculties that is comforting is that even when you know you're losing it (and she does know that) you don't really grasp the particular moment-to-moment of it all. Thank god, because that would be so much worse, right?

And I don't really mind that it's impossible to have a real conversation with her in the way I could a few months ago. She's still pleasant and talkative and knows who she is. She listens at the dinner table and tries to chime in. When I told M that I went to the movie "Birdman" on my time off today, my mom said oh yes, she'd read about it and that the birds are very important to our world. When I said I didn't really like the movie as much as I thought I would, and tried to explain that I thought it was like "Noises Off" without the funny bits, and that it seemed inherently confusing to craft a story around an actor who played a flying Hollywood superhero called Birdman, and that the character of the actor also appears to posses certain real-life superpowers like telekinesis and levitation, and yes, even flying, she said well, you should write a story. Write a story about me called "The Life of My Mother." It could be so much worse.

So,"Birdman." Very fine performances. But why can he telekinetically slam the door of his dressing room (or did he fling it open?) and yet he couldn't open the stage door that locked him outside right before his entrance? And really, in an Equity Broadway production, when an actor does not show up for places before an entrance, no one goes to look for him? Especially when there's a make-up person waiting in the wings to do her thing right before that entrance? And the actor exchanging the prop gun for a real gun when it's some prop person's job to hand him the gun right before he goes on? And really, the story he told about how  he was covered with dozens of huge jelly fish and got stung and then passed it off as a sunburn? Gah. I fell out of the dream of the story so many times while watching the movie, I'm covered in bruises. Or maybe I'm just so fucking grumpy nothing can please me, but really, it could be so much worse.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Getting Shit Done...About Grief!....About Caregiving!

Yes. The water was really that blue. And I found beach glass too.
Or as our 4-time governor, Jerry Brown, might say, Age quod agis. Do what you're doing is what this Latin phrase means, and according to the report I listened to on the car radio this morning, it's one of Brown's favorite Latin sayings. There was live coverage of Brown's inauguration, and I almost got weepy. I think he's the current politician I most respect.

I wrote in a previous post that I'm not making any resolutions this year, but if I were, Age quod agis would be a good one. Go ahead, take it if you need one. Meanwhile, I'm just trying to get shit done which is similar, but not exactly the same as doing what you are doing.

What got done today was finding a new desk chair for my mom (has to be ordered, darn) but finally she'll have a safe chair for her to sit in at her desk. The one without arms was pronounced as unsafe by her physical and occupational therapists. New yoga pants were purchased too which means the stretchy pants that I bought after starting Jazzercise about 20 or so years ago can be retired. Honestly, those two pairs of pants really did get worn to the gym most weeks for almost two decades, but I felt I was in danger of stretching up into downward dog and suddenly finding my ass hanging out. Now I have three brand new pairs of identical black yoga pants. (Yeah, I went to Catholic school for 12 years and wore a uniform every day, why do you ask?)

And I waited on hold for 14 minutes to speak to someone at the City of Baltimore, only to find that my memory did serve me correctly, and that yes, it's perfectly acceptable to pay my mom's health insurance premium weeks late in January because that is just how the City of Baltimore likes to start the new year. They will get those invoices in the mail in a couple of weeks. Any other month that you pay late, you'll get a cancellation letter announcing that your policy will be cancelled within twelve days of the date on the letter. Which in my mom's case would be a financial debacle of proportions similar to what Jerry Brown took on with California's debt after Schwarzenegger's reign.

And also under the heading of unhappy tidings, I researched the cost of a power washing service to clean my boat dock which, as has been called to my attention by the HOA, needs a thorough cleaning. I'm normally all into maintenance and cleaning, but since I really don't get away to kayak anymore, it's like outta sight, outta mind. I'm the disgrace of the neighborhood.

And I am monitoring the fuck out of my mental health. I plan to take the month of January to record my lack of wellbeing in some cogent way and consider getting back on some meds. For those of you in a similarly leaky boat, I found some worthwhile things here:

Resolutions after a Trauma
Your Resolution Absolution
Self Portraits of Living after Loss

And in the caregiving department, I found THIS immensely helpful as I pondered whether or not it would be okay to try and get my mom into assisted living.

And meanwhile, here in Pillville, I'm doing what I do.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Hit Man Report

Where the Christmas tree used to be.
In the dark, leave a note. Leave your ancient mother behind, asleep in her bed. Go buy milk so you can make a latté. Creep out of your sleeping house. Skulk through the dawn. This is what you must do to survive. She could die in your absence. She could die any time. So could you. Whatever. Make the coffee. Leave another note. Put her cup by the coffee pot. Open the brand new carton of half and half so she doesn't have to struggle. Sneak away again. Go to yoga. When you come home, she's in her room with her coffee. The arthritis is killing her knee. Her hip. Heat the hot pack. Re-heat the coffee. Make her breakfast. Make yours. Drag the dead Christmas tree out the patio door. Spend the day cleaning away the Christmas spirit which barely materialized anyway. Relish the vacuuming. Relish the mopping. The polishing. The dusting. Breath in the Windex. Heat the hot pack, this time for you. Read between loads of laundry. Relish the story in the New Yorker that you know would have been murdered in your MFA workshop had it been written by a student. Where is the forward motion of the story. This  is all just interior monologue. Where is the fucking scene? How about some dialogue? Realize the day is nearly over without much forward motion at all. Dialogue only if you shout.  Make dinner. Hold firmly to the new regime of salad for you. Grilled cheese for the ancient mother who needs calories. Ice cream for her dessert. Then when she's asleep, attack  the cheese and crackers. Hypocrite. Make a gin and tonic in your closet and carry it downstairs in a water glass. Just in case she wakes up. Watch a movie that makes you cry. Walk through the neighborhood, mumbling to your dead lover. Why are there so many stars? Why can't you be nicer?

I took the colored Christmas lights down from the top of the armoire and put up white ones. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

What the Yoga Teacher Said And Other News

I awoke this morning convinced that I might as well begin the new year fulfilling my potential to become the mean and angry person it seemed I was meant to be. Maybe this was the year I would  yield to my destiny as a hit man or a dognapper or a baby snatcher. Maybe I could at least get a job writing parking tickets or turning down deserving people for home loans. Even if I had to settle for being a bitchy old woman who patroled the beach threatening to turn everyone in who walked an un-leashed dog, I felt I could do a damn good job at it.

Then I went to yoga. In the park. At the beach. You know. All that blue sky and glistening water. Swaying palm trees and dunes simultaneously all soft and resilient against the sea. And the yoga teacher. What she said was something about the word hatha meaning light and dark--and I think she said it meant both the light side of the mountain and the dark side of the mountain. Or maybe I was just looking at the dunes and interjected the image of a hill into the business about dark and light. In any event, I thought  Yeah, I sure as hell am on the dark side of the mountain. And I am. And I'm not sure I have what it takes to climb up and over that mountain to the other side right now, but maybe I should not pursue becoming a hit man and just stand still and wait for the light. It will probably take a while.

I like how the light here looks both like a mushroom cloud and a palm tree.
By some miracle I had the foresight to plan a full day of care for my mom today. Feeling the way I did, I stayed outside pretty much the entire day. My new iPhone (yes, that would be the iPhone without the voicemails from Dan on it) says that I walked over 5 miles. Pretty much every step of that was on the beach. I even found beach glass, so maybe the beach glass drought is over. That's something, right?

The pile on the left is what I found today. The pile on the right is what I've found in the past 6 months.
And yeah, I'm still not really returning all my phone calls right now. I start to call people back, but then I get the feeling I might burst into tears as soon as you say hello. I have to time it just right. But we'll talk. Thank you for calling.