Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Where Was I?

I stopped reading right after the paintings by Alice Neel and right before the poem by Fanny Howe. I found that amusing but the real reason I was going to sleep was because my stomach hurt. I'd eaten badly and my stomach was letting me know. I felt like I might vomit and I wanted to try and sleep before it got worse. It worked. Sort of. I was awake an hour later, feeling a bit better but bad enough to try sleeping in the recliner for awhile.
When I first get in bed it's the princess and the pea. I have to have everything just so or I can't sleep. Once I'm asleep it's all good. I woke up at one point with the remote to raise and lower the bed and a book wedged into my rib. Hadn't noticed.

I wrote that about a month ago. I usually have an idea for posts that more or less arrive at something resembling a whole idea. I have no idea where I was going with this. It's a description of an average night. I'm reading something. In this case The Paris Review. I don't know why I found it so amusing to stick the book mark between a painter and a poet but I did. My stomach bothers me a lot. But sometimes it's my knee. Or any random joint. I almost always go back and forth between the bed and the recliner. Why did I think this was an interesting start to a post?
I thought about deleting it.
My thinking is muddled. More muddled than usual.
I did delete a half a sentence that I think might have been about a dream. The sentence was about a little stuffed Kermit that Mandy gave the mommy. When the mommy was zonked on morphine she held that frog and seemed to be trying to understand what it was. I can clearly picture her hands wrapped gently around it, moving slightly.

I was looking to the normal rhythms of life to distract me. But life hasn't been normal. We've had piles of snow. There's ice on roads and sidewalks. I can't get to the pool or any appointments.
In some ways I like being house bound. Swimming will always be my preferred exercise but my yoga practice is getting deeper. I now have a house bound routine, which includes reading in the afternoon. It feels so luxurious to read in the afternoon. I did it school but I had assigned reading.
The other day I was reading and I hit a page I couldn't seem to take in. I started over and started over and was just about to bag it when I realized that the first sentence was: Everyone has a mother.
Grief is odd. There are days when I feel like I'm trying to conjure it up. Like I feel I need to do more and I'm not ready to stop. Like letting go of grief is letting go of her again. Too soon. There's too much chatter. It's gritty. But when I feel sad, just sad, when the tears come I know it's real. And then I let it roll over me.
So maybe it was another story about the last days of the mommy and how it still hurts. Maybe that's where I was going. But it was also about me finding pleasure in an odd moment with reading. Because that's the way it is now. Small pleasures. Memories. Tears always in my eyes. The search for comfort.    

Monday, January 02, 2017

First Monday

Just kidding. I was on a roll with those titles and I couldn't help myself. It's just a Monday. Nothing special. I've been looking forward to ordinary days. I feel that the rhythm of ordinary days will heal me.
It's a perfectly good Monday. Except it's snowing quite a lot and I couldn't get to the pool. I didn't feel too bad about it because I had things to do. I did set the journal and a pen on the table so I had no excuse this morning. I made some illegible chicken scratch while I ate my eggs and watched the snow fall. Did my yoga. Ritual full filled.
Last year I made a big effort to make sure all of the mommy's friends knew where she was. She got a small stack of Christmas cards and I spent the day sending a letter to everyone to explain where she wasn't. A moody, weary thing to do but it's done.
It was supposed to stop snowing a half an hour ago but nope.
That's it.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

First Day

When I was 17 the mommy made me a cross stitch that read: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. K glued it onto a piece of paneling and framed it. Despite the peripatetic nature of my early adult life I managed to hang onto it. I always tried to always hang it where I would see it first thing in the morning. I don't look at it every morning but I know that it's there.
I didn't actually like it for a long time. I mean. 17. My mother made it. So uncool. (Heh) And I'm not big on aphorisms. It was a saying that was on t-shirts, posters and buttons everywhere at that time. It held the feel I associated with the sixties. Hopeful. Open. Ready. Now it's 2017. I feel none of those things. I feel watchful. Braced. Reserved.
The goal yesterday was to clean the nest so that today would start ... clean. But instead I played in plant dirt and everything is a bit dirtier.
Earlier in the year I started the day with a bit of yoga and some writing in my hand written journal. It was my attempt at creating a ritual. I ate breakfast at the table and not in front of the computer. At some point I lost the beat. Recently I've been doing yoga again and doing a better job of it. I still haven't done the journal and today the table is covered with unfinished plant projects so ... maybe tomorrow.
I don't do resolutions. I never commit to anything I don't think I can really do. I wake everyday thinking about things I need to do to feel more engaged in life. Well maybe not every day. Some days (maybe most days) I stumble along from start to end. But I try to engage.
Because my birthday is in the middle of the year I drove myself crazy in my young adult life doing critical reassessment every (bleepin) six months. How was I doing? Teeth gnashing. Hand wringing. I was never doing very well. My birthday is near the solstice and there's another one of those near the holidays. Six month self awareness alarms. I don't remember when I stopped.
I do like a ritual acknowledgement of passages. I like ritual in general.
For the last few weeks I was aware on the day that the mommy left that it had been another week. And then it had been a month. I think this will wear off. And then, too soon, it will have been a year. Her ashes were combined with K's and put in a really pretty biodegradable pouch. Today that pouch will be placed in the French Broad river near the places in North Carolina where they lived after they retired. That was where they were the happiest. They can start the year as particles and waves. Onward to the big next thing.
The word happy still feels like sand in my mouth. What I wish for everyone is a deeply immersive love. Some people find that in romantic relationships. Some with family. Some with pets. Some in mediation or prayer. It wasn't easy taking care of the mommy. It was hard. I complained. But it was immersive and there was  love. I feel so grateful to have had the end of our story be so filled with playfulness, sweetness and love. If we have another story to tell together (some how, some where) it will resonate with the songs we sang to one another and the inside jokes we told.
But now I need to sweep up some dirt. And wash some dishes. There's already laundry in the machine. It all feels like perfectly lovely things to be doing on day one.
It's snow/raining. My friend calls it chunky rain. So far it's not sticking.
I'll read. I was trying to wait until I had finished some magazines to start a new book but I thought it was good to start a book on the first day. That's my resolution. Work to do the things that seem correct and then do what feels best.
Into the river.
Onward to the next big thing.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Last Day

I learned that David passed on Facebook today.
There are all kind of end of the year lists, posts and shows. When I see a list of celebrities who passed this year I want to shout-DON'T FORGET LUCILLE PARISH!
I don't experience the death of famous people in a deep way. I feel sad. But it's not deep. The exception might be Leonard Cohen because I sought comfort in his language for so many years. When Joni Mitchell dies I will mourn.
I'm thinking about the difference between how David saw me and how the mommy saw me. David saw me in ways I wanted to be seen. The mommy saw me the way she wanted to see me. The loss I feel for the mommy is deep in my bones, my heart, my skin. It involves everything in my life. The loss I feel for David is only in my heart. I feel the loss of hope that I will ever see him again. I'm sad that I didn't finish my rewrite before now. I wanted to show him the book.
I've spent so many years trying to understand how to resolve issues in relationships. Now I just accept the idea that resolution may never happen. But relationship doesn't really go way.
People ask how I'm doing. I'm never sure what to say. Mostly I'm sad. I think about the mommy every day. It's a habit that won't go away soon. I'm not always sad when I think about her and I don't always dwell on the thinking. I still sometimes feel overwhelming sadness for no obvious reason.
Today I am working on plants but not getting much done. I may still be a little sick.
Oh David.
Oh mama.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Sick Daze

A few nights ago my sinuses started to ache. It's a feeling that usually signals illness is about to hit. I made a huge glass of Throat Coat and went to sleep. Despite it's anatomically specific name Throat Coat is really soothing when your sinuses hurt. The next day I woke up determined to be well but knowing I wasn't. By 9AM  I was back in bed. I spent the next two days wandering from the bed to the recliner to the bathroom with occasional stops in the kitchen for more tea. I was achy. Sleepy. Watery eyed. But it felt oddly good.
Remember when you were young and you were sick enough to stay home from school? Even if your body felt bad you were home, in bed or on the couch. You got Ginger Ale. Campbell's chicken noodle soup. To this day, despite my snobby tendencies when it comes to food, when I'm sick I want Campbell's chicken noodle soup. Salty. Mushy noodles. Odd chunks of (hopefully) chicken. Yum.
It was a reprieve. A day off. A day to be nobody doing nothing because you were too sick to do anything.
That's how I felt.
I've been very kind to myself. I do not push. Grief is physical as well as emotional. I've been allowing myself lots of rest. But this was different. This was the body pulling me in deep and keeping me still.
I was never terrible sick. I'm still a bit sniffley. My throat is still a little scratchy but I have more energy.
But I liked all that under the blanket time.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Village

The Mommie had a little ceramic Christmas village. A church, a post office, a general store. I don't remember them all. And there were little ceramic people and trees and maybe a Santa. The buildings had lights in them. Last year I put them on her windowsill. She was very excited about it. When she came back from dinner a few of the ladies came with her to see it. 
I was always wanting her to make a friend. She always had made friends everywhere she went. Looking back I realize she had begun to withdraw socially while she was still in North Carolina. I knew she had been but I thought when she got to Oregon she might open back up. She never really did. She liked my friends and care givers but she couldn't sustain conversations. She felt stupid. She had become very shy and insecure. 
So when this little group of ladies squeezed into her room to talk about this little village and Christmas it felt like a win. She called me to tell me and was very happy. 
And then. 
She was afraid to go to bed with the little lights still on. She had trouble turning them off. She pulled cords until the lights popped off, which essentially broke them. I don't know if she got entangled in the chords or just lost her balance but she fell. She broke the skin above her eye. She had a huge black and blue mark on her face and more on her body. Just thinking about it makes me cry. She wouldn't go to dinner the next night because she was embarrassed. 
I was always trying to create her world the way she would have done it for herself. There were often mixed results. Results that underlined that things were not as they had been and never would be. She had changed. I feel like I was always needing to realize that she had changed again. I had to keep up with her decline. 
It wasn't all bad. There were moments of sweetness. We had fun. It was just that things got narrower in a way. It often felt like I was walking her along a precipice. Trying to keep us both balanced. And then she fell.  
A friend fixed the lights in the little houses. I was going to put them up again because I would be there to turn them off. I was looking forward to it. I had plans. I've done plenty of Christmas, birthday and holiday days alone. I can do alone. But I've been with her for the last 12 or 13 Christmas mornings. I've made waffles and handed her presents and kissed her. I got the new frog calendar and frog chocolates. She smiled. I want that back. I'm not ready to not have all that. I had plans. 
I'm not feeling bah humbug. I'm not feeling Scrooge. Facebook is filled with pictures of trees and tamales and cookies and smiles. They are all sweet. There are menorahs and Kawansaa candles. I smile when I see them. 
I have been drinking the Hood River Coffee's Christmas blend. R asked me why it was a Christmas blend. I don't know. I always drink Christmas blends. It's a thing. I've had a glass of eggnog with rum every evening. I received some cards, which are on the shelf above my desk. Some very sweet friends sent me some very sweet gifts. I saved them until this morning. 
I'm OK. 
It's just that I had plans.
I'll put the little village up somewhere next year. I'll bake cookies. I'll hang a wreath. I'll say Happy Holidays and be excited about things. I'm just not there today. And I can't get there. I know that's OK. I'm not worried about it. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Talk Story

Awhile ago a friend asked me what I'd be doing if I weren't spending all my time taking care of Mom. "Writing." I answered with out a moment of hesitation.
Oh really?
Well then.
The problem I'm having at this moment is that all my thoughts are about the last two years, specifically the last two months. Not even thoughts really. A day starts and is fine and then for no obvious reason I am felled by memory. I cried through my shower. I stood in front of the shower crying telling myself - this is normal, this is normal
I'm not embarrassed by this but I don't always want to be public with this process.
I've been reading a lot of fiction. The last three books brought characters from one book to the other, which I loved. I have no desire to write fiction. Can't even imagine it. But talking story has been big in my life.
I told the mommy's story over and over. Care givers, social workers, nurses, facilities. I prompted her to tell as much as she could but she'd get stuck and worried. I tried to make the narrative repetitive and told it with questions and answers. She did fairly well with that.
That story was rote and superficial. Just the facts. If you spent enough time with her she would tell you the story of when she and her friend skipped school to go to a Pirate's (baseball) game. Or about how her hair in the Navy was too long to be regulation because she was the only woman in her unit and the C.O. didn't know what length it was supposed to be. For a woman who took such care to follow the rules she took pride in her rebel moments.
In the last month the story I was telling was increasingly urgent. This hurts her. That made her puke. This needs to be stronger. At least three people (medical professionals) said she was dying before it seemed like she was and they said right in front of her. My fury was always boiling under my skin while I told the story of the day. This hurts her. That made her puke. This needs to be stronger. I wanted to speak all the details to make sure there was no confusion. I needed to keep her out of pain. I needed to keep her ... well. She wasn't well. She wasn't going to get well. But I needed to control that fall. During that time I realized how much of my story telling has always been a desperate way to elicit change. Change in attitudes, understandings, perspectives about the lives of fat people. About my life.
Talking story always felt like a psychological process. I talk my story to explain why I am who I am and in the process I also figure out why I am who I am. I remember times when I was telling the story in the way I had always told it and in the telling I realized that I didn't feel the same way any more. The story wasn't ringing true in the telling. This was especially true when I was writing the book.
In the days after the mommy passed I had no stories. Mostly I had the memory of her last breath, wrapping my arms around her and saying: oh Mommy. Oh Mommy is the sum total of our lives together. It was loaded with emotion but I can't name the emotion. I've said over and over since then.
I was surprised by the absence of bad memories. All of the issues, resentments, complaints.  In the weeks since I've had some of those memories return but they don't sit as hard in my heart. I come back to Oh Mommy. Our story has ended.
I mean. I know. She'll always be with me. But the story line. The conversations. Those are ended. And I need to focus on the story as it is now.