Friday, May 08, 2015


I looked at a book the other day and felt like I wanted to read it. That might not seem unusual but the last two months have been a bit of a siege. Mom had a health crisis made more complicated by some bad faith actions by the management of the place she had been living. I have never been so drained of ...everything. Energy, will, desire. All I do every day is focus on her.
It's not over. But she is in a place where she is getting pretty good care. I am there every day but I have also gotten to the pool a few times. I've had some time to myself. I've spent evenings, sprawled, binge watching Call the Midwife and A Chefs Life. And then I looked a the book. There's also a stack of magazines. And...there's also a bunch of things I still need to work through related to the bad faith actions and general management of her/our lives.
I gotta say. I knew Mom moving to Hood River might make demands on my life but there was no way I could have imagined all of this.
I feel damaged.
I am feeling.
And I have already read half of that book.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Story

Memoir writers write about people in their lives. I think Lucy Grealy said everyone was fair game, or something like that. If you have a writer in your life you may see yourself on their page. But is that OK? 
When I was writing the book I thought a lot about this. I decided not to tell stories about my cousins. I mentioned them but not in any detail. In my rewriting I've struggled with how much to write about the two men I loved. I loved way more than two but there were two who felt the most ...uh...real. Er sumthin. I felt like my parents were fair game because our stories are so intertwined. 
And now, my story is all about Mom. I feel a bit unsure when I begin to write. Mom would never know what I've written. And maybe for just that reason I feel the need to be careful. 
Things were going fairly well for a short time and then it felt like we fell off a cliff. Right now I am at a loss for how to make things better. I feel like I can't do things fast enough. I'm not totally comfortable with writing out the details. It's just been rough. There have been health issues. Serious? Yes. And no. Health issues when you're almost 89 are ... I dunno. Normal? It's so hard to know how to think and feel and talk about it all.   
Rightly or wrongly this blog has been a journal and lately a chronicle of Mom and I. I've had a few ideas for blog posts that didn't have anything to do with story. Random thought posts. But I so rarely have time and/or energy. 
So. That's the story. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Normal

Mom moved into her new place on Sunday. I spent the first night there with her. There are still a few boxes to unpack and things to put in place but it looks really nice and she seems to be comfortable. She'll come back to the nest every weekend. 
I was tired. More tired than I've ever been. I still am. 
I caught up on TV that Mom won't watch, haven't cooked more than scrambled eggs and best of all I read. 
I finished This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, which I had started in NC and read on the plane. It's a book of essays most of which are good reads. I think the problem for me with too many essays in a row is one of rhythm. Things start to feel the same. I feel like I'm rereading. I don't usually have that problem with Didion but I sometimes have it with McPhee. I love all three writes. I just get antsy. 
Part of the problem has been the scatter shot way I've been reading. I never really sink in. The number of ways Mom can be disruptive are legend. 
So yesterday I settled in for a lovely read and the essay I landed on was one about Patchett taking care of her grandmother in her declining years complete with a move into assisted living. Good read. But just so not what I needed to be reading at this particular moment. Or maybe it was. 
I've had friends who cared for ageing parents and parent-in-laws and I have friends who are doing that now. It's a thing. 
From Patchett.
My mother had kept my grandmother at home for 16 years. She had wanted to keep her at home until she died. But the thing about death is that you never have any idea when it's coming. I used to think all the time: if only I knew when she would die, I could pace myself. My grandmother was 92. Could I do this every day for another five months? Absolutely. Another five years? I wasn't entirely sure. 
I've been to the pool a few times, which is bliss. I have a stack of magazines to read. We are more or less at our new normal. What ever that means. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Card and Calendar

For so many years getting the Christmas card for the year was very important to me. I often spent hours and went to many different shops. And then there were the times when I saw "the one" at the first shop and couldn't wait to send it. I always wanted to send the feelings I associate with Christmas: love, generosity, surprise, fun, grace. In New York I had a post card with a picture of a Christmas themed graffiti covered subway car. That was perfect.
I don't really remember when I stopped getting a card. Some combination of time and money. Maybe a loss of interest but, really, it just costs so dang much. It's one of many things that feel like they're just so much more expensive than they used to be.
I thought I might try to get one this year. I thought I'd be in NC with time on my hands and Mom's always bountiful amount of stamps. But.That changed.
And then there was the calendar of the year. Another way to have art that combined a sense of ... oh I dunno. Beauty. Place. I loved Pre-Raphaelite art on my calendars. There was a cluster thumb tack sized holes on my kitchen wall in SF. For the last two years I've had Kristina's calendars, which is great because it's so personal and even if I didn't know her I'd love the images. Ironically I rarely (maybe never) look at the calendar part. Maybe I never did. But I love the first of every month. I love the image for the month. I love knowing it will change so I'd better enjoy it while I can.
Now that I'm thinking about this I remember always looking for the new journal. I haven't written in my paper journal since 2005. That's just sad. In fact my last entry ended mid sentence.
Everything is on the phone now. I am always changing the wall paper and fussing with folders. But, it all gets deleted eventually.
I miss those things. I miss the search for the card and the calendar. And the journal.
Life is loosely wired now. The days and events and celebrations come and go before I'm ready for them to begin, or end. My time is filled with cleaning and meal preparation and moments of care. And every few days I sort of shred and crawl through. Only doing what I must.
I was very excited to have my first Christmas at the nest. I was excited to have a small tree and see my ornaments. Because my friends embrace the mommy we had packages under the tree and a fun morning of opening them. There is enough candy in the nest to put me in a coma. I didn't get any baking done. But we had a nice time.
When I was leaving San Francisco I thought about how I'd lost a connection with my sense of reverence. I was overwhelmed with gratitude because having a home is a pretty big deal for me. And having this one is really amazing. I wanted to rebuild something. Some process of acknowledgement. I can't use words like spirit because they are so badly used. God. The universe. Can't use them. But something like that. Something that expresses the inner. Something that connect the inner and the outer. And the bigger.
It's not really going that well.
But I am still working on it.
It's hard for me to even say things like Happy New Year because ... happy? Really? Happy is the least I want for the people I love. I want wonder. And joy. And connection. I want happiest. I want ever after. I want more than enough and best ever.
No card from me again this year.
Just these little notes.
These dribs and drabs.    

Sunday, December 07, 2014

My Day

Most days.
Wake up.
Head to the bathroom.
Feed the fish.
Raise one of the blinds.
Make breakfast.
Be as quiet as possible.
Hear the sound of the mommy waking up and heading to the bathroom.
Turn on the TV.
She gets dressed and heads for the recliner.
Raise the other two blinds.
Fool around on the computer while she either sleeps or watches TV.
On bath day, help her get in the shower and wait close by until she's done to help her out.
Set up her breakfast stuff so she can get her breakfast.
Hang out with her while she eats.
Clean up kitchen.
Make bed.
Take shower.
Make communications (email, phone) regarding the move and assorted projects for making life work.
Clean, do laundry, take the trash out (almost every day) (try to get her to go too so she gets some exercise).
Listen to the same three lines from three or four songs over and over.
Answer the same questions over and over.
Make dinner.
Clean up.
Put on my pajamas. Turn down the bed. Lay her nightgown on the bed.
Watch TV.
Wait while she brushes her teeth and gets into her pajamas.
Tuck her in.
Feel gratitude for friends who stop by and help.

In the year and a half since I've been here I've used the dishwasher about 6 times. Now I use it once a week, usually on Sundays. It feels like getting a break from dish washing. Every day there are things that don't get done. Every night I lay awake listing the things still I need to do. I am no doubt a little bit hyper. Things will probably settle down. Her new place is nice and her furniture should arrive in a week or so. By February many things will be in place that will make things easier and she'll be at her place for part of the week.
It's not bad. There have been days where things slipped off the rails. Stacked up. Overwhelmed. But it's not too bad.
The only really not good thing is I haven't read a thing in weeks. Combination of lighting and her singing and talking and the TV and just being so bleepin tired.
No swimming yet.
All the problems will be solved.
Sooner or later.
One way or another.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Our Black Firday

A fair amount of Mom's stuff will be auctioned off tonight. The very lovely people who helped us to clear the house sent me a link to the auction site. Seeing her stuff lined up brought tears to my eyes.
There's nothing particularly valuable. There's a dining set that she loved. Her "good" dishes and glassware that she hasn't used in years. A bedroom set that she bought when I was a kid and she and I were sharing a bedroom at Grandma's house. Other random pieces of furniture and some paintings. It's her stuff. It was the stuff I saw at her house. All of her houses. It doesn't matter that downsizing was the right thing to do. It feels creepy and sad to see it marked for sale. I didn't expect to see this until Mom had passed and in some ways it feels like a part of the inevitable moment of her leaving. I can't show her the site. She is struggling to process the loss as it is and for her it is loss.
The movers will be packing up her remaining belongings (and there are many) some of which will go to her new apartment, some of which will go into storage until we can process it and some of it is family heirloom stuff that will come to me. It's funny to use the word heirloom in reference to our family stuff. None of it is valuable, except in terms of sentiment.
Mom and I have very different styles. Her stuff was nice but it wasn't anything I would have chosen.I never wanted it. I am getting the things I wanted and she still has plenty of stuff. So the tears in my eyes aren't really about stuff. Or loss of stuff. It's about knowing that she is sad about the changes in her life and knowing I can't do anything about that. And knowing I will never again visit her and see that particular stuff. It's about change and endings. And beginnings. And uncertainty.
Other than a few odds and ends I have everything I'll ever really want. Obviously I'm going to want more books. My electronics will become obsolete. Some of them already are. But I am not drawn to shop. Neither is she. My stuff is less valuable than her's in monetary terms. But I have little plastic animals from cocktails that make me smile. Matchbooks and sand dollars. Dishes and dolls. I look around and see my life in my stuff. And that was true for her.
Oak Street is still full of shoppers. Oak Street is all small business so I'm not hating it. Mom is entertained by the constant parade of people.
Consumerism is a plague but we buy stuff. We collect stuff. Our stuff has meaning. I imagine the auction is almost over and someone is happy that they got a great price on dining room set.      

Sunday, November 23, 2014


When you're on the plane the stewards do the safety drill. They say if you are traveling with a small child and the oxygen mask drops down put your own on first. It's a really perfect metaphor about the need to care of oneself so you will be able to take care of anyone else. It's the kind of metaphor that could be used in any self help seminar.
There are two commercials in heavy rotation right now. An adult with watery eyes and a runny nose leans into a room, apologizes for disturbing but they need to take a sick day. The camera then turns to a small child. When you have a baby, or a child the whole self care thing falls apart. There are no sick days. You take care of your children when you're sick and too tired and emotionally drained.
Both of these things are true. You can't take care of anyone if you aren't taking care of your self. And there are times when you're going to take care of the other when you should be taking care of yourself.
Caring for an eighty-eight  year old mother with an increasingly foggy brain is similar. A silly example of this happened on the plane. Mom usually sleeps when she is on a plane but there were kids behind her moving around, banging into the seat. She was struggling with her emotions. She was worried about her future. I reached over to hold her hand. Her purse was between us and my book was leaned against it. The corner of the book was digging into my wrist but I could move it because she was finally drifting off and I didn't want to disturb her.  I wasn't in danger or in terrible pain but I was uncomfortable and unable to read my book.
When I am around Mom she dictates our day, what we watch on TV, what we eat and how I cook it (no garlic). She sings when I'm trying to read. She doesn't want to go out. I've written about the mommy cut for my hair and the removal of the nose stud (she still hasn't said a thing). All of this is no big deal for a three month visit but now she lives with me. At some point she will have her own apartment in an assisted living facility but she will always spend time in The Nest. I'm going to need to find some balance.It's just not going to be easy and it is going to require constant reassessment.
Mom has always been central in her own narrative. I was raised by someone who was central in her own narrative. My narrative was tangential to hers. It's hard to explain the mechanics of how her strong sense of entitlement calls out my urge to do her bidding. To keep her happy. It began so young. The minute I grew up I moved to the opposite side of the country. I have always known that space was needed for out relationship to function at all. Now everything is different.
I'm not all torn up or overwrought. I am just aware.
I mean.
She sleeps.
A lot.
I will be OK.
I imagine it will change me and I'm hoping I become more loving and patient and not a resentful ball of self pity. I'll be sorting and processing like super computer.