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.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Some Things That Happened.

As Dementia rooted deeper into the mommy she became more and more afraid. Rarely a day went by when she didn't talk about being scared. She didn't know why but she was so scared sometimes that she'd shake.
Some of the care givers at the assisted living place where she lived would help her to the bathroom and leave. More than once she called me from the bathroom upset because she was alone. Once I timed the call and it was more that 15 minutes before anyone came to help her. I later learned that this is seen as an acceptable amount of time (by the state or the facility or who knows who makes this shit up) and care givers are encouraged to leave people on the toilet and go help someone else. This is a perversion of the if you have time to lean you have time to clean rule in restaurants, keeping employees running. Mom took to screaming for help at the top of her lungs. I was told she was so loud her neighbors would call for help for her. One night a resident walked in and scolded Mom telling her she was bothering people. I never found out who did that. Mom was mortified. She called me crying.
There seemed like an easy fix to me. Don't leave her in the bathroom alone. Right? Part of why she was afraid may have been abstract but part of it was a fear of falling and a need for support. But the very expensive facility couldn't do that.
For a time I was there every day except Wednesday. She had Mandy in the morning and music therapy in the afternoon so I stayed home and checked in by phone. On other days I went after swimming and stayed until about 5. One afternoon as I walked out the door I heard her talking to herself saying, "You're OK Lucille. Just relax. You're OK."
Mandy stayed later in the morning. I started staying until she was in bed.  We made sure there was only a few hours a week when she was alone.
She had stopped coming to Oak Street on the weekends so I spent the weekends there. She was always happiest when I was there over night and in some ways so was I. The only time I wasn't worried was when Mandy was there. I never trusted the facility to truly deeply care for her. There were mostly wonderful loving care givers but they had to take care of too many people.
But she was scared even when we were right there with her. I would hold her hand and sing her a song. But she was afraid.
The other night I had a dream in which I had left her at a friend's house. It was really dark and I assumed the friend would walk her home. But they hadn't. They said something about everyone needing to "go through things like that." I found her and she was OK but she seemed small and afraid.
I've been thinking about the concept of individuation. A simple definition is the process by which a person becomes identified as them self and not as a part of a family, a religion, a country. You are part of those things but not defined by them. It's a big and subtle concept involving the integration of the unconscious and the conscious but I was thinking about how much of my awareness has been occupied by the mommy for the last few years. I still look at the clock at 8AM and feel calmer because Mandy is with her. I still feel nervous toward the end of a swim because I need to get to her. I think I always thought of individuation as a hard line defining the self. But I hate that word - boundaries. It feels so false. Our boundaries are semi permeable. We overlap. Of course we do.  
Mom was 90. I'm 63. She passed. I feel like there's a proportional amount of sorrow that I feel relative to those facts. Adding our particular story there is (maybe) a bit more than average. But there is a hurt in me because of how hard I had to fight to make sure she was cared for and how hard I had to work to do what should have been the job of the facilities. It's going to trouble me forever. It has changed me.
It occurs to me that I'm going to need to get used to not being aware of her. That's true in an obvious way but it's also very structural. I no longer need to cling so desperately to my phone because she isn't going to call. She isn't sitting in the bathroom, scared anymore.
So I read and cry and make polenta and swim and read some more and cry some more.


Sunday, December 04, 2016

That's Life For Ya

For a few months Mom became obsessed with the movie Funny Girl. She'd watch it as many times as I would replay it. More than once that was three times in one day. There is a scene in which a delivery man is riding a bike through a neighborhood crowded with street stands and people. A group of young boys are running beside him announcing, "Telegram!" As he passes two older women one says, "That's life for ya. Somebodies dead." Mom and I always laughed.
That's life for ya.
Somebodies dead.
Mom was 90. Other than some joint pain and Dementia she was in great shape. I knew she would die but I couldn't imagine how. And then she did. I'm not going to write about how. I may someday. What I will say is that it started with something so small. And then we were sliding faster and faster. And faster. Too fast.
Grief takes on so many shapes. For a few days it was visceral memory. Sometimes bone rattling. Sometimes it rises up out of silliness. Laughing and crying (as Joni says) it's the same release. Sometimes it feels like flu. My body just hurts and I need to be still. Sometimes it's rage.
I know it will pass. Or more accurately it will become a part of me. I won't always notice. I've tried to let go as fast as I can. And then I get stuck on something. I threw away her purse but I can't throw away her wallet.
While this was happening there was an election. For me it was kind of like stubbing your toe when you have a migraine. You know the toe hurts but the pain in your head is so much worse. I couldn't and still can't listen to news. My need for silence is desperate.
People tell me what a great job I did taking care of Mom. I needed to love somebody the way I loved her the last two years. I needed to love her that way. I feel like there were three mommies. The mommy when I was a little girl and we were so attached. The mommy of my teen and adult years who wanted to change everything about me and we broke apart. And the mommy of the last four or five years. So increasingly childlike and sweet that I would sometimes be startled. In the middle of the night she was often lucid. We had great conversations during a trip to the toilet.
I worry that I am going to hold on to the grieving process. I'm not sure why that worries me. As the days pass and become more ordinary I feel off balance. When something triggers a crying spell I feel grounded by it. But of course it's not even been two weeks.
It's the holidays. I cannot feel them. I feel like I'm holding my breath until they end. That all feels ... real. But I need to get back to the things. Swimming. Listening to music. News. New patterns will establish themselves in the weeks and months. The holidays will always have a shadow but I will enjoy them again. As much as I ever did.
That's life for ya.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


The mommy has watched @MSNBC from dawn till dusk for years. Care givers tell me she shouldn't watch so much news but they don't get that the people are real for her. They anchor her. She has crushes and affections and listens with all her strength. During the Republican convention was different. She hardly ever had the TV on when I arrived. She'd blanch at certain faces. I wondered if she'd feel the same during the Democrat convention but so far, it's the opposite. She watched with a half smile for a long time. I know that she can't really process what's being said but she has a visceral reaction. She has from time to time told me that she didn't want a woman as president but when she sees Hillary she smiles.
I knew I'd vote for Hillary the minute she announced. I have all of the same judgments that most people on the left do. She's a hawk. She's a corporatist. She's right of center. But I knew I'd vote for her. She is possibly the most qualified person to ever run for the office. That may not be a compliment. She's qualified because of years in the system and the system is sick.
The mommy can't imagine a woman as president. When I think about the changes I've lived through and then multiply them by the changes she's lived through my heart quakes. It's not enough to vote for her because she's a woman but it's extremely moving to imagine the first woman president.
I've been annoyed by Bernie. Actually I've been annoyed by his supporters. My Facebook feed is always filled with hate for Hillary. The few times I've tried to step into the conversation I've felt jumped on. At some point I realized I couldn't be civil when talking about the Republican nominee so I need to just step back. It's been a nasty election and it's not going to get less nasty.
So the mommy and I watch as much as we can and then we switch to musicals. And we sing.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Year Three

I wonder how many years I can count in this way. It seems like I'm stretching a conceit. But I am still surprised by the fact of the nest. Still grateful.
There have been more changes. More paint. For me getting a tattoo and painting have been similar. One tattoo made me want another. One painted wall made me want to paint another. New blinds after the old ones broke for a second time. Various fixtures have been replaced. The nest feels more mine.
R says home improvement is the opiate of the masses. Indeed.
When I landed in the nest I had many boxes of books to unpack. But first I hired a guy to add some shelves to my shelves. (That's an awkward sentence.) (Heh.) I wanted my books to be standing up. I had to put them in piles to fit them on the shelves, which was OK but I just had a ... thing. I wanted them to be in rows, standing straight up. He added the shelves and I unpacked in a rush.
I also wanted all of the books written by a specific author to be together, which is tough because they aren't all the same size. Then I had the wall of shelves built. I emptied one of the bigger shelves onto them and worked on making them appear full. They aren't even close to full. At my current rate of purchasing they never will be. It might be cool if I did fill them. And just as I placed the last book on the shelf I fell down dead.
I guess we'll see.
From time to time I'm looking at a shelf and notice a book by an author separated from others and I shuffle things to make it right. I also shuffle things to accommodate new books by specific authors. This relatively constant shuffling is ridiculously fun for me. I stare at my books almost as much as I read them.
I read an article that mentioned Kathy Acker and went looking for the two books I have, which had been in the to be read pile at one point but got lost in the post move manic shelving. I looked and looked and couldn't find them. One night I sat down in the chair next to the wall of shelves and there was Empire of the Senses. I don't even know what the other one was but I still can't find it. I regularly look at one specific shelf for the other Acker. That shelf is not big but I look and look. One night while looking I noticed one Camus but didn't see the others. It was late. I needed to get to sleep. I lay in bed fretting. The next day I looked again and found all but one Camus scattered around the same shelf. Now they are grouped.
Home improvement is largely done. Book shifting will go on for years. I take comfort and pleasure in the fact of the nest. Which I need because watching my mother's brain shrink is the most heart breaking thing I have ever lived through. I've cried every day for three months. I am drained.
I'm  more at home in the nest but less at home in Hood River. I'm not sure I ever will feel at home here.
My life is a melancholy and repetitive. I rarely have fun. Shifting books on a shelf is tonic. I've never felt that counting my blessing and feeling my endless sadness were mutually exclusive.
Three years.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


Some time in January I began a post about the new year weight loss frenzy. It's always like chalk on a black board to me. It settles down after a few weeks and then gears up pre-summer.
It made sense to me to be tired of sugar and big dinners and party food. I was tired of it and there wasn't that much of it my life. We had nice holiday dinners but nothing too over the top. In fact I served a fennel, orange and pomegranate salad that I read was a good after holiday thing to eat because it's so light and refreshing.
It is.
It was.
Then the goosestep of my life drove me through another holiday (Easter) and I could have written the same post again. Easter candy every where. And ham. Oh lord the ham. And then all the posting about how unhealthy it all is and all the recipes framed as healthy instead of, oh I dunno, good. Just good.
I've written that post so many times.
Other ideas for posts run through my head. I power up Blogger and then ... it's always something.
Today I have some time. I have some focus. But I'm filled with sadness and no small amount of rage about big lifetime metaphor stuff. The actual detail of life is about the mommy and laundry and what to make for dinner and swimming and reading and the shifts of seasons. Nothing terrible. Nothing wonderful. Just life. But my inner world is a storm.
I knew a woman who always said: it is what it is. I always blanched at that because I hoped for evolution and change. I worked for those things internally and externally. But she had a point. There are things that you just need to live through. And feel. There are things that aren't going to get much better. There are things that are going to get worse.
My intention has always been to be with what was happening and who I am and what I feel and make every effort to understand it all. Accept it. Just be with it.
Writing has always been both a way to process my internal world and communicate. Right now I feel like I'm yammering.
I mean. Really. This is another kind of post I've written too many times. A post about why I'm not posting.
Very often. Late at night. I've just read something. I'm filled with thinking. I want to write. Some times I even scribble notes trying to remember what I'm thinking. They're usually illegible. I have books filled with book marks trying to remember what was triggering all that response. But sleep pulls me under. Some times I wake up during the night picking up where I've left off. And then it's morning and time to get fed and clean and packed up for the day and out the door and do all the things. Back home. Pick up the book. Rinse. Repeat.
It is what it is.