Friday, December 25, 2015

HO HO HO

It was my second Christmas spent in Memory Care.  I was feeling tired and "over it" before I even got there to find the mama more confused than usual.  Such is the case when she has guests earlier in the day.  I was super grateful to have missed them, so that I could focus on her.

I planned on leaving after dinner, but since many of the residents were busted out I sat and ate with the mama.  Christmas carols played loudly in the background.  Mom and I sang.  One of the few places I just don't care and will sing.  While we ate, I heard something amazing.  One of the residents, Annie, who has a great singing voice was humming along.  Her humming meshed beautifully with the carols, bounced around in the dining room and for just a moment the music became more than just canned music with a slightly deaf senior humming along.  It was as if the heavens opened and for a spilt second I swear there was an ethereal choir that sang with her.  I thought I might cry it was so lovely and just what I needed to fix my Bah-Humbug.

The miracles that happen in Memory Care are small like this one, but they are so mighty and they produce profound ripples.

Christmas Morning Dream

So last night, I had this dream......

I am maybe college age and in a Creative writing class.  It is co-ed and people are all ages.  I have a poem to read that I think is really good, more the ilk of what I write now versus the Hallmark schmaltz I wrote then.  I volunteer to go first and the response is very negative.  I slink back to my seat.  I listen to a few other writers who receive high praise.  I wonder why mine didn't?

Then I just say screw it, pack up my stuff and leave.  Why would I sit in a class I"M PAYING FOR to be publicly derided?  I have too much stuff and books keep falling out of my arms.  Most of them are the required reading for the class I just left.  I leave them where they lay, a trail of breadcrumbs to a place I will never return

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Chest Pains

I got the call just after I arrived home, the call I dread.  At first I am kinda pissed off that I have to go back out into what promises to be the worst December weather so far.  But the pissed off is just a cover for what I really am - scared.

They tell me they are taking my mom by ambulance to the ER because she is complaining of chest pain with left arm radiation.  FUCK!  I slam my clothes back on and run out the door.  It's raining, but not too badly just yet.  Perhaps I can make it before the worst hits.

In the car, there are no distractions.  The nice calming NPR voices piss me off and I snap the radio off.  Now I am just left with my own little voice which is growing louder and louder over the slapslap of the wipers.  The scare takes hold in my gut and I wonder if this is it?  My mom is almost 88, has Alzheimer's and lives in Memory Care.  What if she had a stroke or worse?  The thought of losing her crushes me into smithereens and I start bawling.  Am I going to lose another parent just before Christmas?  Memories of another night driving home in the rain after being told I have cancer are collected into the fold.  Scared and feeling sorry for myself.

That's when I drive into the storm from hell and all thoughts of anything except navigating the car through some biblical deluge evaporate.  Never thought I would be grateful for a storm but I am.  It took my mind off of that internal crap and I arrived sodden and ahead of the ambulance to the E.R.

I insist on being allowed back into the ER bay as soon as she arrives to help her not freak out.  The clerk assures me that "They are trained professionals and know how to deal with her."  I bite my tongue at that.  I have had two years of experience with her and the other residents of Memory Care, and I think I know what keeps her grounded better than you.  So shut the fuck up and let me back there.  (No, I don't say that.  But there is no sin in thinking it.  Really loudly.)

She seems OK.  Confused but OK.  She dozes and asks her million questions in between naps.

One of her caregivers, the one she insists is named Patty and the director of Memory Care nursing, who was out shopping when he got the call, show up along with two of my brothers.  Things are tense, but settle into a routine.  She seems OK.  The director departs with assurances I will text him when a decision is made to admit or send her back.  One of my brothers leaves.  I tell "Patty" to go home.  She has the early shift the next day and is coming off a double.

This leaves me and mom with the other bro, the one whose family seemed to take great delight in arm-chair quarterbacking every decision that has been made on her behalf, the one whose kids were adept at social media shaming and bullying to the point of unfriending them, the one I haven't spoken to or wanted to speak to in over a year.  He hasn't really paid any attention to mom or spoken to her.  Such is his MO.  It's all about being seen and being seen doing "the right thing."  But now his audience is gone, so he starts in on me about some political agenda that is designed to slam the Affordable Health Care Act, President Obama and everything that threatens his privileged white male world - which is every damn thing on the planet apparently.

In that moment, I do something I rarely do.  I tell him to stop talking.  Not shut up.  Just stop talking.  He knows absolutely nothing about the subjects he is about to expound upon and hearing him speak right now, or ever, on the issue of politics, women's rights, immigration just makes me embarrassed to share blood with him.  I just can't listen to him.  Not now when my mom is lying in an ER bay with EKG leads, an IV and all the trappings of an ER visit hooked up to her.  Not now.  Not ever.

For once he does what I ask and stops talking.  Clearly at a loss for what to do when his mouth isn't running.  I don't want to hear his voice.  I want to focus everything I can on the small woman in that bed without his teeth-gritting distraction.

When we get the word all is well, I ask if he will take her back to the Manor.  I will follow and get her settled, but getting her into my SUV seems risky.  He seems put out at first.  Tells me how it's passed his bed time.  I do not give a shit.  He agrees.  Grudgingly.

He hugs me later.  I still vomit in my mouth a little when he does.  But am glad that he did at least that little bit.

Today, when I went to visit her, she was freaking out about not having Christmas gifts.  I told her she had already given me the best gift by being OK.  We went on with our adventures in Memory Care from there.  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

DI - wrapup

So I wasn't perfect about posting every day.  Who cares it's vakay right?

This week the girl got a little brush up on Newton's third law of motion and discovered that the force applied to an immovable object is translated back into the object striking it - re: granite coffee table and baby toe.  Results of experiment: broken baby toe and quite possibly the most extensive bruising I have ever done on a foot.

The toe kinda curtailed the beach walks since the sand was enough to make the girl fall over - repeatedly.  I did manage some additional time at the Audubon sanctuary, but saw no additional birds beyond those that were there the last time.  Still, it is a peaceful place with a good bench for sitting and thinking.

I spent quite a while watching a great blue heron so well camouflaged in the reeds, that I can't see him in the photos.  I figured whatever he was hunting was toast.  Then I wondered - What was he hunting?  Small fish was my guess.  Spawning circular thoughts about the hunter, watching the hunted.

I watch the heron
the heron watches the fish
the fish watch the dragonflies
the dragonflies watch the mosquitos
for which I am grateful as hell.

Look for yourself in the photo below - heron-go-seek





Thursday, October 22, 2015

DI Thursday

Clearest of blue skies.  Windy.  Kitesurfing on the sound side.  Regular surfing on the Gulf.  I used to think of the Gulf as a tame beast, until I came here.  It is no beast that can be collared.

Yup.  Took yesterday off to do some "real" writing.  Those are the words I use in my head.  How they belittle every effort that they deem unworthy - which is pretty much everything I write.  I call Bullshit on that.

I had gotten behind on my Inked Voices submissions and critiques.  I got caught up on the critiques and typed up my next two submissions and well.....submitted them.  Feeling decidedly less angsty now that is accomplished.

Mostly I spent the day with my foot in the air after trying to punt a granite topped coffee table and failing.  Baby toe - 0 : Coffee table - 1.  Result broken toe.  Today the color is spectacular, baby toe is deep purple and most of the right side of the foot is a reddish mauve.  Glad because there is little to no pain even when I walk on it.  WHEW!

At about 3PM, I realized I hadn't gotten dressed and pretty much just said Fuck it and stayed in my jammies all day.  I also recognized I hadn't brushed my teeth (Gross) which I quickly and vigorously amended.  I threw open all the doors and let the Gulf breeze blow through.  I spent the night wrangling flies, but it was so worth it.  I have been sleeping with the windows open despite the coolness, despite the dampness just so I can go to sleep with my ears full of ocean song.

I miss that back in KY.  I love my state with its wild child beauty, but there's some alchemical reaction to being near the sea.  I feel more me somehow.  I give less of a fuck about things outside me.  My ears, that are silence seeking, here rejoice in the tossing of waves, the mutter of gulls, the ridiculous flight of monarchs.

I have today and tomorrow before I head back.  Think I will go dip my bruised up spirit and my bruised up toes in the Gulf.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

DI - Tuesday

Everything is steel grey green.  The sun lies blanketed behind the clouds.  Does it not know I am on vacation?

I don't really feel like writing this morning.  I had trouble sleeping last night, and when I finally did my dreams were terrible.  I kept having to call in Olivia Benson.  Dreams involving her suck.  I finally woke at 1 to pee (bc old) and couldn't go back to sleep.  My back hurt.  Instead I started "writing" my V-Day piece in my head.  That opened drawers better left closed at night when one is trying to catch some zzz's.  I closed my eyes, but my brain just raced on and off topic like an errant thoroughbred.  I just couldn't reign it in, no matter how hard I tried.

I finally moved from the murphy bed with its aqua blue beach glass movable walls (my favorite feature of the house) into the master bedroom.  I don't like this room, and rarely sleep there.  It is dark and spartan in its design.  This room is the opposite of the glass enclosed one.  It is all masculinity and right angles.  It is direct and graceless.  This bed has a Tempurpedic mattress which I love, but it's coated with some kind of plastic that makes me hot and not in a good way.  I like the room to be cool, to have an excuse to dive under the duvet and float it around me like a cloud.  So I opened the window, read a little and let the rollicking wind whisper stories to me all night.

I did finally go back to sleep.  No more rape dreams.  And woke to a day as gray as any I have had out here on the Island.  As if somehow my dreams influenced the atmosphere and said "You must use the Payne's Grey with everything dahling."  My eyes keep checking the windows waiting for the deep aqua, the cerulean, the butter yellow to return.  But they haven't.....yet.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Dauphin Island - Monday

Yesterday I stepped on a shell or piece of glass in the sand, sliced open the underside of one toe.  So just admiring the beach from afar today while it heals up a bit.  Four foot rollers out on the Gulf, the same steady whitecaps on the Sound.  Those are most adequate companions for a Monday.

Night comes quickly after sunset here.  I walk the short distance back to my house even as the colors fade to indigo.  I make my rounds and gently close all the curtains on another day.  There is a certain peace that blooms inside when I do this.  I don't have to close them, there are almost no other people around.  But there are the nesting turtles or hatchlings that might grow disoriented by the house lights to consider, even though I am sure it is not time for either of those.

Then there is the dark to consider.  When I step out on the deck at night, the stars are vivid and bright.  Orion positively blazes above my head.  I spin in delight trying to take all of it in.  A light stabs into my eyes from the house next door - unrented.  Why does the exterior light need to be on if no one is coming home?  It contaminates my perfect dark.  I don't want to contaminate anyone's dark, so closed blinds are a must.

In the morning there is the opposing ritual of opening the curtains, of inviting in the light.  Where the evening ritual brings peace, this one is an energized joy as I take a moment to take in the view from each door and window, visiting with them like old friends.

A memory surfaced this morning as I brushed aside yet another curtain and stared out into the Gulf, of my grandparents doing this exact ritual at their lake house.  Closing the curtains at the end of the day and opening them up again in the morning.  My brothers, who stayed in the room above the boathouse, were not allowed up to the cottage if the drapes were closed.  I am sure they did this even when the boys were not there.  My grandmother continued to do it when they moved to Cali.

Such a sweet memory that I had misplaced jostled free by unforgiving wind and four foot rollers in the Gulf.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dauphin Island - Sunday

It is the windiest out here exposed on the west end.  Having coffee and watching kite surfers in the sound.  My science brain trying hard to puzzle out the physics of how the kite can drag you up and down the sound as it plows straight in off the water at right angles.  Science brain is failing.  Yes, it could use the googles, but the rest of me is content to let it remain a mystery as they let the kite draw them twenty or thirty feet into the air.  It must feel like flying.  How long have we humans been dreaming of that?

Yesterday I did my sweep for letterboxes.  I found three.  One I could not find discreetly.  One I got caught up in some impromptu birding.  The latter I will try again.

I went to Ft. Gaines.  This place creeps me out.  Last time I went I was the only visitor and the whispers and voices were do damn loud.  This time there were many families with children that blotted out what the stones knew.  Or maybe the ribald wind drew them all off shore.  History is good to experience en place, but military establishments are plagued with voices.  Each with its poignant story to tell.  To linger there is to bog down in sadness.

There is an Audubon Sanctuary on island.  This, by contrast, is one of my favorite places.  A short trip into the woods and I was mosquito buffet.  Luckily I have some Skeeter Skeedaddle in the car (recommended to us in Maine).  It smells great and works.  Every visit I get to meet some new avian passerbys.  Yesterday there were the usual things one expects in the low country - egrets and herons - but there were also bald eagles, osprey, kestrels, woodpeckers.  I know this because there are a number of birders on the island right now.

It was nice to have some people to chat with.  I miss that when I travel alone.  They were incredibly friendly and knowledgeable about the birds.  I enjoyed listening to them point and identify the five great blue herons roosted in the tree in front of me.  I probably would have missed those without that.  They asked me questions and I felt included.  But when I tried to ask about what kind of bird I saw winging by, they closed ranks in drill team precision and cut me out.  Because I am socially obtuse, I asked again, they talked louder among themselves.  I got the point.  I returned to silently watching my surroundings while the hens clucked and chattered around me on the observation deck.

Things took a decided turn south (pun intended) when one of them spoke disparagingly about evolution.  I forget that people still think of this as Darwin's joke.  Many clucks and nods of agreement.  Uh-oh.  I could feel the arguments forming in my gut.  I clamped down on them tightly.  I am a stranger in a strange land called Alabama.  Oh wait no.  That's part of my country.  Still arguing would fall on deaf ears and would spoil my day.  So, I sat quietly breathing in ocean air and shutting out their words.

Conversation came back around to the common ground of birds and I let their voices in once more.  I love learning new stuff about nature.  I sat quietly and listened like I was in school.  Someone pointed out a sundog and that's when they really annoyed me.  Suddenly school became church and it was "praise Jesus this" and "god almighty that."  I shut them out again until one of the ladies turned to me and pointedly asked, "Don't you agree?  How can you look at all this and not believe in god and the saving grace of his son?"

To which I replied, "I believe in the First Amendment," and just for fun I tossed in "Ah salaam alaikum," and excused myself.  One older woman, who was not part of the group, chuckled.

I could hear the rest behind me gasping, chattering, trying to put their hen brains together and come up with any smattering of history that might help them decipher what I had said.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Posts from Dauphin Island Saturday

Today, if I were home, I would still be abed.  Hiding from life under the covers and telling myself it was self-care.  Here, on the island, I am up with the sun.  Coffee is made.  Oatmeal consumed.  Now it's time for some writing and then off on an adventure.

The wind is wicked this morning.  Pelican fishing so close in on the Gulf side.  Angry white caps on both the Gulf and the Sound.  I watch the pelicans for a while, but it's some low flying raptor that catches my attention.  It is struggling mightily against the wind and I wonder what kind of prey is worth that?

The island is so different that it is in Spring when I usually come.  No palmetto bugs for one (thank you baby jeesus).  The crowd is thinned and more prone to snowbirds than families.  The air is different too, less wet, howling, just the way I like it.  The angle of the sun is less abrasive, more like a lover's caress.  The slanting fall light is beautiful everywhere, but here it is like bathing in liquid rose gold.

I sighed, actually sighed, OUT LOUD when the giant ball of the sun slipped below the horizon last night.  I did not join the sacrament of the setting sun in the West End Beach Park the way I will later in the week.  Instead I hugged it close to my heart.  Breathed in the mercurochrome redness of it.  I am home.

Posts from Dauphin Island - Friday

I am on vacation this week.  My first real time away from home in two years.  I am snugged up tight in my little green beach escape out on Dauphin Island, AL.  I have never been down in October and have no idea what to expect.  This week I will be posting a daily fast write (WiFi permitting) before I go out and stick my toes in the gulf.

I am tired.  Not that physical tired, but a deep emotional out-of-gas tired.  The kind, if I tried to push through, might have bad results.  This past year taking care of the mama has been amazing, but taxing.   I recognized this coming and booked my favorite beach house on my favorite beach in all of the US.

The drive down was mostly uneventful except for the exploding toilet in the welcome center rest area in Alabama.  I was sure this was some kind of punishment for the the War of Northern Aggression.  Oh, but wait, I live in a state below the Mason-Dixon too.  Stupid toilet.  This little incident might have ruined the day, had it not been for a tiny fashionista who commented on my new shoes which happen to be Skechers.  Fashion conversation with a seven year old ensued.  I told her not to use the exploding toilet, to which she answered "Ewwwwww" like only a small girl child can.  That perfectly voiced my own feeling.  We agreed we rocked the Skechers like a boss and proceeded to runway stomp out of the bathroom.

Part of the reason I love traveling by myself is stuff like this, small connections that are made and dissolved in a blink of an eye.  Those happen less when I travel with someone.  Perhaps I am more focused on them or the destination or something.  Maybe it's as simple as relaxation kicking in and feeling like there is time.  Time to be kind.  To talk to strangers.  To capare shoes.  To giggle.  To be someone else.  To be more me.  All of the above.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Journal Entry

People may think I am a fool.  I have been told as much by a friend, now former friend. Others will think me a saint. Equally untrue. I am just me. I am no saint. I am no fool.

I take care of my mom, spend time with her, love her because I choose it. That choice is rooted in neither saintliness nor foolhardiness. I have chosen it.  I continue to chose it. There is no more to it than that. That choice is sometimes selfish, sometimes duty-bound, but always it is about love. So perhaps the saint/fool proclaimers just don’t understand the choices that love makes.

There are parts of love that are soul-crushingly difficult and love does them anyway. Love finds new ways to be that are expansive. That soul crushing feeling is an illusion. Nothing can crush your soul silly girl. Maybe it’s more like the sermon about passing through the eye of a needle. You push yourself through the bottleneck and are soul birthed into something wider and more expansive. Thoughts and feelings are different, clearer. I am mostly sure that fear of that tight place keeps many people on the other side. Keeps them small and blind like cave fish evolving in the dark to fit their limitations. They create worlds and gods and reasons and all the universe to fit into their small space. I say that without condemnation or judgment. More to describe what held me in the small space.

I am a selfish private creature. I know this about myself. Taking care of my mom, spending time with her, accepting how she is, loving her throughout – those actions shoved me through the bottleneck and I feel capable of truly loving another human being for the first time in my life. Not in the way a child loves the mother, or the mother loves the child. Not in the way of lovers or of friends. I expect nothing. In return, I receive everything.

Every small smackerel of love that felt withheld, that felt a reward for good behavior, that felt a show for looking eyes, that felt tethered with a thousand strings that might yank it away at any moment. None of those exist where we are now.  There is only a wide open field of love before us where we untie and run free. There are a thousand ruby red kisses.  Kisses in the garden, in the hallway, over dinner, snuggled in bed. I am no longer afraid to have people see me kiss her.  We have reached a new level of intimacy, where kissing her on the lips no longer bothers me. In fact, it seems an appropriate way to express how I feel. There are unmandated hand holdings based on her need and my desire to comfort her. There is much touching that comforts us both.

We could not do this thing before Alzheimers racked her brain and destroyed her defenses. Now I cross her Maginot line and I let her cross over mine. Of all the gifts my mother has given me, of all the lessons she has taught me, this one is the greatest and most needed.

This experience that is breaking my brothers is somehow making me whole. I see myself clearly for the first time in a long time, a lifetime. I have all the power here. I could destroy her with a single word. I dreamed those words of comeuppance once, but no more. There is no power, no responsibility. There is only the desire to make her laugh, to sit in quiet communion and watch the bees as they spelunk into the irises. There is time spent doing her nails, her hair hoping she will see herself as beautiful if only for a moment, for once in her lifetime.

Finally, there are the moment snuggled in her bed. Sleepy words on her lips. I wish I could record these words. I fight the urge to spring up for pen and paper to write them down knowing that action would destroy the very moment I wish to capture. Instead, I let them be. In those quiet moments inside the circle of our arms we lie face to face and speak truths that are too profound to record. Truths that seem as if god and all the universe slips into our unguarded mouths and speak directly to me the words I need to hear.

Monday, May 18, 2015

B is for Butterfly

My mom's bestie of 65+ years passed away in November of 2013.  My mom, already rattled with Alzheimer's, seemed to lose it after that and we moved her to Memory Care a few months later.

Her bestie, Mrs. B, was one of the most kind-hearted women I have ever met, a natural nurturer.  She became involved with the local butterfly exhibit at the Krohn Conservatory when it first started and continued to be a vital part every year for the next 18 years.  She fed the caterpillars daily and pinned pupae so that there was a constant and steady stream of butterflies to delight the crowds.  All of her work was behind the scenes.  All of it for the enjoyment of others.  Mrs.  B was just like that.  I never went that I didn't feel her in every butterfly.  She WAS the butterfly show to me.

Mom's new tribe of Memory Care took a field trip last week to the Krohn.  When I asked about it mom waxed on and on about this butterfly that landed on her hand and stayed there for fifteen minutes.  She was quite proud of herself since no one else had attracted one.  I was stoked that she remembered since her memory is so bad.

I gently reminded her how Mrs. B helped with the butterflies every year.  She looked at me in her childish way and said, "Do you think she sent the butterfly?"  To which I replied, "I think she WAS the butterfly."  She was satisfied.  So was I.  It was like Mrs. B. had stopped in to check on her.  Mrs. B is just like that.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

5.2.15

Saturday evening I spend with my mom in Memory Care.  Most Saturdays pass smoothly in the routine of dinner, shower, manicure and Crazy 8's all woven through and around (and around) with the same questions.

When can I go home?
How was your week?
Who lives in my house?
Where are my mom and dad?

I have become accustomed to it all, to providing her with the answer least likely to provoke her, sometimes leaving the truth far behind in my wake in an effort to have calm.

Some Saturdays are rougher than others as I watch this loving spritely woman twist and fold into something small and terrified as the night comes on.  It is in those moments when she is least herself and more other.  It is in those moments that reassurances and calm need to reign.  And it is in those moments when I can no longer see her in there, just stark terror in her eyes.  There is no recognition of who I am other than someone familiar and comforting.

Such has been our pattern for the past few weeks.  I have tried to adapt again, tried not to do things or say things that will upset either of us.  But last night I had to know and asked her who I was while she struggled in the deepest dark.  And she didn't know.  I didn't need to ask that question, I already knew the answer.  Hearing her say she didn't know opened up a new kind of pain for me.  Pain that I immediately stuffed, stuffed, stuffed down so I could finish the routine of putting her to bed.  My own needs always secondary to hers while I am there.  I would cry on my own time in the car on the way home by myself.

As I was leaving one of the new male residents was in the hall.  He looked at me and said "You're fat."   Uh....yeah captain obvious.  I was pissed off, continued out the door fuming before I said something I might regret.  I made up responses both clever and cutting the whole way home.

I know his comment was unintentional and chastising an AD patient is like chastising a child.  So, I'm glad I didn't smart out a response.  And his comment at least kept me from fixating on the sad end to my visit with the mama.  So in some ways it was a blessing.  Guess I should thank that dude instead of slapping him.



Saturday, April 25, 2015

Honda FW 4.25.15

I am having my car serviced today and waiting the three hours while that happens.  I don't really mind all that much.  It's mostly quiet and without the distractions of writing at home.  If only there were better coffee....sigh.

As I am reading USA today (what a rag) and organizing my cubby to writing specifications, a young woman walks by chattering excitedly about an interview she has at the place where I have worked the last 30 years.  Was I ever that excited?

Ayup.  And mostly I still am.  I have felt like that every time I started back there in a new lab and have felt what it's like to have to walk away from it twice through no choice or fault of my own.  I recognize that each of those leavings was necessary and good, but man did they smart.

The woman is young and starting her career.  Everyone is excited at that point.  The thing that interests me is how have I hung on to that feeling for 30 years?  Good question.

The most obvious answer is that my job and my personality are a perfect match.  I see younger people at my job, trainees working on a PhD or toward a career, get burned out and move on to something else.  Sometimes it's about money.  You don't get rich doing research, not as a research tech.  Sometimes it's about the hours.  Research takes some long and grueling hours interspersed with weeks of reading and boredom.  It's just not for everybody.  Some have the desire but have what we call "bad lab hands" meaning everything they touch turns to shit.  Some have golden hands and bodacious luck, but lack the drive.  There are countless other reasons.  So how have I managed it?

Because there are these magical moments where it all comes together, the curtain opens and the answer is revealed.  For that split second, I am the only one who knows this thing.  That feeling is the best drug on the planet.  And like a monkey trained to push a button to receive the food pellet, I will push that particular button over and over to get to that reveal.

As to why I am still at the same institution?  I drank that Kool-Aid long ago.  I believe in what they do and anything I can do to forward that, I'm all in.  Oh, I may bitch and complain about it sometimes when people are slobs or I get stuck in the backwater eddy of protocols and forms, but I really do love my job.  I am the luckiest woman on the planet to be so happy in my work.  Not many people can say that.

I hope the young woman gets her job.  And I hope that 30 years from now she is just as excited about it as she is now. It was nice to be reminded of my fortune on a random Saturday while waiting for my car.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Happy BD Da 2015

Tomorrow is my Dad's birthday.  He would be 94 if he were still alive.  But he died in 1984.  Those 31 years have gone by so quickly for this daddy's girl.  I have written about him many times - sometimes on his BD, sometimes on the day he died, rarely on Father's Day.

I miss him.  The way he smelled of Marlboro Reds and Old Spice.  The way he salted and peppered his entire plate before tasting it which drove my mom nuts.  His trick knee that I recognize now as a bad ligament just like mine.  His love of hair tonic that seems an age past.  The way he worked constantly as if he had something to prove to the world, to himself.  His resolute dedication to the Virgin Mary.  His love of my Mother for better or worse.  A worse in which he never abandoned those vows.  He took vows and promises seriously, as do I.

Sometimes I find it difficult to see him in me.  I look like my mama.  But inside I am a more equal mix of both. That romantic emotional side of me - that's all my dad.  I think that surprises a lot of people, that my squishy mushmellow insides did not come from my mom, but it is what it is. My mom is a strong fierce Valkyrie.  My dad cried at episodes of Lassie.  To the world I inherited the Viking horns and breastplate from the mama.  And I keep them.  They are a good protection against a tender paternal heart.

I am now  a mere 10 years younger than he was when he passed away. And I ask myself, if all I have left is ten years, what do I want to do with it?

Whistles and walks away from the computer................


Sunday, March 22, 2015

I have had many mentors over the last 50-some years, mentors that made me laugh, made me cry, made me run like hell.  For the last few years, one of my mentors has been Alzheimer's.  It may seem an odd thought, but that makes it no less true.  I would even dare to say it has been my best mentor, the things I learn easily spilling over into my life the way important notions often do.

This week, I returned to Memory Care after a two week hiatus.  Care giver burn out.  Burnout that had started to ooze into my body causing unruly pain.  Burnout oozing into the writing causing general malaise.  So I took two weeks.  Two weeks that I needed.  No apologies.  Unlike my sibs, I gave people a heads up and asked that they step up their game.  Whether they responded or not, is not my concern.  Or as my new saying goes - Not my circus.  Not my monkeys.  And at the end of that break I felt so much better.  Saying no has been hard for me.  I was pleased with how much easier it was to say no and keep to my two week break.

Mostly, these days I am learning how to live in the moment.  Even more than that, how to celebrate what is.  It may not be what it once was, but what is there is still really good and worth celebrating.  So much easier to do when I stop mourning what there was and really see what is.  Saturday evenings have become simple.  We do dinner.  I help her shower and wash her hair.  I do her nails.  We play crazy eights.  All the while we are talking.  Round and round.  Same four questions.  Tonight they don't bother me.  Instead, I fall in love with her hair.  For 87 she has a full thick head of silvery hair.  When it's clean it gleams like moonlight on snow and neither myself nor the staff can resist running our hands over it.  My mom has always hated her hair.  So this gives me an opportunity to change her thinking about one tiny thing.  I tell her it looks like angel wings and when she looks in the mirror, I can see that she sees it differently, possessed of less self-loathing.  And as she does, she becomes lighter, more fairy-like in her long nightgown.  She is the most beautiful being on the planet.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My Paisley Soul

Inspired by Jacob Nordby's pigeon shit on a parking lot raven.

I remember Sister Sarge, or was it Father Mac, teaching us about our souls in first grade.  I was taught that my soul was a glowing white ball that lived in my chest and that each sinful act I did created a dark mark on that ball.  Why such deep philosophical concepts as sin and soul were being taught first graders seems an even deeper mystery.

I was a willful child and full of sin if you believed what I was taught.  I sinned before my feet hit the floor in the morning and continued sinning all day long.  I imagined that each time I spoke back to my mom, another dark mark appeared on my soul.  Each time I refused to eat something that would feed a starving child in India, another mark appeared.  Each action leaving a soul bruise that never passed through the blue-green stage.  Never healed.  Never went away.  Each mark accumulating one after the other like Pongo and Perdita's pups growing into their spots .

I was also a fairly logical child and knew that this ball must be finite in size, rather like a hard ball, given the description Father Mac had made of it.  The marks too were of a defined size.  Maybe bigger sins left bigger marks and venial sins left tiny ones (I could never get a straight answer on this).  I became obsessed with knowing what happened once my soul was full of black marks.  What happened when the last empty white space got filled in.  I know I asked this question.  I know the answer was something stupid like don't sin.  So the worry and obsessing continued.  How hard would it have been to tell me that confession was like turning my Etch-a-Sketch over and clearing my soul.  Instead, all I got was don't sin.

I just knew that my soul was black and knew that god must have another more elaborate way of keeping tally.  So I proposed in my head that once it was completely black, it acquired red marks.  Once red, it became blue and so on through the rainbow.  And that when I died god would judge me based on the evolution of my soul color sure to bounce me to hell or maybe Purgatory if I was lucky.

I don't believe any of the BS I was taught at the tender age of seven anymore.  I do still imagine my soul as brightly colored.  Today it's a vibrant paisley, made so, not because I have sinned, but because I have loved.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Converstaion With a Rake

The truth is that some days, I do not want to write.  I have things I want to say, but somewhere inside me there's a thing that keeps popping up, like a rake buried in the grass that I step on and it cracks me upside the head distracting me and moving me away from wonder.  Perhaps if the grass were mown, I would see the rake, put it away, walk around it.  Instead today I have stepped out and gotten writing rake bonked a half dozen times.  It's so easy to quit, just flip a bird to the writing and move on with my day.  Today I choose to stick with it, to grab another cup of coffee and write without expectation.  It's OK if it's word vomit.

A Conversation Between Yours Truly and the Head Bonking Rake

Mary to Rake: 'Sup?

R to M:  Same old.  Just hangin' here in the grass.  Waiting for you to step on me - AGAIN.  That never gets old.

M to R:  Yeah - sorry about that.  Why are you laying around in the grass anyway?

R to M:  I'm grounding myself (insert rake laughter)

M to R:  ??

R to M:  Jesus.  It was a joke.  Sense of humor much?

M to R:  Nope.  So really, why aren't you in the garage where you belong?

R to M:  Oh bitch you did not just go there.

M to R:  Go where?  I'm right here.

R to M:  Try to put me in my place.

M to R:  Does that bother you?

R to M:  Yes!

R to M:  No!

R to M:  IDK

M to R:  I feel like that too sometimes.

M to R:  Is there anything I can do?

R to M:  IDK

M to R:  I really do care about you.  And I need you not to just sit around getting rusty.

M to R:  And I'm kinda tired of all this bonking.

R to M:  Then come out and get me and put me away.  Or better yet, use me.

M to R:  OK

R to M:  And mow the grass while you're at it.

M to R:  Couldn't I just get a goat?

R to M:  What-EV

M to R:  Yeah......ILY2.

Mean Girls Are Never Pretty

Mom's sojourn in Memory Care ended when she could no longer stand and became what they term a 2-assist.  She transitioned to Skilled C...