“But inside us there is a word we cannot pronounce and that is who we are.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena


“Perhaps our deepest love is already inscribed within us, so its object doesn’t create a new word but instead allows us to read the one written.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Monday afternoon. Sunny and temperate, 52 degrees.

Well hello. Long time, no write . . .

I have to admit that this latest round of bronchitis left me quite pitiful for much longer than I would have anticipated. In between, I’d have a good day or two, and then the coughing would come back stronger than ever, and I would spend most of the night alternating between hacking up my lungs and giving myself nebulizer treatments.

George Ault January Full Moon 1941 oil on canvas
“January Full Moon” (1941, oil on canvas)
by George Ault

Lovely.

It seems that the worst has finally passed, and last night was probably the first night during which I did not awaken with a coughing fit. Needless to say, I didn’t much feel like sitting here at the keyboard and trying to come up with something witty to say, especially since my wit seemed to vanish sometime around Christmas day. Let’s just say that it’s been a strange holiday season, for a myriad of reasons.

Anyway, I thought I’d make the time today to try to get something down here, even if it’s not much of anything. I just hate that I’m five days into 2015, and I haven’t written or posted anything, not even pictures of the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

“But no life is a line, and hers was an uneven orbit around a dark star, a moth circling a dead bulb, searching for the light it once held.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

I did manage to read a few books since my last missive: Help for the Haunted, by John Searles; Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro, and Deep Water, by Patricia Highsmith, all Christmas presents from Corey. I had added all three to my Amazon wishlist at some point.

Charles Sheeler Bucks County Barn 1923 tempera and crayon on paper
“Bucks County Barn” (1923, tempera and crayon on paper)
by Charles Sheeler

I liked all three, the Ishiguro the most, and the Highsmith the least. I’m not sure if it’s just me, or a phase I’m in, but I’ve been disappointed in the endings of several of the last few books I’ve read. For example, in a book that I read a couple of weeks ago, The Tenderness of Wolves, by Stef Penney, the ending was too abrupt. James Joyce was famous for his open-ended stories, especially in Dubliners. The stories were meant to be a slice of life, and after the ending, it was implied that life continued, and I suppose, since that’s what I expected of Joyce, the open-ended nature didn’t bother me so much. But in Penney’s book, I still had questions.

It’s hard to explain, really, only that I didn’t feel satisfied after turning the last page, and this feeling of dissatisfaction has happened more this past year. Perhaps I am reading with a more critical eye? Who knows. Anyway, reading is pretty much the only thing I’ve accomplished while I’ve been sick, that and binge-watching movies and “Downton Abbey.”

“We twist our souls around each other’s miseries.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Charles Demuth Old Houses 1917
“Old Houses” (1917)
by Charles Demuth

Alexis, Mike, and Olivia got back from Mississippi last week, so this weekend we had our family Christmas dinner with all Filipino food, and then after, they opened their presents. Olivia really liked her drawing easel, so that was a good pick. I know that it will just seem like bragging, but she is scary smart. I mean, she’s two and a half, barely, and she knows her ABCs, numbers to 20, and shapes. She speaks in polysyllabic words, and she’s starting to recognize words when we read.

She’s also very intuitive, and can sense when something is wrong, which is why I’m so worried about her at the moment. Things at her house are quite tense because my daughter is acting up again, and it just slays me that I cannot protect Olivia from this. It’s the elephant in the room that we have all been creeping around so carefully, but things are going to have to be confronted eventually.

I cannot be too detailed because I must respect their privacy. I can only say that far too often, people assume that young children do not pick up on things when it is quite obvious that they do.

Ah, me . . .

“As someone whose days were defined by the ten thousand ways a human can hurt, she needed, now and then, to remember that the nervous system didn’t exist exclusively to feel pain.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Moving right along . . .

Because I was so sick, I never made it to the cemeteries before Christmas to take the poinsettias I had bought for all three graves. The guilt over this is weighing heavily on me, so much so that one time when I opened the sliding door to let the dogs out, and I saw the box of flowers on the steps, I yelled, “I am not a bad daughter, mom.”

Charles Sheeler Winter Window 1941
“Winter Window” (1941)
by Charles Sheeler

I’m not sure how much not having my mom around for the holidays has affected my kids, but it has really taken its toll on me. There is just so much guilt—guilt over being relieved that she wasn’t sitting at the table criticizing me throughout Thanksgiving dinner, guilt over not having to fret over my Christmas presents not being right. And then there is the immense sadness for which I was unprepared—sadness that she wasn’t sitting there at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner complaining, sadness over her not being around to see Olivia at Christmas.

Let’s face it: my feelings about my mother remain highly conflicted, and I doubt that that will ever change. But I could just hear her voice bitching at me because I hadn’t taken the time to put flowers on their graves, because I don’t visit the cemetery enough. And truthfully, I don’t visit enough, but how much is enough?

I know that all of this is self-imposed; still, it does not lessen it in any way.

“How often is immense sadness mistaken for courage?” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

You see, that same day that I yelled at my mother’s ghost, I had picked up David Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which is a pseudo-memoir dealing with the loss of both of his parents within a year. It’s a hard book, mostly because Eggers has continual asides in the form of long notes and explanations, and I can relate to it because it is very similar to my own writing style. I had only made it through the introduction when I decided that I still wasn’t ready to go further, mostly because I knew that delving any further into it would only provoke more strong feelings about my mother.

George Ault Daylight at Russel's Corner 1944 oil on canvas
“Daylight at Russell’s Corners” (1944, oil on canvas)
by George Ault

Did that make any sense?

So I found myself yelling at my mother that I wasn’t a bad daughter, and then I immediately retreated to my bed, in much the same way I did as a teenager when I felt overwhelmed. And all of this is probably boring you to tears if you’ve managed to stay with me thus far, but I can only say that I had a feeling that I didn’t have much of any import to say when I began this post, and only guilt over not posting forced me to carry on because guilt is once and forever my driving emotion.

Enough. Perhaps I’ll be able to come up with a new direction soon. With any luck, that is.

More later. Peace.

……forgot to hit post this afternoon……….

All quotes are from the Anthony Marra work, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, which is on my to-read list.

Images are by Precisionist painters Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, and George Ault. I love all of the barn variations. For more on these artists, click here.

Music by Lord Huron, “Ghost on the Shore”

                   

You Were

I am the one standing in the rain,
invisible beside you. I am the one in the dirt
which is now turning to mud around my feet.
I am the one weighed down by each of our partings
and the one lifted up by each meeting,
reachings that could not be completed, that
nevertheless held up the force of their hunger.

And, yes, you were always a seeking, an unknown,
a mystery to me. And not less that I to myself—
beginner that I have become all over again
on the paths and mountain slopes of this journey.
I watch my mind watch each moment in its passage,
it fades into, blends, with what came before.

Nothing remains as it was in the mind
after the path has been seen and walked upon,
there is always the next thing arriving
as if from behind, catching up with one’s sight,
surrounding. And all the while the snows of memory
are falling, covering the roads of the present.

The past overflows this moment without meaning to,
just as your face is more real in my remembering
than this present one sitting next to me,
just as each of us hurt the other without
intending it. And after a time we thought
experience might bring us to calm, and we see

we are standing in the river of passing,
each waiting for the warmth of the other’s face,
unable to understand why they are not with us,
startled by their absence, traveler and traveler
distant as two dots unconnected in a yellow field.

~ William Kistler

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This man is a multiple rapist: Jean-Paul Nungesser


If no woman in your life has ever talked to you about how she lives her life with an undercurrent of fear of men, consider the possibility that it may be because she sees you as one of those men she cannot really trust.” ~ Chris Clarke, from How Not To Be An Asshole: A Guide For Men

Thursday afternoon. Partly cloudy and cooler, 74 degrees.

We have Olivia again today. Alexis has gotten a job at the pizza place just a few blocks from their house. Let’s hope this works out for everyone. Corey is enjoying immensely the time that he’s getting to spend with the bébé, and she loves being with him. I put some Mardi Gras beads on her, and she said, “Show granddaddy?”

Her vocabulary is amazing for a two-year-old, and people think that I’m bragging because she’s ours, but truly, what two-year-old can say with accuracy, “That’s a J” when “Blue’s Clues” pops a big J on the screen and asks what letter it is? She recognizes letters and numbers up to 10, and sometimes up to 20. Even Alexis wasn’t this smart at this age, and she was pretty damned smart.

I’m loving all of it, in spite of feeling pretty horrible. Oh well. Good things.

And speaking of parents and amazing children, I wanted to update you on the ongoing Sulkowicz story. The following letter from her parents is well worth reading in its entirety.

More later. Peace.

“It is clear that Columbia’s misunderstanding of the psychology of sexual assault survivors has contributed to abysmal rates of reporting, with even lower rates of those who continue to an investigation.”

Update:

An open letter to President Bollinger and the board of trustees

On April 18, 2013, our daughter, Emma Sulkowicz, CC ’15, reported that she was raped by a fellow student to the Office of Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct.

What followed was a prolonged, degrading, and ultimately fruitless process. It was an injury to her humanity from what was once, for her, a trusted institution. The trauma of this process has contributed to the rerouting of her life, her identity, and the form of her self-expression as an artist.

Emma’s performance piece, “Carry That Weight,” has galvanized forces around the world for gender equality, sexual assault policy reform, and empowerment of the disenfranchised, and has received praise from the art world. Needless to say, we are proud.

However, as Emma’s parents, we do not want her recent celebrity to be a distraction from the fact that the University’s failure to place sanctions on the man she reported for rape, Jean-Paul Nungesser, CC ’15 (whose name has previously been published by Spectator), is a cause of her continued suffering. The investigation, hearing, and appeals process that followed her complaint to the University were painfully mishandled. We feel that they violated standards of impartiality, fairness, and serious attention to the facts of the case.

Read the rest of this powerful letter here or here.

“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.” ~ Sylvia Plath

Marianne von Werefkin Schneewirbel 1915
“Schneewirbel” (1915, oil on cardboard)
by Marianne von Werefkin

“My pen was idle for a long time, perhaps only because the words found it difficult to cross the hostile space of the minute where man is without memory, where life hangs on a thread, a breath.” ~ Edmond Jabès, from The Book of Questions Volumes 2 and 3: The Book of Yukel Return to the Book, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop

Sunday evening. Partly cloudy and very mild, 76 degrees.

First, I want to welcome those of you who have recently subscribed to my blog. Thanks ever so much.

Marianne von Werfkin Nuit Fantastique, c1910
“Nuit Fantastique” (c1910)
by Marianna von Werefkin

However, I feel I might have done you a disservice. In normal years (whatever those are), my posts are mostly written by me about, well, me, my life, my family, my foibles. This year has been quite different. After my mother’s death in January, I never seemed to be able to get back into my writing groove, and as a result, my posts are frequently reblogs of articles I find interesting, silly/funny Friday leftovers, and lots of poems and art, with very little of what is actually me in between.

So if you’ve hitched a ride onto my fading star because my blog seems to be more about being entertaining than being about musings, I sincerely apologize for how I plan to change things: I’m going to try to write more and reblog less. You see, even I have grown tired of my rabbit trails here and there, almost everywhere but where I need to be, by which I mean inside my head, sifting and culling thoughts and ideas and generally opining to my heart’s content. I do plan to keep my Friday leftovers and my Two for Tuesday poems, but aside from that, I’m going to begin the last quarter of this year trying to do more of what I need to do: create, write, actually think about things, ponder the relationships between words and phrases, and with any luck, I might be able to recapture some of what I think I have lost recently.

“I shall never know why
Our lives took a turn for the worse, nor will you” ~ Mark Strand, from “The Man in the Tree”

Anyway . . .

This past week has been quite an endurance test for me: I ended up watching Olivia every day from last Saturday through Thursday, with only one night off. Circumstances in my daughter’s household kind of imploded, and out of respect for their privacy, I shall not delve into details except to say that I was left reeling, and I felt that volunteering to watch le bébé was the best way in which I could help everyone muddle through.

Marianne von Werefkin Autumn paren School 1909
“Autumn (School)” (1907, tempera on paper)
by Marianne von Werefkin

You all know that I love Olivia beyond words, but boy is my tired body not up to the challenge of keeping up with a very curious, very active two-year-old. Add to that the challenge of buckets of stress causing my insomnia to rear its ugly head, and the sleep deprivation coupled with the very full days and nights resulted in a physical and mental meltdown for me, one that I couldn’t really share with anyone.

And in between I had to deal with trying to get Brett to the DMV to get his license before ODU starts, finding out that it’s going to cost an arm and a leg to switch around plates on vehicles, and trying to finalize the whole Social Security thing. Not to mention surviving the day on which Brett’s tail lights decided to all die at the same time, ending up with us looking for shade under which I could try to splice wires and change out bulb harnesses (which I did, but it didn’t work).

Man.

Hence, no real posts for the past few days, and more than the usual level of stress and anxiety. My only respite was my evening bath with a backdrop of my blues playlist and a chilled wine spritzer.

“Sometimes we love with nothing more than hope. Sometimes we cry with everything except tears. In the end that’s all there is: love and its duty, sorrow and its truth. In the end that’s all we have—to hold on tight until the dawn.” ~ Gregory David Roberts, from Shantaram

Thankfully, the week ended much better than it began, with the exception of my pain management appointment on Friday, better known as the pain management appointment that didn’t happen. Yep that medical group that has been playing havoc with my body since March of this year finally ended our relationship on a bruising note: I showed up for a Friday appointment at an office that had shifted to Portsmouth in the middle of the month, and apparently, I was told this . . . not.

Marianne von Werefkin Le Chioffonnier 1917 tempera on paper
“Le Shioffonnier” (1917, tempera on paper)
by Marianne von Werefkin

They asked me at 2:20 if I wanted to try to drive to Portsmouth for the 2:40 appointment, to which I replied a resounding no as I do not do Portsmouth. My driving relationship with Portsmouth is not the best as I have yet to enter that city and find any location without first getting lost, so I knew that to try to make an appointment that was 20 minutes from the time I stepped into the defunct beach office was impossible.

Two things happened as a result: First, I was finally given the contact information for the pain management doctor who left the practice in March, you know, the one who I adore, the one who actually makes my back and head feel better, the first one in quite a while who actually listens to me (this information for which I have been begging everyone and anyone with whom I had any contact). Yep, he has opened his own practice, and I finally have the phone number (can I get a hallelujah?)

Second, when asked if I wanted to reschedule, I replied, “No. I’ll be seeing Dr. X from now on.” And I carried my weary, achy body out the door and to the nearest Target, where I spent at least an hour looking at makeup and nail polish that I didn’t need, but I felt better afterwards, nevertheless.

“. . . I recognize the lazy
murmur of August, the carmine of the sea.” ~ Eugénio de Andrade, from “You Are Where My Gaze Begins”

So tomorrow is Corey’s birthday, and he’s spending it on the ship. However, he will be home on Wednesday, and we plan to have a family dinner in honor of his and Brett’s birthdays, neither of which we were able to celebrate. I’m so looking forward to his homecoming, even though he’ll only be home for two weeks this time so that his schedule can finally be synced with his other crew mates who are going to be on the new ship.

Marianne von Werefkin House with Lantern c1913 tempera on cardboard
“House with Lantern” (c1913, tempera on cardboard)
by Marianne von Werefkin

I can tell by his voice that he’s tired, but at least it hasn’t been six weeks this time, which was unbearable for both of us. Now that his sister Alana has had her baby, and we know that everyone is fine and healthy, I think that takes care of one of his major worries. And now that the situation with Alexis seems to have been resolved for the time-being, that is another thing he can stop fretting over.

It’s so hard for him when things are troublesome at home and he is away, and I try not to dump anything on him if I can help it as his focus needs to be on his job when he’s out there. Unfortunately, I am horrible at hiding pain in my voice, no matter how I try. It goes both ways, though. I can read him just as easily from a thousand miles as if he were across the room. It’s that double-edged sword of loving someone completely, which is good, but loving them so completely that hiding anything is impossible, which can be bad.

Oh well . . .

“What would become of us if everything that happens out there were quite clear to us?” ~ Erich Maria Remarque, from All Quiet on the Western Front

Look, I never said this was going to be a deep post, or a moving post, just a real post. I’m working on it. Okay? It’s a process . . .

So I’m trying to begin this week by getting my groove back, as it were (but not as Stella did). I also plan to try to write something to Mari, and to get caught up on paperwork. Okay. Maybe too much for one week, but we’ll just have to see how I do, won’t we?

I do have to say that in recent weeks/months I’ve accumulated a plethora of quotes, art, and songs, so much so that I have about 20 drafts ready to go; I just need to fill them in with my words (just that one minor detail). Additionally, I have that post about Robin Williams that I began about ten days ago, and I do want to finish that, for a number of personal reasons. So let’s just say that I have a loose game plan, and I in coming days I need to remind myself that I’m the only one hanging deadlines over my head, proverbial swords of Damocles, as it were.

Marianne von Werefkin Moonlit Landscape 1907 mixed media on cardboard
“Moonlit Landscape” (1907, mixed media on cardboard)
by Marianne von Werefkin

At the moment, I really need shots from my neck to my butt, and everything in between. I need botox for my migraines, and I need a vacation, but for now I’ll settle for the first two (sometime in the next few weeks, oh please, oh please) with plans for the third some time next year.

I will tell you this: Corey and I might have a short road trip planned to look at some property somewhere in the western part of the state. That’s all that I’ll say about that for now. Can’t reveal all of my cards in one round, now can I?

I certainly asked a lot of rhetorical questions in this section, didn’t I?

More later. Peace.

All images are by Russian/Swiss artist, Marianne von Werefkin (1860-1938)

Music by Rebecca Roubion, “Break”

                   

Summer Solstice

I wanted to see where beauty comes from
without you in the world, hauling my heart
across sixty acres of northeast meadow,
my pockets filling with flowers.
Then I remembered,
it’s you I miss in the brightness
and body of every living name:
rattlebox, yarrow, wild vetch.
You are the green wonder of June,
root and quasar, the thirst for salt.
When I finally understand that people fail
at love, what is left but cinquefoil, thistle,
the paper wings of the dragonfly
aeroplaning the soul with a sudden blue hilarity?
If I get the story right, desire is continuous,
equatorial. There is still so much
I want to know: what you believe
can never be removed from us,
what you dreamed on Walnut Street
in the unanswerable dark of your childhood,
learning pleasure on your own.
Tell me our story: are we impetuous,
are we kind to each other, do we surrender
to what the mind cannot think past?
Where is the evidence I will learn
to be good at loving?
The black dog orbits the horseshoe pond
for treefrogs in their plangent emergencies.
There are violet hills,
there is the covenant of duskbirds.
The moon comes over the mountain
like a big peach, and I want to tell you
what I couldn’t say the night we rushed
North, how I love the seriousness of your fingers
and the way you go into yourself,
calling my half-name like a secret.
I stand between taproot and treespire.
Here is the compass rose
to help me live through this.
Here are twelve ways of knowing
what blooms even in the blindness
of such longing. Yellow oxeye,
viper’s bugloss with its set of pink arms
pleading do not forget me.
We hunger for eloquence.
We measure the isopleths.
I am visiting my life with reckless plenitude.
The air is fragrant with tiny strawberries.
Fireflies turn on their electric wills:
an effulgence. Let me come back
whole, let me remember how to touch you
before it is too late.

~ Stacie Cassarino

“The loveliest things in life are but shadows; they come and go, and change and fade away . . .” ~ Charles Dickens, from Martin Chuzzlewit

Kayama Matazo A Thousand Cranes 1970 color on silk, pair of six-folded screens
“A Thousand Cranes” (1970, color on silk, pair of six folded screens) by Kayama Matazo

                   

“I heard the steady sound of rain
and the soft lapping of water, and did not know
whether it was grief or joy or something other
that surged against my heart
and held me listening there so long and late.” ~ Peter Everwine, from “Rain”

Monday afternoon. Sunny and cold, 37 degrees.

Well, it’s been another long stretch between posts. As you can probably understand (or perhaps not), I haven’t had the wherewithal to write. I sit down here at my computer, and then I do one of three things: look online for books or makeup or whatever; take care of more of my mother’s affairs; play spider solitaire.

Kayama Matazo Moon 1983
“Moon” (1983) by Kayama Matazo

This morning when I awoke, I seriously thought of just staying in bed, never leaving, but my back hurt, and I needed to stretch, and besides, coffee . . .

My emotions go up and down and up and down, they swoop and swirl like the starlings’ murmurings, but without the natural beauty. I would like to be a bird, to float on the air, to move like that, to concentrate only on the concerns of eating, moving, and surviving, which, I suppose, is what life is, after all.

Sometimes, I sit in the bath at night with nothing but the candlelight, and I cry, sometimes softly, sometimes loudly, but I try to reserve the loud crying for times during which I am alone as I know that it gets to Brett and Corey. Sometimes, though, I just sit there, forget where I am or what I’m doing. I will tell you something truthfully: I did not anticipate how very much my mother’s death would affect me. I only have one message on my voice mail from her, and it’s the one in which she apologizes for forgetting my birthday. Do not ask how many times I have tortured myself listening to it.

“When things break, it’s not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It’s because a little piece gets lost—the two remaining ends couldn’t fit together even if they wanted to. The whole shape has changed.” ~ David Levithan, from Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Yesterday I went to one of those jewelry parties at my cousin’s house. It was nice to be invited, but I felt clumsy in my skin. All of these women, having easy conversations, laughing, smiling, sharing stories. I sat next to my aunt, and when she wasn’t there, I buried myself in catalogs, pretending to peruse the items.

I do not do socialization with strangers well.

Kayama Matazo Waves in Spring and Autumn 1966
“Waves in Spring and Autumn” (1966) by Kayama Matazo

I forced myself to stay for two hours, getting up, looking, nibbling, and when I thought I had been polite, I ordered the jewelry that I could not afford, thanked my hostess, and left.

Don’t get me wrong, I was so excited to receive the invitation. I sent my RSVP back immediately, and I tried to convince Alexis to go with me (she didn’t). I don’t know what I expected of myself, but I was unprepared for how unprepared I was. As you know, I do not leave the house much unless circumstances force me to, or someone in my family needs something. Perhaps I have forgotten how to socialize. People who knew me years ago would be astonished at the change. When I was much younger, I always had a circle about me; I could be lively, engaging even.

But now . . . I just don’t know, and the not knowing makes me want to hide even more.

“And I still don’t know if I’m a falcon,
a storm, or an unfinished song.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Ich lebe mein Leben in waschsenden Ringen (I live my life in widening circles)”

I have to admit, my unintentional leave of absence from this blog and from tumblr has helped in some ways. I do not remember the last time I went through my tumblr dashboard. I miss some parts of it—finding new artists, new quotes, new poems—but I am relieved from the sense of obligation that I imposed upon myself, that if I missed a few days, I would not stop until I had caught up, going back for days to see what I had missed.

Kayama Matazo Moon 1978 color on paper
“Moon” (1978, color on paper) by Kayama Matazo

As far as being here, though, that was something else. I just didn’t know what to say, and so I said . . .

nothing . . .

An old family friend called me on my mother’s birthday, but I wasn’t answering the phone that day. She left a lovely message, told me she was thinking about me, about my mom, that she loved me. I haven’t returned the call, probably won’t. Not because I don’t appreciate the words, but more that I just don’t think that I have words of my own.

The plan was to have a family dinner on Sunday the 16th, celebrate Eamonn’s birthday, and distribute some of mom’s ashes at both cemeteries (dad’s and Caitlin’s). The plan fell apart. Eamonn was too hungover. We had pizza with Lex, Mike, and Brett, and then on Monday, I made homemade spaghetti for Eamonn per his request. And then the weather got nasty again, and we decided just to postpone the ashes.

They are still in the trunk of my car. And I know that it might seem that that’s a horrible place for them, but I find it comforting, somehow. It’s my mother’s car, and she’s still in it.

Too weird?

“Write with blood, and you will find that blood is spirit.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from Thus Spoke Zarathustra

This week I have doctors’ appointments, and I need to finish wrangling with more of my mother’s affairs, the federal government and GEICO—both of which make me nauseous just to think about. Last week I set up a new insurance policy on her house, and this past weekend Brett spent the weekend in the house. We moved Earl Grey the cat to Alexis’s house, and he seems to have adapted well, so now the house is quiet when we walk in.

Kayama Matazo Flowers 1978 color on paper
“Flowers” (1978, color on paper) by Kayama Matazo

My mother’s house was never quiet. She could not abide silence, which is why at any given time of the night or day you would find the television blaring. But now? Nothing. That is another strange part.

I don’t know. Telephone calls, messages, policies, whatever. Today, I just cannot do it. I just cannot muster what it takes to head once more into the fray, yet I cannot help but feel guilty that I am not taking care of these things. My mother was such a stickler for paying everyone on time, early, never ever late, but I’ve run out of money. I’ve paid everything except for a couple of small things, but it’s the doing that is getting to me. The actual act of doing something.

Pardon me, please. I seem to be saying a whole lot of nothing.

“but I have the kind of patience
born of indifference and hate.

Maybe the river and I share this.” ~ Michael McGriff, from “Catfish”

The other morning when Tillie had awakened me around 4 a.m. to go out, I stood at the door and listened to the birds’ morning songs. I heard a new sound that I have never heard before. I stood there for a while and listened, and then I thought that I should probably record the sound so that I could find out what it was. I finally found my phone, went to the door, and the sound stopped.

Kayama Matazo Going to see cherry blossoms at night 1982
“Going to See Cherry Blossoms at Night” (1982) by Kayama Matazo

I don’t remember what it was, or why I was so enchanted by it. I had thought that it might be a bat, but I listened to some bat sounds online, and that doesn’t seem to be it. I know that we get bats in this area, but I’ve never seen one.

Anyway, I had forgotten how much I love the predawn bird song, something I used to love to listen to when my insomnia was in high gear. There is something beautiful about that hour, when the sounds of cars and trucks are almost non existent, the noise of people is tempered, and only the birds and night creatures hold sway.

The house is dark and still. Everyone else is deep in sleep. Just the dogs, me, and the birds. For that brief spell, it is almost perfect.

The only thing missing is the sound of water.

More later. Peace.

All images by Japanese artist Kayama Matazo (1927-2004)

Music by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera, “Say Something”

                   

The Piano Chord Most Adjacent to the Inexpressible

The piano chord most adjacent to the inexpressible is the
one that dissolves into flocks of flying birds

The tree as it moves through the breeze most
adjacent to conducting the sonorous
filaments of the air stands as tall as a
doorman to an entranceway to the eternal mysteries

The desert most adjacent to spiritual enlightenment is the
one whose dunes yesterday don’t resemble its
dunes today and whose dunes today
have slopes and dips totally ocean-like and unlike any of its
dunes tomorrow

The rain is finally falling after a month of drought
little earth-lips opening to drink in each drop
and the song each water-drinking element sings
resembles the chorus of an ancient opera sung among
cataclysmic rocks above tumultuous seas

There are no people in this poem
they are either asleep or haven’t been born yet
but the sound in the landscape most adjacent to the
deep heartfelt human voice
is the night-cricket seeming to long for a mate wherever
it may happen to hear its lament repeated
incessantly but melodiously through the dark

So like us
in catastrophe or anti-catastrophe
calling out to space from our centrifugal loneliness
with a voice most adjacent to the
silent nuzzling feeler to feeler of ants meeting from
opposite directions
and lights beaming from north and south and brightly
blending somewhere over the
Arctic in a purple and scarlet shivering aurora borealis
whose ripples are most adjacent to the
music of the spheres hanging down into the
visible from the invisible heavens whose
radiant flowing draperies curving through the folding air
they are

~ Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

“He spoke of human solitude, about the intrinsic loneliness of a sophisticated mind, one that is capable of reason and poetry but which grasps at straws when it comes to understanding another, a mind aware of the impossibility of absolute understanding. The difficulty of having a mind that understands that it will always be misunderstood.” ~ Nicole Krauss, from Man Walks into a Room

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Frozen Lake Shore 1964 oil on canvas
“Frozen Lake Shore” (1964 oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

                   

“And you refuse to cry. Smart move, you hear a voice say quite distinctly. You might need those tears someday. And you have been telling yourself the same thing all your life.” ~ Franz Wright, from “The Lesson”

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy and cold, 41 degrees.

Two weeks. Two weeks since I’ve done more than played spider solitaire and shopped my way through grief via online shopping for makeup, nail polish, and books. I won’t apologize. It has worked for me before, and until yesterday, I had managed to hold in all but the smallest of tears.

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Winter Landscape oil on canvas
“Winter Landscape” (nd, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

But yesterday was the killer. Alexis and I were doing more cleaning out at my mom’s house. I was going through mountains of paperwork, some from as far back as 2000, when I came across an advanced directive form that my mother had filled out at some point. It was undated, but it was a shock.

You see, I had told the doctors that my mom wanted a no code, a DNR, that she did not want to be kept alive on machines. Well on this form she had checked that she did want CPR. I have no idea when she filled out this form, and it didn’t quite jibe with what she had said to me, but still. Had I made the wrong decision? Did I do the wrong thing?

It was all too much, and I finally broke down, irrevocably, loudly, lost it, in front of my daughter and granddaughter, and I couldn’t stop it, as much as I tried. The ugly, snotty, loud keening.

What if I did the wrong thing? I will never know, and once again, I have been placed in the position of making THE decision for someone I love, and once again, I have no idea if I did the wrong thing at the wrong time.

It is quite literally tearing my heart into small pieces.

“I gave you sorrow to hang on your wall
Like a calendar in one color.” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “The Nails”

Last night I had a dream that I have during periods of great sadness and stress. My former high school/college Catholic boyfriend has come back, and I have to tell him that I do not love him any more, that I love Corey. And the pain that I see on his face just kills me because I know that I have caused it. Many more things happened, like a ship takeover, and people removing their skin, but his face is what haunts me. I haven’t seen this person since Caitlin’s funeral, but he represents a different period in my life, when I was a different person.

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela  April oil on canvas 1966
“April” (1966, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

So I forced myself to stay in bed for hours, tried to sleep more, tried to sleep away the memory of the dream. It did not work.

So here I am finally, on the day that I had decided that I would try to come back to this forum, this place of confession and reflection, that I would try to resume my relationship with words and images in attempt to creep back into some kind of normalcy. Perhaps I chose the wrong day.

What I am about to tell you might better be left unsaid, or kept to myself. Who knows. I only know that these words must come out else I go back into that place of complete lost control, back into the moment of sheer terror at feeling too much.

For those of you who chose to subscribe in the past few weeks, if you do not really know what I do here, I apologize in advance.

“I live with regrets—the bittersweet loss of innocence—the red track of the moon upon the lake—the inability to return and do it again” ~ John Geddes, from A Familiar Rain

No one prepares you for how it will feel when you lose your second parent. Most people live with a kind of trepidation as their parents age or become ill, live with a sense of dread at how it will play out in those final days. But how many people tell you how to prepare for that second loss, for the moment you enter the classification of orphan?

Okay, I know. Not really an orphan in the true sense of it, but orphan, no parents, nevertheless.

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Autumn Landscape oil on canvas 1957
“Autumn Landscape” (1957, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

Let me back up a few paces. I had the same two parents my entire life. Today that is a rarity of sorts. No divorce, no steps. None of that. And even though my parents’ marriage was troubled in so very many ways, they were my parents, my touchstone to family, and when I lost my father, I was cast adrift in a way that I cannot even begin to explain.

I’m an only child. Sorry. I was an only child. The loss of my father wounded me, tore at me, left me feeling not only sad, but scared. Now I had to take care of my mother, and I knew that I would never be able to do it in the way that she needed, and honestly, I failed her in so many ways. But back to the original point: When you lose that second parent, and you are an only child, there is no one else left to tell embarrassing stories about you at family dinners. There is no one else to remind you of things that happened in your childhood. There is no one else left to brag about you, about the things that you did, about how you participated in the Dances of Asia as a young child before the Queen Mother (found the original program in her closet), about how you wrote for the Norfolk Compass (found an old copy also in her closet) or did that thing or whatever.

There is no one else.

“Tighter and tighter, the beautiful snow
holds the land in its fierce embrace.
It is like death, but it is not death; lovelier.
Cold, inconvenienced, late, what will you do now
with the gift of your left life?” ~ Carol Ann Duffy, from “Snow”

What I found out after my mother died is that she talked about me all of the time, said wonderful things about me to neighbors, friends, whoever would listen. I had done this and this and that.

And I know that I have complained, lamented that she did not share this sense of pride with me, that I had it come to me second hand, but does that diminish it? I cannot tell you as I honestly do not know.

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Snow-covered Telephone Wires oil on canvas 1960
“Snow-covered Telephone Wire” (1960, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

I can only tell you that after my father died, my mother become my albatross, which is a terrible thing to say, but I am trying to be honest here. Listen, this is the woman who said to me on the phone one time that she wouldn’t help me any more if I was dying. I am not making that up. She really said that to me. This is the woman who would get mad at me or one of us and would stop calling for months. The longest time was four months. I waited to see how long it would be.

When I was in a bind and I went to my cousin for help, I begged him not to tell my mother. He couldn’t understand why I was so afraid. I realize now that he never saw the woman that I knew, the one who could be absolutely unforgiving. He knew the funny woman, the one who was sweet and caring, and I’m not saying that she wasn’t, just not so much with me. I’m only saying that if she knew I had borrowed money from someone because I was in a complete bind, she never would have forgiven me, one for doing it in the first place, and two, for embarrassing her.

“The disturbed mind and affections, like the tossed sea, seldom calm without an intervening time of confusion and trouble.” ~ Charles Dickens on grief and how to heal a mourning heart in a letter to his younger sister

My mother reminded me frequently that my credit was shot, that I had run up a bunch of debt after Caitlin died and shopped my way through my loss for three years. She never forgot, and she never forgave. She said to me more than once that she just knew that the bank had closed my account (they hadn’t), that the city was coming after me (they weren’t). She really believed these things of me.

Einer Reuter H Ahtela no title oil on canvas 1946
No Title (1946, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

But this is also the same woman who would drive up in my driveway, honk the horn three times, and give me bags of Russell Stover candy eggs for Easter, or bags of Riesen because she had bought too many, or pork chops. Whatever . . . The same woman who used to take me to lunch when the boys were young and I worked at ODU and had a schedule that allowed me to go to lunch with my family. The same woman who bought me a purple Coach purse.

My mother loved through her gifts. It is a trait that she passed on to me, but I told myself early that I would always say I love you to my children, to my spouse, frequently, and without hesitation. That a gift was good, but a hug was better.

I don’t know if my mother’s inability to hug and to say “I love” you stemmed from her childhood, from days of not having a mother, from the times when her father drank away the family money. I don’t know. She never told me, and I never asked. It’s not the kind of thing that we could talk about.

“But to write is to dignify memory
[…] revives the unremembered” ~ Allan Peterson, from “Footnotes”

Let me pause here. People in general loved my mother. The guy at the Honda dealer who sold her her car told me that she used to call just to talk to him, and the woman in the finance office said that my mother was “so sweet.” Relative strangers loved her.

I suppose I reached a point at sometime in my life at which I no longer expected hugs or declarations of love, but that does not mean that there was not a hole there. She was better with my kids. Sometimes when they said, “I love you Oma,” she would say it back. Sometimes.

Einer Reuter paren H Ahtela The River Freezes oil on canvas
“The River Freezes” (nd, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

As I’ve been working on her house several neighbors have stopped by to tell me how sad they are at her death, to tell me how wonderful she was, how she would do anything for them. I know that they are not just saying this to make me feel better.

Do I sound heartless or just petty? I don’t know. Perhaps I am both. Perhaps I am neither.

In the last few years I knew that my mother’s mind was declining, that she couldn’t remember names of things, that she was becoming more confused, and Corey and I had had the discussion more than once about what we were going to do. My mother would have hated being in any kind of assisted living. About five years ago, maybe a few more, I had an ongoing conversation with her in which I mentioned that I thought it would be a good idea for us to sell both of our houses and to buy one with room enough for all of us.

I was willing, but I don’t think that she trusted me enough to try, so it never came to naught.

“What did Time smell like? Like dust and clocks and people. And if you wondered what Time sounded like, it sounded like water running in a dark cave and voices crying and dirt dropping down upon hollow box lids, and rain. And, going further, what did Time look like? Time looked like snow dropping silently into a black room or it looked like a silent film in an ancient theater, one hundred billion faces falling like those New Year balloons, down and down into nothing.” ~ Ray Bradbury, from The Martian Chronicles

As I was going through the papers, I would come across things on which she had written notes to me, things like “Call them as soon as I die to let them know so that they don’t send a check.” That stops you short, I have to say. I came across a note in which she wrote just her name and her telephone number. Was it to remind her? I came across a card she had written to someone saying something along the lines of “I don’t know you. Don’t send me anything like this again.”

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Wintry Source 1962 oil on canvas
“Wintry Source” (1962, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

In the last couple of years my mother, who had been in an ongoing feud with her last living sister, would say that Hilda was hateful, that she was mean. And then my mom would declare that she (my mother) was nothing like that.

I don’t know if my mom remembered that she had told me she wouldn’t help me if I was dying or if she conveniently forgot it. I know that for a while I conveniently forgot it because it was just easier. I was her only child, and like it or not, I had to be the one to take care of things.

So now I’m doing that in the best way I know how, and I have to tell you that at the end of each day for the past four weeks, I have closed my eyes with a sense of failure looming large. I should have . . . I didn’t . . . I wasn’t . . .

“but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain.” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay, from “What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why”

I know what I’m doing. I am aware of the pain I am causing myself. It’s how I operate. I run full steam on a full load of guilt. It began with Caitlin, continued with my father, and now it is here with my mother.

Honestly, I spend so much time these days trying not to let myself think, which is how I come to be spending hours playing spider solitaire and looking for the perfect dark circle concealer. At least I don’t have to leave the house except to feed the cat.

Einar Reuter Pine in Winter Haze oil on canvas 1961
“Pine in Winter Haze” (1961, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

But in those moments in which I allow my heart free reign, I feel more than a bit lost, as in what do I do now? It still hasn’t quite hit me, that my mother is really and truly gone. The other day I was in Wal Mart and I came upon the Rusell Stover Easter candy display, and I stopped short. You have to understand that this was a ritual with my mother, the bags of Easter candy, the coconut chocolate birds’ nests. And there was no one to do that this year, so I grabbed every nest they had and put them in my cart.

And then I turned around and saw the displays for St. Patrick’s Day cards, and for a minute I was brought up short again: My other mother-in-law’s birthday was St. Patrick’s Day, and my mother’s was March 15, and for just a fleeting second I thought about buying birthday cards, and then I had to try not to break down in the card aisle in the middle of Wal Mart.

“I tore a sheet of paper out of a notebook, found a pencil, and decided that this, too, would be a day not to remember.” ~ Laurie Halse Anderson, from The Impossible Knife of Memory

For me, my mother was bags of chocolate Riesen, leftover Chinese food, pancit that she used to make better than anyone I knew, reruns of “Bonanza” on the television, enough of an addiction to QVC that she had a line of credit with them, continual complaints about a water bill that was less than half of my normal one, forgotten birthdays (the calendar in her hall has my birthday circled and the word “Oops” written on it; I haven’t taken that down yet), her firm belief that her cat would only eat certain kinds of food, her love of her yard  . . .

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Light on the Northern Hills 1960 oil on canvas
“Light on the Northern Hills” (1960, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

And yet she was also this short woman who seemed to get smaller each time I saw her. She was visibly fading, and there was not a damn thing that I could do about it.

I have to say, for the record, this really, really sucks.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, thanks. The words came so fast, and truthfully, I could probably write another thousand without pausing, but it’s getting late in the afternoon, and I have to drive to my mother’s house to take care of her cat, yet another thing that is breaking my heart each day that I close the door and hear his pitiful meows.

All images are by Finnish artist H. Ahtela (also known as Einar Reuter) 1881-1968.

Music by Joe Cocker, “Heart Full of Rain”


Cathedral

The ugliest thing in the world
is the truth.

Who doesn’t want to die
like May rain over the lilacs,
like wild carrots in a ditch?

Only fanatics don’t know
that they know this.

I fly through the January night,
low over a snow-covered Europe,
cathedral after cathedral
casting its light out onto the snow:

Never have I seen
never so clearly.

~ Henrik Nordbrandt, trans. Patrick Phillips

“And who would want to descend to the bottom | of a silence greater than the ocean?” ~ Francisca Aguirre, from “From Without”

Waves at Dawn by jemasmith FCC
Waves at Dawn by jemasmith (FCC)

                   

“Did I believe that I had a clear mind?
It was like the water of a river
flowing shallow over the ice. And now
that the rising water has broken
the ice, I see what I thought
was the light is part of the darkness.” ~ Wendell Berry, from “Breaking”

Sunday afternoon. Much warmer, 50 degrees.

I have no idea how far I will get with this post, but I feel a need to at least try.

The last five days have run together into a very strange loop, one from which I fear I may never emerge. Last Tuesday morning (January 28), my mother called me at 6 a.m. in a panic; she had gone out to the garage fridge to get some milk, and she heard water running. It turns out the faucet on the back porch was leaking, not a flood, but not a drip. I told her I would be over in ten minutes.

Castle Dunure Waves by overgraeme fcc
Castle Dunure Waves by overgraeme (FCC)

Now first, the really odd thing: I was wide awake. I had awakened at 5:30 and was fully alert. This is not a normal state of being for me. Anyway, I drove over to her house and tried to shut off the valve but couldn’t. As I was working, my mother was standing there rubbing her chest with her fist, which is something that she does when she is stressed.

I made her a cup of chamomile tea and sat her down on the couch while I looked up the number for a plumbing company that we had both used. I left her sitting on her couch watching television and sipping her tea.

“I draw in a ragged breath, the kind you take when the pain is too deep to cry, when you can’t cry because all you are is pain, and if you let some of it out, you might cease to exist.” ~ Ally Condie, from Reached

I got back home and made myself a cup of tea and opened the book I was reading. Around 7:30 I was picking up the phone to call my mother to see when the plumbers were coming, but the phone rang first. My mother was on the other end, and she said that she thought that she was having a heart attack.  I will admit that I did not believe her because she has been saying that she’s dying for the last four or five months, but I told her to hang up, open her front door if she could, and I would call 911, which I did immediately.

Great Egret (Ardea alba) taking flight to avoid crashing waves
Great Egret Avoiding Waves by Mike Baird (FCC)

By the time I put some clothes back on, brushed my teeth, and raced back over to my mother’s house, which is only two miles away, the ambulance was gone, which I knew wasn’t a good sign. I went into her house briefly to make sure the cat hadn’t gotten out, and just as I was going to call 911 again to see where they had taken her, the phone rang again; it was the rescue squad. They were taking her to Leigh ER.

I got back in the car, turned on the emergency flashers, and tried to make record time. Let me pause here to say that people are genuinely assholes. Each time I tried to pass someone, another person would deliberately block me in. One guy in a van next to me even laughed. It is truly a good thing that I do not own a weapon.

Somewhere in between all of this my mother had called the water company, and they came out and shut off her water until we could get the faucet taken care of.

“And so does my life tremble,
and when I turn from the window
and from the sea’s grief, the room
fills with a dark
lushness and foliage nobody
will ever be plucked from,
and the feelings I have
must never be given speech.” ~ Denis Johnson, from “Now”

I got to the hospital and was sent back to the ER. The cardiologist told me that they were taking my mom to the cardiac catheter lab to see exactly what was going on. I was sent to another waiting room where I began to text everyone to let them know what was going on. Eamonn showed up, and we waited together for some word.

The cardiologist came out and said that they were setting up transport for my mother to the Heart Hospital in Norfolk. He was unable to do any angioplasty as she had too many arterial blockages. They inserted a balloon to try to relieve some of the pain. At this point, I was completely on autopilot, taking in information and disseminating it to everyone as clearly as possible.

Crash Down by Mooganic fcc
Crash Down by Mooganic (FCC)

I got back in the car, realized I had no gas, and went to Costco to get gas. Another pause here: This was the day that the massive winter storm was supposed to hit, and in this area, any talk of snow immediately sends everyone into a panic, so I waited fifteen minutes to get gas, then drove to the Heart Hospital only to find that my mother still hadn’t arrived.

Another waiting room, another wait. Luckily, they had a canteen where I could get coffee that looked like it was pure bitterness, or use the hot water dispenser to make tea. I chose the latter, found an empty computer, and played spider solitaire.

“Melancholy, being a kind of vacatio, separation of soul from body, bestowed the gift of clairvoyance and premonition. In the classifications of the Middle Ages, melancholy was included among the seven forms of vacatio, along with sleep, fainting, and solitude.” ~ Ioan P. Couliano, from Eros and Magic in the Renaissance

At some point during all of this I was finally able to talk to Corey, who then had the decision to make as to whether or not to cancel his training and come home early. We put that decision on hold until we knew more about the situation.

I spent the day in the hospital room with my mother, who was obviously exhausted, waiting for one of the heart surgeons to come and talk to us about options. Around 5, one of them showed up. He had an Eastern European accent, and I could tell that my mother didn’t understand him. He told us that mom was not a candidate for bypass surgery because the damage to her heart was too extensive; also, that she had an aneurysm sitting on top of her heart.

When he left, my mother was extremely upset. She wanted to talk to other surgeons because she was certain someone else would operate. In all, we spoke with three different surgeons, and they all said the same thing: she would not survive the surgery—mitigating factors included her age, how very damaged her heart was, and the location of the aneurysm.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve by donjd2 fcc
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve by donjd2 (FCC)

That evening, Alexis, Brett, and Olivia came to visit, and that really made my mom’s day. She told everyone within hearing distance that her great-granddaughter danced, and Olivia obliged. Brett rode home with me, and we stopped by my mother’s house on the way to take care of the cat. Another aside: I locked the keys in the car, which contained my phone, my purse, and the fast food we had gotten at Wendy’s.

Brett has no spare key to his Honda. Two hours later roadside service finally arrived to unlock the car. I decided to drive my mother’s Honda home because it was higher than Brett’s old one. Turns out it drives really, really well on snow and ice.

What else could possibly go wrong? I should not have asked. By the time I got home that night I was emotionally and physically spent. I fell asleep with the television on.

“Because we are not the owners of anything,
not even of our own pain
at which we have looked with awe so many times.
……….

We are the owners of wishing everything: what sadness.
We are the owners of fear, dust, smoke, the wind. ~ Francisca Aguirre, from “The Owners”

The storm hit as we were leaving the hospital, and it did indeed snow for more than 12 hours. When I awoke, I called Mom, who was resting comfortably. I told her I would be there as soon as I could. That turned out to be hours later.

When I tried to back the car out of the driveway, I immediately got stuck. Brett did some digging, but it was really deep. I took Corey’s truck, which has two bald tires and no brakes and skated to the nearby Taylor’s to get a snow shovel and some salt. I skated back on the icy roads, and Brett got me unstuck. I made it to the hospital around four, and by that time, there were no doctors available for me to talk to. Mom said that they had told her she would be going home on the weekend. I left word that I really needed to speak to the doctors about her treatment plan, and I left around six.

Rehoboth Beach Waves by Clearly Ambiguous fcc
Rehoboth Beach Waves by Clearly Ambiguous (FCC)

It was a helluva of a day, but Mom seemed better. I mean, she felt well enough to criticize me over some minor things, so that was a good sign, and I was really starting to believe that this was yet another in a long line of her being really sick but then getting back to her old self. Part of me now thinks that she really did know that something inside was very wrong.

On Thursday, I met Mike over at Mom’s house because he was going to fix the faucet. He did that and shoveled her sidewalk and said that he would clear the driveway before she came home. Then Brett and I went to the hospital. When we arrived, Mom was wide awake and alert. She had gotten out of bed, and they had disconnected everything except for the oxygen cannula. Mom sniped at me about everything, and I could tell that she was getting antsy and wanted to come home. She was talking about just living her life, going to bingo, doing what she wanted to do.

I spoke with her cardiologist, who said that she would probably be released on Saturday. I spoke with the home health coordinator, and mom got mad over that as she didn’t want anyone coming into her home. She insisted that she took her medicine just as she was supposed to and didn’t need anyone’s help. When we left, she was talking the ear off a nurse. I felt more relaxed than I had in days. On the way home Alexis and I made plans to clean mom’s house on Friday so that she would stop worrying about it.

Thursday night Corey came home.

“I’ve become someone’s idea of me.
You can no longer read the wax seal of the sun.
The trees no longer mention anything about the wind.
I don’t see who could play me later on.
It turns out I am buried myself.
It turns out we are all buried alive
in the chamber of someone else’s heart.” ~ Richard Jackson, from “Antigone Today”

I should have known, but I didn’t, didn’t have a clue. It really did not cross my mind after Thursday’s visit that she wouldn’t be coming home. I mean, when she first went into the hospital, while she was till in CICU, I had that talk with the doctors, you know the one: to call a code or not to, a DNR order, morphine for comfort. That talk.

But by Thursday night I told Corey that I was almost sorry that I had asked him to come home because she was doing so well.

Pillar Rock and Big Waves at Sunset Morro Bay, CA 19 Jan 2010
Pillar Rock and Big Waves at Sunset Morro Bay, CA by Mike Baird (FCC)

I should have known. But I didn’t.

Friday morning at 9:15 a nurse from the hospital called. My mother had died.

They had taken in her breakfast tray. She was fine. Then a short time later alerts went off. She had just died. They think it might have been the aneurysm. She was gone and now I am left to pick up the pieces, to try to keep the family together, to find a home for her cat, to cull through over 46 years of stuff. I’m trying to plan an informal memorial service. She didn’t want to be buried, didn’t want a viewing, didn’t want a funeral, so she’s being cremated.

That last day, when we got to the hospital, I sat on her bed and looked at her, really looked at her. That saying, “looks just like she’s sleeping”? Bullshit. She didn’t look like she was sleeping. Then I did something odd: I opened her eyelids and looked into her eyes. They weren’t cloudy. It was the first time I had looked into my mother’s eyes in years and years and years. It was the closest the two of us had been physically since I don’t even remember when. I held her hand, touched her cheek, and apologized for not being who she wanted me to be.

And then I left.

Music by Rose Cousins, “Go First”

                   

The Oracle

You have gone once more to the seashore
and this time you have looked at the horizon
with a fugitive’s lust.
You have asked yourself with sadness
who in Ithaca would notice your absence:
the sea toward which you always look,
the heavens you never question,
the land that waits for you assuredly.
Your bonds are of an impassive nature.
Are you thinking of destroying them,
are you thinking of escaping by denying
that pathway your feet have made?
You feel it, you don’t think about it;
one cannot ponder devastation.
You look at the water with haste:
with tired haste.

You are like an oracle that does not believe in the future.

~ Francisca Aguirre

“I will vanish in the morning light; I was only an invention of darkness.” ~ Angela Carter, from “The Lady of the House of Love”

411211-12
Winter Landscape (no title, no date)
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

                    

“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?” ~ Lawrence Durrell, from Justine

Sunday afternoon. Cloudy, and much warmer, 62 degrees.

I have been so cold for days now; thankfully the temperatures today are milder, but a cold front is expected to move through the area soon.

Stepan Kolesnikoff title unknown winter landscape
Winter Landscape, title and date unknown
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

Let’s see, things have been taxing. On Friday, I was driving to my much-needed doctor’s appointment with the pain management group when the Rodeo overheated. I drove just a little bit more after the gauge shot up, and I was in the turn lane to get off the main boulevard when the car just died. I added water/coolant to the overflow and put the hood up. Of course it was the coldest day of winter so far, absolutely frigid temps. I’m glad that I rethought my outerwear when leaving the house and exchanged a long sweater for a wool coat and gloves. The only smart thing I did that day.

Would you believe that even with the hood up and the emergency flashers on, people still beeped their horns at me? People are completely stupid sometimes. And the only person who offered to help was a woman, and I politely thanked her, but truthfully, I needed someone to give me a push off the boulevard. Finally a cop showed up, and he pushed me off and into a parking lot, but I had to get out and help him push it into a space so that it wouldn’t roll backwards. Not the best thing for my back, undoubtedly. And of course while I was sitting there I became overwhelmed and texted Corey; I’m sure I worried him by asking him to call me asap.

Add to this that Corey’s check was supposed to show up in the mail on Friday, and it didn’t, so I have a broken vehicle and no money.

Perfect.

“Loneliness clarifies. Here silence stands
Like heat. Here leaves unnoticed thicken,
Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,
Luminously-peopled air ascends;
. . . Here is unfenced existence;
Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.” ~ Philip Larkin, from “Here”

My doctor’s office was very understanding, though. I had called when the car stopped and told them that I was only a few minutes away. They said they would hold the appointment, but then when it was obvious that I wasn’t moving, they offered me a slot on Monday. I suppose I’ll have to drive Brett’s car on Monday, you know, the Honda that he still hasn’t registered. It’s legal to switch plates temporarily in Virginia in situations like this, though.

Stepan Kolesnikoff title unknown
Winter Landscape, title and date unknown
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

The other wonderful news I got this week was that Corey will indeed not be home until after the 16th of January. Because he has the necessary license, they are keeping him on the ship until it gets back in port in Louisiana, and they are not leaving Nicaragua until January 10th because of some port inspection. Further, they are talking about putting him in for his remaining training immediately after he gets back in port, so he may not be home until right before my birthday on the 23rd.

I have to tell you that this was most unwelcome news. I found this out on New Year’s Eve, of all times, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself. I had been alone in the house for days as Brett was out and about, and then I was hit with this. I had never felt so all alone as I did that night, even though I had Olivia with me.

“There is a loneliness that can be rocked. Arms crossed, knees drawn up; holding, holding on, this motion, unlike a ship’s, smooths and contains the rocker. It’s an inside kind—wrapped tight like skin. Then there is a loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive, on its own. A dry and spreading thing that makes the sound of one’s own feet going seem to come from a far-off place.” ~ Toni Morrison, from Beloved

I mean, I know that Corey isn’t happy about the change, but we really don’t have a choice in this. The company needs him for this, and he isn’t exactly in a position to say no. We both know that it’s necessary, but that doesn’t mean that we like it. He sent me a text later to try to cheer me up, and for his sake, I am trying very hard not to be transparent about my sadness.

Stepan Kolesnikoff Winter gouache on cardboard
“Winter” (nd, gouache on cardboard)
by Stepan Kolesnikof

I will admit though that I was brought to tears after hanging up the phone. Here I was on New Year’s Eve, just me, the dogs, and a sleeping baby. Outside, all kinds of celebrations were going on, and people were setting off fireworks in the park. It wasn’t that I wanted to be out in the midst of the celebrations, but more that the celebrations were just a painful reminder of my solitude. The noise made the dogs restless, which only added to my own feelings of restlessness and loneliness.

I am glad that I had Olivia for the night, though, as she provided a much-needed distraction from my pity party. On New Year’s day I made her a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast as she is exploring finger foods, and tried to find comfort in her smile, which is not hard to do.

“If you want to become more than a shadow
Among shadows, you must carry back the memory
Of your father disintegrating in your arms,You must bring words that will console others,
You must believe in stairs leading upward
To summer’s resplendent, celestial blues.” ~ Edward Hirsch, from “Sortes Virgilianae (The Fortuneteller’s Words to the Poet)”

So there’s Corey, and there is the Rodeo, and then there is my mother. My mom has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning as a follow-up to her hospitalization. It’s a check-up, and they aren’t doing any procedures, but she had wanted me to take here, which wasn’t a problem until my rescheduled appointment also fell on Monday late morning.

I had called Alexis to see if she might be able to take mom to the appointment so that I could go to mine, but Alexis didn’t seem that willing to help. I know that she’s kind of caught as she has no drivable car at the moment (runs in the family), but she could take my mother’s car. Anyway, I told my mom that one of use would take her to the doctor.

Stepan Kolesnikoff Derevya aka Trees
“Derevya” (Trees, nd)
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

Now get this—I had told mom about my vehicle and about my rescheduled appointment, and she had no issue with me taking her and then rushing to get to my appointment, but when I mentioned bringing Alexis into the mix, suddenly my mother is fine in going to the appointment on her own so as not to inconvenience Alexis.

Am I being prickly because I find that bizarre? It’s okay if I rush around to take her and try to fit my appointment in, but not so much for my daughter?

Geez.

Of course I feel guilty because . . . whatever . . . guilt is my middle name.

“There is a language older by far and deeper than words. It is the language of bodies, of body on body, wind on snow, rain on trees, wave on stone. It is the language of dream, gesture, symbol, memory. We have forgotten this language. We do not even remember that it exists.” ~ Derrick Jensen, from A Language Older Than Words

Add to this that Corey has asked me to keep the tree up until he gets home. That’s not an issue because it is a fake tree. What is an issue is that my house is cluttered with Christmas decorations, and I’m starting to feel antsy, as in I need to get things back in order. I had Brett take down the outside lights, and I think that this week I’ll take down most of the decorations but leave the tree for him.

This Wednesday we’re going to go ahead and open most of the kids’ presents, rather than have them wait another three weeks. Brett says he doesn’t mind waiting, but I’m leaving it up to Eamonn and Alexis as to what they want to open now. Corey said to leave it up to the kids as to what they want to do. I know that Brett doesn’t feel like celebrating without Corey, and neither do I. Lex and Eamonn are different—not a criticism, just an observation.

Stepan Kolesnikoff Wolf in a Winter Landscape tempera on paper
“Wolf in a Winter Landscape” (nd, tempera on paper)
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

And have I mentioned the ongoing migraine?

So once again I find myself physically hurting and emotionally bereft. I know I wouldn’t have made it as a Navy wife, those six-month long cruises? Never. That’s why I never dated a sailor. It has to be hard on everyone in the family, but they get through, and so will I. I need to stop being so damned pitiful and try to pull myself together. Yep. Going to work on that. Meanwhile, I’ll order some more makeup.

Geez, Louise. Where did that saying come from, I wonder . . .

Oh well, I need to do some laundry and dishes and other exciting things, but I am going to try to read another book this evening, try to get back into my reading groove.

More later. Peace.

All images are by Russian artist Stepan Fedorovich Kolesnikoff (1879 — 1955), also known as Stepan Kolesnikov. It was hard to find titles and dates for most of the works I wanted to include. If you know of any, please pass along the information. Thanks.

Music by Wilco, “Far, Far Away”

                   

Drink

When I woke up this morning
the lark was full of tears.
White, bright hail was frying
on the grass.
Now up against the wire
the falcon wrecks the hen
and carries her gray heart
over the redwoods while the new
sun burns on the former rain.
Crossed by her shadow, my hand
cupped beneath the spigot,
I am drinking last year’s snow.
How bad it hurts
that the mountains ascend
to their ghost-deals white
with the wine of next summer.

~ Denis Johnson