“People melt, break beneath the fire of an intolerable pain in which they, at the same time, are also regenerated.” ~ Albert Camus, Notebooks: 1951-1959

Tree Tunnel, Aberglasney, Wales by Kev Bailey

                   

“Overhead the geese are a line,
a moving scar. Wavering
like a strand of pollen on the surface of a pond.
Like them, we carry each year in our bodies.
Our blood is time.” ~ Anne Michaels, from “Miner’s Pond”

Wednesday evening. Hazy, hot, and humid.

Llanrwst Bridge, Conwy River, Wales

More bad news. How much bad news can any individual withstand before beginning to shut down? Wondering about that.

The contract that Corey’s employer was so certain was going to come through, the one that would have put him in a supervisory position, the one that would have guaranteed him at least 40 to 48 hours a week, that contract? Not happening. So far this week, Corey has worked 12 hours. Obviously, we cannot survive on so few hours, especially with no promise of more to come.

And Transatlantic, that shipping company to which Corey applied months ago and then forgot about because he hadn’t heard from them, that one? They called today to offer him an AB position on the boat beginning in June. Sounds great, right? Wrong. Corey had to let his MMD and his AB certification expire in April because the renewal cost more than we had, and we had planned to use some of the tax return money to pay for that. No papers, no job.

Things just keep getting better and better.

Did I mention that I have a Sisyphus watch? The second-hand is a stick figure of Sisyphus pushing the boulder around the face of the watch. When I bought it for $5 last year, I felt that it sort of represented my life—a constant uphill battle to gain ground. It was a bit humorous at the time. Now, not so much. I wonder if they make a Prometheus watch, you know, the Titan who was chained to a rock in the Caucasus mountains only to have his liver pecked out by a great eagle each day and then have his liver grow back each night.

Obviously my Edith Hamilton Mythology was well read . . .

“This is how my sorrow became visible:
its dust,
piling up for years in my heart,
 finally reached my eyes . . .” ~ Faiz Ahmed Faiz, from “Bangladesh II”

Coastline, Wales

There are other factors at work, here, of course, and I cannot talk about them. And the not talking about it is causing me great internal strife. I can only say that the anger that I did not feel initially has finally risen to the surface, and it is roiling, like a great sea. I have no desire to feel this way. I do not want to own this anger. I want to pretend that it does not exist, be a bigger person. I want to subsume these feelings, to repress them until they disappear, and I wonder if that is possible with a disposition such as mine.

I want . . . such a loaded phrase, one that I use frequently without any real meaning behind it, as in “I want that desk,” or “I want to go on a cruise,” things that I want in passing but know will not happen. But what do I really want? I want not to feel this way. I want not to feel as if I am forever climbing a mountain only to slide back down to the base without ever making any meaningful forward motion.

I want to be happy, I mean really and truly happy, which is quite a statement for me as I know that I do not have a happy soul. I have a deep soul, a thoughtful soul, a searching soul, but a happy, content soul? Can I truly say that I have ever possessed that at any time in my life? No, not if I am to be completely truthful. I mean, I have been happy, and I have felt true happiness at various moments in my life, but I am not that person who walks around with a smile on my face, not the person who walks into a room and makes it brighter just by being there.

I have known people like that. I have envied people like that, but I don’t know that I have ever wanted to be that person. Truth be told—and apparently it is a time for brutal honesty—people who are perpetually cheerful get on my nerves. It’s as if they just put on that freaking happy face and put away any bad thoughts. Bad thoughts, don’t think those, according to the philosophy of my mom. In her words, I dwell too much. Really? Had no idea.

I need . . . almost as loaded as I want. If you were to ask me what I need at this precise moment in my life, I don’t know that I would have an answer for you. So much is unsettled, and so much seems to be out of my control. How does need even fit into that equation?

“Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “The Four Quartets”

Green Bridge, Pembrokeshire Coast, Wales

Christopher McCandless fancied himself a modern-day Thoreau. He renamed himself Alexander Supertramp and went into the wilds of Alaska, only to die of starvation in an abandoned school bus that he had called home. But in those months in which he was in the wild, how alive did he feel? How much of himself did he truly explore? What did he experience during his period of forced solitude, in his determined journey away from society.

I do not desire to go into the wilds of Alaska, but I have always thought that at some point in later life, I would live alone. Don’t ask me why I have harbored this belief as I could not possibly answer you. In my mind’s eye, I live in a small cottage by the sea, close enough to smell the salt air. I have my dogs and my books and my cups of tea. And little else.

But in the here and now, I do not have the cottage or the sea. I only have this deep abiding feeling that there has to be more to life than this. That the dreams that I have night after night about my unsuccessful forays back into the workforce are not just some type of Promethean mind-game, my mind’s way of torturing myself, only to awake to the same thing. My liver has regrown, but I know that the great eagle is coming to attack me again.

We have been on hold for nearly three and a half years. That we have survived is, I realize, something that I should acknowledge as something of a feat in and of itself. But surviving is not living. Surviving is existing.

“We may enjoy our room in the tower, with the painted walls and the commodious bookcases, but down in the garden there is a man digging who buried his father this morning, and it is he and his like who live the real life and speak the real language.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader

Welsh Coastline by SusanAstray (FCC)

Yes, yes. I remind myself that so many more have it so much worse. I try to maintain perspective, but honestly, perspective is not what I want right now. It is hard to wallow with perspective. It is hard to let the heart hurt with perspective. Perspective would tell me to be thankful for what I have because it all could be taken away so easily, in the blink of an eye. Perspective reminds me of the tumultuous weather patterns of the past year and the devastation left in the wake of storms.

But at this moment, right now, perspective is akin to saying that life is a bowl of cherries. In other words, not.

Am I stronger for having endured the last three and a half years? Probably, but I already had to undergo the trials to find my stockpile of inner strength. I did not think that I would have to keep being tested. Is it karma? Joss? Fate? All the same thing, really.

If it’s karma, then what in the hell am I paying for? I am not perfect, never claimed to be, but then too, I am not evil. I do not take pleasure in the harming of others, nor do I take pleasure in the bad fortune of others. So what am I paying for? I am reminded of that movie with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, Se7en, in which the killer is making people atone for their sins, going through the seven deadly sins one by one and meting out appropriate punishment (appropriate in his mind). What is my deadly sin? If anything pride, hubris. The killer in the movie attacked a supermodel for her vanity/pride, and if I recall correctly, he made her decide between death and disfigurement.

Anyone who reads me regularly knows that my pride is not vanity, but rather pride over my brain. Is working your whole life to develop your intellect a deadly sin? Who the hell knows. I just know that I would have rather been reborn as a cockroach than to have to atone for something I cannot identify.

Yes, regrets (as the song says), I’ve had a few, maybe more than a few, but not for most of the big things. So what is it, the great big elephant-in-the-room it that I cannot identify? The it in my life that I have done to cause fate to rain down on me with a vengeful wrath? I have no answers. None.

Enough already. The migraine has arrived and some nerve somewhere in my body is pinched causing my right hand to pulsate.

More later. Peace.

                   

Music by Miranda Lee Richards, “Life Boat”

                   

The Archaeology of Childhood 1: House

If the house in a dream
Is how I imagine myself:
room after room
of furniture no one could use;
stairs leading upwards
to nothing; an empty hall
filling with snow
where a door has been left ajar;
then whatever I make
of the one  room high in the roof
where something alive and frantic
is hopelessly  trapped,
whatever I make
of the sweetness it leaves behind
on waking, what I know
and cannot tell
is awkward and dark in my hands
while I stop to remember
the snare of a heart;
the approximate weight of possession.

~ John Burnside

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How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? ~ Satchel Paige

Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire, Wales by Phillip Capper (fotopedia) 

                  

“In a dream you are never eighty.” ~ Anne Sexton

Ash Wednesday. Cloudy and chilly.

Bamburgh Castle by Anthony Dodd (fotopedia)

I spent nine hours on Monday in the emergency section of DePaul Hospital. This time it was not my mother; it was my mother-in-law, my ex’s mother.

Some people find it strange that I still refer to this woman as my mother-in-law. I don’t find it strange at all; she’s been in my life since I was a young woman. I find it incredible to be able to have two mothers-in-law, both of whom I admire and love. How many people can stay that truthfully? My m-in-l here has Parkinson’s Disease, a very unforgiving disease that takes away chunks of the mind without warning.

On Sunday night, my sister-in-law Ann came over and spent a good hour crying. She had found her mother on the floor of her bedroom on Sunday morning. When asked why she was on the floor, my m-in-law said that “it felt good.” As the day progressed, she was better, but she was still talking a lot of nonsense. I told Ann that I was afraid she might have had a mini-stroke. We decided that we would take her in the next day if we could convince her to get in the car. Turns out, we didn’t have to.

When we got to her house around 9 a.m., she was on the floor of the playroom, the first room off the hallway. She was lying there, and it was apparent that she had been there for a while because her skin was icy cold. I went into the bathroom to get a warm washcloth to wipe her with, and the floor was soaking wet as was everything under the sink. When I asked her if she knew how the bathroom had gotten wet, she told me that the people who live upstairs had left their bathtub running.

There are no people upstairs.

Ann and I called 911, and she was transported to the ER. The EMTs asked her if she knew where she was, and she said that she was at the hospital. They told her that she wasn’t at the hospital yet. One of the doctors in the ER asked her if she knew the date, and Ann and I looked at each other—neither of us knew the date . . . Turns out that my m-in-law was dehydrated and had a urinary tract infection, but the CT scan did not show any signs of a stroke. The doctor admitted her to get her stabilized, but there were no available rooms, so Ann and I spent the entire afternoon in the little ER cubicle. I’m certain that the ER staff thought that we were both batty as we got the giggles more than once, and at one point, we were singing.

It had been hours without food, anything. Ann needed her insulin. I needed something besides Pepsi.

“When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened.  It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it.” ~ Mark Twain

Castle in the UK by Anthony Dodd (fotopedia)

During all of this, my m-in-law was in and out of reality. She would be talking to us about something, and then she would turn to her left and have a conversation with her sister (who was not there). It took a bit of getting used to, but we muddled through. There were times when she was eating imaginary food and sewing invisible clothes.

If I sound as if I’m making fun, I’m not. It was one of those situations in which the pain of the reality could become so acute as to be overwhelming, so the better approach was to just go with the flow and try not to think about anything too much. 

I finally asked Corey to come and get me around 6:30 when I was certain that she was being moved to a ward. I had been wearing my contacts all day (something I am not yet used to), and my eyes hurt as did my back and my head. Ann was able to leave a little after 8.

In between all of this, I texted and phoned people, including my ex as I was acting as an intermediary between him and his sister.  The whole brother/sister thing is very touchy as my ex has been unwilling/unable to pitch in at all with his mother’s care; therefore, it has all fallen on Ann. She makes sure that her mom takes her meds three times a day, that she eats, that she has groceries in the house, that she hasn’t set the house on fire.

I try to do what I can, and I know that it’s not enough. Paul’s reason for not doing more is that “it’s so depressing.” Oh, and I suppose it’s a piece of cake for the rest of us? Yes. I would slap him if I thought that it would do any good.

“The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven’t changed in seventy or eighty years.  Your body changes, but you don’t change at all.  And that, of course, causes great confusion.” ~ Doris Lessing

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland by Juan Diego Robles (fotopedia)

Today, Brett and I went to visit with Ann. When we got there we found out that they had to restrain her mom because she was trying to get out of bed. It’s like it was with my mom except that my mom was more coherent during the day.

Brett was not prepared for the state his grandmother was in, and it really upset him. She didn’t know who he was. I wish that I had thought to prepare him better, but the reality is that there probably isn’t any adequate preparation.

After several texts and phone calls, Alexis finally texted me back last night. This is a real sore spot for me, and I am not yet able to go into the full story on why I am so upset with her other than to say that it deals directly with Alexis’s participation in this family.

Last night, Ann and Paul and their respective spouses met for dinner, and Ann said that it went fairly well. Paul has agreed to go along with whatever medical decisions Ann makes, and he and Penny will do research for Ann as needed (big whoop). Ann told him that she isn’t asking for a time commitment but that if he could really try to go have dinner with his mom or spend an hour with her it would take some of the stress of Ann.

I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see how all of this works out.

“To know how to grow old is the master-work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.” ~  Henri Frédéric Amiel 

Looking West from Dun Beag Broch, Scotland by Anthony Dodd (fotopedia)
For me, the saddest part of this situation is the loss of the woman I used to know, a woman who sang in her church choir (alto), a talented woman who sewed beautiful clothes, read voraciously, listened to classical music, wallpapered and painted every room of her house, and knew how to grow any kind of flower, herb or vegetable.

This person is gone, and there are only small glimpses of her, and those are appearing less and less. And I am left to wonder if she is aware of this loss. How much does she know? How much does she remember? In one instance, she could name the main road that abuts the hospital; in the next, she was talking about a ticket taker on the train. I hope that this logic makes some sense to her and that she doesn’t really perceive how far from reality she has strayed.

To lose a bodily function from disease, arthritis, whatever—it seems that we as humans have an ability to compensate for such a loss. We use the affected limb less, or we don’t lift as much weight as we used to. But to have a keen mind, a mind that hungers for knowledge, a mind that enjoys continually learning about new things—to lose that gradually must be infuriating. And then after a few years of the slips here and there, to begin to lose great chunks of time and memory—how does one cope with that?

Today, Yvonne held out her fingers to me and asked me if I wanted this (invisible thing). I said that I sure did, and I pretended to take it and put it in my pocket.

I have not yet allowed myself to cry, and I’m not entirely certain that I will because the tears would be tainted in a way. Would they be tears for her, for us, for what has gone, for what is going, for having to watch this helplessly, for not knowing whether or not to acknowledge the invisible things she moves around with her fingers, for the papery thickness of her skin that is blotchy with bruises from the blood that they try to take from her veins, for Ann’s burden, for the resentment that I bear towards my ex and my daughter for their unrelenting self-centeredness, for my sons who are visibly hurting.

What exactly? I have no answers, and that pisses me off more than anything, having no answers. That’s’ the part that really, really sucks.

More later. Peace.

Music by Bird York, “In the Deep” (I know that this is a repeat, but it felt right).

                   

Memory’s Voice
For O. A. Glebova-Sudeikina

‘What do you see, on the wall, dimly alive,
at the hour when the sunset eats the sky?

A seagull, on a blue cloth of waters,
or perhaps it’s those Florentine gardens?

Or is it Tsarskoye Seloe’s vast view,
where terror stepped out before you?

Or that one who left your captivity,
and walked into white death, freely?’

No, I see only the wall—that shows
reflections of heaven’s dying glow.

~ Anna Akhmatova