“I have dreamed much and done very little.” ~ Gustave Flaubert
Tuesday night. Partly cloudy, 58 degrees.
In this dream I have been placed on my back in a solution that is slowly killing me. As the minutes pass, I keep thinking that I can’t die because that wouldn’t make sense. There is a woman who is pure evil, and apparently, she’s the one ordering people to be put into this solution. As I feel myself dying, I start to give away my jewelry, holding a piece out and declaring that it is for x, and another and another, until I have no jewelry left on my body. I know that someone is going to save me, but I don’t know how I have this knowledge.
Is it any wonder I walk through my days as if lost?
I did manage to get out of the house today and vote. Made Brett go with me. Too many people don’t place enough importance on mid-terms. Eamonn went fishing instead. At least Corey did an absentee ballot before he went back.
Skipping Two for Tuesday again today. You might not believe it, but putting together that kind of post takes thought, more thought than I am capable of at the moment. So some randomness instead:
Just three days after Halloween, and people in my neighborhood are putting up Christmas decorations.
Would it be okay to shoot these decorations with a paint gun?
I do not own a paint gun, for the record, but the thought of doing something radical is oddly comforting.
Days before Halloween, stores were already stocking Christmas decorations . . . I just can’t, just can’t even . . .
“I wanted the moments of my life to follow and order themselves like those of a life remembered. You might as well try and catch time by the tail.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from Nausea
My mother collected clowns—figurines, dolls, pictures
I am terrified of clowns, so are all of my children
I used to absolutely hate the color yellow, so much so that I would protest if the graphic designer chose a Pantone shade of yellow for a design.
I now love yellow and all of its various hues.
I cannot explain any of the above.
White noise (noise that is so constant that you forget that it’s there) that fills my days: the cooling fan of my CPU overworking itself, the very loud window unit air conditioners throughout the house
The kind of white noise I would prefer: running water, bird songs
“We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.” ~ D.H. Lawrence, from Lady Chatterley’s Lover
I have never gotten my paper degree from GWU for my publishing master’s. I think I owe them $50.
Throughout most of my adulthood, I have had a very hard time with mail, as in opening it when I get it. It bothers me a great deal, and I have no idea as to why.
I have so much paperwork that I need to do, but again, this is something that I put off and put off until I cannot possibly put it off any longer.
I have an abiding antipathy towards paperwork, i.e., completing forms, responding to requests for information, filing, etc.
The above is a direct result of years and years of having to fill out medical paperwork, going all the way back to Caitlin
“Give me a report on the condition of my soul.” ~ Anne Sexton, from “Anna Who Was Mad”
I need (no, really) a new purse.
I am lousy at small talk.
I have always been a bag lady. I asked for and got my first leather briefcase when I was five. True story.
Alexis, and now Olivia are both bag ladies. One of Olivia’s favorite things to do is to go through my purse, take everything out, and put it into one of her bags.
This is not taught behavior. Is there a gene for an affinity for purses and carryalls?
All images are by Italian painter and poet, Filippo de Pisis (11 May 1896 – 2 April 1956). Something in these somber images calls to me.
Music by Beth Hart, “Sister Heroine”
Death Comes to Me Again, a Girl
Death comes to me again, a girl
in a cotton slip, barefoot, giggling.
It’s not so terrible she tells me,
not like you think, all darkness
and silence. There are windchimes
and the smell of lemons, some days
it rains, but more often the air is dry
and sweet. I sit beneath the staircase
built from hair and bone and listen
to the voices of the living. I like it,
she says, shaking the dust from her hair,
especially when they fight, and when they sing.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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”
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.
“Left utterly alone, there is nothing The heart can invent to numb itself.” ~ Joe Bolton, from “Departure”
Friday afternoon. Sunny and cold, 47 degrees.
Home alone. Silence.
Well, long time, no write. I know. Unfortunately, it’s been a hellacious week, and today is the first day that I’ve had any time to myself, any time to sit here and muse, any time to try to stitch together some kind of linear thought.
I hope you enjoyed the Muppet Christmas carols. I had always planned to post them leading up to Christmas, but unfortunately, was never able to do the actual scheduling. Let me back up . . . On December 16 I took my mother to the ER because she was in a lot of pain. They ended up admitting her to the hospital with a severe case of diverticulitis. She was in until December 21. Consequently, my stress levels shot through the roof, and my computer time was nil.
I was trying to take care of her cat, do Christmas shopping and decorating, visit my mother in the hospital and everything else. And of course when she was released, she was still weak and in need. It became one long litany of telephone calls. And in between, I lost my bank card, but didn’t find out until I was in line at Wal-Mart. Thankfully, some honest soul found it and turned it in, and no weird charges appeared. I was very lucky, but man, stress upon stress.
The last two weeks have just about done me in.
“For each person there is a sentence — a series of words — which has the power to destroy him . . . another sentence exists, another series of words, which will heal the person. If you’re lucky you will get the second; but you can be certain of getting the first: that is the way it works. On their own, without training, individuals know how to deal out the lethal sentence, but training is required to deal out the second.” ~ Philip K. Dick, from VALIS
Add to all of this the planned holiday dinner here at my house, and then pile on the fact that Corey is not home. Christmas morning was more than a bit surreal for me. The boys decided to open their big presents and then to save everything else for when Corey gets home, the same for Lex and Mike. I left it up to them, and that’s what they all decided to do, which is nice.
But truthfully, it just hasn’t felt anything like Christmas this year. I haven’t listened to any music. I haven’t read anything, and you may wonder what that has to do with Christmas, and the answer is nothing, but everything. For me, it’s a state of mind, and my state of mind was pure chaos, a restless sea.
I don’t even think that I can describe it adequately to make sense.
I mean, my mother is very sick, isn’t leaving the house to have dinner with the family, and Corey is thousands of miles away. To top it off, Corey tried to call me on Christmas day using the ship’s satellite phone, and I didn’t answer because I didn’t recognize the number, and I really didn’t want to talk to anyone because I was too busy feeling sorry for myself. He called four times in a row, but I didn’t answer. I talked to him that night when the ship got its wi-fi back and he was able to call on his phone.
Obviously when I found out what had happened, I felt like a jerk.
“We humans, however, understand the backward grace of flight and fall, and also understand the pity of not knowing, and also the pity of knowing.” ~ Leonard Nathan, “That the Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living”
There are things that I used to do to get into the mindset for the holidays. I have about ten Christmas CDs, and I would impose my music on anyone who was near, play it in the car, play it at home, sing along loudly. And then I would watch two movies: A Wonderful Life (in black and white), and Scrooge, the musical with Albert Finney. I would usually put these on while I wrapped presents.
None of that this year. I simply forgot. It’s as if my mind said to itself, “Hmm, Christmas . . . blank.”
I finished addressing the cards on Christmas Eve, but this year I didn’t include any letters to anyone. I never send out those family holiday bulletins, but I usually take the time to add letters to a few special people. Not this year.
I tell you, it’s like I’m in some kind of vacuum. Outside everyone is carrying on with life, and I’m in here, on pause. It’s been like this since Thanksgiving, and unfortunately, I don’t feel as if my kids have been able to fill the void. It’s small things, like when I was going on seven hours in the ER, and I asked if anyone could spell me, maybe bring me Starbucks. Nothing. What gives with that?
“We are masters of unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.” ~ Winston Churchill
I know. They have their own lives, their own priorities. It’s just a bit hard to realize that at the moment, I’m no one’s priority. It’s making me reflect a lot on life, as in people who live alone, how they do it, how they survive. I want my children to have their own lives, want them to set out into the world, to explore, want them to be unafraid to try new ventures.
Yet if I am honest, I am also sad at being left behind. They no longer need me; I am no longer the touchstone that grounds them, that keeps them safe from harm. Yet I know that will be my role until I take my last breath.
This is hard to elucidate. I can’t quite get a handle on it, this ephemeral state in which I find myself. I don’t know how to define it.
And of course, I feel like a selfish wench because I’m full of self-pity, and there are so many people out there who are alone all of the time. There are so many people with real problems, real life-altering problems, and here I am, having another pity party. I don’t know if I’m more upset at the fact that I’m upset or that I’m alone.
“There is a cry deeper than all sound whose serrated edges cut the heart as we break open to the place inside us which is unbreakable and whole, while learning to sing.” ~ Rashani Rea, from The Power of a Broken-Open Heart
Last night, as I lay in bed trying to decide whether or not to fall asleep with the television on, I thought of my mother who has been alone for so many years. I wonder if she ever fears going to sleep alone at night as I was feeling that moment, and then at the same time I was amazed by the contradiction that is me. I love the silence, love the quiet, but fear the stillness.
And I wonder when I began to be afraid to be still. Is it something that has happened gradually, or have I always been this way? And I really don’t know the answer, so unsure am I of my own personality.
Alone in the dark, my mind races, and perhaps that is what I fear: where my mind will take me in the dark silence. And when I awoke from an intense, frenetic dream of my father, I knew that that was precisely what I had been afraid of—going there again.
The days until Corey is home again are less than ten. Surely I can hold it together until then. This is what I think as I sit here now in the afternoon sun, a cup of hot Irish Breakfast tea in a mug before me. I can do this.
Until night comes again.
More later. Peace.
Music by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, “Winter Song”
two short ones . . .
On Missing Them
People always say that it hurts at night
and apparently screaming into your pillow at 3am
is the romantic equivalent of being heartbroken.
it’s 9am on a tuesday morning
and you’re standing at the kitchen bench waiting for the toast to pop up
And the smell of dusty sunlight and earl gray tea makes you miss them so much
you don’t know what to do with your hands.
~ Rosie Scanlan
Sometimes you called on those
you’d never know
to come with you in place
of those you loved,
and talked to them
and touched them
and let them close purely
for sadness, for sadness
you’d hold them,
and you’d let them go.
“You know how you let yourself think that everything will be all right if you can only get to a certain place or do a certain thing. But when you get there you find it’s not that simple.” ~ Richard Adams, from Watership Down
Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and hot, 85 degrees.
I know that it’s been weeks since I have written an actual post, one that was primarily my thoughts and not a rehashing of something else. I apologize, but my state of mind has been mired in sadness, and my body has been protesting mightily. If it were one or the other, I could cope, but with both hitting me, it’s all just been too much.
Right after Corey got home, I started to feel terrible physically—very weak, lots of muscle pain, lots of headaches and nausea. I made the mistake of offering to keep Olivia for the whole weekend, and it really did me in. I probably should have begged off, but I had already said that I would. I mean, it was my idea in the first place.
Corey has been concerned that I’m upset with him about something or that I am angry, and I had to tell him that it’s not any one thing in particular. It’s a whole lot of everything and nothing to do with him. So hard to explain.
And then yesterday happened.
“What cannot be said will be wept.” ~ Sappho
The night before, Alfie was throwing himself all over the bed and whimpering. It was horrible. I would get him to calm down, and then it would start again. We knew what we had to do. But it’s so damned hard.
Corey insisted on going alone. I told him that whatever he decided to do I would support. In his heart, I think he thought that Alfie could still be fixed; I knew that we were past that point. Luckily, the vet told him that because of his age, he would probably not survive any kind of surgery. She said that she thought that Alfie’s problems were much worse than tooth abscesses, possibly cancer.
And so Corey came home with the small body wrapped up in a towel, and we began the heartbreaking process of burying Shakes’s brother. Brett asked if Alfie could be buried beneath his window, and I agreed. And while Brett and Corey dug a small grave for our smallest dog, I sat on the bed holding the still warm body and allowed myself to keen, to weep and scream until I had nothing left except for another tear in my heart, another scar that doesn’t show.
“We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies.” ~ Voltaire
So after, we all retreated to our various places of comfort—I to my bed, Brett to his computer, Corey to his backyard—until Eamonn came home from work, and we began to emerge once again. Eamonn cooked dinner for everyone, and then we watched some mindless television until sleep came at last.
Today, I feel mostly numb, except for the migraine that began in the night. And during my periods of wakefulness in the night, I found myself searching with my hand for the small body that usually placed itself against my back or thighs, and it wasn’t there. You see, after Shakes died, Alfie became quite the cuddle monster, seeking curves to curl into in search of warmth and comfort, all of the places that Shakes had claimed as his own.
I suppose it is fitting that the two brothers should leave us within months of each other, having come into this world together in the same litter. They spent their entire lives together, and they left this world in the same order in which they were birthed.
“So much that can neither be written nor kept inside!” ~ Tomas Tranströmer, from Cry into the Nordic Night
And so I come to you again, seeking to find words in which to immerse myself, hoping to write my way out of this hollow, for it has always been the words that have saved me, words that have calmed me, words that have been the balm to my ills. And I sit here with my fingers on my keyboard and try to write my way out of this, and all I can think of is how it should have been better for Alfie, but it wasn’t.
You see, Alfie was like the middle child of the dogs, the one who never quite got enough attention. He was so hard to love because of his persnickety disposition, the whole canine rage thing. He could turn on you in a second. But in the last month or so, he had seemed to mellow, and I don’t know whether it was mellowing or that he was just resigned to his fate. All I know is that he certainly seemed to enjoy being around people more, and he seemed to want more human touch.
And again I wonder about the depth of a dog’s soul. As sentient beings, how much do they sense? Of what are they aware? The canine capacity for love seems boundless. Witness the dogs that will show affection to even the foulest humans, the ones who beat them, who starve them, who maim them and kill them.
If I think about this too much, I just might go crazy, but it all seems so very inhumane, how little value is placed on beings whose humanity is often more than the hands that carry their fate.
“In the end I would rather wonder than know.” ~ Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey
What defines humanity? The ability to feel? The ability to reason? The ability to communicate? Or is it the ability to do harm? The ability to kill? The ability to inflict pain deliberately?
It is a question I ask again and again and again, each time I am confronted by loss, each time I have to make a decision I would rather not make, each time life blows up in my face. And still I have no answers.
The reality for me is that I will probably use the last active cell in my brain to wonder why, even though I know there is no answer. I don’t understand life, this I know, but I keep going, keep moving forward. And sometimes it’s as arduous as foraging the Serengeti with a machete, and sometimes it’s like traversing the English Channel on an inflatable raft, and sometimes it’s seemingly as simple as slipping down a stream on an inner tube, feet dangling in the water, cold drink in hand.
I’m still looking, still searching, still finding, and still losing. I don’t have the answers, and sometimes—like—today it seems as if I don’t have any answers at all, but I suppose that’s okay, too.
Music by Aron Wright, “And Still, The Darkness Comes”
It is true that my heart does not exist.
It is absolutely true that the birds are not mine,
the river will not stop for me, the leaves will not
stop aiming for the very ground where I stand,
that I cannot hold the smallest amount of air
in my hands. The closed fist of the moon
punches its way through the lake.
Someone else might talk about the moon as a heart,
but that’s all I’m going to say about it.
On this night when the stars begin their lies
about the light beyond them, when the young men
from Tuzla are hanging from lamp posts
instead of lights, I am here to tell you
my heart has never existed.
The only feelings I have ever heard of
take to the highway with the carts
and trucks of the other refugees.
Why do you think you need to join them?
If it were a violin my heart would not rest
between anyone’s chin and shoulder. It would
sit in a pawnshop window for someone’s supper.
On this night when my heart does not exist,
I eat out of the hands of yesterday.
If it did exist, the fist of my heart would
grab the hanged man by the collar of his soul
and turn him away from his own death.
But who can say anything about the soul?
The soul, too, is just another migrant.
I have heard that the soul and the heart are
the two best scavengers of whatever past
you have discarded by the side of the road.
You can find them sneaking around in some orchard
behind the smoke a farmer uses against the frost
or plucking the hanged man’s weight like a pear.
See, it is not so hard to say something about nothing.
The stars are already leaking their light into dawn.
But I can tell you that my own heart has never existed.
That’s all I’m going to say about it.