“What matters is precisely this; the unspoken at the edge of the spoken.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 21 July 1912.

Winter on the Bank by Marius Rumpf fcc
Winter on the Bank
by Marius Rumpf (FCC)

                   

“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.

Winter Tree by rkramer62 fcc
Winter Tree
by rkramer62 (FCC)

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.

Merikosken Alakanava Finland by ptrktn FCC
Merikosken Alakanava, Finland
by ptrktn (FCC)

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.”

Winter by askidenzsetzer fcc
Winter
by askidenzsetzer (FCC)

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.

Tree Portrait by nrcphotos fcc
Tree Portrait
by nrcphotos (FCC)

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.

Beh.

“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.

Winter Tree by Ano Lobb at sign healthyrx fcc
Winter Tree
by Ano Lobb@healthyrx (FCC)

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.
But sometimes
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

**********

Passing

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.

~ Daniel Halpern

“Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.” ~ Winston Churchill

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” ~ George Orwell

Unconfirmed, but via Reddit: “Soldiers in Libya are using .50 BMG bullets on civilians. To put it in perspective, that’s the one on the left.”

“If you are not ready to die for it, put the word freedom out of your vocabulary.” ~ Malcolm X

The so-called February 17 revolution is not like the recent Egyptian protests that resulted in President Hosni Mubarak stepping down. Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, ruler of Libya for the past 40 years (1969), has always been regarded as a loose cannon: unpredictable, volatile, and deadly. And after Qaddafi’s speech, it’s quite apparent that he does not intend to leave Libya peacefully, and as he put it, he expects to die as a martyr.

The 15-member U.N. Security Council has condemned Qaddafi’s use of violence against the protestors, and in a bold move, Libya’s deputy ambassador to the UN. Ibrahim Dabbashi, openly broke with the dictator, accusing Qaddafi of genocide: “I think the Qaddafi statement was a code for his collaborators to start the genocide against the Libyan people. They are attacking people in all the cities in Western Libya.”

According to ABC News, the Security Council is urging Libyan authorities to “act with restraint, lift restrictions against the press, ensure the safety of foreign nationals and allow immediate access for human rights monitors.”

Various reports put the death toll at anywhere from 500 to over 1,000 individuals. The U.S. and several European nations are urging their citizens to leave the country as soon as possible.

“No dictator, no invader, can hold an imprisoned population by force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power, governments and tyrants and armies cannot stand.” ~ J. Michael Straczynski

For another good background piece on the current revolution in Libya, see this article in The Atlantic by Associate Editor Max Fisher. In the meantime, I found the following Hopi quote to be uncannily relevant to what is happening in the world right now: 

“You have been telling people that this is the eleventh hour. Now you must go back and tell people that this is the hour! And there are things to be considered: Where are you living? What are you doing? What are your relationships? Are you in right relation? Where is your water? Know your Garden. It is time to speak your truth. Create your community. Be good to yourself. And not look outside of yourself for a leader. This could be a good time! There is a river flowing very fast. It is so great and fast that there are those who will be afraid. They will hold on to the shore. They will feel that they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination. The elders say that we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time we are to take nothing personally, least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones that we have been waiting for.” ~ The Elders, Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation

More later. Peace.

Music by Moby, Extreme Ways

“Sometimes a breakdown can be the beginning of a kind of breakthrough, a way of living in advance through a trauma that prepares you for a future of radical transformation.” ~ Cherrie Moraga

 

Durdle Door, Dorset, England

                   

“The question we need to ask ourselves is whether there is any place we can stand in ourselves where we can look at all that’s happening around us without freaking out, where we can be quiet enough to hear our predicament, and where we can begin to find ways of acting that are at least not contributing to further destabilization.” ~ Ram Dass

Tip of The Cobb, Lyme Regis, Dorset, England

It’s Saturday afternoon, two weeks and a day since my mother’s accident. Yesterday, Corey brought over one of the computers from the house since my stay here is obviously not going to be just a few days, and he realized that I am going crazy without a computer. That and the fact that I really cannot leave my mother alone in the house while I go somewhere else to work on my blog.

My mom’s house has no Internet connection, but fortunately, enough people nearby have unsecured networks that I can tap into. I know. Not an ideal situation, but at this point, I have to take what I can get.

So now I have a little set-up in my mother’s living room: an old sewing table, a bit rickety but just big enough for a screen and my Bose speakers (hooray for that). This will be my first official post from my new location. I have one of my playlists going in the background, just loud enough to drown out the constant sounds of television coming from her bedroom. She is one of those people who is uncomfortable with silence of any kind; hence there will always be a television on at any given minute, and the sound will always be quite loud. So “Ruby Tuesday” is currently muffling the sounds of whatever lightweight show she has found to watch on Saturday afternoon (only comedies and game shows in this house, no dramas (with the exception of “Law & Order”???), nothing heavy—remember, my mother is of the “think happy thoughts” school of mental health).

“And which is stronger in us—passion or habit?” ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Lyme Regis from The Cobb by Peter Spencer

This is the story: My mother has a very large screened back porch with a cement floor and solid cement steps. These steps are the same ones she fell on last year although without nearly the same bad results. My mom has a tendency to put throw rugs all over the place, and she had one on the steps, which is what she tripped on, ultimately landing hard on the cement. Apparently, she pulled herself into the house and crawled to the telephone.

She called a number that she thought was Brett’s and told the man on the other end that she had fallen and asked him to get me as soon as possible. Turns out it was a wrong number, but you would think that the man on the other end might have had the decency to call 911 or something. My mom waited a few minutes and then called my number. I answered, and she asked why I hadn’t come over. I told her that I didn’t know what she was talking about. She asked why Brett hadn’t told me. I ask what was wrong and told her that I would be there in a couple of minutes.

Brett and I broke the land speed record going the two miles between our houses. I walked in, touched her leg which caused her to scream, and called 911. One ambulance and a fire truck later, I was surrounded by five EMT personnel, three of whom were asking me questions simultaneously. My reaction? To answer them while cleaning. It’s what I do under stress—regress to the child who cleaned her way through family fights and insecurities. I picked up laundry, moved chairs, and recited my mom’s vitals. Brett stood by looking helpless, and Donna, the neighbor from across the street spoke quietly to my mother.

Surreal is the only way to categorize the tableau as it unfolded in the living room on Friday evening.

“Our real discoveries come from chaos, from going to the place that looks wrong and stupid and foolish.”  ~ Chuck Palahniuk from “Invisible Monsters”

Town Mill in Lyme Regis, Dorset, England

Brett rode next to the EMT driving the ambulance transporting mom, and I followed in the Rodeo (Brett later told me that the man had tried to make casual conversation during the ride to try to keep Brett calm, for which I am ever grateful), all the while thinking that it would go so much faster if they would turn on the lights and sirens, but it wasn’t really an emergency in their book, so I obeyed the speed limit and followed the transport to Leigh Memorial, a hospital that I truly hate but the one that my mother requested.

My father died in that hospital, and the ER in that hospital misdiagnosed Caitlin when she first presented with symptoms. Needless to say I just don’t get a warm and fuzzy from the place.

I walked into a packed ER, gave the person at the registration desk my name, and tried to find seats that were not directly under the blaring television. Have you ever noticed the unspoken rules in an ER waiting room: Everyone already seated checks out the newest arrival in order to assess if the person has a real emergency—like a dangling appendage, which would be cause to be taken out of the queue. When the registration desk tells the newest arrival to take a seat, all of those already waiting breathe a collective sigh of relief that the order will not be disturbed. Of course, when your name is called and you go between those two magical doors, the ones that can only be opened by the keeper of the automatic door opener, everyone still seated shoots daggers at your back.

Ah, the rich pageantry of life.

I forgot to mention that during all of this, I texted Alexis first with a brief message: “Oma fell. 911. Call ASAP.” She did not respond; what in the hell is the point of using 911 if the response is ho hum, I ask. I texted again, this time to everyone with more specifics: “They are taking Oma to the ER in an ambulance.” Alexis and Eamonn called almost simultaneously. I had already called Corey on the way to the house, but as luck would have it, he was working but supposed to be off at 11.

“The shortest distance between two points is often unbearable.” ~ Charles Bukowski 

Ammonite Light Post at Dusk in Lyme Regis

So back to the narrative: I was told to go through the doors, turn right, turn left, go around and turn right. Right. Got it. I turned right and immediately asked for someone to point me towards my mother’s room.

She had been given morphine in the ambulance, which had made her throw up, so when I walked in, she was clutching a disposable emetic bag that I eventually had to pry from her fingers. I was told that x-rays had been taken and that we were waiting for the doctor. Talk about stating the obvious.

Hours and hours later . . .

The x-rays revealed that my mother had broken her tibia directly below the kneecap, and she was bruised in several places. She had not broken her hip. An immobilizing brace was ordered, and the attending physician told me to call the orthopedist on Monday.

Now this all sounds terribly civilized, but I’m leaving out some good parts, like my mother screaming when anyone touched her, the fact that she was shaking all over from shock and I couldn’t get her a blanket, and she needed to pee. Eventually, she was catheterized, given more meds (I felt like Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment, trying not to become hysterical as I demanded that they shoot some more of the good stuff into the IV. Look, I just can’t get into what I was feeling during all of this, not really, as it was all much too intense and draining). 

As the doctor was giving his parting directions, I thought to myself, “You’re not keeping her??? What do you mean you’re not keeping her??? Have you lost your mind??? Have I lost my mind???

Then there was the Marx Brothers scene in which an orderly, a nurse, and I tried to put my mother into the passenger seat of my car. You see, I had sent everyone home. Brett hadn’t eaten all day. Corey was exhausted,and I knew that I was going to need him when we got home. So the departure was a solo event.

The three of us tried lots of different scenarios with each of us holding different body parts, and my mother screaming “No. No. No. Just put me back.” Finally, the orderly lifted her bodily and placed her in the seat as my mother said, “You’ll get a hernia. You’re going to hurt your back.” Meanwhile, I thought, “how in the hell are we going to get her out of the car when I get home?”

“The human story does not always unfold like a mathematical calculation on the principle that two and two make four. Sometimes in life they make five or minus three; and sometimes the blackboard topples down in the middle of the sum and leaves the class in disorder and the pedagogue with a black eye.” ~ Winston Churchill

Coade Stone Ammonite Pavement Celebrating Lyme Regis’ as the Capital of the Jurassic Coast

                   

I don’t remember the drive home at all, just that I avoided potholes and bumps. I had called Corey, and he was waiting at my mother’s house for us. I told him about the ordeal of putting her in the car. Neither of us had an inkling as to how we would get her out of the car, up the steps, and into the bedroom.

Lots of screaming. Hers, mine, ours.  (look, I’m not being flippant, or maybe I am, but this was two weeks ago, and the only way to deal with some things is in retrospect and with no respect whatsoever). The goal was to remove her from the car without bending her right leg . . . We had the walker, but it quickly became apparent that it was useful as a skateboard.

We ended up carrying her. Don’t ask me how. We stopped on the porch as I opened the doors while my mother yelled not to let Willow (her schnauzer) out. Trust me, Willow was too petrified to bolt. We stopped at the entrance to the hall. Somehow, we got her in bed.

Those first few days and nights were a blur, except for the hallucinations, which I’ll get into next time as they deserve a post of their own.

So that’s the first part of my latest saga. Feels good to be writing about it.

More later. Peace.

Music by Jean Louisa Kelly, her version of “Someone to Watch over Me” from Mr. Holland’s Opus