Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dreams of Regret

Dreams have themes. For me, a recurrent theme is struggle under pressure. I'm trying to get something done and find myself thwarted at every turn. Throw in the bizarre, a commonality of most dreams, and a non-nightmare can seem nightmarish. The disturbing threads pieced together make for a crazy quilt which sticks with me well into the morning. Even more mysterious to me is that unless written down, the intensity of the dream dissolves quickly, like a fog that lifts exposing sunshine.

Last night's foray into madness bubbled into consciousness as I lay in bed guzzling coffee. My mind was focused on blasting out what is now day #4 of a morning migraine; strong coffee will sometimes do the trick. Suddenly, I recalled the dream. The theme was different; I'd say more along the lines of: regret, for a dumb decision.

from the movie, The Road

Dusty dream, black and white, like Cormac McCarthy's The Road
Laura is getting married but we aren't attending the wedding
Even her fiance who resists ceremony is not attending, choosing to spend his time with Denny and me as we drive and walk about a landscape unfamiliar, exploring on foot and in a car
Our reasons for being elsewhere on a such an important day remain unexplored
Free of concerns we move forward
There are animals, small creatures, who may be our pets
Out of control they frolic about eating wet tissues
My guilt for not being present at my daughter's wedding surfaces, gaining strength
Why did I make such a foolish decision?
I'm overwhelmed with sadness. The fiance and Denny seem oblivious
We stumble upon an ancient woman in a wooden shack
A wise soothsayer resting on a shabby chaise
She attracts these small animals of ours; they nestle into her sagging neck
I explain my grief to her; she has nothing to say
Nothing that will explain why I am not standing with my daughter on her special day
Regrets. Regrets that cannot be undone

Ms. Laura: I promise I'll be the proud mother at your wedding. Who knows where this dream came from? Weddings  must be on my mind.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What Will This Week Bring?

I'm grateful for a part-time work schedule with Mondays/Tuesdays "off". Most Mondays I enjoy hearing the garbage and recycling trucks pull up mid morning to drag off a week's supply of castoff  "stuff". Once the trucks drive away, I design the rest of my day. Sometimes there's not much on my plate (ahhhh...) and other Mondays I run around with a list of errands and phone calls and a visit to Mom and Dad.

This Monday I find myself at the bedside of my Mom, hospitalized since last night. If I were superstitious, I'd be freaking out about her room number. This is the same room my father-in-law was in 12 years ago when he died of leukemia. For some reason she landed a bed on the Oncology floor. Sitting here brings back some powerful memories of E.J.'s rapid onset illness and his quick but relatively painless passing less than two weeks later. Like wisps of the past, I imagine my then 10 and 12 year old children at his bedside, comforting their grandfather, drawing him pictures, and trying to make him smile. I can see my husband's mother and two sisters coming in and out of the room. I remember the IV infusing , the television set to a golf match, and the food trays that came and went without much being eaten. He died in this very room.. How weird it feels to be  here, sitting beside Mom. There are over 200 beds in this hospital. Why this one?

We don't yet have a firm grip on what's going on with Mom. I'm trying to tread the fine line between knowing "a lot" and letting the doctors in charge do their jobs. I'm pretty good at that. I think. People are rallying around to support Dad who's very worried about his life partner. I'm far more concerned for him, truth be known. Mom's situation is out of my control.

I'm wondering how this week will play out. With big weekend plans to fly to Chicago for my niece's wedding, I'm hoping that whatever ails Mom is simple, straightforward and that she'll be able to get back home so that leaving for those few days won't create havoc in my Dad's life. I'm cautiously optimistic.

With the gray, rainy skies lightening and the sun starting to shine outside the hospital window, I'm wondering how long I should stay here. Mom is sleeping. She's interacting very little. Maybe I should head up north to see Dad. Decisions.

I'm weary. I'm sad. I'm frustrated. But at least I'm not crying today; that got worked out plenty well last evening.

What will this week bring?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Anguish of Grief

Mom's in the ER; to be admitted later this evening.

The anguish in my Dad's face as the emergency medical team strapped Mom to a gurney and prepared to wheel her into the waiting ambulance hit me like a spear through my heart. I broke down. I cried for him, not for my Mom.

After she left I spent a few precious moments with Dad, kneeling at his side, my arms around him.

"I'm so sorry, Daddy; it's going to be alright."

"I'm so sorry, sweet Kitty, so sorry for you."

He was comforting me as much as I tried to offer comfort to him. 

I promised to call him with the news from the ER. We don't really know what's going on but there are clues and leads to follow. Will there be a fix?

I have an ominous feeling. I think my Mom is close to dying. Do we ever know? The doctor in me says NO but the daughter in me says YES. This is it; the end is coming. Soon.

I'm sad to lose her. But, my sadness is acute, painful, and raw edged for the man who'll be left behind. He breaks my heart, his vulnerable face, the quivering chin, and the tears that flow from a place deep in his being. I would do anything to fix this un-fixable state. But, it's not to be.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bibliophile's Dream Come True

I'm just back from my first visit to the annual fall Friends of Seattle Public Library book sale. For many years I've wanted to check this event out, having heard wonderful things about the selection and low prices. Today was my chance and I've come away enchanted, impressed, and laden down with two bags of books. Most titles sold for a dollar. Fiction, biography, books on the craft of writing, and some old classics found a place in my stash. After two hours and aching arms from carrying an ever heavier load of books, I decided to wrap up and drag my loot to the car. My only misstep?  I forgot to bring a camera. The photos would have been fabulous.

I arrived just after 9 AM and there was already a long line stretching all the way around the building. Once the doors opened things moved quickly. The enormous interior of the building was a book lover's paradise. Nothing fancy but aisle after aisle of books divided by category, laid out in cardboard boxes on tables, and people everywhere looking for their personal treasure. The sight of so many book lovers (and books) under one roof was glorious if not a bit frenetic.
from the Seattle Times
Ten, of many, observations about the Book Fair:

1. I love hearing people talk to each other about books they've found; like unearthed gifts. "Have you read this?" "I've heard this one is fantastic."

2. People bring more than bags or boxes to carry their books; I saw people with rolling suitcases, heavy-duty opaque trash bags, and small shopping carts. Hard core shoppers, these.

3. There are some book titles that appear and re-appear endlessly. I saw dozens of copies of Pigs in Heaven (Kinsolver), Stones From the River (Hegi), The Mermaid Chair (Kidd), The Lovely Bones (Sebold) and Atonement (McEwan) mixed in randomly, popping up everywhere.

4. I was amazed pouring over the paperback fiction books how many titles I had read and in many cases own. It felt good to be reminded that I read. A lot.

5. Wow! There were hardbacks looking as good as new that I've either read or own that were published in the past year; all for a buck!

6. People weren't pushy. Polite and nice. Seattleites.

7. Despite the mass of people, things were organized. I love organized. Even paying and parking were organized.

8. If you are looking for a specific title, finding it may be a challenge.

9. It's easy to become overwhelmed by the presence of 200,000 books for sale but it's heaven nonetheless.

10. There's some kind of magic holding a book in your hands; the anticipation of the read, the wonder, the hope that this one will "blow me away".

from Friends of  SPL website

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Quote for the Day

"When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child."
Sophia Loren

I'm pondering this quote found randomly today. Is there such a thing as randomly?  Sometimes I think not. 

This quote resonates even though my children are grown. The "thinking" may be different when they're older and on their own but the part of never being "alone in your thoughts"....well, that  hits the proverbial nail on the head for me. If I am alone in my thoughts it is never for long. A force pulls me back to wonder, or consider, or fret as the case may be, about who, what, when, where, and why. Children.

This does not happen to my spouse, or so he says. I'm not sure that I believe him though. This may not be a universally female trait; this "thinking" about one's children. All. The. Time.

OK, that's enough rambling.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Eating on the Couch: Coming Full Circle

Years ago when it was just D and me at home, we ate many a dinner sitting on the couch in the living room. Sometimes the T.V. was on, sometimes not. A dinner around the kitchen or dining room table was unusual and felt weird somehow. Once the kids came along, we ate our meals at the table. In fact, eating anything while sitting on the couch was discouraged but done anyway. No wonder we had to replace our sectional sofa last year; spills of milk, sticky juices and soda mixed with remnants of snack food destroyed the fabric after years of the kids sneaking food and drink on to the furniture while watching television or doing homework (homework? huh?).

Life has come full circle.. As empty nesters, he and I are once again migrating on to the family room furniture to eat meals; not all but more and more all the time. We are going back in time. And, we don't spill!

I'm loving it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Gayle King: Interviews - Susan Casey on Waves that Topple iEverything/i

Gayle King: Interviews - Susan Casey on Waves that Topple iEverything/i

After clicking the link above, scroll down to the audio portion near the bottom of the page....Gayle interviews Susan Casey; very interesting.

The Wave

I'm half way through The Wave by Susan Casey. What an incredible read. I'm fascinated by waves and love to adventure vicariously amidst all that power, roiling blue and crushing foam.  Guess what I'm doing tonight? The Seattle Public Library hosts author Susan Casey at the downtown library from 7 to 8:30 PM; she'll be discussing her book and taking questions. I'll be right there in the audience and will be interested to see who else shares my passion for waves.

Susan is quoted as saying, "The ocean is my church". I get it. Truly.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Collection of Hearts

I like hearts. Could it be the bi-lobed shape or the symbolism of the heart that attracts my attention?  I'm not entirely sure but one thing I do know is that I've gathered a small collection of heart shaped items through the years. Some have been gifts, others my own purchases. Awhile back I placed all my hearts together in a group, on a shelf. They just sit there for the most part; one holds some hard candies, another loose change, another odd buttons.

The heart I like the most is the plate that was a gift one year from my Mom, probably twenty years ago. It says: "Always my Daughter, now too my Friend"

I remember opening the gift and thinking, "Oh, that's sweet". But, I didn't really "get it", not for awhile. Years later I sort of understood and then when my own daughter was nearing young adulthood, I began to wonder about the daughter-friend dynamic. Was it possible? Was it even advisable? I go back and forth on the message etched into this plate.

I am definitely a daughter to my mother but am I also her friend? She's beyond having friends at this phase of her life. Were we ever really friends?  There was so much I kept from her, so much I tried to protect her from learning about my life. But, there were also times when I let it all hang out, the raw edges of my pain, the fear, and the uncertainty. She was always there for me. Just like a friend.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Together We Cried

Today I sat with Dad. Alone. We talked and we cried. It was good. A necessary conversation and frankly, a relief. I rarely have the chance to be with Dad alone in a quiet place. We drive to and from doctor's appointments or to the barber but he's more interested in watching the sights...."the healthy people on two legs" rather than talking. Today was different. Mom was asleep in the family room. Dad and I walked back to the bedroom. I put in his hearing aids. There were things I wanted to say to him, support I wanted him to know was there, and I wanted to hear what, if anything, he would say in return.

Mom is becoming more childlike daily. She can be unruly and petulant; resisting medications, saying "no" and fighting the weekly bath routine with louder and louder protests. Things worsen in stages and there have been unwelcome signs of further deterioration in the last weeks. Dad, ever the caretaker is at his wit's end with the stress of the daily grind of her failing mental health. I see it in his face and I hear it in his voice when he calls (she can no longer dial the phone) in the evening to report things like, "All hell's broken loose around here with your mother...".

Today I sat close to him and explained that I was worried for him and that my concern was much more for his mental health than any worries I might have about Mom. I used the word dementia. I told him Mom's condition was worsening due to a disease that has no good treatment and that things will continue to worsen in all likelihood. Medication adjustments can help sometimes but overall, it is what it is. I also told him that Mom was safe, well cared for, and in a loving environment. Despite her screams when she has to do something she doesn't like, it does not mean he has to come to the rescue, that he has to fix the unfix-able, or even be in the presence of her personal angst.  She remembers little of what seems to trouble her from one day to the next. But, I explained, we remember and that's what hurts.

He got it loud and clear. I saw his eyes well up with tears at just the moment mine did the same. We stat together and cried for the woman who was once so much more; for his wife of nearly seven decades and for my mother of fifty six years. We lose those with dementia bit by bit by miserable bit. The pain, mostly subterranean, comes out at moments like these.

He told me more than once, "Thank you for supporting me." and "Thank you for your words." Poor man. My heart goes out to him.

I stressed that he needed to take care of himself more, to get his rest, to let those in the know take care of Mom's needs, to let go of that tight rope that pulls at him day in and day out.

Dad, I thought to myself, I want your last days to be peaceful, accepting what is, acknowledging what is lost but living the best of what is possible.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Power of Water

I'm not a surfer. The thought of riding a wave (literally)....well, it's just not me.

But something about the power of moving water makes me dizzy with excitement. Today I ordered a copy of  Susan Casey's new book, The Wave which hits shelves of bookstores today. Hot off the press, the book enjoys great early reviews that excite my imagination. I want to learn more about what powers those waves, where they come from, and as the dust jacket tempts, I long for the excitement inherent "in (the) pursuit of the rogues, freaks and giants of the ocean".

I witnessed the gorgeous mystery and magic of roiling ocean all of my young life, growing up on an island in the southern Caribbean. Warned of the inherent dangers of rogue waves and under-tow currents I was cautious and respectful of the deep blue sea whether she rolled on to sandy shores or crashed into volcanic, rocky cliff. Always timid, never a wild child; I was an observer of the unpredicatable side of water.

I look forward to reading The WaveI've certainly enjoyed viewing YouTube videos of daredevil big wave surfers. Maybe in another life....

Check this video. Amazing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Visiting Them Is So Hard For Me

Yesterday afternoon I visited Mom and Dad and stayed for about an hour. When I left, relief flooded through me. I'm finished (for a little while) I thought. My conscience wiped clean, I drove home in anticipation of some "me time" after a weekend on call for the hospital.

Why is this so hard for me? I'm not alone; my brother and sister say similar things although they manage to stay longer when they visit, hour after hour. I can't.

Racking my brain for something I could do to bring a flicker (even the briefest) of joy into my Mother's face, I bought a a single serving size ice cream at a nearby grocery store on the way. When I walked into the home, Mom was sitting at the round table in the family room and Dad was in his usual chair with his eyes closed. Mom had a pained expression on her face, a look I see more than any other these days.

"Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad.",  I said.

Dad opened his eyes and his typical big smile was followed by a raised arm, mouthing the sound "YEAH". He's always glad to see me. For this, I'm grateful.

Mom looked up with a blank stare. Sometimes I wonder if she sees me, really sees with recognition. She said hello but the expression of worried confusion never left her face.

"I brought you a treat, Mom. Ice cream; cappuccino chip."

She ate every bite.

I know she enjoyed it but I had to extract feedback from her with questions. "Did you like that, Mom?"  I just had to hear from her that something I did might, however briefly, pull her from her private, inner reality into the here and now.

She washed the ice cream down with a glass of diet Coke. I like to watch her drink carbonated stuff  because after every sip, she burps. Every single sip. And, for some twisted reason, I think that her burping is funny. I laugh. So there. She laughs too; sometimes. I suppose that's why this little ritual of coke-drinking serves as my little treat. Otherwise, there's nothing much funny about any of these visits. Grim and grimmer.

Poor Dad. I feel for him as he watches his life partner struggle with progressive dementia. She says things to him that are mean spirited, things he's done nothing to provoke. I think to myself: "what goes around comes back around" but that's the subject of an entirely different post.

Dad is frail. He's lonely and bored. Looking for an equivalent "joy-maker" like the cup of ice cream brought for Mom,  I asked him if there was anything I could bring him. Special food? Snacks?

"No sweet Kitty", he said. "Just bring yourself."

Turns out that "just bringing myself" is awfully hard and getting worse all the time. Despite the knowledge that just my presence brings him happiness, getting in my car and making the drive there gets harder and harder.  Some days I'd  rather do anything else. Almost. The grinding voice in my head nagging at me to get up there, to be a "good" daughter, is a powerful force.

What is wrong with me?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Out with the Old, In with the New

Seems Denny and I've done a lot of updating on this house of ours lately. We've lived in the same home for 19 years this month having moved from Houston when our kids were only three and five years of age back in 1991. Now both our kids are grown and gone. The house seems big and quiet. But there are signs of wear and tear everywhere. It's definitely time replace older appliances, ratty furniture, window coverings and on it goes.

Earlier this year we had a new deck built at the back of our house and the old swing set with tree-house dismantled. I wasn't sad to see it go; neither had been used in years. The back yard invites us with a more mature space, surrounded by living green walls of shrubs, pines, and ivy. The three built-in planters where the deck abuts the grass make me very happy. Full of summer annuals at the moment, I'm planning what to plant for some fall color; probably chrysanthemums and ornamental cabbage.

The kitchen underwent a face-lift in stages this summer. The worn cabinets were sanded and re-stained making them look almost new again. The ancient sub zero that we inherited from the prior owners had just about given up the ghost so we replaced the refrigerator with a sleek stainless steel model. Just this week we had our new stove delivered. I'd say the kitchen looks mighty good right now.

the new stove (with nachos!)

the old stove
We've several other projects in the wings. A number of our glass windows need replacing, the wallpaper in our family room needs removal, the carpets need deep cleaning and/or replacement and on it goes. We'll have the work done in stages. Not having two kids in college turns the focus from their education back to the four walls of this house.  Independent, grown children!!! Gotta love it!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Nice to Know the Answer to a Question my Kids Ask....

Not infrequently, we, in this empty nest of ours, get asked a question or two from our grown kids.

Tonight it was a question I could answer. Easily. Sweet. Not all questions are so satisfying.

He: Hey Ma, quick question for you.....what's a shallot?

He was obviously in the grocery store buying items for dinner.I could hear snippets of conversations around him as we talked on the phone.

Me: It's a kind of onion but it's small and kind of looks like a large garlic clove; it's got the papery skin on it like an onion.

He:  Hey, I just spotted some. Jeez, you're right. They do kinda look like garlic. Hey, thanks Ma.

Me: No problem.

Wonder what he's cooking up for dinner tonight. He's turning into quite the cook. And, to think it all started years ago when he made a batch of "Texas scrambled eggs" for his buddies.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Washing Cars in Stilettos

Because she said I could.....

I'll share her work related angst and add in my own commentary.  I did ask.  I promise. She said, "OK".

She: I don't like washing cars at work. It's hot. I sweat. Boss made me do a car over four times before he was satisfied with the look of it.

Me: I didn't think that was part of your job description.

She: Unfortunately it is.We have a "car prep" guy but on certain days he doesn't start work until 10 and then we have to do it.

Me: Ahhhh.
She: I hate getting out there in my skirt and heels to wash cars.

Me: I can imagine. Why don't you keep a pair of flats at work to wear when you have to wash cars?

She: Flats are gross. I look better in heels.

Me: You can't really wash cars very well in heels. Wear flats. Besides, it looks weird.

She: I'm thinking of getting some rain boots, wearing a shower cap, and putting on a rain jacket when I'm out there....just to make a point. Ya know? Let them see me wearing that.

Me: Flats would be just fine and take care of all the issues.

She: Naw....I look mo' betta in stilettos.

Me: Whatever....

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pensive Today

Is there any example of fear not caused by the specter of loss?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September is Here; Let's Dance

Here's a great tune worthy of a re-visit today, this first day of September. Thanks to Caroline blogging at Constantly Evolving who posted the same video clip today. Something about the new month and September in particular brings out the celebration.

Earth Wind and Fire, 1978, September. 

Do you remember the 21st night of September?
Love was changing the minds of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away

Our hearts were ringing
In the key that our souls were singing
As we danced in the night,
Remember how the stars stole the night away

on and on - say that you remember
on and on - dancing in September
on and on - never was a cloudy day

My thoughts are with you
Holding hands with your heart to see you
Only blue talk and love,
Remember how we knew love was here to stay

Now December found the love that we shared in September.
Only blue talk and love,
Remember the true love we share today

on and on - say that you remember
on and on - dancing in September
on and on - never was a cloudy day

on and on - say do you remember
on and on - dancing in September
on and on - golden dreams were shiny days

Some bells were ringing
Our souls were singing
Do you remember,never a cloudy day?

on and on - say do you remember
on and on - dancing in September
on and on - never was a cloudy day

on and on - say do you remember
on and on - dancing in September
on and on - golden dreams were shiny days