Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hockey! And Love, Mostly.

Looks like chaos to me. I grew up in California, and hockey might as well have been a sport from Mars. Charming husband grew up in Anchorage, and played hockey in high school. I’ve been forbidden to talk about his most damaging hockey incident, which occurred when he was at Madison Square Garden to see a hockey game. He slipped on beer saturated steps and smashed his finger badly enough to require surgery when he returned to Washington. He still has trouble with it. Technically, this wasn’t actually a hockey injury since he was there to see a game, not participate, but I still maintain hockey is a dangerous sport.
However, I’ve been told I can’t mention that incident, so please disregard that previous paragraph.

We do like our games to carry a risk of danger, don’t we?

You would think, knowing how fragile we are, we’d avoid things that can result in injuries and pain, but instead we rush into them headlong. We risk losing and injury because winning makes it all worthwhile.
Love’s the same way.

You thought I was going to talk about hockey, didn’t you? But I’ve already exhausted my knowledge, except to say that whoever scores the most goals wins, and I’m not sure a remedial hockey course is in anyone’s best interests.

Especially now that Canada has just scored a goal and they’re ahead.

I can watch hockey and type at the same time because I don’t know what I’m looking at.

One would think, knowing what we know about love, that we’d avoid it like the plague. It’s messy. It’s work. We can get hurt, and often do. It takes compromise and a degree of selflessness, if done properly. It can turn our world upside down, and then right side again, often at the same time. It’s amazing we manage to get through it so well so much of the time, given the hazards.

Being in love, as opposed to just loving someone, means giving up a certain degree of autonomy. Suddenly, it’s not about just me and what I want. Someone else is involved too, and this someone else may complicate things. They may not want the same things. If it doesn’t work out, which happens far more than we’d like, people get hurt.

And sometimes people fall out of love. And sometimes they don’t fall out of love but they break up anyway, for various reasons. And it sucks.

A lot more people fall in love than play hockey, and I’m pretty sure falling in love is even more dangerous than hockey, it not physically, at least emotionally.

There must be some sort of reward in it that makes it worth risking the pain. When it works successfully, it’s better than winning a gold medal at the Olympics.

(One way to get readers during the Olympic frenzy is to write about the Olympics, even if only in a roundabout way.)

A gold medal in love means having someone there who you can trust with your most valuable belongings, like your heart. It means the possibilities open up before. However, it also means you may have to share a bathroom. You may have to make some hard decisions about who sleeps on which side, and you may have to decide which family to visit on which holidays. There are thousands of pitfalls that come with being in love and having a relationship.

And when it doesn’t work out, it’s really hard.

Charming husband and I broke up once, when we were dating. We both had to make changes, and I was certain that the age difference was an insurmountable problem. And it was awful.

It only lasted two days. Sometimes breakups, like relationships, just don’t take. Last week we celebrated the six year anniversary of the day we met – in person, anyway. We’d been emailing before that.

The thing about winning a gold medal in love is that it’s not a game. The comparison breaks down there, because we’re not competing (or shouldn’t be), and one couple winning doesn’t mean another couple loses. Also, there are no pucks, and heavy padding is optional. Helmets aren’t required. (If helmets seem like a good idea, you’re doing it all wrong.) The similarities between love and hockey are only superficial apparently. But you should still play fair in both, and you should be willing to risk injury for a greater reward. If it goes bad, emotional injuries will heal, with time. Maybe not completely. We’re all a conglomeration of whatever’s happened to us in the past, after all. But mostly.

How much risk you take is dependent on how badly you want to win, and when it works, you find it was all worth it, even the wrong turns along the way. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When You're Having One of Those Days

I'm not having one, in case you were wondering, though I have been struggling with this rather much lately.  One of those days where you just can't drag yourself through the muck in any semblance of order, sanity, or intellectual clarity. A friend of mine is having one. And what I say is, just go with the flow. Have that day, and don't try to push it aside. Get yourself through the day however you need to, and that way the day can be satisfied. If you push it away and tell yourself it isn't important, it'll come back on you. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe later today. It wants its day, and it's going to get its day. The easier you make it for the day, the faster you can move on towards the next day.

If this means shutting yourself away and eating cookies, then do so so. (This is not a bad idea actually. I have some cookies on my desk . . . )

If this means cuddling with your dog and taking said dog to the park, then do so.

If it means going on a shooting spree, you need medical attention, and quickly. Call 911. They'll know what to do.

If you need to be sad, let yourself be sad. For a few minutes, anyway. Let yourself be sad knowing that you're not going to let yourself be sad for a long period of time, just a little while. (The time period invoked by "little while" varies from person to person and can't be defined any better than that.)

Seek out sun, if at all possible. In mid-February this may seem amusing more than useful, but we do what we can. I know people who've had tremendous success with light boxes.

Not me. I'm more of a vampire. "Close the blinds!" I screech, "The sun's coming in!" As if I'm going to start smoking (my body, not me) and then go up in flames.

I am, as you can see, a vampire of the old school variety, not the new.

But even for me, being out in the sun, when I do go out, forces my body into a lighter place. Too much sun, and I'm back to, "Aaaahhhhh! The sun! Get me out of here!" But some sun is good.

Don't forget the sun screen.

Exercise, if you can. This may sound odd coming from me, since I've managed to convince people that I'm part sloth. But even I enjoy a healthy dose of exercise from time to time. It makes my body think of other things, for one, such as, "What the hell are you trying to do? Kill me?" (After a good workout my knees, in particular, are quite put out for days.)

Go to a movie in a darkened theater where you don't have to interact with anyone. Interacting with people can be very hard work, after all, and you don't want to exert yourself.

Make plans to interact with people later, assuming you like this sort of thing, so you have something to look forward to. (I like this sort of thing when I'm not sulking, but most of my people are too far away to interact
with, so that makes me sulkier.)

Which is not to say that my sulking is anything like anyone else's inability to deal with the day. In my case it just happens to be me sulking because I know what the problem is and refuse to do anything about it. This, then is

Weird word, sulking.

I feel I should offer a disclaimer. "Should you feel sad for an excessively long time and hopeless on top of it, seek medical attention. Should you feel fidgety and are considering harming yourself, seek medical attention

But if you're just unable to deal with the day, call me. Or someone you actually know, because you might not want to talk to a stranger. I'm just saying. Have a cookie. Burrow, if you want to. Indulge your day. You are more important than the things you were meant to do today.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Vacuum for Valentine's Day

First of all, I asked for it. Secondly, it was only because we were out shopping for household incidentals today and I came across the vacuums and I said, “Hey, here’s this vacuum I want, can I have it?”
I had to ask if I could have it because he had to pay for it, and so I think it’s polite. It’s a smaller vacuum, so I can vacuum when I’m not feeling the need to lug the big one around. And it’s RED. If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is.

Last week charming husband bought me a heart shaped box of chocolates. Nuts and chews, because as we were at the candy store I said that was what I wanted. He told me I couldn’t have it until Valentine’s Day though, so I put it on top of the fridge in its bag and ignored it for several days.
Friday night, while he was in Seattle and not due to return home until Saturday evening, the nuts and chews called to me like a siren enchanting a sailor, and I took the box down, unwrapped it, and took two chocolates out. I placed everything back in carefully and put it back on top of the fridge in its original bag. He would never know.

This afternoon I told him what I’d done.

“I never would have known,” he replied.

“I know, but I can’t keep a secret from you.”

I really can’t.

This morning, before I got out of bed, I said, “I really need to scrub out the shower when I take a shower this morning.”

He took a shower first, and when I got there the shower was clean and sparkling.

He didn’t do this because it was Valentine’s Day, he did it because he does things like this. He hears what I say, and sometimes he gets there ahead of me. Just because. Of course, I then had to scrub the outside of the shower, which wasn’t included on his list of scrubbing, but that’s okay. It’s a lot less work.

I make fun of the jewelry show commercials. You know the ones I mean. “He went to Jared!” And the others that tell us that if he REALLY loved you he’d bring you bright sparkly things from their store. It’s how men show their love. And if they REALLY love you they’ll hit a woolly mammoth over the head and drag it home for dinner, right? Or, I suppose, they’d hit you over the head and drag you home.

Whatever. I find them amusing. And I’m not saying this because charming husband doesn’t buy me jewelry – he’s been known to pick out fabulous things all on his own for me. But I don’t think that love means he’s going to shell out for something I don’t want him to spend money on in order to show his love. He shows it every day in ways that are far more meaningful than how much money he has to spend.

Also amusing are the annual entreaties to tell of our Most Romantic Moment, Our Best Valentine’s Day, Our . . . well, you fill in the blank. Or maybe I’m just easily amused. I am, you know. I spend a good portion of my time being amused. It makes life easier, and much more fun.

I’m not good at favorites or bests. If you were to ask me what my favorite Valentine’s Day was, I’d say this one. Next year I’ll probably say the same thing: “this one.” The year after? “This one.” Charming husband thought he should make dinner for me tonight, but I told him it wasn’t necessary. I’m happy just to be here with him, so we went to lunch and sat in the bar, where we could watch the Olympics while we ate. We took our time, and then we went shopping for household incidentals. Depending on your definition of romance, this could be the absolute best, the absolute worst, or somewhere in between. For me, it’s the best, which is really what matters.

Next week we have the anniversary of the day we met. This is a much more important date to commemorate. It’s not the first date we talked, it’s the first day we met in person. We went to an afternoon movie, “just to see a movie,” because, after all, he was far too young for me. You see how that ended up. So for the anniversary of the day we met, we’re going to see Shutter Island. I’ve been waiting for it, and charming husband is big fan of movies. He says I can have all the popcorn I want.

And that is true love.

The Stew Project

There are so many truths in the world of publishing it’s difficult to know what to believe and what not to believe. If I were to believe half the truths I’m told, I’d give up right now and find something else to do with my time. But I’m cynical by nature, or am I not cynical enough? Do I still believe that a good story well told is worth something, even if everything I’m told says that’s not enough? Maybe it just has to be enough for me, though I hope it’s for more than that. I can’t write just for myself. Oh sure, I CAN, but I’d rather write for others, otherwise I could just as keep it all in my head and not bother putting it on paper.

This project is about a man dealing with mental illness, and me, the one who was married to him and who then undertook the care of him during the most difficult phases of his mental illness. He’s no longer here to tell the story, so my dilemma becomes: how to tell his side? Fortunately, he left me with much writing to use, and now the question becomes, how do I fit this into the narrative? What kind of narrative? Originally, we began this as a joint project, with each of us writing short pieces in the form of journal entries. But now that he’s not here, and I am, I’m looking at making it a memoir, mine, obviously, since that’s all I can do from this perspective, but also using his writing.

I’m still working on how to do that while putting together the pieces of what I have. I’ve set myself a deadline of July 1st for a draft. That’s over four months. With as much material as I have, and as many years as this project as sat around gathering dust, that ought to be enough time. Then again, I’ve never been a good estimator of how much time any given task will take. I tend to overestimate my ability to get things done.
And building a platform. That’s not tough, right? Here I am, someone who’s unknown, with no connections, can’t even get my friends and family interested in becoming followers of my writing, and I’m supposed to get strangers interested? But that’s the way it works, so I’ll keep working at it. There are a few people, strangers mostly, who encourage me, so I’ll have to make do with that. I’ll keep working at it.

And the writing. I need to do the writing. This book doesn’t have a plot, and no one lives happily ever after. Well, I do, I suppose, I’m pretty damn happy these days. But not Stew – he dies in the end, and I’ve been told that’s a major roadblock to selling this book. Good to know, but immaterial. I’m not going to give up on it just because he had the misfortune to get cancer and die. I’m still going to tell his story.

And hey! I’m going to have fun doing it! Life without fun isn’t worth living, is it?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dreams Starring My Mother

Friday morning: In the first dream my mother is dying, just like in November. She’s in a big room, and I’m looking for an outlet to plug in an extension cord because the nurse told me to. I’m not sure what it’s for, I’m just doing what I’m told. The good daughter, for once. My mother is in bed, dying. Conscious part of the time, asleep the rest. People are coming and going, and when I wake up I’m not sad that my mother is dead. It wasn’t a sad dream, it was just a dream about my mother dying, and I’m left with the feeling that this is how I get more time with her. How can more time with my mother not be a good thing?

Saturday Morning: In the other, my mother is dying, just like in November. Except she awoke, sat up, though carefully, as if the cancer were controlling her movements. She touches her hair with her left hand, and it’s puffy at the sides, and she says something about her hair. She hadn’t been happy with her hair in real life, not in years. It had thinned considerably, so she always wore hats. “It’s okay, Mom, it’s beautiful,” I tell her. I don’t know if it helps, but she smiles for me.

In the next room is someone else’s mother. It’s a large house we’re in, not the house Mom died in, which was her own, but her own in another way. It’s a dream after all, I can’t make a lot of sense of it. The other mother has taken to her bed, and doesn’t ever come out. I forget about the other mother because, well, I never see her, and she’s not my mother. I feel bad for forgetting about her. No one knows what’s wrong with the other mother, other than that she won’t wake up and get out of bed.

Other things go wrong in my dream. I plan a long trip, I’m turned away by people who should have welcomed me, I’m inconvenient. This is uncomfortable, at best. But the part about my mother is not uncomfortable. I spend more time with her, and she wakes up enough to decide we’re all going somewhere.

Just like she did a week before her final descent. I should say ascent, shouldn’t I? If we’re going by theology that is. I wasn’t there yet, but those who were say she decided she’d go to the casino, and so they all went, and Mom had a good time. The month before I’d been there, and she hadn’t seemed strong enough, or awake enough, to go anywhere. She wanted that last time out.

So in the dream we all get ready to go somewhere with Mom. She’s dying, and she knows she’s dying, but that isn’t a reason to not do what she wants. And why should it be? If you can’t do what you want when you’re dying, when CAN you do it?

Of course there’s logistics, but let’s leave that aside for now.

I wake up from my dream having spent more time with my Mom. Twice in two days I’ve been able to spend more time with her, as if she’s still here, close by.

They don’t ever leave us completely, do they? We’re left, if we’re lucky, with the best parts, the stuff that made them who they were. It’s ephemeral, isn’t it? But it’s there, the best parts, and all we have to do is accept it. If we’re lucky, they come to us in our dreams, and we have the one thing there’s never enough of: time. More time to spend with the people who’ve left. It wasn’t us they left, their absence from our lives is just a byproduct of their journey. They never really leave us. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Did you know that in accounting land, where I reside part of the year, despite the darkness of the skies and the perpetual panic, goodwill is something that can be purchased with money? Not only that, you can't define goodwill as something other than, "This here makes my business more valuable because people know who I am," or, "the value of this business is much higher than its book assets because of all the goodwill." What this means is that if the value you place on something is more than what the numbers show, we call it goodwill and we're good. (Please, no lessons on how goodwill "really" works. Too much reality would interfere with my message.)

How's that for tangible? And yet we use it anyway, in a field where we like numbers to mean something. You can't see it, you can't use it (not tangibly, anyway), and it's usually an arbitrary value that comes from the difference between the selling price and the book value. 

You know what else is intangible? Social pleasantries. Being nice to people doesn't put any money in my pocket, and probably not yours either, unless you're a paid greeter. So just because it's intangible, some of us have apparently discarded the concept. Not you of course. My readers are the most considerate people I know. But the inconsiderate people don't read this because I don't allow them to, so I'm going to tell you something in secret, just between us.

I'm fed up with these people. 

How hard is it to say thank you? Nothing difficult, an email with two words. THANK YOU. That's all. 

Two weeks ago I had two people ask me for references, one a former employee, one a service provider. Being considerate, I went to the appropriate website and did so. I even sent the former employee, who was just laid off from the same company I left over a year ago, an email asking how she was doing and offering suggestions. 

No thank you's. 

I don't mean to sound ungrateful, really, it's not that I do these things so someone will say thank you. It's not like I can save up thank you's and take them to the bank. I can't even put them in a jar and save them for a rainy day. It's the intangibleness of them that I like. 

Several days ago someone emailed me with a question. I don't mind questions. There's a place I go where I answer questions for free for hapless purchasers of a product I use a lot. Sometimes I get thanked, but mostly the answers just drift off into the ether, and I don't know if they helped or not. Sometimes I'm thanked effusively. I don't care if they don't thank me because I'm getting POINTS. That's right. Points. These points are not redeemable for valuable prizes, nor can I use them when a cop pulls me over and wants to know why I was going 90 in a 65. (Wouldn't those kind of points be so cool though?) 

Sometimes people contact me directly. Usually I decline to answer questions by email, unless they're paying clients, because I do have to earn a living sometime. But sometimes I do. The other day someone emailed me. I don't know where they got my name or email. It doesn't matter, it's not exactly a secret. They asked a question, and because I happened to have a clue, I suggested some areas they might look at that might fix their problem.

And that was the end of that. 

Bah, humbug. I don't want to stop being nice, but I may have to if I don't start seeing some intangible goodwill over here. My clients are all fabulously nice to me, so it'll only be the non-clients who suffer. They can send me questions and ask me to take five minutes of my time and I'll just say, "No, I can't be bothered, I have a life, what do you people expect?" Well, I won't actually say that. I'll just ignore them. Answering them with a no would mean taking my time, wouldn't it? And time is money. 

Thank you. Really. I'm sure I don't say it enough, but thank you. You can't take it to the bank, but you can bask in it for awhile.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Football and Hot Wings

Worked on The Project today, and wrote a couple small things, one of them being this. 

I love the Super Bowl. It gives me a chance to catch up on my reading.

There’s a proverbial bandwagon coming my way, and I’m going to jump on it. For those of you who don’t follow football, don’t be alarmed: neither do I. I am aware of its presence, and I’m sure it’s on all the time, and I’ve even been to Super Bowl parties, where my main objective was to eat and have a good time. One does not have to follow football in order to do this.

My first husband was addicted to football, as well as any other sport that was in season. During the sports season he would sit next to the fireplace so he could blow his cigarette smoke up the chimney (under the mistaken impression that it would then not affect me, but he was so wrong) and drink beer by the caseload. He amused himself by building pyramids of beer cans which could easily reach five feet in height. Notice I said “during the sports season,” which means, as far as I can tell, 365 days a year, and he would panic at the possibility of missing one day.

Once I escaped from this marriage (by means I won’t go into here, but rappelling may have been involved) I married a man with little interest in sports. This was fun and entertaining.  He would watch football, but it wasn’t his life. He had other things he was far more interested in, and I thought this was a fabulous way to live. That one didn’t work out either, but he’s getting an entire book written about him so we won’t go into details here.

And now Charming Husband (CH). Football is not CH’s favorite sport. Baseball is. He loves baseball with a passion, but not as much as he loves me. This is a nice change from husband number 1. During baseball season CH is active in fantasy leagues, and he watches games . . . if they don’t interfere with anything else going on in his life. If it’s a really important game, he’ll Tivo it and ask me not to tell him the outcome. Not that I would know, of course, but it’s nice that he might suspect me of being aware of my surroundings. He’s very attentive to his alma mater’s football season, and he plays fantasy football. I once asked him what he gets for winning, for putting so much energy into this, and he answered with, “Bragging rights.”

“Can you trade those in for valuable prizes?”

The answer was no.

That’s okay. I engage in some pretty pointless activities myself.

Husband number 2 and I would watch the Super Bowl for the ads. #2 was an advertising and marketing guy, and he loved seeing what was going on out there.

CH watches the Super Bowl for the game itself, and because it’s a very good excuse for us to sit around and do nothing while eating hot wings. It’s not as if we need an excuse – who would notice? But just sitting around seems to warrant some kind of explanation. Also it’s a good time for me to take a nap and catch up on my reading, and an excuse to eat hot wings. I usually avoid fried foods, but there’s something about Super Bowl that just cries out for hot wings.

And it’s a tradition, of sorts, here in our household, even if I don’t care about the sport itself. I gather it’s like that in other households too. Some may decry the senseless violence and pointlessness of playing a game that doesn’t, in the end, make the world a better place, but maybe all we need sometimes is something to occupy us so we’re not making the world a worse place for the time being.

I say, “hand me those hot wings, and that book over there,” and all is well.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Red Lentils

They’re on the counter, in one of those clear plastic bags the bulk items come in. They come in the clear plastic bags because that’s what we put them in when we buy them. Or, when charming husband buys them, as in this case.

I don’t know what to do with red lentils, but apparently he does. He, however, is gone for two days. I suppose I’ll save them until he gets back, then he can do something with them.

I have bigger fish to fry.

Except I’m not frying any fish at all, not at the moment, though I do plan on having fish for dinner. Cod, to be exact, though I won’t be frying it.

All of this is to say that I’m avoiding the issue at hand. Could you tell? Was it obvious? There are things waiting to be done, and here I am, blathering on about lentils and fish as if they’re somehow relevant, when I’m only using them as placeholders until I get to where I want to be.

Have you ever tried using a lentil as a placeholder? I don’t recommend it.

I’m thinking of developing new communication techniques, something along the lines of, “I want to say this and so I’m saying it now, even if it sounds stupid,” because otherwise people don’t quite get my drift. I think I’m pretty obvious, but I could be wrong.

When I ask for support, I want people to say, “Of course! I’ll support you!” I’m not asking for financial support, I’m really quite capable of providing my own financial support, especially since I have a husband who doesn’t mind me asking for large sums of money.

Not that he has large sums of money to give me, but he doesn’t mind me asking. He just laughs when I do.

I mean the kind of support where I say, “I need this and this from you,” meaning, just tell me you’re on my side and you think I can do this, and you, in response, say, “Of course! You’ll be fabulous.” Or even, “Well, okay, but it might suck, you’re not as good a writer as you think you are,” but at least I’ll know you were listening.

Maybe you heard my red lentil story, which was short and to the point. In case you forgot, here it is: “I have red lentils. Until they came home from the store the other day I didn’t know they existed, so now I don’t know what to do with them. I’ll leave them for charming husband.” It’s short, direct, to the point, and has a happy ending. Maybe that was enough for you.

But here’s the real story: I have a project that I’m really scared of getting wrong, and it’s a big project. Maybe I can’t do it. Maybe I’m not good enough. I don’t know. Maybe you think I get plenty of support elsewhere, though where that might be, I don’t know. Maybe from the people who think that since I seem to know what I’m doing, I must be just fine. Obviously.

I’m not.

Can’t you see that?

I suppose not. After all, you have your own things going on in your life. And me, I’m doing fine over here. Just get back to me when you have a moment. Or don’t. I’ll make my way on my own.

Sometimes all someone needs is a word or two of encouragement. It would mean so much to us, but getting it is like pulling teeth, which is another term I avoid using. I’ve never pulled a tooth, but I know that I don’t give mine up easily, so pulling one is a difficult process. “But you already know I support you!” you might say, or “But you already know how I feel about it!”

Do I?

Do you, for that matter?

Do I really look like I’m in control of the situation? Am I really all calm and assured? Perhaps I should go into acting then. I must be quite good at it. Inside, I’m my very own clear plastic bag of red lentils, all separate and mobile, and if you drop the bag the lentils will spill all over the floor, and it’ll take quite a bit of work to put them back together. They’re not a cohesive whole, not until you cook them, and neither is my book – it’s a lot of little pieces dying to break away from the pack and go their own separate way. It’s getting from the raw lentil stage to the completed book stage that scares me, and it ought to scare you too. (If you were writing one, not my book. You have enough issues without worrying about my book.)

There. I feel better already. Still not sure if I can do this project properly, but if no one’s going to tell me I can’t, I’ll just assume I can. I’ll keep going, and those who know about it will encourage me, and those who haven’t heard me won’t, and the encouragement I get will help, because there are those who will let me talk about my fears and hesitation and listen, and I will be very grateful to them.  

And those who don’t hear me ask for help? I’ll get over it. Anyway, that’s not you, is it? 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Dream About Life and Death

I had a dream, and when the alarm went off it still felt so real that I could barely wake up. My Mother was there, in my dream, but it wasn't a setting I was familiar with. It was a house, at first, and there were other family members there, and we were caring for my Mom, who had cancer and was dying. In that respect it was like life itself, except in the past.

Mom was cheerful about her looming death. This was like real life too. She didn't show us any regret or sadness, she talked bravely about her new adventure, and we fluttered around her in our attempts to make her comfortable. It was all we could do, you see, and there was nothing else to be done for it.

Mom and I went somewhere, for some reason, one of those places and reasons that pop up in dreams and make sense at the time, but in the light of full consciousness are meaningless, and can't ever be recalled. It didn't matter. I was taking Mom somewhere and making her comfortable. As we waited for drinks and food at the counter of a deli the people behind us grew impatient. I'd asked for tea for Mom, and the owner gave me a tea bag and a small amount of hot water, not nearly enough to fill the cup. I asked for more. Our supplies were mounting on the counter, and the people behind us grew more impatient and started making sounds. And this is odd, but one of the sounds they made was that they were servicemen and servicewomen, from the Air Force no less, and who were we to make them wait?

Who were we? Mom wasn't there with me. I'd had her sit down so she could be more comfortable.

Who were we? I told them I'd been in the Air Force myself, thank you very much, and so had my Mom, thank you very much (the first part is true, the second part is not, but when I went into the Air Force my mother, though
she'd never said a word against it, fretted and worried, as mothers will. She worried about me, not knowing exactly how I was. It was long ago, and our exchanges were by mail, not email, so there was a delay, like the time I
had surgery and without knowing what was going on she'd called the Red Cross, who called my commander, who sent the first sergeant out to my house in rural Germany where I was recovering from my surgery to tell me to please get in touch with my mother before she drove them all bonkers with her questions. So, in that sense, my mother was also in the Air Force, wasn't she?

Anyway, that seemed to quiet them down. For added emphasis, I told them, "And my mother has cancer and is going to die soon, so just shut up!"

That worked. That word has so much power over us, doesn't it?

Later I looked for a comfortable place for us to sit, out of the sun. Mom poked around at a bed that was part of an outdoor display, but it was all cushy and soft, like a water bed, and far too much movement for her, with cancer. The salesman tried to sell her on the benefits of the bed, and Mom, in her bathrobe, told him it was just too soft for someone who was going to die soon, and she said it with a smile and a twinkle in her eye that indicated she knew what a fine joke it was, and he let up.

We found a place to sit, and we drank our tea and ate our snacks, and we talked about life and death and the price of fruit, or something equally innocuous.

And so when the alarm went off I woke up reluctantly, wanting to stay with my Mom, knowing that when I did wake up she'd be gone, and has been gone since November. But I dragged myself awake, knowing that Mom wouldn't want me to stay when I had so much of life to get through, and there's so little time to waste.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

So Many Disappointments

Mark Morford has hit on something I've been noticing with increasing regularity in his column. (
I want instant service. I want it right, and I want it now. I want it because I know you can give it to me, if only you wanted to, but because you're difficult you won't.
I want cooperation, and I want it now. Who made up all these rules, anyway? You? Why do you want to hurt me so? What'd I ever  do to you that you'd want to do that to me?
I deserve to have something astounding, and I'm not sure why you think you can pass off that latest version of dreck as something new and improved.
You can't make a mistake, have a bad day, be subjected to a technology slowdown, have other customers waiting, because I expect more. I expect it now, and I want it now.
Could you please, and I'm only saying please because I've been told it's polite, but I really shouldn't have to be polite to get what I want and DESERVE, so this little nicety should really put me at the front of the list, and why haven't you given me what I want yet? 
I am but a deserving innocent consumer in a world stacked against me, and why can't everyone else just get with the program?
I'm just asking. If it were up to me, which of course it isn't, because what is? Nothing, I am a victim of this cruel and incompetent world where everyone else, at least all those people I don't know, are for some reason that I can't quite put my finger on, not cooperating with my agenda.
I know what's best, and I know what you need, and I know what I need. A good swift kick in the pants, that's what you need. And me? I just need what I deserve. I don't have time for human limitations, and I shouldn't be expected to endure them.
So just give me what I want, give it to me now, and it better be right or you're gonna pay, yes you will. I'll tell everyone  how horrible you are, and you'll regret the day you messed with me.
Not only does the world revolve around me, but I am subjected to such an assortment of ill-mannered, rude, incompetent, needy people it's a wonder my head doesn't explode with the injustice of it all.
Oh wait. I think I hear the sound of . . .  something's happening . . . is that my head imploding? WHY ME? 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Another Death

They keep happening, these deaths, time after time, as if there’s an exhaustible supply of people who can die and leave us, when we really don’t want to be left. It’s . . . unpleasant. Let’s go with that.

Last night I received notice of the death of a good and valuable Internet friend. I’d met her in person a few years ago, stayed at her house with a few friends from the same group. It’s a large group though, and we never manage to all be in the same place at the same time. But we manage small get-togethers here or there, this coast or that coast or Australia, or right in the middle of the U.S. Nothing like a diverse group of people for perspective. I heard about this particular friend’s death from the blog of a gentleman in England who’d found out by checking the friend’s blog. She’d been silent lately, and we knew she’d been having health issues. She’s older, a tiny wisp of a woman with a fabulous outlook on life and she was dearly loved. I notified others, and from coast to coast there’s shock. It’s not that we didn’t expect her to die . . . eventually. We just thought we’d have more notice. Or we thought she’d keep going on like she always has, sending out delightful emails, blogging about coffee and cooking, and just being there for us whenever we needed a cheerful word.

Just a couple of weeks ago I’d received an encouraging note from her. Her name was Dee, and here is her blog:

Life goes too fast, and while we’re busy managing our schedules, which are filled with all the things we ought to do, and planning our futures, which are filled with things we want to do, life keeps going. If we don’t pay attention, the future becomes now and we’re still thinking of the things we ought to do, and the things we want to do keep getting pushed ahead to a future we may never see.

I’m still coming to terms with losing my Mom. Was it only in October that I saw her and she seemed almost herself? Weaker and not eating, but still getting up, still eating a bite here or there, still wanting us to know she was fine and normal. Then in November my sister and my brother and I all showed up at her bedside together, the three of us, a very uncommon sight, and her eyes lit up, her entire face awash in the light that comes from knowing one’s most precious possessions are present and well, and she laughed. She was happy, though so close to death, and that one moment would be one of her last lucid moments before she went to sleep for the last time.

We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, my mom and I. But she loved me with a passion reserved only for mothers and their children, and no matter what I chose to do with my life, she thought I was perfect. While I saw someone who spent so much time floundering, never finishing anything I started, my Mom saw someone who was fabulous. None of this was clear to me growing up, during the years when I was always wondering where she was and why she didn’t come to see me more often, but I know it now.

And people loved my Mom. She had a wide circle of friends and relatives who loved her, and she knew how lucky she was. She insisted on looking at the positive side of things, no matter how it would infuriate me, and she insisted on being upbeat and cheerful, refusing to let the past sabotage the present.

There were things in her past she could have used as an excuse for sorrow, but she refused, adamantly, to do so. It just wasn’t going to happen.

My mom would have loved Dee. My Mom loved everyone. Years after leaving my first husband Mom would still keep asking how he was, though she loved my next two husbands just as much. But she’d known the first one for a long time, and so she kept asking. Until I finally told her that he’d hurt me, so I wasn’t as fond of him. Then she wasn't either.

She always asked after my Dad, how he was, and she also asked about my younger half-brother, who she wasn’t related to, and especially my older half-sister, who she’d stepmothered for a time. She asked about my ex-in-laws, and she was happy when everyone was doing well. All these people mattered to her, people she’d divorced when I was so young I can’t remember them together, people she’d never met, people she’d met only briefly. Always.

Like Dee. People mattered to Dee, people and relationships and sharing pieces of our lives, which is often the best thing we can do. Just being there, listening and hearing what we’re saying, even when it seems we aren’t being heard by anyone else.

I miss my Mom, and I miss Dee, and I miss Stew, all of whom taught me to do what I want to do now, because tomorrow might be too late. Especially Stew taught me that, for he never had enough time to do what he wanted, and now it’s time for me to finish what he started. Will you listen to me along the way?