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Archive for the ‘aging parents’ Category

Outside my window, the gardeners are bending and standing scooping huge rakes of fall leaves into my compostable bin. A cool breeze is keeping the supply of leaves needing sweeping swirling to the ground, and the days have turned cooler. Hard to believe, just last week we were laboring through the worst heat wave since weather has been reported here in Northern California. I am getting myself and my car packed for my trip down to the Bay Area to watch my son get married. Miss Boo is sitting in the corner tossing ugly looks in my direction from time to time, while I pull things from my closet to fill my suitcase with. Please, save your pity for an abused kitty somewhere. Boo has a house/pet sitter coming for the days I’ll be absent, so by no means is the cat being disregarded. For the price of a car payment, I am providing her company, plentiful treats, food in her dish, water in her bowl, and a companion to snuggle with in the middle of the night. Sometimes I think the cat lives better than I do.

Though this week is slated to be a busy one, life in general seems to have at last slowed down to a manageable pace. For one, my dating life has certainly quieted down. Again, save your pity. I quieted it down. Life was getting confusing. I don’t want or need confusion right at this juncture in my world. I cleared the playing field of all but a single competitor, and went back to square one to regroup and take a break. Perhaps, and that is a perhaps, I am not ready to step into something new quite yet. That being said, I am taking a long hard look at what it is I would like to do. I’ll send up a flare when I have any answers to that dilemma. Actually, I don’t HAVE to do anything exactly at the moment except head down to watch my son share his name with the love of his life. That, I have to say, is more than enough for now. Having my children, though they are far removed from that description these days, settled and happy allows me peace of mind and makes my heart smile every day. In August, my dear little mama moved on as well. All this leaving me standing at the crook in the road of late trying to decide whether to go left or right, or simply sit on a rock under a tree in the warm sun and take in the scenery.

It is smoky outside today. The biggest fire currently in progress in California, is in our back yard. Not literally, thank God, but twenty miles as the crow flies east of here, and that’s not nearly far enough away for me. We’ve been sucking up smoke for several weeks, and it’s only 25% contained. The location is difficult for firefighters to access, prone to steep slopes and valleys, and we are so dry here it can quickly spread with no lack of fuel. The fire fighters have a good battle on their hands. Watching the enormous plume spiraling up into the air leaves me with an admiration for the incredible power of nature.

I think a lot about the power nature wields in our universe. Last week I watched a documentary on the Dust Bowl. There wasn’t enough misery with the heat and the smoke, I thought I’d add a little extra to the pot. I had no idea those people endured that for ten years. Wow. They had dust in their teeth, their food, their homes, and most likely every other accessible orifice. Horrible.

Leaving thoughts of fire and dust bowls behind, while loading my car up with what I felt I needed for my trip, it became obvious to me I know not the first thing about “traveling light”. In my defense, I have learned over the years no matter whether leaving town for one night or a week, you basically have to pack about the same amount of belongings. Also, I was trained by the best. My mother, a self proclaimed “clothes horse”, would devote an entire suitcase to shoes, and another to handbags, when she went on a trip. Another problem lies in as we age, there simply is more equipment to take with because the maintenance of our bodies becomes more labor intensive. Before leaving the house in the morning I have at least forty-five minutes of upkeep required on my person before I can go out the front door. This is not including showering, hair and makeup. Truth is, I could use a team these days to help me get presentable before being allowed to run free in the general public.

My esthetician has me using a three part beauty treatment twice a day which she insists MUST be applied in the correct order. 1, 2, 3. Really it isn’t rocket science. Yet, she has thoughtfully numbered the bottles for me, apparently sensing I, 1) either don’t care about this order in the least, or 2) likely would forget what the order was by the time the words exited her lips. Both answers would have been correct. According to her, you must apply the products in this order lest your skin slide down your face and drift into a puddle at your feet. Let’s see, 1, 2, 3. By George I think I’ve got it. Really?

There has also been a sinus rinse added to my regimen by my allergist, which when the liquid is shot up your nostrils is tantamount to sliding your brain under a rushing waterfall for three minutes. This requires distilled water, a special dispenser, which has to be sanitized, and a saline packet. Sigh.

Next, I have a mask for my dry eyes which is popped in the microwave each morning while listening to the news, then applied for the pre-determined effective time of fifteen minutes. Siri has been kind enough to count this off for me every day until the caffeine has taken effect.

I am wishing my mother was here to witness the joining of these two dear people. Knowing how much she appreciated a good party and how much she loved her grandson, I’m sure she’ll be perched like the Cheshire Cat on one of the massive limbs of the oak tree they are to be married under, not missing a single magical moment.

As I say often in my blogs, life is like a movie with a series of frames. You must capture the most from each frame in order to absorb the story to its fullest.

There have been a lot of goodbyes over the past few years. As with everything when one door shuts, another opens. It will be lovely to be part of a new beginning once again.

Happy Friday! We are being gifted with a lovely preview to fall sort of day as we embark on a day of pre wedding festivities. Enjoy every moment.

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Well another fourth has been put to bed. As it happens, the fourth was also my maternal grandmother’s birthday. She always requested strawberry shortcake for the occasion. I think of her each year as the fireworks explode in the sky, and hope she’s slathering a mound of fluffy whipped cream on fresh strawberries somewhere in the universe.

I made plans to go to a local Fourth of July parade with a friend, and then attend a pancake breakfast at the Elks Lodge immediately following. It was warm, but thankfully not hot like in the past several weeks. We waited with other enthusiastic onlookers in the semi-shade about an hour and a half for the parade to begin. The first car carrying the “Grand Marshall”, a local celebrity of sorts who owned a string of car washes, went by followed by a small but merry group of flag twirlers. After the flag twirlers rounded the corner, three ladies came into view riding palominos each with an American flag painted on their flank. (That would be the equines with the flags not the ladies.) A few stray cars went by next, not associated with the parade itself, and then two fire trucks and some beautifully restored classic cars. The whole performance lasted about eight minutes. Well worth the wait, lol.

After the parade had passed us by, we made our way across the street to the Elks Lodge to stand in line to get tickets for the much touted all you can eat pancake breakfast. Breakfast, we were told, included scrambled eggs, unlimited pancakes, and sausage. Yum. My stomach had begun grumbling as soon as it smelled the maple syrup. Purposely, I had held off on eating before I came, so I could enjoy a stack of unlimited pancakes to my hearts content. Yay. The Elks had it set up so you gave your name to the ticket lady, who, in turn, handed it off to the volunteers in the kitchen. Orders came out one after another for about an hour with names being called to identify the table they belonged to. My stomach finally gave up the vigil and quieted down to a dull roar settling for a glass of orange juice until the pancakes arrived. About ten people before us, one of the runners announced they had run out of food. Really? We were told a tri tip and hot dog barbecue would commence in about an hour and a half. I was first in line for that one I guarantee.

Turns out while we were waiting for lunch to be served, a band was setting up in one of the great rooms inside. We milled in with the others waiting with us, to listen to what they had to offer. They weren’t bad actually. I wore flip flops because, a) it was warm, and b) I was wearing shorts, and my invitation to go dancing must have gotten lost in the mail. Dancing in flip flops is not the ideal footwear situation, but for the next hour I found myself doing exactly that. Turns out these Elks can actually bust some moves on the dance floor. At one point, 80% of the room got out there and did an amazing line dance that would have been impressive even in a Texas roadhouse. Wow. Must be taking lessons on the weekend. I’ve never learned to line dance. For some reason I can’t seem to hold on to the choreography. My ex-husband was from Odessa. There I believe line dancing and cow wrangling are required courses in grade school. He taught me a lot in the ten years or so we were together, both good and bad. I’ve forgotten most of the dances over the years but it was fun to watch. Made me think I might sign up for a class somewhere along the way myself.

I came home early before the fireworks because I had driven back from the Bay Area the day before, where I visited my son and his brood. After four days of busy activities my behind was beginning to drag along the asphalt. I’ve been riding myself pretty hard lately and the old bones are beginning to feel the strain.

Yesterday was my first eight hour day on the new job. For those of you who didn’t read my blog saying where I was working, I took a job at an assisted living and memory care facility two days a week. It continues to surprise me how much my mind is fighting this new development. I keep hearing phrases like “Where oh where is my prince?” swirling about in my head. Once I officially retired I think my mindset was to keep that employment designation, but as I’ve said sooooooo many times life doesn’t always read the agenda you have written out for yourself.

My official job title is Concierge. I know, very flashy, yes? Actually, administrative assistant more accurately describes what I am doing. However, I rather like the title they assigned me. Rolls nicely off the tongue. I spent the day seated in an incredibly hard folding chair in front of a small laptop watching videos. In order to work in such a facility you are required to be somewhat versed on the conditions at work in the people living there. In this case, that would be mainly dementia and Alzheimer’s. Because my mother had dementia in her nineties, I am fairly well versed in how the condition manifests itself as it moves along in it’s progression.

Being the “new girl on the block” prompted a procession of sorts by the door to my temporary office comprised of the men living in the facility. Men will be men, I have observed, no matter the age group. One after one, they circled the hallway most pushing walkers to get a look at the new face in the building. It’s probably one of the few places I could show up for work these days where I would be considered a member of the younger generation in the population.

After about four hours in that chair my body began to complain. By the time I rolled into the eighth hour I had assumed more positions in that miserable little chair then a professional ballerina performing Swan Lake. I go back to work tomorrow, and they are going to have to find me a softer place to land or I’m going to end up in traction by the weekend. I do feel like I am learning a lot in between the squirming, however. It is a little scary to think that most of us will develop dementia on one level or another, and many of us Alzheimer’s. Hopefully, medical science will come up with something to reverse or stop the progress of this disease. Makes you wonder though. The average age in nursing homes now is 80 years old. Used to be people didn’t live past sixty. If we live to be two hundred, I do hope they also combat the physical effects of aging or that might not be a sight I’d like to see facing me in the mirror every morning. I’m just saying.

Well, happy hump day to you. I lost a very dear friend suddenly day before yesterday. Thankfully, we had lunch several weeks ago and parted by saying “I love you. See you soon.” You never know, capture each moment, appreciate the clouds and the stars, taste the food on your plate with all your senses. Live every day to the fullest.

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I sat quietly in my mother’s room, a bit player in a lonely vigil as her life began to wind down. I was there to bear witness to her releasing the last of her connections to this consciousness, and help send her on her way to her next destination. To me, it felt as though she was inside the basket of a huge hot air balloon hovering above the ground, with only one rope remaining attached. Once that rope was freed, she could soar unencumbered up, up, up into the sky until she finally disappeared into the clouds.

”What is she thinking”, I wondered, as a thought appeared to scroll across her lovely face? Is she afraid, or is she open to discovering the mysteries lying beyond what we mere mortals are given to understand?”

Her skin, though having shielded her body for nearly a century, remained smooth, still tinted with a natural rosy hue further accentuating her now very prominent cheekbones. I kept watch on the slow rise and fall of her chest, finding myself on high alert waiting for the next breath of air to be drawn into her lungs.

I whispered in her ear my thanks and gratitude for loving me unwaveringly, even when I was displaying the less lovable facets of my personality. I thanked her for being my biggest fan in whatever I attempted to accomplish, and for the happiness shining in her face every time she saw mine.

We had a good run she and I. Mother and daughter can often be such a convoluted relationship, fraught with potholes and often more challenging than traversing a minefield. It hasn’t always easy between us. We lived together as adults twice, The first time was for three months, and the second for six. At the end of the six month period, I left and found my own space because I knew if I did not, our relationship would be damaged and it meant more to me than having a less expensive place to hang my hat.

Though we looked much alike, we were, at the root of us, very different beings. My mother slow and methodical by nature, where I live in hyper drive, taking a more shotgun approach to my world. She was ever the fashion plate from the top of her well coiffed head to the tips to her well appointed shoes. For me, it has forever been jeans and tee shirt. So unalike were we, I used to tease her that when she was leaving the hospital with me, the nurses had handed her the wrong baby. In spite of our differences, we came together seamlessly, finding a way to mend our fences and stand on common ground. Loving to laugh was a trait we shared equally and did together often.

It has been a long slow process saying goodbye to my mother. Dementia stole her from us a piece at a time. Her essence remained, however, and will continue to remain long after her body is cremated and her ashes scattered across the waves. Her essence will remain in all the smiling photos held fast by magnets on family refrigerators, or in pages of endless albums filled with shots of her holding my children and theirs, but most of all, it will remain in the hearts of the people she touched. She was Mum, Grandma Mary, Grammy Mary, Great Grandma Mary, to the youngest of our clan, and Aunt Mary, but most of all she was a grand old broad, who lived her life on her terms, loved a bit of mischief, and was always there for those of us who loved her so.

My mother passed away at 6:30 yesterday morning. My world seems much more empty as I write those words. Some people believe we choose our parents before coming into this world. If that is true, I chose well.

Fly free my dear little mama. leave the much detested wheelchair and achy old bones behind, and feel the wind beneath your wings. I will be the vessel for your story, and see you again at the bend in the road, where we will again turn and walk hand and hand together. Please have a can of salt and vinegar Pringles waiting for me. I love you unabashedly, your one and only chick.

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I had minor surgery on my back yesterday to remove a cancerous area. This is not my first rodeo when it comes to this type of surgery, and it won’t be my last. As I said in my previous blog, it is the curse of being a fair skinned, light eyed person of English descent. I shall drop a note to the Queen one of these days and tell her I don’t at all appreciate the extra burden my British ancestry has imposed on my life.

The appointment was set for the ungodly hour of 8 am. It’s not like I’m not up with the chickens, but don’t necessarily wish to be on the road that early now that I’m not punching a clock anymore. Several friends called to wish me well, putting me a little behind. I gathered up the accoutrement it appears necessary to get me up and running and locked the door behind me. In the car, I cranked her up, and noted the “check engine light” that keeps turning on and off, was once again front and center on my dashboard. I contacted Ford the other day to get an appointment to get this looked at and the overly burdened lady in their service department told me she could fit me in just before the holidays roll around again this year. Sadly, with everything being so far behind, I told her to add me to the roster. Sigh. What’s a girl to do?

Pulling out into the street I glanced down at my feet only to have instant realization of how distracted I have been of late. Secured on both feet were my big green fuzzy slippers. Thankfully, I noticed before I plodded into the doctor’s office to check in for my appointment looking like an oversized version of Oscar the Grouch. If there are any keepers out there needing work, please leave your applications with my people and I’ll get back to you. Good Lord. So, back in I went, now late, and shoes were put on both feet as it should be. All was well with the world.

The procedure took about an hour. Once they anesthetize you, the worst of it is over. Until, of course, the numbness wears off. I was a dental assistant in a former life. One of the things I liked least about the job, and there were many, was being the one who prepped the syringes. Always, I felt like the executioner getting the noose secured to the scaffold. The practice I worked for specialized in orthodontia. That being said, most of the victims, uh patients, were children. That was difficult for me. Why on earth I ever decided to go into that field to begin with still boggles the mind. I can’t stand the dental office. The smells, the noise, the pain, the blood. I would rather be shot in the foot. What was I thinking? I actually wanted to be a medical assistant, but couldn’t handle the thought of giving people injections. Perhaps neither job was in a field I should have been sniffing around in. As a teen, I wanted to be a nurse for a while, like my paternal grandmother. Somehow I knew my total inability to deal with visceral issues such as throwing up or worse meant I wasn’t ideally suited for training for that profession.

After the surgery, they had me straddle the chair and drink apple juice from a juice cup. A nurse came in and handed me a package of crackers, instructing me to eat them before leaving. With the little shirt on they gave me to wear during the procedure, I felt like a fourth grader. To complete the picture, the doctor kept referring to me as a “peanut” because I am a rather slight human. Truth is, I didn’t mind it. I’ve been called worse. So, I can check that off my list. It felt strange when they asked me to confirm my information at the front desk. One of the questions the lady in reception asked was whether Dale was still my emergency contact. “Sadly, no”, I replied. Watching her delete him from my records felt deep to me. The significance of that action was not lost on my heartstrings. I have to go back every two days and have the bandage changed for twelve days, because where the wound is located I am unable to reach myself. The universe was giving me a clear message, “You’re on your own, kid. Better learn to deal with it.” Heard and received, thank you very much. Driving towards home, my mind told me I needed a treat so before merging onto the freeway I pulled in behind the other cars at the Starbuck’s drive-thru. A caramel frappuccino has cured many a rough day for me.

After I came home, I gave myself a rare pass for the day and binge watched Netflix shows and did not one productive thing to support my goal of being a useful human being. It was rather glorious. Wouldn’t want to do it every day, but I think my body was telling me it was tired and needed to rest, and I felt I needed to honor the request.

Today I am stiff, but doing much better. I seem to have picked up some juice after wiling away a 24 hour period on my back eating Doritos and enjoying some chill time watching Grace and Frankie. Definitely, a walk is in my future today before those corn chips decide to take up permanent residence on my posterior side. I had to cancel a session I signed up for several months ago with a local grief group meeting today which saddened me. This was a new group, and I was looking forward to meeting others in the area dealing with the loss of a spouse or life partner. With things as they are right now with the bug, going into an unknown group of people who have a choice of whether to mask up or not is not an option for me. Between my mother, who is most vulnerable, and our littlest member, who is three, I can’t take the chance of bringing a hitchhiking germ home with me.

One thing I remind myself frequently, as these are challenging times, is that a year from now things will look different. As with everything, the tide will go out again and we will return to normal (whatever normal might be). So, I forge on undaunted and plan to clean out closets and drawers today in case the Queen stops by for tea.

Take a breath, drink in the glorious pink colors cascading across the sky as the sun comes up, and hold tight to the good thoughts of better days to come.

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Looking out my window this morning, the patio chair closest to the house is barely visible. A heavy bank of fog has moved in making the landscape murky, and trees and bushes but shadowy figures moving in and out of view in the background. Growing up in Nova Scotia on the arm of the Halifax harbor, fog was an integral part of my world. At night, tucked in my little bed in the my room on the second floor of my grandmother’s large comfortable home, the fog horn was often the last sound I was to hear before drifting off to sleep. As I’ve said, repeatedly most likely, I do enjoy a little weather. I would not be content in a place where one season looks like the next, and a bit of inclement weather less likely than developing a case of smallpox. Change, in all things, is what, to me, makes life interesting.

Even if you must go to the same job every day year after year, I believe it is important not to follow the same route every morning in order to get there, or to bring the same lunch to put in the fridge in the break room you’d eaten the day before. Once I dated a man who had his clothes lined up in his closet according to the days of the week. There were his Monday pants, hanging next to his Monday shirt. On the floor beneath them sat his Monday shoes and socks waiting to be put on once his Monday clothes were in place. I dated him for two years and never saw him in other than his Monday shirt on a Monday in the time we were together. If he removed a catsup bottle from what he referred to as his “staples shelf” a bottle of catsup was immediately added to the list hanging on a clipboard on the wall to be purchased at the next trip to the store. Each moment of his life was neatly organized. I like my surroundings to be neat, but I don’t want my life too tidily in place as to not have room for movement.

Now, let me preface this writing by saying I am by nature a very organized person. I do run a tidy ship in my home and don’t find comfort sitting around in a bunch of clutter or disorder. That is just me. If you wish to sit in your house with old McDonald’s bags tossed in the corner, piles of unfolded laundry on the couch and your last dish sitting in the sink dripping maple syrup, it is not my business, nor would I judge you for doing so. This is simply not how I choose to live. Each of us has our own way of plowing through life, and I believe whatever works for you, is precisely what you should be doing.

I had a friend who went through a twelve step program for an addiction he was fighting. As his friend, I went to a meeting with him on several occasions by way of support. The speaker on the first visit was talking about how important how you keep your personal area is to your overall well being. I believe there is truth to this. Most likely if your living space would be suitable for Porky and his pals to take up residence in, your life might well be a reflection of this. But who am I to say? My house is clean, but my life has been untidy often and had many chaotic spaces in it. I’m just throwing the information out there. You may chew on it any way you might like.

Speaking of chewing, there is good news on the cow flatulence front. Cows pass gas or burp, it would appear, at an alarming rate which is negatively effecting our ozone layer. A farmer by the name of Joe Dorgan living in Prince Edward Island (PEI to us Canadians) discovered by feeding his cows organic seaweed it made the animals far less gassy. Go team Canada! They are still investigating how to make this seaweed accessible as a food source for all the gassy cows presently strewn across the globe, as well as determining whether this is a short term fix or a long term one. Either way it is quite an amazing discovery. Right on Joe.

I think of this, because yesterday I went to visit my mother. No, she does not suffer from gas. However, she is presently living in a board and care in a rural section of a Sacramento suburb. It is a lovely area, populated with large ranches situated on huge chunks of property. While driving along the back roads, I passed a flock of wild turkeys deciding whether or not to cross the road, a bee farm (I guess you’d call it that) and a huge flock of cows grazing in a pasture. There you go, the much needed connection to the previous paragraph. Having just read the article about the farmer in PEI, my mind naturally went to the the bovine gas producers as I drove on by.

There are currently three residents and not a single cow in the board and care where my mother stays. There were four, but one lady passed away several weeks ago. My mother and the other female resident both have varying stages of dementia. The third resident, the other woman’s husband, lives with her but is in fairly good health. He moved in to be close to his wife. I find that terribly sweet as I write it. He is always by her side. It is my understanding they have been married for years and when she needed more significant care he opted to join her without hesitation.

Last week, I went to the dollar store and purchased Christmas stockings and all kind of goodies to stuff them with. Then I went to another store and found warm socks for the ladies, and a wool cap for the gentleman in the group. I had noticed on my visits there were perhaps four hairs remaining on the top of his head. Rick, when I met him, was totally bald and always favored wool hats in the winter months to cover this exposed skin in the cold weather. The gentleman was so excited to get the hat, it immediately went on his head and was still in place when I was saying goodbye several hours later. He also told me he had never had a stocking in his life and was most pleased to be able to hang one up. I don’t know his story, perhaps it’s a religious preference, or just a personal one, but all in all it was really fun and a big hit on the other end. Funny how a little something like that can bring a smile to someone’s face. Small acts of kindness, really do have big impact.

The hat made me think of Rick, not that I don’t often have him on my mind. We were together nearly twenty years. That is not a vacancy you fill easily. As I said, he was bald when I met him, having begun to lose his hair in his thirties. With all the stress I’ve had in my life over the past three or four years my hair has taken a hit. Fortunately, I had quite a bit to begin with, but it certainly is less lush then it used to be. Once the hair went, Rick cultivated the middle aged manscape on his face, basically a moustache which was attached to a neatly trimmed goatee. The hair shows up on the face, I believe, as it begins to disappear on the top of the head. I thought he looked wonderful without his hair, and as I never knew him with it in place, never noticed the loss of it. He told me it was devastating for him, however, when his hairline first began to recede. I can feel that. I had a very dear friend who was much older. His hair had completely disappeared on the top of his head but he still had a healthy growth around the sides. His solution to this problem, was to grow it really long on one side and draw that up over the vacant space on the top. Once in place he sprayed it into submission. A comb over. Let me be the first to say, this is not a good look. If the wind comes up, for example, or you go swimming? The hair on the side either stands up or droops to one side and the empty field is revealed. Seriously, I would much rather see a cleanly shaved bald head any day then that. I’m just saying. In the end it is the person existing below the hairline is who is important not what’s growing on their head.

As we age, the things that seemed so important when we were young seem to fade into the background. People gain a few miles on them and aren’t as shiny and factory fresh as they were in their twenties or thirties. The good news unless we invent a magic elixir, all of us are going to age. As yet, I have heard of no effective cure for it. Oh, there is plastic surgery (sometimes scary), and there are a myriad of products out there touting youthful results if you use them, but in the end aging must be faced and accepted as part of the journey.

So, I am inside and cozy on this foggy, foggy day. Have many projects on my table in various stages of production so lots to keep me busy. Christmas is on the horizon and a new year with hopefully more exciting prospects and great bounty for all of us.

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I promised myself to imbue a little light into my next post. This is me doing exactly that. I made it. I made it through Halloween, and not only made it through my birthday, but I pulled a rabbit out of the hat and probably enjoyed the most heart warming birthday day I’ve ever had. Who knew? Yesterday, I added another candle to the cake. Pretty soon, I’m going to need to add another cake to support the candles. At any rate, I had no expectations of anything special heading my way when I opened my eyes in the morning. I had plans for lunch and shopping, but the rest of the day I was to manage by myself. Keeping busy is my way of coping. However, you cannot keep too busy as to avoid being in touch with your feelings or go through the process of grieving, or you will not do your work and complete the process. The morning was filled with catching up on paperwork and pulling together some graphic designs for a local charity I’ve been working with for about eight years. The phone began ringing about 8:00 and I am here to tell you that device never stopped until my head hit the pillow last night. What lovely pops of bright sunny colors on a day destined to be filled with hues of purples and greys. Texts arrived with lovely warm messages of support and love, people posted on my social media pages, and as I said the phone earned it’s keep for the full time I was awake. You don’t know, unless you are the receiver of it, how very important that kind of contact is to a person feeling especially fragile and vulnerable. If they could bottle that, therapists would have to hang up their shingles.

My son and his family gifted me an hour and half massage at a local spa. I have never had a massage, or let me clarify, I have never paid to go to a facility to receive one. My first reaction when reading the gift certificate was “hmmmm”. This keeps coming up in my life of late. When Dale’s daughter and her husband were here they both made appointments to get some “body work done”, as they put it. When I said casually I had never been to a massage therapist they seemed shocked. What? I never had a pedicure until I was over forty. Apparently I am not a high maintenance girl. Once I did have a pedicure, I have routinely gotten them since. I think before the actual experience I hesitated because I felt sorry for people who were tasked with washing other people’s feet. I’ve seen mine, and even I don’t like to wash them. Recently I had to go to the podiatrist for what they call a planters wart. I apologized before removing my socks, to which after seeing my feet, the doctor replied “Your feet are great. You should see the feet that I do ever day.” “Really. My feet are great”? This is Rick’s fault. He liked to tease me. For some reason he targeted my feet early on in our relationship, referring to them as UGHS. He used to tell me to cover them up, I was scaring small children. Who’s the child, I ask you?

The big gun holidays are looming on the horizon. Not sure if my brain is wired at the moment for all the chaos associated with shopping, crowds, decorations, parties, etc. No matter what, I always put up my Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving. Was I confined to a hospital bed with tubes attached to 50% of my body, I would figure out how to do this remotely. As ritualistic as I am about the date they go up, they also have to come down the day after Christmas. Decorating is a happy and time consuming process I look forward to every holiday season. I love the first twinkle of lights on the tree, and watching as the pile of wrapped presents grows beneath it’s decorated boughs. I used to be somewhat of a fresh tree snob. I admit it. Never could understand why anyone would go artificial. Over the years, my stringent holding on to one view over another has eased considerably. These days I find myself a rather mellow being who puts less importance in having to do something my way or the highway, and am wide open to many points of view. That being said, my artificial tree is residing in a zippered plastic bag in my shed waiting to be gloriously adorned yet another year. Yay.

Today I am heading out for a walk and lunch with a friend. We’re going to walk downtown and browse through the shops. I am looking forward to getting out in the lovely fall weather and stretching my legs. I have been in the house quite a bit over the past year and feeling a little guilty pleasure at the thought of being outside in the fresh air. When you are the “survivor” there is a lot of guilt to go around. I try not to dip my ladle in that pot too often. It can can be habit forming. Though intellectually I know it is not my “fault” I am still here, there is part of me still feeling guilty for being so. When grieving it is hard not to feel guilty if you laugh at a joke, or enjoy the scenery, or sit down to a delicious meal without your partner, friend, spouse, parent, being there to enjoy it with you. I would consider this a very natural reaction. I had a lovely day with my friend yesterday, first at lunch and then dropping a dime or two at Home Goods. This does not mean I don’t miss Dale with all my heart, or am not feeling the tremendous loss of his presence. We go on, and that is the way we are structured. Those of us participating in this dimension are like flotsum caught up in the waves. We bob and weave with the currents and move along as the days move forward on the calendar. If you stop and do nothing but allow yourself to be consumed by grief and loss, there is always the danger you will remain firmly rooted in the spot where you are standing. That, is not healthy for anyone. I know when my time is here I hope my loved ones celebrate my passing with jokes and silly stories. That they sorely miss my presence in their lives, but go on to enjoy full and rich lives that I will always be a small part of. This does not mean I don’t allow the tears to flow when they brim at the ridges of my eyes, or feel the my stomach pinch when the memories begin to stream across my mind. There are times when the loneliness washes over me chilling me like a rush of cold frigid air and then recedes. This is all part of our life process, and death and change are right up there with living in what we have to deal with.

So for today I will take my melancholy mood for a walk in the crisp air and allow myself to be thankful for all I have, all I have had, and all I will have. Have a blessed and full day. Remember to tell those you love how important they are to you every chance you get. Dale used to tell me, “I will never apologize for telling you often how much I love you”, and he did tell me often. Those sweet words and all the lovely verbal gifts he gave me are tucked away in my mind to be pulled out as needed on my journey.

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I’ve been dealing with the IRS this morning. You might want to approach me with caution. OMG. The most frustrating people to deal with. This interaction is on behalf of my mother, actually, not for myself. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I don’t make enough income at this stage in my life to have them sniffing around trying to catch hold of my scent.

At any rate, about six years ago I took mother’s documents to a tax preparer who told me I really didn’t need to file. It had something to do with the estate and how it was set up. Okay, one thing to tick off my to-do list always feels like cause for celebration. It’s enough for me to try and figure out my financial situation, but having her accounts as well as mine can really be a bag of snakes at times. All went along smoothly until last year. Let’s face it in 2020, if it could go wrong, it seemed to go right ahead and do exactly that. An envelope arrived mid-year addressed to my mother at my address on official IRS stationery. Oh-oh. Somehow they had deduced she owed $12,000 for one year of unfiled forms, and God knows how much else for the other five. After consulting my current tax accountant, he said we would just file the missing years and this would iron out all the wrinkles. Good, I do enjoy a nice crisp, unmessy life on occasion, so sign me up for that. Not so fast, you say. Last week I got another letter from the IRS, (they must have an official letter writer over there with nothing much pending on their calendar). This one said I needed to verify my mother’s identity before they could process the tax returns. “Yup, she’s my mom”, I said out loud. Apparently that wasn’t sufficient. I was instructed to either go into her on-line account and verify her identity, or an 800 number was provided for those people who didn’t use, or have access to, a computer.

To do a little back story here, my mother has never owned a computer. Well, to be specific, she owned one but never learned how to use it. It was her husbands while he was alive, and when he was gone she kept it so visitors or family could use it when visiting. Once I tried to teach her how to use a PC, but after ten or so lessons each time reexplaining how to power it on and off, the difference between portrait and landscape configuration, and the basics of using the mouse, I realized there wasn’t enough vodka in the stores to cover that particular endeavor. I suggested she enroll in a beginning computer skills class at a local adult school. When that too was a total bust, we left it to the gods to sort out. After that, I became her go-to computer person. Truth is, I fill that void for several of my technology challenged friends as well. I don’t mind. Keeps me off the streets. That being said, my mother surely did not have an on-line account, so I began the process of creating one for her. They required a number of documents to complete this process. Seeing this was going to be an all morning affair, I thought since it was early in the day I might try the 800 number to speed things along. Not. I waded patiently through the myriad of road blocks designed to make you hang up early on in the call, and finally was dropped into a queue and told to wait there for a representative. About twenty minutes into listening to their music, a new message came on informing me they had a high volume of calls and they were disconnecting me. I was told to call back tomorrow, or possibly next year. Thanks so much. In the letter a time line was indicated to get this process done, so back to Plan A. I once again navigated my way through their website and began the process of setting up an account for my mom. When I got to the password and username section, it took me twenty minutes on that page alone just to somehow select a password and username that fit with the parameters they’d outlined. You know the type, “Password must be 18 letters long. Choose one letter from the Arabic dictionary, one Hieroglyphic symbol, and two latin verbs, every other letter in each word must be capitalized.” Once I was done and mission accomplished, I was about two hours into it. This all for something that is generally a lot of bureaucratic nonsense. My mom is an elderly woman with dementia who has paid religiously over the years and worked hard, and doesn’t owe them a nickel from all accounts. Sigh. Amazing to me they waste all this paper, sweat, and manpower on someone like her when there are billionaires out there raking in huge amounts of cash who don’t pay their fair share of anything. Thank you for allowing me to get that off my chest.

I set aside the entire day for catching up on paperwork and other chores I have uncharacteristically been putting off. As I’ve mentioned before one of the pearls of wisdom my grandmother passed on to me was to do the things you least like doing first, then tackle the ones you either enjoy doing or at the very least don’t mind. That plan has been a very successful one for me. If I leave something floating around out there I am really not looking forward to doing, it hangs over my head and bothers me. If I do it, and get it over with, the rest seems so much easier.

Another unpleasant chore I decided to cross of my list, is studying for my drivers license renewal which is looming on the horizon. Even though I have been behind the wheel of a car since I was sixteen years old, I still get intimidated by the DMV. When they hand me that scroll of a test, my mind immediately forgets everything I do every day as habit when driving, and the questions look suddenly like they’re written in a foreign language. This time I have gone on line and downloaded a huge batch of “practice tests”. Some of the questions appear to be written purposely to trip you up. For instance, one of the questions asked was what a driver should do when passing a bicyclist who is riding in the lane next to you. One of the answers was “honk your horn before passing”. This, as it turns out, is the correct answer. Now, is it just me? If I was riding along minding my own business in the bike lane and some car came up behind me and blew his horn I most probably would end up either jamming on the brakes and catapulting over the handlebars or swerving and ending up under his right front tire. That, however, is what you’re supposed to do. Write it down for future reference.

I think this general paranoia stems from my early interactions with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Unlike a lot of young people I see today, I could not wait for the day I became eligible for my learners permit. The calendar hanging on the wall in my room had x’s leading up to the day of the big event with a huge star highlighting the day I was to turn exactly 15 1/2. My mother took half a day off from work to drive me down to the DMV. I passed my written test, and was handed my temporary license. Had it been made of 14 carat gold, it couldn’t have been more precious to me. It was the first ticket on the journey into adulthood. What a heady experience. Looking back I have to wonder what the big hurry was to get here, but at the time being 18 or 21 seemed fraught with adventure and filled with mystique. Little did I know it was more fraught with dishes, and filled with dirty diapers and long days at the office.

Where passing my written test had turned out to be a walk in the park, the behind the wheel test was more like a leisurely stroll through a minefield. It took it three tries. The first time I nearly took out a young mother in a crosswalk pushing a baby carriage. The next time when I was parallel parking I backed into a trash bin and knocked the entire contents into the middle of the street. I somehow managed to scrape by with one point above failing on my third attempt, even though I technically went through an intersection after the light had turned red. I’m pretty certain I only passed because the harried DMV examiner (got the same guy all three times) tasked with grading my test must have figured three times was the charm, and tempting fate a fourth time would definitely have put him in fear for his life. Truly I am a good driver nowadays. Dale, my partner in crime, always comments on it. I shall leave my opinion of his driving skills for another time.

Just as I was finishing up reviewing my tests, PG&E arrived to tell me yet another part of my shade tree has to be removed as it’s interfering with the power lines. When I moved in I had a lovely shaded backyard. These days there are two sparse trees left, with one having the back half almost entirely missing. It looks like a bald man with a bad hair piece. Had to buy extra patio umbrellas so we don’t bake in our own juices on hot days.

So, I am off to the DMV on Friday. Wish me luck.

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I had a discussion with a young parent the other day I found interesting. She told me she asks her children what they would like to eat before preparing a meal. Things really are different then when I was growing up. I can honestly say I was never consulted about a meal really. What was put on my plate and served to me, I ate. If I chose not to eat it, my grandmother, at least to my recollection, never got up from the table and went in the kitchen and whipped me up something else more to my liking. Sometimes at breakfast, my grandmother did ask if I wanted my eggs poached, scrambled or fried, but other than that, what showed up on the plate was generally what I was expected to eat.

Now that I think more about it why shouldn’t children have some choice in their menu plan? They aren’t old enough always to make all the choices but I do think after they have tried a food several times and still have a strong distaste for it, perhaps they shouldn’t be made to eat it? This does not mean they can exclude every vegetable, fruit, or meat and substitute ice cream or candy bars, but within reason if there is a food they really do not like perhaps they need not be made to eat it? My son, for example, could not stand peas. His father, thought children should eat what was placed in front of them, and not waste food. The “starving children in China” script was pulled out often when food was left uneaten on their plates. This particular meal, the peas remained intact on my son’s plate and like the elephant in the room did not go unnoticed by my husband. “Eat your peas before leaving the table” was put out there. The gauntlet had been thrown. Dishes done, I came back to find my little one still staring at his plate. Stubbornness is definitely genetic. After a while the fork was lifted to his lips and he took a big bite of the dreaded little green bullets. The face was too much as the chewing commenced. Shortly, as quickly as they had gone down the chute they made a return visit all over my tablecloth. Having had enough of both men in my household, I scooped up my son and headed for the bathtub and handed his father the cleaning utensils to clean up the mess. Peas were no longer an issue at our house.

I never had to be forced to eat. I liked just about everything my grandmother put in front of me except for the dreaded liver and onions or the god forsaken beefsteak and kidney pie which were both my kryptonite. Ewwwww. Food was where she and I totally bonded. So many of my warmest memories of my younger years were created in my grandmother’s sunny kitchen. Sometimes, one of those memories will pop up in the most expected location. The other day while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, I had some time to kill. When driving into the complex parking lot I’d noticed a “Grand Opening” sign on a sandwich board in front of a new antiques and collectibles store. Antiques not really my decorating style, I decided it still might be interesting to take a look and see what they had to offer. On entering the store, it gave off that same musty, dusty smell most stores of that genre seem to have. Since the store (at least according to the sign out front) had only been open a couple of weeks, it got me to wondering if that scent actually came in a spray can, like new car smell at the car wash. Perhaps it’s the Moldy Oldie fragrance collection by Air Wick or the Granny’s Attic grouping by Fabreze. At any rate, while looking at the eclectic assortment of oldies but goodies for sale along the cluttered shelves, I came across four little china egg cups. Seeing them on the shelf took my mind immediately to childhood breakfasts in my grandmother’s family home on the hill in Halifax. The main focus of the room, was the lovely picture window looking out over Halifax harbor. Always I loved being in that kitchen with my grandmother. I can see her busy at the stove, apron in place, and if I inhale deeply I can almost smell all the delicious aromas wafting through the air. Our evening meals were usually taken in the formal dining room replete with all the bells and whistles. Breakfast, however, was served with far less fanfare at the little formica table by the window in the kitchen.

My grandmother woke up precisely at 6:00 every day. If asked why in later years why she still got up so early when she could have languished in bed, she said “you have plenty of time to sleep after you die”. Before coming out to greet her day, her nylons were in place neatly secured to her undergarments beneath one of her house dresses as she referred to them. These were cotton dresses all cut from the same pattern in varying fabrics, with short sleeves and a parade of buttons marching down the front. Specifically they were worn for working around the house to keep her good clothes from getting soiled. Up until she was in her eighties, when my mother finally convinced her pants on women were not the work of the devil, did I ever see my grandmother’s knees covered by anything other than a suit, skirt or dress.

The first order of business each morning was always to prepare my grandfather’s breakfast. A urologist, his days often began quite early. Breakfast was served to him on a tray each morning in bed, accompanied by his morning paper. Very health conscious, and dealing with some health concerns himself, the menu was shredded wheat with berries, a glass of juice, one half a grapefruit and a slice of whole grain toast. A small vase with one flower from the garden was added during the summer months next to a colorful little china pot filled with Gammy’s delicious homemade marmalade. Once my grandfather had opened his paper and begun to eat, she tended next to the needs of the smallest member of the family, namely myself. Eggs were often on the menu breakfast. They came dressed up in a variety of ways, my favorite to this day being Eggs Benedict, basically poached eggs perched atop a split English muffin then smothered with buttery Hollandaise sauce. Yum. These days no one has time to whip up homemade Hollandaise, or at least I don’t. Back then, there were no packages to buy at the store to add water to. If you wanted Hollandaise, you dragged out the double boiler and whipped up a batch yourself. Another way I loved eggs was soft boiled and served in an egg cup. The shell was left on with the top sliced through (it’s hat, as my grandmother would say) and you lifted it’s hat, and dipped your toast in the gooey yolk.

Funny how smells, tastes, sounds and pictures can trigger an immediate memory of perhaps an easier time or those you particularly enjoyed. Of course, these sensory reminders can also be of traumatic or unpleasant experiences, but I’m trying to look at the bright side of the moon at the moment so let’s stay there for a while. My memories are often associated with food it seems. Always I have loved to be in the kitchen. Although I have to admit these days I do find myself tiring of coming up with new dishes to tantalize my guests. As I’ve said before they need to introduce a new meat, or at least a new vegetable for those of us who love to cook to play with. Perhaps they’ll just create a new one. My granddaughter, a vegan through and through, says other than organic vegetables and not all of those, you don’t know anymore if the vegetable you’re eating is real or was created in a lab somewhere. I think we need a new blue something, something. At the moment blueberries are kind of holding down that fort all by themselves.

I bought the little egg cups as it turned out. Did I need them? Nope, not in the least, but want won that argument and they are sitting in my china cabinet waiting for a soft boiled egg to bring them back to a useful life.

This has been a rough year. I thought last year was full of potholes but that was just the preliminary match, and, unfortunately, this year seems to be the main event. I am working on my grateful self. I am grateful the virus seems to be getting under control. I am most grateful it got a hold of me and my partner Dale, and then threw us back relatively unharmed. I am grateful all my family and his, and my friends and his, are still here to talk about what a strange year it truly was. I am simply grateful for so many things.

On the downside of things, Dale, my partner and companion, has cancer. Being asked to be grateful about this is certainly an uphill climb. Rick, my partner in crime for nearly twenty years, as I’ve mentioned many times, passed away nearly three years ago from lung cancer. In a stroke of synchronicity even I find hard to grasp, Dale has been given the same dire diagnosis. The oxygen compressor is once again humming in my spare room and questions without answers are swirling and twirling about in my head.

So, I pull up some happy thoughts and fond, fond memories of being young and free and unaware of all the sadness that life insists on being peppered with. Memories, I always feel, are tucked away to be pulled out perhaps when you need a hug and don’t have one handy, or are feeling blue and want to remember the pure joy of laughing out loud. Memory really is such a gift, and probably one we take for granted. One of the hardest things for me is to watch my mum slowly loosing her grasp on all those wonderful mental highlights she has stored away over the years. I am her memory these days and I’m okay with that. Again, I lean to the side of gratefulness and remind myself she remembers my face and that alone is money in the bank.

Sorry if this post is a bit of a song with sad lyrics. Usually I am upbeat, but even a stand up comedienne has days when he or she can’t pull a joke out of the hat.

Have a good one. Remember to not put your “I love you’s” off until a better day, there is never a better day then today. Talk soon.


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Last night we watched Nomadland. Though beautifully acted and directed, let me just say this is not a movie choice you want to make if you are having a particularly bad day. Steeping you quickly into the darker side of the human reality, Frances McDormand takes the viewer on a realistic and poignant journey of loss, homelessness, and isolation. Got to give it to her. She put forth her most unadorned self freely, with no apology, which for me, who has difficulty going to the grocery store without make up and hair in place, was so refreshing.

I understand full well the feeling of not having a roof overhead. Back in the early 1990’s I spent two weeks with no residence to call my own, no money in my pocket to rectify the situation, and only a case of Vienna sausage, two large bottles of water, and a bottle of Chardonnay with which to sustain myself. In my case, I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel, but still was it was a life lesson I shall never forget. The experience allowed me to appreciate even the smallest of creature comforts such as flushing a toilet, or slipping into a warm, comfortable bed each night.

I believe our time here on earth to be a series of connected lessons. Perhaps this is not true for others, but my life certainly has been. Often, when I did not take heed of the message the universe was trying to convey to me, the same lesson repeated itself until I fully understood the point of the information being transmitted. Sort of like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Hopefully, I have waded knee deep through most of the karma I created in my younger years at this point, and shed the bulk of it in the process. I try to be the best version of myself possible each and every day. This does not mean I always attain that goal, but that is my intention when waking up in the morning.

Many of the earliest lessons I learned from my grandmother and my mother. My grandmother, gone for many years now, left many life lessons behind for me to lean on. She was a steady, consistent force of nature and she taught me much in the nine years I lived under her roof. My mother, before the dementia claimed much of her memory, showed me both what to do with my life, as well as at times, what not to. Both paths helped me to find my way. Mother is getting along in years, there’s no denying. Sometimes, I don’t want to look at this, because when I do, I have to imagine my world without her in it. As she loves to say she is my biggest fan. No matter how badly I screwed up, my mom still insisted on digging around in the detritus, until she found the good in me. Together, we’ve shed tears, laughed until we cried, shared grief, helped raised my children, been a part of raising theirs, and never allowed miles, however many spread out between us, to break our bond. Always, I knew my mother to be a safe port in the storm. When lost, unhappy, sad or just in need of a hug, her door would be the one I would knock on, her number the one I called. In her eyes I was infinitely special. Though I have often viewed myself as a highly flawed being, somehow to her, I was perfect. No one, I am sure, will ever love me again quite the way she does. When I think of saying goodbye after traveling these many years together, I recognize the pain will be great. Along with the sadness, there will be such gratefulness for having been allowed to spend this time with her.

Certainly, it would be a fairy tale to say our relationship existed without bumps. My mother was a helicopter parent before the term was ever coined. I was her “only chick” and if I didn’t give her something to worry about, which I often did, she’d look around until she found something she could land on, and worried about that. Mothers and daughters, the eternal struggle. I know I feel this at times with my sweet daughter. I wonder on occasion if I should simply initiate our conversations with “I’m sorry for everything I’m going to say or do wrong before we hang up”, just to cover myself prior to opening my mouth. I hear this from many of my female friends with adult daughters. Perhaps it is that we still perceive these wonderful strong women as our little girls. I really don’t have the answers, but I do know it’s not without peril this mother and daughter dynamic from time to time.

So, this Mother’s Day means a lot to me. Sunday we are coming together as a family to honor our oldest member. Thankfully, the pandemic has begun to release it’s tight hold on us. With everyone freshly vaccinated, there will be opportunities for hugs and I’m sure a special time spent together. Life seems lately to move forward at a record breaking clip, with adjectives such as fast and furious setting the tone for how we barrel through our days. There is little time for quiet reflection, or being in the moment. Sometimes we forget to stop and actually see the people populating our world, to hear them, or touch them. The virus offered up a gift with all the pain, surprisingly, allowing a spotlight to shine on this missing connection, the forced isolation highlighting how very important those we love are to our well being and peace of mind.

Today I agreed to allow hospice to begin to share in the care of my dear mother. As the doctor explained, this is not a death sentence, simply an additional layer of personal attention to promote her well being. Uh-huh. I can feel her hand slipping out of mine. People will say about older people, “they lived a long life”, or “they had a good run”. No matter how many birthdays they’ve celebrated, I’m not sure if it ever feels like it’s time for us to them to go. I can see she’s beginning to get tired, so I will allow the universe to unfold the story in whatever way it must and simply be content to be a player on the stage.

If you have your mother still with you, give her a hug and remind her how much she means to you. If you do not, then lift a glass to her, I’m sure she’ll get your message. Have a good one. Happy Mother’s Day, Mama.

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Before I go to bed, I make a habit of making sure my sink is empty and my house is picked up. Since I live alone, this ritual may seem unnecessary. Let’s face it Boo, the Queen of Cats, certainly doesn’t give a rats behind (a little cat humor) whether I’ve left a nasty old avocado dish to ferment on the counter or discarded a pair of pants on the floor by my bed. My daughter asked me why I’m so diligent about this ritual. “Who’s going to see it”, she asks? I explained, should I face a health challenge in the middle of the night and find myself in need of rescue, I don’t want one of those ridiculously attractive fireman looking around my house as he’s checking my blood pressure and labeling me a total slob. Have you seen the paramedics they send to your house if you dial 911? Perfect specimens of men standing over you when you look absolutely your worst. Hair hanging in your face, teeth in the jar, and vomit on your shirt. Even Christie Brinkley couldn’t carry that look off. The last time I had need of EMT’s, they sent six. Must have been a slow night. As they walked in the door, each one was (if possible) better looking than last. I wonder if there’s a section on the application for the fire department that says, Check here if you’re hot. If this box is not checked please return application to front desk. We’ll be in touch. Not.

Another reason to keep things tidy is in the event I might not make it, I wouldn’t want people rummaging through my belongings exchanging comments like “Wow, how ever did she live like this?”, or “my pygmy hog has better hygiene.” Nope, clean sinks and underwear all the way for me, just like my grandma told me.

I come to this line of thinking because the weather lately has turned almost springlike. Glorious balmy days have prompted me to get outside and walk every morning. Each day, I vary my route. One, because I get bored easily, and two to provide myself with a different level of cardio depending on the uphill climbs along the way. Yesterday, I opted for a route I had not taken before. Because my shin splints are acting up, I decided to take a less strenuous stroll along the ravine. The sidewalk wound me past a house situated on a cliff about a half a mile from where I live. As the years have passed, I’ve noticed this house sink into a state of shabby disrepair. It’s a shame really, because the lot itself is perched high on an overlook, most likely providing the occupants a panoramic view of the valley floor below stretching all the way to the Sierra Nevadas. The house, though not going to make the next cover of House Beautiful, is not too bad. What curb appeal it does possess, however, is completely eclipsed by the massive accumulation of “junk” in the side yard, creating an eyesore. Beyond the dilapidated fence, which looks as if someone may have backed over it, the filthy roofs of several well-used trailers are clearly visible alongside piles of plywood and debris. I’m surprised somebody hasn’t complained, as the neighborhood around it is composed of well manicured homes bordering on all sides. Something must have happened recently, because as I approached, I could see a crew of workers dressed in what looked like haz-mat gear moving in and out of the front door carrying household items. A rusted toilet and a beat up aluminum sink sat by the mailbox next to a sign reading “FREE”. Trust me, from the looks of them they were still overcharging. Walking towards the house I could see one of the crew members leaning on a broom obviously taking a break. Nodding in my direction, he said,”good morning”. I returned his, “good morning” and raised him a “looks like you’ve got your hands full”. He seemed to view this statement as opening the door for further conversation. I stopped for a moment, and “Ben”, as he’d introduced himself launched into a tirade about the project at hand. Before I knew it, he was sharing an outpouring of information about the residents. The people inside he told me had been elderly. The husband passed away, and the family had fast forwarded the matriarch of the family to an assisted living facility. Apparently, there hadn’t been much contact between family members over the past few years. Describing in great detail the mess they were dealing with, he said the inside of the house was in deplorable condition. Eager to not leave out a detail, and perhaps not looking forward to returning to his job, he went on to say there had been multiple animals inside who had left deposits all over the floor and carpeting. The smell, as one might imagine, was unbelievably rank. The kitchen, he said, was the worst, literally buried under mountains of dishes covered with rotting food and flies which probably meant maggots. Ewwww. As he plowed on he told me all the toilets were clogged. The look on his face indicated he found the whole situation totally disgusting. Already gleaning more WAY more information than I needed. Keeping up my end of the conversation by nodding my head at the appropriate pauses, and saying “huh” and “hmmmm” when called for, I hesitated before inquiring as to where the residents had been going to the bathroom in the absence of usable toilets. Some things are better left to the imagination. Another crew member emerged from the house telling Ben they had uncovered roaches in every cupboard, and every box of food in the cupboard as well as several carcusses of dead mice. Thanking them for all the information I really hadn’t needed, I said my goodbyes and continued on down the road. Suddenly, I felt sad for those two people, though I didn’t know them at all. Ben had somehow had opened a window into their lives and I felt like I had peeked in uninvited. Walking gives you time to cogitate and clear your head. Unfortunately, my brain was now preoccupied with roaches and clogged toilets. Got me to thinking though. What would people be saying about me after I’m gone? “That Susie, she surely had a clean sink and her banana bread,well, it was absolutely out of this world.” Not sure I want to be a fly on the wall for that program, and I surely don’t want old Ben leaning on broom in front of my house.


Lately, I’ve been taking a little inventory of my life. Perhaps it’s that I have more time alone, or could simply be I’ve reached a place in my life where I’ve climbed to the top of the mountain and am now looking at what is to be found on the downhill side of the slope. Whatever it is that motivates me to do an assessment, it’s allowed me to take a long look at where I’ve been, and give some serious thought as to where I’m going. I don’t linger long in the past. It is part of the whole of me and has contributed to who I am as a person today, but as my therapist likes to say, “Don’t look in the rear view mirror. That is not the direction you are going.”After Rick passed, hard to believe it’s going on three years, I had only enough energy to look at the day I was in with little reserve left for the tomorrows around the bend. Grief cores you out in a way, and allows you to rebuild from the foundation up. Life is so much different now then it was. Not worse, nor is it better, it is just different. Change always precipitates thoughtfulness, at least it does in me. Now that there is a new relationship in my life, something I didn’t expect nor was I looking for, this is something to be factored into my future plans as well. Possibilities remain once our masks are retired for new and exciting adventures. Always there will be new challenges, but also there will be new adventures, and new things to learn and new people to learn them from, no matter what stage you are entering in your life. Today, I will simply be thankful for the day I have, the flowers blooming beyond my window, the wind in the trees, the crazy Boo cat curled up at my feet, and my loved ones. Those are my riches.

When I look at just the last year and what has transpired, I can’t help but think you never really know what is coming around the next corner. You might win the lottery, fall in a sink hole, discover a cure for cancer, find yourself surviving (hopefully) a pandemic of epic proportions, be in the middle of a massive winter storm in Texas, welcome a new life into the world, or send one on its way. Perhaps the most intriguing part of living is the unknowing. I realize that is probably not the correct word, but I think it is the appropriate one. We don’t know, yet we have hope, and prayer, and wishful thinking, and believing in whatever we believe in. The indomitable human spirit shines bright even on the darkest of nights. I’ve seen it refuse to be extinguished so many times, when I had trouble still believing it existed.

We lost another member of our tribe this week. I attended my first virtual service, A Celebration of Life. Though not there in the person, it was lovely. At the end they released doves into the air, so spiritually moving. You are here then you are gone, and the cycle of life continues. Pieces and parts of you remain, though, in each and every person you touched. Perhaps words will be my legacy. God knows, if anyone is waiting to inherit my fortune, they will be sorely disappointed, and need not to quit their day job anytime soon. So goodbye, dear Janice. See you on the other side. Thank you for the beautiful grandchildren you have left behind. I promise I will cherish them.

Heavy thoughts for a Friday. Have a wonderful weekend. Remember each day is a precious gift, don’t waste it making bad karma or doing hurtful things. Trust me it takes years to erase the board once it is written on.

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