Posts Tagged ‘dying’

I woke up to a light rain falling outside my window. Boo, the Queen of Cats, was curled up in a tight knot on the pillow next to me and all felt right in the world just for that quiet moment lying in my warm comfortable bed listening to the glorious sound of water falling from the sky. California has been so dry the past few years. It fascinates me there are people out there still trying to argue climate change is a figment of people’s imaginations. The polar ice cap is melting, sea levels are rising, mega storms in the Atlantic are becoming the norm, drought is on tap nearly every year out here on the west coast and fire season now lasts all year long, and still there are doubters shaking their heads in disbelief. What, one has to wonder, will it take for these non believers to see what is clearly unfolding in front of their eyes? I really do try to leave room for opinions other than my own under this mop of blonde hair, but this I have trouble even following the logic of the opposing argument. How do you argue with what is obviously happening as a result of we human beings being less than diligent caretakers of this beautiful planet? Perhaps it’s just easier to deny. Doing nothing is always easier in some way, then taking a stand.

I get denial, believe you me. My daughter used to call me “The Queen of Denial”. I have to confess to being a bit of a fairy duster. I would prefer to think the best of people initially and perhaps later be proven wrong, then to assume the worst from the onset and find out I was mistaken down the road. Always I will assume a friend or loved one to be telling me the truth unless given reason to believe otherwise. I do have to say though, once I have confirmed a person has lied to me about something important, that original assumption goes out with the bath water. Now I’m not speaking to little white lies. I believe most of us will admit to telling those little fabrications now and then. Aunt Millie calls when you’re in the middle of a good book, and you tell her you’d love to talk but you’re on the way to the dentist. I’m sure these little “fibs” get noted on our record somewhere, but I think in the end they are fairly harmless diversions meant to keep the other person from feeling hurt or offended. Anyhow, whether this premise is true or not, it works for me, and until proven otherwise, I am sticking to that plan of action.

I am a terrible liar. My face gives me up every time. So, in my case, there is no point in even launching into a big whopper. For one thing, I over embellish, providing details as finite as commenting on what color footwear the person was wearing in the concocted fairy tale, or what they were eating at the time the incident occurred. People telling the truth don’t need to add copious details or write things down to recall the intricacies of what happened when relating a story. They do not need to take notes because what they are saying actually did happen and they have imprinted the sequence of events to their memory bank. Hello? Dale, as far as I know, has only attempted to tell me one “fib”. Have to say, he wasn’t very adept at it. It was at the beginning of both our relationship and the pandemic. Like everyone else on the planet, I was nervous about contracting the dreaded virus. I told Dale because of my asthma, it would be helpful for him to avoid public places if possible with large gatherings of unmasked people. There was no vaccination to turn to at that time, so masks and social distancing were about the only weapons available against the disease. A friend of Dales has a brother who races cars. This particular Saturday the brother was bringing his current “ride” to a local track and Dale had been asked to come and watch the car put through it’s paces. The temptation proved to much. He went, knowing this probably wouldn’t sit well with me. To keep me from knowing where he was, he called me from a copse of trees about a half a mile away so I wouldn’t hear the engines roaring in the background. The thing about lying, is one lie generally breeds another. In order to support the first fabrication, other fabrications need to fall into line after it to keep the illusion going. If you have a healthy conscience, once you have let the lie out out of the gate, then the guilt sets in. Sitting in the stands after our phone call, Dale began to not only feel the guilt, but guilt had invited a new friend to the party, worry. He began to worry I might find out he had not told me the truth. Remembering I knew the friend’s wife, he texted her to ask she not mention where the two men had gotten off to. Problem in this move being, he sent the text to me instead of her by accident. Oh-oh. The text I received read, “Please don’t mention to Susie I went to the track with Mike. This might upset her. Thanks so much.” I replied, “Too late, Bubba. The jig is up, the cat is out of the bag, the beans, as they say, have been spilled.” There was no reply for a moment, and then the phone rang. Somebody was in trouble. I told him then and there lying was one of my least favorite behaviors in a mate. If you can’t trust your partner, and believe me I have been there, then there isn’t much point in going forward.

Lying to avoid consequences is something we learn at a young age. I remember finding one of my grandchildren, around four years old at the time, standing at my outside refrigerator with the door open. I had put a lot of food out on the table in the kitchen for whatever party was going on, including a huge bowl of fruit for everyone to enjoy. The one statement I had made to the children specifically was “You may have everything I put out, but the strawberries in the back refrigerator are for a luncheon I’m going to tomorrow so please don’t touch them”. Standing there in his bare feet he looked up at me with that innocent baby face nearly totally obscured by red strawberry juice. In his hands, and on the floor below him, were an assortment of leaves and partially eaten berries. I said to him, “did you eat Nana’s strawberries?” To which he answered vehemently while shaking his head, “no”. Uh-huh. Nana’s got your number little man.

As a mother I was a big consequence girl. I felt “if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime”. Never was I a hitter, but there was punishment to be exacted if they did something they knew was not in their best interest or mine. Usually my punishments involved extra chores, or lost privileges. To me, an integral part of being a parent is teaching them about life. When you grow up and do something you should not, there are consequences for your actions. I remember one time asking my son to take out the trash I had sitting in a 33 gallon trash bag by the door heading out to the garage. I asked twice, as the dogs, a large golden retriever named Barnaby, and a Shih Zsu answering to Sushi, would have access to the house through the dog door due to the rain outside. Barnaby, already had his name on the books as a known trasher.”Sure, Mom”, was the standard answer. I placed the bag against the door as I left for work so that my son would literally have to repel over it to get out to the garage to go to school. No problemo. Later that day, I arrived home from work before my children had gotten in from school. Pushing on the door to go into the kitchen, it did not move easily. As I pushed harder against the door, I heard tin cans rattle and paper rustle. From beneath the door, an ooze of tomato juice seeped through onto the stairs. Sigh. Inside, the kitchen floor was littered with trash and debris. Barnaby, so it would seem, had made the best of his time on his rainy day break in the house, indulging himself of the feast left at his disposal. Calling the dog’s name, I got no response other than the familiar thump, thump, thump, of the dog’s tail whacking against the hardwood floor in the next room. Sushi, wisely had distanced herself from the scenario, having her back to me sleeping in her dog bed. She did not look up, lest she be caught in the crossfire. Conveniently, Barn had already put himself in the corner in the family room, totally aware trash bags were not a place I wanted him to bury his head. The culprit, it would appear, had been apprehended. This was not his first infraction. Giving me a side eyed glance while I told him I was unhappy about the situation, I could see flecks of cheese clinging like stalagmites to the end of his snout. What a mess. Shortly thereafter, my son arrived. Surveying the damage, I could see my boy’s mind working to find some plausible explanation to offer me as an excuse for the oversight that would get him out of cleaning up the ungodly mess. Nope, nothing there. There really was no explanation needed, so I handed him the broom and the mop and left him to his job. Truthfully, it was not the dog’s fault temptation was left in his way. The next time I asked for the trash to be taken out, I noticed it had disappeared when I got home. Lesson learned.

As I say often, life is but a series of lessons. We either learn them, at least in my case this is true, or they show up again somewhere down the road offering us another chance for redemption. I have found the lessons I have most stubbornly resisted learning, are the one’s in the end to have hit me the hardest. The current process we are going through with Dale as the cancer tightens it’s grip, makes me wonder what the lessons I am to be understanding in this. For him, I would guess it is a lesson in surrendering, a lesson in faith, and in the beginning, a lesson in unrelenting hope for a miracle. How difficult I was thinking this morning, it must be to know that your time here on earth is coming to an end. That the sip of delicious sweet coffee you are taking might be your last sip, or the kiss your daughter plants on your forehead might be the one that fills the cup. I struggle with understanding all that is going on in my world, but try to still find much joy in the lovely fall colors sneaking into my neighborhood as each day unfolds, or watching the silly antics of my crazy cat as she chases a furry mouse (toy of course) around the kitchen floor. Each day really is a gift, perhaps that is the simple lesson here. Ta ta for now.

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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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I’m down visiting my mother and getting suitably spoiled for my birthday. Nobody spoils you like mom, and if you’re an only child you get all the goodies. There are pluses and minuses attached to being the only pup in the litter. You get your parents full attention whether you are doing well, or if your life is in the bucket. Also, you assume the full responsibility when it comes to your parents care, or parent in my case, as they get older. This is a task I take on with pleasure. My mother has always been there for me, and I hope I have always been for her.

My daughter and her husband have been taking care of his mother for the past months during her illness. Watching a loved one fade away is never a task easy to take on, nor the end result of a serious illness easy to accept. Yesterday was the end of their journey together and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge Judy’s passing and say goodbye in my own way. For nearly thirty years we have shared space at family dinner tables. With pride we have watched our grandchildren come into the world and grow up to be the lovely people they are. Over the years we attended benchmark events such as birthdays, graduations and weddings, and became a part of each others family unit. After a hard fight with cancer, an opponent so often holding the upper hand, her body simply ceded defeat. We stand together left to wish her well on her way to wherever her travels take her from here.

Her face will continue to smile at us out of picture frames on walls, and those gathering dust on dressers as is the case with loved ones who have departed. However, the memories she carved will remain firmly affixed in our hearts and minds. People leave us in their physical sense, but if they’ve used their time well while here much of them remains intact with those they have touched.

So I find myself not in my kitchen putting together this dish or that, but rather in my mother’s kitchen feeling reflective. Thank you for allowing me to say my goodbyes in the way I know how. Another recipe and hopefully more upbeat story to follow when I return home to Mr. Rick and the Boo, the Queen of Cats.

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