I Believe

Alan Stark wrote I Believe.

On page 128, Stark wrote:
“I believe the definition of a friend is someone you call when you have really great news or really sad news.”

On page 111, Stark wrote: “I believe couples should hold hands at least three minutes every day.”

On page 156, Stark wrote: “I believe that memories are treasures worth more than gold.”

Three is that good number, the one that can mesh the unrelated and find a new truth. So I have an addendum to Alan’s beliefs, my big three for today.

I check myself off the definition of a friend. Today has been one of the saddest days of the last 11 months. There is no one I will phone to share the sadness. There is no one with whom I have that kind of comfort. There is no one to whom I could even begin that conversation, share that deep and penetrating loss.

Holding hands is vital, an intimacy to be cherished. Going out alone today, I did a virtual hand holding via four area wide garage sale events. Bob loved them. We trudged up the driveways as he searched for his bargain of the day and until he was too worn to continue. I bought three things just so the experience would be true, a book, a light switch, a leather purse. Three dollars ventured and a memory gained.

That brings me to those memories worth more than gold. My brain is odd. My memories are rarely specific in detail but definitely specific in feelings. Bob and I had two love stories, one in youth and the second in middle age and onto his last years. Between those chapters, I had another love story with a good man, the father of my children.

Today is not really an empty day. It is a day of far too many memories, far too much emotion, far too heavy with a sadness I cannot shake. I feel ashamed, weak, to be as I am today. Wonder why the amazing goodness that is so much a part of my life cannot handle the overflow of memories?

I believe that time as healer is a ruse. What really happens is that we get really good at covering over, pretending and doing make-believe. Today is my birthday and I want what I cannot have. I miss him.

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Moving On, Leaving Behind

A Ramble–nothing more than a ramble to no where…

The self gets blurred, like that image in a store front window, recognizable but rubbery. Our edges are not defined any more, distorted by circumstance. We concentrate. We force our eyes to see, but only the beveled edge of the mirror reflects.

Life mapped, goals decided, timetables set. Head down, emotion on hold, we plow through holding to clear and defined self-promises. Something happens; medical diagnosis, financial hardship, a deeply altered relationship, a forced change, a death. So we wonder at the reflection of this gritty thing we see, this new person invading uninvited.

The worst part is that decisions have to be made, not by who we once thought we were, but by this acquaintance we have become. Nothing unique about this–millions of daily multiples, probably the truest normal. Still, it feels like an unattainable balance, this moving on, leaving behind.

This house has to be part of moving on, a change that refuses to be gentle but one that I know, sooner rather than later, must happen. I will replace can’t with must and find an easier place to live. Then, again, if I drag my feet long enough, dig in deep enough, concentrate on finding what isn’t in this current state of now, I just might find some chrysalis-butterfly-thing waiting. Maybe.

Rough Draft

First thoughts. Scribble. Napkin notes. Stoplight scrawl. Jot and go, revise later.

I grow tired of being my own rough draft. At almost 73 shouldn’t I be pristine, polished, more than blurb? Not.

Every day is a do-over. Every day is a lesson learned. Words come out that bang against a sensibility known yet not really understood. More words choked back, lost in weakened courage. Ideals buried by a moment’s pragmatism. Beliefs constantly challenged by what actually looks like reality. Memories swallowed for fear of tarnishing the memory of loved ones.

If I kept a daily journal, it could be devastating showing me exactly how rough the draft, how little gets any polish. Maybe that is why I have about a zillion attempts at journaling and zero successes. Kind of like yoga–looks simple, stretches hard.

When I was a kid and into young adult, I did the recommended Catholic daily examination of conscience so I could really get a handle on that catalog of sins, chart my progress. So odd what passed for sin: skipped morning prayers, inattention at Mass, a stray thought, a question better left unasked.

Maybe this rough draft thing is carry-over, a way to catalog all the failures-to-communicate with self. Maybe it really is the gift of do-over, trying again to live it right. Reminds me of a nonsense from long ago: The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

Sisters

Family and friends often commented that my sisters and I were found in some Kansas City, Kansas cabbage-patches.  Both sister had snapping dark eyes, olive skin and brown/black hair. My Casper eyes are blue-to-pale and blue doesn’t snap. Both sisters had reserved front row choir places, crystal, on-key and just the right height.

Off keys singers were told to lip sync and bean poles shared the back row. My ticket was double punched.

My youngest sister is a fashion champion, always put together in the latest styles.  The middle sister was an outstanding basketball guard and excellent at most sports.  I share none of these talents.

Recently, one of my sisters and I attended a meeting together. Someone at the meeting commented how much we are alike…mannerisms, faces and voices. Our telephone selves were indistinguishable.

Benjamin Button inside-out? Aging into duplicates because aging is lines, wrinkles, grayness and a chink in the vocal cords? All babies look alike so all old people follow a backward pattern?
Maybe not.

Maybe years have allowed us a smattering of the best of one another, honed by the blessings of our lives. Time might be reflecting the women we worked towards becoming, allowing a softening into heads/tails…alike/different…a reflection of the a life time of sibling affection.

Emergency 101

In the last several months, Bob has done the ER admission to the hospital three times–pneumonia, bleeding ulcers, old person complications.   We are wearing out  our life-time warranties.  My friend, Two-Names, reminds me of that sad fact.  He also reminded me of something so poignant.  He said a mutual friend was not sick.  Rather she was just too weak to thrive.  So she died.  I understand that.

It is frightening.  The ER is blinding white light, beeping things, smells that are stinks,  pain noises,  harried people, medical and patient’s families.  We catch snippets of dissatisfaction as the ER people vent frustrations through whispered annoyance at one another.  Tired.  Overworked in 12 hours shifts. Well, some are overworked.  Others float off the radar, sort of hiding from whatever they can scheme away.

Admission is a test of will.  Waiting, hoping that someone actually listens or reads the triage sheet.  Long periods of simply waiting and not knowing  why or for what.  Eventually, a weary transporter asks if we have ever been to a holding-cell.  His joke…or is it the hospital’s joke?  The holding-cell is a room where the patient waits to be taken to the real room.

The current problem keeps manifesting–too much blood from places where blood should not flow.  Hours are passing.  The holding-cell is nice enough except that a swarm of tiny ants moves closer to my chair.  When I point to them, the nice nurse says, “Oh yeah.  There is mulch around the tree outside.   And it is raining.”

Sorry?  There are ants moving towards me and I am too worried to be designated killer.

The A-Team, the champions at needle sticks, moves into the room.  Too much blood loss means flat veins that won’t accept the cannulae.  This person that I love gets poked, pinched, stuck and apologized to because IV’s and blood samples are not  happening.    He remains quiet, frightened.  I am numb with fear.

Pleasant enough people come and go, doing what their respective departments require.  The same questions  asked so many times that we wonder if anyone actually communicates….or even looks at those computer screens that dominate the nurses station.  ( I know.  I know.  Double checking that the answers are always the same.  They are.)

The sixth floor room is spacious and looks clean.  A nurse makes notes on a torn paper towel, notes destined for computer.  Bob looks so diminished, flat like his veins.  And we wait.

“In the morning” they say.  In the morning  a scope will find the source of the bleeding.  In the morning?   Tomorrow morning?  It isn’t even twilight yet.  The night looms.

And so it goes through that morning, the test that was beyond stressful, the blood transfusions, the inevitable settling in that means he and I finding a survival rhythm in the pleasant enough sixth floor room with a view.

We are home now, loaded with new medications that insurance doesn’t want to cover.  Wearied, almost somber, as we move out of the experience.

Emergency 101

Holding Fast

For two days I have been working on a blog about Time, about incomprehensible Time. When I opened today’s email, Two-Names included the following poem in his message.  The poem is anonymous yet speaks to everyone facing life in a care facility.

Crabby Old Man

What do you see nurses? . . .. .. . What do you see?
What are you thinking . . . . . .
when you’re looking at me?
A crabby old man . . .. . . not very wise,
Uncertain of habit . . . . . with faraway eyes?

Who dribbles his food . . . . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . . . . . ‘I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice . .. . . . the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . a sock or shoe?

Who, resisting or not . . . . . lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . . . the long day to fill?
Is that what you’re thinking? . . . . . Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse . . . . . you’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am. . . . .. . as I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, . . . . . as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of Ten . . . . . with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters . . . . . who love one another.

A young boy of Sixteen . . . . with wings on his feet.
Dreaming that soon now . .. . . . a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . . . my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows . . . . . that I promised to keep.

At Twenty-Five, now . . . . . I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . . . and a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . . . .. . my young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . . . . with ties that should last.

At Forty, my young sons . . .. . . have grown and are gone,
But my woman’s beside me . . . . . to see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more, babies play ’round my knee,
Again, we know children . . .. . . my loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me . . . . . my wife is now dead.
I look at the future . . . . . shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing . . . . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . . . and the love that I’ve known.

I’m now an old man . … . . . and nature is cruel.
T’is jest to make old age . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles . . . . . grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone . . . . where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass . . . . . a young guy still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys . . . . . I remember the pain.
And I’m loving and living . . . . . life over again.

I think of the years, all too few . . . .. . gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people . . . . . open and see.
Not a crabby old man .. . . Look closer . . . see ME!!

Trigger Trips

Her fears were odd…boarded buildings, dry-docked boats left to rot, pocked things rusted to a cancer…long abandoned pieces of someone’s history.

Ghosts lived in them.  Ghosts wisped and shaped from value, from love, from pain, from moments that mattered.  She feared being touched by these enemies, these ghosts of left-over time and places.

The woman felt every presence.  She reminded herself of that movie kid who could speak to dead people.  Only she couldn’t do that…wouldn’t do that.  Speech would betray, would require that she listen.  Once she spoke, the ghosts would get a turn, a chance to push into her knowing-place, the place where the haunt would win.

A day-dream?  Maybe, but sitting in my husband’ hospital room these past days, or walking the halls while he slept, I revisited this woman from my past.  Some of her is me.  I do fear those things and I fear being overwhelmed by the ghosts of memories not my own.  I do not know how to listen, offer compassion, tuck the words into safe compartments…and move on.

Some of it is fear of aging which,of course, is fear of death.  Life is such a nice thing.  I am guessing that the fear of old and abandoned, of rusted and cancerous is an extension of fear of aging, of being a deserted memory.  No great mental stretch to that conclusion.

And then there is the doctor’s comment to my husband:  “When it comes to life, I am into quality rather than quantity so I treat to improve quality but don’t worry about what quantity is left.”

Ouch.  How about the best of both?    Give me all there is to have.  Life is such a nice thing.