Friday, January 31, 2020

He's Still Gone. He Always Will Be.

I continue to find it difficult to believe Steve is gone.  I am processing it all, looking back at photographs and emails, remembering the good times. Yesterday I pulled a book off the shelf.  It was a book of photos that Steve made for me -- mostly pictures of me that he had taken over the years.  He inscribed it "To my precious Tara."  Well, that broke me in two.  I'm crying now just writing about it.

I began to grieve for the loss of Steve way back in June when he asked me to leave.  His request was the greatest shock -- I asked him repeatedly, "Do you want to die alone?"  His answer was always "yes."  I think his pride would not allow the thought that I would see him in such a reduced state.  I have read that it is not uncommon for the ill spouse to push the other spouse away, even asking them to leave.  I find this surprising, only because I cannot imagine doing that if the situation were reversed.  From what I've read, the ill person is trying to spare their loved ones from the inevitable.  I know Steve, in his way, was trying to protect me.

After all is said and done, I've had four months of setting up a new life in a new town and state.  This gave me a head start on experiencing living alone and without the man I loved.  When I returned for his last week, and saw him and sat with him, we were able to speak words of love and forgiveness.  I am truly grateful for the time I had with him then.  In the end, he did not want to die alone, and he didn't.  As much as he tried to push love away, his family, many friends, and his wife were there for him.   I'd say the stubborn old bastard was lucky indeed.

We all did our very best to help him in the end.  We all carried him through.  Something I said often in his last days was, "It's okay Steve.  We've got ya.  We've got ya."  It calmed him when he was agitated.

We all surrounded him with the very best we could give.  I believe it allowed him to let go.

And so, I continue on.  I live life in a state of hyper awareness, where mundane things take on great import.  I've recently heard of the music artist Billie Eilish, and I particularly like her song "Ocean Eyes."  Steve had ocean eyes - a bright blue that dazzled.  And, like the song, a "diamond mind."  A brilliant mind until Parkinson's had its way.

Anyway, I find this song very moving.  I hope you do as well.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Day Women Rocked DC

Three years ago I attended the Women's March in Washington, DC. I flew from California, where there were plenty of marches as well, but I wanted to be in our nation's Capitol. I wanted to be in that number. And what a number it was. Completely outstripped any crowd estimates. It made for some uncomfortable moments as I couldn't move (literally, my friends, literally) for a period of three hours while speeches were being given. My friends and I were schmooshed up against the Air and Space Museum, shoulder to should, belly to back. I took a lot of deep breaths and hoped fervently that I didn't have a medical emergency. I even wore an adult diaper, so called, in case my notoriously leaky bladder had problems. I was prepared.

The big take away for me was that 470,000 pissed off people could gather and not have a single act of violence or vandalism. We were united in our love of liberty and equality, and in our protest of what we believed would be an anti-woman, anti-people administration. And by gawd, our worst fears have come true.

I didn't attend this year's march.  After DC, I thought I was done with large marches.  It was a very long and stressful day, and though I was glad to be there, it was a slog.

I became separated from my friends, cell service was non-existent, but I finally caught up with one friend and we hopped a pedicab to get us to our dinner date with the group we came with.  My feet hurt for days after.

Nevertheless, it was inspiring to be with people of all ages, abilities, ethnicities, etc. etc.  I had a ball getting photos of the day.  I have saved mementos from the day, including my pink pussy hat, and hope that one day my grand daughter will see them and treasure them as a part of national, and her grandmother's, history.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Time is Your Most Valuable Asset (Like my blog title says)

There's nothing quite like a death to snap you out of your  dream state. There's a wooden sign that's been hanging at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center for decades.

The sign serves as a gong as well, which why part of it is worn away, but it says "Wake up!/Life is transient/swiftly passing/Be aware/The great matter/Don't waste time."

Every visit I would pass this sign several times a day and ponder the message.  I'm sure at life's end I will be thinking or saying, "Jeez that went fast."

Regular readers know that I've faced some significant health challenges over the past few years.  Just last July I had a tumor on my parathyroid gland removed.  It wasn't cancer, but it was causing a lot of damage to my bones, stealing the calcium particularly from my left hip.  The exhaustion was debilitating and it took months for the doctors to figure out what was going on.

Then there's my heart.  And my diabetes.  And asthma.  Good Grief, Charlie Brown.  It's daunting at times to grapple with so much, but what choice do I have?  Taking care of myself is Job Number One.  These conditions also put me in touch with my own mortality and there are some bottom line truths I've pondered many times.  It's good for all of us to think about, because we are not in control, boys and girls.
Here are 20 brutal truths that every single person needs to hear.   From Matthew Jones.

Then listen to this moving song by Jane Siberry and KD Lang.

I like to think there are Angels among us. I don't know if there are, but I am comforted by the idea.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Old Friends for Almost Sorta Not Really Wordless Wednesday

I can't remember when this was taken, must've been 2012 when Robin and Roger were living in Grass Valley.  For the first time in a few years, we lived close to one another again.  I'd drive up from Sacramento (about a hour away) and enjoy their forest enclave, their easy company, and delicious food they cooked up in their kitchen or the grill.

They are relaxed hosts, which suits be fine.  When Steve and I were newly together, we made the trek to their new home very far north on the California coast.  It was important for me that they meet and it was a great visit and everyone got along well.

I think Robin must have taken both these photos.  What a happy time that was.  Now I stay in touch through emails, phone calls and blogging.  A trip is needed in the next couple of months.  Here I come, kids!

Their friendship has sustained me over many years.  I love them so much.  We "get" each other.

I'd love to hear about the friendship(s) that sustain you, dear Reader.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Dr. King - What would he say about Blogging?

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!  I took this photo three years ago when I was in DC for the Women's March.  I appreciated the statue much more in person than I did when I first saw photos of it.   It's quite majestic up close and personal.

I was just reading the other day that the first African American school girl to be integrated into an all white school in Louisiana is now just 65 years old.  I'm 62 and I remember the television coverage of school integration, civil rights marches and white backlash rallies.  Our nation still has a long way to go to achieve equality for all.  I don't know if we'll ever get there, but I share his dream and always will.  Our treatment of enslaved Africans, their descendents and Black Americans from a variety of ancestral lines, is our national shame.  We will never be a great nation until this is solved.

Now, onto another topic not remotely related to Dr. King.  But maybe he'd have something to say if he were around.

Blogging Etiquette

I have searched the Internet far and wide for this topic, and the only discussions are for business blogs.  So it's all about maximizing your ad dollars, building your audience to build your income and things like that.  When I specifically searched the topic as it relates to personal blogs, nothing came up.  Only a description of what a personal blog is.

My real question is:  if you visit a blog often, enjoy and make comments, but the blogger never responds to your comment (they reply to others on occasion) nor leaves a comment on your blog, can you assume that your participation is unwelcome?  I don't want to make a pest of myself, after all.  I've recently started to expand my blog reading, based largely on the blog list on Robin and Roger's blog.  I know them well and we have many common interests, so I figure their list is one that would resonate with me.  I also now see many of the same bloggers making the rounds on the same blogs.

I can understand if someone checks out my blog and finds it not to their taste.  That's fine.  So, I guess I can assume two things about these new bloggers I am reading:  the don't find my blog to their liking, and my participation on their blog is a big yawn for them.

In which case I'm happy to remove them from my blog roll and move on.  It would be a shame, though, because I am enamored with at least two of the new blogs I am reading.  (You know, "I like your blog, why don't you like mine?  I thought we were simpatico.")  It's kind of like getting the brush off at a party...which is also fairly humiliating.  Only temporarily, though.  I don't believe in punishing myself with reactions like that.

If you have an input or insight, I'd love to hear it.

Have a great week.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Music Is Life

Music is one of the first senses we humans respond to.  Tiny toddlers dance, clap and sing to the music before they can even talk or walk.  Music is also the last sense to leave us when we are dying.

In the last few days of Steve's life, his daughter Rachelle got his iPhone working again and set  up a giant playlist of all the classical music he had on his iTunes.  Though fading in and out of consciousness, Steve would raise a hand and conduct the orchestra, as was his way all his life.  Sometimes he could get quite animated!  I thought he may have missed his calling.

We both love the music of Erik Satie, and I added it to the playlist.  It was exquisitely beautiful and heartbreaking to listen to.  His music was used on the soundtrack to the fabulous documentary, Man on Wire.  If you haven't seen it, you must.

Satie was an influential artist in the late 19th- and early 20th-century Parisian avant-garde. His work was a precursor to later artistic movements such as minimalism, repetitive music, and the Theatre of the Absurd. Steve would cry listening to this music. The full album of songs is called Gymnopedies and the music was first heard in 1887 in Paris. Steve's love affair with Paris was life-long, and he passed that passion on to me. He was exceptionally knowledgeable about classical music and perhaps his love of it was second only to his love of photography. But the music came first. Frequently going to live performances of the Cleveland Orchestra when he was younger. Check out Satie if you don't know his work. I think it's brilliant, and certainly very moving.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Losing my Husband - Twice

This past week has been a monumental journey for my husband Steve, and me.  I flew to California to be with him.  My sister sent me a photo she took of Steve in the Skilled Nursing unit where we lived.  I was horrified by the changes in him, the deterioration of his poor body.  I wanted to get out there and try to spend some time with him while I could. 

And I did.  And it was very, very good.  We held hands, spoke words of love and forgiveness, and one day took a nap together in the hospital bed, cuddled together, and he managed to squeak out one word, "Nice."

Three days after I arrived he began to transition out of this life.  I've seen this often enough to know what it is, and the hospice nurse confirmed it.  His daughter put a play list of his favorite music on his iPhone and we let it run continuously.  Sometimes, lying there, seemingly 'out of it,' he would raise a hand into the air to conduct the orchestra, which is something he always did.  I found this rather embarrassing when we were at a concert because he would wave both hands rather vigorously and people around us would glance over to see what all the commotion was about!

After a long week with him, his second daughter arrived from the east coast.  On Friday afternoon I left the daughters to be with him.  I went to lunch with local friends, and in the afternoon my dear friends from the Napa Valley drove over to be with me.  We ate dinner at our favorite watering hole, I drank a Manhattan in honor of Steve (his favorite cocktail) and we reminisced all through dinner.  Afterward we repaired to their hotel where I spent the night with them.

The phone rang at 5:00 in the morning.  I knew what that meant.

Now I am home.  There is so much to process.  The enormity of all that happened last week sneaks up on me and I am utterly reduced to a bottomless pit of sadness.  Sometimes I can't even believe what has transpired.

For now, dear reader, I will share some fun pictures that remind me that Steve and I lived a wonderful life for a very short time, and that we laughed our assess off.  Frequently.  Loudly.  As it should be.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year!

A photo from about 1981.  A dear friend, a spectacularly creative woman whose enthusiasm for life was infectious. Momi Fong breathed fresh (and exciting) air into my life.  She modeled for me often and was always game for costumes and props.  Momi died a few years ago of pancreatic cancer.  We hadn't been in touch for several years, and she was on my mind a lot that April. I emailed her.  No response.  I emailed her husband.  No response.  So I figured I was personal non Grata.  But then, in May, I heard from her husband that she had just passed away.  I missed my opportunity to reconnect with this lovely light of a woman.  I'll always regret that.

Yellow Cottage, Part 2

I have a dear friend who I met in my Creative Writing class my freshman year in college.  I sent the poem to her for her comments and edits ...