Friday, June 26, 2020

I Nominate 2020 as Shittiest Year Ever

Well, for me at least, and for many many others.

On Wednesday this week I got out of bed and couldn't figure out why I couldn't walk straight -- why was I hurling myself into walls and doors?  Why was I having severe double vision, as if I was stone cold drunk?  I stumbled around this way for a few minutes before I realized something was really wrong.  And yet, I still went next door to feed my neighbor's cats because she is off on a camping trip.  It was a surreal trip to make, but cats must be attended to!

I came back home and called my daughter.  You can guess what she said. "Call 911 MOM."  And so I did.  But after I did, I called another neighbor and told her not to be alarmed but there was soon to be sirens and a mob scene of emergency vehicles on our tiny street.  I'm so considerate.

After all is said and done, turns out I had an Ischemic stroke, verified by an MRI. I was admitted and administered drugs to help with blood flow.  Scary, and yet I had the ability to speak, I had no loss of function and my cognitive function was only mildly impared.  I spent the night and was released the afternoon on Thursday.  On the way out of the hospital I stopped into the ICU, where my first husband (father of my daughter) has been.  He is very ill and he looked it.  We have been friends again for the last 10 years, after 20 years of acrimony following our divorce.

Cape Cod with my husband's family, 1979    

My daughter has been so very happy to have both her parents living in the same town that her family lives in.  We've had some wonderful holidays together in her home.  He's been a fun and connected grandfather (Pop).

And soon, he will be going home to die, supported by hospice and good medications.  While I am heartbroken, I'm more concerned for my daughter.  I haven't lost a parent, but I know it hurts like hell.  We're all in for a hellava week.

And I'm aware that my energy right now is at its lowest ebb.  Docs say I'll probably feel extra tired for a week or two.  But hell, I'm alive

We just never know what the future will bring, do we?  Life changes on a dime. 

These are crazy times, compounded by personal grief.  Doing what I can to keep my spiritual and physical equilibrium.  And here to support my daughter. 

Here's what I've been listening to today to lift my spirits:

Monday, June 22, 2020

Father's Day

Yesterday I read a lot of tributes to fathers on Father's Day.  People on FB also shared old family photos of their dad.  So many have lost their fathers, and often times their mothers as well.  I am a rarity at my age (63) in that both my parents are alive.  They married young - and had three children by the time mom was 25.  Imagine!

This guy in the photo with Dad is his oldest friend on earth.  They've known each other since they were four years old.  They had many adventures during their summers in high school, hitch hiking up and down the state of California doing odd jobs.  Sometimes they got home by the skin of their teeth.  It may surprise you to know they are polar opposites when it comes to politics.  They don't often talk about it, but in private Max will tell me that one day we shall convert my father (wink).  Max, like many of my dad's best friends, is a musician and artist, as was his father.  My last night in North Carolina almost a decade ago, Max and his wife drove me to a friends house deep into the woods, for a jam with all the regulars.  Banjos, guitars, fiddles and an upright bass -- these people drank and played old-timey music into the wee hours.  A memorable evening.  I was a hung over, bleary eyed passenger on the airplane the next day.

It's always been a wonder to me how my dad can be so conservative and rigid in behavior and appearance and have so many bohemian friends.  He always has.  It might stem from his Great Aunt, who was an out-loud bohemian and artist herself. He used to rock the chemical trays in her dark room on Orange Avenue in Coronado, California.  She photographed celebrities who came to play on the beach and lounge by the pool at the historic Hotel Del Coronado back in the 1930s and 40s. 

He took on a lot at a very young age -- marriage and children by the time he was 28.  After a lifetime of living with a couple of step-fathers or his grandparents, he longed for stability.  I don't remember him as a fun dad, he was a disciplinarian and mostly we children walked on eggshells around him.  He regrets that now, and wishes he could have had a more relaxed relationship with us.  He still has an extremely controlling nature, and things must go his way or things get very uncomfortable. 

Until I moved to Colorado last year, I had spent the previous nine years living close to my parents (sometimes with them).  It was difficult for me, I felt duty bound but also newly constricted after a lifetime of living on my own and not under his influence.  It was out of economic necessity that I lived with them for two and a half years.  We had many blowout arguments, which distressed my mother greatly.  I went out for walks -- frequently.  Only way to blow off steam.  When I moved into my own place, we joked with each other that no one had died.

I'm sure that I, like so many adult children, have a very mixed view of my life with Dad.  I love him dearly and sometimes I also hate his guts.  He has been terribly hateful at times, and then he does something wonderfully loving.  My husband also had a difficult relationship with his children, and they kept their distance as adults.  It took me a couple of years after we married for me to fully understand how damaged those relationships were.  This was their first Father's Day without their Pop.  Just like my dad, Steve could be a lively and interesting friend, but he was very chilly when it came to his children.  It's sad.  His kids are great and his missed out on so much.

And this is how it is between fathers and their children. 

Friday, June 12, 2020

Can't Turn Me Around

Another Friday in my small little life in the time of covid-19.  There is so much happening in the world outside that I would love to be participating in.   I'd like to join people in my town as they gather in front of City Hall standing up for justice and racial equality.  I'd like to be in the streets marching with Black Lives Matter.

Except for the virus.

I am, after all, a 63 year old (just this week) with Type 1 diabetes and a host of other things that make me high risk.  So I watch movies recommended to better understand the black experience in the U.S.A.  Many of them I have seen before but there are new ones (for me).  I had a birthday fundraiser that exceeded my goal (thanks, friends) to raise $200 for the Equal Justice Initiative.  Turns out, this wasn't the first year I raised money for them.  I have also been a contributor to the Southern Poverty Law Center since the early 1980s and the ACLU.

One of the most moving experiences I've had was a visit to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, NC.  I was visiting friends in Chapel Hill, Mount Airy and Asheville.  I don't remember how I found out about the center, but the fact that it was in the building where the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins started, well, that was it for me!  The original lunch counter is still there on the ground floor, with the museum and center above.  Staffed mostly by young docents from the local colleges, it is an immersive experience.  My friend and I were the only white people there and we had some heartfelt conversations with the other visitors.

I believe change is going to come.  There is more momentum this time around.  NASCAR has banned the use of the Confederate flag, Confederate statutes are being pulled down by the people (not waiting for governments to take them down) and the military is hopefully changing the names of the numerous military basis that are named after Confederate generals.  I'm not naive enough to believe change will be all encompassing and come quickly, but I do feel a difference these days.  Of course it's up to us white people to change our behavior, which is after all, the problem.

I'm glad to see the many resources out there for white people to learn about the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, the Tulsa rioting of white people killing black people (including dropping bombs on the town from private airplanes).  It's a long a terrible history, and it is our duty as citizens to know it.  We've turned away from it much too long.  Our schools need to devote more than one month a year to study our nation's sin and shame.

Keep the faith, friends. Have a good weekend.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Little Joys

I took a walk the other day with my daughter. It was dreadfully hot but I wasn't going to let that deter me from some outdoor time with the lovely Laurel.  We rested on a bench in the shade when the sun got to be too much for me.  When the clouds blew in the temperature dropped and we left the bench to head home.  We have very changeable weather here in Colorado.

On our way back we found several little displays like this one.  Children having fun in the greenspace between houses.  That's been very thoughtfully set up in our town, so there are plenty of hiking a biking spaces among the housing developments.

When I was a child I spent so many hours outside, either playing games or simply lying in a grassy field.  We took expeditions to the creek, our lunches in sacks or tied up in bandanas. We were explorers.  Those activities gave birth to back packing as a teenager.  I was an enthusiastic back packer and spent many happy days with my friends in the Ventana Wilderness and trails in the Sierra.

Leonard and me, Mt. Carmel 1975

When my first husband and I sent out our wedding invitations in 1978, we opted for our cover to be a black and white photo of us sitting at our campfire near Mt. Lassen in California.  I wish I could find it to post here, but I cannot.  He and I continued to back pack until I had our child at age 30.  I think that was the end of back packing, though we still hiked and went camping with her.

I'm delighting in these little joys of remembering.  Life is terribly restricted right now, and there is so much sorrow.  Although I am impressed by the more than 10 days of peaceful but rightfully angry marches, I worry how many well meaning folks are going to get this virus.  And of course I'm angry when the violence breaks out.  Angry, but not surprised.

What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

Harlem, by Langston Hughes

Hope you are finding some joy in your life these days.  Be well!

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 ...