Saturday, January 15, 2022

Surly Bonds

My dad slipped the surly bonds of earth on January 13.  He'd had a massive stroke on the ninth and doctors were clear he was not going to survive.  He did not go quietly, even with considerable brain damage.  He could still track conversations and try to talk.  My older sister was there with him, around the clock.  I was able to speak to him on the phone and I know he heard me. He fussed and fretted, and asked for food even though he failed every swallow test.  We asked that he be given some pureed food just for the mouth feel, since he was, as my sister said, "food obsessed."  A good cook.  For his 70th birthday we sent him to a week long course at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley.

I have been reading his various books over the last days, and they remind me what a witty intelligent man he was.  Like most of us, he was complex and many times had my sisters and I figuratively pulling our hair out.  To his neighbors and friends he was charming and gregarious.  He usually did not go on his political rants, suspecting he would not be agreed with.  (At least he could read a room.)

Mom passed away eight months ago, and dad had been her diligent caregiver for over twenty years.  Upon her passing, he admitted that he suddenly, and for the first time, felt very old.  He would have been ninety next month.  He was doing well until the stroke.  He traveled at Christmastime to see family, and spent the day with my younger sister two days before he was felled.   They ran errands and had lunch out.

I was on pins and needles the whole week, wishing him a swift and easy passage.  I contacted many of his friends to let them know what was going on.  I was anxious, and hyperventilating, so I did a deep clean of the bathroom one day, and the next cleaned out and reorganized my considerable pantry.  

Today I am in zombie land. I had fitful dreams last night and woke up in a daze.  It will be like this for awhile, I know.  In the past two years I lost my husband, my ex-husband, a friend, and now dad.  "No more death!" I say. 

"Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, 
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; 
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds - 
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of - 
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence. 
Hovering there I've chased the shouting wind along 
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.

"Up, up the long delirious burning blue 
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace, 
where never lark, or even eagle, flew; 
and, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod 
the high untrespassed sanctity of space, 
put out my hand and touched the face of God."

This poem by John Gellispie Magee, Jr. is particularly fitting.  Magee was a pilot for the Canadian air force, and my dad was a great fan of all things flight related, especially military flight.  When they lived in San Diego for decades, he joined the Navy Club and was treated to many flights on and off aircraft carriers.  It was the thrill of his life.

I hope he wheeled and swung high in the sunlit silence, knowing he was loved.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Much like the beginning of the pandemic in March 2019, some of my dreams lately have turned decidedly dark.  So horrific that when I wake I get out of bed like a kid running from a monster.  I do not want to go back to sleep.  Instead, I make coffee and have a bite and start my day, no matter the time.

The other night, I was a award winning (of course) top world scientist who was experiencing a psychotic break. Having never experienced one myself, I was surprised to come to this conclusion when I awoke.  A complete break with reality was happening to this dream character: I was circling a parking lot over and over looking for my car and I couldn't find it.  Then I realized I was actually in it.  In the car I was desperately searching for.  I couldn't find my way home in the night.  I was panicked because my baby daughter was home alone.  I was picked up by the police for driving and behaving erratically.  Instead of taking me to a hospital they took me to the police station when I had to wait for hours to be processed.  I had a foot high stack of books and papers, balancing an iPad and iPhone on top of it all.  Every time they moved me, I had to gather up this slippery stack to the next seat.  I felt as if I were on some kind of hallucinogen, watching water coolers and coffee machines melt.  By the time I had my interview, I was surprised (and relieved) that it was a psychologist.  As I was pleading with him to send a car out to get my baby daughter (who had at this point been alone for hours), I realized with a thunder clap that I didn't have a baby daughter:  she was a grown woman now.  She was okay.  I was panicked for nothing.  How could I have forgotten?  I felt my head clearing and was amazed at the very crazy journey I had been on.

Maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me I've been sleeping too much.  And I have.  It seems a better choice than alcohol or endless television.  I start with a meditation, lying down, and drift into sleep.  I want to withdraw from the world, because the world aint offering much these days.  Both my grandchildren have Covid-19, one vaccinated and the other not (too young).  I canceled a trip to the theater to see a live show, even though they required proof of vaccination and masks.  Just feels too risky right now to pack myself into a crowded theater.  Like many parts of the country, we have our highest numbers ever.  

I did manage to put away the Christmas tree today.  That's been weighing on my for a week.  

My daughter had her 34th birthday a few days ago.  No in-person celebration, but her 10 year old son played cameraman on FaceTime when she opened my gifts and blew out her candles.  She had a stack of donuts instead of a cake!

Outside, it's a beautiful sunny day with snow on the ground and ice forming on the sidewalks and streets.  I love the snow, do not like the ice.  I've had enough falling!  I enjoy the outside from my chair by the front windows, reading a book and drinking hot chocolate.

And so it goes.  Nightmares and moments of contentment.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Ringing In

Adios, 2021.  My finale for the year included a nasty fall at home that earned me a trip to the hospital.  Nothing broken, but oh, the pain.  I was really out of commission for weeks.  Transitioned off Hydrocodone with Tylenol and ice packs. I'm back to "normal," although normal is pretty much altered after so much time with Covid-19.

I did get to spend Christmas with my family, though it was a close shave.  My youngest (4 y.o.) had direct contact with a Covid case, so the entire family got tested in order that I could join them on Christmas day. The day after Christmas, this same 4 year was exposed when playing with a neighbor at her house.  My neighbor just tested positive.  I'm now wearing my KN95 when I go grocery shopping.  I feel like wearing a hazmat suit, but I know this is over the top.

Looking at a map of high infection, it is the entire country.  Colorado has the highest number of cases it has ever had, even during the worst of the last wave.  I did venture to the grocery store yesterday, and the woman ahead of me in the check out line didn't have a mask on.  I don't remark on this at all in her presence.  Why bother?

She was blathering on to the clerk that she wouldn't shop at her regular store anymore because they are constantly announcing that people can get their covid shot at their pharmacy.  "I don't need to be told what to do!"  When I got to the clerk he said, "Yeah, I think if you tell people to do something, they won't want to do it."  I replied, "Well, yes, if you're an adolescent." He nodded.  I'm just so tired of the debate.

I'm pretty much tired of everything.  How long must we endure this pandemic?  The days go by in a predictable way: meal prep, laundry, housework.  Reading and sleeping provide relief, as does movie watching. I'm reading Michael Nesmith's "Infinite Tuesday," an autobiographical riff.  Quite enjoyable and lighthearted.  He lived in my old stomping grounds on the Monterey Peninsula, and the personal stories people related of him were all very complementary.

One of the things that keeps me going is my contact with friends.  I always feel better after a phone call or zoom.  We're all in the same space; we're all enduring this together. Some are not being as cautious as I am, but I have underlying conditions which keep me vigilant.  So it goes.  We all must do what we feel is prudent.  I gape in amazement as some friends travel internationally.  It's the airports that worry me the most.  All that humanity crushed together, tempers running high, and bad behavior by many.  A friend just returned from a trip and guy next to her on the plane had to be told twice to put his mask on.  He was belligerent and invaded her seat and leg space many times, going so far as to jab her in the ribs.  She took it much better I would have.  She said he was just oozing hostility and she didn't want to engage and aggravate him any more.  She was reading a Thich Nhat Hanh book, keeping her on the right path in those harrowing hours.  Christ.

I hope you are finding ways of coping in these wacky bizzaro times.  Send along any helpful lessons you have learned.

Happy New Year.

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 ...