Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Today was Lillian's birthday. My granddaughter is now 8 years old.

For the evening meal, I made my homemade macaroni and cheese, one of her favorites. And because it was her birthday, no one chided her for having three large servings. (Especially since her mother and I did the same!)

For a birthday present, we bought her a huge new box of sidewalk chalk. Our driveway is three cars wide, so it makes a bodacious canvas for summer drawing.

For a way to remember this birthday, fortune and freak weather sent a wave of maritime fog from the Bay Area over the western mountain and into the Valley -- something I have not seen in all the years we've lived in California. Fog? In May? Here? Ranunculus!

The alstromeria in the garden are working overtime to produce cascades of blossoms, the geraniums brilliantly growing by leaps and bounds. The cherries on our tree are ripe, and delicious.

Finally, at the end of the day, just at dusk, in the Eastern sky, a rainbow appeared.

Now that's a birthday.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Where To?

The time is drawing near for undiscovered country again.

Now, undiscovered country is not necessarily unplanned-for country. In the two weeks that separate me from my very comfortable chair in the studio as I write this, and the Road, there is a lot to do. I've been trying to kick myself into Madame Planner gear and get a handle on what needs to be done in order to make this trip function.

Number One: DO NOT PACK CLOTHING TO SUIT THIS WEEK'S WEATHER. Good Heavens, no. Most of the rest of the country actually thinks it's Spring. I wore a flannel shirt this morning to go to Mass, and heavy socks. We have had exactly one day so far in 2010 that was warm enough to sweat. IT'S MAY, WEATHER BITCHES! WE SHOULD HAVE BEEN SWIMMING FOR SIX WEEKS! WE SHOULD BE TANNED! WE SHOULD BE WORRIED ABOUT TURNING FANS ON AT NIGHT TO COOL DOWN THE HOUSE, NOT RUNNING THE DAMNED FURNACE!

Okay, let me stop hyperventilating about the chill here. The other things we have to do are still in a miasma of denial and lack of order. But here is my list so far:

Check Howie's records to make sure he is up to date on his vaccines. (Yes, Howie is going with us.)
Give Howie his spring bath and a deep series of grooming to reduce the dog hair in the car.
Get maps from AAA.
Clean car.
Make detailed instructions for care of the gardens for John and Alex.
Lose 10 pounds of ugly fat.
Get all of June's Press issues done as far as possible.
Send file for "Bookmarks" from my working computer to my laptop.
Kick Firefox into remembering my passwords on my laptop.
Figure out where the hell the tent is.
Figure out how the hell to set the tent up when we find it.
Buy bottled water, easy eatin' snacks, baby wipes (indispensable for sweaty necks and smelly armpits, etc), insect repellent, sunblock.
Clean electric shaver for leg hairs. (<--me)
Pack camera charger.
Get more detailed maps from AAA.

This would be exciting if it were not so sad. The reason for the trip is basically to say goodbye to our mothers. I don't even know if my mom will remember me when I visit her in the nursing home; Bernie's mom is 90 this year, and this may be our last chance to spend time with her while Bern is between jobs and she is alive. She's okay for now, but is rapidly getting tottery.

Nevertheless, the Open Road Mystique is upon me, and I'm very eager for the adventure. The highway has been beckoning to me lately, suggestively calling to me in early hours. I already have had Howie's drinking bowl (sealable lid) bought since January, in case we needed to go; I have looked at our Ugly Bags in the closet every day and felt a longing to pack them.

The Time is near. The Road beckons.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Shadows Wait for Mothers' Day

I made oatmeal cookies this morning.

That doesn't sound so very hard, does it? I've been meaning to make some for quite a while, and just didn't get around to it. However, this week, with Mothers' Day looming on every side, the marketing thereof shouting in one's ears, leaping feverishly before one, hampering one's steps, breathing hot and greedy and manipulative breaths on one's neck, I determined that I had to make the cookies, or continue to suffer nightmares and panic attacks in the darkness before sunrise.

I succeeded. I made the cookies, counted out a baker's dozen of the best, put them into a sturdy zipper freezer bag, nestled them between drifts of tissue paper, and sent them to my mother with a Mother's Day card.

Not a big deal, you'd think. Not a major effort like stacking wood or cleaning the house for Christmas or anything. Get up, find recipe, make cookies, put them in box, take to Post Office. Easy.

Sure it was. That was why, when I left the Post Office, my face was leaking tears while the rest of me shook. That's why I've had nightmares every night so far this week, about loss and fear and being attacked.

Yesterday morning I stood in the shower, pondering the mystery of how an old woman with Alzheimers, locked up in a nursing home, not knowing the day or the hour, and incapable of caring for herself ... could still terrify me into nightmares and rob my spring days of the peace that I should be feeling.

How does that happen? The mystery is unresolved. In all honesty, I don't want to visit her, I don't want to have any contact with her; before she required 24-hour care, she became so horrible, so mercilessly, cruelly, insensitively horrible that I didn't want to have anything to do with her. I knew her mind was failing, but the little girl she taught to cook and sew and garden didn't understand, and still doesn't, not really.

The adult that I try to be understands the progression of the disease, that it is terminal, and can never be fixed for her. The free woman that I am recognizes how frustrating it must be to her, to be penned up in someone else's house, with no way out; she can't even count the days because it is always today, always bedtime, always mealtime, always nurses touching her, always endless, like a bug caught and held poised in amber, beyond hopefulness of an ending or satisfaction of a rich life completed.

She has no visitors; but even if she had, she wouldn't remember them. She didn't remember me when I came to her door a few years ago and she never could learn any of her caregivers' names even though they were with her 24 hours a day. She still has memories, but they don't connect with anything she perceives.

Her nurses call me to let me know when things change with her; times when she refuses to get out of bed in the morning, argues about taking a shower, needs supplemental foods because she's losing weight or is dehydrated because she doesn't want to eat or drink at that time, even though she complains of hunger or thirst minutes later. She doesn't ask for me, or about me.

This week I want to get some large mailing labels and make them into addresses to her so that I can just print out a photo with a quick note and send it off every few days. Maybe something of that will please her, and will bypass the mechanism that makes my hands shake so badly that I can't print the words on the envelope.

Have some cookies, Mom. You taught me how to make them. I'll pretend that you liked them, even just a little.