Thursday, January 22, 2015


There I have gone again, waltzing into a situation without really, deeply imagining what it will be like. And I suppose that has its good points and its not so good ones. The situation at hand is living with my mother. While I thought that just being in a place I dislike so intensely would be the challenge, the day-to-day of readjusting to her, and her to me, has obliterated those thoughts for the moment.

Mind you, I do not blame her for this. I am sure my all-guns-blazing-New-York-get-it-together-and-get-it-together-now vibe is disruptive to the way she has been thinking and living alone since Carl (the brother) died. And there was some kind of milestone as I think we went the entire evening without substantial bickering or disagreement.

The memory of an 88-year old is a challenge in itself. While my mother is not particularly wifty, or much more wifty than she has ever been, I cannot ascertain whether she is forgetful, not observant, or just doesn’t bother to remember. I know this is not unique to someone in her age bracket, but it is not something I have had to really address before. In this way, it is likely good for me to be around as I question her often. Then I happened across this New York Times article about the brain and memories which is quite in the vein of my explorations with my mother.

And the Max death has hit us both hard, reminding us all too clearly of mortalities: my father, her boyfriend, Verne, my brother Carl, and in the not too distant future, herself. For me, notwithstanding my complaints about or tussles with her, losing my mother is unthinkable. Only it isn't. It is the elephant in the era. 

And the other thing that is weird, or another thing, is that we got along so well over the telephone. We were so close. (We probably ARE close, it just doesn't feel that way). I think I intimidate and bully her, although, on most occasions, that is not my aim. Somehow, I am taking away her power in ways I do not at all mean to.

Meanwhile, I just had an intense attack of vomiting. There I suddenly was, retching up the California strawberries I had consumed scarce an hour before. And all I could think about was Max, just two nights before, puking his death bile in the bathroom as he struggled to his end.

And just for the record, Max probably had more than pancreatitis. That was probably a secondary infection to something greater, some kind of cancer or something. The meds we administered did nothing. He looked terrific and acted completely normal until boom! he slept for two days. It started a week ago Tuesday and by the following Monday night, he was gone. 

Someone wondered how it came to be that Emmylou is here as well. In my desperation to settle here somewhere, my friend Roz suggested that I just call Jet Blue and ask them to help. I had to push my way through a couple of layers of workers (just doing their job, but not being particularly helpful or even giving me accurate information about one person with two cats), I found a supervisor who was able to assist me. It did cost more money and delay my departure, but it was not egregiously (there's that word again) expensive. 

Emmylou is happy as ever here, although if we are here until hot weather (it was 80 yesterday), I think she will be less enamored. There's an enclosed backyard and she can run around with Mom's remaining cat, Ariel. Cooper is also comfortable, taking an occasional stroll outside, and finding many sleeping places to her taste. 

(Ariel with Max on the day he took ill.)

But we miss Max.

The Blue Bowl

Like primitives we buried the cat
with his bowl. Bare-handed
we scraped sand and gravel
back into the hole. It fell with a hiss
and thud on his side,
on his long red fur, the white feathers
that grew between his toes, and his
long, not to say aquiline, nose.
We stood and brushed each other off.
There are sorrows much keener than these.
Silent the rest of the day, we worked,
ate, stared, and slept. It stormed
all night; now it clears, and a robin
burbles from a dripping bush
like the neighbor who means well

but always says the wrong thing.

Jane Kenyon

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