Friday, February 20, 2015


I just posted, but hell, why not stay on the roll.

And roll is what made me remember that I did not mention one of the other nice things about being here. Our next door neighbors are a young couple with a most adorable son. Miyako is from Japan and adores my mother. She and her 2.5 year old, Noah, often stop by to visit. Miyako found out that I love Japanese food and agreed to teach me how to make sushi rice (yay!). Also, she treated us to homemade California roll last night. Kill me now good. It was like dessert.


Very quiet here today as I nurse a bit of a white wine indulgence. I looked around for Janet only to find her sitting in the backyard in the sun, humming to or chatting with herself, her cat Ariel beside her, cleaning herself, and Emmylou quietly tinkerbelling around. (Gosh, I only right this minute realized where the name Tinkerbell would have come from. Duh.) Mom looks so small in the bright light, either lost or swallowed up a bit. Several times this morning I have thought about suggesting a task or a trip only to let it go.

I was happy and thankful to get an hour of reading in a warm tub. 

8 days later, and it certainly doesn't feel like it.

Tonight is the February Family Friends birthday hang out. I am making a Texas Salted Chocolate Sheet Cake for the occasion, fresh guacamole (avocados abound), and a turkey broccoli casserole that my mom requested. The last cake I made was for MMA about a year and a half ago and it was excellent.

(Breaking news for me ... I am on the bed writing this and Emmylou just climbed up on my back to take a nap. This is significant as I do believe she is working on her lapcat skills. Yay. But I feel something wet on my back ... is she drooling or bleeding?)

This week was largely about getting ready for the soireé. The patio reclamation project is coming along and I am hoping to have a birthday bbque (sorry my beloved East Coast folks) just to have a target to get the rest cleaned up. As there are no more scheduled events coming up, I will have the mental space to figure out what I am going to do with myself.

I finished Nora Webster. What a beautiful piece of writing. Perhaps the themes of love, loss, expectation, and how the hell do you become yourself are particularly poignant for me.

It had come to her in one second what death meant: her mother would never speak again, never come into a room again. The woman who had given birth to her was not breathing now and would not breathe again. In some ways, Nora had not bargained for this, had always felt that there would be time for herself and her mother to meet and talk with ease and warmth, or something like warmth. But they never had, and they never would now.


What was strange as she began to look at her mother again was how little she was sure of. The details of her mother's face had vanished, but there was an expression still, a sense of someone. And then that sense became more exact, more clear, the more she watched. She could see other people in her mother's —the faces of cousins, the Holdens and the Murphys and the Baileys and the Kavanaghs; the faces of Catherine and Una; Nora's own face; the face of Nora's children, especially Fiona. It was as though her mother in this long night became all of them. 

My grandniece (greatniece?) is a throwback to this side of the family as perhaps I have mentioned her before. She is thoroughly into music (her father is a successful professional drummer and her mother was a manager). As I have asked her about venues and bands, she invited me to an excellent show, to see a young British band, The Hidden Charms, at a completely cool, very very small venue, Amplfyi. Although I may have been the oldest person there, there were other oldsters as well. The band has an early Who/Yardbirds/British blues invasion sound and they are quite good musicians. And cuuuuuute.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Rambling warning!

I woke up, or rather Cooder woke me up, way too early. As I dozed and petted her, I thought, as I so often do, of my confusing state in life. I came to the realization that I am a bull in the china shop of my own life. For all my well-meant intentions, purported intelligence, capacity for compassion, and any other good thing I could say about myself, I just blow it, I just stomp on and over things an awful lot. 

(View from the porch. Looks worse in real life.)

Thursday Morning, Week 5

Yes, it was five weeks ago that I came out here. It feels both like forever and as if it is flying by. I feel rather numbly dislocated, depressed, or down, but not particularly anxious. Then again, perhaps weltpanik is just my way of life, my mode now.

The morning is still cool, brightly sunny with a washed-out blue sky and a very gentle breeze. The house faces southeast, so the sun blazes in the front door, which we, unlike most of our neighbors, keep open most of the time. Emmylou likes to sit and bathe in the light here most mornings. My mother has taken to calling her Tinkerbell because of the bell on her collar. It is quiet enough to hear a faraway train and a descant by the birds chasing each other through the front yard.

Although I am neglecting LBJ and the current hottest book of the cognoscenti Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend (that my brilliant friend kindly gave me for Christmas which was great because the waiting list at the library is long ... or at least it was in Brooklyn ... I kind of doubt it is in my local library ... just checked and zilch ... by the way, no etymology for zilch, but it was first used in 1956)
... I am getting a little bit of reading in. For some reason unknown or unanalyzed by me, I am quite taken with Colm Tóibín's latest Nora Webster. Loved this. 

"At the moment the only topic she could discuss was herself. And everyone, she felt, had heard enough about her. They believed it was time that she stop brooding and think of other things. But there were no other things. There was only what had happened. It was as though she lived underwater and had given up on the struggle to swim towards air. It would be too much. Being released into the world of others seemed impossible; it was something she did not even want. How could she explain this to anyone who sought to know how she was or asked if she was getting over what happened?

Very much how one feels after a depression. Or after any traumatic event. 

Well, there must be some progress. I did not turn on the tv this morning to work and catch up on Empire or Justified or any of the other things I like to watch and my mother does not. I have tried to get her interested in Enlightened or The Newsroom or John Oliver, but her media literacy has not grown with the new style of storytelling. She finds these confusing and slight. After a time, I did get her hooked on Olive Kitteridge (she likes Frances McDormand) which she enjoyed. I will try John Adams next. I often sit with her, fooling around on my laptop or knitting (yes! I started another scarf! ... as if anyone in this part of the world needs such a thing ... it is nice wool I found in a thrift store.) 

I need to put on some clothes, get on the bicycle (got a new helmet!) and head over to the post office. I did that yesterday when I recalled that driving over would require more time and the annoying "getting-in-and-out-of-cars." My mother was shocked at how quickly I was there and back. Too hot and bright to walk for much of the day. Riding the bike took half the time the driving would have. And today is the farmer's market, so perhaps I will check that out as well. 

The to-do list here seems endless. I was able to get the refrigerator partly cleaned out yesterday but so many other tasks do not get completed. Over her protests, I ferried my mother to get her disabled parking sticker. She doesn't want to use it, preferring to "manage" ... even if her arthritis and osteoporosis are painful and it is blazing hot. I understand the "raging against the dying of the light" but I think she causes herself more pain and consternation. 

It has not been easy for either of us. So much of this makes me so sad. It is easier for me to observe her than myself in this situation. Or perhaps it is more comfortable. She resists my help because she has learned to live alone and take care of herself. There is an impulse in me to think I should stay here and take care of her, make her more comfortable (although she would argue she is fine on her own). 

I think one of my lifelong faults is to drop in and out of people's lives. (I chuckle ruefully here.) And somehow, I was not very much in my own.

If you are jonesing for some new music, try this free download from Noisetrade:

This was tear inducing.

Ariel takes over the rocking chair which is my mother's favorite seat.

Friday, February 6, 2015


It is not at all unusual for me to say something along the lines of “I should be sleeping now” and yet in this case it is true.

On the other hand, February 5th was my mother’s “piano birthday” … indeed, she turned 88. That sounds like a big number for a human being. She started the day with a visit from my cousin Dan who arrived about 7:30 a.m. By 9 or so she was out the door under her own steam to teach a yoga class. After that, her church family joined in, 18 or 20 strong, to have lunch with her. Not bad for 88. We had a good laugh as someone gave her a pedometer and walking any distance is quite a challenge given her deteriorated hips.

It has been a busy week with scarcely enough time to get in a nap, what with friends, relatives, and celebrations going on (not that I am complaining). Now it strikes me that I didn't even give my mother her birthday card. 

On Wednesday, my mom and I had dinner with two cousins. Mom is the only remaining sibling from her family. 
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Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Tangerines growing in the neighbor's yard.

Yeah, and where have I been?

My eldest brother and sister-in-law were headed down here for a visit on their way to Palm Springs. This necessitated further cleaning and some heightened bickering with the mother. That, in turn, caused some tears and despair, and Bob’s your uncle, as you well know. The visit is over, so we can return to our regularly scheduled round of activities. 

In other words, there isn’t much to report and I am still on stunned.

On Sunday evening, I made pizza for the family and PAS. PAS and I then staid up until 2:00 am discussing life and, on my part, drinking too much white wine. The pizzas were good, though.

Emmylou is enjoying southern California as she has an enclosed backyard she gets to wander in for hours every day. She likes to chase Ariel, and Ariel is at least partially compliant. Cooder is okay, too, if somewhat slower. She has shown great interest in eating deli turkey, as well as Greenies.

Michael and I picked up the bicycle from being tuned up, so if the helmet that is here fits at all, I am good to go on some rides. I am ready to get back to healthier eating and exercise.

In other news, I did get to see some friends this past weekend. D&PW were in from Brewster on their first real trip to California. It is always such a pleasure to be with folks who are excited about something. Their first question to me was “Why would you want to leave this place?” It was great fun to share their experiences of Santa Barbara, Hearst Castle, and the like. Plus, they were stoked as they missed the huge snowstorm while they relaxed in the sun.

Then, on Saturday, my friend RV drove up to take me to lunch at a huge Cuban bakery and restaurant. I had not seen RV in several years, likely since Carl died, but we had a sweet time eating and laughing about our youthful escapades and catching up on travels and musical finds. 

Mom and Emmy looking at the sunset.

I know this is mundane and all, but again, I am endeavoring to get back to the me I used to know. It’s the best I can do for now. Some days it is too much and too weird.