Thursday, March 31, 2016


Boysenberry blossom.

It cannot be a good sign when a dirge-like Grateful Dead song (is there another kind?) is the earworm of the day, can it? Reading the lyrics, I am not even sure the song makes much sense. (It Must Have Been The Roses. Lyrics here.)

Absurdity, like paranoia, strikes deep. Into a life it will creep.

Trying to write this and help my mother fill out a bunch of questionnaires about her hip replacement hospital stay and subsequent help at the same time: not a great idea. Her memory is a challenge for both of us. I have been mostly patient, but the kinds of things she forgets! All this is made more difficult, as I have said, by a lifetime of indirection, obtuseness, and private sarcasm, Janet's personal style. Before I snap at her when I am particularly frustrated, I ask if she really doesn't know or if she is just being lazy and not making an effort. Often it will turn out that she remembers more than she lets on.

I am fighting with the reality that she needs more and more care or at least more attention and stimulation. I have to get her organized. And she was a challenge for cat-herders even before she started losing it. (A Challenge for Cat-Herders makes a good caregiver's guide title.) When I was a child, I would call her from somewhere in the house. No response. Finally, a search on foot would find her sitting in the backyard, completely within earshot, just petting the cats and ignoring the rest of the world. Checking out. As an adult, I understand this, but as a child I was completely frustrated and disrespected.

And repetitious problems really bug me. My patience account is very low in this area. Small things like keeping the sink cleared off (not my strongest suit either) of refrigerated food after a decent interval of digestion and time frittering, she just will not do. Walks right past. Or does not take her medication even after I have put it out. She hangs up all her dirty clothes instead of throwing them in the even-more convenient hamper. I have to try to remember what I have seen her wear. She could do her own laundry, but she lets me do it.

And then there are felling moments of tenderness. I scurry around Trader Joe's as she chooses a single banana. Then, as I am returning to the cart, I see her scanning the landscape for me. I remember then, that she is vulnerable, doesn't see well, and might be less oriented than I give her credit for.

At Costco today, she told me that she cried the first time she went into one. The scale of the store, the amount of JUST STUFF, and the realization that many people have nothing just overwhelmed her.

On a brighter note, there was a man playing the accordion, reasonably well, outside the store. The  suggestion of the French demi-monde floated in when the doors opened. I don't even recall if they were playing their usual rock and roll, as the accordion was sweetly predominant. We gave him some money and said thanks on our way out of the (treacherous) parking lot.

The blues, or baby dementors, are following me, nearby. I have managed to kept them in abeyance, but they are asking some good questions, alluring questions, which would take me right down the rabbit hole of depression, into the bed where I can feel worse, even though I might be lolling around with Vera Paris.

Meanwhile, bills to be paid and much gardening, always gardening. Maybe that's my job title now: Caregiver/Cat Herder/Gardener. With five cats (don't start with me, I know it's crazy), I do a lot of cat herding. Poor Merle is out getting neutered today. My mom is just bananas over him. She was kissing him on the head, which is not how she usually interacts with the kitties.


a small purple artichoke
in its own battered
and darkening
grows tender and sweet

patience, I think,
my species

keep testing the spiny leaves

the spiny heart.

— Jane Hirschfield, The Beauty, Knopf, 2015

First real tomato.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Saturday, March 26

Is it mere birthday malaise? I have scads to do: I barely made a dent in my ambitious gardening plans for Friday. And today, pre-birthday, I haven't done much besides watch all the episodes of Scott and Bailey that Hulu had to offer and lose myself in the needle(work).

I am experimenting with trying to sleep without any meds as my doc says that there could be an interaction between some of the meds I have been taking. And, thinking on, I don't believe I have tried any over the counter remedies. I do fall asleep, I just wake up frequently and then just doze, so I am tired. And to that end, I am going to take a nap before Peter, Marilyn, Janet, and I go for Caesar salads and martinis at the Dal Rae to (desultorily) celebrate my birthday. The desultory aspect is coming from me as I think the rest of them are genuine.


In other pre-nap news, Vera Paris has finally settled in and is spending more time sleeping in my room. While she is not up to Cooder's stellar cuddling, we may just get there. She also likes my bedroom as there is the express open window to the outside for bird watching and dirt bathing. She doesn't have that connected, familiar quality that some cats have, Cooder had it, Emmylou has it, but she's a warm feline body with an adequate purr and good intentions.

Also, had this odd but not entirely unpleasant occurrence this morning. I woke up at dawn, rather dozing and trying to get my deep sleep on. I kept hearing, very softly in the distance, some jazz. Now, as far as I know, jazz, classic mid-50s jazz, is not to the taste of most of my immediate neighbors. The fellow who lives behind us, Joe, who I have only recently met while I was gardening and he was trimming his citrus trees which hang over our back fence. I thought he might be up early, listening to some good grooves. Finally, I got up to investigate only to find it coming from my open laptop. A cat must have walked across the keyboard to activate Bill Evans and Jim Hall's Undercurrent. They'll do anything when they want to be fed. (Didn't work. I turned it off and finally went back to sleep.)


An end is always punishment for a beginning.
If you're Catholic, sadness is punishment
for happiness, you become the bug you squash
if you're Hindu, a flinty space opens
in in your head after a long night of laughter
and wine. For waking there are dreams,
for French poetry, English poetry,
for light, fire although sometimes
fire must be punished by light
which is why psychotherapy had to be invented.
A father may say nothing to a son for years.
A wife may keep something small folded deep
in her underwear drawer. Clouds come in
resembling the terrible things we believe
about ourselves, a rock comes loose
from a ledge, the baby cries
and cries. Doll in a chair,
windshield wipers, staring off
into the city lights. For years
you may be unable to hear the word monkey
without a stab in the heart because
she called you that the summer she thought
she loved you and you thought you loved
someone else and everyone loved
your salad dressing. And the daffodils
come up in the spring and the snow covers
the road in winter and the water covers
the deep trenches in the sea where all the time
the inner stuff of this earth surges up
which is how the continents are made
and broken.

— Dean Young,  First Course in Turbulence, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999

Friday, March 25, 2016


Photo by Samatrix Digital.

I spent some time this evening shopping on line for front-yard fencing. Of course, investing much of anything on this makes no sense as there is a reverse mortgage here and I can hear the clock winding down. But I would like to reinforce our Northern boundary as well as putting in some plants I need to get out of my garden space. I need more room for vegetables we likely won't eat.

I must have about 13 tomato plant, many of them volunteers from last year. I think I am going to move a couple of them to a sunny spot in the front yard. On that note, the cucumber flowers, as well as eggplant, and tomatoes, so there should something edible in the next few weeks. I am hoping to spend most of the day weeding and transplanting the zucchini and whatever else I have grown from seeds. The names washed off seed starter containers, so I am not too sure what else I am moving.

Janet does enjoy the flowers. The calendulas are taking over, duking it out with the nasturtiums. The orange rose bush I gave to her for Mother's Day last year had about 12 blooms at one time. There is plenty of stock, pansies, Iceland poppies, California poppies, ranunculus, and snap dragons. The sunflowers have yet to bloom, but are enormous, dwarfing the young Meyer lemon tree.

I would that I had a better attitude about being here. As I mentioned yesterday, I am shuffling (reluctantly) towards a more peaceful and accepting attitude. With me, bien sur,  there is always the danger of teetering into full-blown bummer land.

But depression isn't how I am really feeling right now, that's kind of a county or two away. This is more a heavy, still sadness. I realize this, this seeing the decline of my mother, is just a part of life but it is ... deafening? That's the word that came first. Heart deafening?  The word lourd also came into my brain. I guess there is still some French floating around. The not-very-good French online dictionary defines it as "weighty" or "serious" so that applies.

It is weighty. And, for a change, my panic and regrets about my own life are not outweighing this "lourd"ness. Realizing how much responsibility I have to take for Janet is only now becoming clear. She was sad and lonely tonight, although I was home, sitting in the living room with my current craft obsession (embroidery ... don't laugh ... ), watching Scott and Bailey on HULU. Janet was pestering and peppering me with questions. I wasn't mean or rude, but I wasn't giving her too many answers. She decided to go lie down. This was about 8:00. I was concerned and tried to get her to read instead of more sleeping, should she not want to watch TV with me.

I am going to have to stop staying up late to be alone. I need to get up and get her out of the house. To a senior center or something. When her short term memory is extra short, even talking to friends on the telephone is a challenge.

It's just so fucking sad to see her so diminished. And I miss her. Albeit our relationship has been tempestuous, we talked all the time. When I had a life, I was forever calling her up to crow or cry. At this moment, I don't feel close to anyone (no flies on any of you, that's just how I am feeling right this second). There's that silent deafening echo of her slipping away.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


How do we live in the great meanwhile, in which all our lives take place? — Jane Hirschfield

This kind of question is on my mind very often as I shuffle through these days in the childhood abode, tending to my mother, berating myself, wondering wondering wondering wondering. Man, hindsight is tough. That youthful feeling that opportunities are not over is difficult to shake. There are many times when I do think along the lines of "Just do it,"; however, when I recall in the more recent past when I tried that, I come up with rejection, frustration, humiliation, and worse.

So, the Salon went well. There was an adequate amount of food, but not an embarrassment. All the salonières got along fine and had things to talk about. Everyone oohed and ahhed over the black cat who has joined our household. And, at the end, we had a political discussion with people expressing diverging views without anyone getting huffy nor calling anyone else an ignorant slut or worse.

Something seems to have clicked in my little head since my last set-to with Janet. Something has sunk in or become more real. Or I have started to accept the reality of her situation. Janet has been so lively for so long, it is not easy to see her less vital and alive. Now, I know for those of you who have been through this, this is not a revelation. But, on an individual level, it is still hard.

Given my pigheaded Romanticism, I think somewhere inside I thought I could cajole or manipulate Janet into not being old. That I could rally and inspire and harangue her into activity. I challenged her with sarcasm when she made a slip, because she has been known to be purposefully obtuse.

Now, a new knee-jerk response seems to be settling in. Instead of that defensive, "how is she playing me," response, a softer, more reserved me thinks "maybe she doesn't know/doesn't get it." And I am more helpful more often. More patient.

The great meanwhile.

Friday, March 18, 2016


Where CAN we live but days?

That was my last post almost a month ago. And the days they are going by. Not so terribly unpleasantly, although they are most certainly filled with a certain kind of frustration. And there are good ones and less good ones and better ones. 

At least the heat hasn't started yet. 
At least the garden is going well.
At least the mom is healthy, if not always with it.
At least someone dear is newly cancer free.
At least I am paying down my debts.
At least the smells of spring citrus and jasmine float in the doors and windows.
At least I am still reading.
At least I got the sewing machine up and running.
At least I started embroidering.
At least I started seeing a dentist after far too long.
At least I can mostly sleep at night.

So there's a move toward positivity.

Okay, parts of this silent time have been harder than others. There was a significant Mom meltdown in there, with me raising my voice and all. However, she seems to have listened to me and has been trying to be both more active and compliant.

I was downright sick with a cold, although it took me a few days to figure out that it wasn't allergies. And I was barely over the illness peak when I went to the dentist and had a tooth pulled. Wasn't expecting that. Then the sickness came back and the general pain. Nothing got done.

I REALLY HAVE TO CLEAN UP THE GUEST ROOM. I use it as my box room, throwing things in there that need to be dealt with. I can't even take naps or watch television in there as the bed is covered with THINGS THAT NEED DECISIONS and THINGS THAT NEED SORTING.

And then a most dear one is having such a terrible time in life that I cannot make heads or tails of how things could have devolved to such a thoroughly fucked-up state. My heart hurts for this person. Sometimes, that one's depression gets me rather down. I wonder if I will get a call telling me that that pain is ended for what seems to me the wrong reasons. I wonder if there is any way, at all, to help other than to be a supportive voice in the wilderness.

I am still trying to learn to NOT get pulled in and definitive about my own sadness and state. To let my despondency and aimlessness float on by.

I chastise myself for not writing. I miss you. I miss me. I need this. I am challenged with prioritizing. I am mostly motivated by not cleaning the guest room. I need to get away. The dental work has put a significant kibosh on the Spring in New York plan, although it is not 100% impossible.


Then a dusk like this, a subversion of surfaces,
a vague expectancy of absence. Blurrings. Wings.
I watch the edges break and flee; they are Ophelias.

Soft town that settles on this land, town of inconclusiveness,
encryption, I touch your dateless air, your scaffolds
upholdings. What covenants do you carry as you come,
what summonings provisioning your kingdom, and all the footless
crossings that move through you? What treaties and what pacts?
Blown leaves against the rotting fence, the jutting tilted heads
of rusted nails, they drift in a suspended radiance
that floods the kind like fear but it isn't fear.

The yellow mullein stand tall against the house
as though they know they must negotiate this passage
as you conjure them away, your brain-darks reeling,
your glimmerings revising, interceding,
yet somehow they return by morning.

Now the sun's transit has gone under. The smallest splintering
asleep it seems. Asleep the clear-lit custody of knowing.
Soft town, I am our citizen, though I am knot and barb
among your wanderings, and can feel the fraught circuitries
first calm then slash themselves into me, resisting,
the wanting-to-be-calmed extending itself to you
then pulling fiercely back, self-maiming,
and then the anxious glances rising, peering round,
and this grazing of fingertips like wind, these nervous fingertips
like wind —

doubt is a beautiful garment, if only I could wear it,
all silk and ashes, on my skin.

— Laurie Sheck, The Best American Poetry 2000