Sunday, October 6, 2019

13 Years Left



I never forget what day she died.

October 6th.


But sometimes I forget what year she died.

Sometimes I think I want to.
Sometimes I'm so ashamed that I did.

Sometimes I'm still a little bit angry.
Sometimes I can't believe I have the nerve to feel that way.

There's always a little bit of empty hanging around in the back of my head...

...and my heart.




I do the math in my head...

2019-2007=12

My mother died in 2007, 12 years ago. She was 63 and it really was much too soon.
If I live as long as she did, I would only have 13 years left to live.

This is appalling and terrifying.

One of the good times.
But of course, I've had the cancer. So I think about this more, probably, than the average person. I count time every single day: time since the cancer, time until my risk of recurrence drops, time until my next checkup. If I've properly learned all of my cancer lessons,  I should automatically embrace every day like the gift that it is. I should wave my pink ribbon and appreciate every last little blessing I encounter. And I must admit, there was a time not very long ago that I would have done anything...   .almost     anything   .... to know I was lucky enough to have 13 more years of life to live.

Mama would have been 75 this year and she has missed so much. I still yell out to her by the nickname my father gave her, "Hey Fee! How about that!"  "Oh Fee, can you believe that?"  I bug her with random musings.  I share the gossip. I pass on my worries. But mostly I tell her all of the good stuff because at the end of the day, life offers mostly good stuff to be grateful for.

I try really hard to appreciate the cancer lesson society thinks I should have learned.  Most of the time I do truly understand the value of a single day.  I would give anything...   almost     anything   .... to have one more day to be with Mama and share all of the good parts of life with her. Yet, at the same time, if it turns out I only have 13 more years (or less) to live, I'm going to be pretty darn angry that my time here on earth ended so prematurely.  Without a doubt, 13 years will never be a sufficient amount of time to live it all, to do it all, to see it all.

One day really is such a gift but 13 years will never, ever be enough.






Friday, May 31, 2019

Such a Good Dog



My head is sticking out the window, as far as I can get it, as far as they will let me.
My fur is blowing and my eyes are squinting in the wind.
My tongue is hanging out of my mouth 
and my nose is in overdrive.

There is so much to smell.
It seems like there is everything in the world to smell.

I love it when my people take me for a ride in the car. 
This might be the best day of my life.

I am the happiest I have ever been.  Well,  since the last time I went for a ride in the car.  I was the happiest I have ever been then, too.  And, also, the time before that was good.  So good.

I am so happy.

Going for a ride.








She was such a good dog.






















She was smarter than all of us.
She was kinder than all of us.
She was selfless and full of joy.
She was the embodiment of
all that is good in this world.

Every single day of her life,
she was all of those things.




Daisy wasn't our dog.
She was the next door neighbors' dog.



She was part Australian Shepard and part Husky. But every time you took her on a walk, someone would always ask, "Is that a wolf?"  She was born on a farm with one brown eye and one blue eye.  The blue eye later changed to brown with a blue patch. After her birth, the farmer separated her from her mother with an electric fence. A kind neighbor, upset with what she saw, took her in and bottle fed her until she was old enough to be adopted.  Throughout her life, she struggled with being separated from those she loved. She needed companionship. She needed her people.



The first time we met her they told us she "liked to jump".  Daisy did jump and leap and try to hug me. She was not a small or hesitant dog.  I had to brace myself to keep standing upright. She knew what she wanted: the love.   And I held my own because I too wanted: the love.  My acquiescence was the cue for her to lick me wherever she could and attempt a final stealth, "EVEN THOUGH I JUST MET YOU I ALREADY LOVE YOU SO MUCH NEIGHBOR LADY" tackle.




Daisy and I soon settled in to our own routine.  She loved to visit at our common neighbor fence. Many times I'd call for her when I went out into my backyard.  I'd hear the jingle of her collar as she rushed to the fence that separated us.  I would weed on my side; she would follow me on her side. If I moved 2 feet,  Daisy moved 2 feet.  If I poked my finger through the fence boards, she licked my finger.  If I asked Daisy a question, she nosed a board of the fence so that I knew she heard me. I knew and she knew.......we were having a conversation. She knew all of my secrets.


My son Drew started taking Daisy for walks when he was just out of elementary school and continued until he left for college.  Sometimes, before their walks, Drew would bring Daisy over to say hello.  She would walk into our home like it was her own and always greeted everyone there, including the cats.  They had become friends with Daisy and were worthy of a good face lick. She drank the cats' water, licked the remains of their food bowls and then sniffed and sniffed and sniffed as much of the house as she could before Drew urged her to leave for their walk.

I was initially worried that Daisy was too energetic for Drew to handle.  But Daisy knew how to handle such a kid.  When Drew was inexperienced, Daisy taught him how to walk. When Drew was more experienced, Daisy insisted they run. And boy, could she run and run and run. She'd chase down a ball and bring it back to you--for hours- if you could last that long.  For years, they walked and ran and chased balls in our neighborhood and the neighborhoods, trails, abandoned golf courses and construction sites near us. They spent a lot of time together.  She became more than the "neighbor" dog. She was his Daisy.

Drew had many encounters over the years including one with a yippy, yappy, annoying dog that approached him and Daisy.  The tiny dog nipped at Daisy's feet. The tiny dog was in full tiny dog attack mode, running endless, empty threat circles around Daisy.   Daisy was amused with the yipping and yapping and "barking".  Daisy cocked her head side to side and assessed the threat.  According to Drew, Daisy then slowly rolled her eyeballs and ever so casually and gently, sat down on that tiny dog.  Daisy didn't hurt the dog but Drew remembers a very satisfying but muffled ymmmph sound........And Drew remembers Daisy grinning, tongue hanging out, looking up for his approval.

Daisy and Drew had the opposite problem on another walk a few years ago. They were aggressively charged from a forceful, growling, large dog on the other side of a fence. The weak fence shook and the weakest two boards swung open.  The dog's drooling head threateningly poked through. The big dog behind the fence repeatedly charged and butted the fence.  Daisy went into action.  She immediately rushed forward and put herself between Drew and the scary dog. Daisy leaned against Drew, pushing him back with her full weight and growled back at the drooling dog trying to attack. Daisy's first thought was to protect my son.

It was the first time ever that Drew had heard Daisy growl.

When Drew got home he recounted the story.

"That dog would have saved my life if she had to."







She was such a good dog.



But she wasn't our dog.
She lived next door.
She had a wonderful family who loved her as much as she deserved to be loved. She had a lifetime of memories with her own family.

But gosh, we loved that dog too.









Daisy was 13 years old when we last saw her.
We were greeted by our friend.
We were greeted with a doggie grin.
We were greeted with a lick and a nudge.
We were greeted by all that is good in this world.



Our Daisy.






















Even at the end when she had a bit of a limp,

Even at the end when.....



Even then.....








She was such a good dog.








Thursday, February 28, 2019

Half a Finger



I remember her hands.
I remember they looked a bit clawlike.
I remember her fingers curled in, the joints knobby,
the age spots sprinkled from wrist to nail on the wrinkly,
folded skin that draped her frail, petite hands.
She was suffering from arthritis,
I would imagine.


I remember her half finger.
I always tell people the stand mixer chopped off her finger.
I remember her telling me that story, once, when we made cookies.
Probably, because I was staring.
Today, I always tell people that if you aren't
a mindful baker you too,
could end up with
half a
finger

in the

batter.



As a young child my eye was always drawn to that missing finger, the half finger. I always wondered what really happened to the other half.  Perhaps, it's not the mixer's fault. The aunts who know more than me speculate that my memories of the stand mixer mishap might be flawed. I've been told it may have been a Stokely Cannery injury, from when she worked there (on the line?).  I know memories can be crazy and unreliable.

Have I made that story up in my head?

What about the rest of my memories?



Grandma and me-1975
My great grandma Gertrude died on Christmas morning in 1981 at the age of 90. I remember the smell of her house, the curve of her velvet-ish sofa, and how I was fascinated with her treasure filled home. I remember, clearly, how she exemplified the elderly shuffle-march. I remember how quickly she moved from the living room, through the dining room and into the kitchen. I remember passing the dining room table covered in lace and filtered light from the sheer curtains that hung in the large bay window (was it a bay window?) beside it.  I remember, vividly, the shape of the filtered, diffuse shadow the outside bush made that day on the table.  I remember playing "Silent Night" and "Away in a Manger" on the piano in the living room.  The sheet music was thick ivory paper embellished with gold and brightly colored calligraphy. Her crooked, yet nimble fingers showed me how to play.

And I remember playing cribbage with her.  I was very young then and  I don't remember winning.   I knew how to play because she played with me. I remember being fascinated at how she could hold the cards, and shuffle and deal, with half a missing finger.  She always let me lose, gently.  But the aunts who know more than me have told me she usually played cutthroat cribbage.  She took her fifteen-two's quite seriously.

Gracie
5 year old Gracie never knew her great, great grandma. But here she is, learning cribbage from her relatives, just like I did. I see her hands, smooth and untouched, fresh and graceful, plump and full. She holds the cards cautiously, awkwardly. They are too big for her hands. She turns to her father and asks out loud, "Daddy, does 8 plus 7 equal 15?" The aunts and uncles and cousins and of course, her father, nod and approve.


I wonder if my great-grandma Gertrude ever looked at my hands the way I look at Gracie's hands. I wonder if she ever compared my hands to hers.  I wonder if she ever imagined her great, great granddaughter would be playing cribbage like we used to.  I wonder if Gertrude told me the stand mixer, finger chopping story just to scare me and ensure I'd always respect the power of a stand mixer.

Or maybe, she really just wanted me to stop staring at her finger.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Nancy Calhoun



It was a chilly Canadian day in the middle of December.
I was sitting on a red double decker tourist bus
rolling down a scenic road in Victoria, British Columbia.

I wanted the best view of the Straight of Juan de Fuca.
I climbed to the open air top level and wiped my seat dry with a towel.
The snow capped Olympic mountains stared at me from the south.



I loved the cool breeze.
The view was stunning.
My family was with me.
We were all healthy
It was a good day.


This is how I celebrated my 30th wedding anniversary.




The big mall across the river wasn't even built when I filled out the obligatory wedding registry.
I still have the dishes I registered for, however, from the old downtown store in 1988.
They were simple, an every day kind of  dish. (Nancy Calhoun, White)
I still like them and I still use them.
Those dishes were there,
from the beginning.


I was married in the middle of December.  It was the perfect time because-- the husband could be there.  He was a submarine officer in the US Navy and mid December was a convenient time for a junior officer, such that he was, to take a bit of time off.  We married and then we left our hometown.  We drove across the country to our new home in Florida.

We settled in Winter Park and eventually moved on to Idaho Falls, Groton Long Point, Bremerton, Idaho Falls again, Greenland, Angola, West Seattle, and then finally, Maple Valley.

And then, you know, we suddenly had two kids and a bunch of diapers and soggy handfuls of goldfish crackers and something that somehow spilled on the couch that nobody knows anything about and preschool tuition and Urgent Care bills and fundraisers and a lot of broccoli that ended up down the disposal and more than a couple of shockingly short lived pets.  Occasionally, the husband and I would pause for a conversation..... a moment...... a memory.  But soon it was back to band concerts that were a little too long and all of the towels on the bathroom floor and and far, far away soccer games and rainy cross country meets and debates about proper bedtimes and too many video games and SAT tests and are you sure you did your homework questions and so, so much laundry and.....

finally,

somehow,


college
move in
day.


I was on top of that bus in the middle of winter with those sticky, little, goldfish squishing, soccer kids who somehow qualified for the adult price on this chilly tourist bus ride. The husband sat next to them.  The husband who has patiently put up with the yin and yang of 30 years of marriage.  The husband who has embraced all that can possibly
encompass
and encircle
and enrage
and envelop
two people
and all of
the aftermath
that follows

when
in 1985
one person says hello,

and the other person finds that to be quite a clever
pick up
line.


Today that mall across the river is kind of old. Today my wedding registry dishes sell online with the "vintage" label  attached to them.  Today the preschool tuition is college tuition.  Today that broccoli that no one would eat is roasted in a 425 degree oven with a bit of oil and garlic and salt and pepper and is eaten like candy. There are no leftovers.  Today the debates are about politics.  Today they pick up their own towels.  Mostly.  Today my couch is only covered in cat hair.  Today I see the family that's with me on this bus ride shivering in their winter coats.  Today I see them cold ...possibly miserable, watching me be happy, up on the upper deck, pelted by the ocean spray on this little tour of Victoria.

Today I see them letting me be me.

Today I see 30 years of all
that has
always
been
good.


Tomorrow we go home and warm up.

Tomorrow I remember those stunning
Olympic Mountains staring back at me
and the frozen kids and husband.

Tomorrow we eat pizza off of those dishes
(Nancy Calhoun, White)
from the old
downtown
store.

Tomorrow we eat off those dishes that were there from the very beginning.

Tomorrow I remember 30 years.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Mr. Naked




I first laid eyes on him a year and a half ago.

I couldn't look away, despite the shock and trauma that had just bombarded me.

Finally,  I managed to turn my head away....and then, inexplicably....

I had to look back. 

My brain said, "How can you even stand here?  Close your eyes! You know this makes no sense."
My heart said, "Oh my goodness, honey, he is NOT the one for you. You need to walk away now."
My anxiety said, "Oh thanks a lot...this is gonna be real fun at 3AM.....and this worry has a visual!"
My mouth said, out loud, 

"OH. NO. NO. 

NO! 

For God's sakes, buddy...



......put some clothes on!"



I live in a suburban neighborhood within the "urban growth boundary". This means the houses are very close together.  I can see in backyards. I can hear TV shows.  I know when you are fighting.  I know when you .....are......not.

Mr. Naked takes a more unique approach to the way most people would choose to live in such close quarters.  Frequently, I've seen him at his bedroom window, naked as far down as I could see.  The window ledge stops right at the very, very.....very,  bottom of what would make my accidental window viewing episodes super, super icky.   I've seen Mr. Naked and his backside cook his breakfast with a towel around his shoulders, and nothing else.  I've seen Mr. Naked come out of the shower upstairs realizing he forgot his towel downstairs.  I'm ashamed to say that in the process of me frantically trying to shut the curtains I saw him running downstairs to grab his towel from the basket on the sofa.....and thankfully, eventually wrap it around himself.

But, the running part was...It was...
NOT. 
GOOD

I know what you are thinking....that's a lot of seconds to be staring. Lest you think I am a creeper, lest you think I am staring too long, lest you think this is surely an avoidable situation,  I assure you this is not a pleasure trip I am on.  This is not an instance of "accidental" (in quotes) observations of Mr. Naked.  All viewings of Mr. Naked are completely random and most, most unwelcome.  I have unintentionally seen things I did not ever want to see. I have inadvertently been witness to the most unpleasant parts of Mr. Naked's personal life.   

But every time we have crossed paths, I have been the one to frantically close the curtain.  I have been the one to run away.  I have been the one to live with the shame of visually invading Mr. Naked's naked, naked space......sigh.


I've always said Mr. Naked is the guilty one in our relationship.  I am the victim.


Until the other day.
Perhaps, I fear, I became the aggressor.




The adult daughter was feeling lonely.  She asked what her childhood cats were doing.  

She said, "Send me a picture."



Like I good mother, I rushed to get the good camera, not my terrible phone camera.

I took a photo of the cat that slept on the stove, soaking up the warmth of my morning teapot.  I walked upstairs and took a photo of the other cat asleep on the bed.  I checked the photo and saw that it was too dark.   I walked over to the window and pushed the curtains back, to get a bit more light. To my surprise, there was a Stellar's Jay at the bird feeder in the backyard.  I raised my camera out the back bedroom window and adjusted my fancy long lens to take a photo of the elusive Jay.  And, right as I did that, Mr. Naked opened his bedroom curtains, completely naked, as far as I could see.  I snapped the photo of the Jay.  Mr. Naked put his hands on his hips, leaned realllllly far back and smiled.  

I'm not sure when the flash went off.  I'm not sure if he thought I was taking a picture of him. I'm not sure if he saw that spectacular Stellar's Jay.  I'm not sure if I was very much in the wrong, somehow. I'm not sure if he was as appalled at me as I was.   I'm not sure if he was happy that I was there.  The window ledge, you know, was right at that level.....

No matter what...it was....

AWK

WARD.






I could have sworn I saw Mr. Naked in the grocery store the other day.  
I wasn't sure it was him.  
This guy had a shirt on........


I looked back at his Stellar's Jay photo, but as you can imagine, it was very, very blurry.







Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Pollyanna




Pol·ly·an·na
/ˌpälēˈanə/
noun
an excessively cheerful or optimistic person.






It just slipped out.




I didn't think about it ahead of time.
It wasn't over analyzed at
3 am in the morning.
It was out of
character,

for me.




When she spoke, I felt my heart beat faster.

I inhaled, deeply.

When she said that, I grabbed her wrist.

I held on, tightly.

When she stared down at me, I surprised myself.

I needed to tell her, now, apparently.






And that is the exact moment Pollyanna showed up.




On December 1st it will be 3 years since I finished treatment for my little spat with breast cancer.
(aggressive, rare, likes to return within 5 years, little known on causes, treatment..... blah, blah, blah)
One only has to search the word "cancer" on the right side of the blog to read past posts and know that at times I've been a bit angry about the drastic turn my life took a few years ago.  I'll never be a part of the "pink warrior" campaign. I've not seen this diagnosis as a time to repent and make a life changing U-Turn.  I've not been grateful for one single second of the experience.  It sucks and has taken a big toll on me both physically and mentally.

I've been a bit obstinate,
and reluctant you
might say, to
see the
good.



If I were forced to admit, however, to any positives that resulted from cancer and if you really, really pushed me, I would tell you that I've met some amazing people.  People like me.  People not like me.  People I'd never associate with in a million years.  Yet, we had this little spat with cancer in common. We often whine about our lingering side effects and ailments when we are together. We complain about our sore hips and our dead toenails and our lingering anxiety knowing full well, that perhaps, we are the lucky ones.

Because, many of our friends are dead.

Yet, still, I remain stubbornly reluctant to be grateful for my cancer diagnosis.




Pollyanna had different plans.



My poor non cancer friend said to me the other day, "Getting old sucks.  We're gonna be 50 years old soon!"  She listed the usual complaints.  I commiserated and said I too had the same issues.  She added,  "Seriously!  I hate getting old!  I wish I never had to get old!!"

I inhaled.  I grabbed her wrist.
And Pollyanna erupted.


"NOOOOOOO!!!!!!"   I breathed, out loud, slow and low and a bit ferociously out of my mouth.

 "No!  

We are

SO 
LUCKY

to be getting old!  It is such a privilege to get old!

Never, never,
ever wish for
anything
else!"


It just slipped out.
I'm not sure where it came from.
I felt silly when I said it.


Was it possible cancer had finally made something good out of my diagnosis?
Was it possible cancer had finally made me grateful for my life?
Was it possible I was finally a better person because of my cancer experience?


I've been a bit obstinate, you know.
I've been a bit ungrateful, you know.
I've been a a tad bit angry...for sure.

But Pollyanna has made an appearance.



Stay tuned.








Thursday, September 20, 2018

We Left the Boy




We left the boy.
It was time,
I suppose.

The husband and I got back into our car full of flattened boxes and
microwave shaped Styrofoam
and the empty seat he sat in
and we just
drove
south.

The two burritos we ate on the way home were cheaper than three, we noticed.
We paused a minute before we started to eat them.
It seemed, we were waiting for the boy.
But, of course, he was
where we left
him.

We drove home listening to the legendary music of our past.
We knew all the words and never once had to sing swear.
We drove home lamenting out loud, between songs,
"I hope he makes nice friends."
We muttered things like that.


The house was quiet and still when we arrived home.
 His room was bare and tidy;  the posters were gone.
There were dust outlines of things he had packed.
The leftover soccer trophies stared back at me.



I felt mommy empty when I climbed into bed.
I logged on, real quick, just to check
things online.



The local social media was jarring.

She died.
A week after him.
A year after the other boy.


So young.


Suicides.






They were from the boy's high school and he knew their names and faces.

I took my boy to college and posted photos of his new beginning.
I scrolled down the page and saw photos of their past.
I posted my proud moments and my hopes for his future.

I scrolled down and was immersed in their utter despair.




I've sent my son to college.
The husband and I awake each morning to an empty nest.
People seem to think we are in the midst of adversity.
People seem to think this is a hardship.
People seem worried.


They have no idea.




Thank God I get to miss my son.
Thank God he gets to have this future.
Thank God I get to wonder if his roommate is someone I would approve of.
Thank God I get to hope he'll study a bit more than he plays video games.
Thank God I get to not so gently remind him to eat a vegetable or two.
Thank God he will be annoyed with me reminding him to do that.
Thank God I get to worry if he found someone to eat lunch with.
Thank God I get to bug him to join an intramural sports team
Thank God I get to post pictures of his

dorm room

and not his



obituary.







We left the boy. We did.
I'm sure I'll be plenty sad about it.
I'm sure it will be an adjustment.
I'm sure I'll miss him, quite a lot.




And I thank God for that.