Monday, April 27, 2020

Hardship




Once upon a time, the husband and I experienced a bit of a hardship. * (see below)

Oh, I tell ya, we were stuck in a calamity,
our misfortune was most evident
and our suffering was clear



It began with the happiest time homeowners can experience:  the day the new carpet gets installed. The carpet installing men and women banged quite a lot as they stretched the carpet with their knee bangers. They did their job so well that they knocked loose a seal on a false wall in a bedroom.  When it rained, water coming from somewhere outside of the house snuck under the broken seal and into the bedroom...soaking the brand new carpet. A lot of presumably competent people then proceeded to locate the source of the leak.  The cause was "narrowed" down to a gap in the roof or the siding or maybe the window or perhaps, in the floor.


The husband and I were most anxious about this hardship.  There was rain and wind in the forecast and no competent repair person arriving anytime soon. And, the rain did come.  And, the wind did blow, I tell ya.   Soon, the lights flickered and all went dark.

So, now, the power was out.
And the house was silent,
except for the sound
of the rain
on it's way
to the
inside
of the

bedroom.


The husband and I made conversation in the candlelight for an hour or so.  We (me) then whined about being too old to be without power.  I needed distraction if I was to survive this hardship.  I found the emergency radio and tried to find a clear signal.  There was no clear signal.  All of the stations were all buzzy and fuzzy.....until, finally....one came through.

We could barely comprehend what they were saying. We leaned in, getting our ears as close to the radio as we could.  We turned the radio side to side.  We extended the antenna...this direction...then that direction until we found the sweet spot.


It was a political debate.

The only radio station that we were able to listen to was broadcasting a political debate.


We had a mystery hole in our leaking house.
An ill-timed power outage was making us cranky.
The grating racket of ever tiresome political discourse was most unwelcome.

Yes, the husband and I were in the middle of a bit of a hardship.

Oh, I tell ya, we were stuck in a calamity,
our misfortune was most evident
and our suffering was clear.








Our power eventually came back on.  We mopped up the water that had leaked into the house.  And we learned if we balanced the radio precariously on the back of the chair and pointed the antenna half way between north and north northwest, we could faintly pull in a mariachi band instead of the political debate.



I said goodnight to the husband and we joked about our hardship.
We both agreed we were grateful to have made it through this round of misfortune and suffering.
The husband fell asleep right away. 
It took me longer to fall asleep.
I wasn't feeling well.
There was an itchy tickle in my throat.

I felt a cough coming on.



*-mild annoyance


Thursday, January 30, 2020

Blood on the Porch




He walked right past the bloodstains on the porch.
Perhaps, the uneven surface of the aggregate hid the evidence.
Perhaps he saw them but his brain told him it
had to be something else.


He put his key into the blood-smeared doorknob.

This he noticed.
The blood.

Never one to overreact,
his first thought was,
casually,

"Well, something definitely happened here."



I had tried to call him for over an hour.
He was driving.
His phone was turned off.
Etc., etc.......

I never reached him.



But...I couldn't get my finger to stop bleeding. I knew the proper first aid.  I performed the recommended procedures.  I even consulted the esteemed Google doctor and his commenting cronies. My paper towel supply started to run low.  I wasn't sure how much longer I could apply pressure and hold my hand above my head.  The situation was borderline dire.

After an hour I was still bleeding a lot.

I took another look at the damage that had been done.

There was quite a significant jagged cut. I was able to see inside to a few parts that aren't supposed to be seen from the outside. A small part of me wondered if I'd pass out from the blood loss. A larger part of me decided that thought was ridiculous. I just need to take charge of this situation and drive myself to Urgent Care-not the far one, my favorite, but the close one. I certainly wouldn't do anything crazy.





The husband saw the note I had taped to the entryway floor.

"I have driven myself to Urgent Care--the close one."

The husband, knowing I was capable of writing a note AND finding the elusive tape to secure the note (which meant I was still remarkably coherent) decided he had time to go to the bathroom.  He entered the powder room off the entryway and found a sink full of blood spatters and drips.  He found blood-soaked toilet paper scattered on the counter beside the sink.

The husband, being the relaxed person he usually is then went into the kitchen to put his lunch box away........before he rushed off to Urgent Care-the close one, of course.  It was there he was met with piles of paper towels soaked in blood.  It was then he saw random blood drops(pools)  in the kitchen sink.  It was then he saw the Google search pulled up on the open laptop, "what do I do if I can't stop my finger from bleeding?"  It was then he got in the car and rushed off to Urgent Care-the close one.

Of course.





The nurse opened the door and said, "Your husband is here."


He said, "What did you do?"

I said, "I wanted to trim that stupid hedge.  It's way overgrown.  I got out the hedge trimmer and started trimming.  But then it jammed.  So I turned the trimmer off and cleared the junk.  When I turned it back on my hand was still on the blades.  It chewed my finger up for about 1/10th of a second.  That was enough."

He said, "But there is a handguard, your hand stays behind the guard for safety? Right?"

I said, "Yep.  That's what it's there for.  But I put my hand in front of it, right on the vibrating blades."

He said, "Why?"

I said, "I don't frickin' know why.  I think we can chalk this one up to operator error."



One of us went home, driving with 11 stitches on one bandaged up hand and the other able-bodied hand desperately trying to navigate the corners.


One of us went home via the drive-thru and brought home dinner.






Monday, December 2, 2019

Ring My Bell

This was 4 years ago.

I rang this bell on my last day of  7 1/2 weeks of radiation treatment that burned my skin raw and caused my skin to peel and ooze.  This was going to be the last day of the surgery scars and the chemo misery and the radiation "tan" that was supposed to fade. This was supposed to be my last day of treatment.

It was on this day that I started the next phase of figuring out who I am. This was the first day that I had to look at my new self in the mirror every morning.  This day forced me to press my internal restart button so that I could begin, somehow, to function in the post cancer part of my life.

When I rang that celebration bell all those around me said,


I should be so happy.




This was the day it was all supposed to be over.





Except for the checkups and the watching and the worrying about recurrence.
Except for the twitches and aches and pains and the drama and misguided expectations.
Except for the scar tissue and the left behind fluid pockets and the mystery floaters they contained.
Except for the size of the lymph nodes and wondering if they were bigger on this or that day.

As if  I'd even know if they were.
I've probably been a little PTSD paranoid.
It will probably continue.



But if you had told me on the day I rang that bell that I'd be alive 4 years later, I would have, literally,  been the happiest person on the planet.  The last 4 years of worrying and drama and checkups and scar tissue now seem to be a minor cost to the joy of life that I've experienced since then. So, 4 years after ringing that bell, maybe I will acknowledge, maybe I will remember....

...maybe for a brief moment, I will again, be the happiest person on the planet.


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.