August 17, 2014

Diminishment

I just spend a weekend with TigerGrrl in Appalachia visiting Big Bob.  He is no better physically.  He can speak more clearly, but still mutters much of the time.  His emotional control has eroded a great deal.   He tries to hit his wife and his caregivers when he is annoyed or frustrated.

I actually get this, but don't forgive it.  He was a diplomat and outdoorsman.  He could haul a deer carcus several miles and still have the energy to butcher it.  And no,, I don't want to fetishize hunting or machismo.  Now he has to wait for a nurse or family member to change his clothes when he wets himself or needs food or realizes he needs the bathroom before he soils himself.  And we talk in the high sing song of caregivers of the impaired.

Yes, we shouldn't, but he is impaired.  And he's filled with rage.  At 6'4" and 180 lbs (after losing a tone of weight), he can still do some serious damage to anyone who irritated.  He always was a man who didn't have great emotional control, but now its disastrous.  Of course, we can all get out of his way when he's pissed off.

He may live another ten years.  Or twenty.  Or he could die of a stroke tomorrow, which is a fate to be devoutly hoped for.  He'll never be himself again.  He won't call his wife by name more than one time out of ten.  He'll never tie his shoes, read the newspaper or have any thought about the toddler lever.  If there is a hell, he's there.  And will be there until he dies.

And the worst thing is, he loved his wife deeply.  If anyone were to tell him that his mistreatment of his own diabetes would devastate and destroy his life, he would want to act differently.  But it's too late now, and now numerous people. not just his ageing and frail wife, are cleaning his backside, putting his bib on him, wiping his face when he drools.  He'd want to be dead, not just a little  bit, but a lot.  He'd want to be gone, gone, gone.  He would be mortified.

I truly hate the American squeamishness at death.  Really.   Big Bob is gone.  He's not coming back.  It's terrible, but unavoidable.  I just hope my Aunt stays firm about his opiates, and lets him take them, pretty much on demand.

July 31, 2014

Nemesis

I have a visit with my surgeon tomorrow, and I'm hoping to stall what seems to be inevitable.  I'm going to ask if physical therapy or exercise could help (hasn't so far), and suggest "alternative therapies" even though I know they are hogwash.  Nonetheless, I'm struck by how good my life is.

Even if I do go in for surgery, I'm a relatively active, if chubby, middle-aged woman (okay, 53, verging on old), and even if I'm side-lined for a bit, I will be active and healthy again.  This ailment is structural, not systemic.  Once the surgery is done, physical therapy will help me recover, and I'll be active again.  I just don't like the idea of being sidelined.

Also, work has been quite busy this year, and shows no sign of letting up.  Taking a week off to get repaired just isn't convenient right now.  But I have health insurance, and will be able to do what I need to do.

Nonetheless, this is a repeat surgery, and if it's not Nemesis, it's a harpy, looming over me to more than harass.  Or it's the eagle to continue nibbling on my belly (okay, it was Prometheus' liver, but that's in the belly, where all this trouble resides).  The more stuff gets done, the more at risk one is.  This is really not my idea of a good time.

Next month, I'm up to New England.  That's something to which I can look forward.

July 25, 2014

Pain, No Gain

I've just discovered I need to have some surgery done; two not-too-large surgeries, but enough to scare me a smidge.  Now on the wrong side of fifty, any thing like that makes you stop and wonder.   My daughters are still under age:  15 and 9.  My ex is still a loving parent, but not the sharpest tool in the shed.  I can't expect him to act in their interest.  LOS is not interested in helping others in general and her nieces in particular.  She's not going to step up if anything goes wrong.  Innana will, as will SNV, but neither of them has priority in the legal scheme of things.  I have to redo my will.

July 13, 2014

More West Coast Ponderings.

Back home now, but we had a wonderful time out in Mid-Coast California.  We rode horses down to the ocean on Big Sur.  It was wonderful, but a word to the wise:  if you haven't ridden horses in years, a two hour ride through the mountains will leave you more than a bit sore.  It was worth it, though, especially for the youngest, who is horse-crazy.  We checked out the bluffs at the Wilder Ranch and picnicked on the beach.  The girls swam for hours in the Pacific with no acknowledgement that they had pain receptors.  We fed the gophers at Lovers' Point in Pacific Grove.  Big Grampa also worked on indoctrinating my eldest into the idea of college in California with a visit to Stanford.

Now the girls are gone to the Outer Banks with their father, and I have some time alone.  Maybe I'll start writing more regularly again.  I do hope so.  I miss the need to write, however.  Now it's just a pastime, not a need, and that doesn't make for compelling reading.

Today is a pool and knitting day, and tomorrow is a regular work day.  Life is good right now, so there's no angst to encapsulate and publish.  Just everyday activities and thoughts.  Not bad, considering where I was eight years ago.  If someone had told me back in 2006 that by 2014 I would own my own home again, my girls would be doing well, and I would be happy and going out to eat a bit regularly, I would have laughed, not just a little bit bitterly.  But all those things have occurred.

It's amazing how black moods and dark times just recede from memory.

July 8, 2014

The Black Veil

Yesterday, I finished Rick Moody's memoir The Black Veil.  I had started reading it several years ago,  but finally sat down and read it through.  I now cannot figure out why I had such trouble getting into it.  It was wonderful.  Depressing,  but wonderful.

Depressing and dealing with depression and our ties to our family history. Moody's experience of depression (and boarding school) seems vadtly different than mine, but his experiences ring true, if drug-addled.  Why is his description of his dealing with upper-middle class angst interesting, even as one wonders: would he have survived to become a significant writer if he had been born at a lower social rank?

He is aware enough of the privilege surrounding him that he doesn't become loathsome, but I'd give a lot to read him try to inhabit a less privileged milieu.

July 6, 2014

The Pacific

Out visiting Big Grampa with my girls, I am amazed again at the difference in geography and weather.   Instead of of the rapturous green land muted by muggy skies of the mid-Atlantic, the land is sere,  brown, and harsh surrounded by the clearest skies of brilliant blue untoil we reach the ocean and the fog.  It's good to be here,  away from the mundane.  Of course, if I lived here, this would be mundane.

June 20, 2014

Against Interpretation In The Ether

I'm just finishing Susan Sontag's Against Interpretation.  I enjoyed a number of her essays, some of which I read years before, like "On Camp", but many have not stood the test of time.  Her essay on Happenings seems like an aged and scratched bit of detritus (without having rotted all the pieces of '60s crappola).   I had forgotten that "Happenings" occurred, or that anyone found them significant.  Perhaps they were a predecessor of 90's and possibly later "performance art".  Perhaps Happenings were simply unadulterated crappola, used to be pretentious to intellectuals of a purportedly liberal perspective.

Does anyone nowadays remember Happenings?  Did they have a significance?  Why?  What did you get out of them?  Other than sex and drugs, of course.  It seems odd that as perspicacious an observer as Ms. Sontag should think such an event meaningful.  As described by Sontag, Happenings sound boring, pretentious, and meaningless, yet she attempts to describe them as meaningful in some undiscernable way.

Tell me all about it and how meaningful they were.   I'm feeling profoundly sceptical.  Most avant garde or non-traditional performance art leaves me cold.  I used to think that was because I was somewhat obtuse in my observation.  No more.

June 15, 2014

More Mortality and Criticism (and a Criticism of Christian Radio and Modern Christian Architecture)

More trips to Appalachia to help my aunt deal with Big Bob.  He's been in rehab, hospital, and rehab, deteriorating with each step.  We took him back home today, not to die, but to "recover".  Yet how many 78-year olds recover after breaking their hips, falling into 18-hour diabetic coma, and then being hospitalized and/ or warehoused for 3 months?  Apparently rehab means nothing.  Apparently Medicare requires "improvement" to keep on paying for treatment.  Therapy to maintain is not covered or treatable.

I'm so mad.  And I'm reading Susan Sontag and Erich Auerbach (sp?).  That would drive anyone around the bend.

Literature does not address the gradual death of the 21st century in the U.S.  The Illiad addresses death in battle, as does War and Peace, as does the Red and the Black, as does the Red Badge of Courage.  Even Vargas Llosas' War of the End of the World, which addresses death by dysentery and/or typhus as well as death by battle (and just plain old slaughter) doesn't address the long, drawn out death of modern mad.

Nowadays, let's be honest, a good death is a truly initially fatal heart attach, embolism, or stroke, on the tennis court or the links, not a slow death from diabetes, or other long illness.

Do you really want to be pleased that a parent or the parent of a friend or a favorite (my favorite) uncle should be reduced to being applauded for saying "I like that" (to a bowl of chili) or for saying "I need to be" with regard to the toilet?  Everyone, get a DNR or get ready for a slow, embarrassing, shit-filled death.

I'm ashamed at how scared of death and dishonest most people are.  My poor aunt is 78-years old and caring for a 6'4" man her age who is not rational or coherent.  She hasn't the strength or the energy to do this, yet she is expected to line up nurses and nurses aides to care for her husband.   And she is expected to rationally ask for assistance, during her exhaustion, fear, and despair.

Does the U.S. have the best health care system on the planet?  If you a energetic, resource-laden genius, maybe.  Otherwise, you're just screwed.  As my aunt and uncle are, in their last years.   I'm driving back and forth, as often as I can (450 miles round trip) to help with the burdens Medicare has placed on two 78-year olds.

Now I read Mimesis and wonder:  why read about representations of life, of Nouveau Riche Romans?  Why read of Odysseus?   Why read Madame Bovary or Nicholas and Alexandra.  I still enjoy reading, but I wonder why.

On the way home, on I-68, the only stations that came in were C&W and Christian radio, including a delightful (snort) song entitled, I think, Jesus, Take the Wheel.  Trust me, if you ever go into a skid on black ice, removing your hands from the steering wheel and calling on a divinity is not the step that will save your life.  Unfortunately, that song came on the C&W station, and then the next station I hit was the bland pablum talking about "his divine love" etc., etc.   I'd rather have less religion and more home health care for the elderly that the elderly don't have to jump through hoops to get.

But the real problem with Christian radio isn't the blatant dishonesty of its music:  it's the sheer badness of it.  Have any of these stations ever considered playing The Messiah or Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring?  Or Sleepers, Awake?  Those are inspiring pieces that might make a sinner believe or a non-believer attend church.  Even This Little Light of Mine (a favorite of mine) or most spirituals or real, old time gospel will do the trick.

The problem with modern "Christian" music is like the problem with modern "Christian" architecture.  It wants to reach the masses and fails at seeking glory.  Think of the architecture and art of Renaissance Italy and then think of a modern church.

Anyway, on my drive home I really wanted to rip the throat out of any of those oatmeal-mouthed musicians and preachers.  Finally, I hit on a bluegrass hour, and that was actual music.

March 20, 2014

Mortality

I'm heading to Appalachia tomorrow to say goodbye to Big Bob, my favorite uncle.  He's over 80, and while his wife was away, something happened and a neighbor stopped by to borrow some flour (or a sheep or a rifle), and when no-one answered the knock, opened the door and walked inside, like people in all small towns of no great wealth are prone to do.  He found Big Bob prone (facedown -- supine is face up) in the living room and promptly called an ambulance.  That was five days ago.  While Big Bog apparently responds to sounds, he has not awoken from his coma.  An MRI shows no signs of stroke.  While Big Bob is diabetic, he does not appear to be in a diabetic coma.

The news is not good.  This is not a tragedy.  Big Bob has lived more than his three score and ten.  He has lived to see four lovely grandchildren, and, after the loss of his first wife, married again quite happily.  Nonetheless, I am not ready to say goodbye.

While at this point all my grandparents are dead, I have only lost one close relation previously.  That was Big Bob's first wife.  My grandparents dies at the ages 80, 80, 94 and 99.  The only aunt I lost died of emphysema and after effects of the polio that killed her mother and crippled her brother (her father died in World War II, having survived the Bataan Death March, when Allied forces torpedoed the boat taking him to a Japanese prison camp or  wherever they were taking him).  All my blood relations one generation up are still alive.  Big Bob is threatening to change that statement.  I don't like it.  That is all.

March 17, 2014

My Winter in the Great White North

That's not true. I still live in the generally almost tropical national capital area suburbs. But today is my 995th snow day of 2014. That may be a slight exaggeration. But even when the federal government closes, my employer generally remains open, and I have had more snow days in the last three months than I have had in the previous three years. More even than the dreaded snowpocalypse winter. At least this time I have electricity and a gas stove. But seriously, winter this year really is bizarre. Poor SWMBO is going to have at least a week of extra school at the beginning of the summer. She loves snow days, but really doesn't like the end result.

 In another foreshadowing of the rapture, one of my children is now my height. The Valkyrie may even be a little taller than I am, but I'm not copping to that yet. She still has that long, lanky teen-like look about her, but pretty soon she's going to be a full-fledged adult. I'm not ready for that. Yes, I know, I've let her head off to boarding school in New England (where, despite more snow than we have here, there are no snow days), but she's still my precious baby angel. Sigh.

My neighbors feed the birds, and this provides ample entertainment for the average feline. Lili, the cat, sits on the back of the comfy chair, looking out the window at the all chickadee channel, swishing her tail on occasion. This also provides carryout for a pair of hawks who nest near my condo complex. To misquote Spike of BTVS: Happy Meals with wings. Once I walked home and there was a large bird on my entrance rail and I thought "Gosh, that's a large crow or pigeon." I got closer and that was when I became acquainted with the hawks of my neighborhood. It just sat there, looking down on the bird feeders, apparently annoyed that it's order for a cardinal, wren and squirrel sandwich had gotten lost. It only stirred when I was within a few yards of it.

Precious the dog had a hard time walking in the snow this morning. She's a short, fluffy bit of silliness and I'm going to be lifting her over snow banks for a while. Meanwhile, I'm home from work with the FoilFilles. Fortunately, the Valkyrie is sleeping the sleep of the teenager (she may be as tall as I am but she still has the slightly rounded cheeks and peach fuzz of true youth), and so I will be spared sibling battles for at least another hour or two.

Off to Open Library to read Ernie Pyle's Brave Men. I love Open Library so much. Even more that the Kindle, Kobo, and OverDrive Media apps on my laptop that allow book reading whenever. Now I don't have to pack four or five books to bring on any trips (because you don't want to run out -- that would be bad), I can just download all the free classics (Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Vindication of the Rights of Women, The Souls of Black Folk) and other books I want to read (anything by Octavia Butler, Shovel Ready by Adam Sternberg).  Okay, I'm sick of snow days, but I'm still going to enjoy this.

March 16, 2014

Remembering Why I Don't Write Here Much

The reason is exhaustion, pure and simple. During the Dark Times (pre-divorce, divorce, and immediate post-divorce), I was so nervous and afraid that adrenaline kept me up at all hours, and I would write to soothe myself. Now, I don't worry so much, largely because I don't need to do so. I still worry about money, PdeFF, my friends in trouble (Cookie in England, with job and health trouble; Innana here, with job-hunting and family trouble; Francesca, in Europe, with a dog who was badly injured and just too far away, darn it all, even though she sounds like she's doing fine), ageing family members health (FoilMormor's polycythimia vera is present, and she has aches and pains; Aunt Elsebet has had heart attacks and breast cancer and is slowing down; Jenseman is healthy for an 80-year old, but now looks and acts old; Big Bob is drinking too much after a period of sobriety, has a bad limp, and is slowing down; Big Grampa has glaucoma, shingles, colds that last a long, long time, and is driving increasingly erratically; DOL has Alzheimer's or some form of dementia -- she doesn't recognize her cats), my job (going well, but a new head of department, big shakeup, some people got organized into the unemployment line, so it was stressful, and Ms. Bossy doesn't like the new big boss, so that's stressful), and the fate of the Earth (yeah, nothing much happens except airlines going missing, but really, the U.S. has been at war for over a dozen years now -- that looks like war without end -- and the lack of threat to my existence or the well-being of my offspring, who spring around like springboks or Thompson's gazelles. So why am I exhausted? That would be the offspring. Since 6 p.m. on Friday I have: supervised two sleepovers (one for the Valkyrie and her good friend Gretl, and one for SWMBO and her good friend Nora), gotten Gretl and the Valkyrie off to a sailing club boat cleaning and lunch, taken SWMBO shopping for a birthday present for her friend Kaori, then took the dog, Precious, for a two mile hike, then picked up SWMBO from the party, and then took the SWMBO and Nora to a school carnival, then took SWMBO to a skating party, then entertained the Valkyrie, Gretl, and the Valkyrie's swain du momentu Owen (which is a mystery of its own, since the Valkyrie, in no surprise to me, has told me that she's 95% sure she's gay) while they watched Alien (hey, a new generation discovers the glory that is Sigourney Weaver -- that's a good thing), then up at six today to walk Precious, prepare for Sunday school (yup, and this class was All About Jesus), then shopping at Target for spring closes for the FoilFilles. Then making lunch and we'll be off to skating lessons, and then making dinner. At no point have I managed any housecleaning. The FoiFlat (actually, it's a condo, but don't I sound cosmopolitan *snort* when I describe my 3 BR condo as a flat?) is probably due to be condemned shortly -- vacuuming and sweeping are not high on my priority. Plus, at work I am arranging a departmental move, evaluating bids on a 5-6 year, several million dollar contract, as well as handling all the archival functions for my department (not my job, but the person whose job it was had a "career change opportunity"), as well as my own day to day job (lots of research and analysis). I'm trying to line up horseback-riding lessons, summer and spring break camp, tennis camp, golf camp, summer job for the Valkyrie, trips to pick the Valkyrie up from prep school, attend my 35th reunion, attend a big Scandinavian family reunion (gorgeous relatives named Bo, Marcus, Olaf, Sven, Kurt, Rolf, Birgitte, Maren, Gunvor, Birte, Bengt, Benne, Bertil, Sten, Hans, Ole, Signe, Helle, Lars, Lief, Jorgen, Berit, Bodil, Elsebet, Hanne, Lore etc.). How they are all blonde and I'm dark is a mystery. But last night, I sat and listened to another parent at the ice rink detail the horrors of an ongoing custody battle, and felt such an enormous wave of relief. My life is finally boring, and filled with the minutia, the quotidian details that will bore everyone to tears. I'll try to find more interesting things to write about, but oh, I am happily embracing boring exhaustion.

March 15, 2014

Long Ago and Far Away

I used to post a lot on this blog. It was very important to me. Now life is so busy that I barely have time to think, much less write. To anyone who might still be reading, life has been good. I am in the process of recovering from the disaster of my divorce. I own a home, I'm sticking money in my retirement account. TigerGrrl, now more appropriately called The Valkyrie (at 14, she's at least 5'10", and is still progressing nicely in her quest for global domination), has one a full scholarship to an exclusive prep school and is doing quite well there. DestructoGirl, now more appropriately called She Who Must Be Obeyed (or SWMBO for short) is the dominating personality in my life. She loves school, has lots of friends, is doing an almost-spiral in her figure skating classes, has a strong connection with many, many creatures of the equine, feline, canine and cavia porcelline varieties. All of which, except the equines, now reside quite happily in my increasingly messy home. PdeFF disappeared to another continent for a while, after having been jobless for two years plus. I just found out he's coming back in a few weeks, much later than he had promised his daughters. My feelings are mixed, having enjoyed the luxury of no contact with an almost insane and impecunious ex for more than a few months, but noticing that SWMBO was quite dejected about the temporary loss of her beloved papa. That's the thing. No matter how ineffective a parent is, kids still love that parent. I've been taking EdX classes (fun!), trying subjects like Statistics and other maths and sciences I have avoided like the plague since high school. I should have not focused so much on the liberal arts. I've joined a knitting group, a yoga class, a hiking group, and a book club. I've become addicted to Game of Thrones, The Americans, and The Walking Dead. Homeland, True Detective, and Black Sails don't quite cut it. Nothing, of course, reaches the heights of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but for that we have Netflix. For the last two years, I've had a fairly constant dinner companion, although that's fading a bit (I just don't have the energy). Work is going well. What's next? I think I should write a novel, but about what? I'm FoilMormor is well, but aging. My sisters are doing well, although one of them has annoyed the bejesus out of me and I'm rather avoiding her -- a story for another day. I still, when commuting, walk up to the guy on the Metro sitting on the outside of the seat and say "Excuse me." And sit down. Because even if I'm not at war with the world any more (it's treating me rather well at the moment, even if I am exhausted), I still have to exercise my powers every so often. I try to use my powers for good.

April 29, 2012

Sick and Tired (but Life's Still Good)

I've had a cold and cough for two weeks. I've been to the doctor twice. I can't stop coughing. On the Metro, people eschew me. But I'm not sick enough to stay home. Some of the cough is allergies. Up in Northern New Hampshire, up in the North Country, I never had spring-time allergies. Here in the DC area, the home of pollen and dander, not so much. In the middle of all that, I chaperoned a bunch of first-graders (six and seven-year olds) to the National Zoo, have been getting DG to her figure skating lessons (she wants to be a figure skater when she grows up), getting TG and DG to Sunday school, softball, craft classes, cello, drama, etc. etc. etc. Three birthday parties in the last two weeks. One overnight trip to the Aquarium in Baltimore. Added to all that, I've been dating someone since last August, nothing serious, but a regular commitment to get together and hang out (over a nice meal, preceded by a Manhattan). Unfortunately, I've been sleeping less that when I had terrible insomnia in the now-amusedly-referred to as the Dark Time surrounding the divorce. I've somehow got to get more rest. Yet there is nothing I want to give up. Also, my favorite co-worker just retired. Until a replacement is hired, guess who does that work? Not seeing too much rest on the horizon. But life is still good.

March 8, 2012

Mundane

Nuclear Grammy would have been 100 years old last month. She died at Christmastime. My last grandparent, gone. Now I am noticing parental health issues (and friends' health issues, person with diabetes who doesn't exercise or do much health-wise). I have to check in with Foilmormor and find out if her platelet count has gone down on low-dose hydroxyurea and if the leg ulcer is continuing to heal now that she is taking hydroxyurea again.

Meanwhile, my life is swimming along. I own my own home and a fixed rate well below 4%, which is amazing considering how much financial trouble I was in back in 2005. Now I'm increasing retirement savings, and getting ready to do the same with college savings. The girls are doing well. TigerGrrl has completed a successful basketball season (Go Ocelots!) and is starting tennis shortly. Music lessons are going quite well, as is orchestra. DestructoGirl is loving school, art lessons, and can't wait for more figure skating lessons soon.

I have a companion guy-type person to go out to dinner with quite regularly who actually makes my life easier rather than harder (he gets the whole single parent schedule limitations thing) who puts absolutely no pressure on me to commit to more beyond having nice meals in his company. He has some health issues, and has some surgery pending, after which he might pick up the pace, but unlike, oh say, past beaux PiousMan and Nguyen, no rush to the altar is implied or threatened.

My only worries right now are other people: PdeFF is out of work, as is a very good friend. Foilmormore is actually having to act physically restrained as many other 75-year olds do.

My goals for myself: get another foster dog, do more hiking, do more biking, make some effort at achieving some realistic 50-year old lady level of physical fitness. Skate more. That's it for now. Have to call my mother.