Tuesday, August 24, 2004
I want a t-shirt that says “I survived my aunt’s funeral.” Actually it wasn’t even a funeral. It was a wake and a service.
Before we went to the wake, Will wanted to get me a new sound card & I also need a new mousie because my ancient and much-loved Logitech Mouseman Plus was cracked and the scroll wheel was refusing to scroll. I did my homework and decided on a Logitech Mx500 which is the same size and shape as my old mousie, but it’s black and optical. We also picked up a little tiny scrolling mousie (also a logitech) for the laptop for only $8. Plus the sound card (some no-name weirdo brand). I love computer shows.
We went home and my husband wanted to sleep for a little while before we went to the wake (he works 50+ hours a week on his feet). I was next to him reading and we had a pile of cats (well, two, but they FEEL like a pile sometimes) with us. The sky got darker and darker and if I hadn’t known it was only 1:30 I would have said it was around 7 or 8 at night! Then the rain started, and the thunder, and the lightning. The cats didn’t know if they wanted to press into the window and watch or run away (they took turns doing both). It was an absolutely torrential downpour, so bad that when Will got up to change into his nice clothes, he actually dug out an umbrella. (I hate them and I didn’t even know we owned one.)
I wore my all-purpose long black dress and debated over wearing my sandals. I decided that sandals probably weren’t appropriate and went with flats instead. Will wore nice pants, a collared shirt, a tie and a suit jacket. Why we bothered to look nice, I don’t know, because other people were wearing shorts and t-shirts (one person had on a red t-shirt and red shorts with sandals) and all kinds of casual clothing. My cousin’s sister (henceforth known as W) had on FLIP FLOPS. At her grandmother’s wake.
My aunt actually looked better in her casket than she did the last time I saw her. Her body seemed awfully thin, but they had plumped up her face and it looked like her. (I hate it when the dead person doesn’t look like herself.)
The saddest thing about her wake: no one cried.
Not her daughter, who was supposedly grief-stricken at hearing that her mother had died while she was on vacation. Not her supposedly loving granddaughter. No one. (I had done my crying already, but was fully prepared to engage in sympathetic/empathetic tears if necessary.)
Some nice things: They had a collage of photos of Aunt Bert outside the room and a few more inside. They had brought some of her elephant and cardinal figurines and placed them on a table with her photos. The pictures were nice, but not one of my dad or me with her. After all the years that they all came to my parent’s house for Christmas dinner and not one photo. Yes, that hurt.
Then I had to listen to W going on and on about her job in California at a big name network doing production on some reality TV show. And how sad she is for her mother because now her mother “has no family” (my father, her mother’s first cousin who grew up in the same house as her, was sitting about three feet away when she was moaning this to one of her myriad of ex-boyfriends who evidently came to the wake to flirt with her). I really, really wanted to smash her face in. She’s so condescending, so fake.
Then I learned some more facts. That Aunt Bert was indeed diagnosed with Alzheimer’s earlier this year (why bother to tell my father & I? Why would we care?) And that for the last few weeks of her life she was so bad she needed round the clock care. And yet, knowing these facts, her daughter chose to go on vacation incommunicado.
I bought a newspaper the night before her wake so I could read her obituary. I was surprised to see my dad mentioned (especially when I heard W saying her mother had no family the next day). They also mentioned Aunt Bert’s best friend, which was very nice. The funeral was listed as “private.” My cousin had already hedged on when it would be (and he’s not a very good liar) and yeah, I’m hurt that “family only” once again excludes me and my father.
(When my cousin graduated from HS his parents & Aunt Bert had a party for him. So I attended, naturally, since he’s my favorite second-cousin-once-removed [or whatever we are]. I parked just in the back driveway, before the fence. My cousin’s parents hurried right over and told me I couldn’t park there, that that area was for “family only” so I simply went home. If I was no longer family, there was no reason for me to be at the party. Then, when I was on crutches a few years ago I went to visit Aunt Bert and parked right next to her house, so I wouldn’t have to hobble slowly down her very long driveway, and since the house where her daughter lives has it own driveway, which they chose not to use. Aunt Bert’s daughter came home, saw my car in the driveway and laid on the horn until I hobbled out and then I had to back up with her HIGH BEAMS in my face, up a long narrow driveway, because she was too lazy to drive around the corner and use her own driveway. Another time that I simply went home rather than dealing with the rudeness.)
The friend of Aunt Bert’s mentioned in the obituary was not able to come. I am sure she was very upset by that–she was in the hospital herself. Her other friend did come, and her next-door-neighbor who is my mother-in-law’s good friend (it’s a small world, which is why I’m not using too many names). Mostly it was Aunt Bert’s daughter’s friends, all of whom are deaf and make some interesting noises when they sign, and W’s ex-boyfriends. My cousin’s girlfriend sat with Will and I, and later my parents and his mom also sat with us. We were going to go out to eat with my parents but my cousin mentioned there was something be catered at a restaurant which he thought we had been invited to (again, nice of them to tell us).
My butt kept going to sleep so I went outside to walk around. The priest was sitting in the corner in the lobby looking crabby. I tried smiling at him but he just glared at me (I wasn’t even wearing a pentacle or anything, there’s NO WAY he could have known I was pagan, he was just a curmudgeon). Evidently they had hired a sign-language interpreter for the service, but that person never showed up (traffic jam due to the ongoing storm) so the mass started about half an hour late. It was a terrible mass. The priest didn’t know Aunt Bert at all. He gave no eulogy. I would have thought W would have jumped all over that and written some sappy overly-sentimental thing but she did not. He read the modern version of the “valley of death” psalm (the only one I like and the only part of the Bible I would allow to be read at my own funeral) and it didn’t even say “valley of the shadow of death” it said “death’s valley” or something that just didn’t convey the sense properly, so even that part which I could have enjoyed, I did not.
It just didn’t seem like anyone was there because they cared about Aunt Bert. It was more like a social hour. Of course, I had already done my disconnection from her (see Entry 12) but I doubt anyone else there had. I’d guess most of them didn’t even know her. It was all too sad.
My grandmother refused to go, saying she wanted to keep her good memories of Aunt Bert unsullied.
We ended up going to the restaurant with the “family” (how that kills me). I would not have been surprised if we had been asked to leave, but it was okay. It was an Italian restaurant and the food was pretty good: garlic rolls, ziti, meatballs and chicken Parmesan. But it wasn’t about Aunt Bert. Usually you go back to the house and talk about the person and have catered food. This was just an excuse to eat. I’m not sure anyone mentioned Aunt Bert at all. My mother liked the idea a lot and she said when Grandma dies (something I don’t want to think about) she is going to do the same thing. It IS a lot less work than having something at the house. Her saying that made me think about who would come to Grandma’s funeral. I rarely think of all my cousins on that side, who I never see (except at funerals)–they are all second cousins once removed like Aunt Bert’s grandchildren. (That comes from being the only child of two only children-I have no first cousins.) My mother’s cousins would all come (one of them is my godmother–she got me Nutter, my white cat), of course, but probably not their children (who are my second cousins once removed). And my mom has a lot of cousins, her mother had three brothers and her father had...hell, I don’t even know. Aunt Elsie, Aunt Lena, Aunt Franny, Uncle Joe–I guess he had four siblings but they are all dead now (except maybe Aunt Lena? I don’t even know, isn’t that terrible?), and I never really knew any of those cousins. I don’t know why, I think they’re all older than me, and their kids much younger. And Aunt Franny had no kids, just lots and lots of cats (the first cat I ever had, Nippy, who was a year older than me, came from Aunt Franny).
My mom told me after the wake that my father laid out his suit as soon as I called on Tuesday to tell him his aunt had died. I wonder if he didn’t want to forget or what was in his mind. My parents also dressed up and were appalled at the outfits some people came in.
This morning I had to bring the Fatherbiter to the vet to get his teeth cleaned. My father doesn’t like to put the cat in his carrier (more likely that he doesn’t like to see the cat sad) and my mother would have to have left work to get the cat there between 7:30 and 9:00 a.m. So I left home around 8:00, after ringing once to let my dad know I was coming. And wasn’t the Fatherbiter in his carrier when I got there? So there’s no reason my father couldn’t have taken the cat himself. But I’m not complaining. Then the vet’s office made me fill out all these forms which I don’t remember having to do when my cats had their teeth done last year. I authorized the blood screen because otherwise they aren’t responsible if the cat dies while he’s under. I don’t like the cat much but my father adores him. They wanted me to sign another thing for the cat’s teeth to get waxed so he won’t get tartar build-up. It would require that my parents re-wax the cat’s teeth every week or so. It sounded like a money-making scam to me and I said no. I called my mom to be sure and she agreed. I told her that I was going to stop by the cemetery and look to see if Aunt Bert had been buried yet. My mom said as of yesterday she had not, but there was “digging” near her husband’s grave.
Well, I failed to find her husband’s grave, although I found two other ones with that last name on it. Maybe I was looking in the wrong section, who knows. I tried to find Neena’s grave (Will’s grandmother) but I realized I don’t even know her real name and I doubt her grave says “Neena.” I thought it was in the same section as Uncle Dick’s but I didn’t see any familiar names. Reynolds, that’s it. Grandpa Joe (Neena’s husband) had the last name of Reynolds. But I still don’t remember Neena’s first name. (Added later: Mary Davis was her name, but Will doesn’t remember which name she was buried under.)
I could hear digging so I decided to hike up the hill and ask the grave-diggers and while I was there look for Will’s father’s grave and see if the headstone needed digging out (it’s one of those annoying flat ones). I was, once again, looking in the wrong section for him too.
The grave diggers were very nice (in fact I think one of them was my friend’s brother-in-law) but did not remember Aunt Bert’s name as a recent or future dig. They told me to call the church to find her husband’s plot or the funeral home to find out if she had been cremated. I made up some dumb lie about how I couldn’t reach my cousins because I didn’t want to admit they hadn’t told us.
I saw the area where the flat stones are and headed over there to find Will’s dad. On the way I saw a last name that was familiar, that of a boy in my HS graduating class who killed himself. I took a detour and yup, it was him. I believe he was the first one to die from our class–we had no deaths before graduation, and he died a year or so later. It was kind of freaky to look at the grave of someone I know, who was born the same year as me, who died fifteen years ago.
I’m not sure I ever really spoke to him. I’ve been trying to remember if he was in my home room or the one next door (where some of my friend were, so I was often in there too) as his last name was one letter away in the alphabet from mine. He was not in the honors classes I took. He was very quiet. Stolid is a good word to describe him. I can remember him smiling so he must have once in a while. I can even remember his voice, but nothing he said. Funny what lingers, huh?
So, behind his quiet facade and slow smile, something unspeakable must have been building for a long time. Because one day, he went downstairs to his basement and drew some diagrams in chalk, trying to figure something out. When he had it to his satisfaction, he did it. He put his head in the vise and somehow managed to cut it off with a chainsaw.
Every one in a while, for some odd reason, he pops into my head, this boy I probably never talked to, and I wonder why he did it. I can understand why someone would commit suicide, that’s not it. It’s the WAY he did it. I paused for a moment by his grave and told him that I think of him. I did manage to locate Will’s father (I have the location memorized now–it’s lined up with the donation box and the row of two headstones) and I sat with (on) him for a few minutes and just thought about nothing.
Last year I met a woman in a workshop who said I had lots of entities around me, ghosts basically. She said they possess me all the time. (I believe there’s entities, but not the possession part. She was a little too wacky for me.) She was able to talk to one of them and it was Will’s father. Why his father would have attached himself to ME, I can’t explain. She said it was because he knew that my interests would eventually lead me to someone who could tell me he was there. That to me makes no sense, since his daughter is also into new age stuff and is just as likely to find a random medium as I am. And Susie has said she’s felt him around her and even thought she saw him once in the rearview mirror, sitting in the backseat (he never knew her, or about her–Will’s mom didn’t find out she was pregnant until after his funeral). I never really felt his presence, but just in case he’s still here, I thought I’d pay his body a visit.
To return to the subject of MY father (who this blog is supposed to be about, but I’m fond of digressions), he came over on Sunday to help clean out the greenery along the side of the house. Turns out there’s probably a hundred iris (irises?) growing in there along with a bunch of weeds and vines from hell. My mother wanted to transplant them for me. My grandmother originally planted them when I first moved in, and I never did anything to them. They just spread.
I had some jade plants which I was going to pot. My friend from Florida brought them up a few weeks ago. I found some cactus potting soil so I decided to re-pot all my cactuses (cacti). I did this while my mother cleared a new bed for the iris and my dad pulled them up. Will came out and dug up the ground near the garage for a little patio. I made a cactus garden with my sacred cactus, two clippings from it, one of Beth’s cacti, and a jade plant from Therese, all in a big white pot. I potted another jade plant for my mom (she forgot it, it’s still on the table outside). My dad insisted on pulling up every loose bulb (my mom threw them away when he wasn’t looking) on top of all the plants themselves. Then he’d take the plants and lay them in the middle of the cleared space, or on my nice edge rocks, and I’d move them to the sidewalk so we could tell what was what. Mom said that he hadn’t planned on coming over at all, but once he got there he didn’t want to leave–he kept pulling up plants which we had no where to re-plant. We filled the area I always called “my garden” (where the wild violets were), expanded that area, and planted more in the front yard. Grandma is going to take some also. We will eventually woodchip that area also.
It was a pretty good day for Dad. He seemed fairly with it. But then my mother said that he claims people look at him funny because of his Alzheimer’s bracelet. Well, if he doesn’t show it to them, they have no idea what it is or what it means, so I think it’s his imagination. That ol’ Alzheimer’s paranoia, you know?
I am hoping that I can get some of Aunt Bert’s rocks, maybe even some that I was with her when she picked them up in Old Saybrook. I’ll put them in my garden. I know she’ll like that. (3244)
Saturday, August 21, 2004
Please read the first TWENTY posts there--enter the portal of the butterfly and then click on any "had a dad" link.I will cross-post to both places in the future.
Someday I may try to catch up and post the first 20 here.
If you wish to contact me privately, please use any email link from my web site.
Gevera Bert Piedmont
Friday, August 20, 2004
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
This is a fair-well to Aunt Bert (on the left, with me and my mom) (and yes, I spelled farewell wrong on purpose) who died today at age 86. If you have not been keeping up with this blog, I dedicated most of entry 12 to her. I guess I knew it was coming.
I was leaving work today (telemarketing) at 4:30 when Will called me (with our newly manifested FREE cell phones) and he really had to talk to me. So I cut the work-related conversation with my boss short and left to talk to him.
Seems Aunt Bert had pneumonia on Saturday night and was brought to the hospital. She’s also got congestive heart failure from a few years ago, and of course whatever form of dementia she possessed. (I guess it will never be diagnosed now; doubtful they’ll do an autopsy.) Her daughter and son-in-law are in California visiting their daughter W (the one I don’t call cousin), leaving my cousin alone to deal with his regularly scheduled life and this very sick old woman (who lived in the house next door, alone). He did not call me on Saturday because he said the doctors said it was no big deal and she’d come home on Monday or Tuesday (today).I guess she apparently died a few times (heart failure) and they resuscitated her, because Aunt Bert's daughter isn’t around to give the DNR order and he didn’t want to screw up. That was upsetting to me because I don’t think a person that old and sick should be forced to live. My cousin agrees, but knows if he gave a DNR order and she died, his mother would be pissed at him.
Meanwhile his parents were off to the Grand Canyon and neither my cousin nor his sister could reach them (no cell phone; they’re deaf) so they had no idea Aunt Bert was even in the hospital.He got a call shortly after 4 p.m. today from the hospital. He expected it to be the doctor saying she was okay and to come get her. Instead they said she had never woken up all day, and they couldn’t wake her. That was when he told my husband, who called me.Since I had to go pick up my husband at work anyway, I got to talk to my cousin for a while and got the details. I gave him my cell number because I figured she would probably die in the next few days.
Will and I picked up my no-longer-ill Pathfinder (for a quite reasonable fee, the A/C, dashboard light and several strange noises were all fixed, plus an oil change) and then went to dinner and to see Alien Vs Predator. Because I am a kind & thoughtful moviegoer (not like the idiots who had to be taken out by the cops), I put my phone onto silent, and missed all of my cousin’s calls. We got home just now at 9:30 (it’s 10:15 as I write) & saw all the missed calls and the hang-ups on the answering machine and I knew. She was dead.
Will called work; my cousin had left; we reached him at home and confirmed what I already knew in my heart. And in the meantime his sister had reached his parents and they were trying to get an emergency bereavement flight home–a tough enough thing, but worse for people who are deaf and have problems communicating. I had to call my parents, and of course my dad answered the phone. Aunt Bert raised him, she’s like a mom to him. I had called at 5:00 to tell them she was in the hospital so they weren’t surprised. But I know he’s sad and I hate it that he has to be sad when he himself has so little time left to know what’s going on (relatively speaking; I know he has years, but not what he SHOULD have at his age).She died peacefully in her sleep, never waking up today at all. She’s with the angels now. She knows what’s on the other side of the veil. Welcome home, Aunt Bert. (692)
Monday, August 16, 2004
Normally I wouldn’t do two entries in one day but what an adventure we just had! I had to get sand for the Circle. I calculated I would need about five yards of sand at $30/yard.
Here are MY calculations: if it’s 15 feet across, the math is: 15'x15'=225 sf x 3" deep (or .25 foot)=56.25 cubic feet/9 (9 feet/cubic yard)=6.25 cubic yards
If it’s 13 feet across, it’s 13'x13'=169 sf x 3" (.25 foot) =42.25 cubic feet/9 (9 cubic feet/yard)=4.7 cubic yards
(I know I’m using the area of a square and not a circle, but it’s not really either shape and it’s uneven ground.)
So last night I asked Dad if he could bring over some buckets in his pickup and we’d go fill the buckets with sand and bring them home. (The sand place is only a couple of miles away, if that.) I called him at 9:30 and he said he’d come over when he finished his cereal. I went outside and finished stapling the plastic weed barrier and found some more buckets and bungee cords and moved my Pathfinder to the street. It was NOT RAINING.
Dad came over a little past ten, it was just starting to rain. We drove the short distance to the quarry, and it’s really raining. We grabbed shovels and started filling our 13 buckets. By now it’s full-fledged POURING (thanks Charlie), we’re in mud up to our ankles, soaked to the skin. It seemed like an awful lot of sand so I went inside to ask the lady how much of a yard was in each bucket. She said a yard would FILL the back of the pickup. So I would need to fill the pickup bed FIVE times. She tried to convince me to just have them deliver it (the logical solution, of course, if I had money) rather than fill 135 buckets. (Or ten trips like we were making.) I asked them to figure it out and they said I only need TWO yards of sand, not five. And guess how much our 13 buckets of sand ended up costing? (I had the full $125 with me for five yards).
Now of course Dad was worried that the buckets will shift and break the tailgate. (That’s why I brought bungies). So in the pouring rain I was bungeeing (is that a word?) all these buckets into the bed of the pickup. We had to go up and down a small hill and my father was freaking out that the buckets would shift, break the tailgate, spill sand everywhere and we’d get arrested. (You wondered where my fertile imagination and talent for drama came from? Now you know.) Of course this did not happen.
We unloaded the buckets into the driveway. My original plan had been to spread the sand immediately and see how much more I’d need. Nope, not in this rain. The buckets are just sitting there absorbing water and getting heavier. I tried to offer my dad lunch but he said no as it was almost 11:30 and we’d have to change clothes and shower and it would be too late.
When I got inside, I was soaked to the skin. It was like being in Herkimer NY digging for quartz, except it was sand today and muddy red clay in New York.
I feel really, really bad about making my dad help me in the pouring rain. He's not the type to ever complain or say "I don't want to do this, let's do it another day" (which any intelligent person, like my husband, would have said). I just wanted to get the sand and get it over with so I can go onto the next phase of the Circle-building: making more poetry stones.
I wanted to go see about a job later on today but I’m filthy and wet and not sure I’m in the mood. But I guess I should; I need work, and it’s an “apply in person” position. (614)
I finally got a new monitor. My old monitor was getting darker and darker. My wallpaper is a picture of Stonehenge and I’d thought for a long time it was a picture taken at dusk–the stones in shadow, the grass a dark puddle under a indigo sky, all very romantic. Nope. It’s full daylight, light blue sky, clouds, green grass. I just checked all the pictures I’ve posted lately and sure enough, they are all too light. Photoshop isn’t working at the moment so I can’t fix them just yet, but I will as soon as I diagnose the problem–it starts up, then during the splash screen it just goes away. Don’t know why. Anyway, this “new” monitor is used and has a huge scrape right across the front so I can’t look in the middle of the screen, I have to look around the edges. Kind of annoying but I guess it was only $20 (for a 17").
I had a good day yesterday at the ASC New Age Fair. I made some money, did eleven reflexology sessions and two Mayan Oracle readings. That, combined with the left-over money from going to the gem show on Friday and Saturday gives me enough money to buy the sand for my Circle and have some left over in the bank for my business.
My father’s birthday was Tuesday. Sixty-four years old. People aren’t surprised when I say my dad has Alzheimer’s but they are when I say how old he is. Funny that yesterday several people found their way into my reflexology chair who had parents with Alzheimer’s. Or not, the universe has a way of sending people what they need. Sigh. I have to work more on the art of graceful acceptance–I told enough people about it yesterday, now I need to practice what I preach.
So we all went out to eat: me, hubby, dad, mom. We went to Applebee’s (which apparently they DO go to, so I was wrong when I said they didn’t). My father looked at the menu and asked what he likes there. My mother told him, but he wanted to order something else (some shrimp dish) which she said he’s ordered and not liked. He could not believe that he would dislike shrimp but he finally chose the other thing (some kind of pasta with broiled chicken). I got my extra-yummy fajita roll-up with chips and salsa. (why would anyone serve a fajita with french fries? I always substitute.) My father, who has always eaten kind of slow, spent a lot of time cutting “fat” off his chicken–it was broiled strips of breast with absolutely no fat on it. His meat should be served with a scalpel, that’s how much he dissects it (and you all wondered where I got my picky eating from). He was cutting off the char marks and saying they were fat, for instance. The waiters sang to him and gave him a free dessert--apple pie with ice cream and caramel and a candle in it.
When we got back to my house, the package with his gift was on the front porch so we just opened the box and gave it to him. He wasn’t as excited as I had hoped. I know once I give a gift I have no control or attachment to it, if the person chooses to throw it out or misuse it, that’s that person’s issue not mine. But it makes me sad to see it sitting still in the plastic wrapper when it was so expensive and I thought it would bring him joy.
My mom’s having some problems with the bank. I guess when our old bank, Dime Savings, got bought out, they screwed up the transfer of money from one bank to another and only left my dad’s name on all the money, not both. Lawyers from her current bank are looking into proving her name used to be on the money so she can access it. The bank doesn’t want to let my father touch it (he probably told them he has Alzheimer’s, he’s very open about it) and my mom’s name isn’t on it. So that’s a royal fuckup, and nothing I can do about it. I thought she had gotten power of attorney but maybe that’s not how it works? I’m a law-ignoramus.
Thursday night the four of us went shopping at BJ’s. Usually it’s just me and my mom, but my dad wanted to come and Will wasn’t working at night, since he doesn’t have to go to college for a couple of weeks. We lost my father only once, and Will fetched him back. My mother drove and my father dictated and yelled instructions “watch out! You’re too close! Watch for that white car!” Then when my mother got frustrated at some guy who wouldn’t allow enough room for her to get out of the parking space (the guy wanted to pull in) my father told HER to calm down. Very funny, actually.
The worse thing about it was having to be in my parents’ car.My mother and I use these canvas bags for groceries which my grandmother made. They have handles and are very sturdy. A few weeks ago, my mom somehow left a bag in the car which had meat in it. For SIX DAYS. In the summer. In the heat. She said the car was filled with flies. (Ugh.) She finally figured it out, and had to throw the meat away (imagine that). Lest you think my mom is ditzy, she isn’t, not at all. But she is distracted by this whole thing with my dad, obviously. So the car and the bags were reeking of that horrible rotten death-stench. My mom used a lot of that Febreeze stuff and gave me all the bags and a blanket to wash in the Febreeze laundry additive (which is awesome, but I hate the spray stuff, which stinks worse than the smells you might try to cover up). The bags smelled better, but I could still smell it in the car. That’ll kill your appetite.
This weekend was the big gem show at the Big E that we all wait for all year. It’s three days in the Better Living Building, and I have a tax ID for my business so I can get into the wholesale room and buy things at half-price for resale. This year everything I bought was for resale except a sarong to use as a table drape at New Age Fairs (so that counts as a business expense, at least). I went up on Friday and Saturday. I had $194 to spend (the fee from a Shamballa-Reiki class minus Paypal’s greedy fingers) and I ended up with $55 left over after buying 25 crystal merkabas and the drape. Then I made over $200 at the New Age Fair so my business bank balance is going to be back over $100 after I buy sand today. Isn’t that sad? The bank must laugh at me.
So Friday I got home a little after 2 p.m. My leg was really bothering me and I wanted to lounge on the couch with my foot up to ease the swelling. But it wasn’t meant to be. I found a frantic message from Dad on the machine: “I’m in big trouble. You have to help me. I can’t find my keys.” It was from 9:30 in the morning.I called him to see if he’d found the keys yet. He hadn’t. I asked him some questions about the keys, you know, questions you’d ask anyone who lost something: where did you see them last? What keys are on the ring? Where have you been with them? “I don’t know.” Very frustrating. So I get back in the car and drive over there to help find the keys. My mom was just getting home from work and she had to take the fatherbiter cat to the vet. We looked for a while but with no real idea where they could be. My mom said he left them in the door and she’d put them on the counter on Wednesday. He didn’t drive on Thursday night and didn’t know if he’d taken them with him. He claimed the paperboy stole them out of the door. I gave up looking and went home when my mom left with Jasper the fatherbiter to go to the vet. But before I left I gave my father my cell phone number, and Will’s, and my mom’s (all of which he should have already had).Saturday morning I’ve just arrived at the gem show and my cell phone rings. Caller ID says it’s my parents house. It’s Dad. He found his keys.In his bathrobe pocket.
My friends and I had a good laugh over it (not in a mean way). I know it’s only going to get worse.On Saturday the Safe Return bracelet came. It’s nice enough, I guess. It makes me sad. My father was wearing it last night at Grandma’s. He thanked me so earnestly for buying it for him, I think even more than he thanked me for his birthday gift. I wish I hadn’t had to buy it for him, that there was no possibility that in the future he will get lost and need to use it.Today Dad and I are going to go get the sand to finish the Circle. Pictures will be posted as soon as I get Photoshop working again. (1602)
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Monday, August 09, 2004
I’m living in such a state of sadness these days. It’s like a veneer over my life. Not that I never laugh or have a good time. It’s just that everything weighs me down. It’s like when I play my singing bowls, as long as I don’t touch them the sound goes on and on. But if I touch them even with the gentlest fingertip, the sound stops. That is my joy--stopped by the fingertip of sadness.
That sound so self-indulgent doesn’t it? Poor me. Poor fat me with no job and a crazy father. Just another way for the world to see me as selfish.
My dad is a ghost of himself. He’s there, but silent, and when you talk to him, he doesn’t seem to hear. Or maybe it’s like he’s behind glass.
Therese’s visit (friend from Florida) inspired me to improve my healing circle, to change the energy and see if I can bring people in who can learn from me and also teach me. I spent a while on Thursday morning pulling weeds and raking to clear the area down to the ground & putting down weed barrier. On Friday I called Dad to see if he wanted to go to Home Depot, since he had a good time with me last time, but I couldn’t find him. I called several times. Of course he doesn’t know how to listen to messages, and once I leave a message the phone only rings once the next time I call (it’s that "toll saver" feature for those who call in for their messages–lots of rings means no messages & to hang up to save a connection fee). And if he’s outside he doesn’t hear the phone either.
I went to lunch with my husband and then checked a few places where Dad has been known to hang out. One of them, an antiques place which used to be his store, had a cool plant stand out front. I made a note of that and then went to check the house, where I found Dad just pulling out of the street. We talked through the car windows and he agreed to go to HD with me.
I got another roll of weed barrier, five bags of chips, and more stakes. Dad was helpful by pushing the carriage and loading the bags into the car. We stopped at the antique place to ask about the plant stand (I had asked him to ask for me, but a few minutes later he had already forgotten). The multi-arm plant stand was a white cast iron piece, filthy and rusted. I figured $20-30. And there was a nice silver bracelet made of interlocking dolphins, and I was hoping for about $10. (This antique place isn’t about valuables, it’s about OLD and old does not and should not always mean expensive). Well, the plant stand was $135 (he dropped it to $100 for me, hahaha) and the bracelet was $35. So no plant stand OR silver dolphin bracelet for me, thank you very much.
Dad complained to me that while he was pulling weeds in my front yard by the road, he got some "black stuff" on his leg. This black stuff came off his skin easily, but somehow he got some onto his end table ("the thing next to the couch where I sit") and he couldn’t get it off. I felt bad, imagining some kind of goopy tar ruining the nice wood. I asked him to tell my mother that my husband wouldn’t be at Grandma’s on Sunday (he forgot). He asked if it had to do with his "August tenth thing" (meaning his birthday) and I said no. I then asked what he wanted to do for his birthday, and he said he wanted to go to Applebee’s. So on Tuesday (tomorrow) for his birthday we’re taking him to Applebee’s for supper. I dropped him off at home to go back and hang out at the antique store and went back to my own home to play with wood chips.
Will decided that the chips should only be around the edge and sand in the middle. Five bags of chips barely did the edge. And I still have to find five cubic yards of beach sand for the center. I made another pilgrimage to Home Depot (I want a frequent shopper card or something) for three MORE bags of chips and MORE stakes (since the plastic weed barrier was flapping around). I went by myself, because I knew my parents were at Grandma’s. While I was in line, I saw a small bottle of goop remover (the yellow stuff--Goo Gone or something like that) for $1.49 and I decided to buy it for my dad so he could clean the "black stuff" off the end table, the black stuff which somehow came from my yard. (Being an ex-Catholic, it’s easy to make me feel guilty.)
My father wasn’t home, although my mother was, and I looked at this "black stuff" on his end table. It was pen ink–you know, when a pen leaks and makes a puddle? The stuff I bought worked fine to clean it off and I left the bottle with my mom. How he equated a spill of pen ink with black goop (still unidentified) from the yard is beyond me.
I was talking to my mom about the plants Therese bought me from her garden in Florida when I saw my father walk by the front door. I said, "Dad’s home" and we kept talking about the plants. My mother wanted me to pot one for her and gave me an empty pot. Meanwhile my father didn’t come in. Finally he did–he was outside talking to the cat. (The father-biting cat, as I now call him. My father’s hand is healed on the surface but he says it still hurts inside sometimes.) I was telling my mother about the funny thing President Bush (he’s such an idiot) said: "this administration will never stop thinking of ways to harm the American people" and my dad did not respond or laugh. So I looked at him and repeated it. It didn’t seem like he got it.I gathered the pot and some books and went to leave. My mother said, "Berta’s leaving, say goodbye" and he said something wrong. I forget what, something like "say Berta" instead of "Bye, Berta." I did not correct him, but it made me sad.
Yesterday at grandma’s he hardly spoke. I asked my mother if she took him for a hearing test yet and she and my grandmother insisted he hears just fine, he doesn’t listen. I was looking at the paper and I said "Dad are you listening to me?" and he didn’t answer. My mother said "Berta’s talking to you," and he turned and said "were you talking to me? I heard you but I didn’t think you were talking to me." I noticed that unless he’s looking at you, he doesn’t respond. And even then, it’s iffy.
I ordered his Safe Return bracelet from the Alzheimer’s foundation (www.alz.org) and sent a nice photo I took of him a few weeks ago at Grandma’s. (They keep the photo on file, if he is lost they fax to the police.) I put in his description that he doesn’t listen and is losing his ability to articulate. I also spent way too much money on his birthday gift: the $100 Far Side complete 2 volume set. I only hope he can still appreciate it. In fact, as I was writing a few minutes ago, UPS came, so it’s here.
I finally got the 36-Hour Day from the library. It’s extremely depressing. I am interspersing reading that with FrontPage 2000 for Dummies (I think I know it pretty well, but I’d like to improve this site further) and whatever novels Mom throws my way.
I know the phrase "fate worse than death" used to mean when a girl got raped. But to me, what’s happening to my dad is worse than dying. It’s a gradual sucking away, a pointless relentless progression I am helpless to stop. I read all these books, the 36 Hour Day, the New Hope Guide, Preventing Alzheimer’s, Tangled Minds, and all I want to do is cry. I can’t save my father. And it’s not fair. He’s not a bad person. He never beat me or abused me, even though he had a bad childhood and easily could have grown up to be a perpetrator. He was never a high-pressure car salesman, he was also nice and gentle. Yeah, he wore some loud checkered car salesman suits, but are they any worse than what golfers wear? Alzheimer’s is certainly no punishment for bad fashion sense.
I am grateful to have so many spiritual friends who are supportive of me while my life seems so dark and bleak, even if I have the same conversation with all of them (eventually I guess I’ll really LISTEN to what they are saying and take it inside me and allow myself to heal). They say, over and over, that this is not my fault. This is not about me. Even Steve Rother said that right off the bat last time I talked to him–it’s not about me and my only role is to hold the light for my father.
But how can something so close to me not be about me? How can this not be a learning experience for me, a chance for mastery? If it is true that we pick our parents before we come over, then I had to know what contracts my parents had in place. Why did I choose to come here and subject myself to this?
I think a lot about light and dichotomies of light. Light and dark. Light and heavy. I am like a black hole, so dense that all the light stays close to me. If I was lighter, I’d have more light. I am heavy and dark. I don’t know what to do.
I see my father losing his words, and I know from the reading that someday he will lose them all and sit mutely, unable to communicate at all, and meanwhile his comprehension of words will go away, and no messages will get in or out. Does a person with no language think anymore? Do they know what they’ve lost? Do they revert to that before-language place where babies dwell, where images and colors and sounds and smells are all they know? (They say once you have language you can no longer retrieve those pre-language baby memories, because you don’t see the world the same when objects and colors and sounds have names.)
I love words. I read, I write, I talk, I sing silly songs to my cats. I cannot imagine losing words. Sometimes I can’t think of a word, or the right word, when I’m writing (sometimes it’s the tip of the tongue thing, sometimes I just can’t think of a good word) and I get frustrated. How frustrating must it be not to know what an end table is called, or tomato sauce. Or how to say goodbye to your daughter.
Because always in the back of my mind is this knowledge– this disease might be coming for me. One book said that you start developing the tangles and plaques in your brain as early as 30. I might have it, right now as I write these words. I am doing some of the prevention/slow down stuff--drinking alcohol once a week, taking baby aspirin and vitamins every day.And I guess I’m angry. I’m angry at what my mom is going through. She worked hard her whole life, she still works 40 hours a week, and what does she have to look forward to when she retires? Not vacations and maybe a new dog, but heartbreaking care-taking work and eventually having to put her husband into a nursing home and having no money to enjoy anything. To a mother who’s going blind and will need to be driven around. What about karma? What about balance? How is this fair and balanced? It’s not.
I am very, very glad I don’t have any children. I don’t want to pass on my crappy genetics, and besides that, I will need to focus more of my time and attention on my father as time goes on. I keep my pets in pairs so they don’t get lonely, but you can’t do that with kids.
I am helpless, impotent (meaning unable to act, not meaning I need to take a blue pill) in the face of this horrible disease. And maybe that’s my lesson. I can’t control this. There is really nothing I can do. If it’s coming for me, I can slow it down. I can be there for my parents. But I can’t control it.
I want to go see Open Water. Will does not. He wants to learn to scuba dive, and he says if he goes to see it, he won’t want to anymore. I read in an online article that you have a better chance of getting killed in a car accident driving to the theater to see Open Water than you do of being eaten by a shark (or being left behind by a careless dive master). The two Americans left behind in Australia both died (the "true story" the movie’s based on) so the movie is entirely made up. No one knows what happened to them; some of their gear was found washed up on a shore and it’s presumed sharks got them. I don’t want to dive in deep water. I want to do relatively shallow reef dives. And there are sharks everywhere. There are sharks right here in Connecticut. People have seen them in Rhode Island. I don’t have to go to Australia or the Caribbean to be eaten by a shark. And you know what? Given the choice between Alzheimer’s in my own brain and a shark, guess who I’d pick? "Come and get it, boys! Looks like meat’s back on the menu!" (LOTR: The Two Towers).
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
It’s so hard to talk to my dad. He called before, when I was out, and talked to Will. He identifies himself, even to us, as his full name: “Hi, I’m Bob Rizza,” like I don’t know my dad’s voice/name after all these years. He’s done that for quite a while. My dad has always liked his name. He’s always had a good signature too, very spiky and dashing. I haven’t seen it lately so I don’t know if it’s still good.
Anyway, he called because he likes to take bottles to recycling. I know, it’s the most BORING thing in the world. I hate it. I wait until I have so many bags of bottles that they barely fit in my Pathfinder and then I spend an hour getting all sticky feeding machines just to get about $4.35, which I promptly spend on hand wipes. But Dad likes to do it, so I let him. I’ve learned not to expect the $4.35 back. The first time he did it for me, he says “I’m going to the recycling place, want me to bring your bottles back for you?” I said fine, and then he kept the money and never said anything about how much it was. But you know what? It’s such a pain in my ass to do it, he’s welcome to the $4.35. My mother and husband think it’s funny because he hornswaggles me out of the money, but I LET him.
I have a few dozen bottles (possibly not even WORTH $4.35) and I figured he would just come and get them, but he did not, so I called him back. He had already gone to the recycling place, and reminding him of it got him angry, because he wasn’t able to cash in his ticket for $8 (probably $8.70, which is twice $4.35, you know) because the counter guy ran out of money. He gets angry more easily now, especially when he thinks he “forgot” something. He still has the ticket, though, so I convinced him it’s okay if he goes tomorrow and gets the money.
We had a long conversation about him mowing my lawn. He asked about the rocks (see, some things DO stick in his head). When my friend from Florida was here on Friday, we moved the rocks (made the circle about 1/2 again as big as it was) and put up a fence. I am going to finish pulling up all the grass from inside and put down weed barrier and wood chips to further divide the circle from the yard. So he should not have to worry about rocks anymore. (I believe I told the story of Dad and the rocks earlier.) And again, it is not mean for me to ask my old Dad to mow or take back my bottles. He likes to feel useful, and he won’t let me borrow the mower to use myself, so this is the best solution.
Last night, I entered a writing contest for made-up words (remember Sniglets on HBO a long time ago? That sort of thing) and I entered a few that my dad made up when I was a child: sniggle, schoochaba, congradulations, as well as many I made up myself and use in conversation all the time, as if they were real words. (Well, to me, they are. And I consider “sniggle” and “schoochaba” to be real too, I’ve always used them.) So if any of my dad’s words get online, I can tell him about it. Not that it’s a real dictionary, but it counts in my heart, right?
I have signed my father up for the Alzheimer’s Organization’s Safe Return program. Dad gets a bracelet with a code number and phone number, and when the day comes that he gets lost, they have lots of phone numbers to call for one of us to come get him. I have to send a picture too, so I found a nice one I took a few weeks ago and printed out a big copy. That’s in case we know he’s lost, but no one’s found him yet, they will fax his picture to the police station. I know that day will be far off.
Friday morning we had some excitement at our house; the cats killed a large rat that had somehow gotten into the house. I am still negotiating with Orkin, who I had already paid $371 less than a month earlier to keep my house pest-free. Instead, I got a rat. The very day my friend was coming up from Florida. Thanks a lot. Never in my life did I have a rat in my house. I am freaking out every time the cat walks by my feet under the desk and his fur touches me– I think he’s a rat. The rat was much much bigger than my parrots and I worry that a rat could get into their cages and hurt them. (Big fat rat is only as big as his little head.)
I also sold two small articles on writing to the T-Zero magazine which is part of Writer’s Village.
I am very sad that I did not get either job which I interviewed for last month. I was absolutely positive I had one, and pretty sure about the other. So I’m back to square one, with no prospects, there hasn’t even been anything in the paper. And of course they won’t say WHY they didn’t hire me. My husband says it’s discrimination because I am overweight. But we can’t prove it, can we?
My dad’s birthday is next week. I spent too much money that I did not have on the ultimate giant $100+ Far Side collection. He loves the Far Side. He has a bag (well, I have it, I meant to organize it but it was too much) of every cartoon for years. Just cartoons, loose in a bag. I don’t think it will get here by his actual birthday, but I want him to have it while he can still enjoy it. And when he can’t, I’ll take it and enjoy it myself! So it’s not wasted money.
I really, really, really am longing for Grand Cayman. I want to swim with stingrays. I want to sleep on Seven Mile Beach. I want to drive on the wrong side of the road and listen to reggae and see feral chickens at the airport. I want to learn to scuba dive.
I was looking for some geographical information on GC & Cozumel, since the island in my novel is loosely based on them, and just looking at a map of GC made me want to cry. I want to be there. I need to swim in that water. I need to be away from here, all the BS & sadness that surrounds me. Universe, do you hear me? (1154)