pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: September 2014

30 September 2014

I'm watching baseball. Don't bother me.

26 September 2014

He did seem engrossed in the game.

Tech stuff: Taken with my my iPad.

29 September 2014


From Sequoia
28 November 2008

Two to eight weeks.

I am no stranger to death. Its workings aren't unknown to me. I've seen the process and the end result. I understand time frames and probability. I know, only too well, what a terminal diagnosis is.

And yet.

And yet, yesterday, I was told that we are there. Two to eight weeks.

And yet, my brain continues on in some sort of denial.  I know he's dying. I knew he was dying 11 months ago. I told my children to expect that last year was likely the last time we'd spend the holidays together. But, I hear two to eight weeks, and I try to process that idea. It's like he's leaving on a trip, I tell myself, but he's never coming back.

Unreasonably, I envision him in his prime, standing in the doorway of airplane, waving goodbye.

I can't explain why the concept puzzles me. I test the hypothesis but it makes no rational sense.

He is not helping the process, of course. Yesterday, I took freshly made meatloaf and mashed potatoes, which he picked at. I knew he would--he has no appetite--so was unoffended. I was grateful that he'd made the effort. He made the effort, too, to joke with us, telling us that his soft drink was too cold and he'd have to "sneak up on it."

"Don't let it see you're coming," I warned with a smile.

"You are so right," he responded with gently mocking gravity.

At the end of the afternoon, he thanked me for making a meal, and pressed my hands to his face. He told us that he appreciated our help and with our help, he was going to get better.

Going. To. Get. Better.

At first I was stunned by what seemed blatant denial of the situation. He is so thin and his skin is parchment-colored, almost waxy. His hands were like ice. My brain--oh my treacherous brain--parsed his words. "Better" meaning he would be dead and in a better place?

Was he actually, in his head, taking the parental role to its ultimate place and trying to reassure us?

I have no answers.

And as someone who generally has a game plan, this time, I don't even know what to do.

Tech stuff: Taken with my my Nikon D40.

26 September 2014

25 September 2014


Santa Ana, California
25 September 2014

Driving down to pick up the daughter, I felt the weight of sadness settle on my shoulders.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

24 September 2014

So this happened

Beale Street
Memphis, Tennessee
30 June 2014

It was the last one on that list that got us.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. Which will be retired...someday.

23 September 2014

Ready or not

Blanton Art Museum
Austin, Texas
20 September 2014

Consider a plane. A skeleton covered in butterflies. Flight. Change. Transition.

I dreamed of my childhood home last night, and my aunts and mother were there, like the three witches from The Scottish Play.

Double double, toil and trouble.

One of those aunts is dead, has been for many years, and it was to her that I was speaking in the dream. She was preoccupied, but there was a frantic energy to her, not unlike when she was alive.

I woke feeling deeply lonely and terribly sad.

Over the weekend, texts. Entreaties. I had to take calls and answer questions while spending time with my daughter and my dearest D. I felt so rude, but I understood this person's despair and frustration.

Talk to her...

I am carrying a secret, one I've shared with few people. It is more than a relative with terminal cancer. It is that his wife needs to be evaluated for dementia and depression. I don't want to say those words aloud and saying them here makes me feel traitorous, as though I've overstepped a boundary. It's not my job, reason says, but my heart knows that it will be my fate.

Tonight, my mind wandered down a forgotten path. Crystal and china, and choosing patterns for my wedding. "Kosta Boda," I heard her say in the accent she's never been able to shed, but her voice is caressing, the thought of such luxury making her happy.

It is in that moment that I feel the weight of loss, the stab of recognition of what none of us will ever have again.


(A joyous state, the state of moving forward. Cowardice, the state of running from.)


(Inevitable. Inviolable. Nothing stays the same, for better or worse.)


(A boulder weathers until it becomes the sand on the ocean floor. A tree dissolves into the hummus of the forest. Our bodies are born and age until they are carefully put away under a blanket of earth.)

The spirit goes. And we are left to wonder.


Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000.

22 September 2014

Saner now some crazy's back*

Blanton Art Musem
Austin, Texas
20 September 2014

The daughter wanted to go look at UT Austin, and so I made that happen.

Were it so easy.

We were supposed to leave Thursday afternoon. I'd worked it all out: the daughter was out of school early on Thursday and didn't have classes on Friday. So I found a flight out late in the afternoon, picked her up from school, raced home and my neighbor R. dropped us off at the airport.

All seemed to be well. Until 5 minutes before our flight was to board. And we were told that the Phoenix airport had been closed because a murder suspect was running loose inside.

(It actually turned out to be slightly less dramatic. Only the terminal where we were supposed to land was closed and it was robbery, shooty sorts of suspects running the parking lot apparently. I've never seen the same story reported twice, so I'm still not 100% sure what was going on in Phoenix that afternoon.)

Half an hour later, our flight was cancelled. And there was no way out that night.

The daughter and I caught a cab back home and I started working the phones and the computer. Finally, I unpicked all my arrangements and was able to find a 6:25am flight to Austin from LAX on Friday morning that would get us to UT in time for the daughter's tour (yup, this is one of the places that requires reservations for tours).

Neither of us could sleep at that point, so we watched Project Runway even though we had to be up at 3 am for a 4 am shuttle to LAX.

And 3 am came really early. Especially since I couldn't sleep anyway.

All Friday, I felt like I was on some surreal non-plane of existence. Or surreal plane of non-existence. Take your pick.

(The daughter liked UT overall. Texas, on the other hand...)

After the tour and our first meal in approaching 36 hours, the daughter and I wandered back to our hotel where we collapsed into damp and exhausted heaps. We were supposed to meet D. in the evening, but after following the whole sorry story by text and email, D. said: chill out; we've got Saturday. And the daughter and I promptly slept for about 10 hours.

(I'm also not saying much about the preceding week in which a student at the son's university died of bacterial meningitis, our air conditioning died an expensive death during an epic heatwave, and a family member was temporarily hospitalized. But it all took a toll.)

Next morning, bathed and breakfasted, we met up with D.

Who I hadn't seen in over a year. Which is way too long.

So there was an art museum. Internet cat videos as art installation. A true Texas pool hall. Shopping in wonderfully weird stores. Talking and laughing. And more laughing. (And taking pictures of that sculpture. I must have taken 40, all at different angles. It was the glowing eyes that did me in.)

Yesterday, when we were safely home, I got a text from D.:

"Oh, man, did I ever need that weekend. I feel saner now that I have some of my crazy back."

And as I told her, truer words were never spoken.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000. *Paraphrasing D. Because DAMN.

20 September 2014

Don't mess with Texas

Blanton Art Museum
Austin, Texas
20 September 2014

03 September 2014

Lucky heart

South Main
Memphis, Tennessee
30 June 2014

It is so easy to get lost in the toxic morass of bad. That's pretty much where I was all summer.

(I know. Technically, it's still summer, but Labor Day is over and finally, everyone is back in school. So really, Not Summer. And just as well.)

There was lots of bad. All kinds of bad. Bad in the world, bad in the state, bad here at home. Things sort of culminated with the death of a longtime friend and neighbor about 10 days ago. He'd been ill for years, but he had a knack for bouncing back every time. The hot firefighters would show up, cart him off and then he'd be home, more cheerful than ever. So when the hot firefighters showed up and carted him away, I didn't expect him to come home and die. But I should have seen the signs. And I feel incredibly awful that I didn't.

When their grandfather took ill, I told the kids: take this time. There is no going back and once he's gone, it's done.

Would that I'd taken my own advice, or at least been a bit more aware of what was going on.

When a student at the daughter's school died last week, she and I had a long talk about life, death, the universe and everything. And we cried. A lot.

There's more. Much more. But some of the stories aren't mine to tell, no matter that they add to the spiritual quicksand that tugs insistently at my ankles. I know that I am fortunate in that I have the resources, internal and external, to eventually pull myself free. Not everyone does.

And now this is where I pick up myself up, dust myself off and move forward.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. The worst part was that it didn't look like I could move on until I'd put all that down, little as I wanted to share.