Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Cure for Everything But Death

Although I will never write a memoir -- buried bodies will remain buried bodies -- I do tend to think of my life in narrative.  What is the story?  I've been home since mid-April and were you to draw a picture of my life it would be typified by sitting at this desk in this office working with various mounds of papers -- the taxes, the medical bills, the scripts, the insurance, and so on and so forth.  For more than a year I've meant to re-write my will.  Since the last one was signed we've moved states, I haven't stabbed my spouse, my proxy grandchild has been born, and I've inherited money and intellectual property rights from a friend.  In other words, things have changed.  A lot.

I've been giving a lot of thought to who gets what and why. I have my own literary estate that matters enough to me that I'd like someone to take care of it.  And I want to provide for the generations after me.  So now I realize that this chapter, this spring and summer, is about organizing my life in the inevitable event of my death.  For someone like me doing this (although much of this work is tedious, if not downright boring) it is a "prophylactic", a cure for everything but Death.  I like order, a sense of control, a certainty that things are in place.  I don't consider what I'm doing death-defying behavior; this is death-acknowledging behavior.  I die and my physical and intellectual property is left behind.

Part of reconstructing the life of the dead is a treasure hunt.  My husband, and the rest of my family will finally have answers to questions they dare not ask me.  They will be capable of seeing who I was before they knew me, before I belonged to them.  That is, if they wish.  My intention (if I'm able) is to leave much of it behind -- the flash drives of files, the hard copies of correspondence, the souvenirs and letters from friends and family, the mementos.  Even my unfinished fiction and poetry.  (Although I suspect that I'll burn all that if time and circumstance permits.)

B'lievemewhenItellyou that I'm not at all morose, just realistic.  




I Hate Summer, 2014 edition

It's not that it's been a particularly bad summer.  In my role as Stoic Eco-Queen I try not to run the A/C too much and so far I've succeeded.  The worst thing that has happened is the Allergy Malady and I continue to remain in denial that my front and back yards have become a menace.  I am growing all kinds of flora in the front; some of it I recognize, others are "migrants". (True gardeners call them "volunteers" which I've never understood because if you were a seed and the wind blew you into my yard, or a cat shat (thank you! Dr. Seuss) you into my soil would you say that you had volunteered to grow there?  I mean, if you were a seed.)  Some of my migrants are undoubtedly weeds and drive the people who walk around with spray cans full of Round-Up mad.  I keep them because I'm curious, wondering what they will become.

One such plant with large lozenge-shaped leaves produced aureoles of delicate pale white flowers.  Now that those have died it's producing pods the size of a Christmas ornament.  And this is where the Annie Dillard in me stops and girl who watched Invasion of the Body Snatchers one time too many takes over.  I am actually expecting them to develop into pod people.  I fully expect to come downstairs in mid-August, make my espresso, sit in the dining room window and only to find that Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter have metastasized right before my very eyes.




Saturday, July 12, 2014

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch ....

Believe me when I tell you that I had all good intentions to check in last Saturday -- the holiday be damned -- now that I am posting again.  But, as we all know what the Road to Hell is paved with, yes?

The truth is I was asleep.  For like 20 hours a day.  In the midst of a weekend visit by friends I got sick.  It was, mirabile dictu, a virulent response to something that's blooming, sailing through the air,or  being shat in my yard by birds or feral cats.  Being the logical type I tried to figure out, with the help of Cuthbert who got his Ph.D. in the Science of Mind from the Matchbook University of the Greater Palo Alto Community School District, why this had happen a moi after a decade or more of being seasonal allergy free.  Seasons come, seasons go, my sleep pattern alters a bit, and life goes on.  I just thought Claritan commercials were weird, that's how much I paid attention.

So, we said, what has changed?  Cuthbert grew a lawn in the back this year.  Would new grass be any different than that knarly crab grass that we lived with (because it went to so well with this knarly house)?  Don't think so.  Our retired neighbor is single-handedly trying to raise homeowner's property values on our little block and is on a one-man weed whacker crusade.  His rule of thumb is:  if it's higher than 2" and closer to the curb than 3" it's coming down.  So, many a morning while I'm watering the garden he's out there giving the block's weeds a haircut.  I put that in the maybe column.  What about the front yard, which now that it's beautiful with a profusion of flowering whatevahs my neighbors' opinion of me has gone from (in Spanish and English) "that weird woman with a white husband" to "that weird woman with a white husband who can grow some purty flowers", was it causing this malady?  I didn't want to blame my yard which gives me no end of pleasure and since I'm already a member in good standing of the I'll-Suffer-For-My-Art Corp, if it turns out that my front yard is making me sick, well I'll go.  It stays.

By the time we figured out that we didn't have it figured out I was quaffing a solution of sassafras and other herbs brewed by my friend who not only likes to cook but is a herbalist by avocation.  I'd drink, blink and go back to bed.  Everyone carried on very well without me, going ahead with the day after block picnic (which I joined for a while), cooking, sleeping, and putting a mirror to my lips to see if I was still breathing.

I didn't feel particularly bad -- no fever, not much phlegm, no nausea or vomiting -- I was just so very very tired and my brain had been replaced by a gigantic sinus cavity.  I still can't smell; I can just barely taste.  (It's probably sense memory and nothing more.)  That's not necessarily a bad thing since it means I eat a lot less.  I can't complete a sentence without coughing up a lung and since I am always on the verge of or well into a headache, when I'm out in public I looked like I'd just as soon kill you as talk to you.  (This is often true even when I'm not sick.)

Cuthbert thinks I had, have a mild infection.  Old Indestructible Moi thought that was nonsense until 2 days ago when he started to exhibit the same symptoms, too.  Fatigue, empty-headedness, and in his case, skeletal aches and pains.  Last night, feeling incrementally livelier than I had in days, I stayed up late ironing and watching the original Wallender (in Swedish).   (When I'm in slo-mo reading subtitles is soothing.)  I had already stood over him in the bedroom (well before dusk) and told him I was sleeping elsewhere.  It was obvious he was sick and was probably going to wind up on both sides of the bed and what the hell?, if what we have are infections why would I return to the scene of the crime?

Although this house is small, it does have an extra room.  (I've slept in a convent with larger sleeping quarters.)  I didn't even bother to move the linen I'd been piling on the bed for weeks; I just weaseled my way under the covers with aspirin and water within reach and went to sleep.  I woke up knowing I was getting better.  Parts of my brain had re-occupied my skull and I could breath through 2 nostrils and my mouth!  Not much, but I'll take it.  My hope is to have enough energy and will to houseclean today.  The place looks manky, and I can only imagine that it smells worse.  We'll see ...

Thus ends this installment of How I Spent My Summer Vacation.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Letter to My Faithful Readers

... and to the porn sites which account for 90% of my traffic.  It has been 3 months and change since I last posted.  I stopped blogging for practical reasons:  my life was organized around the care of a dying friend.  I had no desire to write about "it" then, and I am reluctant to write about it now.  The irony is that many of us (in my generation) sculpted ourselves into fiction writers by confessing, mining the travails of our own lives and convincing ourselves that it represented the anxieties of the age.  Had I that need still there would be plenty of entries here, but I don't so there aren't.

It's spring.  Like many in the northeast I had my doubts that it would ever arrive.  I've been awarded for my patience with a front yard that is filling out with strawberries, echinacea, hydrangeas, day lilies, ferns, daisies, oxalis, clover, mint, sage and more than a few spectacular flowering weeds.  During the winter I would sit in my dining room willing the plants into existence, wondering if last year's volunteer squash would take over by late summer, imagining what color the hydrangea blossoms would be.  Now I happily bury the stools of the feral cats that use our yard as their litter box, pull and slice the roots off of weeds so that they can be composted.  And think.

I've been dreaming lately.  A few nights ago I had one where I was practically stalking the Math department's advisor to figure out what my next class should be.  (You don't have to go to far back into last fall's entries the discern the magnitude of my bitchin' and moanin' about how hard my coursework is.)  Nobody in my family believes that I will or should return to school.  (I didn't enroll the spring semester.)  That, too, is an old story.  But, I have spent a lot of time with people who have been delimited by physical illness, mental illness, addiction, and poverty.  One of the enduring effects of any of those conditions is the the lowering of expectations.  Of being defined by what one can't do as opposed to what one can.  And once you've bought that definition of yourself, you've taken over the maintenance of your oppression.  Then it's game, set, match for the oppressor.  Math is my instrument; public school students and adult learners are my audience.  To have the math to work with them I have to do more coursework.  It's as simple as that.

And last night I dreamed that I was in prison, but mysteriously released on furlough.  I spent it at a bar with a friend talking and drinking coffee, surrounded by totebags of paperwork and clothing.  I knew that I had to return to prison.  My friend, who had been imprisoned but was now paroled left to catch the subway.  I packed my bags, and then at the last minute decided I wasn't going back.  Fuck it, I said to myself, I'm an old lady.  Whadda they going to do to me?

Which is the attitude I've been taking now that I'm bike riding again, occasionally without a helmet after a (clears throat) 40 year interregnum.  Cuthbert and even strangers counsel me to do otherwise.  Of course they're right.  I know all too well what can happen and godknows this city has more than its share of reckless and unlicensed drivers.  But, oh freedom, and all of that.  It feels so good to fly down the street and split the air.

Perhaps these latest dreams about about the poles of Freedom and Obligation.  And the dance between the two as I enter my 60th year.  Don't know; may never know.  The sun's up; weeds await me.