REPORT A PROBLEM
writing from bud days
Place it here
In my hundred words
Where I am
Where I was
Not looking back – just revisiting
Music and sunlight and walking the dog with the leash held away from wheels and weekends home and calls to sister and calls to doctor and christmas music all night long and music and trauma and laughter and movies and ambulances and emergency rooms and improvement and decline and watching him breathe and climbing in beside him and touching his lips with my fingertip and and and.. music..
I took the day. I had no idea if it would be one or what this would be.
The call came at 3:00am. I could see by the 832 that it was the hospital calling me. It could’ve been him but I knew not.
She said they were perplexed.
I said I was not.
She asked me why?
I said: Have you read his chart? – thinking if this is the doctor making the call, surely she’s read his chart.
It was a foolish question but she was the one who said she was perplexed. I was the one who understood.
My son’s starting a business. He’s been training nearly all of his life for this and we simply weren’t aware that he was.
He’s not a corporate type – not for long anyway. He tried teaching fifth graders in a yuppie public school – this isn’t an oxymoron – there truly are such things – yuppie schools in the public sector.
He tried bartending, shop keeping, tutoring and camp counseling. He's evaluated and assessed, took the options apart and put them together again. He's considered technical writing and web site development.
You’ve got to turn over a lot of rocks – not just for love.
My son and I have Sunday brunch together. My daughter dines with her father.
Our Sunday brunch is a business meeting. We start out with a casual touch base, but our agenda moves quickly to business. We examine where we fit and where we don't.
Sunday brunch with my daughter is a different event. I listen to her and listen to her and listen to her. She talks. I attend.
My son and I make plans. We set goals and modify our action plans. My daughter and I spin our wheels. We go nowhere. We get nowhere. But we persist.
My daughter called to say it was a rough day at work today, could we meet for dinner? Actually, she sent a text.
I rushed to my appointments, eye on the clock, frantic to finish one report, begin another, meet with clients, get to the bank before it closed and return at least some of the ever growing messages.
My son called today to say he no longer had a job, could we talk? Actually, he left a message and I called him back.
I met my daughter. I consoled my son. She spoke of layoffs. He spoke of relief.
What’s been bothering me about her is her lack of intimacy with me. Her e-mails show no depth and certainly do not reflect our close ten year friendship.
If I'm going to take my time (and more importantly, my mind) to have meaningless communication, I'll do it in a chat room with people who truly know nothing about me.
This woman went through my sister's death with me, my own cancer and the death of two men I was deeply involved with. Now her words are trite, stilted and hollow.
I turn up my music. I move into the wind.
I’m starting to draw in again.
I’ve stopped calling friends. I don’t answer the phone when they call me. My work is exhausting, but energizing. It fulfills my need for face-to-face social interaction.
My tendency is to pull in, to recharge on my own with music, sleep and internet chat. I like this. It suits me. Internet chat makes no demands. I’m there and then I’m not. There are no expectations of me. I look in. I log out. I come back, or not.
No commitments. No appointments. No promises. There is an intimacy which comes from long-term uncommitted associations.
I had a conversation with a man today. He knew who he was. That’s an oddity—to be a person who knows who he is. I think he knew this. He told me he could tell that I am comfortable in my own skin. He said this was an oddity—to be comfortable with myself.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t. It’s not easy to be around a person who’s comfortable with themselves. They have nothing to prove. They don’t compromise in matters that affect them. Most distinctly, they don’t care about the things they don’t care about.
Rereading before I begin to write today I discover my notation to find my Bud days writing. Find isn’t valid. I know where it is—behind glass, tucked under my lingerie. Not hidden, but private. Pictures are tucked in behind the glass. 1999. I have more. I gave away his clothing. Well all but his coat which wrapped him in warmth – and now me? I have his books, his music, his ring—I lost his ring! I have a grocery list he wrote long ago. I have a note my mother wrote—random note about absolutely nothing. Trivial becomes treasure.
I’m going to stay with this. It’s like waking up after a dream. The memory is just out of reach but close enough to slip back into focus if I stay with it.
I close my eyes and see tiny vignettes: The first time I saw him; remembering his voice on the phone – before we met; ICU; packing his things; music at bedside; later—so much later, the going outside into the sunshine; his sister’s visit; driving in the car, he giving directions; walking the dog with the leash tangling in the wheels and the laughter; ambulance rides; doctor consultations.
We decided to drive to Virginia to look at a stair lift. Looking back now, I realize I was under the influence—Mission driven. I get that way.
It was lovely, he and I, on the highway. He directed. I drove. Miles Davis. I can hear it still.
When we got there, the woman came out to greet us. I got out the wheelchair and we went inside. Her husband had died, she explained. I nodded. She was grim. He noticed. We avoided eye contact. “Do you mind if we try it out,” I asked?
Miles Davis took us home.
Marie came from St. Paul to see him. Muriel was alive then, I think. We had her paintings. Marie was an artist also—weavings. She’d sent me gifts. They’re gone now. She died later—after he did. She used to tell me about her doctor friends. Young men she called them. Foreign, she added. She lived near a teaching hospital and invited them to tea at times. She’d buy bakery items—“I don’t cook any longer,” she confided.
They’d ask her to come in to be examined by the new recruits—that’s what she called them. They were learning gerontology.
When he died I fell apart. Not on the outside. I went to work the next day. I do that. I dressed in my pretty high heels and flippy skirt. It was May. He died on mother’s day.
I work in a social environment. At home, I withdraw. Always. I have made compartmentalization an art form. With bold stokes, I do this—nothing subtle. I don’t answer the door or the phone—unless I do. E-mails, yes—distance between contactor and contactee.
This goes unnoticed. The social activities at work mask the solitary private person.
Even my husband missed it.
I remember it clearly. That winter—that one where I quietly slipped away. I was on the PTA Board. I developed a reading enrichment program, introduced art appreciation to primary school children and started a Girl Scout troop. That was my outside persona.
At home I played burger time. Was it Nintendo back then? No! Before Nintendo. Intellivision? Did they have burger time?
I sat in the dark. Kids at school. Why was it dark? A sense of darkness perhaps. I can hear the music. The calliope music and the sound of the miss. Repeated miss. Actively passive. Passively active.
I don’t know when I realized I had to make a change. One day it occurred to me there was life outside the walls.
My first thought was to move away—as a family. He said no. After that—in time, I developed a new plan. We would move back home—where I grew up. The idea captivated me. I’d be near my father, my childhood friend—familiar things. I did my research: jobs, apartments, daycare, schools. I went to see an attorney. I sent off resumes. I called apartment complexes. I interviewed daycares.
This time another he said no.
I remember the music—my personal soundtrack. Eight tracks: Otis Redding, Gordon Lightfoot, Peter, Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Peter and Gordon, Peter Nero, James Taylor, Shawn Phillips, The Moody Blues. NO—those were cassette years. I see them now. White. I took them out of their cases and labeled with black sharpie. I arranged them in groups of six in cases that stuck with adhesive pads to the console in the van. This wasn’t any soccer mom van. This was a Ford Club Wagon window van outfitted with curtains I’d made from a madras bedspread from India.
Now I use Pandora or Rhapsody or play lists gathered from a variety of sources. I have wireless headphones, speakers for every computer, amp or disc player. I can’t bear bad sound. I add NPR to the mix—all night jazz and in depth news. I stream. I radio. I insist.
Oddly at this moment I have no music on. I’m just before bed and betwixt.
I hear the music in my mind. Van Morrison. Miles Davis. Philip Aaberg, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, Cannonball Adderly, Etta James, Bill Evans, Joni Mitchell, Paul Desmond…
I have it on now, of course.
The saxophone soars. It takes me with it. Eyes closed, I become the music… just as I become the sea. The piano slips in. eases in. takes over. drums then. background percussion. One handed piano moves into the spotlight, then the saxophone takes it back… taking me with it… but now, it’s the piano—smooth single notes, insistent in their simplicity.. now the sax is back.. and then moving lower on the keyboard—the piano again and then…and then.. Silence now… filled with what came before… and I am unclear. Did the music stop?
And now—percussion, piano, tempos—improv.
I'm writing a few days behind and so my dates don’t match the events that took place when they did: My daughter’s birthday—January 16th; the presidential inauguration—January 20th. Her birthday was the dinner at the Melting Pot, just her and I, followed by cake and candles at her place—friends. The inauguration kept me glued to CNN streaming in on my computer. Mesmerized I stayed.
Today is the end, but I’m writing in the middle and thinking about the new month about to happen. I’ve been with my job now six months—energized and exhausted, but continually grateful.
Facing overwhelm, I made a reservation at the beach. The calendar relented for one night. The distance for my psyche is light years away—not the two hundred miles shown on the map.
There have been times when I’ve made the drive just for the day. In the car, music going, cruise set, I head for the OCEAN. A four hundred mile round trip is nothing when factoring in the sunshine on the pier, the sound of the waves, the feel of the sand, the cold surf chasing me as I run back away, jeans rolled up and feet bare.
I leave the sliding glass door open just a crack—enough to hear the sound of the OCEAN. Lights out, dark sky—only the sound remains—til morning. First light, the sea birds gather. Heavy clouds hang above the surface blending into the OCEAN until the sun finds its way. A suggestion of light shimmers with the effort.
My full attention now, I open the door and step out, holding my breath at this majesty. Cold, I grab a blanket, wrap it around me and lean into the sea breeze, my senses filled now, perspective found—I’m renewed—for now.
My daughter was sick. An early morning call—unusual for her—the early, not the calling. I have a fever. What should I do? Sleep. Take something and sleep. We’ll revisit it later on. You may need antibiotics. This daughter is prone to bronchitis. Last winter she was sick for two months with increasingly potent medication.
Another call came at 5:00pm. Not the next, but another. He’s being mean. He’s yelling at me and I’m SICK!!! I’m going to come over there and going to bring the dog.
Come on, I urged—glad, as always, to be the safe haven.
She was sick. Miserably sick. Hot but not hot. Shivers, but not intense. Hives. My daughter gets hives. Bendryl—thank goodness for benedryl. It makes her sleepy also. Double bonus! I fixed her snugget—a cool sheet with another neatly overlaying. Her comfort—an outward sign of being cared for. Pillows. Fluffed. Pretty. Mine. Ginger ale. Soft lighting. Thermometer. Water and food for her dog. Safe here. Safe haven.
I slipped off to my computer, turning the music up, lost now in my world with her dog on my lap, asleep. She’s vulnerable, this daughter of mine. Tough but vulnerable.
She likes to have the television on. We don’t have TV. We do have TV but it’s for movies only—and games. Her brother tossed in a DVD of a show he knows she likes. It has been a while since she’s felt this house to be a safe haven for her. I’m glad there’s been a shift back. It was a brother/sister issue, one that came from deep places and searing hurts.
They found their way back to one another in their way—a sign of maturity perhaps that they didn’t have to do the rehash? .Or maybe resignation.
Ying/Yang. They realize this. Opposites—connected. Close, maybe too close and then apart for an entire year. A year of silence and battering. I took the battering. They were silent—to one another.
The wild card is their father. They’re careful with him. To me there is no such care. And so when it came close to holiday time the estrangement intensified—and then collapsed.
I set it up so they would have a trial run—before the father family events.
In spite of themselves, they smiled, then I heard a laugh—still hurt behind their eyes, but a start.
We have a re-gifting shelf. My son received a clock for a gift from my stepmother. Then for two more years, she sent him a clock. His local aunt added to the clock collection. [My son is particular about his LED displays, preferring blue.] He gave one clock to his sister’s friend. The others found their way to the shelf. We’ve since added the Zen candle fountain, the black vinyl bag with the chain handles and the brown Mario Brothers T-shirt in size medium. A Fiona Apple CD was there as well. That was sent to a friend in Philadelphia.
I love candles and glycerin soap. Bubble bath and strong black coffee from freshly ground beans. Flannel nighties and excellent music. The sound is important to me, not just the music. Blueberries and the OCEAN. Penguins make me smile. I consider birds at my feeder to be a spectacular gift. Fluffy pillows. Good computers. Cars that start. Glassware that sparkles. I’m partial to heavy flatware and glass anything. Audio gadgets and backyard swings. Hot tubs and bare feet. Sea birds. Children walking along the shore. Fireplaces when it’s snowing. Naked skin against fresh clean sheets. Sunday morning with nothing pending.
I don’t usually write in the morning—I save this luxury until the end of the day.
I’m relaxed for the first time since my job has taken me over. The sun’s shining and birds are at the feeder. My dog is asleep by my feet. The coffee is ready; I’ve taken the first sip and placed it away from probable disaster amidst papers, computers, files and general workaday mayhem.
I’ve already sent e-mails and returned the 7:20am “emergency” phone call. I have my day planned out—unusual. Generally I put out fires and never catch up to a plan.
Today when the phone rings, I answer it. I’m calmer today. I didn’t feel the rush of overwhelm when I walked into my office.
My job is marketing a group of mobile home communities. I love marketing. I love business and politics. [And of course, music!] And details—but not when I’m busy. When I’m busy—don’t try to entice me with the details. I’ll cut you off, shake you down for the purpose of your call and tap my foot. My staff knows me well. I’m warm, soft, gentle, supportive and funny. I’m also curt and quick and final.
I love to drive. This job involves driving. Not long distances, just thirty minutes. I had a job once with a thirty minute commute.
We think of thirty minutes here in the southern city where I live as a long commute. Not so people in real cities! They consider thirty minutes a trip to the grocery store. Factor in traffic and it becomes forty-five. When I lived in southern Florida there were blocks of time I simply knew to stay off of I-95. Twenty minutes would become two hours and that was oh GOD that was over thirty-five years ago!
I live in an old house. The rent is so cheap I can’t justify leaving. The landlord is absent. I don’t call him any longer.
I thought it to be another stopping off place, but I’ve stayed. I’ve had angry lapses at the landlord over seemingly major issues at the time, but calmed after checking other options.
The wiring is faulty—not dangerous, but faulty. I keep a large supply of fuses and know what to turn off when I want to turn something else on. The sink leaks now and then—I use the other one when I remember.
The Tip Jar