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I haven’t been able to keep up this month. It’s the 15th and I’m just beginning. I had planned to do it over the weekend but my friend asked me to check to see if the system was down and so here I am.
It is amazing how he plants the send and I fall for it – every time! I’ve said this before in this space [isn’t that the most pompous and foolish expression?] but it bears repeating [also a pompous and foolish expression] that he is the one person who can get me moving by merely asking a question.
I'm sick today – not in an expected way.
Yesterday while rushing down the steps to the car, laden with my going out the door things, my knee buckled and I fell, knocking the breath out of me and scattering my coffee, water, purse, briefcase and keys. I stayed where I fell, knowing rushing it would make the getting up much worse.
I got up, with much effort, and gathered my things, limped to the car and headed in the direction of my properties.
I thought I was ok. Four hours later after sitting still, I knew I was in trouble.
I finished my must do work and with pain and much effort made it back into the car. I lifted my leg up to the gas pedal and knew this was going to be a challenge to get the bank deposits – yes, more than three meant the drive through window was off limits - should i go to another branch where they hadn't already scolded me for holding up the line? No, my instincts drove me to my usual spot and I chanced the drive through knowing walking would be with great effort.
Home – 3:30, I gratefully limped to my bed.
And now – so much more to write about.
My mind swirls with topics and thoughts—not able to settle down—the ideas are falling fast, not like fall leaves but more like snowflakes in a blizzard – pelting down, covering the those that came first, flashing in, only to be overtaken by the next and the next and the next til all I can do is begin with no plan and let it come at me and flow through me the way it used to, before the frenzy of whatever new extrinsic took over.
Now I can begin.
The sound of the washing machine is comforting today. The dog beside me on the rug is quiet – rare for her.
I feel the chair beneath me and my hands on the keyboard. The fingers of my left hand are numb despite the surgery. My phone signals an e-mail and I glance, but let it go. Now the washer goes from the whoosh of water filling to the slow churning of the wash cycle.
The air feels good this morning – the window’s open to spring allergies but also the breeze.
This is good, this new morning snapshot before extrinsic invades.
No brass band
No more phones
Today is Thursday – one week of being over and scarcely a ripple of difference.
At first I went into a frenzy of purging. The tossing of papers, deleting of phone numbers, the catharsis of going through the miscellany, of getting it out of my space, my life.
Then there was the catching up with people I’d abandoned during the worst of it. Calls, hand written notes, e-mails.
It’s still fresh and new – It’s still a relief – It’s still a shock despite – this ending – this over.
I’m not going to write about it now. There’s no point. It’s a closed chapter and nothing significant can be learned by going back over it – any lessons there have been swept into my psyche and tossed away as needed.
I have had difficulty with weekends since Ben died. The shock/sadness of his death last June kept me numb to this for a while and then I started the new job. The job overwhelmed me at the start and later, even when I took back my weekends, the angst regarding the job put me to bed at every possible moment.
He filled my life in ways I wasn’t even aware. I always have thought myself to be a horrid friend because I am selfish with my time and actually rarely did have unallocated time – dating from those early days of raising my children alone. When I did have a moment and wanted to do something with someone, it required prior planning. I didn’t plan because I never knew if I’d be free or feel like going out and so I dropped out of friendships and relationships. Ben was different. He required little and was delighted with whatever I could give.
I would call him after leaving my daughter’s apartment, only moments away, and I could pick him up for a quick bite to eat somewhere or just a drive. He rarely refused, even when he wasn’t feeling up to it – he said I was the reason he was living here, the reason he was living at all, and so when I would call, he would gather himself together and find a way to manage those damn six stairs leading from his house.
I encouraged him to move to the front apartment when it came open – it had only two stairs.
He didn’t want to move – even those few feet, to a more accessible spot. He said it was the money – but it was only forty more per month. He didn’t want to spend it. More importantly – he simply didn’t want to deal with the change. On some level I realized he was scarcely hanging on and anything out of the ordinary would be more than he could manage.
I eventually left it alone, allowing him his dignity. I didn’t delve deeper but it was difficult watching him navigate those steps.
After a while I stopped pressing him about his cigarettes.
He could have burned the house down I now realize, but I didn’t realize then, nor how tenuous his life was – not then.
Now, I watch the buildings going up across from where he lived. We both were fascinated with the demolition of the Cotton Mill Square Outlet Shopping Center that stood on that site. We watched as they carefully removed the bricks, cleaned them and put them on pallets. The same was true of the oak columns. The project took over a year – or this is how I remember it. We both enjoyed watching their progress – everything neatly stacked.
I read in the newspaper how much the owners were getting per truckload – it was an amazing amount, but I don’t recall it now.
He died before they finished. The grading started right away. No signage at first. Off campus apartments sprang up. Watching the construction, I thought about my father who was a builder. On his last visit he stayed at a hotel across from a Microtel building site. He said he’d never stay at one of those. A fire hazard, he said, no firewalls – only wood framework. He came to mind when I was in Asheville as well
I didn’t often think of my father or his work. He was alive then still. He had a volatile temper and he and I didn’t do well together.
By then he was a dementia patient cared for by his wife for much longer than she was able to manage. She was now making plans to put him in what she called a “home.” I worked in the industry and while not a nurse, was trained to discern levels of care and functioning. It was clear that my father needed skilled nursing. It was clear she was having none of it.
A lovely upscale assisted living designed for dementia care was in his near future. She made a charade about having me come to look at places but in reality she had already chosen one – put down a deposit and was, well, being who she was/is.
We were never close, this woman he married the moment my mother died. I was away at college – lucky me! My sisters were not so fortunate. My younger one was 13. My older, 21.
She had left her husband, waiting until her younger son graduated from high school. He joined the navy right after that.
I thought of him when I was in Asheville because of the way the builders and developers utilized the mountainsides. It took me a while to remember to look up when searching for an specific address. I remember hearing that the insurance companies were no longer going to insure the homes built up away from access – unless the fire department could reach them.
My father would have enjoyed this. Dementia is a sad disease. After a person dies we fight the urge to pick up the phone to share our thoughts. The same is true with a person with dementia.
I worked with what we call in the industry, this “population.” I felt it below their dignity to be with people they didn’t select, to be called pet names by staff members who weren’t trained properly or who ignored the training and treated these adults like small children.
I got out of that business.
It’s painful when you see yourself walking into your own office.
Ben would have been demented had he lived. His collapse in the heat of his apartment caused brain damage. He called me from ICU. He remembered my phone number! I knew when I saw him.
Years before, my son’s cell phone worked when he was on top of the mountain in Maine. We had sat together in the hotel the night before and were dismayed to realize that the phone we’d selected was blacked out in parts of Maine – the very place he would be.
Once he managed to get down from the mountain, he placed a call. The phone rang into my sister’s hospital room in Boston. She told me of this when I got back from Maine. She said his voice was odd. But his message was clear. He was in trouble.
I went out because I couldn’t stand it any longer. No where in particular – to the dollar store for coffee filters and dog food. It was closed. It didn’t matter. On the way I passed the street where he lived. I eased past the cotton mill square construction site, the Citgo where he'd bought my Mary Jane candies & his cigarettes, the train tracks – one way trains, I said – he laughed so at that. I was serious about it. They passed my daughter’s apartment heading east, then past his and then near my own house – always one way – never back.
I argued my point amidst his laugher, explaining the parallel tracks but always giving it up. How he laughed also at my predictable driving and driving so I wouldn’t have to wait for that train. He’d say that by the time I went all around those streets, it would be long gone, and of course he was right – but do it I would and he knew I would and I knew I would and I knew he’d tell me to be more patient and he knew I knew. That that the fun of our relationship – the knowing – the familiar knowing.
We’d moved far from the difficult beginning when he’d come to me from California, hiding his true self behind a silence of omission. Back then he was filled with fierce anger about his kidney disease. His anger caused him to be combative and argumentative. It was difficult to watch. I withdrew but always returned. He was so in need, so alone. He wasn’t who I’d thought him to be but I couldn’t send him away any more than I could have left – this relationship with him may have been the only one I’ve ever stayed with through until the end.
I know I would never have ended it – his death was not the resolution to my inability to see things through – his death was premature – his death was long before I was ready – and long before he was – despite his pain – despite his declining health, he had quality of life. Many could argue this. I’ve been around the chronically ill long enough to recognize the difference. Quality of life is subjective as hell – and we own our own quality of life – and it is NOT for another to judge: not a family member, caregiver, doctor. NO one – it is personal
At the end, we choose when we take our last breath – not the moment, but “will to live” and “NO more indignity” play a strong role. I’ve watched men and women choose when they die in deference to those who continue to live – not IF they die, but when.
Looking back at that time, those early days, weeks, years even, it’s difficult to find that man in the man that he became. His transformation was complete. I’d mentioned it to him when he was alive. His answer came easily: I needed to be the kind of man you could love.
He did become that. I was careful with my words not wanting to encourage – but what we had in the last years was an easy companionship – rare indeed – something I miss more than I could the love I thought I wanted
. Someone asked me not long ago – A man filled with anger at my inability to love him – if I’d ever had a successful relationship. He mentioned my marriage, relationships, jobs – all of that. I had no answer for him. He often asked me brutal and hurtful questions. I paused at this one.
I know the answer now. Yes.- one.
This was the day I got married – 1975.
Looking back, it was fine. Not great or wonderful or even momentous – just fine. I could have just as easily gotten married in the courthouse or in a park or any damn where. Note: I’m using “I’ not “We.”
There were issues – there always are. The JP was refusing to allow my sisters to sign as witnesses—it had to be a man. I was furious. I don’t recall what my soon to be husband was doing— just like our life. Small things become big ones on days like that.
Last night’s writing was intense – the Ben writing.
I’m not sure how to get past that – in writing or in life.
I don’t want to get past, but need to move away so I can drive by that street without the memories flooding back or walk into the grocery past the corn husking station without sobbing.
The tears are flowing as I type. The sound of the fan is humming, my nephew is asleep and my son is out for his walk—and I sit here at the keyboard on this lovely morning with tears flowing and a headache forming.
Reaching for my coffee – I try to begin again.
I realized as I made that drive last night through the Ben memories that I need to fill my life with something just for me. Ben was that with all of his complexities. I understand that now.
And so to begin.
Not the blank slate imagery that I’ve used before.
I am not blank and my future is not blank – it is filled already with children and illness and associations.
Those are the broad strokes of the future.
It’s time for me to use my fine brush and paint me in.
As I cast about for thoughts I realize I already have a framework.
I plan to move to the Wilmington area around the time of my birthday in 2010 – one year and one month. That’s concrete!
I plan to collect social security at 62 and augment it with consulting. That’s also concrete.
My now plans for a job include two possible formats: 1) Regional Marketing which will involve moving to godknowswhere and, 2) Consulting.
The 1) will set me up financially for the future [future?] The 2) will get me started on the long range goal of from now on.
I’ve been writing for a long time on this entry and just deleted it
. It started out flowing and then got bogged down in the details – my best writing is not done this way. It must flow from within. To create the 100 words I usually write what flows and then sort through it to make the entries.
This may not be the purest way to do it, but it works for me.
It would be interesting for each writer to write about the mechanics of how they get their 100 words onto the document and then the entry form.
Does anyone write directly on the entry form
Does anyone begin focused on the 100 word goal?
Do they write and then chop it or count as they go?
I like this format. It forces me, once I’m close to publishing, to assess each word to see if I’ve repeated, to see if I’ve used an extra that doesn’t need to be .. and often I’ll change entire passages, nearly starting over. This exercise is so good – it forces me to rewrite and at times, I have: “oh, that’s wonderful!” and at others, the “ let it go – leave it.”
I’m having fun with my netbook. I ordered it on Woot for $150 refurbished. I wanted her for my trip to California but she came after I left. Busy when I returned, I didn’t give her a glance.
Now we’re getting acquainted and she’s a dream – a tiny functional dream.
My PC died and now my little Dell that I’d picked up on eBay back in 2005 has become my workhorse. She previously handled my middle of the night when awake activities. This new job may be too much for her, but so far she seems to be holding up.
The net book is stepping up also. I’ve connected some peripherals and she grabs them with glee. She sports three USB ports—two more than baby Dell. I’ve begun ripping my favorite CDs to her music manager, something I didn’t know she had, and I’ve solved my bedroom music problem again.
I’d been content with Soundbridge tapping Rhapsody on baby Dell, but once I moved it into the office, I lost that capability. I have limited patience with Pandora. I’m somewhat of a purist when it comes to my music. A Leonard Cohen choice does NOT mean I want Dylan.
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