Saturday, December 13, 2014

What Love Is

The last few days have been unreal. My Mother is dying. We have been given a private room at the Nursing Home and I have slept on a roll up bed near her for the last two nights. I woke from a fitful and interrupted sleep the first night telling myself I couldn't continue to sleep here. But at 5 am she cried out and my presence made a difference. Then today, although her communication with us and ours to her has been a hundred times 'I love you', she said, "please don't leave me alone." So I'm staying. I am surprised to acknowledge that I consider comforting her a high privilege. 

Despite her four children a her good husband traveling on business, my daughter Jessica arrived yesterday and stayed until mid-afternoon today. That's her hand entwined with her grandmother's. We cried so deeply. My Mother is almost 99 but it still feels too soon. We will miss her so much it hurts so much already. I watched Jess caress her and calm her and kiss her and I know yet again that I have raised a wonderful wonderful daughter.

And I'm feeling that my Mother has also raised a wonderful wonderful daughter. I am proud of myself.  

The staff here feels that the process of dying will not take a week now. They assure me my Mother  will remain peaceful and without pain. This morning, around six am, I put my iPhone to her ear and played Perry Como singing "Till the End of Time" and the soundtrack of "Some Enchanted Evening." And then Bing Crosby's "White Christmas." Her eyes were closed and she didn't move. We held hands and my tears fell. These tears are so much about love I almost welcome them.

My Mother has every reason to be proud of her life and her passage. She spoke my daughter's name. She kissed JB, she told my sister-in-law "I love you four times." She told us she is comfortable.

And me: she struggled but she got it out: "Karen, I've always loved you. I worried about you because I love you so much. I love you. I love you."

There will be heartbreak in this family. But there will be no regrets.

What a blessing.


Thursday, December 11, 2014


I took this photo about two weeks ago. This is my Mom. We didn't know then that her liver was failing; that today she would speak for maybe two minutes at a time and then fall back into a comfortable sleep.

We didn't know that today the nursing home and her doctor and hospice would be preparing us to lose her, any day now. 

My Mother is 98, a month short of 99. For almost a decade she has operated with a faulty memory that has held her smack in the present. And in the present, she is fully present. She is kind and fun and very dear. How anyone without a working memory can be so with it is beyond me. But she was and is. Ask anyone.

The head nurse at her nursing home told me tonight that all the staff is taking this hard. I know that must be true because they are coming to us, some crying, others volunteering stories of how much they care about her. They are checking in on her and fluffing her pillow and massaging her shoulders and legs and holding cups of ginger ale with straws for her. To a person, they are so kind.

In the next week, or perhaps two, I'm told to expect that my Mother's body will slowly shut down; that with the help of Morphine she remain comfortable and without pain. Today she is able to say I love you and to squeeze my hand and smile and say thank you to everyone who so lovingly comes in her room to care for her. 

I am both prepared and unprepared to lose my Mother. I am aware of the deepest love within me and I will have no regrets, a gift in itself. But god will I miss her. I won't miss the nursing home or doing her laundry or deciding to put off that trip to Italy, but I will miss my Mother for all of my life.

I know how lucky I am to have the privilege of loving her so much. 

If you don't mind, would you pray with me that she will die, if she must, in the gentlest way, hopefully with me with her, both of us knowing that the whole of her life was everything a good life should and could be.

I keep telling myself these tears are solely due to love. Which is true.


Wednesday, December 03, 2014



The word has meaning for me.

First off, I'm consulting again doing what I last did 10 years ago. From home, on my own schedule. Mostly I like it.

Next, for the last few weeks my Mother has been 'present' in our conversations only about half time. The other half, she's in her own world. This I don't like.

And then I'm juggling my strong love of these holidays with my desire not to stress. I'm not sure how to  coast into and out of making presents, spending time with family, baking cookies, hanging  lights, visiting friends, fitting in all that I hope for. 

And finally, I am writing a glorious (to me) book, lines and paragraphs and sometimes even chapters tucked into moments mostly when I have enough time. 

What does it mean to teeter in part-time? Does it mean I'm avoiding full-time? As in Full Time?

I could never complain. I have leisure moments far greater than ever before in my life. I have choices. Gardens. Books. TV shows.  Farms and oceans. And grandchildren. Children!

But sometimes I wander from one thing to the next, kind of sputtering instead of flowing. I know flow is important. 

And I'm not sure I have it.

Do you?


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Words about Words

Violent riots in a southern American town. There are reasons, not that I think destroying a downtown is the right thing to do. 

But what is happening in Ferguson MO separates what should not and cannot be separated. It may sound or be hokey, but all of us are a human family. A community.  We are all connected. Even basic physics confirms that. 

There are lessons that must be learned. But seeds do grow. 

I and most of us are very disturbed about what is happening. Profiling and disempowerment are real. If I were black and had a black son, I would resentfully be teaching him that the most important thing is not to antagonize in order to stay alive. To stay alive. That is so wrong. 

And yet. Come on poor black communities. Start working for power. Get your voices on boards and in government. Invest. Work more and rely on welfare less. 

No doubt it is politically offensive for me to say this, but I have credentials. I know poverty because I have been privileged and trusted in the homes of poor families. Too many people who can don't work, and it's passed down by generation. I think material things don't matter so much if you for whatever reason have to move around a lot and don't have a car to transport belongings. I wonder about the looting last night: if you don't have much, or you don't work for what you have, maybe you don't know what it feels like to lose something materially important, to lose this kind of a fabric.

I deplore the looting. I don't fully understand it. But I read this on Facebook and I understand it:

"If we refuse to hold accountable those who speak with bullets, how dare we stand in judgement of those who respond with stones?Starhawk

I think this quote is super important.

Change of subject: I am prepared food and head-wsie or Thanksgiving and I like it. A significant first snow is expected so who knows: JB and I may be roasting a 16 pound turkey for ourselves. (Oh dear.) But either way it will be okay. I can cook and bake and do just about whatever I want tomorrow. I'll see my Jess and the crew on Friday. I'll have reason to feel grateful.

I leave you with my highly recommended turkey stuffing. Do yourself a favor and read the recipe. 

Happy Thankgiving to you, my friends.  xoxoxo


Tuesday, November 18, 2014


I love the Christmas holidays to the point of absurdity. I am ready to go already, thinking about presents I will make and give; planning who I will see, what and how many cookies I will bake, who I will give them to. This year I've planted cuttings from my Jade plant and that makes eight little present pots to give away. I also have my godmother's recipe for walnut orange loaves and I'll bake a few because I figure that's a good present too. 

I know the holidays are rough for many people. I don't know how it is that I've been spared that. I think for most of us the memories from our childhoods form our feelings about the holidays as adults. I must be lucky, because my Mother created a good memory for me. I had an overflow Christmas stocking, and toys and other presents under my father's too-squatty tree. My family of four sat at the dining room table only twice a year, and Christmas was one of those times. Several of my cousins and my bossy aunt Sophie and mousy but dangerous Uncle Mike (children: beware) would come with hot homemade butter rolls and fresh loaves of bread. My Mother's gravy and mashed potatoes were nothing short of orgasmic. 

 I've begun my favorite rituals. Every year now I make our holiday cards from photos I've taken. I will take my time writing out cards and if I have time I'll  doodle on the envelopes. This year's card has been decided: it's one of the following finalists:

the window of WA in Provincetown

a store window but I don't remember where

our dining room table last year, complete with my grandparent's wedding day

a winter view from Jessica's house

Our Provincetown bedroom, compliments of the night light turtle

barb and rudi's vermont barn
Can you guess which one JB and I chose?

Anything of interest that you'll be doing?

And, how are you feeling about the soon-to-be holiday season?


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Life at the Linda Manor Nursing Home

The nursing home was nervous today. Three women each asked me how to get home. They were concerned about being late, about missing their ride. 

These are women, like all the residents there, who are not going home. They can't go home. They are not able to live without supervision and assistance. Like my mom. 

There are about twenty-five residents on my Mother's floor. All have have dementia or Alzheimer's or a consequential problem with memory. It is a nice unit and the staff is nice and kind and no one is  overworked. Today my favorite nurse there told me he's noticed as I have the decline in my Mother in the past few weeks. She is more tired more of the time, she is especially relieved to see me, and she has trouble saying the right words. All of this is new and I'm told it's simply the combination of dementia and age. I think that must be true. My Mother will be 99 on January 5th.  I know she could not live at home with me. I'm glad I know that. 

I find myself staring at most of the folks on this unit until I can see their younger selves through the lines of their faces. They've had children, jobs, homes, spouses, gardens. I've come to understand their confusion and resistance because where they are now is not their life. 

This week my Mother has been thrilled when she sees me. With relief she says, "Oh good! How did you know I was here? Should I get my coat? Are we leaving now?"

It's a heartbreak, but I don't make it a heartbreak. I reassure her that I am always close by. I stay longer. I tell her jokes. This week, uncharacteristically, she said 'bullshit' when she couldn't say the word she meant. I told her the problem was called a 'senior moment' and we both laughed. 

There is something very noble and very sad about living in old age in a place you don't know, with memories that don't always work, with a true north sense that this place may be okay, but it is not home. My Mother does her absolute best to adjust and thrive there. She is very much liked, with good reason. Often she tells me I don't need to worry about her. But I think her resilience is waning. Because it's hard to be resilient when you don't have context. 

She knows and trusts me. Sometimes she thinks I'm her sister Betty but mostly she's safe with me because we have deep love for one another. These days I want her to be okay, whichever way old age turns her. I don't want her to become afraid or wildly unable to be herself.

To be Herself. That is what we all want. Now. And even when we may become too old to know who that is.  


Saturday, November 08, 2014

What I've Been Doing

I have to write about my Blog. I know that the longer my posts, the less likely they will be read. I understand that fully because I have to make the same kinds of time decisions about the blogs I like.

For years I had a  clear sense of this blog of mine: my personal essays, clever and cosmic attempts at wisdom, stories and poems, and too, a sharing of my frailties and spunk.  For a long time, I had many many more visitors, friends, commenters, than I do now. For a long time a community was apparent here. 

So am I upset that so many people I so enjoy who used to blog don't blog anymore? Yes I am. It's a loss. I loved keeping up with them so regularly and I loved their attention. I love sharing comments. That said, these days I just feel like writing, if only for myself. I am tickled for every single person who stops by.

 Thus:  I am going to post this long post even if only a couple of people read it. Read, by the way, with my appreciation. It's a new day in Blogland, yes, but it's still an awesome place to be! 

:^) Here goes:

First of all, if I say what I've been doing lately, will you say too?

Okay, good. Thank you.

1. I have been alone all week. JB is in Provincetown in part so I could push myself to work. I have a research project (about Physicians ) that hangs over me. I want it done before Thanksgiving so it won't hang over the holidays. So I worked a good bit this week; not enough yet, but there is progress.

2. JB and I have been economizing (never mind why :^) So no lawn service to pick up our many many many fallen leaves. For a couple of months now. with JB's help,  I have been successfully employing my turtle approach to gardening. I do what and when I want, hoping in time it all gets done enough. Our yard is big, 4 or 5 different sections. This week I hired a young guy, from an agency, to help me for 3 hours. It was near perfect: I raked and he lugged the trash cans of leaves across the street, dumping said leaves in nice place. The tail end of the # 9 clean up is near. It feels good. It even looks good.

3. Jeez am I writing. In the last 2-3 weeks, the bones of two big chapters are done. I am writing about a character, a Mother, Christine Macabee--who I just love. Either I'm fleshing her out or she's revealing herself to me. She is so resilient and trustworthy. I know it's a good story, about a good family: I just hope I can write it well enough.

4. The roof in Ptown leaked into the kitchen ceiling (drip drip) last weekend so that's a surprise repair and expense. I wrestle with managing money these days. (Do you?)  I think I'm on top of it all and Bam! But I'm fortunate that I can usually fit in extra costs somehow. But still--Jeez # 2.

5. The election. Is it as bad as it looks? Is the USA really so starkly problematically divided? What can be done? I think about this.

That's what I've been doing.
And you?