October 31, 2015

My Life as a Country Music Song

Well, my dad, he's sick and doing his best
To grab on to his walker without needing rest.
My mama is stuck in an endless refrain
Of asking "when can he go home again?"
I got a daughter who cycles from bad to worse...

And the vet just told me my dawg Billy has a large tumor 
somewhere inside his abdomen with just a few weeks left to live.

And I'm out of red wine.

October 29, 2015

Field of Feelings

Two years ago, a developer bought up a farm down the road a piece. He cleared the corn stalks, graded it into gentle rolling hills, ran a nice access road into it...and put up fancy signs about 7 custom-built estates with 20 acre lots each.

Here's how he is doing with that.
About a week ago on a sunny Saturday, with just a bit of chill burning off, I was tramping through the upper left corner of this picture. My mom called distraught about my dad. A former reference librarian, she did not remember how to call an ambulance. She did know to run down the hall to Charlie, "because he is always having to take his wife to the hospital."
Like a bad three-act drama, the emergency room set turned into the second floor acute care unit, and then into rehab on the fourth floor of something ironically called the "Health Center." That would be institutional euphemism for nursing home (the fifth floor, for dementia patients, is called "The Garden.")

He progresses slowly, but at nearly 88 years old, "progress" is also a euphemism. This man, who never met a medical intervention he didn't like, refused further invasive diagnostic procedures. And  he's become a bit giddy with self-management, like a two-year-old who just discovered the word "no," refusing things just to see if he can.
 I sit with my father in this place, literally and figuratively. Unless I have to deal with the disorganization of this organization, so that he gets the promised haircut, the necessary nail trimming. I sit with my mom in her place. Which usually includes an endless loop of 1) torturing my father with grapes, tangerines, and the whatever cookies she manages to steal from the lounge; 2) nagging him to stop sleeping so much.and 3) asking me why he is here. When she agrees to leave his side, we go to the movies, we share a meal somewhere.

My other commitments have proven stressful, not nourishing. So I dropped my class at rabbinical school and I pulled out of volunteering at the nursing home. (Actually, I AM volunteering at a nursing home, just for a party of two instead of a whole room.) For the first time in my life, I make a conscious choice not to busy myself with to-do lists that will subversively distract me from my feelings. Because everything is changing and a world I knew is coming to end.  Distractions will not prevent that and so I might as well be fully and truly present.

Little by little, I test out the hypothesis that I won't die from feeling sad.

I take breaks for that which comforts me: hiking, stitching, getting winter camp in place. My socializing is skeletal and primarily canine. (Himself is tickled to learn that he made the short list of people I can tolerate at the moment.

"Wow," he hums as he pushes out his chest in pride. "My wife can TOLERATE me!"

I remind him that the list is in pencil.

And above all, I try to spend sunrise in the field that the developer built me.