To read "A Mother's Diary" from the beginning, click on the June 2017 archives in the right hand column and read "Before: Scenes from the Trenches."
Time dissolves in summer anyway: days are long, weekends longer. Hours get all thin and watery when you are lost in the book you'd never otherwise have time to read. Senses are sharper — something about the moist air and bright light and fruit in season — and so memories stir and startle. Nancy Gibbs
When we had the hot sand
when we conjured
a bottle of Cabernet
from a paper bag,
did their respective dances,
when we looked infinity
right in the eye,
when we saw one another
and felt possession,
were unnecessary excess,
still burns hot in my mind,
just like the circle of blue sky
that broke the fog
that fine afternoon.
JUNE 15, 2013 - JUNE 29, 2013
Beginning * What Will Show Up? * Mom * Pat * I Want To Quit Already * Help In the Mail * Inspiration * Change * Magical Thinking * Rain * A Question * Another Question * Happy Birthday, Megan Kathleen * Old Stuff
JUNE 15, 2013: BEGINNING
Right foot. Left foot.
Right foot. Left foot.
Footstep after footstep I configure my life.
Right foot. Left foot.
Right foot. Last foot.
Footsteps and life end so soon.
In May 2014, I'll turn 70. I propose to keep a written record of my milestone year. Am I entering a dark, isolating thicket, an evergreen, renewable forest, a gentle but boring shady glen, or something else?
I intend this recounting as a gift for myself, my descendants, and other wayfarers who catch a resonating echo while wandering in my woods.
It's later than I'd like but sooner than tomorrow.
Frances Mays said, "Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game."
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: "Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing." Camille Pissarro
JUNE 16, 2013: WHAT WILL SHOW UP?
Sitting in a swivel chair at a humongous, grey metal desk in Pop's real estate office, I was supposed to be reading. Pop was talking on the phone. "John, it's a new listing. Looks really good. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, ranch style, in the San Jose neighborhood you're interested in. It's offered at sixteen thousand five hundred."
As a nine-year-old, I wanted to be somewhere else — like outside in the sunshine. My mind began to wander. Staring at a scratch pad with "Moon Realty" printed at the top, I wondered what would show up if I began scribbling one word after another.
I folded my legs into the chair, put pencil to paper, and this poem took shape:
There I sat by the bay one day
I could hear the water far away
I heard the trees humming a song
And I felt the wind rushing along.
I watched the fields across the bay
Where the farmers work hard all day
And I saw the beauty of the land.
I picked a flower growing near a tree
And threw it off into the sea
It floated away like a drifting cloud
And a seagull bird trilled very loud.
There I sat by the bay one day
And that's where I wanted to stay.
I wish I'd kept writing — every single day.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: "Sometimes the strongest people are the ones who love beyond all faults, cry behind closed doors, and fight battles that nobody knows about." Author Unknown
JUNE 17, 2013: MOM
A photograph arrives in my afternoon mail. The inscription on the back reads "1919, Kansas City, Missouri." It looks like a picnic on a summer day, blurry faces, all but one now gone.
In the photo my infant mother, Evelyn, frowns from her mother's lap. Her big sisters, Ruth, Helen, and Margaret — pretty children I remember as old women — sit facing straight into the camera. One is grinning. One is laughing. One, the eldest, holds a stern demeanor as does her mother, my grandmother, Josephine. All are attired in complicated dresses — high necks, ruffles, long sleeves — difficult to iron. My grandfather, wearing a white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, sits cross-legged, offering a tight smile through pursed lips.
I never met Grandpa Chance or Grandmother Jo. (I have only her recipe for rosy pickled eggs.) Both died before I was born. I recognize them from previous family photos. I imagine the family still at the picnic, somewhere in time, posing together on the unmown grass.
Tomorrow, when I see her, I must show the photo to my mother. I must send my cousin a note to thank her for sending it.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: "I've reached the age where my brain went from 'you probably shouldn't say that' to 'what the hell, let's see what happens.'" Author Unknown.
JUNE 18, 2013: PAT
Pat calls and leaves a message on my answering machine:
"Mom, I saw the neurologist today. He wants to do an EEG to test for epilepsy. My psychiatrist is reducing the Depakote I take for my bipolar. She thinks it's the cause of my low white blood count. I've lost eight pounds in the last ten days since she lowered the medication. She also wants me to have a MRI every six months for my brain tumor.
"Oh, and another thing. Lexi needs a water bottle for her dog crate. She knocks over the water dish when I leave it inside the crate with her. The bottle is eight dollars. Can you buy it this week? I have one dollar left until Sunday.
"Lexi peed on the carpet a little while ago. Guess I didn't pay enough attention to her signals. She's being pretty good, otherwise.
"Talk to you later. Bye, Mom."
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: He's one of the greatest minds in history, and he says nuclear weapons were a mistake. "I made one great mistake in my life when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made." Albert Einstein.
JUNE 19, 2013: I WANT TO QUIT ALREADY
What about days like today? I'm only five entries into this writing project and I want to quit already. What if my stomach, due to circumstances beyond my control, is in knots? How am I supposed to write sensible sentences when I'm distraught.
My forty-four-year-old son has challenges that would bring Goliath to his knees. He calls to say the water bottle he needs for Lexi is fifteen dollars, not eight.
He asks, "Is this okay?"
There's a saying, "When Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
My corollary to that is, "When her child ain't happy, Mama ain't happy."
My heart hurts. I want to cry. I want to scream. I want to hurl porcelain dishes through plate glass windows.
I won't, though. Pat needs me not to. He needs me to be strong. Especially on days like today.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: "Sometimes someone says something really small and it just fits right into this empty place in your heart." (Love, Sex, Intelligence)
JUNE 20, 2013: HELP IN THE MAIL
Tomorrow a different, darker wing
will brush me, and again
I will tremble with longing and self-pity,
but in this early hour,
with the sun risen coolly
behind mists of morning
and small birds calling
one to another, branch to branch,
I am a mad woman of peace,
gliding through day's bloody tides
as though they were the clearest water.
Published in Potpourri, Fall 2003, Vol. 15, No. 3
Used with permission by poet Judith Werner
My cousin sent this poem to me in today's mail. Somehow she knew I needed it.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: "The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive." John Green, Looking for Alaska (Love, Sex, Intelligence)
JUNE 21, 2013: INSPIRATION
I'm driving this morning with my friend, Grace, to the Amador Flower Farm in Plymouth. The farm grows thirteen hundred varieties of daylilies. Everyday, in season, more than a million flowers bloom in the farm's growing fields.
We wander on freshly mowed grass through rows and rows of one gallon plants. I read down my prospect list — lilies I've selected off the farm's website — then crumple it up. It's much better to choose from the colors and shapes right before me, giving preference to any lily that seems to bob as I approach.
I choose evergreens with curly, outlined edges - Montage, Hostess, Eloquent Silence, Full Moon Rising, and Call Me Irresistible.
Daylilies come in every hue except true blue and pure white. Some experts say dallies are edible and have as much protein as spinach, more vitamin A than string beans, and the same amount of vitamin C as orange juice.
Three red and yellow lilies I purchased last year grow in a rear corner of my backyard obscured by denser foliage. I had no idea when I planted them — small green shrubs with spiky leaves — what treasure I was hiding. Now they're blooming. In the morning and evening, I walk out to admire them. I stoop close to inhale their soft, sweet scent.
Daylilies are so named because each flower lasts one day. When one dies, another opens. Each new lily unfolds with fervor — bright face to the sky — whether witnessed or not.
I find inspiration here.
JUNE 22, 2013: CHANGE
This is the year of the big migration. Marisa is moving from a big house in Carlsbad to a little house in Seattle. Kerry is moving from her small house in Roseville to a larger house across the freeway. Her in-laws are downsizing houses, moving from Nevada City to Grass Valley. Pat is moving from his tiny apartment in Roseville to Kerry's old, smaller house.
New jobs, new schools, new homes, new neighborhoods, new routines. Address changes on legal documents. Eleven lives rearranging.
In one year's time, what surprises might appear? What challenges might arise? Everyone is in motion. Change is the constant.
JUNE 23, 2013: MAGICAL THINKING
The sky's been promising rain since morning. I've been waiting, anticipating those first drops of water. But it's early evening and it's still dry. If I take a walk, maybe that will make it rain.
I plop on a baseball cap and head out the door. Dark clouds hover above me. Light clouds hang in the West. A slight breeze feathers my face and trees and shrubs nod to me as I pass by.
What's that? A drop? Another? This is working. A few splatters land on my bare arms.
A woman walking toward me pauses. "It's raining pretty hard over on Snapdragon," she says. "It may stop by the time you get there. Funny, it's hardly sprinkling here."
I walk faster, getting my hopes up. Snapdragon is three blocks up and to the left. I round the corner. No droplets shimmer on leaves. There are no sprinkles. There is no rain. Did I imagine that other woman in the street?
Back home I take off my cap. I turn on the weather report. Enough with magical thinking. At least for today.
JUNE 24, 2013: RAIN
What a marvelous, overcast, wet, summer day. It's such a relief from the ninety-degree weather. Leaves are glistening outside my windows. A gentle rain pitter pats.
Jazzy's curled up in a ball. We snuggle together under a soft blanket on my bedroom chaise. I'm reading a cooking magazine that came in the afternoon mail and marking recipes for broccoli cheese, tangy tomato, sweet onion, asparagus, and zucchini vegetable pies.
The article says, "This is savory and unexpected comfort food, to serve warm or at room temperature, and perfect for both cool and hot days."
More rain is expected tomorrow and then, on Wednesday, the summer weather returns.
If I had a fireplace, I'd start a fire. If I had a marshmallow, I'd roast a marshmallow. Instead, I'll light a few candles, listen to the rain, and wait for evening to cross the patio and slip in through the sliding screen door.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: When we realize that we're all under surveillance, we can behave like Shakespeare's characters who knew "all the world's a stage, and we are merely players."
JUNE 26, 2013: A QUESTION
I receive an unexpected email from our community administration:
"There's not enough interest in a family mental illness support group for us to
announce it in our monthly magazine."
Not enough interest according to whom? Twenty-two people attended the first support group meeting at my house. They squished together on my red sofa and chairs.
Now group emails are flying back and forth. Group emails are WMD (weapons of mass destruction). They target heavily populated areas. Open a group email at your own risk — they can fry your computer. People send out-of-sync statements and responses. Tempers flare. Defenses surface.
I send an email to request a cease-fire.
"Can we please have an in-person meeting to resolve any issues?"
I have to ask twice. There's resistance. How does trying to do something constructive get so freaking complicated? That is the question.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Summertime and the living is easy.
JUNE 27, 2013: ANOTHER QUESTION
I'm at Kilaga Cafe having lunch with a new acquaintance. She's a widow. She thinks, when you're a widow, people treat you differently. Differently than being divorced?
"Yes, some think you're more needy."
She gives me an example. "A week after my husband passed, I went to a birthday party. I sat down at a round table in the one empty chair. I chatted with the men on each side of me. You know. Small talk. I thought we were having a good time. Then we all got up to go to the buffet. When I returned to the table, the men were gone. Their wives, one on each side of me, now guarded their turf. This seemed so funny, I couldn't help myself. I started laughing and no one knew why."
I tell my new friend I have to leave to go meet with the community powers that be about my mental illness support group. She gives me some parting advice.
"If you have something worthwhile to do and you run into resistance, don't argue. And for heaven sakes, don't get angry and hung up on the principle of the thing. Figure out a way to bypass the obstacle and go around it."
After all the email brouhaha about lack of interest in establishing a support group, the in-person exchange with the administration staff member is friendly, or appears to be.
"Your meeting announcement will be published for three months in the bulletin section of our community magazine. That's standard procedure. Have a good day."
I leave the meeting perplexed. Another question teases. What was the problem in the first place?
JUNE 28, 2013: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MEGAN KATHLEEN
Today is my eldest daughter's birthday. I'm thinking about the day she was born. The weather in Rochester, Minnesota was typical midwestern weather - hot and muggy.
In the recovery room, I untied my hospital gown and placed my new daughter face down on my stomach. She clung to me the same way a baby chimp clings to its mother.
The two of us rested, bare skin on bare skin. One tired from giving birth. One tired from being born. The nurses let us doze for about an hour. I wanted to hold my baby like that, all mine and all safe, forever. I wanted the clock to stop ticking, but Father Time wouldn't cooperate.
Those birthing moments are memories. Now Megan is forty-three.
JUNE 29, 2013: OLD STUFF
What's this restlessness I'm feeling? I moved into this house six-and-a-half years ago. I must be entering my itchy period. Every once in a while, this over-55 neighborhood gets on my nerves.
Too many couples with lots of money and, at times, insensitive to the fact that not all bank accounts are created equal. Too many singles — including myself — widowed or divorced and wondering how our lives ended up this way. Too many grappling with the distinction between loneliness and solitude. Too many oblivious to the difference. Too many old people talking old people talk.
"She's unhappy because she doesn't have a husband."
"He passed away four days after he was diagnosed."
"The affair's still hot and heavy."
"All my joints are creaking."
"I need a hip replacement."
"I need a knee replacement."
"Where did I put my car keys?"
"I couldn't find my car."
"I couldn't find my driveway."
I'm going to go to bed now. If I can remember where it is...
COMING UP THURSDAY, JUNE 29, 2017: JULY 2, 2013 - JULY 14, 2013
Just Like You * Duplicate Bridge * Independence Day * Marketing * Aidan's Poem * Cracking Hearts * Mystery * %$^***@#!)% * Email Exchange With Pat * Support Group Meeting * Breathing * Morning Hassle * Evening Stroll