Having a Moment * Keeping Promises to Myself * Mom * Irene * Deviant Normal * ALL THE MEANING IN THE WORLD * My George Clooney * For Crying Out Loud * Happy Birthday, Kerry Colleen
To read "My Diary" from the beginning, go to "Scenes from the Trenches" June 14, 2017, in the Archives on the right hand side of the blog page. To continue reading, scroll up in the archives from June 14, 2017, and click on each individual diary post. If you have difficulty, message or email me and I'll walk you through it. I didn't know, as I was writing, that I was capturing the last year of my son's life. His voice comes through loud and clear. For me, in these pages, he'll always be alive.
APRIL 21, 2014: HAVING A MOMENT
My daughter posts a photo on Instagram of my ex and his wife with her arms around my grandson. I can try to deny but denial's not good. This photo's stirring stuff up. Shouldn't those be my arms around my grandson? What was wrong with me? How did I let my marriage fail?
"What was wrong with me?" is the question we douse all over ourselves — forever. Maybe nothing was wrong with me. Maybe it was the time or the mores or my upbringing or any number of things. Is it possible I did the best I could?
When it comes to my marriage, I have to start giving myself the benefit of the doubt. I was and am a caring, well-meaning, and intelligent person. If being caring, well-meaning, and intelligent aren't enough, other elements must be in play.
Like luck? Like karma?
I don't know. There's a lesson here I'm supposed to learn. I'll keep working on it but, right now, I'm having a moment.
APRIL 22, 2014: KEEPING PROMISES TO MYSELF
I'm huffing and puffing with Deanne this morning. I'm not one of those people who gets high on exercise. I'm one of those people who hates exercise. I'm not enjoying the stretching, balancing, flexing, lifting, and pushing. I know, though, that I need to do this. I need to fight against losing muscle mass. I need to massage the old heart muscle with cardio exercises. Deanne makes sure I cover all the bases.
Home again. I paw through a messy desk drawer to find stamps, address labels, and note cards. I've stopped sending Christmas cards. Instead, I'm sending cards at random throughout the year to say, "Hi," and to let people know I'm thinking of them. Don't know about you, but I love finding cards and letters in my mailbox, and I find fewer and fewer. Like newspapers, written notes are becoming anachronisms.
This morning I've written cards to eleven people and dropped them in the mailbox. I have more cards to write but I'm taking a break and recharging my batteries. I want my thinking-of-you cards to be energetic with comments and questions specific to the person I'm thinking about. Otherwise, I may as well send out mass Christmas cards. "Happy Holidays. Love, Dede"
I visualize the recipients of my notes walking to their mailboxes. There among junk mail, bills, advertisements, and political flyers, they find my cards. They sit down at their kitchen tables. They turn the envelopes over pausing, for a second, to wonder what might be inside. They weren't expecting anything from me so what news could this be?
"Surprise. I'm thinking of you and wanted you to know."
Then I imagine that they go about their day with a lighter step, a little glow — someone's thinking, especially, of them. And I go about my day with a lighter step and a little glow because I'm doing what I promised myself I would do.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Nothing like a sign at your favorite watering hole that informs you that you must have been born by today's date in 1993 to legally purchase alcohol to make you feel really old.
APRIL 23, 2014: MOM
"Hi. How's your day?"
"Good. How's yours?"
"Good. What day can I make an appointment with the eye doctor?"
"Well, I'm thinking you better try for something after the week of May five. I'm on call for jury duty that week."
"Okay. How about Tuesday the twentieth?"
"That works if it's after two. Tuesday's my day at the thrift store. And if I happen to still be on jury duty, you'll have to reschedule."
"Okay. The twentieth. You'll pick me up at two?"
"I'll pick you up at two."
"Okay. What about my sheets?"
"I got your sheets."
"You did what?"
"I got your sheets."
"You got my sheets?"
"Yes, a full set that includes pillow cases."
"What color did you get?"
"They're white with a little pattern in them."
"Around sixty dollars for the set."
"Okay. What about my prescriptions?"
"I ordered your prescriptions. You should get them in the mail this week."
"Okay. What about Mother's Day? Do you want to come to the luncheon here?"
"Of course. Sign us up."
"Okay. And I have to tell you something. I had my blood pressure checked today and it was one hundred twenty-one over seventy-seven."
"I also got weighed and I've lost ten pounds."
"Wow. Good job."
Mom sounds pretty pleased with herself. She rides her scooter everywhere and walks between her bed and the bathroom with her walker. I know exercise isn't part of her weight-loss regimen. "How did you lose ten pounds?"
"I skipped desserts and cut everything else in half."
"How long did this take you?"
"About three months."
"Well, way to go."
"I'm drinking some Irish cream to celebrate. I have about one-fourth of the bottle left. Bye."
APRIL 23, 2014: IRENE
Irene calls. That's synchronicity. I put a note in the mail to her yesterday. She hasn't received it, yet. "I have a few moments and I decided to call you to catch up."
"It's great to hear from you, Irene. How's everything with you?"
"I'm busy getting our home ready to put it on the market, seeing my doctors, and weeding out what to give away and what to keep. I'm actually looking forward to moving into the assisted living facility in Grass Valley. I want my daughters to get their lives back."
Irene's also preparing for heart surgery and back surgery in addition to managing her progressive MS. "I get really tired and just do a little every day. How are you?" I tell Irene about the trip to Bend and my mother's 96th birthday. "These sound like wonderful birthday celebrations."
We talk for an hour. Irene is less than a year away from losing her husband, Eddie. She turned 70 in February. "Dede, I think we have to keep positive attitudes and keep moving forward. Let's stay in touch. Okay?"
More than okay, Irene. More than okay.
APRIL 24, 2014: DEVIANT NORMAL
I'm not looking forward to this. I'm in for my six-month check at the dentist. The hygienist is examining my tongue. "Have you noticed that the tip of your tongue is redder than the rest of your tongue?"
"Well, no, I haven't noticed." (I don't stand in front of the mirror with my tongue sticking out. Maybe I should.)
"Nothing to worry about. It's what we call 'deviant normal.'"
I like this term, "deviant normal." Shouldn't we all aspire to be deviant normal? To stand out? To not follow the crowd? To sometimes say, "Fuck you?"
"I think I may be deviant normal in more ways than the tip of my tongue. At least I hope I am."
The hygienist laughs. Sounds like other patients haven't told her they aspire to deviancy. She changes the topic. "It's been a year since we took X-rays of your teeth, so we will take X-rays today."
"Stop. Hold on." I'm practicing deviancy. "I've read studies linking dental X-rays to brain tumors. Nothing conclusive, but some experts are recommending receiving X-rays every two to three years instead of annually."
"Well, the radiation level in these X-rays is less than the radiation you'd get spending ten minutes in the sun. They're very safe."
After more discussion, the hygienist offers that I might opt to have X-rays every two years. "You know that X-rays may reveal problems that I can't detect visually."
"If you see something that concerns you, you'll let me know. Then, we can still take the X-rays, right?"
"Right." The dentist sits down next to me. I've never met this dentist and I don't know why she's not the same dentist I saw six months ago. The dentist concurs with the hygienist."You realize I can't see what X-rays might show."
"Yes, I realize. Let's take that risk."
The dentist pokes around in my mouth for less than three minutes. "I agree with the previous dentist. You should have treatments in four areas with receding gum lines. The teeth in these areas aren't protected by enamel. They can become infected."
"Are these fillings covered by insurance?" I know they're not covered by insurance because I asked this question six months ago. I'm testing the waters. I'm being deviant.
"I don't know anything about costs and insurance. I simply make recommendations on what's needed. The woman at the front desk can tell you about price and coverage."
Hmm. I've heard doctors say the same thing. "I don't know anything about costs or insurance coverage." Maybe medical/dental knowledge and knowledge of patient costs should be more integrated. Maybe health care personnel would think twice about recommending less critical, expensive procedures. Again, maybe they wouldn't. Maybe these procedures provide welcome, additional revenue. This is the new culture of health care — impersonal, corporate, pricey.
The hygienist cleans my teeth. "You're good to go."
The young woman at the from desk double checks for me. "No, the recommended fillings would not be covered by insurance. Yes, they would cost twelve hundred dollars."
I schedule my next six-month appointment. Deviant or not, I'm not looking forward to it.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Overheard at work: "Are you gonna go to the gun show, the fishing derby, or the rodeo this weekend?"
APRIL 26, 2014: ALL THE MEANING IN THE WORLD
Pat calls. "Mom, would you like me to take you out for a birthday dinner tonight?"
"Tonight?" It's not even my birthday month. My birthday celebrating will be over before my birthday.
"Do you like that fish restaurant in the Fountains?"
"It's good, but it's a little costly."
"That's okay. It's your birthday dinner. Meet me there at six-thirty."
Here we are sitting in a cozy booth. The restaurant's busy. Rustling prom dresses and black tuxedos fill the chairs. There's lots of girlish giggling at the tables. The waiter brings us the menu. At the top it says, "Happy 70th Birthday!!!"
I'm impressed. "Thanks for the personalized menu."
"You're welcome. Would you like something to drink — wine or from the bar?"
I order a glass of Chateau St. Jean chardonnay. Pat orders the same. "Good choice." Waiters always say that. Pat decides to order a bottle — two glasses for each of us. I worry about his budget, but this dinner is as much for him as it is for me. Today's his payday. He hasn't had paychecks in a long time.
There were days, in the past, when I hoped and prayed my son would survive. He was often missing, in jail, 5150d to a psych ward, or living on the street. I remember one night in the middle of yet another crisis. I was home alone in my big house on a hill. I felt like a mother animal — any mother animal — lion, tiger, bear, elephant, cat, dog — whose offspring was in mortal danger. I felt primal, obliterating emotional pain. I started crying in my kitchen. The crying turned to screaming — a someone-is-being-murdered kind of screaming. The screaming wouldn't stop. I wanted to smash every glass, cup, saucer, and dish in my cupboards. I wanted time to start over without the bipolar/schizoaffective disorder or whatever illness it was that no one could pin down, without the illness that was kidnapping my son and holding him hostage.
It's been a long road from that night to this night. For the first time in eight years Pat has a job. Thanks to my mom's generous rental policy he has a roof over his head. Thanks to me he has a car, and his monthly utility, phone, internet, and car insurance bills are covered. We talk about this.
"I want to start paying these bills myself, Mom, but can we wait until next month? My car's flashing a 'maintenance required' light on the dashboard. I don't know how much it might cost if the problem isn't under warranty."
"Take care of the car, Pat, then we'll revisit your finances."
Pat's bankruptcy filing was finalized March 22. Since then, he's been bombarded with letters from car companies congratulating him on his responsible decision to file bankruptcy. They're offering him deals on cars that don't require a down payment. He's also receiving new, pre-approved credit card applications. This should be illegal. It's corporations preying on consumers who have a hard time managing their income and outgo. These letters and enticements are placing a bug in Pat's head. "I'm thinking I should get a new car before I have to put a lot of money into the one I have."
The car Pat drives, and I own, is a 2006 Ford Focus. It's the same age as my Toyota Prius. I don't plan to buy another car anytime soon. "Pat, I don't think you should be taking on new monthly payments. Your car should be good for quite a while if you take care of it. What if you lose your job? What if unexpected bills come up?"
My squashing his idea is being ignored. "I'll have to cross those bridges when I come to them."
At 45, almost 46, with an intractable tumor lurking in his brain, Pat's trying to dig himself out of a deep hole. He wants to feel successful. I won't push this conversation further this evening. After all, it's my birthday dinner. It's the first birthday dinner Pat's treated me to. It's probably my best birthday dinner ever. I want the guests at other tables to know what a special dinner the two of us are sharing. I want them to realize this dinner includes, in addition to a side of grilled asparagus, another heaping side:
ALL THE MEANING IN THE WORLD
It's clear that others won't capture this moment. So I must and I am.
APRIL 27, 2014: MY GEORGE CLOONEY
Well, it was inevitable.
The headlines are screaming it all over the internet. George Clooney, my George Clooney, is engaged.
Maybe it's not true. Maybe there'll be a retraction. Photos, however, don't lie. In the photos, there's something in their faces. They look happy. They look together. George is 52. His fiancee, Amal Alamuddin, is 36. That's a sixteen-year age difference. There's an eighteen-year age difference between me and George. Why her and not me? She is beautiful. And smart — an attorney in international law and human rights who speaks multiple languages.
I get it. George is a human rights activist. She's a human rights activist. I might call myself a human rights activist. On a much smaller scale, of course. Like in my own backyard. I'll take the high road with this. I'll wish the happy couple well. I'll stop having dreams about me and George getting married. I'll start dreaming about getting invited to his wedding to Amal. They haven't set a date. Maybe they have and we're not in on it. Doesn't matter.
It was inevitable.
George Clooney, my George Clooney, is engaged.
APRIL 29, 2014: FOR CRYING OUT LOUD
I grabbed the tube of Preparation H instead of the tube of toothpaste and started brushing my teeth.
I left the pot of soup on the stove all night instead of putting it in the fridge.
I walked out the door with my credit card instead of my mailbox key to go get the mail.
I searched five minutes for my purse. It was hanging on my shoulder.
I drove north on the freeway for eight miles when I was supposed to be driving south.
I wore one blue shoe and one black shoe to a block party.
I put a clear earring on my left ear and a black one on my right ear and went to my workout with Deanne. She didn't say a word.
All of these events are true.
THEY DID NOT HAPPEN ALL IN ONE DAY.
MAY 2, 2014: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KERRY COLLEEN
Today, my fourth and youngest child is turning 37.
In 1979, the San Francisco Chronicle published my article, "Diary of an Unplanned Pregnancy." It was about my unexpected pregnancy with Kerry. Abortion wasn't an option and I felt trapped. I wrote, "I was beginning to dream of time for myself and here I am shackled again." I received dozens of letters from readers who were moved by what I wrote.
Kerry didn't know about the article. I pondered if and when I'd show it to her. Then, out of the blue, this choice was taken away. Fifteen years later, when Kerry was in high school, she and I stood in line at a mother-daughter luncheon. A mother of one of her classmates came up to us and said, "I remember that beautiful story you wrote about Kerry's birth."
Kerry's eyes got big. She looked at me like "What? What is that woman talking about?" There was no way out. I knew, when we got home, I'd have to pull the newspaper clipping from my file and give it to my daughter. Would she understand? Would she be hurt?
Kerry read the article. She said she got it. But really? Could a sixteen-year-old girl relate? Could she believe what I wrote at the end?
"As for you, Kerry, I know I made the right decision. It's hard to believe you once seemed so threatening. Now, I wouldn't give you up for anything. I sit and hold you, brush my face against your soft cheek, and still the tears come. The wonder of you. Of your new life. You and I are going to be fine, Kerry."
Thirty-seven years later, I still wouldn't give you up for anything. And, as I write this, still the tears come.
COMING UP THURSDAY, MAY 3, 2018:
May 5, 2014 - May 17, 2014: Jury Duty I * Jury Duty II * Ladybugs * Being Part of It All * Mother's Day * Books and Wolves * Deja Vu * California Chrome
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