Checking In * Thinking Yard Today * Countdown to 70 * Happy Birthday * Mail * Emails and Blessings * Maya Angelou
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.
MAY 18, 2014: CHECKING IN
I call Mom to check in. She says, "I have something I need to discuss with you."
Uh, oh. "What's up?"
Well, you know my rent goes up a hundred dollars a month every August. Steve, the manager, stopped by to let me know that, this year, they have to raise my rent two hundred dollars a month beginning in August. He wanted to give me a heads up.
"There's a lady here who is one hundred and four. There are two women who are one hundred and two. I may make it to one hundred myself and I've been thinking. If I move into a studio unit, it would cost me five hundred dollars a month less. That's six thousand dollars a year. That's a lot of money. I'm watching my money market balance go down every month. I have to face reality."
"Did you talk to Steve about this?"
"I haven't said anything to anyone. I wanted to run it by you first. I'd have to put my name on a waiting list. What do you think?"
"I think this is up to you. Would you feel comfortable in a one-room unit?"
"I think it would be okay. I'm not using my kitchen anymore. The bathroom would be about the same. I might have to get rid of my sofa and the TV credenza. There probably wouldn't be room for them. But, actually, the closet space in the studio is a little more than I have now."
"Okay. Here's what I think. It won't hurt to put your name on the waiting list for a studio. It may be six months or a year before one becomes available and you can always decline if you change your mind."
"That's what I thought. I'll put my name on the waiting list. We're on for Tuesday right? You're taking me to the eye doctor. And I need three new prescriptions. Are you ready? They're atenolol, amlodipine, and omeprazole. Did you get that down? And don't forget my shopping list. And don't forget my sheets."
I'm glad I'm checking in. Lots of business to discuss.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I'm in church today, and the congregation is mostly white and elderly, and we're all singing Bob Marley's "One Love" and I realize that this is a really fun group of people to gather with once a week for a conscious party.
MAY 19, 2014: THINKING YARD TODAY
I've purchased a True Blood Japanese maple to replace the African sumac in the front yard. I've picked up some red, pink, and white begonias for my patio pots, and an amber carpet rose for the biggest pot.
And, for the first time ever, I'm the proud owner of two Sara Bernhardt peony plants. These pale pink flowers are indescribable — all delicate and lacy and multi-layered. Their spicy perfume should be bottled. Where have these peonies been all my life? They're perennials but they'll die back to the ground, much like hydrangeas, in the winter. The tags on the plants promise that they're easy to grow, and says they need morning sun and afternoon shade. I'm planting them in front of xylosma shrubs as background foliage for their effusive pink blooms.
My yard's always evolving. I select each shrub, tree, and flower because it speaks to me, and because I deem it worthy to live in my patch of the universe.
There's a slight chance of thunderstorms tomorrow. The dark sky and earthy smell in the air give me hope that rain is coming. I'm thinking yard today.
MAY 21, 2014: COUNTDOWN TO 70
I wake up thinking, my God, tomorrow I'll be 70. For some reason, this turning 70 thing is seeming like a big deal to me.
When I turned 40, I wanted to flaunt it.
When I turned 50, I was too busy dealing with life. I didn't have time to think about it.
When I turned 60, I was fighting to regain myself and find a new path.
This morning, turning 70 feels like I'm being force-marched through massive iron gates into the walled city of old age.
A friend arrives with a dozen red roses. Each year, he takes me to lunch for my birthday and we catch up.
My friend and I go for a walk around the neighborhood and take in the blue sky, the Japanese maples and the flowering plum trees. I point out the brown and grey rocks where the little killdeer built her nest.
I post a photo of my red roses on Instagram.
Kerry calls and invites me to dinner, tomorrow, at her house with GG and Pat.
I scan my backyard for daylily and peony blossoms. I note the brown earth and give thanks for it still being beneath my feet.
I wake, suddenly, and check the clock. Five minutes left. I step outside to scan the night sky. No shooting stars. No cosmic omens. I suck in the cool night air and return to bed.
MAY 22, 2014: HAPPY BIRTHDAY
GG calls. "Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday."
"I can't handle this."
"Handle being seventy."
"Of course you can. You don't look seventy. You're healthy. You've had a good life. You've lots to be thankful for. You have to think positive."
"Thanks for all the sympathy, Mom."
"You're welcome. Pick me up at four-fifteen to go to Kerry's"
Kerry's threading turkey meatballs and fresh pineapple chunks on skewers for the barbecue. She's pairing them with a green salad and bottled dressing and keeping dinner simple. Regan sets the table with white plates and white napkins. She adds knives and forks.
GG's here. David and Pat will arrive after work. I'm turning 70 in the presence of my 96-year-old mother, my youngest daughter, her husband, my eldest child, and two of my six grandchildren. Megan calls from Utah. She and Britt and Aidan and Ashton wish me "Happy Birthday." Marisa calls from Seattle. She and Keith and Sam and Elise wish me "Happy Birthday."
GG's right. I've lots to be thankful for. And to top it off, Kerry serves a chocolate cake with dark chocolate glaze and dark chocolate frosting. The biggest surprise, however, is about to transpire. A new text on my iPhone says, "Happy Birthday!" It's from my ex-husband — the first message I've received from him since our divorce was final 11 years ago. I'm in shock. My emotions are all over the place. Like a messed up Rubik's cube. Like a chorus line of unsynchronized questions marks.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art." Maybe I need to rethink this 70s thing. Maybe my 70s will give me the chance to become a beautiful old person. A work of art.
All in all, a wonderful birthday. So, as it comes to a close, why do I know I'm about to go cry?
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Happy 70th Birthday to my Mom today. Love you so much.
MAY 25, 2014: MAIL
I'd sent individual notes to Marisa, Kerry, Sam, Elise, Regan, and Ayla to thank them for joining me for my birthday celebration in Bend. Kerry reports that Regan was thrilled. "She loves to get mail." Regan sends me a reply.
Thank you for the card. I loved it it was awesome. also, I love the oshon rols. They are so deleshes. I had a lot of fun at Orgen. Bend was so much fun. I rily enjoyed it a lot!!
P.S. thank you for the doson oshen rols. They wher deleshes.
Regan adds the drawing of a kitten at the bottom of her note.
Like Regan, I love to get mail. I think her thank you card for my thank you card deserves a new card. Have to hurry and send it before Regan outgrows her infatuation with mail.
Thank you for your nice note. I really enjoyed your drawing of the kitty cat.
I'm glad that you like to get mail. I do too! I think people feel special when they get a note in the mail. They realize that someone took the time to write the note, address the envelope, add a stamp, and walk the note to the mailbox. It means that the person who wrote the note is thinking of them. I'm thinking of you, Regan. I'm proud that you're my granddaughter. I love you lots!!!
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I have never seen my dog get spooked or scared by anything, but for the last few days on our regular walk, she's cowered and looked very scary and startled in the exact same place on our way to the park. I don't see or smell or hear anything but she definitely sees something ominous there. She jumped off her collar this morning she was so spooked. I'm thinking of changing her name to Ghost-hunter.
MAY 26, 2014: EMAILS AND BLESSINGS
I send an email to a friend.
I'm sorry to hear that the mental health system is failing you and your son. It's been 10 years since I worked with you and we had such high hopes for Prop 63. I'm running a little support group here for family members in this over-55 community that I live in. None of them have heard of Prop 63 services.
As you know, I'm partial to moms of the mentally ill. You are my heroes. Often, you're the only ones fighting for the adult or child no one else seems to care about. Thinking of you. Dede
My friend emails back.
My son ran away again tonight with no money and no clothes and he has no friends. He called to tell me it is all my fault, that I do not deserve to live, and that he's suicidal. The police haven't been able to find him. He really belonged back in the hospital last Friday when he tried so badly to be admitted.
He's somewhere in the city looking for drugs or alcohol and he gets abused by thugs. I think he threw away his cell phone again because he becomes afraid that I will call him. I'm a basket case and have been fighting for 20 years with this. Prop 63 funds are being totally mis-used and no one really understands if they're not one of us. Thanks for your message.
Pat's here to do his laundry and to have some dinner. He's pushed the wrong buttons on my TV remote and we can't get the TV to change channels. Lexi's crashing through the backyard and shitting in my daylillies. She's stealing cat poop from the litter box in the laundry room. Jazzy's hiding under my bed. Thinking of my friend helps me keep these annoyances in perspective. I'm thankful for this day with my son.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I get a fair amount of emails from Barack Obama's organizing for action group asking me for a donation of $3 or more. Similar requests come from many other Democratic organizations. Have our leaders all been reduced to constantly hitting us up for three bucks like they really need to buy a 40 at the liquor store?
MAY 29, 2014: MAYA ANGELOU
Some of the best perks of being retired are a steaming cup of coffee, the morning sun filtering through my kitchen window, and the unhurried assimilation of the happenings of the day. I admit the local newspaper is not what it used to be. It contains fewer pages, is printed on crackly paper, and is an awkward 22"x11." Its news is often old news thanks to the internet. The morning paper is, I'm afraid, an endangered species. My adult children don't subscribe to newspapers. My grandchildren and great-grandchildren probably won't know what a newspaper is or was.
In my world, this is a loss. Reading the morning paper is one of my rituals. A time to reflect. A place, among all the reports of murder and mayhem, to find pearls. This morning, for instance, the front page is devoted to the passing of Maya Angelou. Somehow I missed her celebrated 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a description of the black experience from the inside. It will be the next book I check out from the library. Meanwhile, a summary of Angelou's life, on the back page of section A, includes her final tweet posted May 23, 2014, the day after my birthday.
"Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God."
I'm reading and I'm getting goose bumps. It feels like Maya Angelou is whispering to me. "Maya, are you in my kitchen?"
"Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God."
Writing is how I listen to myself. Every now and then, while writing, I think I do hear the voice of God. This morning, however, I think I hear the voice of God while sitting at my kitchen table. The medium, this time, is Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou in the morning paper.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Rest in peace Maya Angelou. Thank you for your hard work and inspiration.
COMING UP THURSDAY, MAY 31, 2018:
June 1, 2014 - June 14, 2014: One of Those Days * MRI Scan *Specialness Everywhere * Time is Ticking By * D-Day * Thinking of you, Pop * Patrick's Facebook Post * Patrick's Facebook Post * Patrick Facebook Post * When There's a Need, Do Something * Ending
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