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
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.
JUNE 1, 2014: ONE OF THOSE DAYS
More and more often I find myself saying, "For crying out loud." Some "crying out loud" examples from my recent past:
A red sock slipped out of my sweater sleeve in front of the checkout clerk at Safeway. I felt better when I recalled, at duplicate bridge, a man shook his pants leg and his wife's undies fell on the floor. I assumed they were his wife's.
I tried on a bathrobe at Target and it left white, clingy lint all over my navy blue sweatsuit. I hurried out of the store looking like a scruffy bird in molting season. A big, scruffy bird.
Which brings us to today.
This morning I scampered around the neighborhood with my t-shirt on backwards. And right now, I'm searching high and low for a bag of books. There are only so many places in this house that it can be. I've rifled through every drawer, cupboard, and closet, and looked under every bed three times. I remember thinking, I'll put the bag here so I'll know where it is.
The question is, where is "here?"
Gotta get off the computer and get back to the hunt. For crying out loud. It's one of those days.
JUNE 2, 2014: MRI SCAN
It's 7:45 p.m. I'm sitting in my car in front of Pat's house waiting for him to come out. I'm here to drive him to Kaiser for his six-month MRI to check if his brain tumor has returned.
We're quiet in the car. Pat gives me directions. "Turn left." "Turn right."
Walking into the hospital, Pat's six strides ahead of me, hands in his pockets. What's he thinking? Is he afraid? He'll take an Ativan, when he checks in, to make himself drowsy through the MRI scan.
I sit in the waiting room. There's one other woman reading a magazine and a young boy occupied with an electric game. The TV's blaring. I'm trying to read but it's impossible to concentrate in competition with the TV. I get up and ask the woman and the boy if they're watching the television. They're not. I turn the sound off. The new distraction, with the TV off, is the repetitive beeping of a monitor. Do hospital personnel get used to this sound and tune it out? Who and what is being monitored. Is it serious? There's an announcement over the intercom.
"Rapid response team report to 2 North, room 2106. Rapid response team report to 2 North, room 2106."
Again, who and what is being attended to. Is it life threatening? After forty-five minutes, Pat returns. "How did it go?"
As we walk through the hospital's empty corridors, I'm struck by the cold decor — the green and gray walls, the predominance of glass and steel. Feels like a prison, not a place of healing.
Back at his house, Pat get out of the car. "I have to take Lexi for a walk. Thanks for the ride. Talk to you later."
So much unsaid. So much hanging in the balance.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Let's hope that today I can avoid the mistake I made the other day of working for a couple hours in the ninety degree heat with two miniature chocolate bars melting in my pants pocket.
JUNE 3, 2014: SPECIALNESS EVERYWHERE
A woman with gray hair is writing out a check as I arrive at the thrift store. She's ecstatic. She's found a 1980s prom dress with puffy sleeves and yards and yards of pink satin. "It's perfect. I'm Mother Goose for the twenty-fifth anniversary of my hometown library. I used to be Mother Goose there, years ago, and I was afraid I wouldn't find the right dress to turn into a Mother Goose costume."
Another woman, who's joined the mental illness support group, walks in. She gives me a hug. Her young son is coming from his group home to be with her for his birthday. For the last three weeks he's taken a new medication and there's a change. My friend says her son tells her he's feeling more confident. He says, "You know, Mom, how I told you I didn't think I could make it in life? Now I think maybe I can. I'm feeling kind of normal."
I'm tearing up. My friend's tearing up. She buys a coat for $1. She buys a pair of shoes for $2 for the eight year-old daughter of a friend. "The little girl's in fifth grade, already wears a size eight shoe, and is over five feet tall. The other kids are giving her a hard time. I want to give her some individual attention."
A trim, stylishly dressed woman steps to the counter holding a black, sleeveless dress. "Is there someplace I can try this on?" I direct her to our restroom/dressing room.
A man and his daughter buy Indian jewelry, a boomerang with Indian designs on it, and an Indian doll for $20. "We're from the Central Valley and every time I drive through Lincoln I've wanted to come in this store."
"What will you do with all the Indian motif?"
"I live out in the country and have a room decorated in Indian decor. Something different for when my neighbors drop in."
During a lull, I poke around. I find a quote on a small plaque. "God put me here to accomplish certain things. Right now I'm so far behind, I'll never die." I buy the plaque for $1. I'll hang it on the wall beside my computer.
The woman with the black dress comes back. "Looks like it worked for you."
"Yes, but I may only wear it one time."
"Is it for a special occasion?"
"My son-in-law's memorial service. He was killed last month in a snowmobile accident. Yesterday, my daughter woke up from a medically induced coma, thank God. Now that she's awake, we can hold a celebration of life ceremony for her husband."
It's hard to find words. "I'm sorry for your loss. I'm glad your daughter's recovering."
With people coming in and out, time goes by quickly. At 2:30 p.m., Pat sends me a text. "MRI results came in. No sign of enhancement or disease in any area."
I text him back. "Awesome!!!!!!"
Another ordinary day. Yet it's remarkable in so many ways.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Got the results from my routine follow-up six month MRI which state: no sign of disease or enhancement in any area. Good news indeed.
Shannon: Awesome news Pat!!
Angie: So happy for you!
Anker: The force is strong within you Pat!
Patrick: Sometimes I feel like I deserve a friggin' medal.
JUNE 4, 2014: TIME IS TICKING BY
I'm almost to the end of my year-long journal. Soon I have to go back to the beginning and read what I've written. I'm aware of the responsibilities inherent in this personal recording. A few of the questions I'm mulling over:
- Which entries need to stay and which need to go?
- Will anyone I've written about be hurt or offended?
- Should these pages stay hidden away until everyone mentioned in them is gone?
- How can I write about my life without including others? Like a vine, I can't tell my story without noting the supporting framework.
Have to sort out the answers to these and other questions. Time is ticking by.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST:
Midnight housework giving me the blues,
daytime job pays for my shoes,
Eight solid hours of carrying another man's load,
such is the life of a previous toad.
Time at home should be filled with mirth,
but most of the time it dwindles to filth.
What to eat, what to wear,
when to speak, when to care,
these are the thoughts that action the air.
What kind of comedy show is this?
JUNE 6, 2014: D-DAY
Some days should never be forgotten. D-Day is one of them. Today's the 70th anniversary of D-Day in World War II. In 1944, Hitler's forces occupied France, held Poland, and were bombarding England with German rockets. The situation looked grim.
To turn the tide, the largest sea, land, and air invasion in history took place at Normandy, France, on June 6. One hundred and seventy-five thousand Allied soldiers stormed the beaches. Twelve thousand soldiers sustained wounds and over 4,000 US and Allied soldiers died. At the end of the day, the assault was proclaimed victorious. It changed the course of the war.
On D-Day, I was 17 days old fighting a battle of my own. A preemie, born six weeks early and weighing in at four pounds, five ounces, I was clinging to life in a hospital incubator. My little lungs needed time and an assist to fully develop. It would be over a month before my worried mother could pick me up and take me home. A year later, On V-E Day (Victory in Europe), May 8, 1945, my mother would wrap me in her arms and cry as the end of the war was announced on the radio.
I came into the world at the same time many brave American and Allied citizens were leaving it. I wasn't aware of the historic events swirling around me or of the sacrifices of my grown-up countrymen and women. The youngest soldier on D-Day would be about 88 years old now.
I'm pausing to honor the few still living survivors and those who fought and died to make the world a safe place for me, my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I insert my flag into the metal holder attached to the side of the house by my garage door. I look up and down my street and see one or two flags flapping in the breeze. Shouldn't there be more? Shouldn't the street be decked out like the Fourth of July? Could it be we're beginning to forget a day we should always remember?
JUNE 7, 2014: THINKING OF YOU, POP
Pop, you've been on my mind a lot in the last few weeks leading up to today's 146th Belmont Stakes. In the past couple of months, California Chrome, a California born and bred horse, has whipped up new excitement for the fading sport of horse racing.
This muscular, chestnut horse oozes star appeal. He basks in attention and poses for photo ops. He's won the Derby and the Preakness. A win today will give him horse racing's Triple Crown, the first time a California horse has won it.
I can hear you cheering him on, Pop. "Run Chrome, run. Go. Go. Go."
I'm screaming the same words myself. "Run Chrome, run. Go. Go. Go."
But no, it's not to be. Our Chrome has lost his historic bid and tied for fifth place. It's not his day in the sun.
The last time a horse won the Triple Crown was in 1978, six months before you passed, Pop. The Triple Crown was not on my radar then, but you relished watching Affirmed and jockey Steve Cauthen win that day. You talked about it for weeks.
You loved horse racing. Every time you sold a house, you'd stash five $20 bills in your wallet and head for Bay Meadows Race Track. Sometimes you won. You'd burst through the front door with a twinkle in your eye, grinning from ear to ear. "I won five hundred dollars today, Mama." Sometimes you lost. Then you'd slink in the side door like a guilty little kid who'd lifted a pack of gum from the five and dime.
The first time you took me to the races, it was at Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, California. I was ten years-old and too young to bet. You told me to pick a horse and you'd place a bet for me. I studied the racing form in the newspaper. I read about the jockeys and the odds. Before each race, I closed my eyes and ran my fingers up and down the racing program. I was waiting for a sign.
In the eighth race, I opened my eyes and saw my fingers squarely fixed on entry number six. I'd found my horse. For The Best. I knew it. I just knew it. You held two one-dollar bills in your hand, Pop. You'd place the bet or give me the cash. The betting windows were closing. What to do?
I chose the sure thing. I stuffed the two one-dollar bills in my coat pocket. For The Best, a long shot, won easily and paid 40 to 1. The crowd roared. I dropped my head on my knees and curled up in a ball. I wanted to turn back the clock and ask you to place my bet. I wanted to bet on another horse but I didn't have another hunch. The bitterest blow was still to come.
James said, "Place my bet, Pop," and his horse won. While you pulled our car out of the Santa Anita parking lot, my cocky little brother sat in the backseat counting and recounting his eighteen dollars in winnings. I stared at the cloudy sky out my side window. I was afraid if I looked at James I'd kill him.
California Chrome is kicking up these memories. I'm my deflated ten-year-old self again. I want to turn back the clock, reset today's race, and watch California Chrome bring home the Triple Crown. I want to see Chrome and his jockey, Victor Espinoza, bedecked with roses in the Winner's Circle.
Wherever you are — on a cloud or a star — like me, you're reeling. Another horse-racing broken dream. I'm thinking of you, Pop.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Northern California is going nuts over California Chrome. So as the horse race was about to begin, the parts department became vacant of parts workers. Everyone more or less abandoned their posts and gathered in the aisles of the auto parts store with their necks flexed so they could look up at the live broadcast of the race.
JUNE 9, 2014: PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST
I'm thinking about what to do with my dog Lexi while I am at the High Sierra Music Festival for four days in July. And I'm thinking maybe about leaving her with my mom or my sister or a friend and then I realize no, this is Lexi, and she deserves a five star experience. So Lexi has a four day reservation at the West Roseville Pet Resort where she will play with other dogs, get exercise, eat well, be comfortable, and even be treated to a massage, hot bath, blow dry, and yes, honest to God, an anal gland stimulation before being dusted with a gentle perfume and awarded a brand new royalty bandana.
Cody: I want to stay there.
Patrick: I'm sure that can be arranged, Cody.
JUNE 10, 2014: PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST
I know I am on the right track when I encounter pregnant women.
Connie: Please explain
Patrick: I know I'm in the right place when there are pregnant women around. They are the epitome of free, healthy space.
JUNE 11. 2014: PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST
Bucket List: Play guitar with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
JUNE 12, 2014: WHEN THERE'S A NEED, DO SOMETHING
A little over a year ago, I started a Family Mental Illness Support Group for Sun City Lincoln Hills residents. I put a notice about a first meeting in the local newspaper and in the SCLH magazine. I had no idea if anyone would show up.
Twenty-two people arrived at my house. Some decided the group was not what they needed. Others found regular attendance hampered by complications in their lives. I decided I'd continue posting meeting times and locations in the newspaper until no one appeared. Then I'd give it a rest. Some months seemed iffy. Six people would show up. Other months there'd be ten. Working in the Snap it Up thrift store, I met a woman not from Lincoln Hills. She asked if she could come to the meetings. I ran it by the group and they said, "Of course."
Today is our 14th meeting in a conference room at a local grocery store. There are 12 people in attendance. Five of them are new to the group. The woman from the thrift shop is here. She's telling of her ongoing challenges with her eleven-year-old adopted son. She's a single mom. Her son wants to come home from his group home. She wants him to come home but he has to get through summer school first. A new man asks, "Does your son have a male role model?"
"No, no one seems to want to take on this kid with issues developed in utero. His mom was a meth addict. My son's cells produce meth. Sometimes he has no impulse control. His little body has ballooned from forty-five to ninety-five pounds from all the meds he's taking. He's paying the price for his birth mother's addiction."
She continues. "I'm being christened tomorrow into the Mormon Church. I'm not sure yet about all aspects of Mormonism, but I'm impressed with the young missionaries who keep coming to my house to teach me about their religion. I'm hoping the social network in the church will provide a mentor for my son."
The group moves on to other people while the mom and the new gentleman quietly continue a private conversation. Our meeting ends. On the way out I tell my friend, "I respect your decision to be baptized into the Mormon faith." She says something that blows me away.
"The new couple who came today are Mormon. They're attending my christening tomorrow. The man's offering to spend time with my son. To be his big brother or acting grandfather. Dede, it was my lucky day when I met you in the thrift store."
If nothing else comes from this little support group, it will have served its purpose. You never can tell where one small effort might lead. When there's a need, do something. Anything. Then wait and watch what happens.
JUNE 14, 2014: ENDING
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 turned 70. I've kept a written record of my milestone year. Today, I feel like I've stepped out of a forest into a clearing free of shrubs and underbrush. I don't know how long I'll idle here or what type of terrain is waiting 'round the bend.
I intend this recounting as a gift for my 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.
Maya Angelou said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: I currently reside at Latitude: 38.7934560. Longitude: -121.2900540. Elevation: 45.45.m.
COMING UP THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 2018: CONCLUSION
After you had taken your leave,
I found God's footprints on my floor.
TAKING A BATH
I had no idea, of course, when I began writing in June 2013, that not only was I recording my 70th year, I was also recording the last year of Pat's life. I had no intention of including a "Before" or "After" section of my book. And then events necessitated a change of plan...
LAST FACEBOOK POSTS
"So," my five-year-old granddaughter, Ayla, asks her mom,
"we can still talk to Uncle Pat, right?"
"Right," Kerry answers.
Ayla's quiet and then says, as if pointing out the obvious,
"All we have to do is look up."
AKAMAI777 MY SON
(Wit, Wisdom, and a Big Hug from the Universe)
I love you forever.
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