When my introverted thinker daughter was two and a half, we took care of her maternal grandmother at home in hospice for nearly six weeks. Her maternal grandmother died at home.
Two and a half year olds can’t process death, right?
When she was four she came to me. “How old was grandmother when she died?” “She was sixty-one years old.” I could anticipate the next question. “How old are you?” “I am forty-one.” “When will you die?” “I don’t know. No one knows. But, great grandmother K lived until she was 93 so I am hoping to be more like her than like grandmother H, but I don’t know. I don’t think I am going to die any time soon.” She studied me very carefully. It felt like she was checking to be sure that I was telling her the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Apparently she was satisfied, because she toddled off to do something else.
And that is how the introverted thinker processed death.
Why are the roses caged, you ask? What did they do? Nothing, they are being protected. I found that rose and transplanted it years ago, but our deer eat the buds every year. This is the first time that it has bloomed in the 21 years I have lived in this hours. Isn’t it beautiful?
I am listening to this:
I wrote this poem today. This is one of the poems where I have no idea where it will go when I start writing it. I start writing about judgement and it never ever goes where I expect. The poems go where I want to go in my deepest heart, in my soul. I am never where the poem is, the poems show me the way….. Then I try to go there. And it can take years….
I am being judged and watched
I have no issue with the Beloved
it’s the humans I don’t like
I twist people’s words but not with malice
when the antibodies are up it is hard to communicate hard to explain it is hard just to survive and I might be focused on survival first and comforting the people around me second
can you blame me?
how near to death have you passed? and how often?
first pneumonia heart rate 135 when I stood up
my doctor and I could not understand it
my doctor partners thought I was lying in 2003
second pneumonia after my sister’s death which was bad enough but the legal morass that she had set up with her daughter as the center
pitting me and her daughter’s birth father and my father against all the PhDs in the maternal family smart, smart, smart yet emotionally stupid
my niece is not an inheritance to be passed to whom my sister wants
she reluctantly came home and the myth endures that this is an injustice
third pneumonia one year after I find my father dead triggered by grief and the outdated will and the mess he leaves
and I don’t even get sued about the will for another year
Let’s see. I have a sprained left shin. I fell on Monday, walking around a piece of property trying to find out if it had two streams. It doesn’t. It has one, three feet deep and over 18 inches wide. Who cares? Well, if it’s over 18 inches wide, it’s a salmon stream and to build a house you have to be 150 feet away. Which means you can’t because it cuts diagonally right through the property. Darn. I did not fall in the stream. I fell into a nice hole by a tree and rolled my left ankle a little. My ankles are pretty strong from dancing. It seemed fine.
So the next day I hike the beach twice, with my daughter and then B, maybe 6 miles. I am tired of hiking boots and try the toe shoes instead. “You have toe SOCKS?” said my minimalist daughter. “Of course,” I said, “Otherwise they are uncomfortable.”
Ankle is fine.
Next day I end up moving furniture. Ankle is a little sore.
Next day I hike a couple miles of beach in the morning and then a friend from Portland and I do the spit. We get to within a mile of the lighthouse, which means we hike 5-6 miles out on sand. It is gorgeous. I am limping on both feet by the time we get back, but left shin is worse. It’s really dumb to hike 14 miles in shoes that you have only worn once in the last year. I elevate my ankle once in the car.
The NEXT day B and I are on a jaunt. My ankle now makes it known that it is NOT HAPPY with me. We stop at the store for fud, as my son calls it, and I get an ace wrap and wrap it. Later we pay $1.00 at a Fast Food Joint for a cup of ice water and I ice it. At his park unit he mows and I limp along the river until I am in the sun. Later we hike Rialto Beach. I wore my hiking boots. My ankle is not appeased.
Now we are at yesterday. I have tickets to the Sweet Honey in the Rock on line concert. At noon. Junteenth. Ooops, no, at 3 pm. Ooops, no, on the west coast at 5 pm. Then I can’t make the stupid ticket work. I am really really frustrated. Well. I send them emails, try to get a new password, I have the ticket number. I keep getting a 503 server OVERWHELMED. Dang. I give up after an hour.
But I am invited to a Sinatra Solstice Juneteenth Bash, formal dress up. In my town that means wearing anything you can think of. I put on a gray dress, sleeveless but it has little gray flowers with silver gray pearls in the middle, all over the front. I have above the elbow white gloves. My ankle has a snug wrap and I put on dark gray hose and silver shoes with a 1.5 inch heel. I won’t dance, too hard on the ankle. I have acquired a set of gray pearlish beads which is so long that if I do not wrap it around twice it reaches to my knees. Mysteriously enough, it has a clasp. Why does it have a clasp? So some giant can put it around their neck? I complete the outfit with lipstick and my oxygen tank. The tanks are lighter than the concentrator, though bulkier. They are slightly bigger around than a tall oxygen tank but are light. I change the tank before I go. A full one lasts about 3-4 hours.
It is an outdoor party, there is tons of yummy food and there is wine and mead but no beer. I brought one beer along with my contribution, so I nurse my one beer… and dance. My ankle does not like this, but the music is so fun. Our host sings sets intermittently and then there is a DJ. The above the elbow white gloves are very fun to wear dancing and I have to try not to whack people when I spin with the awkward oxygen tank.
One gentleman thanks me for dancing. He says I am having so much fun that he’s having fun just watching. Cool. I LOVE to dance. One woman says something about wanting to pick one of the gray flowers off my dress, and I say dramatically, “No, I shall not be deflowered!” A line that one cannot use often… People have wonderful costumes and feathers and gloves and hats. It is fun just seeing what people are wearing. People were asked to come only if vaccinated and I am mostly distanced. I mostly dance alone, but have a couple of dances with guys. It’s a bit tricky to spin without whacking them with the tank. Tank girl, heh, heh.
At last I get home. I got to the party at 6 and it is not dark when I get home. Maybe 8 or 8:30? I lie down on the bed with an ice pack, propping my pissed off shin up on a pillow, just for a few minutes. Crash and wake up three or four hours later with the light still on. I turn out the lights, move the ice pack and go back to sleep.
Long white gloves and an oxygen tank. I am so grateful for the oxygen. I feel better than I have in the last seven years….
….and today I might just rest the ankle.
Here is one of my favorite Sweet Honey in the Rock songs:
Happy Father’s Day. My father died in 2013, emphysema from unfiltered Camel cigarettes. Damn cigarettes. I miss him.
One I am wailing. I am crying. The Bear came today, our bear, the tribe’s bear, our Spirit.
But he didn’t just walk through camp and take fish and his tribute.
He took my son.
He walked right up to where my wife stood still, as we must when he comes, and he lifted the boy in his paws. The boy was quiet and still, he did well, he was brave, but when the bear turned to leave, he called once.
Then our bear dropped to three legs, my son in the fourth, and turned and left.
My son, my son, my heart, my joy. Spirit Bear, return him to me! Two We fought, argued, for a very short time. The Shaman said that if Spirit Bear wants my son, he shall have him.
He does have him, I said, but I want him back. The Shaman knew that was true. Some shook their heads and say that my son is already dead, but most agreed with me. We were on the trail nearly immediately. The bear should not be able to move as quickly as usual when he is carrying my son. I dread evidence of my son’s loss, that he will be eaten. But that has never happened, in the history, in the songs. The Shaman said as much. But neither has a bear taken a chief’s son.
Three Spirit Bear is moving amazingly fast on three legs. He is headed for the mountains. Not a surprise. My son may get cold. But bears are warm. My son has not been eaten. Four We have to make camp. I am so angry that we have not caught Spirit Bear. Out of our home camp he is fair game.
We do the Bear Dance, four times. We did not bring the masks and the young men dance the women’s part and one sings the woman’s part. We made quick rough masks and costumes. The Spirits will forgive us. This is past all understanding.
What does a Spirit Bear want with my son? Four years. No one knows.
Five Day again. I am up before dawn praying for light, for my son, to find the Spirit Bear. Six We are hot on the trail. We find that Spirit Bear did sleep and rest. My son is dropping beads. Smart boy. Each bead means that he is still alive and relatively unhurt. Seven We have spotted them. Spirit Bear stood and looked down at us, my son tucked against his side. My son very slowly raised his arm, so he knows. Eight We are approaching the peak. Everyone is tired from the climb and hungry and thirsty. Yet we keep going. No one complains. Nine We reach the peak and Spirit Bear and my son. We arm our spears and arrows, but my son shouts “No! Look!” We turn. We see the water. There is something in the water. It has tannish wings that are filled with wind. It is huge compared with our boats.
We turn to my son. He stands and Spirit Bear leaves, ambling down the mountain, quickly, gone. I hurry to my son, sweep him up. He starts shaking and then cries, leaning his head into me.
We turn and watch the tan winged thing, which is coming against the wind. It comes at an angle and then turns, to the opposite angle, yet still it comes. We know this is new and that there can be terror or joy, we do not know which. There will be learning, we know that.
My son falls asleep. We carry him down to water and camp. We are all singing quietly, the song of new things, fear and joy. The Shaman will welcome us when we are home, and we will prepare for the winged thing. We do not know what it will bring.
We thank the Spirit Bear for warning us, for telling us to prepare.
I have pictures of all of these women with that expression.
This is Mary Robbins White, my grandmother’s mother.
This is the line of women: mother to daughter all the way down.
What is passed from mother to daughter and mother to son? Besides the fierce expression?
Mitochondria. The mitochondria are only in the egg, not in the sperm. My grandparents, had three children, two boys and my mother. My mother passed the mitochondria to me and my sister, but the men would not contribute mitochondria to their sons or daughters. It is amazing to look at that serious face with intensity and concentration and see that passed down to my daughter, my son and my niece….
Guess who is who in the following photographs. I took two of them.
My daughter is home and we went on a beach walk yesterday! The stupid oxygen keeps me from going fast. She went for a bike ride afterwards. Hooray!
Yesterday evening she brought up social distancing and how careful she should be. She has about 5 friends who are home that she is going to walk with. I am still wearing a mask over my oxygen tubing most places. She will unmask if they are vaccinated and they don’t have a cold or anything else. Even a cold would make me worse at this point. It makes me grumpy to be vulnerable, but I appreciate the discussion.
When my children were eight and thirteen, their parents were getting divorced. It had been a very long process involving hours of counseling and had officially started when they were five and ten. We paid counselors more than lawyers, which is a good thing. My Ex had pushed me to fire my first lawyer and to switch solo counselors. The final straw was when he decided that we needed to switch couples counselors.
“I don’t agree with anything he’s said.” said my future Ex.
I was flabbergasted but really it had been obvious. “We’ve been going to him for OVER A YEAR.”
“Yeah, but he’s on your side. I don’t agree with anything he says. I don’t want to go back to him.”
I found a new counselor and found that I had a new goal while filling out the paperwork: amicable divorce. We did one session with the children. The counselor introduced herself and talked about divorce and said that children often had questions. My extroverted feeler son went first.
“Why are you going to Grandma’s for Christmas, dad?”
Dad began to say that I was being mean to him, but the counselor intervened. “It’s not appropriate for you to tell your son about your disagreements with your spouse.” Dad argued, but the counselor stood firm.
Dad said, “I want to have Christmas with people who love me.”
The extroverted feeler just looked at him. “But we love you, dad.”
Dad stared back at his children. “Yes, you do. I am sorry. Next time I will talk to you before I decide what to do.”
My introverted thinker daughter went second.
“Mom, if you get divorced and daddy moves away, and if Auntie’s cancer comes back and you go to take care of her, who will take care of us?”
I think all the adults were stunned by the complexity of that question from an eight year old. I had left the children with their dad to go to take care of my sister for the week before her mastectomy over a year before. It was the longest I had ever been away from my children.
I replied. “If Auntie’s cancer comes back then I will not leave you to take care of her. Either she will have to come here to be taken care of or I will take you with me.”
That was it. She had only one question. She was quite clearly satisfied with the answer. I thought the counselor was amazing to make them feel safe enough to ask a big question.
Previously published on some obscure place on the internet11/2/09.
Going through boxes, I found this photograph of my father, Malcolm Ottaway, working on the Cornell cycloton. He engineered and built the stand, which had to be mobile but very very stable. I suppose it is called something other than a stand, but he died in 2013 so I can’t ask him. The photo would be from 1964 or 1965.
I framed it. What was the excuse for not framing it before?
To participate in the Ragtag Daily Prompt, create a Pingback to your post, or copy and paste the link to your post into the comments. And while you’re there, why not check out some of the other posts too!