Painting angels

You were an artist
You are an artist
You said that you’d have to live to 120 to finish all your projects
And died at 61
I keep wondering
what the art supplies are like
and if you work on sunsets
or mountains
or lakes

Trey, 9
made a clay fish last summer that I admire
He said grumpily “It’s too bad Grandma Helen died before I could do clay with her.”
He tells me he’s ready to make raku pots to fire in your ashes as you wished
I ask what he’d make
He considers and says, “What was Grandma Helen’s favorite food?”
I can’t think and say that she liked lots of foods
At the same time wondering squeamishly if maybe
he should make a vase and then being surprised
that I am squeamish and thinking of blood and wine,
too, I wonder if my dad would know. “Maybe guacamole.”
I need to find a potter to apprentice him to.

Camille, 4.
asks how old Grandma Helen was when she died.
I explain that she died at 61 but her mother died at 92.
Camille asks how old I am.
40.
When are you going to die?
I say I don’t know, none of us do, but I hope it’s more towards 90.

Camille studies me and is satisfied for now.
She goes off.
I think of you.

I perpetuate
the Christmas cards you did with us
upon my children.
They each draw a card.
We photocopy them and hand paint with watercolors.
Camille wants to draw an angel
and says she can’t.
I draw a simple angel
and have her trace it.
She has your fierce concentration
bent over tracing through the thick paper
She wants it right.
The angel is transformed.

My kids resist the painting after a few cards as I did too.
Each time I paint the angel
to send to someone I love
I think of Camille
and you
and genes
and Heaven
I see you everywhere


January 19, 2002

published in Mama Stew: An Anthology: Reflections and Observations on Mothering, edited by Elisabeth Rotchford Haight and Sylvia Platt c. 2002

For the RDP: another day.

Game ball

Warning: this post contains some time out words.

How do I process the game you played?

I am the subject of the game.

Or the victim.

Or no, I refuse. It is your game. I was not playing. I am the honey badger, metabolism so fast that I have to run from one meal to the next or else I will starve. I eat whatever I can find: cobras, bees, anything. I eat or I die.

You have tethered a honey badger to oxygen by playing a game.

I am the football and you have been kicking me, throwing me, catching me, slamming me to the ground as hard as you can in the end zone.

And now that I am worn and damaged and torn, you’ll toss me away, not even notice me, and find a new ball.

You will need a new football. To play with.

I don’t envy that person.

The truth is, it will be one of you. The group will rest on their laurels, oh, we nearly killed her, wasn’t it great? We showed her. She is so stupid, took her what, 21 years to fucking figure it out? And she thinks she’s so smart.

I was looking for food because I am always hungry. The food insecurity goes back to infancy. Maybe to the womb: my mother says she was not to gain weight and spent the entire pregnancy longing for a gigantic ice cream Sunday. Think of being in a womb, attacked by antibodies to tuberculosis, and starving all the time. Might be a little bit worried when birth happens. Fuck, I am going through a tunnel, what horrors await me here? But maybe there will be more food.

Maybe someone will love me. Maybe there will be someone for me to love. And feed. We can give each other food.

My advice to you is don’t be the ball. I was the ball for 21 years. I was so hungry the whole time, for food and for love, that I kind of noticed but dismissed it as unimportant. Food and love were more important. Work and my patients were more important. You don’t matter and your games are trivial.

It will be the weakest one who will be the ball. You worry that you are the one. You should worry. You had better look strong right away. Post some horror. Write something really tough. Don’t show anyone any niggling doubts. Um, the ball is wearing oxygen. I am feeling a little bad about this. Are you feeling bad about this? The ball isn’t just crazy, it’s hurt. Actually crazy is an illness too: I know that you discriminate and think that cancer is a legitimate illness and that mania isn’t, but you are assholes. No, you’re too small and pathetic to be an asshole. You are a one celled animal that is clinging to a hair on an asshole and you get shat on daily. And you know, deep deep in your tiny shrunken heart, that you deserve it.

I am so glad I am not you.

I am tethered to oxygen. But I am healing. I don’t think you can. You are locked in your small sick pathetic triangulation competition and pretending that it’s a game that it’s ok that you are just playing.

Ick.

Meanwhile, the oxygen is portable.

I have food and I have love and I have work to do that lifts me on wings. I will go too near the sun and light on fire and fall burning, but that’s ok. I’ve done it before. The ocean heals me, always. It is so much fun to fly!

This is in memory of my mother, my father and my sister. I miss all three and I love them and they love me. Today is the day my mother died. The longer we live, the more days are days when someone that we love died. But they are still here. They are in the rocks and the sky and the trees and the coffee cup. They are not in sugary donuts or foods that cause heart attacks. But they are all around us, cradle us, still love us. Joy to you and the memories of your loved ones who have gone on. Blessings.

Qia and the liars

Qia is in her first year of college, 1200 miles from home. She joins the ski team, hoping to ski. There really aren’t mountains in Wisconsin. They are hills. She doesn’t have a car so she has to get rides to the ski hill. She does get demo skis, because she is on the team. It’s mostly guys, a few women. The guys chug a beer at the top of each run. The runs are ice after the first time down. It is very poorly lit and very cold. Qia is afraid of the ice and the guys and the drinking.

At Christmas she goes home, to Virginia. She really wants ski pants, she tells her mother. She is cold. She is still skiing in spite of the drinking and the scary guys and the ice. They yell at her to go faster but she goes the speed where she will not die. It doesn’t matter anyhow. She goes to a formal race and they have three foot tall trophies for the boys and nothing, not even a ribbon, for the women.

At home, her father is laughing. He is giggling, silly. He doesn’t make any sense. He gives Qia the creeps. Her mother sails along like nothing is wrong. Qia’s little sister has gone from the extroverted life of the party to locked down so hard that her eyes are stones. Fungk, thinks Qia.

Her father loses his down jacket, leaving it somewhere. Then he borrows her mothers and loses it too. Qia’s sister has out grown hers. On Christmas morning there are two down jackets and a pair of ski pants.

The ski pants are two sizes too small. Her father laughs. The down jackets are the ugliest colors, cheaply made, junk. Qia watches her mother and sister try to smile.

Qia leaves the ski pants and returns to Wisconsin. She gets a spider bite. It spreads. She goes to the doctor. He gives a laugh of relief and says it is shingles. He has to explain what shingles is. “It either means you are very run down or have severe stress.” Qia laughs. Worst Christmas of her life so far.

She realizes the problem. Her father has been abducted by fairies and a changeling put in his place. She reads everything she can find about changelings. Adult changelings are rare but not unknown. She pulls out every stop on top of her heavy schedule to learn about how to fight fairies. She can’t afford to hire a fighter. She finds an iron sword at a second hand shop. She hangs around the gyms and watches the fairy fighters fight. She goes home and practices every move. She collects herbs.

She sets things up before spring break. She arrives home and asks her mother and sister to go with her to a specialist in changelings and fighting fairies. Qia is sad but confident. Her mother and sister both cry after watching the movie about the behavior of changelings. Qia asks her mother and sister to help her.

They both refuse.

Qia can’t understand it. But she has studied and read the books. She will do it alone.

She meets with her father. She tells him how awful and frightening Christmas was. She tells him how ashamed and scared she was. She reads him a letter that her sister wrote to her, emotionless, about having to watch him when he is curled in a fetal ball at the top of the stairs. Her mother asked her sister to watch him, so he wouldn’t hurt himself. Her sister says that she wanted to go out with her friends. Her sister is in tenth grade.

Her father doesn’t say a word.

Qia begs him to tell her the key. The word that will open the portal. She shows him the sword and lists all of her herbs and describes her training. She tells him that after she defeats the fairies he will go home and her real father will be returned. She says that she knows he isn’t happy here, with mortals.

He doesn’t say a word to her for the rest of spring break. Her mother and sister do not say a word about it either. Her father drinks more heavily. Qia returns to college.

Qia refuses to come home for the summer. She stays in Wisconsin. She does not want to be around any of them.

Her sister is three years younger. Qia wishes that she could scoop her up and take her to Wisconsin. Qia frets and is in pain. Qia’s second year starts and her sister is in eleventh grade.

Qia’s mother calls. Qia’s sister is on her way. 3000 miles away. “At the last minute, C invited her to live with them in Seattle.” says Qia’s mother. “C was leaving the next day. Your sister decided and went with her. It’s a relief because your sister was getting A’s on tests but refusing to turn in homework, so overall she was getting D’s. ” Qia is relieved. C and S have a son named after her father. He is younger than her sister. Qia also has a cousin 6 years older who lived with C and S and still lives in Seattle. Qia wishes her little sister the best.

Years later, after her mother has died, Qia asks her father about it. By now her father is back and the changeling is gone. I was angry, says her father. But your sister was getting into lots of trouble. Really bad trouble. What could I do, locked in fairyland. He does not go into what Qia’s sister was doing.

And after her father dies, Qia finds a letter. The letter is from C to her mother. It is talking about her sister going to live with C and S. My mother lied to me, thinks Qia. I am not surprised. I wonder why she lied to me. Qia thinks it is probably because her mother set it up with C and did not tell her sister. Qia thinks that her mother lied to her sister. Qia thinks how much that would have hurt her sister: that her mother chose the changeling over her. Her sister would have been terribly hurt and angry.

But so many are dead, what does it matter? Qia’s mother is dead. Her father is dead. Her sister is dead. C’s son is longest dead. S is dead. Even the changeling is dead. Friends in fairyland let Qia know. Actually, Qia and C are the only ones left living.

C did not lie to Qia or her sister directly. She let Qia’s mother do the lying.

Qia does not talk to C again.

Qia is tired of liars.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

This is not a story about fairies. It is about alcohol or any addiction. We must support families, because the whole family becomes ill. Triangulation, lies, competition, enabling. In my maternal family, the enablers die before the enablees. I have chosen to leave the system and I refuse to be either an enabler or enablee. If you are in that sort of system, you may find that the family resists you leaving and tries to draw you back in to it. When you do finally succeed in leaving, there will be a strong reaction. When the pirahnas run out of food, they eat each other. Stand back and don’t get drawn back in. The newest victim will need to make their own decision to stay or leave.

The Introverted Thinker and the Extroverted Feeler Deal with Divorce

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 internet 11/2/09.

Mother’s Day Songs: motherless children

A friend and I are talking about Mother’s Day yesterday.

Somehow having a song about Mother’s Day came up. “Bet I can think of one.” I say.

“Humph.” says the friend. Or some skeptical comment.

I start singing.

“That’s NOT a mother’s day song.” says my friend.

“Well, it is if your mother is dead.”

“It’s not cheerful.”

“Yes, that’s true.”

So here is a recording. I haven’t learned the guitar part yet so I thought… well heck, why not sing along with Dave Van Ronk?* This is the third take. Might replace it with a later take later today.

Trigger warning: I miss my mom. This is about missing our moms. Hugs, all.

sing along with Dave Van Ronk

Happy Mother’s Day and hugs if you miss your mother.

*Is this a copyright violation? It probably is. Someone yell at me if it is. My brain is muttering something about sampling. Let’s see, from circa 1959 to 1961… does that make a difference?

alternative medicine

Ok, I got this picture off Facebutt. I CONFESS. But I really want a doctor kit like this: so I can practice alternative medicine. I am disabled from Family Practice and I have to apply for disability payments (miles of paperwork) and I hear that even as a contractee I can apply for unemployment (miles more paperwork) and I see my hospital bill on line for the ER visit where I had chest pain and shortness of breath and the ER doc didn’t even give me an aspirin, so I want to know why I should pay them $900 and I am going to apply for reduced payments because last year I made 42 K, less then the nurses at Jefferson Healthcare (EVEN MORE PAPERWORK FOR THE REDUCED PAYMENTS) and really, it all sounds rather exhausting and I’d rather let the paranoia rise and hide under the bed. Where the OCD and ADHD will make me arrange the dust bunnies and dust elephants by size.

So this looks like a great doctor kit. If the patient sees me and doesn’t do a darn thing that I say, I shoot them with the gun in the forehead. If they do a little but not really very much, I set up the bowling pins and shoot them with the gun while I talk about how irritating it is to have patients use MY TAX DOLLARS though MEDICARE MEDICAID ACTIVE MILITARY DUTY AND THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION NOT TO MENTION SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY to get advice and not follow it.

If they are merely disrespectful and tell me what Dr. Google says, I say “Duck.” and throw one at them. If they say, “I don’t take any farmasuiticals.” and bring a bag with the 12 supplement and vitamin pills they take daily, I give them the plastic pills to replace all their stupid supplements. “Here, take this. If it doesn’t work, I have suppositories, but they are four times this size so some people complain that they are uncomfortable.”

I am not sure WHAT the thing in the lower right corner is. A hair dryer? A fentenyl lollipop? Part of an old fashioned telephone?

Anyhow, someone find me one of these kits and send it to me. Pretty please. I am not allowed to do Family Medicine any more and really want to get started on Alternative Medicine.

Tired

Yes, so the picture is me during Family Practice residency at OHSU. Also a friend, visiting, a fellow graduate from Medical College of Virginia. She looks alive. This pneumonia is making me feel like that picture. I started internship and residency with a six month old. We would wait until 9 pm for his bedtime or sometimes he wouldn’t see me.

One night I was trying to give him a bath, after a day and a night and most of another day on the obstetrics rotation. I had to call my husband to come help, because I could not stay awake by the bathtub. Safety first.

When I had a really bad call night and then ran around the next day trying to get everything done so I could GO HOME, I could not stay awake until my son’s bedtime. So he would put me to bed. By age two he would tuck me in and babble a story and dad would turn out the light…..

I would come home from the day and a half working, just exhausted and my son would be doing something new. “When did he learn to CRAWL!!?!” I would say.

“Oh, is he crawling?” my husband would say. “I don’t know. Didn’t notice.”

RRRRrrrrrr.

When my son started two word sentences around age two, we would ask him questions. “Where does T live?”

“Pink house.”

“Where does daddy live?”

“Pink house.”

“Where does mommy live?”

“Hospital.”

I went and had a tantrum at my residency director. I was so mad at the faculty. My son thought I lived at the hospital. He was right, too. I was pissed and stomped around like a honey badger, wanting a cobra to fight. The faculty ducked into closets and bathrooms…… I gave them hell.

My kids are doing well in spite of mom living in the hospital. Though they acted out some, as normal kids do. A few years ago I asked my daughter, “Where are the barbies?”

“Hmmm.” she said.

I eyed her. That noncommital noise gets my attention.

She shrugs. “Ok, well. T and his friends and I blew them up with firecrackers. In the driveway. When you weren’t home.”

“Hmmm,” I said.

“We did not blow up the Get Real Girl because we knew that would piss you off.”

“Mmmm-hmmm.” Yes, it would.

So I wonder…. what else were they up to? How did the ceiling tiles get broken in the finished basement? There are various other mysteries…. if the house could talk, it would tell me.

The barbies came up a few days ago. “Didn’t you blow up any action figures? Aka Boy Dolls?”

“No.” said my daughter.

“That’s kind of sexist.” I said.

“Hmmm.” she said. And my son just laughed.




gridiron

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: gridiron.

This is my son in 2010, grilling.

Cooking off the gridiron.
Trey and friend Otto.

By 2012 the high school team is the Redhawks. My son played football, though he knew I didn’t approve. Too much brain trauma. He was fast or lucky or both and no concussion or broken bones there.