Dream log: June 20, 2017

I am with my father and my sister. My mother is not around. I am not sure if she’s gone or dead. Dead, I think.

My father has gone off. My sister is 3 or 4 and I am 6 or 7. I am taking care of her. We are at a park and I am trying to get food. It is Thanksgiving. It is not cold, it’s warm. There are large family groups at picnic tables.

My technique is to move in on a family group. We play near them and I listen for adult names. We play close enough that I can hear but not close enough to impinge on the group. When they start to clean up and take things to the cars, I am ready. I slip in and hold my hands out for a bowl. The adult looks at me. “Aunt Norma’s.” I say confidently, because I know which bowl belongs to each adult. And which bowl I want. The adult hands me the bowl. They can’t remember which kid I am, but I know Aunt Norma’s name….I head confidently with the bowl towards the cars and quickly slide it under my loose sweatshirt. I bypass the cars and head around to my sister.

Now the game changes a little. We have a couple bowls so she guards them. I work the next table alone and score a left over turkey.

The problem now is that we cannot carry it all to the car in one trip. I debate about safety. We are living in the car. I tell my sister to stay with the rest of the food and I leave her, carrying the turkey. It’s still light and there are still a lot of people around. She is sitting on the curb, bowls behind her, between two family groups. I will get the turkey to the car and then run back to her. The two of us can carry the rest of the food in one trip. Then we will have food for a while. She should be safe.

I wake up.

I took the photograph within the last month. What and where is it?

 

sleepy head

This is a story my mother told. When we were little, my sister and I lived with our parents in a small house near Ithaca, NY. We each had a bedroom downstairs. Our parents had their bedroom upstairs. We were not allowed up there, because the stairwell came to the middle of a hall and there was no railing at all. They were afraid that we would fall down.

I am three years older. I’m not sure I was always a good sister.

One weekend morning, my parents were lying in bed in their room, quite early. Suddenly a very round three year old face popped up at the end of the bed, with a wicked gleam, and spoke:

“Boodie with a yellow bill
hopped upon my windowsill
cocked his shining eye and said
“Ain’t you shamed, you sleepy head?”

And then my sister raced out of the room and down the stairs.

My mother said that when they got over their stunned laughter, they came downstairs to talk to us. I had coached my sister until she could recite perfectly, aside from the missing r. I think we got a mild scolding about the safety of the stairs, but since they were still laughing, I don’t think we took it seriously.

previously published on everything2.com, a slightly different version

mother, maiden and crone

When Beth is dying in Little Women, she says that it is like the tide going out….. sometimes I miss my sister so much. I am trying to make sense of the third stage, the stage after mother. With my daughter in college, I am living alone for the first time in 28 years. And I don’t have my sister or my mother or my grandmother to accompany me.

I took the title from one of my sister’s essays: An early promotion to crone. Here: http://e2grundoon.blogspot.com/2007/08/early-promotion-to-crone.html

I want to discuss my sister’s essay with her …. I can’t, except in dreams.

mother, maiden and crone

small child in my heart
baby cuddled warm
safe and loved
small girl dancing
sing run shout

woman seen and heard
woman silenced dressed undressed
woman learning searching writing
woman held and loved
woman gravid bearing carrying
woman feeding raising nurturing

crone quiet watching
white haired dismissed old
unseen unknown ignored
laughing playing dancing
crone alone
sing run shout
dancing

music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiP9WH0zN0Y

Rain on water

My sister wrote Rain on water and posted it on everything2.com in 2009. Here: http://everything2.com/title/Rain+on+water

She was writing about going to Lake Matinenda. Our family has had land with cabins since the 1930s and now the fifth generation has gone there.

My sister died in 2012. I wrote my own version while I was there last summer.

____________________________________

What are you doing?

nothing

outwardly nothing

Inwardly, I am on a journey. I am back at the lake. It’s been three years. I am at the lake when the family is not there. I take old friends who have never been there. One knew my sister as I did and has known me for thirty years.

He and his wife and his six year old love the lake. And the six year old wants freedom as we all want but there are rules and you must wear your lifejacket on the front rocks until you can swim and can swim a certain distance and we never get in the canoe when it is on the rocks, it must be in the water or the canoe will be hurt and my uncle’s shade is over my shoulder and I can hear him yelling about the canoes as his parents yelled at him. The birchbark canoe that he and my mother destroyed still awaits repairs. And I demonstrate how to tip a canoe over when we go swimming and how fast it goes. “You may try it, but first you must practice jumping in the water. Do you want to?” No, he shakes his head, no, the small canoe went over so fast.

They leave and I am alone. I am not alone. The dead are there, their ashes, their words in the log, their voices in my head, their heights marked on the wall of the Little Cabin, my sister’s clothes, a marker for my uncle, my grandmother’s bed has been taken apart and is now a bench and I grieve about change and loss but it goes on. My sister is a sea otter but there are no sea otters at the lake and she is at the lake with me because she said, “How will I find you?” and I told her how and she was satisfied. No sea otters, but there are river otters, they come, a family, three, playing and fishing. I sing to them, Pie Jesu and they watch me curiously and go back to fishing and I think of my father my mother my sister and that I think they would be happy to be river otters in the lake together and fishing. I am with them almost and crying. My grandmother is a white pine and in the mink, my grandfather is a dragonfly, my uncle is the snapping turtle, I wonder what my friend’s son is, dead at 22, and the next animal I see is a merganser, the hooded merganser with two babies and she is leading me away from them while I am in the canoe, they are hidden I know about where and she circles back to say that now they can come out and are safe and I think yes, that would be right, a child who grew to a young man and was lost, he might choose to be a mom next caring for these young and careful and nurturing them, protecting them, hiding them, leading danger away.

Loons call and I answer and my voice lessons have helped my loon calls, I can hit the high notes now. A long conversation with a loon with me in the blue canoe and the loon wondering, do I have a loon trapped in my boat or am I in fact a loon, yes, I think I am, I will be a loon not a human any more

I can’t swim for long, not yet strong enough, the taste of the water is ingrained, layers of memory back to five months old and beyond, in the womb, has the lake marked my dna in three generations, I don’t know but I am in the water I am of the water I am water tears and water

written 8/29/15

Beast Cthulhu and bone metastases

In 2011, when my sister wrote  Beast Cthulhu and bone metastases,  about her breast cancer being a treatable chronic illness, I was so sad…..

….because it was not true, even though I wished it was.

The perils of being the doctor sister.

It was clear that her cancer was progressing. Yes, she could request to continue treatment. Yes, they would keep treating her….

….but it wasn’t working.

The hematologist-oncologist chooses the best treatment first. Chris Grundoon was 41 and very strong and healthy so they hit the cancer as hard as they possibly could. Chemotherapy, mastectomy, radiation therapy, a second degree burn on her chest wall. It was stage IIIB to start with. Cancer is staged 0 to IV. Zero is “carcinoma in situ”, cancerous cells that have not even invaded their neighbors. Stage I is very local. Stage IV is distant metastases. Stage IIIB of ductal breast carcinoma means multiple lymph nodes, but not the ones above the collarbone, and no cancer in bone, brain, lungs or liver.

She had two years in remission.

The cancer recurred with a metastasis above the collarbone. The cancer had morphed as well, as it often does. Most, most, most of the cells were killed… but those that survived… were different. Now she was estrogen receptor negative, progesterone receptor negative and her2 negative. All genetic markers which help decide which treatment is best and how to target the cells. More and more are being found.

Our mother died of ovarian cancer. I went with her to her oncologist only once. My mother said that her CA 125 was rising, and of course she could do more treatment if she needed to. The doctor said something positive. I followed her out of the room. Once the door was shut I said, “My mother is talking about another clinical trial! She can’t do that, can she?”

“No,” said the oncologist, “Of course not. She is too advanced. But we will treat her for as long as she wants.”

Whether it works or not. Because she wants to be treated. In spite of diminishing returns.

My sister passed her five years from the day treatment ended. So technically she is in the five year survival group even though then she died. When she was diagnosed, the five year survival for her type of breast cancer and stage was about 5%. It had improved to 17% by 2011.

Her oncologist told her “I am referring you to hospice.” in the spring of 2012. She went to San Francisco to talk to another group about a clinical trial. But it was too far and too late. She refused hospice until about two weeks before she died. Fight to the end, she was willing to fight even when the oncologist said, “You are dying.” She had promised her daughter and promised her husband.

I saw her three times in the last two months before she died. She seemed angry to me on the last visit, glittering, knife edged. I tried to sing a lullaby, but she wanted something else. “Samuel Hall?” I guessed. She smiled and I sang it. My name is Samuel Hall and I hate you one and all. To the gallows I must go, with my friends all down below. Hope to see you all in hell, hope to hell you sizzle well, damn your eyes, damn your eyes. Then she trusted me to be present whether she was angry or sad or confused or once even happy, glowing, transported, transformed….

Some people do not go gentle. That is their right. It is their death, not ours, not mine.

 

The photograph is from the memorial here… My father had end stage emphysema, on steroids and oxygen, and I was hospitalized with strep sepsis the weekend of her first memorial in California. We could not go. Many people from our chorus Rainshadow Chorale came and we are singing the Mozart: Requiem Aeternum. My father died fourteen months later.

R is for ridiculous

Ridiculous. Silly. I can’t do S for silly because another of the 7 sins starts with S.

My sister and I could be so silly together. I bought the ridiculous Dr. Suess Christmas hat one year. On Christmas morning my sister wore it and then played with a Sesame Street style puppet. A monster puppet, where you could put different arms and eyebrows and eyes on for different moods. She and the puppet had a discussion about which arms the puppet would wear! And then she put all the velcro monster parts on her cashmere sweater! Ridiculous!

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malene's photo chris and silly hat chris - Copy (2)

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The last photograph is my sister with her daughter, being goofy and ridiculous. My sister died in 2012 of cancer…. I hope she gets to continue to be goofy sometimes on the next plane of existence and I miss being ridiculous with her!