Monday, March 2, 2015

Weekend

Spent the weekend curled up watching the new season of House of Cards except when I went to the church of Hal (Weight Watchers) on Saturday and to a leap year baby's 57th birthday party that evening (technically her actual birthdays make her still only 14), and then to the annual meeting after services on Sunday at which my sainted husband stepped down from his 4-year stint as warden and was promptly voted onto the vestry. A winter storm arrived in the afternoon. We walked home in the swirling snow, the flakes settling on our shoulders, in my hair, crystals crunching underfoot, the heavier-than-predicted snowfall covering everything with a soft whisper.

Once inside, I called my mom in Jamaica. Her caregiver Penny told me that she had eaten very well that day, oatmeal for breakfast, a bowl of soup for lunch with chicken and root vegetables smoothly pureed, yogurt in the afternoon. She is swallowing better, and her appetite has returned. We chatted a bit, and her voice sounded quite strong, though her words are now blurry. Apparently she had a fever last week and was prescribed antibiotics. They seem to have brought her back around, whatever that means. We said her favorite prayer together, the one she used to say with her grandchildren every night before bed. We said I love you. She said we are blessed.

After that, I watched House of Cards and dozed, hardly getting out of bed. I was fast asleep under the covers when my son got home at almost ten in the evening. He came into my room and kissed me on my forehead and put his mitt-sized hand on my hair. It was such a filial thing to do. I was touched.


Here's a photo of my boy that I ran across. His face is all manly angles these days and this photo shows him in the moment before those angles started to emerge. He was 12. It was taken right before his confirmation by the Episcopal Bishop of New York, who happened to be Jamaican-born and a lifelong friend of my parents. The Bishop, a man ever kind to our family, died late last year. His grandson was born a month after. Cycle of life.




Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mom

My brother called me this morning. He said mom wasn't able to swallow anything yesterday and we have to make some decisions. He wanted to know what was my sense of what she would want. We both agreed that she would not want extreme interventions. And that she is ready. So they'll just keep offering her food and liquids and let her decide. Apparently she ate porridge quite well this morning. She even seemed hungry after yesterday. Now she is sleeping again.


Life is heartbreakingly short, and we don't realize it till the end. Perhaps that is a grace.




Monday, February 23, 2015

The shade blue


I love the blue of the wall in that photo. It reminds me of the sea.

I took myself to the movies yesterday afternoon, saw American Sniper and did not enjoy it. Came home and had a good discussion with my son about why that was. He suggested that because the main character was not transformed in a way I could understand, I was left unmoved. He knows me well. I reflected that I wanted some acknowledgement of the futility of war—in particular that war—and some comprehension that 160 kills cannot help but tear the human soul. My son was not unmoved. "That's real life," he said. "People are usually not transformed to some higher mental place by war. In fact they're usually fucked up more. I like that they didn't put a gloss on that."

He told me a story about a marine who had waited outside of movie theaters to question patrons who had just seen American Sniper. This marine would ask the patrons what did being a hero mean to them. Invariably, he got this answer: "It means fighting for your country and being willing to die for your country." To which this marine responded, "By that definition, the people we are fighting against over there are also heroes. Did you ever think of that?"

My boy was in a lovely mood with his mama yesterday. Sometimes we get on so well.

I also had fun watching the Oscars with my friend TheBrittany_Be, with whom I traded tweets all night. She kind of made my night, just by being her smart, fem, wry self. (Favorite tweet: "Lets make popcorn and subvert the patriarchy.") As for the Oscars themselves, I think Neil Patrick Harris was tone-deaf as a host. Bring back Ellen, please, or maybe Tina Fey. The low point for me was when NPH appeared on stage in his tighty whities. Um, really? And that running gag about Octavia Spencer watching his lockbox was just deeply uncomfortable. ("You sit right there, no bathroom breaks for you, no snacks," he actually told her. Who did he think he was talking to? The Help? Why didn't he ask Clint Eastwood to watch his damn lockbox?) The high points for me were Common and John Legend singing the anthem "Glory," which they wrote for the movie Selma, and which won Best Song, and Lady Gaga showing off her extraordinary pipes in a Sound of Music retrospective. (Sound of Music was my mother's favorite movie of all time. We watched it again and again when I was a child.)

And now it is Monday morning. It's gray outside and gray inside, hence the photo of that Caribbean blue.



Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ghosts inside you


I haven't really been writing that much here. The truth is I've been feeling a little down and who wants to read that? I remember reading something once in which the writer described depression as a dull gray sweater she'd been slipping into and out of for years. I have been wearing that dull gray sweater for weeks now. Alone, I watch sad movies for the release of tears, The Theory of Everything yesterday, St. Vincent this morning, and I weep inconsolably over them. They give me a reason.

My Aunt Grace told me that the year before her mother died she cried all the time and she couldn't understand why.

I miss what it felt like when I was 26 and my love and I could simply go for a walk in the park and it would be a grand adventure.

I miss when my babies were small and snow all day meant being outside with friends, watching the kids whizz down the hill, so many of them because we were the ones with the good sledding hill in our back yard.

It snowed all day yesterday but today the sun is out. I feel as if I can barely stay inside my skin. There are people I could call but it feels like a great effort to be social.

I plan to watch the Oscars tonight, but first I have to get through the hours.



Photo: Art installation by Robert Montgomery


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Star Power


I had to post this photo of my wonderful and talented nephew. It was taken from his university brochure. Of course they used his image! Not only does he represent several demographics at once, his name is pretty awesome, not to mention he is the kindest soul, gentle and funny, and he's beautiful to boot. Look out for this one. He's destined.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

February slog


This photo was an accident. I had found that snapshot of my daughter and my wheelchair-bound father among my mother's things, and I held it up to snap a picture with my phone. I had not realized that my mother was in the background having lunch. The result was this photo of both my parents at the end of their lives. My father died of cancer nineteen years ago today, which was less than a month after this photo was taken. I miss him. My mother is still with us, but unbearably frail. I miss her, too. And then there is my daughter at one year old. As my father slipped away, she and her then four-year-old brother were the promise of everything yet to come, the realization of their grandparents' legacy and their undying love.

It's 18 degrees outside. My son doesn't go in to work until the afternoon on Thursdays, and he's sleeping in. He needs the rest. Sometimes I feel bad that he's working so long and hard, but then I remember myself at 23, and I didn't get home from work till ten or eleven at night. I'd eat a bowl of cream of wheat for dinner and then crash. I was working as a reporter at Life magazine then, and I traveled every other week. Those days of reporting and working with photographers in the field could stretch till past midnight. I never felt sorry for myself, so perhaps there is no reason to feel sorry for my boy. He's doing his life. If he doesn't like the way his life is set up, he'll make a change. Maybe fly off to Australia for a year or two. Maybe move into an apartment with two of his buddies (the alternate plan). One of his friends is in finance on Wall Street and my boy is now an investor. So many young people are unemployed in this economy and he has two jobs and investments, even as he waits to hear about the EMT gig for the FDNY. As much as he likes to have fun, he's a planner and a doer. He's never been lazy. He'll be okay.

I'll be okay, too, even if T.S. Eliot got it wrong when he called April the cruelest month. It's definitely February. I'm struggling a bit with the blahs. Work is helpful, because I'm at the editing stage on a manuscript. The whole thing is written now and it's just a matter of smoothing and polishing and layering in. This is the fun part. And then I will begin a new project. Lots of anxiety around the beginning stages. I always wonder how I will ever get to the finish line. So I try to imagine that in some parallel reality, the project is already complete and I just have to live into that eventuality. I'll manage to get it done because in a parallel universe I already have! The tricks we play.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

One Charmed Day

Our daughter came home for winter break for essentially one day. She arrived Sunday evening and left first thing this morning. Yesterday she and I punched through a joint to do list (items to order, summer abroad bills to pay, resume to update), chatting and laughing as we did. Our son was at work till late, but the rest of the family went to dinner at Red Lobster (don't judge; those cheddar biscuits are to die for) and enjoyed being together. Our girl is back at school now, having caught the bus in the midst of another New York City snowstorm. Glad she's back safe and sound. Of course, I miss her.




Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bookshelves


Two years ago we did a massive decluttering effort in our house, and among everything else over the course of a week, out went boxes and boxes of books. We put them on the giveaway shelf in the basement of our apartment building, and as we came and went we would check to see how many and what titles had been adopted. Happily, most of our books found new homes.

The clutter is starting once again to proliferate, with books shoved carelessly on shelves or left in piles on surfaces. I go from enjoying the sight of books all around to wanting to restore visual neatness to our shelves. When we first moved in and again when we decluttered, I arranged our books not alphabetically, not by type or genre. Instead I set them out on our shelves in height order, pulling each book forward as needed so that the spines also lined up evenly at the front. My family thought this weird, but no one felt invested enough to challenge my system, which I decided was as valid as any other.

Here was my daughter's bookshelf after decluttering. OCD much? Granted she was away at college and I had free reign. She had given me permission to "go for it." Her shelves sure don't look like this now.

So how do you arrange your books? What is your preferred order and are you passionate about it or laissez faire?


Friday, February 13, 2015

Stillness


Here's a thought from the late journalist and author David Foster Wallace: 

"The bee has to move very fast to stay still." 

I think sometimes my mind is the bee, but maybe I'm not spinning fast enough. 



Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hello Thursday


That brain chatter is back, torturing me with all sorts of imaginings. The crazy thing is I have only to have the thought to generate feelings as if the thing itself is happening. Like when you wake from a devastating dream and for a moment you feel broken, sure it was real, and it takes a while for the vapors to dissipate. Except in this waking dream the vapors cling. Why do I always choose the most catastrophic interpretation of benign events? I feel bereft this morning, shattered by figments. I swear it actually feels like a fist around my heart, squeezing it to smithereens. I want to run away, not deal. I probably need to just sit quietly today, not talk, maybe immerse myself in work.


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