Sunday, August 18, 2013

Rock, Paper, Knife

I am not entirely sure what is up with me. My throat and chest feel tight, like a rock is blocking my air, and all the external reasons I can come up with don't seem adequate to explain it. I sit here, tears spilling down my face, bereft, but of what? I wish I could do what some people know how to do so well, shut down, withdraw speech and love, envelop wounds in a cocoon of don't care. Even when they do care. Oh, I am a mess today. I don't know how to move forward. I am bleeding, but there are no knives in sight. I swear it feels as if I am bleeding out.

I need to stop watching Dexter.

My daughter goes back to college in a week. This does not help. Last night the realization came upon her. "Oh no," she moaned. "Summer is over. I'm gonna have to go back to classes!" "Transitions suck," I said, and she laughed. "Yes!" she agreed. "Big time. Too many transitions!"

Aunt Winnie, 94, has a new home attendant. We had to make a change because the weekend person couldn't manage her anymore and her frustration was making her unkind to my aunt. This new woman, I can't tell if she's really good or really strange. She treats my bedridden aunt like her little baby, cooing to her and kissing her forehead after every bite she takes or sip she swallows. My aunt has been refusing to eat lately. It takes enormous coaxing to get her to unclench her teeth. The home attendant who comes during the week is the only one who is able to reliably get food into her. 

Yesterday, I called my mom in Jamaica and asked her to talk to her big sister and encourage her to eat something. I put my mom on speaker phone and she said, "Come on, Winnie, one spoon for you, one for me, and know with each bite how much I love you." Aunt Winnie opened her mouth and took a few bites after that and then no more. The home attendant, Mary, then offered her Ensure so she would get some nutrients. She was patient and didn't give up and Aunt Winnie eventually did drink it down. But not before Mary launched in a high-pitched warbling rendition of "Amazing Grace," which did not seem nearly so odd to my aunt as it did to me. In fact, Aunt Winnie began to drink when Mary began to sing, and so I joined in and there we were, singing the hymn written by a sailor tossed in a storm at sea as she sipped her nutrients. When Aunt Winnie finally finished the milky liquid, Mary gathered her up in her arms and showered kisses on her head and cooed at her some more. I felt vaguely uncomfortable but Aunt Winnie was nonplussed. 

Mary definitely knows how to change her and turn her in the bed with the right motions and tricks so as not to injure her. She told me that the people she was working with before had asked her to leave because they wanted to withdraw food from their elder and whenever she came she would disobey that and feed her client. "She was hungry!" she exclaimed, showing me a picture of this woman on her phone. The woman was as tiny and old and emaciated as Aunt Winnie, and even though Mary should not have shown me a picture of another client, her affection for the woman was touching. Still, I'm not sure Mary doesn't have a couple of rivets just a little bit loose. I don't know whether to ask the agency to make her permanent on Aunt Winnie's case or not. I don't trust my own judgement. I guess I just need to observe their interaction some more. 

Life can be so fucking hard sometimes, and the hard can blindside you, too, knocking you down when you aren't paying attention because it seemed, just the moment before, that everything was going along just fine and you could let down your guard, breathe. I can't catch a proper breath this morning. It feels trapped somewhere just below my throat. So much free-floating pain. 

But look at this couple. Last night as I was heading out to meet a friend for dinner in the neighborhood, I saw them, sitting on a bench, heads together, talking. They had such a light coming off them. They seemed so happy. I asked if I could take their picture and he said, "Well, sure," and she said, "Life is just so good!" I told them I thought they were beautiful. They just smiled indulgently and graciously, and we introduced ourselves and talked for a few moments and then I went on my way. Their names are Lionel and Jean, which seems perfect somehow. I am holding on to the vision of them, today. 


  1. Good morning my young friend. The photo of Lionel and Jean is fantastic. I am sorry about the bleeding inside without knives. You are hurting for your family and for your children flying away away again. It's okay to cry. It too is a form of meditation. I'll think of you today. Take some good care of yourself Angella. Love yourself hard today.

  2. sending hugs your way. what an adorable couple

  3. Rebecca said it exactly right. You are bleeding inside and transitions are hardest on the mother, I swear they are. I know they are. They knocked me for forty loops.
    Can I ask you something? Is Aunt Winnie on hospice? Because if she is refusing to eat without massive coaxing, she may be getting ready to go on. Well, of course you know that. But hospice can help so much with all of it- hearts and bodies, too.
    Well, I will be thinking of you today. Especially tenderly. And thank you for sharing Lionel and Jean who are just visions of light and love. Yeah, they're good to think about too.
    Loving you, Angella. Wishing you some light.

  4. I do understand. Passion-aggression, I think of it sometimes.

    You are beautiful.

  5. Dear Angella, I agree with Ms Radish and Ms Moon. Two wise angels. Aunt Winnie's new attendant would give me pause also but she may just be another kind of angel. Wait and see.
    Lionel and Jean. Thank you.
    love and hugs.

  6. Oh, I know. I feel as if I'm sitting across from you and if we smoked, we'd take long puffs and tap our ashes together. Your warmth and honesty -- your womanliness just makes me love you. Here's to deep breaths -- and Lionel and Gene.

  7. You are bold and brave to express your truth, great example for those of us going through similar transitions.

  8. Life is hard. Life is beautiful. Life is what it is, and here we are in the midst of it trying to make something meaningful of it.

    Lionel & Jean, just like on the Brit-com "As Time Goes By."

  9. it's a gorgeous photograph. and the transitions are so son and his girlfriend were here recently for a long weekend, and it was so hard to see them go. like my insides were being ripped out all over again. as rebecca says (and knows) the bleeding is inside. it is good that you know how to put it into words, angella.

  10. It's hard to say what might be going on with Aunt Winnie's attendant. What seems peculiar may in fact be a gift. It sounds like she's effective in her strangeness.

    You are going through one of the most tumultuous periods for any parent -- the transition of your children to true adulthood and independence. On top of that you have all the concerns associated with caring for the older generation. I'm not at all surprised that you struggle with your feelings! Have patience with yourself. Just feel it all and let it pass, because it will. (Easy for me to say, I know.)

    Love the photo of Lionel and Jean! It's extra cool that you talked to them and got their names. Sometimes that context helps so much when viewing a photo.