Friday, January 27, 2012

Got caught up watching M*A*S*H* marathon: How awesome is M*A*S*H*?  When I was in high school, and being home tutored for most of my classes, M*A*S*H* was on about three different channels at different points during the day, and I made my way through what I assume was all eleven years worth of shows. (M*A*S*H* was only one of a few shows I could watch with Nana and not have to listen to her complain about how horrible the world was during every scene: A show about war, she had no complaints about the downfall of our society; Friends, on the other hand made her think the apocolypse was right around the corner. :shrug:)

Every so often though, I am flipping my way through, and TV Land will have one on that I either didn't catch back then, or have completely forgotten about.  But the one that sucked me in tonight was the one where the reporter comes and does a documentary on the whole crew, and how a M*A*S*H* unit runs, and is basically a highlight reel of the seasons up till that point.  And even though I know it is coming, when they show the clip of Radar reading the message that Colonel Blake has died?  I can't help but tear up.  Considering I didn't watch the show until 13 years after it had gone off the air, I had no idea what was coming, and so it was still unexpected for me, still shocking.  And I thought about what it must have been like, watching the show religiously, back when it first aired, and to have that happen.  It's not real, obviously, but that kick, that gasp, that's real.

When my father died, I had just turned twenty, and we hadn't really spoken - aside from terse politeness and arguments during which he berated me as unsympathetic and I struggled not to cry - for quite a few years.  He was a less-than-functional alcoholic, and I was his oldest daughter, the one who had to take care of all the things he forgot - like having a birthday party for my nine year old sister, or picking up the pieces when he had disappointed my brother yet again, or helping my grandmother figure out how to deal with Child's Services when his ex-girlfriend called and reported him just for spite - and I had, by that point had my fill of it.  He was irresponsible, and I, Ms. Uber Responsible, was just done playing along like everything was fine.  When the back porch door to my grandmother's house would creak open, I would automatically tense, look at the clock, and hope against hope that it was anybody but him.

It was the ultimate reversal: as a little girl, whose daddy was in the navy her entire life, I had spent years wishing that he would come home again.  But during that period, after he'd been kicked out of the Navy and moved back home to live with my grandparents, I spent an awful lot of time wishing he would stay away.

But today, watching M*A*S*H* and remembering that tiny gasp I had when Henry Blake's plane crashed over the Sea of Japan, I was also tackling a chore I'd been putting off for a while - going through the Mass Cards, regular cards, and funeral book that I somehow gained custody of after my father died - and I remembered the much bigger kick, the full body freeze that I felt when my mom told me he had died.

And I remember thinking that it couldn't be true, that I was somehow misunderstanding her, and looking at my brother's face, and the horror and fear that was so clear in his face, and thinking: "I should be feeling like him."  But I was frozen, at first - I'm not sure I can explain how stuck I really seemed to be - it was like people around me were talking and acting in a way I thought was appropriate to the situation, and I was a step back, physically doing the things I knew I should be doing  - heading straight over to my sister and grandmother, holding them while they cried; comforting people at the wake; not breaking down when his mentally disabled brother couldn't understand why he wouldn't get up out of the casket - but I wasn't in my body while I was doing those things.  I did them because that's what you do: wakes and funerals and phone calls and thank you notes - I took the steps one after the other, and did the best I could.

But here I am, twelve years later, having carried all of this stuff - the flower cards and 'guest book' (they should really call it something other than that), the crucifix he held and the ginormous bible they gave us along with his ashes - to the new house, packed away in a box in the basement, forgotten.  Except we're trying to clean the basement, and there was this white paper bag, full of things I didn't want to face, and didn't know what to do with.

Here are all the lists I had to make post-wake, in order to organize the thank you notes, which I had taken charge of (Please, god, give me something to be in charge of!): who knew these people, which great-uncle's church group had sent this card, did anybody have an address for Mr & Mrs So & So?  (My father's death came in the middle of clump of family deaths - one each summer for three years - so I had learned a lot about funeral etiquette at my grandfather's funeral the year before: how you're supposed to put your address on the envelope of the Mass Card, so that grieving people don't have to track you down to say thank you. But my friends, my brother's friends, my sister's friends - they were all young... some as young as nine, and (luckily) inexperienced in the ways of funerals, and so there was some extra legwork to be done.)  

Here are the 45 or so perpetual Spiritual Bouquets, for a guy who was over the Catholic Church and what he called all its hypocrisy.  Here are the smaller cards from the flower bouquets - one from my brother sister and I, one from his mom, one from his brothers and sisters.  And the memory of a card which is missing - that of his volatile ex-girlfriend.

{ I can't seem to find a post in which I talk about how crazy fucked up my father's wake was, but it's long so I'm not going to get it all in here tonight (Maybe tomorrow's post, if I can get it to make sense to anybody who wasn't there).  Suffice it to say, she was not welcomed at the wake, and her flowers were disposed of.  }

But there's all these things and I don't know what you're supposed to do with them: Do I have to hold on to them forever, because it seems disrespectful to just toss them in the recycling?  Should I ask my brother and sister if they want them, even though neither of them are practicing religious anymore either?  I don't know who left me with all of these stupid grown up things to have to think about.

In the end, I weeded through them, keeping some of the ones I figured would be most important (although I still might get rid of those as well: I know who was there for me then, I don't need these cards to prove it), and putting the rest, with a thankful heart, in the bin.  (Even though it felt a little sacrilegious, even to this extremely Ex-Catholic.)  I'll give my brother and sister a heads up that I have some, if they want them, and I'll get rid of the rest, no sense dragging it along if it just feels like baggage.

And I'm surprised by how much baggage there still seems to be.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?"*

It's finally snowing here in Massachusetts - three quarters of the way through January, and the shovels have only been out once (a freak storm the last weekend in October): if that's not some evidence that the climate is screwy, I don't know what is.  I've mentioned before that I find the snow both calming and serene - an unpopular opinion around here, which undoubtedly stems from the fact that I don't do any of the shoveling, or really have to interact with its actual coldness and freeze at all, but I'd much rather it snowed in the winter than rained.  Winter rain is the most depressing weather: too gray and sad, all of the wet and none of the fluff of snow.  It m akes me shiver just to think of it. Spring rains feel necessary, as if we need a good hosing down before moving into the next, and summer rains are almost always exciting: refreshing after the heat, filled with thunder and lightening, moving quick and powerful like.  Rain in the fall is like the clean up crew again - scrubbing clean the trees, stripping things bare and a reminder that the year is coming to an end.  But winter rain serves no purpose - 'it's not cold enough to snow', it tells you,' but it might as well be. You feel how wet this is?  It's all for nothing.'  Snow is just cozy in a way winter rain will never be - even its isolation is beautiful.

No, if there has to be precipitation in the winter, it ought to be snow - something you can watch coming down and remember all the times they cancelled school and you got to watch game shows all day long, or all the snowmen you tried to make that never made it past your shin but you were still proud of them anyways. 

It's funny because last winter it snowed so much they started talking about holding school on Saturdays, kids had missed so much time.  And this year, so far, there's not been more than three or four inches at a time, and most of that has blown or melted away on its own.  Even today, although it's been snowing for a couple of hours now, the grass is still poking through in some spots, the inch or so that we've got seems thin, just enough to muffle things a bit, not even a full blanket.  It's supposed to go for most of the day, though, so there's hope for a more complete covering. 

Either way, I'm planning on spending the day with some hot chocolate, the radio, some blankets and something good to read.  I hope your Saturday is filled with things that you enjoy, as well.  

*J. B. Priestley

Friday, January 20, 2012

In the ball pit

I do this thing where I start thinking - really thinking - about something that's important: Have you noticed this about yourself?  Is there a reason why you have to run your mouth like that/act so awkward around new people/ be unbelievably cranky for no good reason?  And as soon as the truth about the thing starts rushing at me - as soon as I'm starting to get to the meat of the issue, or when it starts to sort of click in my head that this is not a unique occurrence, that I sometimes act like this and maybe it is a pattern... well, when the truth starts rushing at me, I start rushing away.  Is there anybody who needs tending or talking to, or playing with?  Isn't there a show on right now that I can escape into, be mindless with?  Isn't there a book I could read that would take me anywhere but here, facing the truth?  It's such an uncomfortable feeling, this realizing things about yourself, and I would do just about anything to avoid it, I think. 

When it does come, and I have seen the whole, frustrating, ill fitting truth about myself, it sticks in my brain: a large scaly burr just big enough and irritating enough to block out anything else.  I have no other qualities except  this uncomfortable truth - I am no longer a good person, a caring sister, a hard worker - I am only an inveterate gossip, a gigantic fraud, a loathsome individual who feels lonely until she's with people and then wants nothing more than to be left alone.  Even though I know that this is not true - that all the good things I am or do are not obliterated by some newfound/newly understood flaw in my character - it is how it feels, and sometimes how it feels is how it is. 

I have recently come to quite a few uncomfortable realizations about myself, and trying to integrate those things - a certain pettiness here, a confounding inability stick to the straight facts there - into my vision of who I am is proving more difficult than I'd have guessed. I have always known that I wasn't perfect ~ contrary to what others may think, I am well aware that my goody-two shoes image is just something other people see me as - I have never seen myself as such, and wouldn't really care to.  But these inconsistencies in my character - the difference between who I want myself to be and who I really am, these are things I want to fix, to change.  And that means recognizing them first, figuring out how deep they run and (maybe) where they come from, and how to stop doing them.  It's a lot of heavy mental lifting, and, for a person who has limited reserves of any kind of energy - physical, mental, emotional - it certainly seems Sisyphean. 

So I keep looking for low energy escapes - can I ever get my Google Reader below a thousand again?  Is Reddit being entertaining or insulting today?  Is there any way I can get my uncle to have a conversation with people so that they don't think he's an ogre? Let me organize every photo you've ever taken in your whole life! - and then condemning myself for needing these escape routes.  It feels like I'm stumbling around kicking at little pebbles, all the while trying to avoid all the heavy boulders I know I have to move if I want to move forward, but just can't even look at yet. 

It feels that way about everything - about all the work I have to do to manage my illnesses (and the question of when I decided that just 'managing' is enough for me), about all the things in my own behavior that I'd like to change; about all the topics in my family that need addressing, and all the ways we find of not addressing them; about not making time for friends and then wondering why they aren't making time for me; about the world as a whole and all the things spinning out of control in it.  It just feels like there's too many important things that should get looked at, poked at, lifted up and examined, fixed, and I don't want to touch a single one of them. 

A perfect example in the physical world is that my space is still not undecorated from Christmas - oh, the actual decorations are down, but the furniture is still all in the wrong places for every day living.  Thus making it more difficult to do things like get towels, because we moved the cart that holds the towels behind the chair, so you have to climb over the chair to get ready to take a shower.  It's little ridiculous things like that, but also huge life changing things like deciding to call the PT again, and see where that takes me, or actually changing my diet enough to prevent this diabetes thing from happening - and I just don't want to face any of it at all. 

And here I write the necessary caveats that "we've all been sick since Christmas! - and I mean sick sick, like the flu that won't die sick" and "I've just spent two months caring for a wonderful lady, whose head is harder than the stairs she fell down!" and "blah blah blah Chronic Illness, you idiot!" but all of that  - while true and real and just so much - doesn't feel like enough of a reason to let everything else pass me by.  I never feel like I am juggling half of the balls I need to juggle, there's just me, standing with maybe the three or four largest, most fragile balls, throwing them up and catching them (sometimes by the skin of my teeth, but still, catching them), and all the while, the floor around me is littered with a million other smaller balls.... It's basically me, standing up to my waist in the ball pit of Chuck E Cheese, trying to catch all these biggest balls, but knowing I've let a thousand more go.   And not knowing which of those thousand was the next most important - the one that needed me now, and I won't get to it for another three weeks.

I don't know what to do about all that - how to climb out of the ball pit, or juggle better, or even begin identifying the colors of all the stupid things I'm standing in.  I know this feeling will pass, or fade, because it has in the past, but it never goes away... I'm always fumbling something, and I wish I knew how to stop. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I suppose, after that title, I don't have to do a lot of explaining as to where I've been.  Without going into too much detail (you're welcome), I had a pretty rough week, and am still on the mend here, but finally feeling semi-human again.  Now I just need Mum to recover from her bug ~ which seems to include a hacking cough from which I was thankfully spared - and then I'll be able to take a real shower again, and up hopefully up that to actual human being.  Just exhausted, mostly, still.  That's going to linger for a bit, I know, which is frustrating. 

I will mention, however, that the flu bug most likely came courtesy of my grandmother's visiting nurse, who TOLD US, the day my grandmother and uncle both came down with it, that she probably brought it in with her the previous day, as "all her patients seemed to be getting it."  Hmm... Maybe - and this is just a thought - you should check your hygiene practices if you're going around spreading the flu to your (mostly elderly & infirm) patients?  I think you might be missing a step somewhere.  Now, if I could just get UJ to hand them all the Purell bottle when the walk in the door.  (Although 3 out of 4 of them always smell like it when they come in, and usually do it again as soon as they take off their coats.  But it's that fourth one that sneaks up on you, I guess.)  Both Grandmother and UJ had it, then I brought it home with me, and poor Mum picked it up last.  Everybody is doing much better, but I'm going to make Mum call the doc tomorrow about that cough (with her COPD, it can get complicated pretty fast). 

So flu.  Which leaves me with no interesting stories, no internet wanderings to report, no nothing.  But I figured I'd check in and tell y'all that, even though this winter has been unseasonably warm, it is still finding ways to kick my ass.  Now, let's have some good stuff happen, so I have things to talk about, shall we?

Am heading to my (overburdened and I know it has erased all the oldest thousands of posts) Google Reader next, to see how all of you are doing out there.  Hope none of it includes the word flu.

On the plus side, though, I did re-watch all of Firefly yesterday (I still haven't written the post about how traumatizing it was when I recently lent the DVDs to my sister and she gave them back because it was - gulp - 'boring and talky'  I may never recover enough to lend them out again); caught a marathon of Quantum Leap (no lie, I definitely had a crush on Dr. Sam Beckett when I was younger.  And yet I didn't think I was a geek?  I obviously did not understand the word); watched 34 episodes of Match Game 76! (I miss game shows: aside from Jeopardy, the ones on now aren't worth watching, and that makes me sad); and cleaned out about 50% of my DVR - so I definitely accomplished something

Thursday, January 05, 2012

In which I morph from Grumpy to Weepy, all in four short paragraphs!

For a large portion of the day, I felt so grumpy that I didn't think I should be allowed around other humans.  I almost typed "grumpy for no good reason", but then I thought about it, and it was more like "grumpy for a thousand good reasons, but none that I can do anything about right this second", which basically amounts to the exact same thing.  I came here, all prepared to write (yet another) endless rant about lord only knows what, but sometime in the last half hour, while sitting at the table with my family eating a very late dinner, the majority of those bad feelings shrunk down to manageable, and I think I'll save the rant for another day.  For tonight, I think I'll tell you how glad I am that I'm just sitting here, wandering around through the internet, while most of the people I love are accounted for. 

It seems, at least to me, that my life - and the lives of the people I am closest to - has become a series of blundering our way through one emergency to another, from one crisis to the next, ricocheting from one hectic gathering to the last, often leaving very little time for essentials of life, such as breathing or eating.  Every day has taken on an urgency that didn't used to be there, and at the same time, leaves me with such a useless, futile feeling: It's as if I'm running as hard as I can, and getting nowhere, not understanding that there's a treadmill beneath my feet as opposed to a street.

Moving all the time - at least mentally - and making no progress.  Even the areas where I can see progress being made, it feels like so little, too little to ultimately matter.  I am that prototypical lone sailor, trying to bail out my boat with a teaspoon, only some days, it seems more like a thimble.  So it's a rare treat when I can stop running for a little while, put down the teaspoon/thimble, and just be.
And even a half hour of just being.  Of just letting a good book take me far away, or sitting with my family at dinner listening to them bitch, or here, in the dark talking to you fine people, is invaluable.  (Literally had to just google invaluable to make sure it meant what I wanted it to mean.  It does: you guys are priceless, google says I say so.)   Back to the bailing, would appreciate larger spoons. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Oh goodness (AKA here are some parenthesis that I think you'd find interesting)

So ~ how was your December?  Eventful, I'm sure.  Mine, as well. 

In lots of good ways (holidays, Grandmother getting discharged from rehab, lots of sleepovers, etc, etc) and lots of not so good ways (pretty much that exact same list, plus all of the illness-y issues myself and others were kind enough to contribute) as well.

I took a bit of an unscheduled break there, for a little bit, but only because... well I didn't have any brain cells, energy atoms, or unattended moments to spare.  (Did you know that your inbox will stop receiving e-mails after a certain number?  Or that Google Readers could - not literally - overflow?  Or that the entirety of the world wide web would continue without you?  Now you do!)  Not because I didn't have posts I planned to write (and composed on during my daily drives out to/back from the rehab), or because I needed a break after NaBloPoMo (quite the opposite, actually: I was pretty psyched to keep going), but just because there was none of me leftover to sit and type with, at least not at an appropriate time, anyways (as in, when I was near the computer).  So, unscheduled blog break, it is.

Yesterday was our first full day without any extra people (people I love dearly, but now it is so! quiet!) in the house since Christmas, and I spent it at Grandmothers, trying to make sure she had what she needed (a little dose of "sanity", and a sponge bath care of Mum) and chatting about relatives I never knew, some apparent candidates for sainthood and others surely roasting in the fires of (imaginary) hell.  I am still trying to decide if it would be better if I packed up & moved in over there for a little bit, but it's an impossibly difficult decision for a million (totally overwhelming to only me) reasons, and I'm just doing the best I can to be in both places (often at once) for now... that might have to change soon, I don't know.  And today I was back over there to monitor her PT while my uncle drove SisterK to the airport to head back to Iowa, plus my mom had to have a liver biopsy (as follow up to her stint in the hospital), and then I came home just in time to be scolded by no less than 4 people (for completely ridiculous/arbitrary/WTF-ish reasons), and it's been a wonderful sort of day.

In other words, things are SNAFU( Situation Normal, All Fucked Up) here in NTE-land.

BUT: I am going to start eeking out some writing time, because I'm doing that 'my brain is a ticking time bomb' thing again, and that's not good for anybody.  (ANYBODY)  In the meantime, Happy New Year, everybody... have we decided yet if we're hoping for the Global Thermonuclear Zombiepocalypse this year, or not?  Cuz I'm still kind of on the fence. (Ok, not really.  But I might be, if I have to watch any more Republican debates/caucus/still in existence crap.)