Friday, September 30, 2016

Their New House

Two cars, two houses, two jobs apiece.... it's been a busy four years for Little Cuter and SIR.  Today finds them emptying a storage unit or two into their newest abode.  The big pieces come tomorrow, courtesy of big strong men who don't mind carrying heavy objects, according to my daughter.  For today, their bed and FlapJilly's room will come together quite nicely.

Does the kid know?  She's been counting down the days, just the way she counted down the days until Daddy came home.  Home has been a fluid concept for these three this summer.  He lived with his parents after starting his new job; the girls manned the home front.  They sold their house and moved in with his parents for a little while that stretched into a longer while and now they are on their own.

The house has that new smell, fresh carpet and flooring and cabinetry combining to provide a clean palette for the new owners.  The bedrooms are sunny and bright. The yard is big enough to justify a riding mower.  The driveway is long enough that the snow blower is not overkill.  There's a front porch with room for a swing, and a shed in the far corner of the backyard which they can fill with garden tools and supplies.

I can't wait to see it........ because it has been much too long since I've held that family in my arms.  I've been very patient, waiting and not whining (very much) as they relocated their lives.  But now..... I'm going to be very interested in the speed with which they unpack those boxes.... since I can't visit until they are settled.  

As far as I'm concerned, Settled means "Do you have a bed for us?" 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Cloudy Days, Cloudy Thoughts

It has been raining in spurts, but it's always been cloudy.  My thoughts haven't led to tears, but I've been revisiting sadness all day.  It's nice to have the weather cooperating; misery loves miserable company was a lesson I learned in Psych 101.

All the Happy Ladies card players yesterday were newer than I to Tucson.  They were, for the most part, newer than 2011, arriving after I was perforated, well beyond my 15 minutes of fame.  WHAT! You met the President and First Lady?!?!?  So, out came the album with the Pete Souza photos of recovering me and the Obamas.

No matter how many times they told me that I looked great, I went beyond and behind that and was right back in the hospital room at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, crying onto Michelle Obama's embroidered cardigan sweater.  It's a lovely memory, for the most part.  Yesterday was the least part, though.

For some reason, the memory of that afternoon was cast in the shadow of the sorrow.  Usually, I focus on that moment, not the reasons behind it. Usually,  I laugh at my dirty hair, at discussing broccoli with Michelle, at The President holding my hands and urging me to look at our better natures.  Usually I see that moment as the beginning of my recovery.  Yesterday, I remembered just how sad I was as I moved on.

Talking about the event has gotten harder for me of late.  I snapped at a stranger who wondered why I was limping. She'd had a recent hip replacement and was looking for a kindred spirit.  I saw her as an intrusive busy body poking her nose into my personal space.  This is new, for me.  Usually, I give a rueful smile and make a vague reference to an injury.  If pressed, especially if I look familiar, I'll tell the sad tale.

Lately, though, I've been curt.  I've been unwilling to share.  I've felt invaded.  I haven't been feeling the love.  I wonder if that's because I see myself as healthy.  I wonder if I am finally tired of being a poster child for loss and grief.  TBG wondered, in the early months, how I'd feel when no one recognized me any more.  Right now, that would be just fine.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Debate Blather - Random Thoughts

I have anecdotal evidence that the debate influenced at least one voter. Princess Myrtle reports an acquaintance shifting from Trump to Clinton, after watching Donald (if Hillary can call him that then so can I) last night.

At least someone was paying attention.
At cards today, a Happy Lady remarked that Hillary left the Cabinet because she was ill.  She said it with certainty, the way you'd talk about the weather.  When confronted with the notion that the Secretary of State left because it was time for her to run for President, when we wondered about the nature of the supposed illness, when we asked where she'd heard about it, she was stunned.

It had never occurred to her that this was not a fact.  She likes us and she trusts us so she didn't dismiss us out of hand.  Instead, she listened and saw the merit of our argument.  She's already disgusted with Donald, but she feels a lot better about Hillary right now.
This is a change election.

I heard it so often last night and this morning and this afternoon that I began to wonder:  were there crib sheets handed out by the media gods?

And anyway, doesn't every challenger run on change?

Hillary's as close to an incumbent as we have in this election and I need her to make my point.

Donald said she'd been fighting ISIS all her adult life, that she'd been making policy for 30 years.  She's got experience, I agree.  But it's bad ... bad experience.

He saw no problem in blaming her for everything.  Why not?

And the media is calling it a change election, feeding into the narrative.
I've been enjoying Sniffgate.

I especially like the fact that Donald says he wasn't sniffling at all.  It's impressive, watching someone lie about a viewable fact.
Poor Chris Christie.

Not only did he have the unenviable job of spinning Donald's performance last night, today a former aide described, in court, the Governor laughing about the traffic on the George Washington Bridge.  As if that weren't enough, there's a clip of Donald brushing off Governor Chrisite's role in the Bridgegate scandal this way: Of course he knew about it.

Poor Chris Christie.
My favorite part was Donald interrupting Hillary.

I love the fact that Lester Holt let him be Donald, making no effort to rein him in.  Instead, he allowed Donald to demonstrate that he is that guy who talks over you, who smirks at you, who makes it about himself and his version of reality... that guy who's in every workspace... who knows that he's better and bigger and cannier than you are....

I can't imagine that was lost on those white, suburban women who are or were in the workplace.  It's happened to every one of us.
Does anybody else find it unusual that you can't get a casino license in New Jersey without making your tax returns public but you can try to get elected to the Presidency without sharing the same information?

I want everyone to know where the Donald's debts lie.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Finding Happiness

It's right there next to love and hope, according to my Humanities Seminar's professor, Dr. Albrecht Classen.

Humans, he said, "destroy ourselves and keep on going.  Why?  The human spirit!"

That's love and hope and happiness all rolled up into one lovely package, tied with a ribbon of all of us.  "We are looking for light."

It was cold and drizzling this morning.  Monday during the school year brings out many more cars than Thursdays in the summertime; my commute to class took the same amount of time, but there were many more idiots annoying me.  The parking lot was filled, not just the prime spaces, but the ones in the middle of the middle, too. The wind at my back hurried me across the street just a little bit faster than I'd anticipated.

But, I had hope.  I was on my way to a favorite professor talking about interesting works I'd never have found, let alone read, on my own.  There were fourteen chairs arranged in a semi-circle around the podium; it was going to be a seminar and not a lecture class and I was thrilled.  There were old friends and new friends and strangers still to meet and greet, but at our break a new friend and I spent much so much time talking about love and happiness and hope and survival that the rest of them started without us.

Happiness, creeping around the edges of a gloomy day.

Have you ever thought about the 7 Deadly Sins as spokes on the wheel of life?

Do you agree with Gerhardt the Good that you can only do good if you are not looking for praise - from God or man?

Do you enjoy the History of Mentality or are you more interested in the History of Emotions?

I'm happily hoping that I'm going to love the rest of questions he asks this semester.  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Club No One Wants to Join

At dinner last week,  Fast Eddie's response to TBG's "How are your symptoms?" elicited a delighted belly laugh and a big, big smile.

"Once the doctor told me I was cancer free, I was so happy that nothing really bothered me for a long time.  Oh, this hurts or that's awkward?  So what!  I am cancer free!"

JannyLou and I exchanged a loving, knowing look.  We'd had that conversation many times; talking about life with a reverence and respect that, perhaps, was somewhat lacking before we both didn't die.

We looked at her husband as I talked and she nodded.

 "Isn't this just the best place to be?  You've faced it, you're okay, and it's not as scary as it used to be. Every day is a good day, right? "

He stopped.  All four of us took a moment.  And then we smiled, bright, beaming, up to the eyebrows smiles as the reality sunk in.  The sun came up and we were here to see it.  By definition, that's a good day.  Anything else is whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry on top of that fact.  It's liberating.

Unfortunately, the initiation process is pretty rough.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Quiet Day

The air smells of creosote, after 10 minutes of sunshine and heavy rain.

The roses are in full Fall bloom, surprising me as they have every year with these bonus flowers. Though smaller than their counterparts in the Spring, they are unexpected and, somehow, more precious.

I have Ann Patchett's new book awaiting me, and a tub slowly filling with epsom salts in which I can recline and read.

I have nothing more to add to the world today.

The sun came up and I was here to see it; by definition, it's a good day.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Happy Anniversary, Little Cuter and SIR

It's all about the love. It has been since the first time I saw them together, in Little Cuter's dorm room, at the end of her freshman hear. . She'd packed up most of her stuff, but there were stray bobby pins and scrunchies and papers lying on the floor, ready to be picked up and stowed away. SIR stood in the middle of the room, holding 5 suitcases, patiently smiling at my girl as she scurried abound, picking up the detritus of her first year away from home.  

You probably want to put those down,” I said. “This could take a while.”

I know. And it's okay,” he said, gazing at my girl the way a mommy wants a young man to gaze at her daughter. He was easy, glad to be in her aura, not at all put upon by the fact that she wasn't ready to leave. He was there because he wanted to be.

His sister invited Little Cuter to Indiana the next year, to join in her wedding festivities. “Mom,” she laughed as she called me from the Ladies' Room, “everyone says the same thing: Oh, you're Little Cuter! How do they know who I am?” The answer was simple – she was the girl he was going to marry, only neither of them knew it right then.

He followed her to Chicago and she followed him to Indiana and twelve years after I first saw them together very little has changed. They are still a team, working things out together so that the solution fits them both. There is mutual respect and understanding of the other's foibles. She needs her sleep. He needs to putter. They both need one another.

They fill each others' holes, stepping in when needed and stepping back when that's required. They giggle and they care and they love.... oh, do they love.

Today is their anniversary. Take a moment and revel in the fact that, in one little corner of our globe, two people are very very happy right now.

(edited to reflect the true number of years ... see comments below)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

He Drove My Car.....

He rearranged the mirrors and the position of the driver's seat.  He reorganized the air vents and reset the thermostat on the air conditioner.  I didn't have a problem with any of that.

He pushed the green ECON button and The Uv moved sprightly down the road as he chauffeured Fast Eddie and JannyLou and me to dinner.  

Did we lock the car?  He says he asked me why I didn't do it from the remote key.  I remember telling him that I'd pushed the button on the door.

After a lovely dinner and scintillating conversation, we returned to the parking lot to find the Uv's lights blazing into the night.  I leave the selection wand on AUTO; the lights come on when it's necessary and turn off with the engine.  I was confused.  I walked on ahead, sat behind the wheel, and realized that the accessories were all running, the car was "on" and the battery was dead.

Hmmmmmm..... did I mention that he drove my car?

We called AAA, returned to the restaurant for a while-we-wait beer, and met the kind technician 23 minutes later.  He jumped the battery, we drove home, but the mystery remained unsolved.  TBG is not the kind of person who forgets to turn off the car.  In fact, he made that point several times on the ride home, at one point describing his actions in stentorian tones
I double pushed it and got out of the car.
Double pushed it? Yes, because that's how he turns off his BMW.  My little Honda, so much less refined, needs but one tap to shut itself off.  Once it's off, one light tap turns on the accessories.  So, a double tap turns it off and then half-way on.... just enough to drain the battery and offer Fast Eddie the opportunity to try another craft beer as we waited for help.

Because she knew that I'd be devastated if she didn't, The Uv started right up when I bounded out of bed with plenty of time to deal with AAA again if she had disappointed me.  Nope, my girl was right there for me, not angry one little bit that I'd let him drive my car.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Angels in America - Millenium Approaches in Tucson

Scarlett and I sat for more than three hours this weekend.  With two intermissions and three acts which built upon one another until the whole thing came toppling down... or rising up... or burst into a zillion crisis pieces... the performance ended with a gasp from the audience and then.... silence.

Absolute silence preceded thunderous applause.  Though the applause must have been gratifying for the cast and crew, the silence was more telling... and spoke louder than the clapping of our hands. Matthew Bowdren's directorial debut left us stunned, speechless, moved, hollowed out, and aching for more.

Loss and abandonment, denial and greed and the consequences of living a lie.... The Rogue Theater's subject matter never leaves us laughing. We are thoughtful, introspective, wrung out, and shaky; our smiles are for the excellence of the production and do not reflect the angst we've experienced from our seats.  Someone must have written a worthwhile comedy, don't you think?

A quick survey of those sitting around us revealed that none of us had seen the play before.  Since we were all of a certain age, the play's setting was all too familiar to us.  1985 - Ronald Reagan and AIDS and the elevation of greed to an art form - was very real to us.  Big Cuter saw the play as history; we remembered the reality and saw no reason to subject ourselves to a retelling.... until now.

There were teary, older, gay men leaving the show.  I spent the afternoon thinking of my social work colleague, the third person in Chicago to die of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.... AIDS before it had a catchy moniker.  He kept telling  us that he was dying; we kept telling him that he was too young to be so depressed.  And then, he died.  Watching Magic Johnson these days it's easy to forget that, before dollars were spent on research, the virus ran unchecked through the gay community, and it was a death sentence.  Tony Kushner's words brought it all back, in a rush.

I don't know if I'd have ventured to see it someplace else, as a stand alone piece.  Those around me echoed the sentiment.  It was the first play in the 2016-17 season; we all had season tickets so we swallowed our reservations and took our seats.  Scarlett wanted to leave after the first act; it was painful.  The second act was intense, the third necessary to see what happened, and now she's sad because she'll be out of town in early October when they do a reading of Perestroika, the second and final part.

The passage of time hasn't dimmed the horror.  And that, I think, is a good thing.  It's good to be reminded that sometimes the government has to get over its reluctance to step into a messy situation and must act to save the vulnerable among us.  It's good to be reminded that politics has always had an inherently unsavory side.  It's good to see the consequences of hiding in plain sight, of self-castigation, of longing and of loss.  It's not easy, but it's necessary.

That, I think, might be a definition of art.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Yarn Bombing

YarnBomber is coming to Tucson. Stephen Duneier, the YarnBomber, is a true polymath.  This, from his website, is what he does when he's not covering the mountains around Santa Barbara with yarn:
He teaches Decision Analysis and Behavioral Investing in the College of Engineering at the University of California, publishes independent research, coaches the world's most experienced and successful institutional investors through Bija Advisors, and give talks around the world on macroeconomic related topics, as well as how to improve performance through a more mindful approach to decision making. He also does a special motivational talk just for K-12 students entitled, "Bija: Seeds of Dreams"
All that, and he had time on Saturday night to Skype with Tucsonans at TedX's gathering of collaborative fiber artists... part of the Dreamer creative team.... even if we didn't know we were worthy of such a designation until he told us so.

He's coming to Tucson, to cover parts of downtown and the University with alien campsites.

He took his inspiration from John Lennon's Imagine:
There is something magical about people of all ethnicities, colors, races, and religions, wealthy and poor alike, joining together from every corner of the map for a collective experience of pure whimsy. In moments like that, you realize, you’re not the only dreamer after all.
Is it any wonder the project inspired me?

6pm found me driving the Uv to The Rail Yard, a repurposed collaborative workspace, where TedX has a desk and some files, courtesy of a lovely landlord.  This is the scene when you walk through the warehouse-like roll up metal door.
Behind the couch is the great outdoors.
We could see the fireworks (which I mistook for a shooting star) over the UofA Football Stadium without doing more than turning our heads.  The breeze was gentle, the moon was nearly full, and the company was extraordinary.  

This is Miss Mary, leader of TedX Tucson, who is organizing the event. She was perforated when I was, back in 2011.  It's no wonder that the installation will go live on January 7th... our weekend.
There were nametags
and there was food
and there was yarn 
donated and brought by participants
and there were knitters in all poses

Some were new to the craft, some of us were crocheting, and Miss Mary kept busy making sure that we were all fed and hydrated and admiring the work which had already been donated.

Yes, she asked me to pose with the alien beastie and the projects she's already collected and, of course, I was up for anything.  

If you want to participate, there will be another gathering in a few weeks. 
The artist will be there.
So will I.

Friday, September 16, 2016

End Robo Calls Forever

No, it's not an interwebs meme.  It's a used by yours truly, totally free, delightfully easy way to end those calls from Nancy-at-Customer-Service-There-is-nothing-wrong-with-your-account-I-want-to-sell-you.

Never again.

I don't know if it works on cell phones (it looks like there might be a charge, but I didn't investigate any further), but I'm guessing that many denizens still have a land line.

When you can answer your land line, go to

It takes less than 5 minutes.  Your phone will ring once.

And then, whenever a telemarketer, a Medicare Specialist, an IRS scammer or any other robocaller tries to disturb you, you'll hear one ring, and then silence.  And the absence of that second ring is quite satisfying.

You can thank me in Comments.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

My America

Cards with the Happy Ladies Club.  It's Hand and Foot, a variation of Canasta that requires some but not total concentration.  With six decks in the draw pile, counting cards becomes an exercise in frustration.  So, we chat and we prompt one another when it's her turn, or when she's forgotten to discard, and then we go back to chatting.

If there are two tables, the conversation can often be loud  If there are six at one table, the game lasts forever.  It doesn't matter.  There are no toads in this group, there's no one I consciously avoid sitting beside, we all have our strengths and weaknesses but we're basically a congenial crowd.

And so, when Colin Kaepernick's kneeling during the National Anthem came up in conversation, there was no cause for alarm.  The Mainer was appalled, insulted on behalf of the military, thought it was a terrible idea.  I smiled and said I totally disagreed with her, that I thought it was a meaningful gesture that had far-reaching consequences and yes, he certainly could have held a press conference to express his views, but we probably wouldn't have been talking about it if he had.

The fact of our having the conversation, 60-something ladies in the desert Southwest talking about race and Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter and of course all lives matter but that's not the issue.  The issue is The Conversation - be respectful, hands in plain sight, say Sir, don't run - that parents of young black men have every time their sons leave the house.

That we were talking about it, parsing the details, worrying about where America was headed - that is my America.

And then, someone mentioned that she was still undecided about her vote in November. It wasn't all that awkward to ask her why.  She doesn't like either of them.  She doesn't trust Hillary; "She lied about Benghazi."  Republican sponsored Congressional Hearings found no facts, but she remained convinced that something was there that had not been found.  What turned her around was the reminder that that same investigating Republican Congress also refused to allocate the funds necessary to defend all our embassies adequately.  Mrs. Clinton couldn't have done it, even if she had wanted to do it.

She acknowledged Trump's basket of deplorable ideas, but thought maybe a change might be good for the country.  We worried that issue to death as we shuffled the cards for the last hand.  We were still smiling, still friends, still disagreeing but listening and thinking and, I hope, at least one of us was rearranging her future plans.

This is what I love about Tucson, and what I hold and have always held as my ideal of America.  The right to agree to disagree without the loss of status or freedom makes this the best country in the world... or as close to it as can be.  It was on full display at cards on Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I'm Glad She Said It

You know exactly what I'm talking about, don't you?  Mrs. Clinton called out the racist, xenophobic, White Nationalist rhetoric of Donald Trump and his admirers for what it is: deplorable.

It is deplorable that the Republican candidate for the Presidency of the United States, a person who will represent you and me to the rest of the world, can refer to a sitting United States Senator as Pocahontas and not be laughed off the stage.

"Sir, that is unacceptable language.  Racial slurs do not befit a candidate for the Presidency.

 No, do not try to justify yourself by bringing up a survey response from years ago...  that is not the point.  You are pandering to the basest, lowest, most cowardly instincts among us.  

That is deplorable, Sir."

If only I were in charge of everything.

I deplore the fact that David Duke sees Donald Trump as a standard bearer.  I don't care if Mr. Trump wants his support or not; the fact is, he has it.  The Donald is espousing policies which a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan find palatable and endorse-able.  If Mr. Trump doesn't find that deplorable, then he's part of the problem.

He's not the whole problem.  The whole problem is the second half of Hillary's quote.  The part about those who feel disenfranchised and left behind, those who feel ignored.
(Do I wish she had started with them, and then moved on to the rest?  Do I wish she hadn't said half?  Again, if only I were in charge.)
I think Aaron Sorkin was right when The American President described Trump's strategy, in 1995:
(He is) not the least bit interested in solving (your problem). He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. 
And the best way to make someone afraid is to define the enemy as the other, to call her names, to tell so many lies that the listener sees them as a baseline.  That is all deplorable.

And, I'm beginning to see Big Cuter's point.  I'm not sure how one can support Donald Trump and not see the deplorable pieces.  They're not just awkward (Mitt Romney's 47% comes to mind) nor are they harmless (I'm thinking Joe Biden on the campaign trail).  They are everything we tell our elementary school children to avoid - bullying, name calling, lying, judging by anything other than the strength of one's character.  If that is not deplorable, what is?

So, I'm glad Hillary called him out.  I'm glad someone is saying that these are not American values.  I'm glad she's using the right word - deplorable.

Sunday in Tucson - The Museum of Art

Scarlett and I took advantage of Second SundAZe @ TMA's free admission last weekend. I'm embarrassed to admit that it was my first time inside the museum's galleries.  I've been to the Art Fair on the grounds, but I'd never ventured inside.  Free of charge, I was willing to take the chance.

OK, I'm a snob. I grew up with MOMA and The Met and grew to adulthood with The Art Institute of Chicago.  I admit it.  I'm a snob.

But the Oriental rugs on special exhibit held my interest, and the folk art was as irreverent as folk art usually is, and the permanent collection had a few gems, too.  There was weirdness and there were pieces that made us uncomfortable, and isn't that what a good museum ought to provide?  

It was, in the end, a lovely afternoon.  

We started with the rugs, not only because they were at the top of the Guggenheim-like ramping of the museum.  They were hung with protective metal clasps, and were left loose against the wall so that inquiring patrons could examine the warp and the weft without touching the merchandise.
The warp and the weft?  Those are the crosspieces which make up the foundation of the rug.  The warp runs horizontally; the weft is the transverse strand.  The rugs consist of hundreds of thousands of tiny knots, latch-hooked onto the foundation.

I learned all that on Sunday. 
There were big rugs and tiny rugs 
rugs of silk and wool.
One was more marvelous than the next.

The children's program's docent was leading a discussion in front of this wall filled with portraits.
We couldn't get close enough to see more of the Native peoples' portraits,
but I took comfort in the fact that I could get up close and personal to Red Grooms' picture of Gertrude Stein
Isn't that exactly how you imagine her? 
While this slightly creepily cross-eyed beauty watched us, 
we admired this polished sculpture.
The next series is where it got strange.
Jason Young's Silver Tap looked like bullet holes to me.
I thought I was being a bit melodramatic, but then I saw this one in the same gallery: 
One in a series of Margaret Evangeline's Los Lunas pieces, this one consists of stainless steel and gunshot.  Yes, gunshot.  Not exactly what I'd hoped to see memorialized on September 11th, but obviously the perfect medium in which to punch holes in stainless steel.

And it just kept getting weirder, denizens.  

I'm not sure who needs to do a gunshot series.
I know I do not.

It was time for some fun, so off to the exhibit of Latin Americana collected by a member of the US Foreign Service over the course of a long career.  
These guys cheered me up immediately.
This little horse reminded me of a piece of McKenzie Childs ceramics;
I do not know.

With smiles on our faces, we headed for the gift shop where we were able to resist purchasing anything 
except a postcard for Brother.

Sadly, there were none of naked ladies, a standard in our family's pantheon of strange traditions.
Happily, that was the only thing lacking on an otherwise wonderful afternoon.
I can't believe I waited this long to visit. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Feeling Far

Far from my New York friends, who watched the towers fall, and whose memories are seared with images they'd rather not have.

Far from my girls, in new places, having new adventures, and without Google Earth I wouldn't be able to imagine them.

Far from serious culture, after spending the afternoon at Tucson's lovely-not-MOMA Museum of Art.

Far from the green hills of Marin, where September hiking and Fall flowers were one and the same for me.

Far from the Saturdays and Sundays spent driving little girls to soccer games, listening to Car Talk and Gilbert and Sullivan on the radio.

Far from my parents' annual wrangling over whether or not to buy tickets for the High Holy Day services (and some things are fine to be far from, it's true).

Far from studying for my first test of the semester, from completing my first paper, from turning in my first project.

Life has gone on and I am here, with a pack rat nest on one side and a bunny warren on the other side, with memories in picture frames, frozen.

I don't know why.  I just am.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Happy Birthday, Christina-Taylor

I wrote this 8 months and 3 days after CTG and I intersected with bullets.
I miss her.

Remember when we spent the afternoon taking pictures of the flower pot in my courtyard?  You started out directing the shoot but quickly assumed control over both the creative and technical sides of the equation.  My role was to keep my shadow out of your light..... and to explain, once again, just how to press the button half-way down to focus and then shift the camera for visual interest.  You held your finger down and tried to look at me at the same time that you were re-framing the shot and it was all I could do not to laugh.

"Like this?"

Yes, sweetheart, just like that.  Just exactly and perfectly like that.  

Remember when you and your brother and I were at the Chinese buffet restaurant and I said that you could eat whatever you wanted and promised not to rat you out to your parents?  We discussed, seriously and thoughtfully, the question of taste versus obesity versus self-control... right before you decided that "every once in a while can't be bad," and got up to refill your plate.  

I didn't tell you that your mom and I had had the same conversation ourselves as you two were getting organized.  We agreed with you, you see.  Every once in a while isn't bad at all, especially on a special day with Ms. Suzi.  Then, I made her the same promise I made you.  I promised not to tell.

Right then, I was the filling in that love sandwich of yours, and it felt just fine.  Just fine, indeed.

Remember when I tied the apron around your neck and gave you the glass water pitcher and asked you to deal with the ice and the tumblers on the Thanksgiving Day table?  G'ma helped you problem solve the logistics, but you did all the heavy lifting yourself.  You made sure we all noticed that it was done and done well, but only after you had finished the task.  And then you asked what else you could do.  After all, you said, "I'm already wearing the outfit."

Sweetheart, I want you to do the same this year, too.  

You should be on your way to New York City with the 49 other children who are Faces of Hope to join in the 10 year anniversary festivities planned to celebrate your collective birthday.... the day the towers fell.  Sure, most of them will be feeling sad about the absence in the skyline and what it represents, but you'd have been certain that they remembered and celebrated the wonderfulness around them.  

You.... the future.... engaged and interested and willing to put in the effort to achieve a result.  You.... with your big smile and kind heart.  You.....

I'll watch that same cohort of kids grow older as the anniversaries roll by, decade by decade.  I'll wonder about your face and your shoe size and your hairstyle but will be certain of your spirit.  You were a cheerleader for the passions in your life - your family, your country, your teams.  The world was your oyster and you knew it.  You were going to be something, you just weren't sure what. 

"Look at what one 9 year old girl can do."  I've heard your dad say it again and again and I believe every word of it.  Look.... pay attention, because my girl did.  What.... a foundation, a statue, inspiring 8 girls to play hardball.  One 9 year old.... 

Who should be strolling down Madison Avenue with your mother right about now, shopping for accessories.
Who should be writing me a thank you note for the present we chose together, because the experience was part of my reward.  

Who should be the tallest kid in your grade and proud of it. 

Who should be here, right now.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart.  I'm having a cupcake with a candle and I'm going to sing the birthday song and I'm not going to cry. I'm going to remember laughing over the camera and the greasy cuisine and remember the other thing your dad says... Don't be sad.  She would not want us to be sad.

I can almost see you here in front of me, hands on your hips, head tilted and eyes blazing.  No, ma'am.  I promise.  I will not cry.

Friday, September 9, 2016

In the Aftermath of The Rain

There was an explosion in the garden.
It doesn't happen all that often; when it does, gardeners are rewarded.
The trees are greener.
The crepe myrtle put out a few new blooms.
The stink bugs were washed off the rosemary and all but the most tenacious of the cochneal scale 
(the white spots, which are used as a red dye) were rinsed off the Opuntiai's paddles.

And, in the containers, the roses came out for one last hurrah
and the ignored basket was able to recoup some of its losses.
The people may have been grumpy, but the flora are very grateful for that long, slow, steady soaking.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Thoughts on a Rainy Day

Apparently, there was a big storm in Texas that decided to visit Arizona this week.  It was beautifully cloudy yesterday, with all sorts of fantastic animal shapes in the sky.  I drove through a drizzle or two, but when I pulled into the garage The Uv was still shiny after her Monday car wash.

The same cannot be said of her today.  It's been a steady, light rain since I peeked out the blinds this morning, a little after 7am.  Debating whether to go back to sleep or go to the gym, I shlumped out to the living room, looking for my spouse.  Curled up in his cozy bathrobe on the couch, I heard him snoring gently to ESPN.

And then, I saw it. He'd left me the long end, the stretch-out-your-legs end, the end molded to a lovely indentation which perfectly conforms to the lower half of my body, the end he usually claims.  I grabbed Joseph Finder's Guilty Minds, put TBG's feet in my lap, opened to my bookmark, and dove in.

250 pages later, he woke up.

We'd spent three hours on Douglas, listening to the raindrops, immersed in our own worlds while inhabiting the kind of shared intimacy that four decades of listening to him breathe creates.  It was 10:30 in the morning. We'd not eaten nor showered nor brushed our teeth, and it was 10:30 in the morning.

This does not happen to us.

I don't know what made him move, but I had about 40 pages left to read so I sat there and finished the book.  It was still raining and I'd lost the oomph to work out.  Dr. K and Not-Kathy are coming over tonight to watch not-the-debates, so off to Costco for provisions I went.

In general, Tucsonans are wonderful human beings.  But they do not know how to drive in the rain.  Most of them probably moved here from someplace where that skill was a necessity, but it seems to have evaporated upon arrival in Arizona.  They turn too quickly and are surprised by the water splashing everywhere.  They can't figure out the windshield wipers so they go 100 miles an hour when the rain is barely trickling from the sky or they move every once in a while, stuck forever on the Interval setting.  A red light offers a brief respite, but then the damn thing turns green and they have to move and oh my goodness it is wet and I don't know what to do..........

I stopped in the library, picked up a Linda Fairstein and two David Balducci's and came home to share my exciting life with you.

It's still raining.  I'm going back to Douglas.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

First Days

Despite the fact that her mother and I have spent the past few nights not sleeping, worrying about how FlapJilly would react to spending the whole day at school instead of at home with her personal nanny, the little one surprised us all.

SIR dropped her off this morning.  He opened the door, and she yelped with delight.

YAY, Pre-School! she cried as she ran into the room.  She didn't blink an eye when her Daddy left.

How dare she take it so easily when her maternal units have been stressed to the max about it?

TBG had the answer:

"Just look at the picture you took of Little Cuter on the First Day of School"
It's that same wide open  attitude, embracing the world and all its adventures, that put 
on my granddaughter's lips.

If only her mom and I could have been as relaxed about it as the kid was.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

It's a Dry Heat

I have proof.

In the time it took me to hang the rest of the not-in-the-dryer basket
this blouse 
went from damp to dry.

I came inside, wrote the verbiage for this post, and came back to add this picture
because in the time it took me to write the rest of this for you, it, too, could be hung, dry, in my closet.

I may have to water my containers twice a day, I may have to contend with pack rats nesting behind my pool's heater, I may never get to wear all my wonderful winter clothes, but the truest truism of all is
I've just given you the proof.

Monday, September 5, 2016

On Labor and Labor Day

Recycled and Updated
Happy Labor Day! 

My Zaydeh was a paperhanger. So was his son, my uncle. They belonged to the Paperhanger's Union. When he retired, my Zaydeh got a lapel pin and a photograph of himself and the also-retiring Union Rep. The Union Rep got a pension and health insurance. No one knows if he got a copy of the photograph, too.

It was that kind of complicated relationship to Labor, with a capital L, that dominated my growing up years. Daddooooo's father owned a business. G'ma's father was a worker. That dynamic influenced their relationship in the same way that her parents' accented speech and his parents' religious devotion were there, bruising the edges of what must once have been love but wasn't anymore.

On the one hand, I sat on my Zaydeh's shoulders as he bounced me around the living room, singing Zum Gali Gali, a Zionist work song.  When I needed a biography for a book report in second grade, his daughter, my mother, suggested Eugene Debs. I was the only one in the class who wrote about the Wobblies, who knew that, before Bernie Sanders, a Socialist, a man who understood the plight of the working man, ran for President from prison.

There was a sense that he was on the right side of an argument I didn't know we were having.

On the other hand, Daddooooo inherited his father's bridal shop, working alongside his brother and the cutters and pressers and seamstresses he'd known his entire life. He took care of the girls, the worker bees, the ones who created what he tried to sell. He struggled to make a success, and failed, and among those he held accountable were the Union Guys.

He was unable to make a go of a business he'd rather not have owned.  He was living a life unlike that which he'd imagined in college.  It was not making him happy, nor was it paying the oil bill.  The generalized angst was unassailable; the Union Guys were real.

Yet I knew that we needed unions - the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire proved that protections were necessary and that management had no interest in protecting the welfare of the worker. Without collective action, nothing could be achieved.  I was still the 8 year old in love with Eugene V. Debs.

Those feelings didn't seem incompatible with the boss's daughter piece of me, the one who loved seeing her Daddy's name on the showroom door.  The ladies did piece-work, but always had time to smile and chatter at me... in Italian.  The cutter, an imposing fellow with a gigantic pair of scissors, shared a small corner of his even more gigantic table with me, as I worked beside them, trimming lace, doing idiot work in my father's parlance, completely content, with a foot on each side of the divide.

G'ma told me stories of her parents marching in Solidarity Parades, though never when Daddooooo was around to hear.  Daddooooo railed about union bullies, but rarely in G'ma's presence.

The battle between labor and management, waged, silently, over my kitchen table.

Friday, September 2, 2016

When Did It Start?

G'ma's slow decline into demntia was fodder for many posts here in The Burrow.  I wrote about our adventures, I wrote about her slippage, I wrote about my emotions.  What I didn't write about was what it was like before we decided that she was losing her mind.

That's what it was like - her mind was being lost, one detail, one competence, one ability at a time.  Often, the whole thing didn't disappear at once.  Take the last game of Clue we played.  The Cuters, G'ma, and I were sitting at the game table in our big house in Marin.  Little Cuter was trying to explain the rules to her grandmother, trying not to giggle as her grandmother's pinky dipped between her lips, as her head sank further and further to the right, as her eyebrows and forehead wriggled and wrinkled, as her shoulders shrugged.

We laughed and laughed and laughed that night, teasing G'ma about her inability to remember the rules, or which token was hers, or if it were her turn or not.  This isn't that hard, G'ma the kids kept telling her.  She just laughed and said Sure, if I weren't old!

But it wasn't that she was old.  It was her dementia showing.

We'd go to a restaurant, and I was doing the ordering for all of us.  My mom couldn't remember what she'd chosen, even if she tried keeping her finger on the menu.  My sister would call from the grocery store, wondering what she needed, and she always said sandwich bags.  I just opened the last of those boxes; she stopped buying them in 2008.  Her floors were dusty where they'd always been spotless.  Her refrigerator was filled with delivered foodstuffs; she never thought to open the door and see what could be heated up.

Those were the subtle signs, I guess.  The more obvious ones - leaving the gas burners on the stove flaming through the night - we never heard about, if they happened.  And some of those obvious ones I chose to ignore.

For example, G'ma was in charge of Daddooooo's medication regimen.  She gave him the pills and he took them.  Often, she'd call and complain that he was throwing up in the morning, an action she was sure was hostility on his part directed toward her.  Since their relationship had always been contentious, I assumed that this was just more of the same ... bad mouthing him, even when it was absurd.  But then, he vomited before my nephew's bar mitzvah.  I took him upstairs to change his clothes and, while washing the stains out of his shirt, looked at the medication on the shelf above the sink.

 Do Not Take Within 2 Hours of Eating.

No wonder he was throwing up; she was giving him the pills with his breakfast. This wasn't nastiness on her part; it was the dementia.  Did I do anything about it?

Not really.

I wrote NOT WITH FOOD in bold black marker on that pill bottle.  I got her daily pill dispensers and walked her through putting her own meds in them in the proper sequence.  We labeled them AM and LUNCH and PM and BED; I'm still using one of them for my pills.

But that was a temporary fix.  When I'd visit, every 6 weeks or so, I'd find several vials of the same medication in the cupboard.  I'd find disorganization in the containers.  I bought more of them and filled them all and left them stacked so they'd be available for the future.... but that just made it worse.  What are all these things doing in the bathroom?   I don't need them!  I'm fine.

It was the I'm fine that stopped me every time.  If she thought she was okay, who was I to disagree.  If she wanted to live alone, with supervision from afar, then that was the dispositive answer.  She wasn't falling.  She wasn't locking herself out.  When she walked and got lost she asked a police officer for directions and was able to give him the business card Brother made for her and the friendly officer drove her right home.

Sister was hysterical - what if! what if! what if! - but Brother and I were more sanguine.

She was walking - that's a good thing.  She recognized the problem - that's a good thing.  She found a solution - that's a good thing.  No harm, no foul.

Except, Sister was right and we were wrong.  These were all the indications of pieces of her brain that were slipping away.  It was more than why am I in the kitchen?   It was where am I and how did I get here?

And yet, we let her be.  She lived alone on Long Island until she drove around her town for 2 hours, trying to find her house.  She knew she'd gone to the grocery store, because there were bags in the back seat.  She recognized neighborhoods as she drove through them, wondering about the kids who lived there when were young.  She just couldn't figure out how to get home.  Finally, she found the library.  She parked, went inside to say hello to the librarians, then got back in the car and drove home.

Of course I can find my way home from the library, but maybe I shouldn't be driving any more.  

Brother went up the next weekend and took her car..... a fact which registered in her brain a few days after he left when she called me and asked if her car was now with him in Maryland.... because it certainly wasn't in her garage.

She moved to an apartment in New Jersey, where Sister looked after her, and then she realized that snow and cold and ice did not have to be part of her life and she moved here.  She fell the first night, in my garage, before she ever got into my house, and it was downhill from there on.

Anesthesia is not good for an aged brain, and she required a lot of it as she continued to fall and break ankles and wrists and back and leg.  She was too functional for the Assisted Living Center when she moved in, but she wasn't functional enough for the Independent Living Center she started out in.  She was lucky enough to have the funds to pay for excellent care, but it didn't make any difference to her mental decline.

We were losing her by inches.  It took us much too long to acknowledge it.... not that it would have made any difference at all.

So, Liz, when you ask me When did you know? the answer is simple: long before I admitted it to myself.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Pima County Superior Court - Random Thoughts

Amster is in trial this week.  It's a tough case to win, but she's got her exhibits and her opening and her questions and her outfits all in a row.  I went to watch some of it today, and managed not to transfer any angst from my experiences across the street in Federal Court.... or so I thought.

But I was antsy on the drive home, and I was antsy while hugging TBG, and I'm antsy now.  Am I flashing back to memories I've hidden, or am I just having a bad day?  The not knowing is almost worse than the clenching in my stomach and around my heart.
I went through security behind two women who were unable to find the object which caused the scrutinizing agent some concern.  The detritus from their purses was strewn over the conveyor belt as the agent loomed over them, glaring.

Their hands were shaking.  Whatever they were seeking wasn't in range of their fingertips, and all they could say was Where can it be?

I left before they found it.
The sitting judges have portraits on the wall, interspersed with children's artwork.  I imagine that I am the only person who stopped to take a long look at the framed pictures; everyone else was moving with purpose.  But it was a nice, quiet moment, looking at how orange and purple are seen through the eyes of a child.

Behind me, there was anxiety and turmoil.  On the wall in front of me were serious photographs of serious men and women ready to do serious work... and there were bright splashes of color reminding me that there's more to life than that which brings someone to court.
Time management is a big issue for judges, juries, and attorneys.  Because jury selection took a long time, opening arguments were reduced from 90 minutes to 30 minutes - and Amster had a quick minute to cull two-thirds of her carefully planned presentation.

There is no complaining to a judge.  There is only Yes, Your Honor and No, Your Honor.

I don't know how she managed not to stamp her foot and scream.  That's why she's the lawyer and I am not.
Audio-visual equipment is no easier to manipulate in 2016 than it was in 1960.  Those in charge are still tripping over cords, moving large screen on rolling tables, wondering if everyone can see what's projected, asking for the lights to be turned on and then off and then on again.

Even the giant posters were giving them trouble - blocking the rolling carts, slipping down along the side walls, tipping on the easel.

Obviously, there's more to lawyering than that which is learned in Law School.
Amster's client is a sweet young man.  He wore a bright lime green shirt and grey pants and black shoes to testify.  I would have wondered where his coat and tie were hiding if anyone but the lawyers had been wearing one.

This is Tucson, and all you need for jury duty is a collared shirt and long pants.  Sneakers and jeans are okay.

I wonder if Amster was thinking of this as she stood before them in 2" black pumps and hose.
The trial will last all week.  I'll fill in the childcare holes and keep offering her dinner and she'll keep her eye on the prize.  It takes a village, doesn't it?