Friday, November 9, 2007

Strange Eulogy for Aunt Louise

It has been a long time since I wrote, and much has happened. I have a new-to-me car, which I bought with great trepidation, a line of credit on my house and every red penny I could squeeze from everywhere, including my poor parents who (at 84 and 82) were in the middle of an excruciating move into senior housing.
But I now have a 2004 pearlized gray Honda Accord with only 35,000 miles on it. I expect it to last another 200,000 miles-well through my next road trip! If, of course, I can avoid totaling it, too. (This is a joke. I've totaled my car for this lifetime, and managed to walk away physically unharmed!
I have a lot more to write about the trip, and my struggles since I got back, but I have a more somber story to write about today. My Aunt Louise died yesterday. It was well past time, she was 84, nearly 85, and really never took good care of her health. She was the epitome of a spinster aunt, my mother's older sister. My grandparents, who kept her at home in their long lifetimes, referred to her as slow. My mother called her marginally retarded, and today we would probably say (being PC) that she was somewhat developmentally disabled.
What this has always meant to me is that she really had no life of her own, even after my grandparents died. She then moved into a small apartment complex near my parents, where my mother kept an eye on her, and my father took over her finances (a subject she resented for the next 40 years). Once a year she vacationed alone at the Jersey Shore in some boarding house, where she made her only real friend -Priscilla who lived there on a good deal of money. They wrote letters back and forth, and visited once a year.
Two years after my parents moved from the Main Line of Philadelphia to Denver, she admitted that she could not live completely alone, and my parents moved her out to near-but not too near- them. At some point she converted to Mormonism-something my mother could not tolerate-so she did have "visitors" once a month-volunteers who brought pamphlets to the elderly and "sheltered" and stayed for a strict half an hour.
And my poor mother struggled all her life with guilt around her sister. My grandmother pushed Louise off on mom as much as possible, then compared mom badly to the neurotically neat Louise at every opportunity. Mom grew up massively conflicted and guilty about her sister, a situation that lasted over 80 years. They met for lunch regularly, she spent holidays with them.
Every time I visited, I made time to visit her for an everlasting "tea." Each time, I admired her extensive stuffed animal collecting, her small but spotless apartment, and listened gently to her repeat herself over and over, talking about her endless sicknesses, colds, the flu, high BP, ER visits (usually timed when my mother was away, so my brother Luke and his wife Mary would have to cope) and most though most hospital visits ended up with testing which showed nothing much really wrong with her, she share her worries with great lengths, And, boy, did she worry about her health, and shared that worry with anyone she saw, especially my poor mother. I would gently remind my mother that she had little else in her life besides her hypochondria, but it was difficult to listen to, time after time. 
And her timing was a family joke; when my mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer, and Louise went to the ER with stomach cramps, which she was sure was cancer. Thousands of dollars of tests later, which she had to pay out of her very small trust fund, she was diagnosed with indigestion. But her letters to my mother (stuck in the Poconos with surgery, chemo and radiation) never acknowledged mom's illness, just went on endlessly about her own health.
Poor woman, she was lonely, completely self absorbed, and though I adored her as a small child, by the age of twelve, I had outgrown  her. Today she would live happily in a group home, and enjoy a job as a file clerk. She was unlucky enough to be born in a time and social strata which kept handicapped family members at home, though , luckily, my grandparents did not try to keep her hidden away. Just home, and not very busy.
I do have good memories of her, though, that keep me crying on and off. Her enjoyment of her one glass of sherry at daily cocktail time at my grandparents. And her sly pleasure of drinking a glass occasionally even after she had converted to Mormonism. She even offered me some at my last visit for tea in April, and we indulger in a thimbleful each, along with our Earl Gray.
I also remember her pleasure of piano playing-competent at best, but good enough for Sunday School children in the local Mormon church. (And the Mormons were much better to her than the Episcopalians ever were). She loved her season tickets to the Philadelphia Orchestra, and once, when my grandmother was talking about how shockingly shaggy the conductor's hair was, she confided in me, sotto voice, that she loved Leonard Bernstein's long hair, especially when it flopped into his eyes and he jerked his head to move it away. It was sort of sexy, wasn't it? I grinned and nodded, a moment in time shared secretly between aunt and niece.
It was the only time I ever heard "sexy" pass her lips, for she was the old fashioned epitome of a spinster aunt. Never dated, never had a man interested in her, live alone, both with my grandparents, and for the 40 years after they died. She enjoyed her TV programs, her neat apartments, her stuffed animals, and her food, as she grew stouter and stouter as the years progressed, happily going out to lunch with anyone who asked, who would pick her up and take her.
She also loved her sicknesses, her hospitalizations, because of the attention they brought her-sad but real-and, in her own limited way, my mother and her two nieces and her nephew. And we loved her, too, more at sometimes, less at others, each of us in our own way, for our own reasons. I am glad she died quickly, with my parents and Luke and Mary by her side, and I hope that where ever she goes now, she will have a happier, less lonely and more fulfilled life.
Good bye, Aunt Louise, I will miss the forbidden thimbleful of sherry at tea with you.
Blessings, Margo

Friday, October 26, 2007

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jog

I am home from my Wonderful, Magical Road Trip and can say categorically it was the freest, most enjoyable, most interesting vacation I have ever taken-even better than the narrowboat holiday that started in Wales and ended with a week in York that Rene and I took in '02. And I thought nothing could beat that trip.
I admit to starting this Road Trip with a bit of trepidation, after both Peggy and my stalwart daughter Meg told me they could never embark on such a journey. I was not worried about the miles to cover or meeting people I had invited myself to visit, but of the times in between, when I had days and days alone. Loneliness was my main fear, and, to my great pleasure, I rarely felt more than a few tweaks of loneliness the whole 2000 miles!
I can honestly say the trip was so much fun that I'd leave tomorrow to do nearly all of it all over again, if I could. Unfortunately, I can't. The trip which went so smoothly for 23 days, ended with a bang the 24th day, on Rte 115 near Brodheadsville, PA, when I smashed into someone who had stopped while I glanced off into the woods, and totaled my car. Yeah, Bummer.
I've never been in such a crash before. I was well seat-belted in, and the airbags went off. (I never knew the one on the driver's side was pink, the one on the passengers side was green.) Smoke and powder filled the car, the woman whom I hit leaped out of her car, which did not look too badly damaged, and can roaring over to scream at me. By that time I was sitting half out of the car, saying softly, "I'm having chest pain, could someone call an ambulance?" Good strategy, cooled her jets fright down. I asked if she was OK, she said yes, but her puppy was upset, at which point the ambulance arrived and took me away.
I am fine. The chest pain was from the seat belt, not my heart, and while I spent rather too long on a backboard-nearly 4.5 hours!-they finally decided I was free to go, and I called a taxi and draggled into a nearby hotel, asking for soup and a room near an ice machine. I must have looked baaaad because they practically ran to get me settled. The next two days I was really, really sore, but have recovered well. Meg came to get me, and, though we argued all the way home (too much stress and pain, not to mention pain meds, on my part) I arrived safely and have since recovered.
The difficult ending did nothing to dampen my spirits about the rest of the trip, however. I loved it, Every day, the people I met, the back roads I took, the time alone and with my friends, all of it was fun and fascinating and even educational at times.
I believe I left off recounting my trip 'way back in early October when I was visiting Judi and Virginia, and our time at the Zoo. The one thing I forgot to say that besides the wonderful Octopus, I also got to see Judi's mural up close and personal. She painted it years ago, and I remember reading about it for a long time while she worked on it, and seeing the pictures she posted. I only want to add that it is more wonderful in person than in pictures, for I could look at each little bug, each special tree, animals half hidden in grasses, oh my! I felt the history I had read about in her journal all those years ago come together with the present in such a special way. Another gift from both of them-time and space to look and enjoy.
I will write more about the rest of the trip, my time with them, in Charlottesville with Mr. Jefferson, with Kas and her family (yes they are as wonderful, crazy and busy as her journal indicates, and I now consider them family, in a very special way), with Alpha, my friend Persephony's daughter, with my god(dess) son Ian, and with Martha, Adam's mother. (Adam is Meg's fiance.) I'll also tell about my continued relationship with Gertrude, my GPS unit, for she has now become another kind of family member-a pushy one!
I will slowly catch up with my journal reading, although some of it has already gone west. I had 876 e-mail when I got home and was a bit overwhelmed. Now I am trying to figure out how to afford and buy a new second hand car (UGH, one of my most hated time wasters, but necessary for life today, I guess.)
Many Blessings, Margo

Monday, October 15, 2007

Road Trip, Entry Four

Today I am in  Pittsburgh, PA, visiting Martha, Adam's mother. (Adam is Meg's fiance). I arrived yesterday, and, after supper tonight with my            God(dess)son, Ian, I start the journey homeward. Alas.

I spent last week with Kas's family (Hestia's Homeschool for Wild Young Women)and what a week it was. Kas, her husband David, and the three girls, Mandy, Tabitha and Shelby, are every bit as wild as her blog would suggest, and perhaps even more so! I had a really wonderful time there, though I did struggle with a bit of exhaustion. Kas is as busy as her blog indicates, then multiply by 9 or 10 times and one arrives at the true measure of her life. And each girl is more interesting than the last. Dave lives quite calmly in this sea of estrogen and busyness, sleeping by day and working by night!

I will, of course, write more about my time there, as well as finishing the story of my visit with Judith and Virginia, not to mention my days sightseeing in Charlottesville, VA, but not today. Today is for resting and trying to prepare for the rest of my trip-including a visit to Becky and John and the two boys in NJ on my way home.

 I expect to be home by the end of this week, then, after a few days of total crash time, start working on picking my regular life up again. I'll be very glad to see Myla, Meg, Adam and Roxy again, but not half as glad as Roxy will be glad to see me!

I am 600+ e-mails behind, so I expect it'll take me a bit of time to re-join the world again, but wanted everyone to know I am alive and well, and still traveling happily onwards.

Blessings to All-I miss what's going on in everyone's lives, and look forward to catching up!




Friday, October 5, 2007

Road Trip #3; Another Library

Another Library, another entry! I am on Rt 52 in some small town- I don't even know where exactly but on a scenic road on the Ohio River- and I saw the universal library sign and my car simply turned involuntarily! One of the things that hit me is that I have not been afraid the whole trip (so far!), thought I have been careful, of course. Last night I stayed at a large trucker motel ($43.50 with AAA discount) where I can assure you I was the only single female late middle aged traveler.

I realized this when I walked across the parking lot to the Lounge for dinner. The first sign that greeted me was "No Fire Arms Aloud." Of course I wondered immediately if silent firearms were permitted, or if firearms with silencers were okay. The next sign informed me that Men and Women must were shirts, shoes and no short shorts. Somehow, in this overwhelmingly masculine world, men in short shorts seemed unlikely.

The music was LOUD but the food was good. On the way back across the parking lot two groups of men, in their twenties and thirties, invited me to join them for beer, but I cheerfully declined. Marc is right, I am now dating my GPS system exclusively, despite her no-nonsense voice and her frustration at my unwillingness to stay on major highways. (See MakeMarc's comment to last entry).

I don't know why the print changed, either, but, oh well, every machine I touch seems to have a mind of its own these days, even my car! She is running well, but only wants to go slow up hills and mountains in no passing zones when we have a huge truck behind us. The rest of the time she wants to speed up hill and down dale!

Now, back to Judy and Virginia. I have been reading their journals since early on in J-Land history, and had gone back to read all the earlier entries when I stumbled upon them. When they picked me up at the Hotel Friday night I had thesame reaction I did with Mortimer, within ten minutes we were talking, and really never stopped till the dropped me off Sunday afternoon.

It's nice to be with a couple who takes care of each other, but don't seem too joined at the hip. Judi worried about Virginia getting enough to eat (she's a vegetarian who does not like vegetables), and Virginia worried about the Art Center taking advantage of Judi's willingness to be helpful, but neither in a neurotic way.

Saturday morning we went to the Zoo-my one request-and after checking out the tigers and lions, headed right for the Invertebrate Exhibit, where they volunteer. They were really just showing me around, but fell into their interpreter roles immediately, both for me, and anyone else in the vicinity. It was fascinating, and I learned a lot. I had no idea invertebrates make up most of the creatures on earth! Though I live near Mystic Aquarium, and some of their specimens actually came from Mystic, I had never heard most of what they patiently explained.

Then we went behind the scenes and hung out, meeting a couple of the scientists who are the exhibit keepers, hearing bits of zoo and then, as a total highlight of the Zoo visit, it was time for Judi to feed the octopus. What a creature, a specimen in his (her? I can't remember!) prime! I had watched him being fed earlier from out front, watched as he rose to the top of the tank, spreading his tentacles wide, perfect suction cups down to the very end of each arm, opening his mouth-a beak in the center of his tentacles-to engulf the shrimp offered to him. I found him to beamazing.

Then Judi invited me up the steps to the top of the tank, where she was going to give him another shrimp, this time in a tube like toy, so he would have to work a bit for his food . We hung over the top of the tank and Judi gently rippled the water. He came right up to her, tentacles reaching out to embrace the tree-like trunk in the water. We both gently poured water on to his exposed body.

Slowly he pulled his head out of the water and onto the trunk, and lay there looking at us, while his arms delicately moved to hold onto the branches for balance. Each suction cup down to the very end was perfect, his skin turning colors , from grayish to orangey to reddish, as he balanced on the tree limb and looked at us. I began to cry.

Judi gently let the toy down into the water, where he grasped it, fished around the tube with his agile tentacles, extracted the shrimp, ate it, then when we stopped plashing water onto him, let go of the tree and re-submerged to look out at the crowd which had gathered below. (Yes, he can see them.) It was such an unexpected connection with a sea creature that I was moved beyond all expectation. In fact, it was the biggest gift the two of them could ever have given me, and I will treasure it as such.

More about my visit with them, and Charlottesville eventually, but tomorrow I get to meet Kas and her family and I am so excited! I will try to keep in touch.

Many Blessings, Margo


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Road Trip, Still Alive and Having Fun

I am alive and well and still traveling, now in West Virginia, on my way to Kas's home in KY. I have not written at all because Adam, my future son-in-law, fixed the computer he leant me to be so carefully protected that I can't get on line anywhere. Not his fault, he didn't know it would be this way, but I can't even get it to work in a big book store or little Internet cafe! I am now in the library of White Sulfur Springs, WV, taking time off the road to let you all know I'm doing fine.

Everybody should be able to take a Road trip in late middle age, or early old age, or what ever I am at a somewhat disabled 58. I am finding out a lot about myself and the friends I have visited.

Who knew Mortimer is an expert on Atlantic City and its history? I learned so much following this sweet man down the boardwalk, around the streets, and into his beloved bar. Seeing Studio Six was fascinating, and " Mortimer's Dressing Room"-a cubby by some stairs-where he dressed for his shows was great. Even having drinks downstairs on a dull night was fun for me. And what a good person the give up his weekend evenings to tow a walker-bound woman around his beloved city, plus take me to the bar two nights in a row. I miss him and wish I could have stayed longer. I look forward to talking by phone, as well as e-mail.

Then I went on to the Washington area to meet Judith Heartsong, and her partner, Virginia. I cannot do that visit justice sitting in a small library in a small town in WV. Briefly, we went out to dinner Friday night at a great vegetarian restaurant, went to the Zoo and Great Fall State Park (the water was very low) on Saturday, then to the Official Opening of VisArts, the art center Judi has volunteered and worked for, and where she and her present boss will have an office. Then we wandered around the area for a while, ate lunch/dinner and they dropped me off at my hotel.

That is a brief outline that does no real justice to our time together, and I will eventually write more about these two wonderful women, who enjoy each other's company so much, and were kind enough to give me a precious weekend of their time. I loved my time with them.

On Monday, Oct 1, I drove down Skyline Drive to Charlottesville. I promise to write more about that experience, too, eventually, and my visits to Monticello, Mitchie Tavern, Ashlawn and  the University of VA, which Jefferson founded, and from which my father graduated from Law School not long after I was born (1949).

Today, Thursday, I am making a slow journey towards KY, stopping a lot to stay awake, out of too much pain, and happy. Some of the things I have learned are that I can travel and sightsee quite well by myself, thank you very much. Though it hurts a lot at times, I can push myself to sightsee, and visit and walk with either cane or walker quite far(well, a couple of miles) though the cane-which is easier in public-makes my shoulder and arm hurt more than the walker.

I have also realized that all those years at home and alone have given me the ability to be alone, and on my own, without feeling lonely or lost, wherever I am. This was something I wondered about before I left. Also, I don't panic when I'm lost somewhere. Of course that could have something to do with my GPS system, which is helpful up to a point. It (or she, as I think about her, because of the calm but declarative female voice in which she gives directions aloud) does not like it if I leave the route she has chosen for me, sometimes sounding rather testy when I don't follow the directions she keeps trying to give me!

Come to think of it, maybe anthropomorphizing my GPS system proves that I've totally lost my mind, especially when I admit I occasionally talk back to her! Oh well, I'm out here having a good time, and this kind of trip is kind of crazy, anyway. But I don't have to tell you all that I boarder on crazy most of the time, anyway!

Will write again eventually.

Many Blessings, Margo

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Road Trip, Part One

I am definitely on my journey, staying in Atlantic City in the Resorts Hotel. Despite living half way between two of the biggest casinos in the Western Hemisphere, I had never stayed in a casino hotel before, and it is very grand. My room is as big as my living room and dining room combined!

I am trying to pick out one piece of joy for each day. Monday it was crossing the Tappen Zee bridge, which is sowide and amazing with the sun glinting off of it. I could picture Dutch settlers moving up river into the wilderness and grinned like a fool. Tuesday's joy was standing in the Atlantic Ocean, as the tide came in washing oven my feet and legs, then digging a hole around my feet with the backwash.  I kept moving sideways so as not to roll into the surf, shallow as it was.

Yesterday, Wednesday's joy was meeting Mort. For those of you who read his journal, he is just as he portrays himself: a nice guy, a gentleman, the kind of man who would use his two days off the show me around the city. We started talking the moment we met, and did not stop for hours! Last night we ate in the Rain Forest Cafe, looked at lots of sights, then he was kind enough to take me to show me the bar complex in which he works. The man had gotten off work at 9 AM that morning, slept a few hours, then took me back there 12 hour later, on his night off because I asked. A nice guy.

Today, eventually, we will get together, and he'll show me more! Tomorrow I head for the DC area to meet up with  Judi and Virginia. Am really looking forward to it.

I am finding the long distance driving difficult-I have to stop a lot, and listen to the guided imagery tape  on relieving pain that Robin gave me,  It slows me down a lot, but I'm going to be okay, which has been nice to learn. 

I must make this short-I am using the hotel computer, because my borrowed one wouldn't work here with their system. It is Adam's computer, and he set it up to be very protective of it, which is fine for him, but frustrating for me!

Blessings to all, Margo

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Nearing Departure!

I am nearing departure! Today I woke up at 6:30 AM and was up and moving immediately, on a Sunday no less. I'm not too excited, am I? By 10:30 AM  I had done laundry, ironed clothes, gone out to breakfast with Peg, found my bathing suit, swept the kitchen floor, and scattered all the clothes that fit me across the living and dining room.
Then I was ready for a nap!
I persevered, however, by reading my e-mail, chatting briefly with a friend (Hi, Lisa!), checked out my GPS device (How did I ever travel without one? It not only shows me a map, offers hotels/motels, food and attraction info-although I am not sure if "Gold's Gym rates up there with state parks and monuments as an attraction-it talks to me in a low, firm, female voice!), found my suitcases, organized my CD's, and began folding my clothes.
By 12:30 I was struggling to stay focused, and still needed that nap.
Then I folded the rest of my clothes, glued a pair of shoes back together, organized my meds, chose what little jewelry I am taking, took my morning vitamins(running a bit late on that, I fear), organized my maps and triptik (I am a belt and suspenders type), called Meg, who was napping-lucky girl!- packed up some food and odds and ends, then -finally- allowed myself a pain pill and a nap.
Twenty minutes later Meg, Adam and Myla were at my door, to say goodbye. I staggered up and sat on the porch with them until Myla got fussy, and I had to let them go. I had a momentary pang.
What on earth am I doing, I asked myself, taking off on a trip Peggy and Meg think is crazy, and leaving Myla behind? I took adeep breath, and thought, t'hell with them them! I'm taking a Road Trip they'd never make, and I'm more than ready to do it.
The pang over and gone, I came back inside and to pack suitcases and bags, choosing clothes with no second thoughts, happily anticipating the Open Road tomorrow. Never mind that the open road is really Rte 95, overfilled with cars and big rigs and slowdowns and exhaust fumes, I'll still be free from home and family and physical therapy and doctors' appointments and my own small life, and I'll be off into the realm of possibilities!
I've rather stalled out at the moment, but will finish packing the car tonight, so I can be at Robin's by 8:30 tomorrow morning, so we can do a smudging ceremony for safety on the road, and joy in the journey.
I'm not going far tomorrow-maybe just a few hours, but I'll be in Atlantic City by Tuesday, and well on my way to adventure! I will have a computer with me, so when I can get the Internet I will report on my travels, so you can follow along, if you wish. Now I am going to sit on my suitcase to close it, and pack the car!
Blessings, Margo

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bad News? Good News? Confusion!

I leave on my trip one week from today. This week I'm going to be as busy as a one-armed paperhanger. (I can say this because I once helped my one-armed mother hang wallpaper, so I know the reality of the metaphor.) Naturally enough, I am procrastinating already! Today I am supposed to clean house, take the dog to have her nails clipped, go to the bank to fix finances for when I'm away, and take a nap, since I woke up at 3 AM with my daily lists running through my head and never really slept again. Excited? No, not much!
Friday, I had an appointment with my Orthopedist, and got some not so good,  but not as bad as possible news. My left shoulder now needs (minor) surgery because of overuse due to the pain in my  right arm. This was not the news I had been looking for, or expecting, needless to say.
On the other hand, in July Worker's Comp made me go for an IME (Independent Medical Exam) at their pet medical group an hour and a half away from here. I went, rather reluctantly, having made several phone calls to my doctor's, my lawyer's, and their doctor's offices to make sure they got that he was to examine my LEFT, not right arm.
I have been there three or four times for other IME's on my right arm in the past, and I've learned enough over the last four years to anticipate screw-ups. Got to the appointment, and was told he would look at my right arm, and once again had to throw a small, but polite hissyfit to set them straight on the which arm was in question now.
The doc was nice, though, and I left thinking it was all a huge waste of time. These doctors always (surprise!) side with Worker's Comp, so I expected a copy of his report saying the increasing pain in my left shoulder was absolutely not related to my fall, or any of its aftermath. I never got a copy, though, and now I suspect I know why. The Worker's Comp's doctor, obviously an honest man, said that he believes the problem with my left shoulder is, indeed, related to my problems on the right, andshould be considered a consequence ofthe original fall!
Both my surgeon and I were blown away-this sort of thing practically never happens, according to my doc. The new surgery will be laproscopic, much less in scope than my last shoulder surgery, and Worker's Comp will have to pay for it. I am well aware that we all pay for it in the long run, but feel strongly that my insurance company should not have to pay for a work related injury.
This all feels like good news, bad news, or perhaps bad news, good news, but I won't have the surgery till after Christmas, because I have to go to spend Christmas in Denver. My mother started to cry when she asked if I could come. If she wants me that badly, I'll do whatever is necessary to be there, of course.
A couple more comments on my trip. For my birthday, Meg, the EMT, made and gave me a first aid kit from which I could practically do surgery! It has everything except a scalpel, including little tootsie rolls, in case my blood sugar should fall.
Then she insisted that I go to our local fire/police supply store and buy a window punch/seatbelt slicer in case I go over some precipice in my car and end up in the water. I didn't have the heart to tell her I fully expect I'd be too panicked to use it, and dutifully went out and bought one.
I'm not sure what wilds she expects me to be facing on the mostly highway route I am taking from here to NJ to DC to VA to KY to PA and home, but I will certainly be prepared so she can worry less!
I finally got my itinerary together, for my parents and Meg. If anyone is remotely interested, let me know and I'll send you one. Right now, however, I have to take my dog to the groomer and start my day!
Blessings, Margo

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Questionable Trip?

A brief entry to respond to several questions I got from my last entry, and from friends here, about my Road Trip.
How far am I going? Well, almost 2000 miles
Won't I feel lonely driving so far alone? Yes, there will be lonely times, especially since Rene was the outgoing partner in all our travels. But I live alone, feel alone a lot, so the trip will be lonely, too, at times. I'll live through it, and maybe learn to connect with strangers a little more.
Is your car okay to drive that far? Well, I certainly hope so! Even though it's old (a '97) it is a Honda, and I'm having it checked over, bumper to bumper. If something goes wrong on the road, I'll cope.
Are the people you are visiting safe? This only comes from my mother. People whose journals I have been reading for years feel like family to me. I wish I could visit more of them!
Who are you going to see? Mort, Judi and Virginia, Kas and her family, who are supposedly already referring to me as "Aunt Margo," Martha, Meg's fiance's mother, Ian, my God(dess) son, and Becky(I hope).
Will you stay with all of them? I'll stay at motels some of the time, and with people others. It depends on their housing situations.
Are you going to spend any time on your own? Yes, I am going to Charlottesville, Virginia for three days. I was born there when my father was in law school at UVA, and I have always wanted to really see Monticello (Thomas Jefferson's home). So I'm going to have my own private mini vacation inside the Road Trip!
What are you going to do about pain when driving and walking any distance? I am taking my walker and cane, and will use one or the other, depending on the terrain. I am able to walk a couple of miles, even if I do sway a bit along the way. (Okay, sometimes I fall down. I'll just get up and keep going like I do at home.)
As for pain, I'll drive as far as I can, and when it gets too bad I'll stop  for the night, then take a pain med. I won't drive after that. I've built in extra time driving because of this.
When are you leaving? The last week in September, and I'll be back when I get back. Friends and neighbors will take care of the house and watch Roxy.
Aren't you scared to go on such a long trip? No.
Not even a little anxious? Yes, a little from time to time, but it's all about organizing and getting off and onto the road. Not about the trip itself.
That seems to cover the questions that have come in lately. If anyone has any others, let me know and I'll answer them, too.
Tomorrow is my 58th birthday, and I am sincerely hoping that this year will be better than the last four. A psychic told me that I would be getting more energy come fall, and I am living in expectation of more energy, whenever it arrives!
Blessings, Margo 

Friday, September 7, 2007

Not Dead Yet- Aphrodite Rising

Usually when I disappear from the Internet for weeks or months it is because I have fallen into the pit of depression and am sitting in the mud at the bottom, looking up at a circle of sky so far above it seems the size of a Ping-Pong ball. This is, thank Goddess, not true this time. Aphrodite-the Goddess of Love-has moved into my life. After a bit of confusion (believe me thee is no sign of a love interest showing on the horizon) I recognized she was suggesting I work on loving myself. Duh. Sometimes I'm a little dense, especially since it seems I've been working on this forever!
So these past few weeks, I have been working hard at trying to enlarge my life, millimeter by millimeter, without tiring myself out beyond all enduring. And I am actually doing better at it than I thought I would, though I have been up and down a lot.
It is not that my life is full of exciting new events. It is the same round of physical therapy, "chair" yoga (that is, yoga made easier, not that we sit the whole time), a weekly hour with my trainer Glenn, assorted doctor's appointments, my two hours a week respite with the Gentle Tough/Guided Imagery Program at the hospital, and weekly walks and visits with Meg and Myla.
The Gentle Touch/Guided Imagery Program is a Complementary Medical program my friend Robin started at the local hospital three years ago. I was wildly excited, but unable to take part then. This winter I was able to take the training, finally! What we in the program do is go to various floors, to rooms of patients who have requested us, or who the nurses think need our service, or even walk in cold. Each of us have our own perspective, but similar ways of explaining.
I try to keep it simple, saying it is a free program that helps with relaxation, and includes a foot, hand or head rub. Then I plug in a CD player with quiet music playing, take off the footboard of the bed, wash my hands, then start reading a scripted guided imagery asking them to relax, to put themselves in a safe special place, and eventually spend 10 minutes or so giving a gentle foot or hand rub. I doesn't sound like much, but people zone out, and when I finish they talk about how much their pain has lessened, how much less depressed they feel, how much more relaxed. Some go to sleep and stay there, even as I put their socks back on, unplug my music, put the footboard back. It is quite amazing.
This has led me back to the same floor I had my two week nightmare experience four years ago, when I first fractured my arm. During that time nobody touched me except to hurt me-to draw blood, to move me, to take my BP. Now, finally, there is a hospital sanctioned program that helps makes that less likely. I love doing it, although I am limited to only two hours a week because of my pain level. The neat thing is that the patient is getting a Complimentary Medicine experience right under the oh-so-scientific doctors' noses. Of course some docs and nurses have welcomed the program, while some still think its hogwash, but more and more, I find nurses and aides grabbing me to ask if I will do so-and-so, who is in a lot of pain-a triumph in my book!
The other joy of my life is Myla, my granddaughter. Meg has been calling to meet for a walk once or twice a week, and Myla's little face lights up when she sees me! Myla toddles around on the grass in my yard handing me toys and favorite rocks and eating the ground up ice from my cup, while Meg tells me about her two play groups. One is quite preppy, uptight stay-at-home mothers with husbands who have good jobs, who think Meg is crazy to cloth diaper Myla, and the other "crunchy granola," the long term nursers-some are like Kas, nursing their 6 year olds. They wear "hippier" type clothes and struggle to make ends meet so they can stay home and raise their kids. Meg falls somewhere closer to the Crunchies, but enjoys both groups. She keeps me laughing with stories of both groups, while Myla tries to push her stroller across the yard. It is wonderful!
And I am getting ready for my Road Trip-1900 miles on my own as I drive down the East Coast to Virginia, then out to KY to visit Kas, then home via Pittsburgh. It is a crazy trip for me to make, with my are and shoulder still hurting a lot, and my inability to walk very far, which will curtail sightseeing somewhat-But I leave in a bit more than two weeks and am crazy excited about it. I just wish I could stop and visit every one of you! More on the trip next post.
Many Blessings, Margo

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Kali's Indifference, and the Struggle Continues.

Kali reigns supreme over all destruction. Though I cannot dump my anger on her, nor receive anger from her, I still like her image. She is blind destruction. She presents no reasons, offers no "silver lining," and has no ulterior motives like knock this one down, she'll grow and change and have a better life. She just destroys because that is her nature, and in the scheme of things I am a very, very tiny piece of her universe, no more important than the tree knocked down in the whirlwind. Or the ant stepped on by the elephant.
For some strange reason. this is a positive image for me. There is nothing I could have done to stop her from smashing my life to bits along with my arm, it is all a random act. And I simply cannot believe I fell for my own good. Good may well come out of it, it's possible, but it was still not a good event, nor one I am thankful for. What I am grateful for is that I am still alive and trying. Of course, if I hadn't fallen, I'd still be alive and trying. It is my very nature.
Today was my two year check up with my gastric bypass surgeon. I am doing fine, on the surface, though we'll know more when my bloodwork comes in. I weighed in at 159 pounds, so have lost 225 pounds. It is a good thing, because my doc told me that of those at my former weight and health level, 10% have died in the last two years. By 10 years it will
approach 100%.
But I do not believe this has anything to do with my fall. Three days before I fell, I had made an appointment with a gastroenterologist for a pre-gastric bypass consultation, so I would have done it anyway, probably two years earlier, without the fall. I am glad I had it done, but I did not expect it to "fix" my life, and it has not. It has give me a longer life, but not a wildly happier life, because it is just a tool to be use to lose weight fast. Afterwards you are on your own to maintain (in my case literally on my own. Thanks, Rene).
Kali seems as good a "reason" as any for the fall which has left me with intractable pain in my shoulder and neuropathy in my right hand. Two different kinds of pain which join to make daily life exhausting and complicated, and I am just beginning to rage and mourn over the recognition that my last surgery has hurt me as much as it has helped. The rod, which felt foreign from day one, is gone, and the rotator cuff fixed. But the pain remains the same, needing narcotics, and the neuropathy is worse. I cannot see any silver lining from all this.
I am obviously terribly angry, and still have some days when all I can do is cry, mourning all the losses, as well as whining and wailing about the pain. This is not to say I am sunk in the pit of depression. I am actively moving forward, with the pain, physical and emotional, despite Kali's indifference. In the long run she creates a new. But her long runs are thought of in eons, and I haven't got that long.
The issues for now-yesterday, today, this week, maybe this year-are twofold. How to live with the continuing pain, which flat out exhausts me, and how to scrape up enough creative energy to build a new and different life. As yet I have no image, no inkling of what that will be. But it will be more than PT and yoga and the gym, and doctors and therapist appointments and pain and narcotics and guided imagery pain tapes and self hypnosis, and two good (but ultimately painful) hours of volunteer work a week at the hospital.
I need more than this, and cannot seem to turn my vision towards a creative, helpful future which allows for my disabilities and pain, but still has meaning. My therapist talks about shifting inner vision, which for me means finding a symbol, a myth out of which I can find new meaning, new energy and new creativity. My next life will have to be very different from my last one. Less stressful, certainly, and perhaps less interesting and helpful, but perhaps still fulfilling. I have to believe this to get out of bed in the morning.
To change the subject, my mother meeds your energy, thoughts and prayers again. Last weekend, I flew to Grand Rapids, MI, rented a car, met my parents, and drove to Saugatuck for my sister Catherine's wedding. Meg flew out, too, with Myla, and Catherine's two sons (ages 21 and 18) and the whole famdamily stayed together at a retreat house next to the church. Friday, a couple of hours before the rehearsal, my mother fell up a small, shallow set of steps, banging her face and knees on the concrete. She bled like all get out, but absolutely refused to get medical help.
She stayed home from the rehearsal, propped up on a couch, putting ice o her face. Several of us stayed with her, but she insisted we all go to the rehearsal dinner (for which she was paying, poor thing). She had soup for supper, and was helped upstairs by one and all, and put to bed when we got back. She made it to the wedding and reception lunch, which she could not really eat.
When they got back to the Poconos, she did finally go to a doctor. Her jaw is fractured in three places, and she had surgery (yet again)! this time to wire her jaw shut. My father waited 48 hours before calling to let me know. Poor woman, I do not know how she manages to keep going. Or why.
The wedding itself was beautiful, but weird. Catherine, at 48, is ten years younger than I. Bob, the groom, is 79. So you won't have to count on your fingers (like I do) that's 31 years difference. He is neither rich nor organized, and Catherine is even less organized. I hope it truly is a love match. Her sons dislike her to the point of hatred (they have been poisoned by their father), but Catherine does stupid things, like not including then in the "family wedding photos." The eldest voiced his bitterness, the youngest just shrugged. I wanted to cry for them. Bob tries to stay out of it.
I am glad I went; I wanted to support Catherine, see the wedding and I hope I helped her by taking care of my parents, buying food, and generally keeping the retreat house situation as grounded as possible. But I came home and was very sad. None of my parents' offshoots have had good lives, and neither have our own offshoots. We all need more therapy than is available, and sometime I think my own years on and off in therapy have just allowed me to see all this clearer than most.
Still, Catherine walked down the aisle on my father's arm, dressed in a vintage turquoise beaded cocktail dress, looking radiant, and Bob got quite choked up as he said his vows. I really wish them happiness and enjoyment of each other.
Thank you for keeping my mother in your prayers, and I'll let you know haw she is when my father lets me know. I'll probably not talk to her for at least a couple of weeks.
Blessings, Margo

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Anger Rising, Meditations on Kali

Saturday night I sat in circle with my sisters to mark the full moon. We have been meeting, in various forms and varying numbers for over twenty years, carving out sacred space to share sacred time. Together, we mark out the cycles of our lives by the cycle of the moon, waxing to fullness, waning to darkness, waxing to fullness again.
We have met inside women's' houses, outside, most memorably in a small hallow in the woods behind someone's house where we had to ford a stream (glare ice in winter) balance our way down an old stone wall, then slog through a bog to get to a numinous spot where we sat cross-legged on the ground by the fire to drum and sing. These days, when we meet outside, it is in accessible places, where we sit in lawn chairs, and, when it's too cold, we meet indoors.
And there is less drumming and singing and more silence and sharing, but we are mostly all older now, more arthritic and wiser than in the beginning. None of this matters; for thousands of years, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, before artificial and electric lights, the moon really did mark the cycle of a woman's life, their periods flowing together, moon-marked, and they did met in circles, in huts or outside, around fires to mark their moon-times.
Occasionally when we meet today, I can see these circles in my mind, from the many women who meet in circles now, stretching back, circles beyond circles beyond circles, back to the beginning of mankind, women gathering on the full moon, or at the dark of the moon, or at the equinoxes and solstices to sing and share and laugh and mourn together.
All this came to mind as we sat in silence Saturday night and I thought about how my own life has been lived in cycles, too. Cycles of security and insecurity, of moving out and moving within, of happiness and sorrow, of hope and hopelessness, of pain and joy. Everyday cycles, lived by most women, consciously and unconsciously or a curious mixture of both. I have been curiously aware of these cycles of late, as they move through my life, some quickly, some with agonizing slowness.
This August, August 7th, to be exact, will be the fourth anniversary of my Big Fall at work. Moving too fast, with the phone cord wrapped around my feet, I went down like a felled redwood, all 368 pounds of me, landing on my right side with a crash that echoed through the cinder block building with a wallop that brought people running from all directions. And though I did not know it at the time, Kali the Destroyer, was there, ending my life as I knew it, as I'd planned it, as I'd been quietly living it with confidence and the real gift of ability. I could not see it for years, but that day ended the cycle of my working life as surely as if Kali had killed me.
Kali is the Indian Goddess, blue in color, standing by the Holy River Ganges, with the string of skulls around her neck, and four arm (or sometimes six), each hand holding a bleeding head, a sword or scythe,  some weapon of destruction. She has a terrible visage with her blood covered tongue sticking out of her voracious mouth, while she tramples on a figure below her. Her name originates from the word for "time" and she is a terrifying Goddess, who is the very epitome destruction, pillaging and killing, shaking the universe into nothingness seemingly for her own entertainment.
And yet (like all of us) she also carries the opposite. She destroys one cycle of existence in order to clear the way for the creation of the next. Here she is the loving Kali Ma, who emerges from the Holy Ganges, young, beautiful, ready to create all the beauty of the world once again, so the eventually she may turn dark and destroy it all again. She is a Goddess of cycles.
My next cycle seems to have been that of loss, rehab and unending pain. Friends faded back into their own lives, Rene took over organizing our lives, and a lot more work, and I struggled (often futilely) to get through each week stronger and more able than the week before. Nerve damage and chronic pain morphed into chronic depression and hopelessness. I forced myself to do physical therapy exercises nearly daily to stay out of complete helplessness (my right hand was so damaged, I could not move it at all for nearly a year).
And eventually Rene left, too, unable to live through the terrible ups and downs (mostly downs) and changes after my gastric bypass, though we both had issues long before my fall, which just sped things along.
And I am still cycling, shorter cycles than those of Kali, whose cycles may last eons. Mine just feel like eons, and I do have good(ish) times between each unexpected roller coaster back down, usually caused by the next necessary surgery (four in four years). Each surgery emphasizes that I am alone, a loner in a world filled with couples and groups, reemphasizing my inability to take care of my house, my life, even myself, leaving me feeling newly destroyed and meditating on Kali and her cycles.
Lately, anger has risen from deep inside of me. Really. Serious. Anger. I have not had the energy or courage to feel this rage before, because my energy went towards getting through life. Early on, I didn't know how radically my life had changed, would change. And when Rene left, it was much easier to slide past anger into sorrow, so I cried and cried and cried. And still have crying to do about my altered life. But rage has risen and broken through, finally. I'd like to be angry at god or goddess, but I don't really believe in deities, and certainly not ones who scratch his or er chin and decide, today I'll fuck Margo up for fun, and see how she copes (or not).
And I do not believe this terrible set of changes were "a gift" as a pious Christian recently told me. Tragedy is never an automatic gift. What we do with our burdens may eventually (in retrospect only) be seen as haaving been worked into gifts, but lots of people are given burdens, both light and terrible, and never recover. No, I have found that recovering life when one has lost the last one is hard, emotional work, full of sorrow and rage and hopelessness and bits of courage which may, in the end, coalesce into a new and different kind of life. But I still mourn and rage over the one I lost.
Human nature, I think. And it is my nature to want to find a Goddess to put a face on what I am feeling. Kali, in her blue form, holds all the rage I could ever need, and more. (The trouble with archetypes is that one never wants to embody one, for then one ends up living out the archetype, and as Kali, I could destroy my own small world quite easily with over-blown self-righteousness and rage.) So I meditate on her, and honor her, and know that despite my very human desire to blame someone or something for the ending of useful working life, there is nobody to blame, not even myself. Impersonal forces, perhaps like Kali, ended my doing what I believe I was born to do and was really good at (HIV counseling and testing women inmates) leaving me alone to build a somehow lesser kind of life. The only answer to "Why me?" is "Why not me?"
What I have been doing lately is feeling the anger behind the sorrow, and treading water as hard as I can to keep from drowning in the churning waters of the unconscious. I have crawled out for now, and am limping along as if there might be a better life ahead of me if I just keep going. And, after four years, of creeping forward, at least I'm staggering upright. And will continue to do so, for I seem to have no choise to do otherwise.
Blessings, Margo

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Building A Life, Continued

Up, down, up, down. This starting a new life outside of my house, away from my books and TV, beyond my computer, and despite chronic pain has become a bit of a roller coaster ride, and I have never ridden a roller coaster I didn't hate. The only thing keeping me going is that I do like to be taller than the trees once in a while.
Now I'm not talking stuck in Stygian depths here, with Hecate as my only companion, nor bounding joyfully through the forest with Artemis, chasing deer and young men with a bevy of beautiful maidens. I'm talking just the regular ups and downs of normal life, but it's been so long since I've had a "normal life" that I can hardly remember what it was like. But I do know when I let go of worrying, life flows much smoother.
My present normal life includes volunteering at a local hospital with the Guided Imagery/Gentle Touch Program, a modified yoga class, going to my trainer for an hated hour at the gym, spending a bit of time with Meg and Myla, and trying to do a bit of housework now and then. I have also bought a (cheap) sewing machine, and am learning to sew. For an enjoyable couple of months I spent one afternoon a week "eldersitting" the mother of a friend of a friend in a the retirement center of a convalescent center. Camille was funny and interesting and unable to talk, but her Alzheimer's worsened quite suddenly and she had to be moved. I'll still drop by to see her, but less frequently, and for briefer periods, once she is settled in her new nursing home.
This morning I went to a fund raiser walk for cancer to do gentle touch on the volunteer walkers as they took breaks from soldering on in the pouring rain. It is interesting to do gentle touch without the guided imagery part (it was too noisy to be heard easily, and it's tough to be screaming something like, "Now take a slow deep breath and let go of tension on the exhale" when the noise level is beyond belief because all activities had to happen in the gym due to the rain). It was also nice to be able to offer a small gift to the walkers, many of whom are survivors themselves, of course.
Sometimes I still wish. I wish I had my old job back. I wish I still had a partner (although perhaps not Rene). I wish the pain would ease off enough so I could live without narcotics, no matter how carefully prescribed and taken. I wish I had a retirement fund. I wish I had some of my old friends back, and had the energy and extroversion to attract new ones. I wish I didn't need a cane or walker to cover ground. If wishes were horses, I would ride saddleless across green fields with my hair streaming out behind me in the wind.
I am finding building a new life strenuous stuff, but I'm not sorry that I am who I am today-which is a direct result of my Big Fall on August 7. 2003. I go back to my early writings in July and August of '04 and find I was a different person then, more innocent about a lot of things, secretly thinking I would go back to work at the prison, that somehow I would pull some rabbit out of my a** and have my old life back in some recognizable form.
Who knew that four years later I would-finally!- be working on an outside life again. Not I. There were times when I was not sure I would live long enough to have a new life, or care enough to consider it, and now I see this working on new life as a gift, a privilege, a challenge, a mountain I am somehow equipped to deal with, valuing the good days, accepting the bad, allowing for the occasional misery that seeps over me and the loneliness that shows me that I am not yet ready for intimate relationships (and I don't mean sexual here) but still knowing that I will be ready eventually. (Aside: boy, it's nice to let a run on sentence run on out sometimes!)
On to a less introspective item of intense interest to me and not too many others. Now you may not care, but today Yale beat Harvard in the JV and Varsity races at the annual Harvard/Yale Regatta (also known as the Yale/Harvard Regatta), which is the longest running intercollegiate sporting event in the country. Going on 127 years. Or something like that. I forget. But Yale won!!!!!!!!!!
Why should I, a graduate of Connecticut College who never rowed so much as a rowboat in her whole life, care about such a win? You may well ask. It's because I live across the street from the Yale Rowing "Camp" where the boys come to train for the event (Harvard's boathouse is a half a mile down river.)They started racing on the Thames over 100 years ago, both colleges renting rooms from the Yankee neighbors, always happy for a few bucks, of course. Eventually the colleges brought property on the Thames, in Yale's case a couple of old houses, which have been added onto as the years have passed.
Now this is not a regular Regatta, where several colleges compete over a 1000 or 2000 meter course. No, this is just Harvard and Yale on a ball buster of a course (please excuse my language, but it is meant fairly literally). The freshmen race two miles, the JV race three miles and the Varsity race four interminable miles, a lung crushing, leg cramping, arm burning, stomach clenching distance which is unheard of in this day and age. And it is the four mile Varsity race that really matters. In the last 30 years, Yale has won the Varsity only six or seven times. Harvard's coach Harry Parker has had a real monopoly on this race for so long that some Yale alumnae have considered putting a hit out on him-or at least considered Voodoo (a religion I know a bit about, but not enough to assay such a curse)
And finally, finally Yale came through this year and won two out of the three. The Varsity came from way behind in the last half mile to win by three-tenths of a second. We cannot actually see the race from here, but listen to it on the radio, screaming across the river like they could hear us, scaring Myla no end in the process. Then we waited for them to exchange shirts with Harvard and row that last half mile back to the Yale dock, where they threw first the coxswain into the river, followed by the whole team jumping in, then the coach, followed by the whole team jumping in, while we-neighbors and parents of rowers and alumnae-all clapped and cheered and hooted.
So a good part of today was quite up, and all I can say is I am grateful.
Blessings, Margo

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Road Trips, Past and Future

Last weekend I went on a Quilt Shop Hop with my longtime friend Peggy. A Quilt Shop Hop like this is an opportunity for quilt shops to lure obsessed, addicted quilters into their stores to spend a lot of money they don't have on (sometimes) gorgeous material they may never use.
Should you not be a quilter, it works like this: a group of shops in a general area sell "passports" which need to be stamped at each and every shop in order to qualify for prizes which range from a super duper sewing machine, to "fat quarters" of fabric. (A fat quarter is a certain amount of material, the exact size of which I have yet to learn.) Along with the stamp, each shop gives out one part of quilt pattern. If one hits all stores, one has the whole quilt pattern to do, for free.
After one gets stamped, one then wanders around ooohing and ahhhing at material and quilting books and the amazing quilts most shops hang on their walls, often with the pattern and already chosen and cut fabric to make the quilt top.At a large extra cost, because all the choosing and cutting of fabric lengths has already been done.
I don't sew, therefore I don't quilt. At all. Never. And am highly unlikely to learn at this point in my life, what with my permanently injured right hand and all.
Peggy learned to sew at her mother's knees and makes wonderful quilts. (My mother had one arm and never sewed, either) Peg has enough spare fabric to make seven to ten huge quilts, all stored in her sewing room, and she has a small stash, compared to "real" quilters, she tells me.
So why was I along on a three day weekend to seven quilt stores in New Hampshire and Northern Massachusetts, you ask. Well, because it was a road trip, of course, with three nights in hotels, and an opportunity to go to the ocean. Plus, as Peggy is quick to add, I have a good eye for color. This is a rather startling fact we discovered three years ago when she made me a quilt for which I picked all the fabric. She has dragged me along to quilt shops with her ever since.
Now Peggy and I met when I was four and she was five. This August will mark 54 years of friendship. The last road trip we had been on together, however, was over 35 years ago, with our then-husbands along in tow. It was also the last time we had a major blow out that almost came to blows. ( Long story short, we wanted to set up camp in different spots, ended up screaming at each other, and stomped off in different directions, leaving out frightened husbands behind. They tentatively set up in a third spot and were both surprised and relieved when we turned up happily together, several hours later. Our mothers could have told them this was a normal occurrence, reverting back to five year olds.)
This was our first road trip since then, and while we knew blow outs were unlikely, we did wonder how well we'd travel together now, in our late 50's.
It was great! We had a wonderful time, even though I got tired of fabric stores, and took to reading while she bought still more fabric. I even bought a passport to have stamped, though it turned out neither of us won anything, alas. 
After we finished the Shop Hop, we hit Newburyport, MA, like the tourists we were, going into the wonderful selection of clothing. furniture, art, junque, and second hand stores the city offers. Peggy is always helpful in dragging my walker up and down steps, so I could hit as many stores as I liked. Our big purchases? Peg bought a pair of denim "I dream of Jeannie" pants, and I bought a cheap ring, both in a small head shop, which was affordable. We also had dinner with two of her old friends who now live in the area.
We spent a couple of early morning hours at the beach in Newbury, MA, too. These were perhaps the best hours of the whole trip.
This trip has hardened my desire to take my own Road Trip this fall, in late September or early October. I have never take a road trip alone. I have always gone with my mother and/or daughter or one spouse or the other, and have always pretty nicely compromised over the route or the speed or the accommodations or the tourist traps, or all these together. This next trip will be mine, all mine. Never mind that I can probably only drive a few hours a day, and will need to rest a lot and walk around a lot, and deal with pain a lot. Never mind that I will be low budgeting it, and will miss my daughter and granddaughter and dog. Never mind that I won't be able to go as far as I'd like, and visit all my J-Land friends, I am going to do it, anyway!
My tentative route will be from CT to DC through WV to KY (near Cincinnati) to Pittsburgh, PA, then home to CT. Do any of my readers live roughly along that route? I would be happy to take an extra day or two to swing by to meet you, just let me know! (Mort, do you want a visit from an odd lesbian from New England?) I will be staying in motels in some places, and hope to bunk down on a sofa in others. I don't care how neat or messy anyone's house is, I just want whatever adventure the trip can offer me. And I have to be as frugal as possible.
And I want to meet and talk to people, flirt with babies, exchange hellos with strangers. This will be the most difficult part, I think. Rene is very good at striking up conversations with anyone, I am shyer. I just hope that between scheduled visits I can have hello-where-are-you-from? kind of interactions, no big thing, but still tough for me. We'll see what happens. Now I am going to get my maps out and start daydreaming.
Blessings, Margo

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Still Alive and Wondering-Me & Mom, too.

Amazingly enough, my mother is home and doing well. She never even had to go to rehab, though her balance is still off a bit because her left eye is still blurry. She has a physical therapist coming in twice a week to help her walk more steadily, and she has now lived to see her 82nd birthday, which was Wednesday.
I am so appreciative of the prayers, energy, thoughts everybody sent her way-her recovery is a response to such kindness that poured out of all my readers, and I am so beyond grateful I have no words beyond: Thank You All. Your support truly got me through in a way I could not have otherwise.
I am still processing the aftermath of the experience, however, and have been meditating in my own way about family dynamics. What has come to mind is the myth of Demeter and Persephone. (For a brief synopsis of the myth go here: In one view, psychologically, Demeter and Persephone are almost too entwined, and Demeter's response to Persephone's abduction is so strong that she withdraws from the world completely. I have been wondering how Persephone would have responded if Demeter had been abducted. And how intertwined I am with my own mother. And why.
 "I did think briefly about letting go, but I couldn't go yet," she told me, "you are not ready for that yet. Me, either." She told me when she was finally compos mentis (sp?) again.
My own response to the inevitability of my mother's death brings up such a rush of sorrow and desolation that it is scary. I told her later that when it is her time to let go, I will be all right-and I know I will be able to work through the pain-but it made me wonder a bit about what kind of bond we have. Two years ago, when she was so sick that Luke called me to come quick because the doctordid not believe she would live, she turned the corner as soon as she realized I was there. Everyone was amazed, but she told me the same thing, in different words, as soon as we were alone.
Careful, subtle questioning has lead me to believe she has not said anything similar to my siblings or father. I don't quite get it yet, and maybe I never will, but I have been pondering it a lot lately. Demeter was(is) immortal, so Persephone really never had to face her mother's death. But I believe she would have been able to move on if her mother had been mortal. Death of our parents is something we all have to mourn, move through and keep living with wholeness.
I think I am afraid that my mother doesn't want to let go because she fears for me, and I don't want her to do that. But I cannot change her, I can only continue to work on my own changes. And, of course, I do want her to keep living as long as she has quality of life. We still have to go to Taos next May.
Perhaps I am not making much sense, but it doesn't matter. I will continue to meditate on it, and am very grateful she is still with us.
Meanwhile, my "real life" is taking off at what is (for me) warp speed. (Part of me wants to laugh at this, for it is snail slow compared to my last life.) I finish my orientation at the hospital this week, so will be able to start doing real Gentle Touch/Guided Imagery the following week. I will be working on the Ortho Floor-the same one on which I had such a terrible, enraging experience four years ago. I still hold some anger, but am pleased that I can help change to culture of the floor even a little bit.
One afternoon a week I am also elder-sitting a friend of a friend's mother who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. And I am spending an hour a week with Glenn, my trainer. And going to at least one or two DR's appointments a week. And, six months after anesthesia and surgery, I can finally concentrate enough to read books again, and am having a small orgy of catching up. And I have discovered clothes shopping. Almost all my life I've shopped in Large Women's Stores, or online. Suddenly I fit into clothes from regular stores! I must be careful not to turn this new hobby into an expensive ongoing orgy, though I really need everything from undies to jeans and tops.
I am still trying to figure out how to do all this, and still get enough rest, but like everything else, I'll work it through, and get stronger in the process.
Blessings, Margo

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Brain Surgery, Day Seven

This will be my last post from Denver on Mother's Brain Bleed. One week later she is doing amazingly well. She was happy this morning because she had finally gotten her hair washed, and could begin to see the magnitude of her scar-starting on her forehead, above her left temple, then all the way around in a loop that ends behind her left ear. She is amazed, and rather proud of the head scar. She was less happy to discover that she has stitches beside, and below her left eye, but came 'round to a more philosophical point of view shortly. "At least I can see out of it, though it's still rather blurry."

She blows me away.

She will be going from the hospital to a rehab place where my sister-in-law's sister-in-law. Glenda, is an administrator. She will look after Mom well, I know. Mom is not happy about this, but is resigned to going. She knows that the schedule in rehab is a good deal more rigorous than her schedule would have been if she came right home. On the other hand, her depth perception and balance are off, not to mention her double vision, so she's also scared to come right home from the hospital. (Thank Goodness!)
Dad seems to be into denial about how close a call this was, and resentful that I can understand what the doctors are saying better than him (he's pretty deaf, too). It makes me sad that we don't know each other well enough to discuss what's going on, but I see that he, quite literally, does not have the understanding of how to discuss painful stuff, and has no interest in trying. It's too scary for him.
I recognize control issues on both sides-his and mine-and know that I have to let go tomorrow, and pack up and leave early Saturday. I know that he-and my brother Luke who lives nearby-will do fine without me, but letting go will be painful. I'll do it, of course, cheerfully and with great love to Mom, then go out to the car to cry.
I know that in my own way I am as strong as my mother, just more in touch with my feelings. And I know that my parents lean on each other, after 58 years of marriage, and am glad they have each other, no matter what their past may have held.
I won't write again until I get home and resettled, but must add once again how much I have appreciated your prayers and support during this painful time, and how much they have meant to my mother, as well.
Blessings, Margo

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Brain Surgery, Day Four

It's very late, and I have the "first shift" at the hospital tomorrow, so I should be long asleep, but I wanted to say that my mother is doing much, much better today. Her bad eye has opened a crack, and she can see out of it some-thanks to the best eye surgeon the hospital has, who just happened to be passing through, 20 minutes before she was rolled into surgery. He made it joint surgery immediately.

She had her glasses on and hearing aide in when I got there, mid-afternoon-Allison had the first shift today. Luke and Mary arrived shortly afterwards, so I left to give them some time alone with her. When I returned an hour later she was up and sitting in her chair, having walked around her room with one of the physical therapists.

Tomorrow, if she continues to improve, the powers that be will take out at least one of her IV's, and her catheter, and maybe even move her off the floor to a regular med/surge hall. She still gets confused a bit-a while after the nurse told her that tomorrow shed would be able to use the toilet, heavily stressing only with a nurse helping. Twenty minutes later she told me she could go to the bathroom alone tomorrow, only to have all of us, Luke, Mary, and me leap down her throat with a chorus of NO's. Oh yes, she said, now I remember.

But she was joking about what hair style she'd have to have for Catherine's wedding two minutes later, as I carefully combed some of the blood out of her hair. We had her laughing uproariously with a bunch of silly suggestions.

It is almost impossible to believe this is happening so fast when four days ago we thought she would die of a brain clot or the surgery to relieve it.

As for my father, I recognize how scared he is of strong women who stand up for themselves against him. It doesn't happen often to him, and he was quite shaken by my strong and immediate response. Today he has reverted to type, acting as if the whole thing never happened. I can guarantee that I will not ostrich it away in my life, but I need time and space to look at the whole experience-and the dynamics which still can engulf me all too quickly if I do not work to stay focused, clear and open to Spirit.

My mother love him, without really understanding what she has missed by staying with him, and she has grown more slowly than Catherine and I have, but she has changed and is more able to take him on when it is important to her. (Margo and I are going to Taos: you'll be on your own for four days. She allowed him no comment and gave no explanation, and he said nothing back to her, though he hates to have be alone to cook for himself.

I am so tired I am rambling, but wanted to let you who have become such a support system for me with your comments and concern, know how things are progressing.

Blessings, Margo

Brain Surgery,Day Three, but one day late

I want to thank everybody again for prayers, good thoughts, energy sent across the county and the Pond for my mother, who continues-much too slowly for all of us-to recover. Her personality is there-stubborn, complaining, but wanting to do stuff for herself until she tires. And her sense of humor is intact. She will catch up, I think, to her old self eventually. Thank all Holy Deities, male and female, and all else the is out there for healing.
She has always seen herself as "not much more than a housewife" and as not doing so great with her kids. Luke and I gave her problems in our teens, and she has been worried a lot about Catherine more recently. And to be blunt, it was not a happy home to grow up in, nor a happy marriage for many years (though after 59 years they have worked out a way of living together, with no intimacy of any sort, but acceptable companionship). But I see her a a woman as strong as an ox, an amazing example. 
In the last 4 years she has survived cancer, radiation, chemo, obstructed bowel(twice!)-both of which nearly killed her, and now this fall and brain surgery. All this with her personality and odd sense of humor intact. So what if she's still confused about where she is at times, and looks like she went 10 rounds with Mohammed Ali in his prime. She is quite incredible, and is obviously where I got what ever it is that keeps me crawling back from depression, abandonment, and ten surgeries in fourteen years!
She even called this morning with a request for a sweater, books, a pad and pencil, and a hearing aide battery. Considering one eye is so swollen shut the doctor cannot pry it open, and the other is a barely a slit, and wearing her hearing aide on her swollen left side-just under her surgical scar-is painful, I'd say she is plugging along quite well, all things considered. She's my hero.
Of course, now that the crisis has abated a bit, family dynamics has raised its ugly head. Both Luke and my father want control of her medical situation- a repeat of two years ago which climaxed in a shouting match in her hospital room. The doctor sided with my father, after which Luke stayed away for over six months (and remember, he's the one who lives out here) I don't care who controls her medical info, I just want to make sure no errors are made in her medical care-which I have painfully come to see as wanting a kind of control myself.
Where I need to be is willing to help where ever I can, even though she tells me she does not want Mary and Luke to visit at all, and Allison (my dad) only for an hour or so a day. And when she begs me to stay with her, to tell them that, I have to tell her gently that I cannot do that-they love her, too, and are worried and want to be with her. She hurrumphs, and calls me a disobedient daughter, then smiles a bit. When they are there she keeps urging then to go, and I bite my tongue to say nothing-because they do love her and want to see her as much as I do. She has never told me to leave, and I think it's because I have a nurses aide background (two or three lifetimes ago) and am used to dealing with most anything (except my family) due to my HIV testing and counseling background, working in prison.  I can anticipate her needs and advocate. gently, to her nurses.
Last night we were all there when my father and I had a big go around. Apparently he felt I was not moving away from her fast enough when she needed to sleep (my suggestion in the first place). I was murmuring to her about taking slow deep breaths and relaxing, and was completely surprised when he jumped up, marched across the room and hit me-hard-on the shoulder, ordering me away from her. I moved away all right, enraged, right over to him.  I had completely lost it. "You will never hit me again, " I hissed at him.  He leapt up balling his fist, obviously afraid I would hit him back. I would never do so, and the fact that he was afraid of me tells me how little he knows me. "You will never hit me again, I said loudly. He refused, just as loudly, to go into the hall so I could tell him why I had lingered for no more that 30 extra seconds at her side (She and I had worked out a way that I helped her relax into sleep, a 30 second relaxation technique, that she liked) and I was so furious I found myself wanting to hit him back out of sheer frustration. My brother helpfully chimed in that I should have moved sooner, and this was not to place to argue it out. Flames to the fire. I wanted to slug him hard enough to knock him out (something I learned, by the way, in boot camp before I worked at the prison, and wasn't half bad at).
Instead, of course, I took several deep breaths and moved my walker to the far side of the room, where I sat flashing on the three times I saw him hit her, and the time he pushed her so hard that she  cracked her ribs so badly she spent a week in the hospital, something Mom told me about quite graphically later. And the number of times I'd been hit, too.
On the other side of the room he was yelling at me that it was my fault she fell (she had insisted on giving me her bedroom and was sleeping on an expensive blowup bed in the living room when she fell on her way to the bathroom) and I was to get o ut right nowand be on the next fight out of Denver because I was not welcome in his house.
I took several slow deep breaths and looked across at this frail old man with emphysema, so totally unable to do anything with his anger that he had to hit and threaten and could not even look me in the eye, or consent to go into the hall so I could explain why I had not moved away from his wife in his time frame. I struggled, somewhat successfully, to let go of the anger, to see his fear at her illness and his feeling of loss of control, and his lifelong unwillingness and inability to deal with feelings, happy or angry or sad. For whom intimidation, withdrawal into his own head, and occasionally hitting, literally and figuratively, was the only way he has to express what he feels, and I felt unbelievably sad for him.
I said, quietly, but so that he could hear me, that I was not going home on the next plane, that Mom had invited me to stay, and I would, and he must never hit me again. He did not respond, though I knew he heard me. At that point Mary, the eternally chipper one, chimed in that we were all invited to her brother and sister-in-law's for dinner, and she would not take no for an answer, so we kissed Mom good night, one by one and put on our happy family faces as we trooped off to Scott and Glenda's for a very nice dinner, most of which I could not eat. Dad and I had separate cars (remember, I will not drive with him) and came home and went to bed without speaking.
This morning, as he was leaving for the hospital, I said we had to talk. As he looked away, I calmly and quietly apologized for my anger and ill behavior the night before, explained what I had been doing with Mom-something we has worked out together before the surgery while he was not there (he left at 2:00PM the day of the fall, and did not return until I called at 8:00 PM to tell him about the surgery. He was already in bed at the time) and that I needed him to know he was never to hit me again. He kept looking away, silent, until I told him I needed to hear it from him, and -finally- he muttered that he would never hit me again. And I could let go of a good big knot of my anger, finally. But not all of it, of course.
Reading this makes him look like a constant abuser, and he wasn't. It usually happened when he'd had too much to drink, and (I believe) the abuse tapered off as we left home, and he began to drink much less. I do not know this for sure, and of course, we did not call it abuse 25 or 30 years ago. Mom truly believes that she provoked him, and, though we have talked about abuse as adults, she still only half believes that how ever she provoked him, hitting her was abusive. She has told me he hasn't touched her in over 20 years, and it's all in the past, when we didn't know about abuse anyway, and it is a subject I am not to bring up in front of him, ever. I will respect her request, but smolder because it is just one more secret we keep as a family full of secrets and disconnection.
I do really feel badly for both of them, caught in a dance of 59 years, unable to do much more than hold on, each wishing for a life the other cannot give. And I know I can give him nothing, and my mother only my occasional presence and laughter and maybe-someday-before she dies, onelast trip to Taos.
Now I am off to the hospital for my shift, and will stay in a waiting room during the 2 hour rest period, while Dad comes home to rest, and we'll all be there until Luke and Mary arrive, after a day of skiing. Then back here, to our bedrooms, and again tomorrow, when I have the early shift...
And I just hope to Goddess she continues to return to us, to heal from the fall, and we can all help her in some small was, despite out very different out looks.
Blessings-and I need them- Margo