oldsunbird

"I have been more outrageous and more alone and more courageous than the world has known. Passerby, my heart is like your own."

Not So Pleasant Holidays

Iconic screen shot from the movie It's a Wonde...

Iconic screen shot from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is on the TV tonight.   Scott loved that movie.  He watched it every year.  I’m surprised at how just knowing its on fills me with dread.  It’s been 13 years since Scott killed himself and I still can’t watch his favorite programs, look at his photos, his handwriting, anything that reminds me of him.  He loved  sizzlers, Seinfeld, Star Wars, roast, rice and gravy.

I often wonder what he would look like now, if he’d be married, if he’d have children.  I loved him so much.  I still can’t believe he’s gone.  And I miss him.

I’ll be glad when Christmas is over.  Next, I have to get through his birthday, January 9th.  He’d be 49.  The hurt never goes away.

 

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Tears

English: Portrait of old woman sitting by a wi...

English: Portrait of old woman sitting by a window. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The woman looking out the window is not me, but she could be me.  I spend a lot of time looking out the window.

I cry every day.  TV, poems, telephone conversations, everything makes me cry.    Sad things, happy moments, but mostly beauty.  There is so much beauty in the world.  And it fills me with tears.  The innocence of children, little acts of kindness between strangers, a loving heart, nature, the long suffering and loyalty of dogs and other animals, and the awful beauty of loss.  Yes, loss, and what it does to us.  Or, what we do with it.  Loss changes people, makes us more patient, compassionate, understanding, loving.

But I cry so much!  It bothers me sometimes.  I remember when Henry,  the man Mother married after Dad died, cried at a birthday party we gave him.  Forrest, my husband, said, “Don’t be a baby.”  It made me sad that he said such an unfeeling thing; And I hope Henry didn’t hear him.  Having worked with the elderly, I knew, from experience, that older people tear up more easily than the young.   There are exceptions, of course.   One obvious reason for this, I think, is that by the time you reach those elder years, you’ve had countless losses and gone through many changes.  And, I believe, we are also grieving our own coming deaths.  Every time someone I care about dies, I feel a little closer to that day.

Tonight, watching Christmas in Rockefeller Center on TV, I had to change the channel.  So many memories attached to the songs.  Happier times, when we were all here enjoying the season together.  I haven’t put up a tree since Scott died thirteen  years ago.   My only two grandchildren, both adopted, live in Connecticut; I live in Missouri.  We don’t have much contact since John, my son (their dad} died.  Sadly, Christmas and many other holidays, are just times for me to get through.  Giving to others, especially the needy, helps, but, still, the heart of Christmas is missing for me.  And many others.

This may seem like a contradiction to what I said about the elderly being compassionate, understanding and loving because of their losses.  And I guess it is.  Much of my life, and feelings, are contradictory.    I’m trying to put it all together so I can feel whole again.

Bad News

I had a cousin just a few months younger than me.  Her name was Terry.  We met 27 years ago when we both were 58.   It’s a long story, but briefly, she lived in Kansas and had been looking for her mother  for years; finally found us in Missouri, but her mother had passed away.  I was thrilled to have her in my life.

She and her husband visited us a couple of times, and my husband and I drove to Kansas to see her.  We talked on the phone and exchanged letters.

She was such a gift; we both lamented the fact that we lived so far from each other.  I felt we had been cheated (she much more than I)  for not knowing each other when we were younger.  My dad’s family all lived close, within walking distance of one another.  If we had known each other then, we would have been playmates, probably best friends.   And then, after finally  meeting, we still couldn’t see each other that often because of the distance, and, later, due to the fact that we both had physical problems that made traveling difficult.

Our contact has been less frequent the past few years, and I’ve been the one to call.  Terry had been quite ill and on medication that left her drowsy, with slurred speech; I did most of the talking.  Not a very rewarding exchange.

I was thinking about her today and realized it had been quite awhile since we talked.  I decided to call her and was looking forward to hearing her voice.   Her husband answered, told me she died last April.    And now I regret that I didn’t call her sooner.

I’ve had that experience before.  I called my best friend after my husband died and learned she had died months before.  You’d think I would have learned by now to live as if today is the only day.  To not let time grow between us.

But time seems to go so fast.  And I think….tomorrow.  Then tomorrow comes, and I let it slide by too  And before I know it, weeks, months have passed.  Nothing in life is so certain that we can take anything for granted.

I’m glad, and grateful, that my cousin and I were able to enjoy each other, if only briefly.   If she hadn’t found us, I would never have known I had a cousin in Kansas.  She enriched my life and she’s a part of me now.

I love you Terry.  Thank you for the gift of you.

Thanksgiving, 2012

 

I celebrate the maple tree

its late fiery brilliance

crimson leaves

birds who stayed

when others followed

the sun and stars

gray squirrels snuggling

in winter nests

spotted rabbits sleeping

in burrows,

mercurial sky

grass damp   recent rains

leaves torn by the wind

scattering earth

dogs   walkers   drivers

dashing down Luster

this bright sun room

where I sit

wrapped in velvet

eating toast and

drinking tea

my dog curled up

next to me

the thick richness

of this day

lifted from the bones

of a dewy night

just beginning

(c) Mary Harrison, 11/22/2012

 

Happy Thanksgiving to my followers and friends!

Motivation

 

 

About the only thing that motivates me these days is my girl, JennyPenny.  I’m lucky to have her.  Otherwise I’d probably just sit here and rot.  But she has to be fed twice a day, watered, let out about every hour or two and get her medicine twice a day.  Which means I have to get off my duff, if only to transfer from bed to wheelchair, and move myself around.  Yes, that’s right.  Bed! Embarrassing as it is, I spend most of my day on my bed.  Reclining, with legs stretched out, back supported by pillows.

 

And that has got to change.  The longer I stay here in my bedroom, the more strength I lose and the weaker I get.  I notice my legs aren’t as sturdy as they used to be.  I’m losing muscle.  Just a small amount of exercise leaves me weak and breathless.  If I stand longer than a few minutes, my blood pressure goes up too high.  Then I feel light headed and faint.  It’s a viscous circle.   The longer I stay on my bed, the worse I feel and the worse I feel, the more I want to operate from my bedhome.

 

What’s operating most in this viscous circle is fear.  The physical problems, along with the consequences of not pushing myself, are real.  And scary.

 

I know I could do better.  I’ve got to just DO it!  Start slow and build up.  I don’t know what I can regain of what I’ve lost, but something, I’m sure.  Yesterday I walked back and forth in the sun room about four or five times holding onto a walker and felt no ill effects.  I’ve got to do this every day.  And I’ve got to move out of my bedroom into the sunroom.

 

sunroom

sunroom (Photo credit: meglet127)

 

It’s bright and pleasant there, with a view of the yard, my neighbors, and vehicles going down Luster.   There’s a world out there I don’t want to lose contact with.

 

My love for the bedroom started when I was a small child and sick.  I spent much time in bed reading, writing, dreaming.  Even when I wasn’t sick, I could hide out in my room from my brothers, who loved to tease me.  I was the only girl in the family until after I graduated from high school.   After I had Rheumatic Fever and a mitral valve prolapse, Mother became very protective of me.  She wouldn’t let me do heavy chores or go for long walks.  Once, in high school, when my classmates went on a hike, I sat in the back of a pickup which was transporting the picnic supplies to our destination.  The message was: I was different from everyone else, weaker, not quite up to snuff.  It’s a concept I’ve had to fight all my life and am still having problems with in my old age.

 

But now, I have to find the strength and courage to change my concept of myself and to be more active, to live a normal life.

 

All There Is

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe (Photo credit: epSos.de)

I’m really into food.  Mostly healthy food.  I think about meals a lot, like I used to think about boys when I was young.  Breakfast.  Lunch.  Supper.  What do I want?  Wht do I have?  What do I need to order? Food is about the only pleasure I have left.

I’m also into nutrition, nutrition that will benefit my physical conditions—low sugar, low fat, low salt.

So I order cookbooks and books on nutrition from Amazon– Dean Ornish, Joy Bauer, Dr McDougall.  I watch the Food Network on TV.  I have my own page with Dr Weil online.  It’s personalized and includes health tips for my particular problems and the latest health news.  I get a daily menu which includes three meals a day and a library of meals I can choose as substitutes.

Today I roasted vegetables (my own recipe) for lunch and made hummus for supper.  I substituted peanut butter for the tahini because it’s healthier and, surprisingly, I don’t taste the peanut butter in the finished product.

Making those two things and cleaning the kitchen used up all my energy for today.  And I did most of it sitting in a wheelchair.   The things I fix these days must be quick and easy.   So I’ve had to put away most of my old favorite recipes.

I tried Meals on Wheels but the meals aren’t all that healthy or good.  So, it’s a struggle, but I can still put a meal together; and though what I do now is far removed from what I used to do in the kitchen, the food I cook is much better than having it brought in.  And I’m grateful for that.

Thirteen Year Grief

When I worked at Newington Veteran’s Hospital as a psychiatric nurse, one of my duties was to teach classes on suicide to medical personnel—nurses, interns, aides, and students.­­­  I informed them that those who were serious about ending  their lives  were often secretive about their intent.  And that the male’s method of suicide was usually more lethal than the female’s.  Guns or hanging  vs. drugs or self-mutilation.   I advised them of warning signs: withdrawal, change in personality, loss of interest in most activities, looking depressed, poor work or school performance, change in sleep patterns, alcohol/drug abuse, talking about death or suicide, careless in appearance.

Then my husband and I retired and moved from Connecticut to Missouri.  Chris had separated from the navy, was married, living in Texas; Scott, divorced, was in the Air Force in California; Ken was working at a television station in Connecticut and John, married, a recent survivor of Hodgkin’s disease, was working as a computer analyst in Connecticut.   Separated and scattered, we were all involved in our own interests.  We communicated by phone, internet and regular mail.I took my retirement as an opportunity to seriously follow my life’s dream—writing.   I took a few creative writing classes at a local university and then some online.After Scott separated from the Air Force, he lived with Forrest and me while pursuing a degree in computer science.  Forrest became a master gardener and his interest turned to our yard.  I spent my time writing poems.  After graduation, Scott took a job at Hallmark in Kansas City.

About that time, a few physical problems I had worsened and I began thinking about the uncertainty of life.  I started a memoir about me and our family for my sons to read after my death.   I always regretted that I hadn’t asked my parents for more information about themselves.  I know very little about my ancestors.  A bonus, for me, in the writing was that going back and looking at my life in retrospect changed my perspective about me, the family and life in general.

I was involved in my writing project and welcoming John and his family who’d just arrived from Connecticut for a visit when a call came from Scott.   He’d driven himself to a hospital in K C because he was suicidal.  I knew he’d been depressed and had even overdosed (that’s another story for another time).  A few months before his call, we’d brought him to Springfield and admitted him to a hospital here.  He was discharged after a few days.  Forrest, Scott and I then looked for a house for him here.  I wanted him close so I could keep an eye on him.  I gave earnest money on a house he liked, but he went back to KC and as far as I knew, he was doing fine.  I was keeping in contact with him closely by email and by phone and had no idea he was suicidal.

After the call came, Forrest and I drove to KC to see Scott in the hospital.  We boarded his cats and took care of some other business for him, stayed overnight and saw him again next morning before returning to Springfield to be with John and his family.  I’d planned on returning to KC after John left, but a few days later, Scott was discharged from the hospital and went back to work.  I thought he was doing fine.  Two days before he shot himself, he talked to me about plans he had for buying a house and the new vet he’d found for his cats.

Thirteen years later, I still can’t watch “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Scott’s favorite Christmas holiday movie, look at his photos, or think about him for too long.  I haven’t come to grips with the fact that I, who should have known, did not recognize the warning signs that my son was in trouble.   I should have been more alert, not so distracted by my writing and other things that were going on.  I’ve learned, too late, to treat each moment as if it was the only moment, and to give it all I have.

After Scott’s death, my heart couldn’t finish my memoir.  Sadly, instead, I published a memoir in memory of Scott, and, later, one for John who died of colon cancer.

How beautiful and sacred life is!  And how fragile!  We can’t afford to be careless.   I must live with my inattention for the rest of my life and suffer the resulting heartache.

A New Old Grief

What mother wants to remember

the death of her child?

One happened in August

when the sun was fierce and

the air stood still.

Grass burned and

lakes dried out, and he

no longer wanted to live.

Another, in February

after a short illness;

an ice storm locked doors,

froze flowers;

bent, broken, they

lay on the ground,

mourners footprints

covered by ice,

the earth unmoving..

Birthdays, Christmas, 4th of July,

other holidays.

It seems every month is a cause

for grief.

And I ask myself,

Is this why I’m here—

to guide and love and cherish,

to watch them die

before they have

a chance to live,

to let them go

before my own life

ends?

(c) Mary Harrison, 2012

More About Me

I just started following a blogger whose husband is ill and she has to care for him.  Almost all her thoughts and moves are affected by how her husband will react.   She plans her life around him and his needs.

I understand where she’s coming from; I, too, was once a caretaker for my husband.  Keeping him safe and happy was my life’s work.  It was difficult at times, but mostly it was rewarding.

And this is why:

We were in our late 70’s when he became ill.  Our children had long left the nest and lived in other towns.  We’d lost two sons, along with many other friends and relatives.  We mostly had just each other.  I was a retired psychiatric nurse, and chose that profession because my heart went out to those in need and I wanted to help them.  I especially related to the sick, as I’d been quite ill as a child, often separated from friends and family, trying to deal with my fears and discomforts alone.  My mother took good physical care of me but was too busy or unaware of how to comfort a sick, scared child.  She never spoke of or explained my illnesses to me.  Basically, I was just put to bed in a bedroom and left to my own devices.

Mother had always wanted to be a nurse, but she lost her father and brother before penicillin was discovered and had to quit school and go to work to help with the family bills.  Her nursing aspirations were carried into her adulthood.  She saw that I and my bed were clean and that I was well fed.  When I had Scarlet Fever, she rubbed my rash with calamine lotion.  She boiled my sheets and everything that came out of my room.  When she learned that I had Rheumatic Fever, she cried on the bus on the way home from the doctor’s.  I knew then that something bad was wrong with me, but I had no idea what it was or what was going to happen.   The treatment for Rheumatic Fever back then was bed rest.  There were no medications to treat it with.

Anyway, after I retired as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, I missed practicing my calling.  And with the boys gone and no one to take care of, I needed a reason to get up in the morning.

My husband was a strong, controlling individual.  He made the important decisions in our family, and I was happy to let him do that.  I’ve always been a sensitive, introverted individual, never really sure of myself, afraid to take the initiative.

Then, after Forrest became ill, first with Alzheimer’s, then with COPD, hypertension, diabetes, kidney dysfunction, and colon cancer, I gradually had to become the decision maker and performer of all the household duties.  I gained confidence, and, in fact, enjoyed being responsible.

But most of all, I enjoyed taking care of my husband—cooking his meals, buying his special treats at the grocers, seeing that he had his oxygen, clothes to keep warm, bringing his meals to him in the TV room after it was too much effort for him to come to the table, taking him to his doctors’ appointments, wheeling him in the wheelchair.  We’d sit on the patio, watch the birds build nests, the trees grow, flowers bloom.   Sometimes, we’d watch TV together, or I’d watch while he slept in a chair across from me.  We were together.  We connected.  Not only was he allowing me to care for him, he was enjoying it.  Sadly, it was our best time as a married couple.

The woman I spoke of at the beginning of this blog lives in Australia on a bird farm.  Our experiences with illness are not quite the same, but, still, I can empathize with her.  Her blog address is:  http://jmgoyder.com/    She’s courageous, admirable and an inspiration.  I think you might find her blog worth the visit.

Guardian Angels

During WW II, when I was in my teens and searching for love, I met a soldier at the USO, after dancing with several others, who seemed like a perfect gentleman. We danced all evening to Harry James, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey. At intervals, especially after high energy dances like the jitterbug, the soldier brought coca colas to me for refreshment.

On the sidelines, an army recruiter I’d dated a time or two, watched. As the night wore on and people, one after another left, my soldier and I became the last couple on the dance floor. I was ready to leave with him when the recruiter told my female friend that the soldier I was with, had been spiking my colas all evening and to not let me leave with him. She convinced me to go home with her as we had planned. Looking back, I’m pretty sure the recruiter saved me from a bad experience.

Sometimes I wonder how most youngsters make it in the world. I had other experiences which turned out okay but could have gone in a different direction. Today I want to honor and express my gratitude for the guardian angels/saviors in my life. I believe we all have them, whether we realize it or not, and, also,we ARE them, or can be.

Maybe one thing I can do the rest of my life to make it worthwhile is to feel responsible and care for all of God’s creatures, when the universe asks me to, even when it’s inconvenient.

 

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