Thursday, February 25, 2010

Words, and pictures, though not necessarily connected

We've all been hearing for a while now about how chicken soup has real medicinal qualities, that eating a piping hot bowl really will help cure your cold.

I now also firmly believe in the emotional healing power of baking chocolate chip cookies, and eating some while they are still warm out of the oven. Taking the time to bake with Dean was big; I just haven't been able to rally for much of anything lately, haven't been cooking much, haven't been very hungry. But we had a snow day yesterday and I knew we needed the project together, AND the cookies. Wow. What a world of difference.

Here's an interesting place I've just arrived in mourning the loss of my mom. I have regrets -- many regrets. And that has been crushing me, the weight of those regrets. But then, I suddenly realized, she had regrets, too. We both had things we would have done over differently. So now that we can't -- neither of us can without both of us here -- I can move ahead knowing that simply we still loved each other deeply. That even with our imperfections, what stood up over time was love. That's what I need to focus on. What lasted and remained true, regardless.

(Try clicking on this one to see it larger -- "Outbound to Wonderland" -- my favorite sign in the entire Boston public transportation system.)

I'm thinking about my relationship with Dean very much in all of this experience.

We were both born in the Year of the Tiger (1962 and 1998) in the Chinese calendar, and this is the Year of the Tiger (2010). I'm trying to think about how to celebrate that, what we can make of it. Seems like an opportunity worth seizing, somehow.

And speaking of having been born in 1962, it was just my birthday last week. Natalie sent me flowers -- wasn't that a wonderful thing for her to do? They are still a breath of spring, brightening the whole kitchen.

In the overall birthday department though it was pretty crappy, given the timing. And, how can I put this -- I'm wondering why it is that both my parents had to pass away right before my birthday.

I used to truly love February. It featured my birthday, which I always used to adore, it has Valentine's Day, it's the time of winter when you do start to see signs of spring -- even if only the lengthening of the day. Oh sure, most people find it hard to say nice things about February, but I was a staunch supporter. Now.... Not so much. I find myself dreading my birthday, and not because of the aging thing (that's never bothered me a whit). I don't want to have to face February every year and these two sad anniversaries. Oy.

There are 11 other months of the year, I have 3 siblings all born in various months -- couldn't the grief have gotten spread around a little bit? It has been hard for the past 11 years to work my way past the anniversary of my dad's death in order to feeling up for anything by my birthday, and now I just can't even imagine. Oh well. Maybe it was time to grow up about it.

One good thing that happened on my birthday is that after Dean and I finished his observation of seahorses at the aquarium (for a school report), Ken came to meet us and after lunch,

we went to see Ultimate Wave Tahiti in Imax 3D. If this film plays near you (especially in 3D) I highly recommend you go see it. I don't imagine that I'll ever get to Tahiti in my lifetime, but this film gave me such an incredibly real sense of the place. I wouldn't say that I have an interest in surfing, but the film made it fascinating. It very much highlights the spiritual culture and beauty of Tahiti. I'm still waiting for my birthday margarita, for my birthday dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and my birthday cake. Hopes are not high.

I'm tired. Are you tired? I am deeply, could-fall-asleep-at-any-minute tired.

Dave, with whom I work at school, is the skip of his curling team. How cool is that? He brought in his rock and broom and shoes (and even his special pants and his special jacket with his name on it and his championship patch). Trying to imagine how we're going to handle Olympic withdrawal.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010


I just wanted to say that I am here, and how deeply thankful I am for all your kind words. Even saying that you don't know what to say but that you care is meaningful and comforting. I haven't been able to bring myself to do much of anything for the past 6 days, but I'm trying to get myself moving today.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

It's hard to find the words, or even to think of what to say. Deep breath.

Yesterday morning, my mom passed away. This was not what any of us was expecting. She'd been in the hospital because she'd been having difficulty breathing, but the doctors were delighted with the progress she was making. (We learned, once she was admitted to the hospital, that she had COPD -- none of us, including her, realized that.) I had mentioned how difficult January was -- my brother and I had moved her from Seattle back to Chicago (where my brother lives, where we are from) because she'd been left just completely alone and unable to care for herself. But it all seemed to be working out -- she was now living with family who loved her and doted on her, she was able to be with her great-grandchildren, and we were all working together on plans for visits. My brother called an ambulance one morning because she just wasn't breathing well at all.

She was scheduled to be released from the hospital yesterday to an interim care facility, to help her transition from the breathing support/therapy she'd been receiving in the hospital to the level of care that could/should happen in a home setting. My brother had been asking the doctors from the beginning if I needed to fly out right away at any time, and he'd been told there was absolutely no need and that she'd be back home again soon. But in the early morning hours yesterday she had difficulty breathing, and as they were working to set her up to receive oxygen, her heart failed.

I spoke with her on Monday. I had just no idea that it would be our last conversation. I told her I loved her -- I always told her that, and she told me she loved me too, as always. The hole in my heart is unfathomably deep. I feel utterly adrift. My brother has so wisely been talking with me about all the hidden blessings -- that we got her out of her apartment in Seattle where, without care, she would have died alone, that she didn't have a long, drawn-out period of suffering, that she knew how very much she was loved and that she did have her last 20 days on earth surrounded by family.

But I didn't get to say goodbye, and I know how hard that's going to be to have to live with. I'm glad that I did call her every single week, that I'd send her pictures and packages, that I never missed a birthday or holiday. But it's hard not to think of how much more I could have done, and to regret not simply going out to Chicago just because she was in the hospital.

In my dream, we are going to spend the day together at the Art Institute. We'll wander the galleries, we'll have lunch, we'll browse in the gift shop before heading outside to hold on to the lion's tail for a moment to feel the vibration from the traffic on Michigan Avenue (which we know is REALLY the spirit of the lion). We'll remember how many times we walked up and down this particular stretch of the city, back and forth to ballet classes, to Christmas shopping at Marshall Field's, and that time I first got glasses in 7th grade and was so overjoyed and amazed to see that you could ACTUALLY see all the branches in the trees on the street. We'd have years ahead of us.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

You make the call

Dean tells me that "skedaddle" and "hootenanny" have been officially dropped from the dictionary. He feels that "skedaddle" is a loss but feels no pain over "hootenanny." I think both cases are tragic; such colorful, uniquely American words being lost. I'll just have to try to work both in to as much of my conversation as possible. (You have been warned.)

Meanwhile, if you haven't seen this yet, please watch it. For me, for yourself. It is a TED video of Stuart Brown, talking about the importance of play. Better, even, than the Ken Robinson one (but do watch if you haven't seen it).

Then tell me when you're going to start playing.

[edited to add: I should have said up front -- to 'skedaddle' is to leave quickly; a 'hootenanny' is both a party with music and dancing -- usually folk/square dancing, and it also means the word that you can't think of at the moment -- as in, "hand me that hootenanny over there!" People now more commonly use "thingamajig" or "whatsit" or "thingamabob." Also, my further research has shown that while some references put 'skedaddle' as a term coined during the American Civil War, other sources put it as having derived from earlier Scottish/Irish/English terminology.]

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Still one of my favorite pictures

I miss you, dad, and I'm thinking about you today. I think about you every day, to be honest, but this anniversary is always a hard one.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Daily mail

I realize that I've been trying to send more things, real things, in the regular mail so far this year. Notes, letters, tokens of affection. Things that can leave my hand and arrive in the hand of a loved one, a dear friend. I'm behind on a few packages, but working away at it. Did you know that "checking the mail" is still one of the daily things people most look forward to, even though it fairly rarely delivers real treasures? How's that for the strength of hope?