Friday, June 30, 2017

What Time Is It?

Mom was in the bed she died in, in the living room because no other room had enough space for that rolling hospital cot. She'd been washed and shampooed by the CNA and my sister when she quietly breathed her last, while I was getting on the plane to Phoenix, and when I landed and switched on my mobile data saw my sister's text that the funeral-home people would hold off on taking Mom's body until I got there, if I hurried.

Mom and I had built a good adult relationship and I visited often in the past few years, knowing that parents don't last. In May she'd been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer that she was suffering from since March. I was glad she'd been released from it; and parents die because that's what parents do, sadly. I had no last-minute beggings and forgivings like so many people seem to have, at least in movies. Dad had passed suddenly and shockingly of a heart attack in 1982; now, that gave me what we call PTSD, then called being hysterical and messed up, and agoraphobia (the sidewalk bounced like a trampoline, it really did!) and feared mirrors and electricity and was terrified I'd never be sane again. I'm older now, and so was Mom. She was 82. Stepdad survives her; he's 98. This time he's the traumatized one, with good reason. "I never believe this gonna happen," he said, in his accent.

I'd planned a week's stay and it turned out perfectly aligned with Mom's death, funeral, and burial, and 118-degree days and 95-degree nights. I wrote the obituary because that's how I could serve, and gave the eulogy because the eldest child does, while my sister who is the executor did paperwork and phone calls and the other sister hosted and poured drinks for our many callers and guests. Besides going to the funeral home and picking out the casket, etc., I couldn't be of much service so I simply worked as I usually do, beset by deadlines, except retiring very late and rising very early and speaking some Serbian. Here, I'll teach you: "Bozhe, Bozhe, " literally, "O God, O God," and only older people say it because it connotes: "God, I've seen a lot of s--t in my time, but this takes the cake."

I asked my sisters what was Mom's biggest gift to them, and we all agreed it was her work ethic so that's what the eulogy was about. I didn't write it; I spoke. I get handed a lot of "Read the eulogy I wrote for my parent" and they are all the same. Mom didn't look like herself in her coffin simply because she was lying down and still. Only her hands, folded, looked like her. We all agreed that was not our mother.

So I came home to some kindly friends, thank God, and when I was alone realized that whenever under stress or really excited I'd called my mother to tell her about it. I actually turned to look around for the phone before realizing.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Design is Perfect

All I found was one moth wing. I carried it into the house and folded it into a piece of paper until I had time to study it. Its owner was a Cecropia moth. I especially loved the transparent porthole "lens" in the center of the wing's "eye" that prevented the wing from being a total blind spot and was designed to look to some predatory creature like a hungry snake's or owl's eye. Here you see the wing's obverse and reverse.

Cecropia moths live only to reproduce. They don't eat; they don't have mouth parts. They live two weeks. I would like to know and feel what its life was like. Is it possible that we who are much more complicated creatures do know or can know? Could I ever articulate it?

The wing is furred, colorful, beautifully shaped, functional, and despite its delicacy isn't fragile because it survived its owner and two weeks out on the porch. I'm so glad I found it. It's a reminder that nature's design, behind it all, is perfect. We simply have a blind spot about our own perfection.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

How I Coped

On May 14 all is peachy. On May 15, Mom, 83, is diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer. The next day I'm paralyzed on my back like a cockroach with my first pinched nerve and the worst pain I've ever borne. I text my neighbor who takes me to urgent care and wheels me in. She lent me two canes for almost a week so I could walk. I couldn't sit up long enough to do enough work and lost a week's income and am forbidden to exercise for three months, or lift anything, exercise being my major way of coping.

Then Mom's prognosis goes from 6 months to 6 weeks. Two sisters fly alternately to my parents in Phoenix to help out, and my stepdad's panic (he's 98; Mom was his caretaker) infects them; of course both parents refused to make any plans for such as this, and suddenly chaos like it's the last act of Ubu Roi. Dear friend tells me she's moving to California; dear friend with health problem believed we were sitting in London. My steady date, so wonderful, suddenly ghosts me for a week, and on day 8 after I text "Are you all right" comes the "I'm sorry, didn't want to hurt you" email and enter a fresh hell of shock and anguish. Meanwhile ulcer acts up (duh) and I lose 8 pounds in two weeks because food is repulsive except for coffee; it's my turn to go to Phoenix with 121 degrees predicted and the sister with power of attorney won't call a home health aide while my stepdad and his neighbor are screaming into the phone that they can't lift Mom by themselves anymore and I don't dare say I can't lift anyone because that'll really make 'em mad. It's finals week. Lose pair of specs it costs $400 to replace. Cellphone fritzes. Medical, travel and tax bills hit just as I retire from 31 years of adjunct teaching and lose that income stream.

How I coped: Without my neighbor's help and kindness I'd still be lying here, and she took me out for pizza which I wanted to eat. Chiropractic treatments cut the pain. Lay on my back all day and kept working. Prayer. Tried to write poems. Saw and hugged as many friends as possible. As my sporting outlet I went target shooting, blowing hundreds of bullets .22 and .38 with admirable accuracy. Spent hours composing furious emails to the date which I erased without sending because a horoscope told me not to. At exit interview with the apologetic mansplainer I requested compensation and gave him a four-figure figure and he paid it directly into my Paypal account. I told him to leave women alone, that he should just stay home and choke his chicken. He did not know what "choke your chicken" meant and I had to tell him.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sport of Kings


We saw a new road, then post holes and then fencing going up on a beautiful green hill, and then building began and we dreaded the subdivision surely to be built there, but that did not happen: the building stopped with one 16-horse stable and one house. It's a polo-pony farm or haven, and via road signs it invites the public to polo matches. I didn't know the first thing about it so ahead of time I drove up to the stable and got advice: bring a lawn chair; a match lasts two hours; general admission is $10, more if I wanted to sit beneath a canopy; park the car in the pasture.

I returned prepared. The polo field is huge, at least twice the size of a football field, and the action very far away. One team far overmatched the other; the latter was given a one-point handicap, but at the end of the first part the score was already 4-1.

I didn't know what to wear--it didn't matter--but had seen photos of big hats at polo matches and brought my biggest sun hat and was glad I did because the "stands" faced the June sun and all exposed skin was visibly broiling. I'd poured a nip of Jameson's into my water bottle and enjoyed the show but mostly the idea that now I've been to a polo match.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Like Flesh

A known oyster-mushroom log at the entrance to the eastern woods produced these fleshy beauties in late April (photo taken 27 April); the scissors help show the size. I'd been harvesting that log for about two years, April to December; the whole area around it was rich in mushrooms edible and non-edible because that opening was a game path as well as my favorite path, and 'shrooms love to grow in disturbed earth.

Then one day in May came a huge New Holland earth mover that for no reason broke through this log and others and treaded well into the woods, crushing to mud the best chanterelle, oyster, and Bearded Tooth patches I have cultivated and picked from for three or four years. Apparently it was for no reason except wanton destruction. They went into the woods as far as the dump but did not clean it up. I don't own the land so I can't object and besides, what's done is done.

It's a heartache. I visited the site again today and can't set it right. Chanterelles are due in about four weeks, if conditions are right. I seeded those everywhere in that area of woods, so I believe all is not lost regarding chanterelles. But the oysters? If I am good, I will be led to more. Maybe this mechanically disturbed earth will make hunting there even better one day, when the scars of the treads heal over.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Where Oh Where?

I just came in from tearing open the trash bag and spreading last week's garbage out on newspapers on the lawn, finally sorting through the last place I wanted to look for a pair of glasses I lost last week, and they weren't in there. They aren't in the car either. In fact I know they're in the house, because I remember coming home from the gun range and showering off the lead and changing my clothes, as anyone who shoots for sport ought to do,  telling myself I should also rinse off the frames on the prescription spectacles I wore.

I think I actually did rinse them and dry them. Where the specs went from there is a mystery. I believe I had them near as I worked in the living room and home office that evening. I change specs a lot, because I need computer specs for computer work, and have three pairs of regular specs, all in different rooms at different times, and costly because they're no-line bifocals, a complicated prescription, et cetera, too costly to replace without seriously hunting out where the lost ones went. I have others. I still want the lost pair.

That was last Thursday. The housekeeper came Friday, after I had already begun searching. She did not find any spectacles on the floor, the shelves, or behind anything, and I have double-checked all those spots. Have you seen them? They are very dark brown, nearly black, and squarish with the rims around the lenses bright pink. Nobody else can use them. I think it's time to pledge $10 to St. Anthony, patron of lost things, and he will help (why wouldn't he?).

Turtle Migration

Young male box turtles now cross roads and highways to find their own new territories, and most drivers slalom over them, with here and there a driver pulling over, picking up the turtle and 1) placing it on the safe road shoulder opposite, where the turtle had been heading or 2) placing it in his vehicle and driving it away to a fate unknown. "They eat bugs in basements," somebody told me. Anyway, walking on Doc Sargent Road at 7 a.m. I met a small turtle I picked up, whose plastron seemed abraded and injured--not much, but some. I was surprised because I had thought the plastron was just plates ("scutes") of dead shell--but no. Both the plastron and the upper shell ("carapace") actually have blood and nerve supplies.

I learn something new every day. Turtles have red blood like ours. This injury did not look lethal, but for turtles run over, if they survive, there are people who will fix broken shells and rehabilitate them.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Going to the Chapel

....the tin-roofed, open-air chapel at the Black Madonna Shrine not too far from here, and St. Joseph' head served as a perfect perch for a singing Barn Swallow, cheerful since I've been coming here rather often lately to discuss with God some painful things undergone by friends, family, and myself (pinched nerve, yow! making it impossible to sit and write, and grounding me for three weeks) and lighting eight-day votive candles for those, alas, whose candles are going out, like my mother and father, ages 83 and 98, both deathly ill. There is no death, though. It's an illusion. The bird said so.