New poem

Tuesday, 23 August 2016 04:33 pm
carose59: poetry (by Henry Gibson)
The Death of God

And then the moment comes.
You see it happen: darkness at noon, just as it says in the Bible—
only it's just another summer thunderstorm.
The world trembles
slips
slides silently away.
You have become alone—
ultimately, permanently, sui generis
(springing from no-one):
truly the only child.

You finish your chicken&stars soup and play another game of solitaire, wondering why there is no fanfare
only rain.

But it always rains when the world ends, the thunder coming to soothe you.

Released from your obligation to worship and attend, you have more time to wander aimlessly and stay up too late.
All of your mistakes belong only to you now and no-one gets a say.
Your life is your own and you have no idea how to do this.
You are standing on the horizon—that mythical point where the future drops off into its own infinity. If you look down you can see straight through to nowhere.

It would be exhilarating—
if you could feel anything
if you weren't numb from all the years of feeling too much
if you didn't keep falling asleep.

You pick up socks to wash and cat food cans to throw away, brush your teeth and set the alarm, buy food you will forget to eat, write notes to thank people for their notes of condolence:
yes, she was a wonderful person,
yes, it was time,
yes, she will be missed.

You do not tell them what a relief it is.
You do not tell them that you don't go to that church anymore.
You do not tell them you don't care that you will never get your wings.

You can fly without them.
carose59: movies (the real tinsel)
I went to the movies Sunday and saw Don't Think Twice. I had planned to see Indignation afterward, but I had developed a low-grade migraine and I had been away from home for too long, so after a short meander in the mall, I went home.

Don't Think Twice was very good. It isn't a comedy; it's a movie about an improve group, so there's a lot of funny stuff, but the movie itself isn't particularly funny. Some members of the group are hoping to get hired by an SNL-like show; some don't want things to change, but their venue is closing, so change is inevitable. One man's father is dying. One has reconnected with a woman he went to college with. One of them actually gets chosen for the SNL-ish show, and it throws the dynamics of their relationships all out of whack.

It's a nice movie about good people. More than anything, it reminded me of a movie I wrote about earlier in the year, Between the Lines. (https://carose59.dreamwidth.org/117348.html) It's a private end-of-an-era movie.

There were previews for a movie called Hell or High Water and I thought about it a lot on the drive home. It's an action movie about two brothers who start robbing banks to save their home/mother's home (I'm unsure which). They are, of course, the heroes. We want them to get away with it. But everything about the tone of the previews tells me that is not going to happen. As I watched them, I thought of Taps (Timothy Hutton leads a military school to resist closure and demolition after the commandant has a heart attack. [That's from memory, the details could be off.]) There are others that I can't think of, but I used to love lost cause movies like that; they were thrilling, at least in the beginning. The problem is that I'm older and more depressed and it's harder to be thrilled by the romance of the lost cause because it's redolent of failure and despair: I can see the ending in the opening credits, and I know when it ends, nobody's going to be happy—particularly me.

Still, as I'm writing this, I'm thinking I want to go home and watch Taps.

And maybe I'll stay for Hell or High Water when I go back to see Indignation. It really is thrilling to watch someone standing up, fighting for that lost cause. Maybe I need to watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington again, too.
carose59: death (a scientific fact)
"A Disagreement In My Family Involves Restraining Orders, And Bloodshed."*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

This morning I got an email from my cousin in Texas. He had found out my mother had died while he was doing some genealogy stuff online. He didn't find out shortly after it happened because I didn't have his phone number. He didn't find out from the card I sent him because I didn't have his new address. And this is somehow my fault and I didn't behave properly when his mother died (when he wrote and told me although I never heard from him) and he's not sure he wants to come visit because he doesn't think anyone cares about seeing him.

I wish he would come, but I don't particularly want to see him. The rest of the family seemed to enjoy him. I got tired of the long silences after I spoke, as though he was trying to figure out what I was talking about and why I was wasting his time. I think I'm too much of a Kiesel to fit with the Donahues, and I don't even know any Kiesels.**

As I was writing this, I thought of something that happened many years ago, when my father was still alive. My step-cousin, Steve, was inexplicably angry at my parents about something, and one thing he said was that nobody ever treated them like they were Kiesels, that they weren't invited to family gatherings.

Afterward, when my mother told me about this, I said, "You should have told him that being excluded and ignored is being treated like a Kiesel! He was being treated exactly like a Kiesel." That is not an exaggeration. My grandmother kept the family entertaining segregated. We were invited over when my father's father's family was in town. My father's brother was invited for actual fun party-type things--and for all I know, he was the only one invited. My mother and I were once excluded from a family reunion.

I could stretch a point and understand my mother, since she's only a Kiesel by marriage (although my grandmother was going and she, too, was only by marriage), but me? And I look like my father! Who looked like his father! What the hell?

I was in high school when the family reunion occurred, or just graduated, and I didn't particularly want to go. And I still find it all amusing. But it is telling that there is family on both sides that feels like they're being excluded, that they think they're being treated differently when what they're complaining about is being treated the same. This is what my whole family is like. It isn't any better on the inside than the outside because there doesn't seem to be any actual inside. No wonder I became a professional outsider.


*Joe Morelli
**That isn't strictly true. I have a cousin, Patty, who is my father's brother's daughter. I sent her a note when my mother died (pretty much the same note I sent my cousin Jeff) and found a message from her stepbrother—or maybe ex-stepbrother, since her father divorced his mother—in the mailbox last Friday. So I called and got condolences from him and I called to see how she was.

Patty was always slow, but I'm thinking years of antipsychotics have done a number on her. She didn't seem to know why I had called. It was hard to talk to her on a number of levels. (She's about ten years older than me I am, but even when I was in grade school, I had to slow way, way down for her.) I worry about her.
carose59: dreams (whose mind watches itself)
"I Don't Know, It's Authentic . . . Dead-Something."*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

First I dreamed about more criminal activity, though I wasn't involved in it.

I was driving around in the little area in my neighborhood, just to the other side of Emerson Avenue. It's strange back in there. For about six blocks there are no north-south streets that go all the way through from 16th Street to 21st Street (the bigger streets where there are stoplights) and Emerson to Ritter Avenue. Also, there are more than four streets between 16th and 21st, and they wind around. They're all number streets, but there's 18th and 19th Place. There's also a creek, which is probably why the streets don't go through.

Anyway, I was driving around there and I kept seeing cars coming from a dead end. Somehow this told me that a crime had been committed and the police had set up a roadblock, and those cars were going to the dead end to turn around. (I'm very intuitive in my dreams.) So instead of continuing the way I had been, I got turned around to take a different route home.

There was lots of traffic because the police were looking for Brad Pitt. I don't know what he was supposed to have done. I decided to go to my grandmother's house on the south side.

(My grandmother's house isn't there anymore, it was torn down years ago and to the best of my knowledge, nothing has ever been built on the lot. But the house Pat and I lived in before this one reminded me a lot of that house, though the walls weren't old turquoise.)

There was a family gathering at my grandmother's house—and my grandmother, dead lo, these many years ago, was there. I told her about the manhunt for Brad Pitt and she offered me a cup of punch, which I took.

It wasn't a party, and it might have been a funeral because everyone was very subdued and wearing black. My grandmother turned on the radio so we could all listen to the news reports about Brad Pitt, and there was speculation that he might be hiding upstairs, but nobody went to look.

There were a lot of dead relatives there—in fact, mostly dead relative, but not my parents. And Pat was there, in a wheelchair, and my cousin Andrea was also there, also in a wheelchair. (I don't know why Andrea was in a wheelchair; she doesn't need one in real life. Also, she's not dead.) We were standing by a door that never existed that went to the basement. (There was a basement, just not a door to it in this location) and we were discussing who could get down the stairs in a wheelchair "best." I'm thinking best meant without injury or falling out of the chair, and I was trying to dissuade Pat and Andrea from trying to find out because I was pretty sure there was no "best" in this situation.

I woke up before either of them could try to wheel down the basement steps.

Then Saturday night I dreamed that my aunt Shirley (dead) had come to visit my mother (also dead.) I wasn't entirely sure where my mother was, but my cousins did and we went to see how she was. It turns out she was living in a small apartment about a Dollar General store. Rather than go in and upstairs, we climbed up on the the awning that was level with her window and just looked in. She was fine. She had friends visiting her. My aunt was there.

That sounds like a metaphor.


*Evan R. Lawson
carose59: dreams (whose mind watches itself)
"They Might Not Know! They Might Be Idiots!"*

-:- -:- -:- -:-


A few nights ago I dreamed Pat was alive and it was back when she was healthy and we did stuff. We were living where we did before we moved into my grandparents' house. It wasn't an apartment, but the bottom half of a two-story house and all the walls were painted blue. (That might not be true, about the color of the walls, but in my dreams those walls are always an old almost-turquoise color. If you know what old rose looks like, imagine it in turquoise.)

It was summertime and we were involved in some sort of church charity for children. They put on circuses and fairs for children which . . . apparently made money. It seemed like the circus/fair was for the children, but they must have been making money as well because I stole it.

This was the third year in a row we'd been involved in the charity. I don't know what we did. But the money was kept in a downspout extender (I can't even begin to imagine where this came from—feeling like I'm pouring money down the drain?) and the first year we accidentally took it with us when we packed up to go home. (How you accidentally pack up a downspout extender when you don't own one is beyond me.) We didn't return it and nobody asked about it.

So the next year I took it on purpose.

And nothing happened.

So now we come to present-day in the dream. The circus/fair thing was just ending and I was making plans to steal the money again. Pat was waiting in the car, a car we never had. It looked something like a 1960 Chevrolet El Camino—it had a truck bed instead of back seats and a trunk. She'd thrown our luggage in the back and had the engine running. She was wearing shorts and cowboy boots. She was an outlaw.

I had to climb a ladder to get the downspout because this year they'd threaded it through a basketball hoop as a security measure. (I don't know.) And unlike the two previous times, this was all in plain view of lots of people. Nobody seemed to be paying attention and I was determined to get the money, but I was having trouble getting the downspout loose and bills were falling out and floating away.

I'm pretty sure I finally got the money, but the head of the church was chasing us when I woke up.

Yes. In my dreams, I steal money from churches and children's charities.


*Nick Greenwald

New poem

Monday, 8 August 2016 09:40 am
carose59: poetry (by Henry Gibson)
Individually Developed Goals


I am a library clerk.

You've never seen me;
I've never checked in your books or
helped you find an encyclopedia* or
directed you to the restroom.

I work behind the scenes in a closed building where all the new material comes in.
The specifics of my job are a long list of small, tedious actions.
The pocket in the back of the book you're reading?
I put that there.
Also, the call number on the spine,
the barcode that connects this book to the bibliographic record,
the sticker that tells you our library system owns the book,
the sticker that tells you what date we purchased the book,
the sticker that tells you the author once spoke here,
the sticker that tells you the author is of a particular ethnicity,
and
the sticker that tells you that in the distant past we also used this sticker for reasons now lost to time.

I looked at the book's pages, to be sure none of them were upside down or in Chinese.
(Unless the book you're reading is in Chinese. I do those books, too.)
I don't examine each page individually; I flip through,
like a flip-book
only without the pictures.
That is how small my job is: my flip-books don't have pictures.

I put a plastic jacket on the paper dust jacket and taped it down.
I fed each barcode under the scanner:
once to add it
once to count it
once to change it
once to send it on its way.
I stacked the books neatly, spines facing in, spines facing out.
(When books all face the same way, the stacks become unbalanced and tip over. Trust me, I'm a professional; I know the structural engineering behind book-stacking.)
I put the books into boxes that I've tagged, to send them to the many branches in our system.

I will never be on the cover of a magazine because the call number on the spine of the book you hold is straight and well-aligned.
I will never be given an award for how many books have pockets now that didn't have them before they came to me.
(I have gotten recognition for having worked here more than half my life, but that wasn't an award. Though they did give me a little money.)

I am a tiny cog in a large, important machine.
My small job, made up of small things—a tiny puzzle, a miniscule mosaic—
is the kind of job I prefer,
though it confers the opposite of reflected glory: my job absorbs insignificance.
I don't care much about that,
though more money—enough to live on—would be nice.
Much of my brain cants Irish.
A job that leaves some of my mind free to wander:
writing poetry, or planning dinner,
or having conversations with imaginary people,
or the dead,
is perfect for me.
And important people considering me unimportant is part of my heritage.
I wouldn't do well with them thinking well of me.
I could live happily in my discontent
—with my vague resentment, indulging in the occasional need to rabble-rouse—
if only the important people would content themselves with being important, and doing their important things:
waving from balconies and slow-moving cars;
speaking on stages to other important people;
sitting in spacious offices looking out high windows;
being photographed waving from balconies and slow moving cars and speaking on stages to other important people and sitting in spacious offices looking out high windows.

But they don't do that—content themselves, I mean.
They insist on helping me rise above my small job.
I must grow!
Learn!
Develop!
Become an important person!
(Though never, ever as important as they.)
They try to foist off on me imaginary responsibilities:
I have to Select an Area [of myself] to Develop
and come up with Development Actions,
although I have neither the authority to act autonomously
nor the time.
I have quotas to meet.
I'm busy counting books and moving them from one place to another.
I do not have time to gaze at my navel while wondering if I'm being all I can be.
They have never wanted my entire individual self as-is, why would I assume they want an enhanced me? They want the part of me that does the job. They want the cog.
And yet they require me to take classes I don't need for jobs I don't do,
to evaluate my efforts which they then dismiss as unsatisfactory—and then they complain that I'm not meeting my quota.
Someone took the Beatles too literally:
there are not eight days in a week.

So I make things up.
I smile in enthusiasm so fake it must be real.
I pretend I'm somewhere else, and when they speak, I scribble free-association on scraps of paper that self-immolates with my fury.
I have been here a long, long time, so I know I only have to hold my head above the incoming tide until it recedes.
The Employee Self-Improvement fad will be replaced by an Employees Remembering Their Places craze, followed by a Voluntary Vow of Silence rage.

I know, because I've seen it before.

*A kind of reference book that used to flourish in libraries--and homes--all across the country. This species is on the endangered list.

Everything old is old again.
carose59: drama of the theatrical kind (life with the dull bit cut out)
Chaucer Is Dead, Spenser Is Dead, So Is Milton, So Is Shakespeare, And I’m Not Feeling So Well Myself.*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

Well, I finally hit an Arthur Miller play I like: All My Sons. It's about a family after WWII. The father had been accused—and cleared—of selling defective jet parts to the military. His partner (next door neighbor, and father of the girl his MIA hero son was engaged to) was convicted and is in prison.

Now the younger son wants to marry his brother's fiancee. His mother freaks out; she believes her missing son is still alive. It's one thing for her to marry someone else, but the brother marrying her is stealing his girl—and admitting the hero is dead.

Then the fiancee's brother shows up. No-one in the family has seen the imprisoned father since his conviction, but now he has talked to his father, who has accused his partner of being responsible for the defective parts being sold.

And then everything falls apart.

I found the characters more likable, easier to take. For a long time now I've been evaluating the narrative I consume by how much I want to spend time with the characters. In high school I refused to read The Magnificent Ambersons after two chapters because I could not imagine spending two hundred pages with those horrible people. (The teacher who'd assigned it was amused by this and give me a different book to read.) My attitude is that life is short and there are lots of great books and movies and TV shows, too many for me to experience in my life. So why should I waste any of my time with characters I dislike?

Anyway, I liked the story and I liked the characters. And Julie Harris was in it and I always like Julie Harris.

A few weeks ago I did an adaptation of Adam's Rib. It was strange for a couple of reasons. First, it wasn't updated, but it also didn't feel like it was in the right period. The tone reminded me of the radio adaptions of The Twilight Zone I listened to a few years ago. Those, they updated in a haphazard way, throwing in modern stuff without excising the old stuff.

The other thing was Anne Heche as Amanda. She was trying to sound like Katharine Hepburn, but it came off like a Warner Brothers cartoon Katharine Hepburn, going on about the calla lilies being in bloom again.

Adam Arkin, however, was lovely as Adam. He has that nice, solid, comfortable quality Spencer Tracy had.

I'm now doing The Crucible, which I read in high school but don't remember terribly well. I don't remember liking it. (Yes, I know. I make no sense.)


*Mark Twain
carose59: dealing with people (the same as people who aren't different)
"If I Am To Stand By The Door And Attack People As They Leave, How Will He Eat?"*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

Sometime last autumn, I got a phone call from my mother as I was driving home from work. It was about a young guy who had come to the door wanting to do yard work. There was some confusion about whether or not I had talked to him—I didn't remember talking to him, but I don't remember a lot of things—and later my mother became convinced that he'd misrepresented himself. I'm on the fence about this because you simply could not trust my mother's interpretation of anything she heard. She was also very unclear about whether she wanted me to hire him to do something, and if so what. I ended up paying him some unremembered amount to cut back some branches and haul them away. That was the deal.

He cut back the branches.

He did not haul them away, not all of them.

Later, he called asking for more work. I reminded him about the branches. He told me he'd take care of them.

He called again, telling me he'd be coming over to pick up the branches. He didn't.

He called again—these calls took place days or weeks apart—again looking for work. I reminded him about the branches again. He assured me he'd take care of them.

Winter came. He came back. That day I wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone about anything, so I just said there was nothing I needed done and I got in my car and drove away. There was no mention of the branches, which were probably covered with snow.

A week or so ago, he came back again, looking for money—I mean, work. I laughed at him.

I told him he hadn't finished the last job I paid him for, and I certainly wasn't hiring him for another one until he did. He then made the mistake of telling me I didn't have to be a bitch.

"Really? You think not wanting to give you more money when you didn't complete the last job I paid you for is being a bitch? I didn't demand the money back. I didn't take you to court. I didn't call and harass you. I simply said I didn't want to hire you again. Your standards for bitchiness are pretty damn high."

When I get like this, I sound like my maternal grandmother. I become concise, articulate, mocking, and coldly logical. I'm scary. He backed down. I should have reminded him about the branches!

"How many times? I reminded you the first time you called looking for work again. You spontaneously called and said you were going to come pick them up—but apparently forgot, which makes me wonder how you get anything accomplished. You called again, and again I reminded you. Is this how you always do business, you only do work you're reminded of over and over and over again? I am not your mother. If you can't be a responsible adult, that's your problem, but I'm not paying you for it. Now don't come back here."

He apologized, but as he was walking away (and I was going back inside) I heard him mutter something. I was back outside like a shot. "What did you say?"

I scared the crap out of him. I don't know what he'd said, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't the thank you he claimed he'd said.

I told Patrick about it later, adding that right after somebody dies is a really bad time to piss me off. I'm in a nihilistic mood and don't care what bridges I burn.


*Fritz Brenner
carose59: drama of the theatrical kind (life with the dull bit cut out)
"You Built Your Own Canoe? Is That A Metaphor?"*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

First there was Jean Anouilh's Antigone, which I was assured by the people who talked about it afterward was a subtle-but-unmistakable attack on the the Vichy government.

I don't know how subtle it was, since the Nazis closed the play immediately. Maybe somebody told them. I certainly didn't get it.

Antigone, in case you've forgotten, is the story of Oedipus's daughter. After his death, his two sons were supposed to share the kingdom, ruling in alternating years. One of them refuses to relinquish the throne, the other takes up arms against him, battles ensue, and both are killed. Actually, they kill each other.

Creon, their uncle/half-brother, assumes the throne and randomly chooses one of them to be the hero and the other to be the villain. The hero is honored. The villain is refused burial, which in ancient Greece meant his spirit would wander the earth forever.

Antigone, who is engaged to Creon's son, Haemon, sneaks out one night to bury her brother. She's caught, has a debate with Creon that lasts most of the play, and is eventually sealed up alive in a cave. Creon finds out that Haemon had hidden in the cave, that Antigone had promptly hanged herself, and that Haemon then stabbed himself. On hearing this, Eurydice (Haemon's mother) finishes her knitting and goes to her room to cut her throat.

Other things happen, of course. There are things with guards and with Antigone's sister, Ismene. But the bulk of the play is the debate between Creon, who is trying to keep order in his country, and Antigone, who . . . I honestly do not know.

I read Sophocles's Antigone when I was in high school and I understand it. It's the same plot. The difference is basically that in Anouilh's play, nobody really thinks it matters whether or not a person is buried. It's just a ceremonial thing. Antigone admits she doesn't believe it matters to her brother, that it will not affect his afterlife. It seems to come down to, she doesn't want to be happy in an ordinary life and she doesn't want to be told what to do.

I don't like to be told what to do either, but I like the idea of being walled up in a cave even less.

I remember when I read Sophocles's play thinking Antigone was an idiot for immediately hanging herself, thinking that maybe Creon would relent. In Anouilh's version I don't even think that because Antigone doesn't seem to want to live. It's as though being walled up in a cave gave her permission to commit suicide. It makes me wonder what lost cause she would have found for herself if she hadn't had a dead pariah for a brother. My sympathy is with Creon, who doesn't want to punish her at all and only does so because she won't cut it out. He's trying to keep order in a country that's been going to hell ever since Oedipus killed his father. He's just trying to clean up the mess he's been left with and Antigone's making things worse by flouting his authority.

And I have no idea what this has to do with Nazis or fascism. I mean, I know fascists love order, but trying to maintain order is hardly enough to make you a fascist. So I don't know.

Tomorrow: Death of a Salesman.


*Cary Agos
carose59: friendships (even to know they are alive in the world)
Love Is Blind; Friendship Closes Its Eyes.*

-:- -:- -:- -:--:- -:- -:- -:-

A few weeks ago, right out of the blue, I got a call from a longtime friend. It was the last thing I was expecting.

At a time in my life when I really believed the only thing that was going to happen with friends was them leaving me, someone actually went out of her way to reconnect with me. I've felt like such a charity case for the last few years, I cannot tell you what this means to me. Beyond the sheer joy of having someone to talk to with whom I have a shared history, there's feeling like a worthwhile friend again.

I'm having fun again. I'm being fun again. I wasn't sure I remembered how to be fun.


-:- -:- -:- -:--:- -:- -:- -:-

In other news, my family—some of my family—is worried about me, about me not having anyone to lean on. Patrick has actually reached out to me, and he said he talked to my uncle about me being alone. Honestly, if you'd asked me, I would have said my family never thinks about me when I'm not around.


-:- -:- -:- -:--:- -:- -:- -:-

Also, although I have probably not lost any weight, I do seem to be moving around more easily. I feel smaller. I feel lighter.

So there are good things.


*Friedrich Nietzsche
carose59: MKK (richer than i you can never be)
I Have A Rock Garden. Last Week Three Of Them Died.*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

Yesterday my mother told me the same story four times.

I know it was the same story because of the hand gestures. They weren't identical. No, each time they were a little more precise, a little more nuanced. If those motions had been words, their emphasis and enunciation could have cut glass by the fourth time around. It was like she was speaking to a slow child.

Except, of course, she wasn't speaking.

People have told me to humor her. That doesn't work, anymore than it worked when she'd pretend to have understood what I said when she was tired of me repeating myself. We know each other too well. Smiling and nodding isn't an adequate response, and neither are generalities.** We're precise people. We're word people.

I'm aware that I'm now in a position similar to hers: when she speaks, I hear only mumbling, mostly. It does not make me more sympathetic; it pisses me off. When she couldn't hear me, she could yell at me to talk louder or to lower my register. I can't tell her to stop mumbling and use real words. If you're thinking, well, she can't help it,this is outside her control, I agree. But how deep and loud I'm able to speak isn't something I have a whole lot of control over either. I did my best, but it wasn't enough.***

I wish, I wish, I genuinely wish she would just shut up. I'm so tired of looking at her with my very best expression of devoted interest while she mumbles incoherently. In so many ways I am my father's daughter, inappropriately pragmatic. What is the point of wasting my time listening to my mother express ideas in sounds I cannot understand? If she was getting something out of it it would be different, but we're both frustrated.

But I have to be there because she wants me to be there, no matter how unsatisfying the experience is for both of us.


*Richard Diran
**The most bizarre thing about all of this is, she seems to be able to hear better. I have no idea how this is possible, but some of the staff members have commented on it.
***Please, put this on my tombstone.

*sigh* More of this

Sunday, 19 June 2016 12:14 am
carose59: MKK (richer than i you can never be)
I Don't Necessarily Agree With Everything I Say.*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

I feel like I should be writing about the stuff with my mother, but there just isn't anything to say. When I visited her today, she prayed for a while. I could tell this by her folded hands and her cadence. When I told her I was leaving, she kissed me, then she looked at my earrings, and then she pointed at my face the way you do when you're using your finger to count something. I have no idea what that meant.

I was talking to Diane today and I told her how the weirdest thing was the way words are interspersed with the unintelligible sounds, and it hit me why that's the thing that throws me so. It's the title of a James Thurber story, What do you mean it was Brillig? That emphasis on the was always cracked me up: the implication that the question isn't what the hell does brillig mean? but isn't it still brillig? is funny. And two sets of nonsense syllables connected by a real word is also funny. You can dismiss something that's nothing but nonsense, but if there's a little sense thrown in, your brain wants to parse it. At least, my brain does. We're pattern-seeking creatures.

I don't know what she wants. She practices writing her name, and she's doing very well. She's told me more than once that she's ready to go, but I've known for a while she's not who she thinks she is.

Probably nobody is. I work very hard at being who I think I am, but I probably fail a lot. My mother would say things like she didn't want people at the hospital with her, but that wasn't true. (She once needed an early morning ride to the hospital. I assumed I'd just be dropping her off. Two hours later—after she was settled in her room in her bed—I was home, with Pat asking me what had taken so long. But if you asked my mother, she would have told you I just dropped her off. I, on the other hand, really don't want anyone there when I go to the doctor or hospital. Dropped off at the curb works great for me.)

It's all so frustrating. I have to make decisions not knowing what she wants, not even knowing for sure who she is. Some days I'm not even sure who I am. And all I want to do is stay home and watch TV.


*Marshall McLuhan
carose59: MKK (richer than i you can never be)
When Cryptography Is Outlawed, Bayl Bhgynjf Jvyy Unir Cevinpl.*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

My mother is getting speech therapy.

Yesterday she said "no" and "zipper."

The "no" was in answer to a question. I think the "zipper" was just to show that she could say it. I'm all in favor of them increasing the number of words she can say, but I wish they'd focus on the ones she really needs. None of her clothes have zippers, so saying zipper doesn't seem like a high priority to me.

They're also working on her writing. From what I could tell, she's been practicing her maiden name, and her twin brother's name. Since her legal name is now Kiesel, and since my uncle is now dead, again, I'm thinking this isn't the most productive use of her time. Of course, it could be what she's choosing to write, and maybe there's a message in there, only I don't have a secret decoder ring.

Talking to her is making me crazy. I can't understand anything she says, and she's been pulling that cat trick of staring over my head like something is about to land on me. It makes me nervous. I was looking around, but I've stopped doing that. Now I just look down and wait for her to look at me again.

For all I know she's seeing dead people. Before the stroke, my father was talking to her. Last I heard, he wanted a bed and new clothes. I told her he wasn't getting any new clothes, he was dead and he didn't need them.

This voice-hearing was about her deafness and her solitude. When you can't hear, your brain will make up stuff to entertain you. Why her brain chose my father complaining, I don't know. Before that it was a noise that wasn't there, and before that it was me arguing with an unknown man, and before that, it was me singing.

And if this sounds like she was losing her mind, kinda-sorta. We're crazy in my family, but we're also very grounded. At one point she told me if I was going to pray for her, I should pray to St. Joan of Arc because she heard voices, too. Nobody who talks like that about the unreal voices they hear is really crazy. It's possible to believe and disbelieve simultaneously, but it will never make you happy.


When I go to visit, I sit in a room with two TVs going, and a conversation behind a curtain, loud to be heard over the TVs, and sounds in the hallway, while my mother mumbles at me. Even if there were words strung together in actual sentences, I'd be having trouble following her—I've always had trouble with multiple simultaneous conversations. But this is like some terrible game: I've always felt inadequate, like I wasn't doing well enough, wasn't trying hard enough. Now it's marathon How Inadequate Are You?, where I spend eternities getting it wrong, having nothing to say, being helpless, drowning, wishing I were someplace else, wishing I could go to sleep, wishing I were dead. I just keep saying I'm sorry.

It doesn't help.

I wish we could be wordless and primal, just sit holding hands and being together. But my mother has things to say.


I got a call from a person the activities lady at the rehab center. She wanted to know what my mother enjoyed doing.

Well, she liked to read, but I have no idea if she still can. The last book I gave her, she snuggled with. She watched TV, but she can't really hear, so the volume level needed for her to know what's going on is likely to make her roommate deaf. She liked talking to people, but she can't make words; she liked keeping a diary, but she can't write. What the hell do you want from me?

I didn't say that. I think I whimpered helplessly.

The woman asked if she like to go outside and play games.

I think those were supposed to be two separate ideas, but I had to suppress the urge to say, "Yes! Tag and hopscotch are her favorite games!" I said I think she'd like to go outside, now that it's gotten really warm, but that I didn't know about games.

I told her if my mother wasn't interested in doing something, she was quite capable of making her disinclination known, and we agreed to use that guideline. And I sat and trembled for half an hour.

I don't know. I don't have any answers. I'm so tired I feel like I'm going to die, and the last time I felt like this, Pat died. So I'm not in very good shape.


*Bumper sticker
carose59: fandom (the lunatic fringe begins here)
[Originally posted elsewhere June 24, 2009]

There's a lot of stuff about warnings going on on http://community.livejournal.com/metafandom/, and I felt the need to throw myself into the pyre.

I am not your safe place.

-:- -:- -:- -:-


I've been opposed to warnings, ratings, what-have-you since they first started showing up on fan fiction. If I wanted readers starting out with the information that Starsky was going to be killed in my story, I'd start the story with something like, "The bullets tore through Starsky's chest, tearing his heart into pieces no surgeon could ever have put back together, even if there had been a surgeon there in the parking lot of the BCPD."

Not a bad opening sentence. But if I'm saving that information for later, chances are I don't want you to see it coming.

I've never written a rape story, and I probably never will. But if I did, again, I wouldn't warn for it. I don't warn for anything, except that you shouldn't drink anything while you're reading my stories. I cant to the funny side, and people have been known to choke or spray liquids out their noses reading my stories. I'll warn for that. I post in my own space, and if you come into my space to read my stories, you do so at your own risk. You can consider that a warning, if you want. But telling me what I should and should not do in my own space is presumptuous. If you don't like the way I do things, don't come here. Lose readers? Why should I care?

I've been reading various essays by people who have had seriously bad things happen to them, and who have triggers they don't want set off while reading fan fiction. And I can understand how they feel.

What I don't understand is where anybody got the idea that fandom as a whole was one big safe place.

If you and I are friends--actual friends--and are out someplace together and you're going to the restroom, you're likely to leave your purse with me. (And you're likely to tell me not to let anyone take your purse, something I find hilarious, because really, is that instruction necessary? But we all seem to do it.)

Even if we've only known each other a few hours, you might feel comfortable enough to leave your purse with me, particularly if we're at a con. It's a fan place, and relative strangers appear closer than they might actually be.

But if we were both in a movie theatre to see the new Star Trek movie, would you hand me your purse to look after just because we're both people who like Star Trek? Even if I was wearing a Star Fleet uniform and Vulcan ears?

I'm guessing the answer is no. God, I'm hoping the answer is no. I worry about anyone who would entrust their purse to someone on the basis of a shared interest in a particular fandom.

And I worry even more about someone who would entrust their mental health to someone based on that same criteria. If you don't know me, what makes you think I'm safe?

I've had it beaten into my head repeatedly that readers owe nothing to writers. I, as a writer, am either writing for myself alone, or I'm not a real writer. If I'm writing in the hopes of opening a two-way communication with the readers, too bad for me. If, in this so-called gifting society, I'm foolish enough to think someone might feel the societal pressure to say thank you--well, I can think again, because there is no such pressure. All the pressure is on the writer to shut up unless she's writing fan fiction. Talking about a need not to feel she's throwing her words into a vacuum is whiny and removes her title of "real writer." Writers have no right to expect anything.

Yet somehow readers expect writers to do lots of things. Spell-check, fact-check, write characters in-character.* Post in a way that's convenient for each reader. And make sure that nothing in the story comes as a nasty surprise to the reader. Because fandom is a safe place, and it's up to us writers to insure that safety.

I don't know why.

I've warned friends off certain stories I've written. I haven't done this because fandom is so warm and fuzzy, I've done it because they were friends, and I knew their tastes. But it is not my responsibility to protect strangers who might be emotionally upset from the stories I write. It's not any writer's responsibility. We are, after all, writing only for ourselves. So our sole duty is to write the story we're trying to tell as well as we possibly can. I'm creating a piece of literature. The reader doesn't enter into it.

Fandom can either be a two-way street, where readers make an effort to get to know writers and develop a relationship where they have a reason to assume there is some concern for them personally, or it can continue to be this one-way street, where writers provide free stories and readers take them without feeling any obligation to the writers. But a one-way street does only go one way. If the reader has no obligation to the writer, the writer has just as little obligation to the reader. And you can't compare fan fiction to books or movies or any other professionally produced mode of story-telling where there are book jackets or reviews to, because readers aren't paying writers. (And professional writers don't write their own book jackets or reviews anyway.) Readers aren't paying them for the stories, they aren't paying them for the synopses they want, or the ratings, or the warnings.

There's a call for a standard of behavior for writers, but--

I was going to say, there isn't one for readers, but the first part of that sentence is wrong. There are calls for two standards of behavior for writers. We're to write selflessly, expecting nothing in return, and we're to make sure that our stories carry proper warnings. Where is the call for a standard of response? Why is it whenever the subject of feedback is brought up, the consensus is that readers owe writers no consideration?

Well, sowing no consideration will reap you no consideration.

My trigger is being ignored. It's knowing that people want my stories but they don't want me, that except as a story-producer, I'm of no value whatsoever. It's being told by third parties that my stories are being discussed, but the people doing the discussing being unable to send me an email saying--anything. You want to talk meltdown? It sends me right back to grade school, where I lived like Carrie, only without the psychokinesis. And when I've spoken up--or have seen others speak up--the response is always that we're making too much of this, that we're whiners, that hey, *shrug* this is fandom, what do you expect?


I don't expect anything anymore. I do my own thing, in my own space.


*I'm actually in favor of spell- and fact-checking, and writing characters in character, and I try very hard to get that right. I do it for the same reason I try to be sure my hair is brushed and my slip isn't showing, because not doing it reflects badly on me.

The story of a story

Sunday, 12 June 2016 02:31 pm
carose59: fandom (the lunatic fringe begins here)
It's One Thing To Drive People Crazy. It's Another To Make Them Feel Ashamed Of It."*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

[This is the story of how I wrote my most disturbing story, A View to a Kill.. I'll be referencing details from both Starsky & Hutch and Wiseguy, and I'm not going to try to annotate so this makes sense to those of you who don't watch the shows; it would be cost-prohibitive in terms of time.  Annotations are easy; gracefully written annotations are hard.]

One March morning in 2004—the year Pat died—I was IMing with a Starsky & Hutch fan named Giovanna. (At the time I thought she was a friend, but that turned out not to be true, and I'm now unwilling to write that she was.)

I don't know how the subject of Starsky dying of his gunshot wounds in Sweet Revenge (the final S&H episode) came up, but it did, and that led to the question What would Hutch do? The answer we came up with was, he'd hire someone to kill Gunther.  He'd want to do it himself, but if a first attempt failed, it would be impossible to get close to Gunther again.  And who better to hire than Sonny Steelgrave?

The set-up was, Hutch was in New York for Starsky's funeral.  He gets lost on the way to the airport and ends up in Atlantic City.  It's right at the beginning of the first episode, Sonny's name is in all the headlines.  Sonny's found out Vinnie's a fed, but he can't get rid of him because if anybody finds out he hired a fed, he's dead.  But we postulated that there had been territorial wars between the mob and Gunther.  If Sonny took out Gunther, he could take over his territory, and the number one priority of the mob is making money.  You earn, you can get by with an awful lot. So Hutch and Sonny agree to exchange murders.

I was so jazzed by this idea, I immediately went on break with a pad of paper and a pen and wrote the first two thousand words.

It was so much fun to write this crazy, improbable story.

I'm not sure how much I wrote to begin with, beyond that initial two thousand words.  Giovanna told me about scenes she was going to write and I wrote other stuff.  I stopped writing because Giovanna didn't send me any of what she said she was writing and I became hopelessly confused about pretty much everything, particularly the storyline and who was supposed to be writing what.

And pretty soon it didn't matter because Pat died and I had other things to think about.

Late that summer, I was casting around for something to write and I thought of this story.  My mood was dark and angry and dangerous, and this story fit it perfectly.  I contacted Giovanna, and this time she actually sent me stuff. We talked and we wrote, and then it came down to what it always seemed to whenever I collaborated with anyone: me finishing the story.  That's not a complaint; it's just how things have worked out.  It might just be that I get so excited by story ideas, I get greedy and want to do the whole thing.

I vividly remember the day I finished it. It was a gorgeous autumn day. I emailed the document to Giovanna and she called me while I was out for a walk.  I was giddy and scared—this story was incendiary.  We had killed Starsky, then we'd had Hutch kill Frank as well as Vinnie, and in the end we killed Hutch. I do remember how  delirious and sick the idea made me. It was a scary, awful, perfect idea, the kind of thing that could get a writer lynched in SH fandom. I had a couple of friends I bored with my worry over the possible repercussions.

We came up with a pseudonym and I created a hotmail account to use to Flamingo for one of her Dangerous zines. I didn't want anybody to know I'd written it, at least until the shockwaves had passed.


I don't remember what happened after that, except for two things: Flamingo accepted the story and Giovanna started doing something odd: from the moment I finished the story disowned it.  She invariably referred to it not as our story, but as my story.  I thought she was being modest—I was really stupid and very isolated.  I kept correcting her, saying that she'd done as much writing on it as I had, and that was true.  But it got wearing, what felt like giving constant reassurance, so I started treating it like a verbal tick and politely ignored it.

I’m 99.9% sure that Flamingo didn’t know we’d written it, not when she accepted it. In October, I went to SHareCon, and while I was there, she asked me to read over this story she’d gotten. She said this story wasn’t dark, it was ultraviolet. She was really crazy about it, but she wasn't that familiar with Wiseguy and she needed a Wiseguy fan to read it over.  She asked if I would do it.  I said yes.

She never sent it to me.

I found out later Giovanna had given the story in an incomplete form to a mutual acquaintance, and she had showed it to Flamingo.

But before that, there was the edit.

The zine was coming out in April, and by March I hadn’t gotten the story back for editting. So I wrote Flamingo asked about it, and was sent an edit. Most of it was no problem, but one question was about the ending—the original ending—which Giovanna had written. I couldn't answer the question. I couldn't get a hold of Giovanna to get an answer from her. She hadn’t spoken to me since Christmas, for reasons I still don’t know. I finally left her a message saying that I was going to make the suggested change because I didn't know what else to do.

From practically the moment it was finished, she had been talking about the story as my story rather than our story, & it felt very weird, that she suddenly wasn’t taking any responsibility for it. It would have been one thing if it was a normal story, but this is an incendiary device. I was really scared about publishing it, even under the pseud.

We had a weird conversation during which she kept insisting it was my story, mine and mine alone, she had not written any of it. (Though, oddly, she refused to say in so many words that she hadn't written any of it.  I felt like I was being set up for something.)

So I said I’d be editting it.

Before I did that, I wrote to Flamingo, to let her know what was going on.  I came out as the writer, which was no surprise to her, but her reaction shocked me.  This was how I found out that Giovanna had given the story to someone else—Flamingo said she’d been told I sent the story to the mutual acquaintance, but that wasn't true. As far as I knew, only five people knew about this story: Giovanna, me, Pat (who was dead), and the two friends I'd been whining to, and neither of them even know the person who showed the story to Flamingo.  I was expected not to remember who I'd shown the story to, but when you're that afraid, you're very careful.

Flamingo didn’t seem to want me to rewrite it, but I refused to publish something I hadn’t written, and by the way, fuck Giovanna.  If she wanted her writing published, she shouldn't have disowned it.

I spend the next two days rewriting. I removed practically everything I was sure was hers and rewrote it.

It was a relief on a couple of levels.  It was cathartic to rid myself of those vestiges of Giovanna, to trash her work.  And it was lovely to get rid of her ugly, horrible words.

I kept the title because I didn't have one.

I came up with a new pseud, one that reflected how I felt about the whole thing.

And in lieu of a writer's credit for whatever residue of Giovanna might be left on the story, I put in a dedication: for that lovely March day.

And that was it.


Later, I asked Flamingo to tell me what had happened. I'd been screwed over by at least two people who had called themselves my friends and I wanted—I guess I wanted to know how stupid I'd been. She told me that it was so long ago, she didn't remember. She further told me that it wasn't important. My experience has been that other people's violations are never important, and I wasn't important to Flamingo anyway.


*(Citation Lost)
carose59: movies (the real tinsel)
"Great, We've All Got Names."*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

I just finished listening to The Garner Files, James Garner's autobiography. I really enjoyed it. (I was disappointed that the didn't read it, but not surprised. Disappointed because of course James Garner had a lovely voice, but more because I love listening to authors read their work. You'd have to be a stunningly bad reader for me not to prefer you to a pro—nothing against the pros. Actors who read lots of books are generally better at reading than the actors you've heard of. Apparently it's a different skill set.)

My favorite thing in the book was what he said about Victor/Victoria. It's always annoyed me that King tells Victoria that he doesn't care that she's a man right before he kisses her, because he knows she's not a man. When the scene was filmed, he didn't know—Blake Edwards chickened out and added the scene where King finds out Victoria's a woman. James Garner was disappointed by this; he liked it better that King thought he had fallen in love with a man.


I live in constant hope for things that I know won't happen, and listening to this book I was hoping he'd talk about The Dick Van Dyke Show.

James Garner was never on The Dick Van Dyke Show, but he made a movie called The Art of Love with Dick Van Dyke and Carl Reiner. And then there are the two episodes Stacy Petrie parts one and two.

These are the second two episodes Jerry Van Dyke guest starred in as Rob's brother, Stacy. In these episodes, he's been released from the army and is moving to New York and is engaged. Sort of. You see, he's been writing to this girl he never met. His friend asked him to ghost write his letters, then when the friend lost interest, Stacy began writing for himself. Now he's in love with the girl, but she doesn't know he's him.

One of the running gags is that the friend's name is James Garner. Every time Stacy says the girl thinks he's James Garner, there's a double take and again he has to explain, "Not the actor, he's this drummer friend of mine."

And the things I want to know are myriad. When did Carl Reiner come up with the idea of having the unseen friend be named James Garner? Did James Garner know about this before the episode aired? How did he feel about it? It seems like just a wonderful joke and I want all the details.


*Angel, Angel

So, here's an update

Friday, 10 June 2016 10:33 pm
carose59: MKK (richer than i you can never be)
"Why Don't You Just Dot The O, And Be Tim?"*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

My mother is making sounds and, very occasionally, words. It's disconcerting. She'll be muttering, saying, "Ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh," no words, but with the cadence of a conversation. And then it will be, "Ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh, but ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh," which, I have to tell you, is just freaky. The sounds-that-aren't-words is frustrating, but that occasional word thrown in is maddening. It's like a code I can't decipher.

Her eyes are bright. She's very engaged. She has a lot to say, but she can't make the words to say it. I have to keep telling her I can't understand her which frustrates her and leaves me feeling inadequate. I'm supposed take care of everything and how can I take care of things I don't understand?

She's doing speech therapy, and apparently—writing therapy? I don't know what you'd call it, but when I visited today she had a pen and paper and she's writing maiden name. The first few letters are good, readable, but the last few aren't. There were also a lot of loops and squiggles.

That was really odd for me. (And it is all about me.)

Before I learned to read, I was trying to learn to write. I wasn't trying to learn to read—I had no need to learn to read, people read to me. But nobody could write for me, and apparently I had things to say.

I knew what handwriting looked like, so I would make loops across a page—probably the only word I could have made from that would be "eel." I also understood about i's and t's—I knew you crossed some of them and dotted others. I would show this to my mother and ask if there were any words there.

I know now how bass-ackwards this was, not unlike saying nonsense syllables in the hopes of stumbling on language. But, to a very real extent, that's exactly how we learn to talk. A baby makes a "mmmmm" sound and the grownups go crazy and say claim they're saying mommy. Positive reinforcement makes the baby repeat that sound. Personally, I think that's how the words for mother came to be. M is a really easy sound to make.

That's probably enough digression.

I have no idea what's going on with my mother. She can't hear, she can't speak, and she can only see out of one eye. She's in kidney failure and she's in a-fib and she's not eating. But she's happy when I bring her sprigs of lavender and she has things to say, even if no-one can understand her.


*Steve Allen
carose59: dreams (whose mind watches itself)
"Oh, I Like It, It Has An Air Of Conspiracy To It."*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

My dream took place in a 1950's style musical. It was about a dim-witted stage manager engaged to a beautiful, dark-haired starlet. The starlet was just getting her big break in a big musical. (Yes, it's a musical within a musical. My dreams can be very complicated.) The stage manager overhears someone plotting to kill the starlet and calls the police, who add security to the theatre. (I think this bit came from The Phantom of the Opera.)

The murder is part of a much larger plot having to do with smuggling military secrets to Russia. The bad guys all look alike—tall and willowy, like ballet dancers. They're all dressed sort of like Boris Badanov, only in black leotards and tights, and the fabric of their black coats was light and gauzy. At one point they do this wonderful dance number, twirling and flowing across the stage, singing about their plan to drug the stage manager and frame him for the starlet's murder.

They're setting him up as secretly being a homicidal maniac. They have notes he wrote to the cast and have scissored them into meaningless phrases, which they plan to leave with the body. This would be the evidence that he was crazy and that he killed her.

They drug the stage manager, but he groggily escapes. Then they drug the starlet and leave her on her bed in her standard early '50's crummy hotel room. What they don't know is that when the stage manager escaped, he hid in her room, behind the dresser. So when they bring her in, he hears their whole plan--but he's too drugged up to do anything about it.

Except for the bit about The Phantom of the Opera, the only part of this I can place is the overhearing stuff, which was a plot point in an episode of The Good Wife that I watched the other day. Why it was important enough to dream about, I don't know. It was certainly entertaining, and the dance number with the Russian spies was very impressive.

Actually, now that I think of it, that might have come from Bye, Bye Birdie, which I also just recently watched—the drugging of the Russian ballet dancers to speed them up so Birdie will have time to sing. Not that any of that explains why. My brain has billions and billions of things in it and why it dredges up what it does to put in dreams is something I will never fully understand.

Oh, and last week I dreamed that Murphy Brown and Linda Ellerbee were covering Hillary Clinton's campaign, which if had happened twenty years ago could very easily have happened.


*Venus Flytrap
carose59: MKK (richer than i you can never be)
"If That Was A Nod, Nod."*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

The first time she slept the whole time. I put my hand on her back, against her skin, and watched TV for an hour. Then I left.

The second time I took a Dilly Bar—a butterscotch Dilly Bar. I didn't even know there was such a thing and I bought them by mistake. But she liked them so I took her one.

This time she was awake, her dinner sitting untouched on the table. But the Dilly Bar made her smile and she took several bites of it before she gave it back to me. I flushed the ice cream and threw away the stick. I took her some wet paper towels to wipe her face and hands and she was very offended when I tried to do it for her. She did a fine job of doing it herself.

I'd brought a book with me, in case she was asleep again. But she assumed it was for her and took it with pleasure, looking at the spot where my bookmark was and paging through it. But it was like with the rosary: she remembered this was a thing that made her happy, but she didn't really engage with it. But I left it with her.

She talked to me a lot, by which I mean she earnestly made sounds I couldn't understand. I tried to say things that might soothe her or be responsive or something, but I failed. I told her I loved her several times, but I have no idea if she heard me or understood me or anything. We spent a lot of time making what seemed like very intense eye contact. Finally she made a shooing motion at me. I asked if she wanted me to leave and she made what I thought were affirmative sounds. I told her I'd be back tomorrow and I left.

I think she's in there but she can't get out and we can only get in through tiny cracks. It makes me wonder if she should be DNR, if they should be working with her to help her communicate.

But she was DNR before all this; she's been DNR for a while now. And no-one but me seems to get just how deaf she is. She fakes it really well, but I know from my own attempts at talking loud enough just how hard this really is. It takes a patience most people don't have the time for and her faking it makes it even harder.

She's ready. At least, she's been telling me for some time that she's ready and if I can't take her at her word, I don't know how I can make any decisions at all. So I believe her and I follow through.

This all makes me think of my old cat, Mimi. She's apparently had a stroke in the night and was compulsively turning in a circle as thought trying to see her own butt. We took her to the vet where she acted perfectly normal and made me look like an idiot. But she still died not long after.


*Adrian Monk

Update

Friday, 3 June 2016 11:18 pm
carose59: MKK (richer than i you can never be)
Who Else Loves You Enough To Send You Notes Written On Cats?*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

Wednesday, I went to visit my mother. With me I took her fuzzy pink blanket, her rosary, and the Humphrey Bogart bag.

In the late seventies, Humphrey Bogart was very hot. You could buy things with his picture on them, and Pat bought a canvas bag. She had it when I met her.

When my mother was in the hospital with her broken leg, I gathered up the things she wanted and took them in the Humphrey Bogart bag. After that, Humphrey became my mother's companion whenever she was living away from home. She wasn't all that crazy about him as an actor, but she was very fond of him as a companion.

My mother was happy to see her fuzzy pink blanket; with some help, she spread it over her legs. She was happy to see her rosary and she fingered it earnestly the whole time I was there, moving her lips. But she wasn't saying the rosary. Maybe only a Catholic school girl would be able to tell the difference, but it was like watching someone turning the pages of a book, knowing they weren't actually reading: you can just tell. It was what I was expecting. I didn't bring the rosary for her to pray with; I brought it because she's told me how much she likes it, the way it feels in her fingers. I brought it for the same reason as the blanket: sensual comfort.

I was more hopeful with Humphrey, but she didn't recognize him. I brought him home again.

Yesterday evening, I went to visit my mother.

She was making an "Rrrr-rrrr" sound, very agitated, when I came into the room. They were restraining her wrists. She had been pulling out her IV and peeling off her heart monitor stickers. She's been in a-fib the whole time she's been there and they're giving her something for it, so she really needs to keep that IV in.

If you're going to read the next part, please read it through to the end.

Listening to my mother making frightened, pain-filled sounds, seeing her uncomprehending eyes, my heart broke. There is nothing in the world that hurts me like an animal in pain and not knowing how or why. For most people who react strongly to animals in pain it seems to be their innocence that's the big thing. For me it's the incomprehension that tears me up, that helplessness that comes from not knowing why you hurt. More than anything my mother seemed like a good old dog, hurting and abandoned and not knowing why this had happened to her.

There are people who would be appalled that I just compared my mother to a dog. But I don't consider humans better than animals. And I know my mother wouldn't be offended by it.

My aunt Shirley once asked if my mother wasn't worried about me being the one to make her end-of-life decisions and my mother said, "If she treats me half as well as she does her cats, I'll be fine." I got my value of animal life from my mother.

Today I just came home from work. My mother has been moved back to the rehab place she was in before, this time for something called Comfort Care. It's not rehab. She's not going to get better. Possibly she'll be moved back to the hospital. She won't be coming home.

I don't know how I feel.


*Jenny Lawson

July 2017

S M T W T F S
       1
23456 78
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     

Style Credit