Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rant from O'er the Pond

I am traveling right now which is something that makes me a little anxious, very happy, and very tired. I have now reached the point in our trip when I feel flabby while wearing a linen shirt (which was a stupid purchase of the clings to the necessary under layer). And I feel overwhelmed with the sense of urgency to fit everything in while also being present in the moment which is something that has become very important to me. It is supposed to reduce said stress. All I need right now is a nap, but instead I am writing this and putting my shoes on at the same time and trying to get out the doors so that I can explore a new town- Dun Laoghaire.  

I wouldn't have been writing this at all if I hadn't gone to the bathroom. But I needed to go to the bathroom and as I looked to my right I saw a little dispenser and it made me irate for absolutely no good reason other then all of the reasons I mentioned above and, for this week only, including my "red tent" time (if you will). 

All this says is "For Lady". That's it. That's what it says. And yet the rage boiled in me so strongly that I flushed twice. I understand it is something for the products I'm using right now, and I like that they have something available for me in such a "condition". But when a woman needs a product like what's in there, that woman wants to see some proper grammar. I can't speak for all ladies, but this English major wants to see it say "for ladies" at the very least. But honestly I don't want it to say "for ladies" or "for a lady" at all. Go ahead and give me a women's symbol. It can be a scientific one or a stick figure one. It could say something like "hygiene" or "for your personal use". Those I would also accept. 

I think it's pretty clear that I just need to do some yoga or go out for a walk around this town or maybe get in that nap. Just a drive by rant from Ireland to you with love and shallow breathing. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ice cream

There is a man in town who, in the Summer, goes to our local store to have an ice cream cone now and then. What makes this man stand out to me is that he buys his ice cream cone somewhere around 10:45am. I thought it peculiar the first time I saw him sitting at a picnic table with it. He was staring straight ahead or up at the sky as he ate it, making no notice of anyone coming and going. By the time I came back out of the store after a quick errand, he was wiping off his face, standing slowly into a shuffle, finding his footing, and then walked back to his total Old Guy car.

I have seen him a few times since, each Summer I have been here. I have noted the time, sometimes 11:15, sometimes 10:50.  I would get a small chuckle out of seeing him enjoy such a treat so early in the day. I am a rather scheduled person myself, and see 11:00am as not quite a desert time. What made him do it?

I'll tell you. 

He and his wife used to go for ice cream on warm Summer evenings all the years they were together. Sometimes they would venture to far off towns to try a different ice cream stand, and other nights to a few of their old faithful local places. They would sit together, working away on their ice cream cones, looking at each other, looking at the setting sun, checking each other for drips and mis-licks, saying very little of anything during this quiet, delicious, familiar time.

As they grew older together, his wife became ill and started asking to go a little bit earlier to the ice cream stand. Some days he would drive her far into other towns to try new places, and the ride was very soothing to her. Other days he would take her down the road to the store knowing that their outing had to be a shorter one for her. They would still sit quietly, enjoying their treat and warm company, and then get up to leave.

At one point, their outings, though infrequent, were becoming more consistently before lunch time. She became too unsettled as the day went on now. And when he asked her why so early she would always say, "Why the wait? Why not now?" He would always take her. He eventually stopped commenting on the time. "Why not now?", he thought. "Why not dessert first? Why not a pleasant moment right when it can be had?"

Eventually his wife went into a home for care. He would go and visit her every day. He would bring a different pint of ice cream each visit and would feed her some whenever she woke, and he would kiss her deep, wrinkled brow before he left, whether she was awake or asleep. The feeling always made her close her eyes anyway.

Ever since she passed away, when the mood would strike him, or when he was feeling too alone in his home, the man would come to the local store for ice cream. He didn't bother traveling anymore. He didn't see the point in it. He didn't need conversation while eating it since they never held one. He just needed to sit for ten minutes, look at the sky, and eat his treat- all the while thinking of his sweetie that went away.

At least that is what I think.
Dessert first, friends.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I'm not sure how to share with you my (severe, unreasonable, and all encompassing) fear of my upcoming gum graft I have to have done. I don't come out looking so great in it. The anxiety is somewhat constant and uncomfortable. I am not much of a fan of anything being done in my mouth. I am not alone in this. Hello out there, fellow fearers of mouth work. How are you? You look great. What a smile.

A quick aside: What is a gum graft? Well, I will tell you. Sure- I will share this with you so you can UNDERSTAND. It is when they make and incision (gouge) into the roof of your mouth, slice (flay) some skin off in there, and adhere (smack) it to the receded gum area with stitches (of white hot death). Now, should one not want to use their own flesh for this procedure, one could choose that from a cadaver (dead-ass guy!) I believe my dad was offered some pig skin. I never was offered that, which is fine. Just may be another option out there.

I went ahead and booked this (SURGERY) procedure in March? Early April? And booked it out until late June when I would be out of school so I wouldn't have to use my mouth (for the 12 years of pain I was to experience!!!!!) much. And as a teacher, my mouth is flapping around all day long. Well, the man to (make me cry for daaaays!!!) do the procedure wasn't free until July. July 17th to be exact. Fine. I'll take it. I placed it on my calendar that is synched with Rob's so he could plan (my wake and funeral and/or psychiatric incarceration) to be home in case I couldn't pick up the kids from their activities in time.

I knew it was looming. I watched it from afar. I shared (obsessed about) my nerves with anyone who was (fool enough) in earshot to listen. The week of the procedure I couldn't sit still. I had a few hours to myself that week with kids in camps and lessons and I tried (reclined through) some yoga videos. (What are they called if they are on youtube and have nothing to do with a VCR?) I sat and read the same paragraph over and over (and over and over) in my book and my tea was more bitter than I was used to. I just kept needing to be up and about and out of the house. TJMaxx/Marshalls/Homegoods Co. was psyched that week.

I awake on Thursday and move through the motions of the day whilst listing my lasts. (My last cup of coffee with a mouth. My last lunches packed before I am fed intravenously. The last time I brush my teeth before they are all gnashed away.) I drop off my kids at camp and make the much too short (and distracted) drive to the dental office. I sign the paperwork that admits (I could die at any moment) there are risks with any procedure and that any infection I should pick up (that will kill me if the procedure doesn't) is my fault. 

I am then made to wait.
(Of course)
As there are running late.
(Of course)
And I warmly receive (with dagger eyes) the look of apologies and comfort from the staff behind the counter.

"Yes?" (I think?)
"Ke-uate? You come in."
"Um?" (Not sure how one messes that name, but I'm claiming that my name since I am the only one sitting there.)
"Yes? Ok?"

She is saying something to me. She is putting a bib on me. I am nodding appropriately I hope as she tells me that, "Yes, it hurts, OK? I mean, it has to hurt. But it isn't all bad. It is fine, really."
And I nod and try to focus on the sparks coming out of my eyes. I am shallow breathing and losing feeling in my fingers from having them so tightly entwined when the Gum Guy comes in.

On the phone.
And a hum starts in my ears as my blood moves about in annoyance.
On the phone?
And I take a deep breath as I hear him try to get off the phone.
(Who is this guy?)
And I make eye contact as he finally pleads his release from the speaker on the other end.
He extends his hand and says, 

"Hello. I must reschedule you. My wife's water just broke.

(cue banshee scream in the distant woods behind the office.)
"Your...wha? Are you serious?"
"Look at me! I am serious! She is having baby."
"Well, that is....great...." my mouth stops working as the reality dawns on me. This anxiety inducing situation isn't ending today. "Good stuff....."
"I don't know." he replies running his hands through his very much a lot a bunch of Lebanese hair roughly. 
(Uh, a little late now, buddy)
"Why? Is she early?" All thoughts are off of me!
"Yes! A week early!"
"Oh, that is nothing. That baby has been cooked for a few weeks now." Mother and child are fine so all thoughts back on me.
"I must go!"
"But, you know, it take a long time to have a baby if you just want to squeeze me in."
"I must go. The Dr. says she must come in with her broken water and such!"
"I'm sorry."
"Yes, well, of course you must go.... I do have this bib on......" taunting him with one more graft before becoming a dad. I mean, it is a life changing moment.
"I am to reschedule you!"
"Yes, OK. Yes. I'll just take? the bib off? then? if.....?"
"Thank you! Goodbye!"

I am not sure how I left without crying. My cheeks were bizarrely heavy with my disappointment. I mean....when I scheduled this procedure, his wife wasn't even SHOWING yet. And now she goes and gives birth early during my appointment. Alllllll so heavy and sad for me!

The appointment is rescheduled for a month later. He should be so sleep deprived by then that the graft should take on a whole new level of (life-threatening) awesome. I am going to buy some of those neon pointer post-its and adhere one to the proper tooth to make sure we get this done correctly.

I won't post about it, I swear. This is the last you will hear about this. Truly. I'm even kinda over it. (Sure. Sure.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What Stays

What Stays

Not that I like to start anything off in a negative way, but I can tell you what doesn’t stay. The hugs. My father’s dementia has taken his strong and all enveloping hugs from me which is the one thing that would probably get me through this. Without them, I am at sea at every visit. I am not sure what was hello and what was goodbye. I grab for the hugs, holding him tight to me until I feel his balance go, and then I release him and stare at my feet a second until the stinging in my eyes subsides. Not that we hide the tears from each other. We know this is the saddest, slow death.
What I find remarkable in this time of slow deterioration is what stays. He still wants to tell everyone how to get here or go there. He wants to run the show as he did his whole adult life in politics, news, and in finance. It is just the logistics. He no longer has opinions in what his children do, just wants to know what they are doing. He remains wary of crazy boys- now in the form of grandsons rather than his own 4 sons. He remains delighted in his granddaughters, doting on them as he does me, his only girl. 
He has always loved females. He has always loved when they grew into women of power. One of his proudest days was when I was accepted to Mount Holyoke College. My parents wanted nothing more than for me to go there. My father has worked with amazing women who graduated from that women’s college and had told me to work hard and get there (much to my disinterest at the time). One day, while helping to pack up my parents’ house, I came across a box of old photographs with some very recognizable people. There were a few shots of an older woman who was clearly important in the series of photographs. We all were trying to figure out who she was so we could make notes on the back of the photos. I finally took a picture over to my dad who was gazing out from his rocking chair and asked him who she was. He looked at her and his eyebrows shot up. He struggled at the recall and finally said, quite loudly, “Mount Holyoke! Mount Holyoke!” My mom then was able to put together that it was Frances Perkins, a graduate from the college. “Yes!”, he said, relieved. “Yes.”
What stays is my father's ability to work a situation out in 3 questions. Often when we go somewhere, he is no longer certain what his role is there. At a big gathering, he might think he is there to give a speech or guide someone else through their presentation. He will ask someone around him three questions to assess where he is and what the purpose is so he can formulate a speech accordingly. For example, at a gymnastic meet watching one of his granddaughters, he will often ask me the same questions. ¨What is it that drives you to be here today? Everyone here seems to be happy and on the same page. Do you find you are all united in this event? What do you hope to ḧave accomplished when this day is over?¨ With that, he goes inside his head again, fingers picking at his cuticles, often elbows on his knees as he looks between his feet, thinking, formulating, creating the words to be given. He will suddenly pop back out of his head and turn and smile at me, the job completed. The speech never delivered.
What he abandons is any pretense of healthy eating. He will eat any pastry, pie, and bowl of ice cream put before him. Very little else interests him but treats. I love it. I love to bring him eclairs and cookies. When he comes to these gymnastics meets, I sit beside him with a bag of snacks I pulled together for my kids to which I have added his favorites: whoppers, m&ms, and wheat thins. He has fallen for cheddar jack cheez-its and peanut butter crackers upon finding them in the bag. Just like the fulfillment I would get watching my children eat a healthy dinner, I feel pride in making my father eat and eat and eat. He smiles with a new snack he reaches for. He will then stop and ask what I am eating. No matter the diet or restriction I have put upon myself, I will grab something to eat. He smiles and reaches in the bag for something new for himself, too.
Selfishly I will share that I stay. I love hearing “kitty kat”, his endearment for me when I enter the room. He knows my voice on the phone and his voice fills as he talk to me. He knows that he loves me even during the times when he can’t quite place me. He might express the wish that I be a part of his family. When he learns that I am, my heart rushes with the look of sheer joy that bursts from his face. When I am a total stranger to him, he still will sit near me to make small talk instead of leaving the room. I stay. I don’t know for how much longer.
My mom stays. He isn’t always certain who she is and often even sees her as two people in the apartment at once. She can be his wife while a nice woman is also cooking in the kitchen for them...which was my mom, 10 minutes earlier. She might be his mom. She might be a kind stranger with whom he can talk about his girlfriend- my mom with her maiden name. I think she is also familiar enough to him that he needs her, and only her, to help him with everything no matter who he thinks she is.

This has all changed. No more gymnastics outings. Not as many grandkid visits. More confusion and fewer smiles.
But he stays.
My father stays in the words of wisdom that come to me in a hard moment. He is in the drive I feel to do more in my work and in my writing. He stares out at me in all the smiling photos I am collecting and keeping around me. He stays in funny stories we all share. He stays in a mist weighing down my heart until I visit him. The mist lifts at any moment of clarity we share and any eye contact that is made. But it returns. This sadness.
Because that stays, too.

And now he is gone.
And that stays the longest.