I started with a vigor, clearing the land, laying bricks, planting seeds. I tore up weeds before they crept up too far. And Teo, he was just a babe. I’d have to dart outside as he napped, monitor tied around my neck, and dig in the dirt. Somewhere along the way, I began to link the tilling of my garden with the rearing of Teo, as if the two were intertwined; reflections of one another. I know this is a silly thought, and probably hormone related, for as the hormones waned, and the plants began to grow, and Teo became the sturdy baby I knew he would someday become, I relaxed. I let the weeds grow wild as Teo learned to crawl along the dirt and grass. Flowers grew tall and bountiful, some taller than myself, which isn’t saying much, but 5’1″ is tall for a flower if you ask me.
No longer fearful of the outcome, I sit beside it. It smells like marigolds and water. I listen. It’s a home for crickets. And it’s where I get my tomatoes these days.
In all honesty, whenever I hear that one of my parents needs my help, my initial reaction is anger and resentment. Anger for all the times I’ve been thrown in jail for being an “unruly” child, or thrown out on the streets for being a “slut”. Anger because my father abandoned us for a younger, prettier family. Resentment because Mom and Dad were both in denial that they would ever get old and need to be cared for. They never planned for this. Dad used to always tell us that when he was ready to die, he would go out into the woods, lay down and die.
Right now, I feel I deserve nothing but to be enveloped in my new baby, but the needs of my parents are around every one of his milestones.
I understand my anger towards my parents is an attempt to convince myself that my parents don’t deserve my help. Selfishly, I want to simply live my life with carefree ease. Who can blame me?
I call Dad in the hospital.
“I heard you fell,” I say.
“No, that’s not what happened”, he responds. “I was driving through Missoula, trying to get home. I had to stop to rest, and I happened to stop here, at Providence Hospital.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re being taken care of, Dad,” I reply, as my eyes well up with tears. He is thousands of miles from Missoula and hasn’t driven in years. It’s never fun or amusing to witness the frail confusion of someone you love.
“I guess I didn’t realize how tired I truly am,” he tells me.
I remember something I read by Abraham-Hicks, that suggested that the best thing you can do for a person who is not doing well is to envision them in his or her highest, most resilent, healthy state of being. I go to one of Dad’s many boxes of photos I’ve inherited to find a picture of him in his youth to meditate on. I open a box I’ve never opened before to find two journals. In them, my parents have recorded my actions and outfits for the first two years of my life. I read some of the entries. My anger lifts like a fog and my resentment melts away. In their writings, I clearly see how human they are. In their notes, they love immensely and they are flawed, just as we all do and are.
Last night, I dreamt Teo was half kitten, a black and grey tabby. He was substantially adorable. I wish I could show you.
Bill’s been sanding floors.
It is hard work, he reports.
Teo and I stay away those long hours he’s sanding. When Bill’s day is done he’s covered in wood-dust, coated like a soft fawn.
These days, when it’s just Teo and I, I often feel there’s so much going on within 600 square feet of a home and I find myself speaking and thinking in fragments:
So much love.
Dog hair: everywhere.
Tame your fear.
Fear, a survival instinct. Next to it sits the feeling of utter joy. I’ve never been happier as when I’m when I’m carrying Teo on my hip through our apartment and his hand lands on my heart as the dogs trot around my ankles. No, I’ve never been happier. I want to protect this happiness and the feeling drives me mad. I search for faith. There was a time when I was certain there was something beyond what we can see and hear and touch.
I once wrote a shape poem about that time:
I prayed before
bedtime that God
would help me find my
yellow budgie. I had
let her out of her cage.
Perched her in the hibiscus
tree that’s kept in my room
(Mom says it’s because my room
gets the best light). Instead of staying
perched like she was told, she flew off
to somewhere I couldn’t find. So there
in the dark, with my hands neatly folded,
I promised to never doubt God’s existence
if He would please bring me my budgie
(and Egyptian Cartouche necklace. It has
my name spelled in hieroglyphics). I shot that
prayer up like a laser beam through Heaven’s
clouds and my plea flooded all the rooms of
God’s castle. After an hour or so, God agreed
to take me up on the bargain, and I was startled
by the sound of flapping wings. I turned on the
light to see my budgie flying around the ceiling
before he tumbled, wings open, behind the big chair. I never knew birds could fall. I leapt out of bed and pulled the chair from the wall and there was my budgie looking
up at me.Her legs tangled
in my Egyptian Cartouche
necklace. I untangled
her and put her back
her in her cage.
She seemed relieved
to finally be home.
God doesn’t always
agree to my bargains,
just sometimes, every
blue moon or so. And
when He does, it
me. And I don’t
I guess as time moved on and life became even more precious, my faith slowly diminished. It’s not completely gone, I’d just like to beef it up some. I feel like if I don’t, I’ll never be able to let go of this fear and therefore, I won’t be open to receive love and light.
Do you have miracle story that helps you remember why you have faith to begin with?
We drove to Vermont, where we stayed a few days: frolicked in waterfalls, floated down rivers and slept under trees, before heading out to Cape Cod, a place I had always wanted to see. I ate a chilli-dog along the way.
Cape Cod was different from how I imagined it, though not in a bad way. One night we saw a fog; an eerie, misty fog.
One day, we sailed.
We watched fireworks as the sips of tiny mosquitos stung.
We ate lobster.
I enjoyed sundresses, and holding Sister Dog.
On the way back, we sat in traffic jams. Wretched traffic jams.
I looked out the window, a lot. I saw a motorcycle gang. A real, live motor cycle gang. One member had a baseball bat strapped across his handlebars. I have no pictures to show you. I was too afraid that photographing them would piss them off.
When we arrived to Georgia, my aunt cooked.
And every time I leave, I miss her all over again.
We returned home and I fussed about Mom, her being so far away. The only solution would be to bring her back here, or move down there. We’d have more support with mom down there, but I wondered if we could be both places at once. We decided living in a motor home would be a good way to find out.
So much has happened between then and now. It was too hard to unravel our life, resolve ourselves of most of our belongings and just move into a motor home. We were uncertain. We still are.
I often wonder how life would be for us now, had we just gone for it, and at times, we talk like it’s still going to happen someday.
Security is only a superstition. It does not exist in nature nor do the children of men, as a whole, experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than out right exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. ~quote by Helen Keller Found in “My Life As a Mountain Guide”, biography of Louis Whittaker. http://www.RMIGuides.com
What about you? Could you give it all up for a life on the road?
In Savannah, Mom asked if she was dying. My heart soured with sadness.
“We are all dying, Mom,” I answered.
“No, did the doctor tell you that I’m dying?”
“No Mom. The doctor did not say that.”
This disease forces you to face the truth, yet fabrications become necessary.
“But why then,” she went on, “for some reason, does it feel like it’s all coming to an end?”
I miss my mom everyday, and I’m sad when I find myself speaking of her in past tense. I acknowledge that she’s still here, and wonder if the part of her that I know and love has really grown so small, that it’s hardly decipherable. The parts I knew and love only come to me in dreams now, like warm wind, forceful, through the cold, the way it dances through trees just before a storm.
And just as I was about to publish this post, my phone dings: a text from E.
Did you see this? he texted, and the blue letters of a link glow. The link takes me to an article in ScienceAlert: they’ve found a cure for Alzheimer’s.
It comforts me to know E. is thinking of Mom, too. I know this has all been incredibly hard on both of us, but is it true? Could this nightmare be coming to an end?
The news makes me want to celebrate. I’m renewed with hope. Just when I had given up praying for what I finally convinced myself was impossible: life never ceases to surprise me.
Bill is working hard to support our family. He bought us a house. It’s so beautiful. When I look at it, it makes me want to cry. It’s unbelievable, really, and when I walk through and feel its sturdy bones, I feel sheltered and protected, something I haven’t felt in a while. Anxiety levels have been on maximum since Teo; how I love him so.
A patch of orange hair grows fuller by the day, glistens gold in the sun. He is the colors of desert earth and stone. People remind me, when they approach and rekindle their own babies, how quickly he will grow. It’s remarkable, truly. In the morning, he wakes up resilient, shining and bright, and makes a lot of noise. He moves his arms, and kicks; sometimes grabs my nose and hair: pulls chunks of it from my head. I kiss him. His breath smells like slightly soured milk.
Our home sits near a river. The neighborhood seems diverse, although most of the people I’ve met remind me of ‘Up North’.
I met the woman who lives across the street. She is exactly my age, raising twins: a boy and a girl.
“I’m exhausted,” she said.
“How do you do it?”, I ask.
“You just do,” she said.
Her adorable children recline on a large bean bag. They stare with big eyes.
Each holds a bottle of filled with apple juice and they’re watching a cartoon. It looks glorious.
New Neighbor is organized; well kept. I like her. Unfortunately, she’s moving. There’s a thing going on with her landlord. Sounds like they were once close and something fell through. Too bad, I think.
I met New Neighbor’s landlord the other day. She spotted me coming out of the house. She had on neat sweater and matching hat, and approached as I made my way down the front stairs. There are things I notice about her that remind me of the confusion that surrounded my mother when I first noticed her decline. When I see New Neighbor again, I mention it:
“It’s dementia,” I say.
New Neighbor is not convinced and shakes her head in disapproval.
“It’s too bad,” I say, “She will need a good friend, soon.”
Then there’s the other neighbor, a man named Linda, who my friend M. pointed and stared at through a window, asking me over and over again, “His name is Linda? He’s a man! I’m serious, come over here and look at him.”
“I know, M. Please stop! He can probably hear you, and I’m certain he can see you.”
Our house: there is a garden that needs to be tilled and many leaves to be raked; floors that need to be sanded; lots of work actually.
My baby awakens. Until next time…
So much has happened since I last visited with you, and life has moved in fast forward. I asked my father-in-law about life moving faster and faster with time.
“It’s true,” he said.
“That’s scary,” I said.
“It is,” he said.
My father-in-law worked as a tax attorney for many years, and now enjoys what seems to me a very enjoyable and comfortable retirement, but every once in a while I hear him jokingly grumble about why in the heck he chose to become a tax attorney, and about how horrible it was dredging to work every day. I asked him what he thought he should have done instead.
“Nothing,” he told me, “I have no regrets.”
In the time we’ve been apart dear reader, my inner voice has grown shy. I guess having a baby can do this to you. My inner voice belongs to someone who floats on whims and believes in magic, and babies need something more solid, like shelter and food.
There are people I’ve met who’ve had similar “inner voices” as my own. They have pointed out the cancer that they can’t afford to treat, the aching bones that they can’t afford to retire. It frightens me, as I don’t want to end up in those situations, but at the same time, I don’t want to end up grumbling about how horrible life was before retirement. Are you beginning to see my dilemma?
How does one create balance: be fair to both the sensical within yourself and the magical. Is it possible?
I caught the tail end of Dr. Christiane Northrup’s talk last night on public television. She had enormous crystals all around her. Anyway, the parts I caught made me believe that it is possible to fuse together a life that holds both logic and magic. Coming from a life that has mainly been guided by passion, I’m finding this balance very difficult to perceive.
Do you tend to follow your head or your heart? Where has either one led you?
On the first day, it was peacocks, which were eerie to me because of the curve of their necks and beaks: like cobras ready to strike. I had to tell Billy that the “chicken” on the table was really his towel, as he searched for one to take with him to shower.
“Really?” Billy asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “You have to either unroll it or do without a towel.”
On the second day, it was puppies, which reminded me of my dogs back home, and made me miss them: their floppy ears and perky butts. I quickly dismantled those to chase away my homesickness for them.
On the third day, we came home to toalla babies, which I couldn’t bare to dismantle, until finally, the little one’s head toppled off in the wind.