Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Clinomania



Clinomania (n) an excessive desire to stay in bed.

Most days, I bound out of bed ready for a new day.  Not today.  Sleeping for ten hours did nothing to allay my fatigue.  Under the weight of comforters and blankets, I begin to thumb through the reasons for my lack of energy and either disregard or verify each as a possible cause.

Maybe I'm coming down with something?  I swallow hard-no sore throat. No headache either.  My stomach is OK, too.  I guess I am alright.  Just tired.  Wait, it's my thyroid.  It is true, I blame everything on my thyroid.  No.  Just tired, that's all.

My life is altered.  My brain does not function as it once did.  CS Lewis describes, "... it feels like being mildly drunk or concussed...I find it hard to take in what anyone says." I understand this all too well-this grief.

No, I am unable to function as I once did.  I often ask for help feeling like I am hoisting my widow-status for service.  I find that I have trouble carrying loads of wood up the cellar stairs, so I don't think I ought to try to replace the washer in the basement with another in storage.  I need my boys.  Having always had a fear of chopping off multiple fingers and toes, I won't handle a hatchet or an axe, either. I call on a family friend who is a real Maine Lumberjack.  Physical challenges abound, but so do the intellectual ones.   Sometimes, I trip over my words when I speak. I often have to ask for things to be repeated as my brain can only take so much information in.  Rather than become victim to despair, I recognize that this is grief.  No one expects me to be fixed.  Things will get better in time.  Right now I need to be gentle.  I need to treat myself as I would a dear friend. Tonight after a hot shower, I think I will put myself to bed with a good book and a cup of chamomile tea.  I have an excessive desire to go to bed and stay there. That is more than alright.

The Whisperer

"Did you smell it? Did you?" It was all the buzz at school.  The radius of aroma was far reaching, but there was no evidence of the source.  They say that smell activates memory...

                                Jerry is in the middle.  The youngest boy of three.


"Get that thing out of here. Now!"  I imagined his father barking from his chair, CB in hand.  Jerry  would catch skunks by the tail, putting his hand over the gland.  He claims that prevented them from spraying.   Dangling head down (picture the swaying),  I imagine the skunk was lulled to sleep or too shocked and scared to move, I don't know.  The rough and tumble tow headed boy, my husband was once a skunk whisperer.

I can't remember why he stopped catching skunks, but I have my guesses.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Running

                                                                          Winter Sea

I didn't always like it.  I wanted a life beyond work and bed.  Some cold nights we were snuggled under the layers of covers soon after we ate and the dishwasher was loaded. When I begged him to stay up he responded, "I work hard; I'm tired.  My work is physical...'Night."

Sighing, I hugged him a bit tighter, wrapping my arm around his torso and forcing myself to sleep, when all I wanted to do was get up and play Parcheesi or sit at either end of the couch and stare at each other.  Nothing was worse than coaxing your body to sleep when it isn't ready.  My husband was indeed weary. Instead,  I listened to his even snoring, our bodies fitting perfectly together and soon we were both asleep.

Jerry's passing at the end of October allowed me a few months to prepare for the sometimes brutal impact of a New England winter especially on the coast.  Towns have been shut down for weeks with no electricity and roads impassable-a glare of ice.  Winds can gust to hurricane force.  Access to food, gas and medical services under these conditions can be a challenge.  Jerry loved storms.  He prepared as much as he would prepare for a storm. He knew where the shovel was, the candle and matches sat on the counter and a jugs of water either for flushing or for drinking was handy.  I never worried about salting the steps, clearing the steps, paths or our long bumpy driveway.  During storms, I read or knitted.  He did all the work.  So an approximate six weeks lapse between fall and winter helped me to ease into all the responsibilities that come with winter. I now do the work of two and all the while think of all that Jerry did to make life easy for me.  I do the laundry, dishes, meals, clean up and take care of the dogs and cats. I tend to the wood stove, finances and shopping.  I run from about 5:30 am until 11 pm. I am exhausted despite help too from family and friends.

Tonight, it is just after 8, my eyes close, my chin touches my chest and the book nearly drops out of my hand.  I think back to our early evening, winter cuddles.   I never imagined that this would be his last winter; the last winter of fending off his wife's cold feet and finally relenting-warming them, his body a furnace. How glorious it would be to return, if only for a few seconds;to feel the curve of his shoulders, run my fingers through his hair, and to inhale his familiar scent. I would like to sleep too.

Instead, now I play multi-roles.  You understand.  I am grateful.  And I am plain exhausted.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lunch is Served



One by one, my classmates moved until I was left sitting alone at the long table. 


St. Mary's didn't offer hot lunch like all the other schools did in the city, so we had to bring our lunches from home.  Some who lived a short distance from the school, went home for lunch.  I don't remember much about what was usually in my lunch box aside from fruit like an apple, four cookies (four was the house limit) and a sandwich either peanut butter and jelly or sliced meat. I recall one day that I brought sardines to school.  It didn't go well.

I loved sardines. After school my father and I would often share a tin on saltine crackers.  It was a bonding experience as we both smacked our lips in utter satisfaction.  The intense fish flavor paired with the crunchy saltines became a favorite snack.   One day my mother packed me a sandwich-sardines on soft white bread and a smear of mayonnaise. The wax paper that it was wrapped in did little to trap the fishy smell.  So when I undid the folds of the wax paper in order to eat the sandwich the smell wafted quickly, assaulting the noses of every child in the large room where the entire school ate at once.  This room was in the basement of an old brick building where both my grandmother (at age 4) and my father attended.  There were no windows that opened and the two exit doors at top of each opposite stairway leading to the first floor did little to alleviate the odor.  Three or four long tables were arranged end to end and lined horizontally to accommodate about one hundred kids.

Placing the contents of a can of sardines between two pieces of bread was a messy affair. Eating it was worse.  The oil that the little fish were packed in  dripped everywhere and the bread pressed thin and became soggy in places; the oil oozing through the holes in the bread.  The sight of it all and the smell was just too much.

A few weeks after this lunch-time disaster, my mother with sardine can in hand began wrapping the metal tab of the tin around a key in preparation of packing my lunch another sandwich.  She stopped amidst my screaming,  "Ma, please, please don't give me sardines again.  Please no."

"A sardine sandwich was my favorite lunch.  That or a bean sandwich.  'Want a bean sandwich?"my mother asked, her voice light and promising.

That day I ate lunch with my friends and the peanut butter stuck to the roof of my mouth.

Him



The escapes come often and frequently.  I sit in my wing back chair poised to watch a film.  The slab of chocolate and broken pieces lay on the opened wrapper, my toes touch the floor pointed, raising my knees to  intentionally cradle the contents in my lap.  Birthday chocolate. Precious cargo. These days, I avoid buying chocolate for myself because I have no control.

I guess you could say that we balanced each other out.  This wasn't always the perfect in paradise kind of love.  He loved to eat meat, while I prefer plant based proteins.  He liked the bedroom cold, while I preferred heat.  A soft hearted soul whose kids could talk him into just about anything, especially if it was adventurous and a bit risky, my husband was always full of surprises.  I, on the other hand am more practical and I'd like to think more controlled and logical.  An impulsive, fly by the seat of your pants kind of guy versus a planner, a list maker. We pretty much kept to our roles through over 36 years of marriage, until this summer.

My husband, Jerry never missed a day of work except a few days here and there during hospitalization or following surgery.  This summer, despite lingering unexplained fatigue and pain, he worked through it. Some days it took all of his will to get out of bed, but he made it to work.  In the late afternoon, he would drag himself to the bedroom and lay down.   This summer, work required all of him so by the time he got home, he was spent.

Nearly, everyday for three years, we played Parcheesi.  He was a competitor.  The captain of his football team, a state champion pole vaulter, my husband was tenacious.  These competitive tendencies worked to his benefit while playing board games, too.  Despite feeling rotten, most days this summer he played parcheesi.  He held a stash of Dove Chocolate in the freezer, in a yogurt container labeled, "Frozen Corn."  We were both as serious about our ration of chocolate, as we were about our game. Some nights it was hard to discern whether we played to play or we played to eat chocolate.  In unusual restraint, he allowed us two bits of candy. No more. Both of my candies were unwrapped and devoured before he took his first bite. I always begged for more.  "Can I have one more, please?  Please?  Just one?  Then no more, I promise."

In an unusual stance, he refused my request, " No, save it for later.  We each get two." He wasn't a guy that said no.

I looked at the board and thought about swiping off the smears of chocolate with a sponge after the game.  Seconds later, thinking he might relent. "Chocolate, please?"

Again, I heard, "No."  Strangely, the back and forth resembled an exchange with one of our teenagers.
Night after night played out in a similar fashion.  He held me to two pieces, despite my protests and attempts to wear him down.

Now, I sit in my wing back chair, shoving thick pieces of European chocolate into my mouth.  The first chunk barely melted in my mouth before I shove more in.  I have lost interest in the movie, and  I am not really aware of the quantity of chocolate I have consumed, that is until I look down in my lap and see there are two little pieces left.  Carefully the remaining pieces are wrapped and tucked away for another time.

Everything reminds me of him.  I eat.  I eat.  It does little to fill me up. Vignettes of our life, of him settle in my head replaying. I thought it was the chocolate, but really, I can't get enough...of him.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

on the lookout



It takes two hours for a snowflake to fall from cloud to earth. Can't you just see its slow peaceful decent?-Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Reading this, I snapped the book closed, and without thought clasped my hands together as if in prayer and sighed.  The discovery of this miracle made me stop in wonderment.  Literally, it took my breath away. I stared into nothingness and felt the awe.  I mean I really felt it.  For some reason, I looked out the window.  On cue, (no joke) puffy snow flakes were lightly falling.  Air catching under each, the decent was slow and peaceful. Moments later it stopped.

Rosenthal writes about serendipity which she seems to equate with coincidence.  Serendipity woke me early having checked FB, a friend posted an article claiming that research shows eating chocolate cake for breakfast is good for the brain and for the waistline.  I was all over that.  Before sunrise and before I downed my first almond milk latte, I had fork-full by fork-full indulged in a wedge of leftover birthday cake.

serendipity
If you like something, you tend to be on the lookout for it.  And if you're on the lookout for it, you tend to find it, or it-Yoo-hoo! Over here!-finds you.  And so it goes, for me, with serendipity and coincidence.  It's something I like, so it's something I notice and attract. -Amy Krouse Rosenthal

This morning, serendipity found me, and I am over the moon excited for what might become today and tomorrow. I think of serendipity as miracles, however small.  Notice, attract, repeat. Notice, attract, repeat. I will be on the lookout, will you?




Friday, March 17, 2017

He Loves Me


Every birthday for the last 35, he would wake me gently, his lips pressing upon my ear, caressing. "I love you, gorgeous. I love you beautiful.  Happy Birthday." It was the first sweet greeting of another new year. 

Today is my birthday.  It is 2 am.  I can't sleep.  My mind wanders to the fact that this year Jerry will not whisper his love on my birthday.  The tears well up in the outer corner of my eyes, but don't flow.  My heart feels crushed.  It aches. Tears then run freely.

I lay in the darkness.  The dog near.  One cat on the extra pillow near my head.  Another nestled at my side.  I try to breathe, slow deep breaths to clear my head and inflate my heart.  I lay on my back, staring at the fluorescent stars on the ceiling of my son's former room, now mine.  "Come...in a dream.  Come please. Just come...it's my birthday..." My words desperate.  It would be my fix for the day. The perfect "gift."

Then, I think how Jerry had a mind of his own.  Once he had something in his head, there was no stopping him or convincing him of another course.   He would wander off and not tell me where he was for hours, despite my worry.  An independent, free spirit when he had something he wanted to do, he did it. He jumped out of a plane, waiting until I was on the west coast, and far away to do it. And he told me about it after he had done it. He knew I would worry and try to stop him. When we were trying to cut down on meat, he would come home now and again with a big slap of beef, the size my mother would feed to our entire family. He would sit down and eat it himself with butter melted on top.  My look of disgust, resulted in a remark, between bites, "I know what I like."

I am laughing out loud.  Alone.  I remember just how stubborn he was. 'Bet he still is, I ponder.

Then I realize, that despite my begging, he may come to me in a dream or maybe he won't. My mind desperate to find resolution and peace, wanders. I think of a pile of daisy petals fluttering to the ground.  He loves me.  He loves me, not. I know with certainty, he loves me and always will.

Rex with his nose nestled into his front paws is sleeping. I hear his breathing. Julie purrs, kneading the blankets until she finds a spot to curl.  I slip into a bed exhausted with the crazy ride of emotions and the fact that it is nearly 4 am. I feel so much better remembering I am blessed; I am loved.