28 Oct 2013
in Uncategorized Tags: EveryDayStuff, gratitude, grief, LouReed, Mom
Last Thursday Mom told me she didn’t want to try to change or address her emotions. It hurts a lot. I’m trying to not let it feel like a personal rejection, but it is hard. When it counted all of my parents, Father, Step-dad, and now Mom, have always chose to not fight, to not do the work needed to stay in the world. I’m trying to remember that the depth of Mom’s mental illness makes trying seem like a task not worth doing and it isn’t that she doesn’t care enough about me to try.
Saturday was filled with the wonderful gift of a cooking lesson from a woman who has gone from “vendor” to “friend” in the years we’ve worked together to provide a tasty lunch at Open Source Bridge. She met me, and a few friends, for “coached shopping” at a new Asian supermarket. Then on to freshly made tofu. Back to our home for a flurry of cooking. It wore me out, but it was good to have that energy in the house.
Yesterday I woke up feeling like I needed a do-over. I had slept alright and got up early enough to have a soak after feeding our companion animals. I then got Mom up and got her started on her day, but was finding my morning tea was leaving me feeling a nauseous. I decided the answer was to just go back to bed for a while.
I did. I slept another 90 minutes or so and felt better for it. Then I went online and discovered the news that Lou Reed had died.
I nearly just gave up and went back to bed, but the necessity of errands drove me forth. The misty, gray day suited my lousy mood. I bemoaned my iPod, which had died recently taking my library with it. Much of it is backed up, but getting our music server going is a project we need to take on together soon. I couldn’t immediately gratify my desire to put on Lou Reed’s music, loud. I was angry at yet another loss, regardless of the inevitability of loss that is part of living.
I decided the day, with all the tiredness and sadness brought on by Mom’s declaration, combined with a moody-funk brought on by the news about Lou Reed, needed flowers. I set out with the intention of glaring down the errands, buying my damn flowers, and defying the misty grey weather by potting them on the front porch.
Then the sun came out. I got home, bought a copy of “Magic and Loss”, transferred it to the shiny new iPod CK bought for me while she was flying off on another business trip, and set to planting my flowers. I ended by sweeping down the bricks. In my bones when I sweep down a walk in chilly weather I am drawn back to sesshin. The music ended. I softly chanted some of the Diamond Sutra. I went back inside feeling more grounded.
Today I saw my acupuncturist. I shared with him that I have been feeling foolish for getting my hopes up around Mom. I so deeply hoped that our alleviating the burden of her health management, of stabilizing her health, would create a space for her to want to have a relationship with me based around something other than appointments or shopping. The reality that she doesn’t want that and no amount of my hoping and wanting it for us makes any difference is tough.
My very wise practitioner quickly responded, “Oh don’t do that. Never feel foolish for hoping. It is wonderful to have hope.”
I blinked in surprise at this swift re-framing of my feeling dumb for getting my hopes up. He then added, “You tested the bounds of that hope for your Mom. You’ve done what you could. It is alright to have had hope then found it wasn’t a possible path. It is time to move on.”
It still hurts, a lot. I’m trying to reset to new hopes for Mom. That she’ll be safe and secure. That she’ll find new friends who have more in common with her. I am not going to push it and hope for contentment or ease for her, I feel these will elude her entirely. She will always stumble on joy.
I was introduced to the song, “What’s Good”, by the late Lou Reed when it appeared on the soundtrack for one of my favorite movies, Until the End of the World. It is actually from “Magic and Loss”. I have always been really struck by the lyrics toward the end that remind us that “Life’s good (but not fair at all)”.
If things were “fair” then Mom would want a relationship with me as much as I want one with her, she’d respond to all the work I put in to try and make that happen. Sunday ended up being sunny and beautiful. The flowers I planted graced our home. Life is good, even when it feels distinctly unfair.
Autumn Planting – Portland, Oregon – October 27, 2013
by Lou Reed
Life’s like a mayonnaise soda
And life’s like space without room
And life’s like bacon and ice cream
That’s what life’s like without you
Life’s like forever becoming
But life’s forever dealing in hurt
Now life’s like death without living
That’s what life’s like without you
Life’s like Sanskrit read to a pony
I see you in my mind’s eye strangling on your tongue
What’s good is knowing such devotion
I’ve been around, I know what makes things run
What good is seeing eye chocolate
What good’s a computerized nose
And what good was cancer in April
Why no good, no good at all
What good’s a war without killing
What good is rain that falls up
What good’s a disease that won’t hurt you
Why no good, I guess, no good at all
What good are these thoughts that I’m thinking
It must be better not to be thinking at all
A Styrofoam lover with emotions of concrete
No not much, not much at all
What good is life without living
What good’s this lion that barks
You loved a life others throw away nightly
It’s not fair, not fair at all
Oh, baby, what’s good?
Not much at all
Hey, baby, what’s good?
Not much at all
But not fair at all
28 Sep 2013
in Uncategorized Tags: Aging in Place, anger, EveryDayStuff, grief, Mom
CK Teaching Mom to Use iPad – November 2012 – Portland, Oregon
**Trigger Warning: Lots and lots of Mom Stuff, Abusive behavior, references to childhood abuse and dealing with addiction issues**
It has been a year since we moved into our new home, 11 months since Mom moved in with us. It has been quite a year.
Honestly, I have found it hard to write about anything. This year has been facing the reality that I am unable to affect my Mom’s happiness, no matter how hard I try.
It has also taken away my last hopes that maybe my childhood wasn’t awful. That it only had moments of lousiness. That my Mom was pretty good the majority of the time.
Those last hopes are pretty much gone having seen how quickly CK has seen Mom’s manipulative tendencies. How swiftly she’s become horrified by and angry at Mom’s behavior. It is deeply painful to really acknowledge the truth of one of my therapists observing that she felt my entire childhood was devoid of any adult who had my best interests at heart.
All I’ve wanted for Mom is to see her content, happy even if just in small ways. I gave up on seeing Mom have a life that’s fulfilling a long time ago after realizing that I don’t think I could recognize what that means to Mom. I also recognized a long time ago that what I find fulfilling, my Mother finds either amusing or baffling, which also hurts.
We hoped that by bringing Mom to live with us we could help relieve some of things she was clearly overwhelmed by. Living alone she fell several times, kept getting sick, and was clearly not coping with anything. I was going out to Gresham all the time, sometimes in a panicked rush. We knew that with some oversight with medication and meals, and some company, that she would stabilize. I’d hoped that with stability we might have the space to enjoy some of our time together.
The first weekend after she moved in we had a low blood sugar incident because Mom had taken insulin and didn’t follow up with food. We were out running errands and not here to supervise. When we arrived home Mom was barely responsive, clammy, and incoherent.
By “incident” I mean a fire truck out front, 6 or 7 very large, male EMTs in our cramped living room that had just been filled with Mom’s stuff, and an ambulance ride. It was the second time in my life I’ve been asked to “ride shotgun” in an ambulance with someone I know being stabilized in the back. I gave directions to the hospital, the ER doc went over her list of medications in shock. After returning home from the hospital we also took over Mom’s medications, particularly things like Oxycodone and Ativan, which we caught her about to incorrectly dose herself.
It hit us really hard that the terrifying mix of Ambien, Ativan, Oxycode, and Fentanyl patches she was on left her in kind of a vague haze all the time. If you add to the the insulin, forgetting to eat, and not eating well we knew it was really no wonder she hadn’t fallen more. A combination of over-medicating herself and low blood sugars could have very easily been lethal.
Since this incident all her diabetes medications and insulin levels have been adjusted and we most often check into be sure she’s eaten after insulin. CK spent several months having weekly calls with a diabetes nurse specialist at Kaiser to track Mom’s blood glucose, get Mom off the Metformin, figure out what the new R and N insulin doses should be, and what the best scale for corrective R insulin needs to be. We make sure Mom checks her blood glucose 4 times a day, correcting the insulin dose 2-3 times each day.
Every other week for the past year and a half or so I set up her meds for the next two weeks. We’ve also realized that she still doesn’t do well getting them out of the containers, often leaving pills behind, and occasionally taking the pills incorrectly (wrong days, wrong time to take them, etc.). Since last autumn every morning we set out a day’s pills in small ceramic ramekins, each resting on a colored sticky note to indicate which time it is to be taken.
I now also dispense her Fentanyl patches, which she also hadn’t been taking correctly. I’ve got her to stop taking Ativan too and work with her in stressful situations to try and focus on her breath, reminding her that she’s alright. Besides which, her last physician had prescribed it only because of the traumatic way her late husband’s family dumped her at the independent living facility in January 2012. Mom isn’t having panic attacks anymore, so it doesn’t make sense for her to keep taking Ativan on a daily basis. At times she was taking one a few times a day in combination with Oxycodone 1-2 at a time, “as needed”. Yes, that is on top of 100mg Fentanyl patches and her taking Ambien at bedtime.
We’ve stopped the Ambien too, particularly since she already is taking an Oxycodone at bedtime too. When she was taking those Ambien and Oxycodone at bedtime she would become alarmingly out-of-it. No surprise.
Then there’s the kidney disease. After years of diabetes, and not really doing a good job managing it, with the related medications like Metformin has left Mom’s kidneys is sorry shape. The result is a constant struggle with anemia since her kidneys fail to adequately do their part of the job of red blood cell production. This means bi-weekly blood work to see how her blood levels are. When they’re falling, there is the scheduling for a type & cross-match followed by a transfusion, sometimes needed monthly. She had an access port installed several years ago, but to ensure that it always properly working in case a transfusion is needed we also have to have bi-weekly port flushes scheduled. Since we’ve engaged the help of the care management folks at least the work of taking Mom to a Kaiser facility weekly is offloaded from us, but still we’re always reviewing the lab results. We also weekly dispense a dose of Procrit which stimulates the kidneys into working and have regular calls with the nephrology pharmacy as the dosage needs to change to try and keep ahead of the anemia.
It hasn’t been easy getting Mom’s health to stabilize, but we’ve done it. There have been no more serious falls and no more low blood sugar incidents. On top of that the change to a vegan diet* and stabilization of her blood glucose levels has meant that her eyes** are actually improving, her near constant digestive distress has been resolved, and her triglycerides have lowered to the point they can actually be measured.***
*Mostly vegan, we encourage her to eat as she likes outside the home.
**Mom is legally blind due to complications of the diabetes. Her eyes have had a lot of swelling in them, necessitating treatments directly too them. Her eye doctor was actually quite pleasantly surprised at our last visit and felt that the diet change and blood sugar stabilization is clearly helping. He told Mom that she should keep doing what she’s been doing!
***Yes, Mom’s triglycerides have been so high they’ve been out of measurable range.
We’ve worked with a new physician on what her dose of Oxycodone is, but Mom often complains about wanting to go back to when she was self-dosing with these. The amount we can get from the pharmacy is very strictly controlled and we’re not allowed to pick them up early. On more than one occasion we’ve come up short of the date, which leaves me suspecting that she can actually get into them on the high shelf I’ve put them. In fact, I’ve moved them this week because I really think some of those prescriptions have been “short” because she’s got into them.
There’s been some good, but mostly it has just been a damn long couple of years we’re coming up on. That said, it has been a particularly lousy week.
Sunday, when CK and I were going to leave to go take care of the week’s grocery shopping Mom somewhat snidely remarked that she hoped we had fun without her.
Mom’s been resentful for a while that grocery shopping isn’t set aside as a fun outing for her to poke around the store. Getting the grocery shopping is largely a chore I like to get done with as efficiently as possible and I realized early on that shopping with her took at least twice as long. I also had to stop her from nearly running into people with the shopping cart she insists on using. Grocery shopping with Mom makes a tolerable chore an anxiety inducing activity.
On Monday I had to admit I was fighting a cold. Watching CK play Skyrim after dinner started making horribly dizzy so I went to lay down. While I was doing so I could overhear Mom, through her closed door, on the phone with a friend complaining about us, particularly about how “of course” we didn’t take her with us shopping along with other bitterness.
This is not the first time one of us has overheard Mom bitching about us on the phone. CK even confronted Mom once after overhearing her telling a friend that I was misusing her funds. What shocked CK most about this is my lack of surprise that Mom should get caught saying awful things about me to people behind my back. She’s done it many times in my life, at various ages.
On Tuesday Mom’s blood glucose at dinner was unexpectedly high, particularly since she’d had lunch earlier than usual that day. It was high enough that I’d asked her what she had for lunch and asked if she’d had a snack in the afternoon. A snack would have been fine, I just wanted the 220 blood glucose to make some sense. I had her retest, assuming she had something on her hands, but it was still at 200. I just shook my head over it and gave her a higher dose of the R insulin to take before dinner. We’ve suspected Mom’s been snacking in her room because she’s been overheard munching at times and we’ve also caught Dora licking up crumbs off the floor. We’ve asked her about it, but she always denies it. sometimes really defensively.
On Thursday morning CK realized that our recycling and compost cans didn’t make it down to the curb and rush out in the morning to do so. She discovered Mom had accidentally dumped the small trash can from her bedroom into the recycling. This has happened a couple of times. We’ve labeled the cans with big reflective letter stickers, we’ve suggested she not take it out when it is dim outside (which makes it even harder for her to see which can is which), and we’ve even noted that her trash is emptied every other week by the person who comes and cleans the house for us. Still, it is one of those things where she still wants to feel like she can do something herself, so sometimes we end up with trash in the compost and recycling, leaving whoever finds it the messy job of getting the trash out of the wrong bin and into the right one.
That’s not the bad part. Yes, it is frustrating and irritating, but if that’s the only irritation we dealt with it would be entirely manageable.
In the trash CK discovered several Twinkie wrappers and a receipt from buying some herbal weight loss pills while out shopping with friends when we visited Toronto for our anniversary. Take away that Twinkies aren’t vegan. Take away that she’s self medicating with weight loss pills that, combined with all the medications for her diabetes, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure, not to mention her pacemaker, are really a dangerous combination. Not to mention just being a bad idea to take them with Mom’s combination of health challenges. Take all that away and we’re left with her sneaking things that are not good for her and lying about it.
CK confronted her while I finished getting dressed. I had to take several deep breaths to go out into the kitchen where I could hear Mom implying that her hiding things was our fault. That she is forced to lie and sneak because we so rigid, don’t let her have anything she wants, and “treat her like a child”. I confronted her about the high blood glucose on Tuesday evening, noting that Twinkies explained it now. I told her I wouldn’t have cared if she’d had a sugary treat, even if it isn’t the right kind of choice for herself. I had just wanted to understand because unexplained highs or lows in the blood sugar can be indicative of something going on that should be seen to by her doctor.
Since Thursday morning Mom’s barely spoken to us****. She is polite, but doesn’t really engage and retreats to her room. I haven’t given in to the old training that compels me to make it better for her, comfort her. CK is also not really talking to her at all after telling Mom she needed to really honestly talk to us. Right before Mom told CK that she’s not a psychologist and she can’t make Mom say anything.
Mom Watching the Sunset – March 2013 – Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii
This past spring we had an assessment of Mom done by a company in town that provides care coordination and management for seniors and other vulnerable people. They advised that Mom shouldn’t be living with us, that the level of oversight and assistance she needs would require us bringing in a lot of extra help in the home. I’ve also been questioned pretty repeatedly by both of my therapists this past year about what I get out of having Mom live here, aside from the reassurance that direct oversight of her provides.
Mom’s not happy here. My therapists believe Mom really isn’t capable of happiness, that she connects with others only through misery. Lately I think the main things she gets out of being here is an increase in her monthly income, because she’s not spending as much for her “rent”, and access to a hot tub. I’ve felt for several years that while Mom says she loves me, she doesn’t like me. She doesn’t respect me, doesn’t understand me, and feels entitled to demand respect from me.
Mom has this idea that merely attaining a certain age entitles someone to be respected regardless of how they behave. Growing up I was repeatedly told that age demanded respect, regardless of truth or what was ethically right. Mom also raised me to respond to her unhappiness, to do anything to make her happy and to make things easier for her.
Add to a huge, lifelong list of behavior and mental health issues the fact that the clear toll of the past couple of traumatic years is a decline in cognitive ability. Add to that the reality that Mom can go from generally OK to totally decompensated very quickly. This progression is so rapid that it is not advisable for her to take public transportation, not even the ride share for seniors. She does take a shuttle to the senior center, but those drivers have more experience dealing with folks like Mom.
The assessment folks were right. CK and I are so overwhelmed with the effort to care for her that that effort combined with our respective, demanding jobs, means we often have little energy left to connect with one another. It has become increasingly clear that Mom does not, cannot appreciate the tremendous effort it takes to keep her health stable. In fact, I often am left feeling like she resents our efforts to keep her health stabilized because she doesn’t want to think about what she eats, she doesn’t want to keep a consistent schedule around eating, she wants to take all the pills that let her put this world she hates and the pain she fears behind a haze of fog.
The reality is that Mom will be unhappy, petty, and spiteful no matter where she lives. She will continue to decline mentally, further removing any hope that she can honestly engage with us about the hurtful ways she behaves. Not that she ever really has taken responsibility for her behavior.
On Tuesday afternoon we met with a woman who specializes in placing people in care facilities. She was recommended to us by the people who did the care assessment. Her belief, given Mom’s cognitive state and mental health issues, is that Mom needs a residential care facility. She is encouraging us, me particularly, to understand that it is OK to pursue this decision about Mom’s long term care, that it isn’t reasonable for us to sacrifice our life together just so Mom can be terrible to us, me particularly. No sacrifice on our part can actually bring Mom happiness in any way, but will only further harm us.
****As of 11pm we’ve had a huge blow up, but I suppose at least it isn’t festering just below the surface any longer.
29 Aug 2013
in Uncategorized Tags: EveryDayStuff, gratitude, Mom
Birthday Bouquet from my lovely in-laws – August 28, 2013 – Portland, Oregon
I turned 44 yesterday. Which makes today the first day of my 45th year.
It rather boggles the mind. Well, at least my mind.
It has been a really tough year, and then some. All the upheavals with Mom, buying a house with CK (wonderful, but wow was it stressful), moving Mom in with us. All that and continuing to work on events in the Portland tech community and try and keep on top what has becoming an increasingly demanding job. Honestly, I’m starting this new year off feeling depleted in many ways.
Work is hard. It isn’t that it was easy to begin with, but the demands have more than doubled and find I find myself having to give up or being taken off of things that would be both hard and rewarding because I need to expend ever more energy on a primary application upgrade project. Trust me, this isn’t like upgrading the OS. It is a project involving over 2300 users, mostly hostile. The vendor’s support has been appalling. I’ve found bugs, requirements gaps, and what can only be called seriously bad decisions for over a year solid. I’m worn out of having to fight my way though the next problem that shows up just as we’re supposed to “turn the corner” on the horribleness.
All that and this year it hit me that, aside from stressful periods of unemployment, I’ve been in “on call” mode since 1998. The stress of that alone is affecting my health. I also feel like what I’ve been doing at work, while building my reputation in one area, really distracts from the career change I had wanted to make 3 years ago. I’ve let my boss know this, and we’ve brainstormed some ideas, but the part I don’t feel confident about is the allocation of another headcount for our team so that I can move into a very strategic role instead of a hands-on, “tactical” role. Enterprise Reporting Architect is the title we’ve been kicking around.
Living with Mom is hard. Not a surprise, but yet still surprising in the ways it is hard. Gaining insight into the benefit of it, despite the fact that it has me living with someone who can be constantly triggering to me, is something I find myself being asked to revisit with my therapists. I still feel like there is benefit. I also feel I’m not fully ready to give up on the hope that maybe she can experience a little happiness and contentment in her life, and that I might get to enjoy seeing that.
This might explain the down-turn in posts. It has been kind of unrelenting.
There there is loss. In the past handful of years 5 people we’ve cared about have taken their lives. I still have a lot of sorrow at Jen’s death and a lingering, aching awkwardness over seeing folks from college at her memorial. Some days it feels like I remain frozen at the edge of real grief. It is just so big, and when you combine it with the layers of grief for my Mom, my childhood, all of it… well, it feels overwhelming.
So that’s the hard. Starting this year I also bring so many positives.
Despite a continuing struggle with chronic pain, including lingering neck pain from the car accident in June 2012, I am in good health. At 44 I am in better health than a few generations of women in my family before me have enjoyed. While not as active as I wish, I still am able to go for hikes, swim, and do yoga (even if the neck injury has limited me).
I have a good job, despite the fact it is really exhausting me it affords me a lot of benefits and privileges. I recognize this year that my position and work needs to change in this coming year, even if it means the anxious prospect of moving on to a new company. It has afforded me a lot of growth and I’ve been able to make time to care for Mom, which many people aren’t lucky enough to find in a company.
Buying our new home last year was so enormously stressful that it made the first home-buying experience I had seem like a big party, one where I got a house at the end. The purchase was stressful. The move was stressful, in so many ways. We’re still unpacking. All that aside, I am so fortunate to be living in our beautiful house in the trees. Birds fill our yard. We have a pond. We share a huge space for CK’s office and my studio/office space. Really, it is just such a blessing that I’m so grateful for.
CK remains a thoughtful, loving partner in our life together. Yes, it is hard sometimes, but I’m so grateful to go through those hard times together with her. We’re planning an anniversary adventure, currently with very little actually planned aside from the necessary travel arrangements, some dinner reservations, and an art exhibit to see. We really need a restful holiday together with very few plans, I’m thankful we’re able to have adventures together.
All those blessings and my house is filled with flowers. I’m pretty tickled that I’ve reached a place where buying flowers isn’t an infrequent “indulgence”. Now my regular purchases of flowers to put in vases throughout the house is just part of our grocery budget. I love seeing the bursts of color all over the house, in some ways it makes me feel more at home and settled.
I look forward to more hikes, more art-making, more laughter, more soaks in our hot tub, a healthier & happier job change, moments of small joy with Mom, and all adventures of life, both large and small, with my wife.
17 Mar 2013
in Uncategorized Tags: Aging in Place, Mom
With Mom moving in this past October it seems natural that my blog will start to reflect this new life. I’ve decided to take a documentary approach to our life with an aging, ill parent, living in our home; mostly pictures, but in posts too. These posts can be found together with the tag “Aging in Place”.
As I was prepping meds for Mom this morning, with the spring sunlight streaming in, I was struck by the image of it.
Sunday Mornings with Mom
This is usually how I start my Sunday, every two weeks. One of her heart medications is taken every other day, so having a two week “set” makes it work best.
This picture represents one of those milestones for an aging person. The point where this becomes difficult to self-manage is a point where phrases like “Assisted Living” and “Adult Foster Care” begin to be heard. It was one of the reasons we moved Mom in, just helping with this task, along with making sure she’s taken the meds, already has helped with her falls and lucidity.
We’re trying to help Mom to mostly Age in Place, she no longer can be completely independent, but staying with us keeps in with her community, even if that community largely is just CK and I, well and our herd of animal companions. We’re planning to investigate some more community resources for helping us to help Mom.
16 Mar 2013
in Uncategorized Tags: Aging in Place, EveryDayStuff, Mom, pain, practice, relationship dynamics
I look back at this blog and realize that two months have whooshed on by. One of those weeks was spent celebrating Mom’s 70th birthday in on the Big Island of Hawai’i, which also felt like it went by far too quickly.
It was a bittersweet trip. Mom was delighted to be there, but the rigors of travel exhausted her. Her blood levels fell, in fact we spent the morning at the Kaiser Infusion Center having a transfusion of blood and platelets. The flight home was arduous, with her saying she was hallucinating and constantly fighting with me when I’d remind her that her bag needed to stay under the seat, that she needed to not hold her cane until the plane was on the ground, etc. I feel like we’ll never take a big trip with her again. CK thinks maybe we might, but if we’re able to bear the cost of first class tickets. Mom’s always wanted to go to EPCOT and I’d really hoped she might be able to do some of these things.
Some weeks are better for Mom, but in general she seems afraid of the world and too content to just while away the hours listening to books on tape or watching shows on the Lifetime channel. To me these all seem to be the same story line of families facing challenge that they greet with Faith and are therefore led to a happy ending. Improbable and so narrow, I don’t seem my life reflected in these stories at all, that I find them grating. I worry that this consumption of brain-candy stories to be worrisome. When I urge some engagement with her peers, attending some activities at a local senior center, she professes too great a fear of venturing into any group.
Looking back, I think Mom’s always had some level of social anxiety and I think she’s sabotaged a lot of connections. When you add to that her deteriorating eyesight and the legacy of the emotional and financial abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband’s family, I can connect it all to this fear of joining any kind of group. That said, it is hard to watch her passive consumption of mindless entertainment, ticking away the moments that make up a dull day.
When I was younger she at least tried some new things, particularly arts and crafts. She developed some skill, and enjoyed tole-painting, sewing things, some quilting, and a little machine embroidery. All pursuits that the pain in her hands and the failing eyes have taken from her life. I cannot say the same for reading materials and shows, I always remember her with a stack of Harlequin Romance novels and a fondness for movies like An Officer and a Gentleman and Ice Castles.
She resents my prodding, it makes her feel bad about herself. She hurts, profoundly. Her health has never really been well in my lifetime. It is hard to greet pain and keep going, I know this from personal experience. It takes a lot of will to try and keep moving with, and through the pain. I especially know that when the pain increases the fatigue it brings make it even more difficult to stay engaged and moving, however, I know at those times that it vitally important to keep trying.
And yet, she suffers profoundly. Physically, emotionally, mentally, she suffers. Is it wrong for her to hope to ease into death and go to the heaven she imagines in her mind? Is that so wrong for her to want that? Is it just that Dylan Thomas made too deep and lasting an impression on my young mind that I recoil at the thought of pursing, of longing for an easy death?
The other night I shared with CK that I felt like she’s just giving up and that it hurts. I felt like both my biological father and my step-dad both just turned toward pleasure, pleasure that was surely killing them, and refused to do the hard work to stay alive and present, part of my life. It hurts a lot to feel like my Mom’s doing the same thing.
Watching sunset at Kealakekua Bay – Hawaii – March 2013
25 Nov 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: EveryDayStuff, gratitude, MaryOliver, Mom, poetry
“Oriental Beauty” tea, an Oolong with peachy flavors
It has been busy. This year has been made of busy. No glorification of Busy here, just an observation. We’ll all be happy to see the end of 2012.
A lot has been done. I am filled with gratitude for all that we’ve managed to accomplish this year.
CK and I bought a new house and are renting the old one to a friend who found herself is real need of a place amenable to her companion animals.
I spoke at a conference in September in Orlando at Walt Disney World. I’ve now been at EPCOT (the leading favorite) and have ridden on the Its a Small World ride (freaky, freaky).
Work was all kinds of extra crazy around this time too. I’m ending the year with quite a lot done, CK attributes much of this to my being a workaholic (a bit) at a company full of other workaholics.
We got home. Packed. I rather dropped the ball on helping with the move, but we’ve moved on from although I’m still feeling bad about it. Working on that.
We moved and are in that limbo of not really knowing where just everything is yet.
Mom moved in with us at the end of October. We’ve already had a fire truck at the house due to a low blood sugar. We’re learning.
Yes, it is hard. Worth it, but hard.
I’m feeling rather worn down by the year and hate that it is really showing. CK suggested today that I should take a weekend away by myself to just rest. I’m thinking about it.
Took a few minutes to just sit down and have some tea before tackling the week’s grocery shopping today. We had a little bit of time this week between the holiday and a flurry of medical appointments for Mom to go to Powell’s and I picked up Mary Oliver’s book of poetry, Why I Wake Early.
The poem Bone in it really caught me for the whole cup of tea. Still has me caught, and here it is:
Understand, I am always trying to figure out
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape –
and so, last week,
when I found on the beach
the ear bone
of a pilot whale that may have died
hundreds of years ago, I thought
maybe I was close
to discovering something –
for the ear bone
is the portion that lasts longest
in any of us, man or whale; shaped
like a squat spoon
with a pink scoop where
once, in the lively swimmer’s head,
it joined its two sisters
in the house of hearing,
it was only
two inches long –
and thought: the soul
might be like this –
so hard, so necessary –
yet almost nothing.
the gray sea
was opening and shutting its wave-doors,
unfolding over and over
its time-ridiculing roar;
I looked but I couldn’t see anything
through its dark-knit glare;
yet don’t we all know, the golden sand
is there at the bottom,
though our eyes have never seen it,
nor can our hands ever catch it
lest we would sift it down
into fractions, and facts –
and what the soul is, also
I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
through the pale-pink morning light.
27 Apr 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: 30-Poems-30-Days, EveryDayStuff, gratitude, Haiku, Mom, poetry
Water Lily - Conservatory of Flowers, San Francisco, California - October 2003
Sometimes I’m just blown away by my wife, in a good way. Not only does she help me through spots that are really tough for me, but she does it without it feeling like she pushing me along or dragging me a long with her ideas. Plus there’s the whole being involved with an adult, someone who really is my partner. Who throws down with the tough shit and just starts getting stuff done.
We each have our own stuff we’re working on, which makes things a challenge sometimes. Then there’s the stuff that arises out of those raw moments when our own respective history and the baggage chafes together. It is hard, sometimes it is really hard. But I feel like we’re really working on it together, as equals.
Today she went and picked up Mom from the hospital since I had 4 meetings sandwiched around teaching yoga… out at my office in the Southern Burbs. She took Mom to her apartment in the Eastern burbs, changed up her pill boxes, redid her insulin, found her walker in the closet, and made sure Mom went down to lunch. Then she made us dinner tonight and we watched a movie I’d wanted to see. Yeah, she’s awesome.
Pink petals rising from muck.
Stronger than it looks.
26 Apr 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: 30-Poems-30-Days, EveryDayStuff, Haiku, Mom, poetry
Spring Goslings - Wilsonville, Oregon - April 26, 2012
CK and I trying to bring some creative thinking to things with Mom. Still in the planning stages, but we have some ideas that we’re going to look into to see how feasible they are.
Today at work I took a little break and sat by the stream that runs through the campus. Nearby were some more of the goslings we see each spring, I think there’s almost a dozen of them around the campus. Goslings in spring are definitely a perk!
Small feathered beings
Carefully guarded over
By cautious mothers.
11 Apr 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: 30-Poems-30-Days, anger, Mom, poetry, practice
Broken Piano Foot - Our Basement, Portland, Oregon - June 2010
Today was another page in the Troubles of Mom, sadly. Still don’t want to say much in such a public forum, but the end result is that I’m feeling angry and sad tonight. So angry that the poetry I come up with is something like this:
I’m reminding of a song from Bruce Cockburn, “Pacing the Cage“, which has the amazing lyrical image of “eddies in the dust of rage”. The difficult waiting game, waiting out the rage, reminds me a lot of this song tonight.
And then on my commute home there was an enormous rainbow, clearly seen in a glorious arc across a gray, spring sky.
It is hard practice sitting between the simple joy of rainbows and unethical people hurting my Mom. Practicing with my own anger very certainly feels like all the training wheels are off.
And yet, there is this nagging commitment to poetry…
Waiting with Anger
There’s a video on YouTube of Bruce Cockburn performing “Pacing the Cage”, check it out!
30 Jan 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: anger, Grave Precepts, Mom, precepts
Xenophobia is a great, big-points-in-Scrabble kind of word. Wictionary defines it thusly:
xenophobia (plural xenophobias)
- A fear of strangers or foreigners.
- A strong antipathy or aversion to strangers or foreigners.
The Seventh Grave Precept, one of the vows I received when I took refuge, provides us with clear direction about xenophobia:
Realize self and others as one. Do not elevate the self and blame others.
Mom & Mr. Murphy, January 2012
The past ten days have been a roller coaster, a Mom roller coaster. This time it is something entirely out of the realm of the usual conflicts and hurt between us. In some ways there’s a rather painful familiarity to what’s been happening, but for now I don’t want to go into the details, although I will in time.
What I want to talk about is what happens when we do not realize the self and others as one. What happens and what we are capable of when we don’t practice with the Seventh Grave Precept.
We truly see and hear about the consequences of seeing people as other every day. Wars, murder, sexual exploitation, ethnic violence, abuse, theft, and more all happen because one group of people sees another group as other and their xenophobia lets them justify all manners of horrifying behavior.
We also witness this when animals are treated as commodities to be tortured, killed, and consumed. We tell ourselves that animals don’t feel the way we do, that their suffering isn’t on par with ours so we find it acceptable to treat them horrifically. We justify laws that classify sentient beings as property and allow barbarous treatment of them to be classified as “animal agriculture”.
The Seventh Grave Precept asks us to keep our hearts open to the compassion of the Buddhas. It tells us to never flinch away from taking responsibility for ourselves, never put ourselves above another being either by seeing them as other or through blaming them for our own poor choices. At every moment we look at another being knowing that they are absolutely the same, equal with ourselves.
The First Noble Truth reminds us that we all suffer. It is the human condition to suffer. In this, and in so many other ways, we’re each of us exactly the same. We all long to be loved and seen for who we are. We fear the suffering of illness, injury, loss, and our inevitable deaths. Each and every moment we’re all out there together with our worries, hopes, dreams, and desires.
The past 10 days have created a gulf between people who have tried, in their own flawed and human way, to love each other. There’s been both discord and joy, misunderstanding and communion. There have been unexpected and grave illnesses. In the end my Mom was seen as other and experienced shocking treatment because of it.
It hurts a lot and I am mindful of an anger so keen that it leaves me feeling ashamed and overwhelmed.
In contrast to the negativity that comes from not practicing the Seventh Grave Precept, loving-kindness and compassion arise naturally. In response to the events of this past week I see the true compassion people have for one another. There have been so many people, some of them complete strangers, who’ve offered help, time, money, creative thinking, concern, and loving-kindness. People have been giving in so many unexpected ways. These kindnesses, both small and large, help me to remember to keep my heart open instead of closed in anger.