Archive for August, 2003

Aug 30 2003

Leisure Suit

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I got woken up this morning while dreaming of making a cheese souffl&eacute, so I don’t know how it would have turned out. I could just assume it would be perfect, but everyone knows you have as little control over dreams as you do in real life. Less, even. Also it’s been a long time since I made a cheese souffl&eacute in real life (or any other kind of souffl&eacute, for that matter). But they are surprisingly easy to do. The main things are to have the oven hot and the eggs at room temperature before you start the souffl&eacute-ing process. I love them because they require little effort (though everyone thinks you have Jacques P&eacutepin-level culinary skills) and yet are spectacular. My favorite.

I’m now very tired of typing the code for the accents. How lazy can you get?! Although I haven’t worked in exactly a month, I still don’t feel that I have been a lady of leisure. The time has just blurred away. Almost a month of tenting out in the country and discovering that I do not have hidden depths of nurturing and secret nursing abilities, but in fact am alternately bored and revolted by the realities of illness. On the bright side, it just goes to prove that I have been right all along not to have children.

Then there was the week or 10 days of the ass-kicking flu, along with amusing my visiting sister and niece (or not, since I spent most of the time lying around complaining – even more than usual – before finally gathering up all my energy to go sport shopping and sight-seeing). I even shared the ass-kicking flu with John, in the spirit of generosity and “I told you I was sick.” This bug has to be experienced to be believed. Since it hitched a ride with Cat on the plane from Toronto, we have decided to blame Canada, while stopping short of reporting it as SARS, since we have lived to complain and blame (so far).

A couple of days ago, I thought I should start looking for a job. I don’t do well with this nouveau pauvre crap, and everyone says it takes months to get a new job in the current economic climate. So I languidly emailed my resume (still tired of the accent code, folks) out to a few places and was horrified to get a response from two of them less than an hour later. Now I have to interview next week. What will I wear? And what happened to the leisure?

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Aug 28 2003

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Cat & me at Mario’s!

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Aug 25 2003

Home again

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I’m home!

I’ve never stayed in the country as long as I did this time. I have also never slept in a tent for so long. I don’t know whether I can blame it on prolonged camping, but I have picked up some kind of flu or something, so feel really horrible, mitigating the happiness of being back home. You know it’s always something with us, the major competitors for the Bad Luck Family award, along with the Salingers and the Baudelaires.

I heard a siren in the night, and I thought, “Jonathan must be going to that call” before I was fully conscious. And even for the first few seconds after I woke up, I wasn’t sure where I was. I really notice the noise of the city, and the smell of it, too. I used to laugh at my country siblings when they said how noisy and stinky the city was, but now I get it. And my bedroom seems light at night now! I’m sure I’ll revert to my city self soon, but it’s interesting how absence makes the senses more, well, sensitive.

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Aug 21 2003


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Two words that are, in my nit-picky, linguistics major opinion, horribly overused are ?genius? and ?miracle?. I don?t believe I have ever encountered an actual genius in my many years on earth. Geniuses, to me, are the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci and Thomas Jefferson, not movie directors or fashion designers, for example, to whom the word is so meaninglessly and frequently applied. True geniuses are rare by definition.

The same applies to miracles. But unlike geniuses, I may have witnessed a miracle.

My mother is not only still alive, but she is visibly doing better. She is no longer on constant oxygen, and can even walk around the house. The doctors and nurses are amazed and at a loss for an explanation (though this is the usual state of the medical profession as far as I can see). Two weeks ago, all her vital signs indicated that she had days left at best, and she seemed to be dying before our very eyes. Hence all of Mom?s children assembling at her bedside, the trip to the funeral home, and all that.

But Mom is full of surprises, and this is a big one. We know it?s still a matter of time, but it looks like more time than we thought.

No-one understands why she has gotten so much better. Maybe it?s all the thoughts and prayers that have been coming our way from all over the world. Maybe it?s just a phase in the illness. Maybe it?s a miracle.

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Aug 18 2003

Two Years

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Since I?ve been up here, I have had time to think, and to think about time itself. Yes, much of the day is occupied with doing chores and taking care of Mom, but there is definitely time left over to think, if not to write. For I find that I am more or less permanently tired and therefore uninspired. I finally have time to write, but no inclination to do so. It seems that the idea of ?if I just had time, I?d do [fill in the blank]? is not necessarily the case – or at least, not for me.

Yet I do have time to think.

A year ago today, I marvelled at the fact that my brother, sisters, and I had survived an entire year without our father. Another year has passed by, another 365 days, and we have survived that, too. In some ways, it seems like just yesterday that we lost him – the grief and anger and sorrow are still fresh – but in others, it seems like so very long ago. It?s been so long since I heard his voice or his laugh or saw his smile. I have been to London twice since we lost him, and though my head knows he is gone, my heart still expects to see him glance up over his reading glasses, break into a smile while simultaneously folding up the ?Times? and hugging me across the barrier. No-one meets me at the airport now, and even if they did, they wouldn?t be my father, my friend.

A day doesn?t go by that I don?t think of you, Dad.

Two years ago, when you were in the hospital, we were consumed with fear and worry about you. Now, we are all occupied with taking care of Mom, knowing that the end is coming, but not when, and doing our best with the time we have left with her. Her departure is as long and lingering and painful as yours was sudden and unexpected and they assured us, painless. The contrast between the two could not be greater. But one thing remains constant: your children united in the face of disaster, doing the best we can under the circumstances and loving and supporting each other.

And one more thing does, too: we all love you, always.

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Aug 15 2003


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My brother Jonathan is a proud member of the volunteer fire department in this little community. It takes hours of training and the willingness to be yanked out of sleep or away from dinner to respond to an emergency. And without being paid, of course. Jonathan tells me that if his pager goes off while he?s sleeping, he finds his feet are already on the floor before he?s consciously awake. He gets called to the same scenes as my sister Megan does if she is working in her capacity as EMT. Small town, you know.

In case you?re wondering, yes, the fire department does get called out to rescue cats stuck in trees, and a couple of days ago, Jonathan got paged in the middle of dinner and flew off to help with a propane leak. When he got to the scene, propane was gushing into the air in the style popularized by Old Faithful. He asked if they had turned off the tank. They hadn?t. Jonathan turned it off and left. He was back in time for dessert.

While I?ve been up here, it?s been relatively quiet on the pager front, especially considering that it?s vacation time and high season for emergencies: car accidents, swimming accidents, boating accidents – my brother once had to rescue a guy who had fallen off a cliff and survived, and another guy whose logging truck went off a bridge, essentially destroying both legs, but who also survived.

Some people aren?t as lucky. I heard someone’s car leave very fast, very early this morning, when it was still dark and starry. When I emerged from my tent a few hours later, I found my brother in the living room, still in his fire gear and still horrified by what he had seen. And he doesn?t horrify easy. A guy had driven into a telephone pole at full speed, no skidding or any other signs of trying to slow down and stop. My brother said he had never seen so much blood at a scene, which is the same thing the telephone pole repair guy said and the guy who towed away the twisted piece of metal that used to be the accident victim?s car. Megan got called in to help, and is now driving the guy to the trauma unit at Santa Rosa. My guess is there are no atheists in ambulances.

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Aug 11 2003


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My sister?s little house in the pygmy woods (the soil is too acidic for the redwoods to reach their usual majestic heights, so it?s known as pygmy forest, though pygmy is relative) is far too pygmy itself to accommodate the entire clan. It?s overpopulated as it is, with Megan and her husband; Mom?s hospital bed in the living room, and my other sister Beth sleeping on the couch.

So I?ve been sleeping in a tent in Megan?s garden, like Claudia Salinger in Party of Five, only outside. Sleeping in the tent has made me understand more about silence and darkness. It?s not just the absence of noise and light, but the presence of the silence and the darkness. The silence is so intense you can feel it – it almost presses against the city dweller?s ears, as strong a contrast to the usual city noises as a sudden power outage.

But after a while, you realize that the silence itself is made of many components. The wind in the trees, which almost sounds like the ocean. Distant crickets. Grass rustling. An animal walking through the woods: a cat? A raccoon? A skunk? Maybe even a deer? The mylar ribbons on the flower beds (supposed to deter marauding birds) softly rattling as they turn in the wind. You know how they say, you could hear a pin drop? You can hear a pine needle fall, and you do.

The darkness is as shocking to a city girl?s eyes as the silence is to her ears. There?s no ambient light from a nearby city or town, and no streetlights. So if I?m going to be out at night, I need a flashlight to light the way immediately ahead of me. I am returned to my childhood, when it seemed that any sort of monster or imaginary creature could be hiding in the woods, ready to leap out at me. The shadows in the flashlight?s beam, even my own, grow and move alarmingly and in a very monster-like manner.

But if I look up and a way from what?s right in front of me, I see something beautiful: countless silvery stars against the blackness of the sky. Light in darkness. Hope.

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Aug 09 2003

Small Town

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These two things could only have happened in a small town.

1. Megan went to the bank to ask about adding herself to Mom?s account. Though we have had Power of Attorney for a year or so, if the account is joint with one of us, it will pass directly to that person without passing Go and going through probate, a thing to be avoided if at all possible, even if one?s assets are on the dainty to non-existent side, as they are in this case.

The bank manager said that Mom would have to come in, and Meg explained that this wasn?t possible due to Mom?s health. The manager thought for a minute, and then said she would call Mom and if Mom agreed to it, the manager would bring the paperwork to Megan?s house herself, and help us fill it out. Megan explained the isolation of her house and the manager was cheerfully undeterred.

So not only was she willing to go way above and beyond the call of duty, she wanted to make absolutely sure that Mom wasn?t being taken advantage of or talked into something she didn?t want to do. Talk about admirable!

2. We went to the funeral home to make arrangements. It was so terrible making those decisions when Dad suddenly died and we were in a state of shock and grief that we wanted to avoid it this time. We had no warning with Dad, we have plenty with Mom. And I guess it?s one way of controlling an uncontrollable situation, or giving oneself the illusion of controlling it.

When we got there, Megan recognized the funeral director as a guy she had treated recently in her capacity as EMT. She asked him if he had experienced extreme dental pain at 3 am a few weeks ago, and he laughed and said, ?That?s where I know you from! You sure helped me – how can I help you?? And with that, he proceeded to give us exactly what we wanted, and nothing we didn?t. He didn?t try to sell us a bunch of fancy, pointless crap, and was very helpful and considerate, telling us what would be legally required (Dad died in England, where the laws are different than they are in California). It was as pleasant as such a transaction can ever be.

4 responses so far

Aug 05 2003


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Breakfast of champions this morning: cramp bark, multi-vitamin, flax seed oil, black coffee. Follow with a run down the logging road (to get there, take the little path past the garden and slip under the barbed wire fence). Optional accessories: one or two dogs. This morning, there were two dogs, and we ran in age order: the 3 year old, the 10 year old, the 30-11 year old.

The morning run is the best part of the day for me. It gets me out of the house and gives me 40 or so precious minutes to myself. I miss the gym, but this will have to do for now. It feels good to be running among the ancient redwoods in the foggy morning, the air smelling like the forest and the ocean and the flowers. I can almost feel like I’m running away from everything. For a little while.

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Aug 02 2003


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Thanks to everyone for the outpouring of love and caring. Wow. I can’t tell how much I appreciate it, and what a difference it makes.

We’re just about ready to leave on the next stage of this strange journey. I realize that I have never before packed to go on a trip for an indefinite period of time. I could be gone for a few days, or a few weeks. So I’m bringing a lot of stuff. I’m beginning to wonder if we can lug it all to the bus stop. Where’s Hack when you need him? I bet he’d drive us the 30 miles to Petaluma, where we’re meeting my sisters.

It took me a long time to get myself to pack. I think it’s because packing meant it was real. I finally packed at 2 am last night. As I was packing, I picked up a pretty grey hand-knit sweater. At first I rejected it as too nice to be worn up there (no-one dresses up) but then, almost before I realized I was thinking it, if you follow me, I thought, “It will do to go the funeral home” and put it in the bag.

I was vividly reminded of helping my friend Mary-Lou pack to go home to see her father, who was dying of cancer. She matter-of-factly packed a black dress for his funeral Mass, saying simply, “I know I’ll need it this time.” If I were an actress and needed to cry in a scene, I’d remember the look on my dear friend’s face as she followed her father’s coffin into the church on a winter afternoon, knowing that there was nothing I could do to help her. And I was sitting beside my own beloved father at the time.

Years later, I too have lost my father. And I’m about to lose my mother. But the love and support of my family and friends will get me through it. Thanks again, everyone, for your thoughts and prayers. Keep ’em coming.

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