Monday, October 20, 2014

More Love

The conservative Attorney General of the State of Arizona has given up the fight.  No longer willing to tilt against the prevailing tide of judicial and public opinion, he agreed that the Circuit Court's ruling on laws similar to Arizona's left him with no choice - same sex marriage will now be legal in my state.

That's a statement which brings a smile to my face, given how I spent the beginning of my vacation.

There were simple centerpieces 
and there was carrot cake 
because the blonde bride loves carrot cake.
Little Cuter told me that.
They've been friends since they were 8. 
Their friendship spanned six or seven soccer teams.
It included tennis camps and camping trips and family ski vacations.
There are inside jokes - Little Cuter telling us to SHUT UP I'M SLEEPING when her snoring was the reason the rest of us in the tent were awake - and fond memories of pumpkin patching on the first Saturday in October for years and years and years.
Her mom and I depended upon one another like sisters, since  neither of us had family in California.  She balanced my checkbook every month and I never felt demeaned that I couldn't accomplish in four hours what she could finish in fifteen minutes.  I was never embarrassed that she knew just how much I'd spent on my VISA card.  We were in each others lives, non-invasive but totally connected.
And now her little girl is as happy as mine.
In her fabulous wedding gown, she was glowing from the inside out. 
I've never seen her so happy.... and I've known her for 21 years.
She was relaxed, comfortable in her own skin, delighting in her status and her love and her surroundings.  It filled my heart with joy.
When the evening news is filled with stories from Ferguson and Syria and Hong Kong, it's warming the very cockles of my heart that Arizona has provided a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dismal autumn.
With hate oozing out of every corner of the planet, why would anyone deny these two the opportunity to love ... in public ... with recognition and acceptance and pride?

Friday, October 17, 2014

She Smiles

Resting in the arms of her father, her hands making patterns which make sense to her alone, she smiles.

Noticing her mother's return, she turns her head and smiles.

Sneezing, surprising herself, she smiles.

Staring intently into my daughter's face, a face which is inches from her own, a face with a tongue sticking out and then drawing back in, she smiles.

Bouncing on the therapy ball, in anyone's arms, she smiles.

With a dry diaper and a full tummy, lying on her back and waving her feet, she smiles.

Her grandmother smiles all the time.

In fact, she is so busy smiling that she has no time left to type to you.

Instead, I'll give you a photo so that you can smile, too.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Telling My Story

I was up at 5:45 a.m.  It was dark in my friends' house, too dark to walk safely down the hallway or the stairs.  Really, it was too dark to be awake. 
I had no choice in the matter.  My physiatrist at the Rehabilitation Institute had invited me to speak to the students and residents under his tutelage.  He's been wonderful to me; it was my pleasure to return the favor. I only wish that his rounds weren't at 7 in the morning.

I stood under the canopy of a still green tree, sheltered from the drizzle, watching the early morning dog walkers in their raingear.  I, of course, was coat-less and hat-less, having believed the internet's weather forecast which promised 60's and sunshine. Uber got me from their neighborhood to the hospital with ease, and the trip qualified me as a full-fledged member of the 21st Century. Little Cuter is quite impressed with her trendy mother.

I sat on a high backed stool in the front of a small auditorium, fifty or so fresh faces before me.  Medical students, interns, residents, and orthotists, they were somewhat intimidated by the fact of the Medical Director on the seat to my right.  It was hard for them to ask questions, or shout out answers.  Instead, they sat with their faces turned my way, hanging on my every word. 

They were evaluating my posture as I described the morning in January, 2011, which started me on my rehab journey.  Yes, it's a journey.  I know that because the Medical Director told the audience that it was.  He reminded them that they were always to consider themselves a way station on the patient's path. It was their responsibility to keep that in mind.

I told them about the medevac helicopter and I told them about the little nurse with the big voice who comforted me when I landed.  I called myself a uvula slut, and described the anesthesiologist's decision to bypass the three baby-steps and go right for the mega-dose of This-Will-Fix-You-Right-Up.  I talked about the physical therapist who was amazed that I was able to do a one legged pivot transfer and clomp around the entire floor with my walker. 

I talked about the resident who woke me at 6am by pressing on my full bladder. I encouraged them to remember that a procedure which needs to be repeated every twelve hours should not be started at 3 in the afternoon.... because the patient will then be awakened at 3 in the morning... every morning... and that's just not right.

I talked about what I'd been before I was shot, and I talked about missing those things afterwards.  I described lying on my couch for 14 weeks, not doing my exercises because no one had made the connection between repetition and retaining strength.  I described my Pilates and yoga and physical therapy teachers, and the journey I took to find them  Creating a treatment team was hard for me.  I encouraged them to consider that fact when sending someone else out into the world. 

I didn't dwell on the shooting; I talked about Christina-Taylor's death.  At the Medical Director's prompting, I described my time on the sidewalk outside the Safeway, and the citizen heroes and first responders who cared for us until we were whisked away to the hospital.  I told them about wonderful nurses and frustrating physicians. 

It was my hope that the doctors in training would see a woman, damaged but unbowed, who had taken charge of her treatment plan ... because there was no one else to do so.  I hope that they recognized that I, with my professional background and big mouth, still took almost 18 months to create a treatment team willing to work together for my benefit.  I wanted them to understand that the feelings behind the losses are as important as the shattered acetabulae. 

I'll never know for sure, but I can hope that some of them will be better doctors after hearing my talk.  I know that I am a better patient for having shared my story with them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Weekend With Old Friends

There's something really wonderful about old friends. There's an ease, a comfort, a space which time and circumstances have created. It's a privilege to be there.

I attended a wedding over the weekend. Sixty-some revelers watched and smiled and cried and drank and ate and danced the night away. Children-turned-to-adults, looking nothing at all as they did when I knew them at the beginning of the century. For them, it's been an eternity. For me, it's only a blip on the screen of my life. Yet the memories we shared are fresh in all of our minds.

The groomsman and his mother who shared the evening of the Winter Formal with Little Cuter and her then-best-friend were every bit as delightful on Saturday night as they were in the 1990's. That mother was the one who told the dressed-in-their-finery-and-feeling-their-oats ninth graders that the pictures we wanted to take were just as important to us as the entire evening was to them. “Stand in front of that door and smile!” she commanded, and they did.

The memory was as fresh to me as if we were all in my living room right then and there. His sweet smile, her acerbic charm.... nothing had really changed. There were a few more grey hairs, but not much else was different. I was far from my home, further still from where I'd known them, but none of that mattered.

On Monday, I had lunch with women I've known since elementary school... and junior high school... and high school. We ran in different circles back then, and we didn't spend much time together outside of class. But we reconnected at our 40th reunion, and with Facebook and email and random trips east and west we've established a new relationship. There's shared history, but from several different perspectives. We are delighted to share a fancy restaurant and distant memories whenever our travels bring us to LA or NYC or Phoenix … even to Tucson.

Hometown restaurants have disappeared, as has one of my friends' actual home, a victim of Hurricane Sandy. It stood in the middle of the block, and it took no effort at all to recall the feeling of standing on the stoop at the top of the stairs to her front door. Not the inside, not what we played nor what we said, just the sensation of standing there, looking across the street at Hilary's house. It's been 50 years; I have it in my heart right now as if it were yesterday.

We shared news – sick friends, newborn babies, pregnancies, travels – but that was hardly the reason for getting together. There was a sense of patching together the past, of returning to a time when everything was waiting for us. I walked to the car with a more youthful spring in my limping step.

On her way home, up and down Mulholland Drive, the newest expectant grandma among us dropped me off at my evening's destination. More old friends, this time from my young adulthood, welcomed into their home for the night. Everything is perfect there, made more so by the beauty of that perfection. Artwork from their travels and sculpture from Chicago and a hot tub under the stars bathed my eyes and my body in warmth. There's nary a boring corner; a plush monkey was resting on the upper corner of the couch, behind the cushions, not hiding so much as discreetly placed.

As with all their treasures, he carried a story. I was aware of bits and pieces of the setting and the situation, and as I sank into the pillows and listened to my friend tell the tale, I was awash in peace. Far from home, but only as far physical distance was concerned, I was wrapped in the comfort of old friends.

If there's a better blanket, I've yet to find it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Happy Birthday, Daddy

(I'm traveling. Having too much fun to stop and tell you all about it. Instead, I'm saying Happy Birthday to my much loved, if very confusing, father, once again.)

It was always very confusing - was his birthday the 12th or the 14th of October?  One of them was Columbus Day and the other was Herb's Day and to this moment I still have to stop and think.... and it's gotten harder since the bureaucrats moved Chris's Day to the generic.... how can something have occurred on "the second Monday of the month" every year?

But he was around me in spirit at the wedding, and he's not having an easy time returning to his life on the other side.

Yes, I am much happier blaming him for intruding than wondering why I am conversing with dead people.

We're not so much conversing as he is hovering and I am feeling nudged.  I misplaced the hiking pole I've been using to keep me balanced and symmetrical.... for a change... if it's not the pole it's my keys or the Kindle or my grocery list.... it's who I am these days.  I used the metal one with the "I Love Tucson" sticker crookedly affixed just below the grip, but it looks too much like rehab and not enough like life.  Then, I found myself and Daddooooo in the potting shed leaning on the wall above the bucket of handmade walking sticks he'd crafted from fallen branches of the pin oak in the backyard.

I have been using the one that was G'ma's - before she graduated to the walker - all day.  Herb's been chattering in my ear the whole time.

That was his way.  Deaf-as-a-doornail with hearing aid batteries constantly squealing or dying or resting comfortably in the breast pocket of his plaid wash-and-wear shirt, he monopolized the conversation so that he would know what was going on. That works well until your audience hits second grade or so; after that, it becomes a full fledged "Herb Attack."

I know this because I have been guilty of them, myself.

His tales were fascinating.  If the facts weren't really facts, well,  they should have been.  He went to City College with Richard Feynman.  He lived down the block from Jonas Salk. He knew every cobblestone, every cornerstone, every brick and street sign in Manhattan.  Serving as tour guide in The Big Apple made him about as happy as anything else I can imagine... and I've been sitting here thinking about it for a while.

Surrounded by his grandchildren-of-a-certain-age, those who were sentient but not yet sarcastic, he was the tour guide of his own life.  He could sit for hours, regaling them with stories about the chickens they raised in the backyard on Hessler Avenue, about the boat he and his brothers built one summer... the boat that almost floated, about the time it rained frogs and about all the times he got into trouble at school, because he just wouldn't stay still.

He probably deserved a diagnosis or medication; for those born in 1916 those options were nowhere on the horizon.  He was "just being Herbert." He continued being just himself, sui generis as I called him in the obituary I wrote for the New York Times, until the very end.

He died at home, between the first and second commercial of the 10 o'clock episode of Law and Order on the Saturday night before Thanksgiving.  There's some confusion about the date, since the hospice nurse didn't get there to sign the death certificate until early Sunday morning.  Like his birthday, I need cues to keep the date straight.  As with most things Daddooooo related, this is not easy.

As the gurney transported him from his bedroom to the front door, G'ma leaned over, kissed him, then admonished him, one last time, "Behave yourself, Herbert!  Don't give them any trouble."  The paramedics were bemused.  My mother looked right back at them.  "If you'd kown him, you'd understand."

Happy Birthday, you strange and singular father of mine.  Happy Birthday to YOU!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Parenting, The Adult Edition

It's one of those weekends, denizens.  One of those weekends when my heart is exploding, wondering if it can contain all the love.

The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, I have a comfy chair in the shade and the ocean's roar in my ears.  There are children playing Marco Polo in the pool and lots of very fit men responding to DAD! and PAPA! with smiles and dry t-shirts and a wave of the go-back-and-play-with-your-friends hand, a command which is happily followed.  They are happy to get up and watch me hold my breath under water, and they are smiling even when she's down there and can't see him.  The smile is not for her or for me or for anyone but himself.  He's easing himself into the pool to have fun with the only female in his life right now, and Papa's face is barely big enough for his grin.

There are late teen children communing with their parents, and there's nary an electronic device in sight.  I had breakfast on the plaza this morning; my new acquisition, Lenore the Lenovo Laptop, and she was the only item with an on/off switch.  The New York Times, a paperback, a magazine or two.... it was heavenly.  Those without reading materials were conversing.... yes, denizens, there was actual conversation as I scanned the scene. 

It's one of those weekends, for sure.

I'm here because The Ballerina's daughter is marrying the love of her life tonight. I've known one of the brides since she was eight years old, I met the other one last night.  There are 65 of us here to celebrate, and each person seems to be known-by-reputation to everyone else, even though we've never laid eyes upon one anther before. 

"You're ROB!"..."her sister".... "her aunt"...."Yes, I'm Suzi!"

I know which ones are smiling behind their skepticism.  I know which ones came because it's family and that's what you do for family. To their credit, if the kids were freaking them out, they didn't show it. That's parenting, The Adult Edition.  I think it involves a letting go of the expectation that your words will be taken as The Law.  It involves an assumption that you or your cousin or your sister has raised a competent human being.  It involves putting your own needs aside for the greater good, even though you know in your heart of hearts that they are going down an evil path.

Unless there's physical danger, keeping quiet is the hallmark of parenting adults.

The celebrationt had The Ballerina flummoxed, just a bit. A traditional, non-traditional wedding, where the bride wants to be seen by her love for the first time at her wedding ... but where both will be wearing dresses .... and they really ought to compliment one another .... and "What is my role here?!?" was The Ballerina's plaintive cry.  She listened, she consulted, she cosseted and she cuddled... and she's good at all of those things. A steel magnolia, when it's important my Arkansas friend makes her points behind a smile and a stare which could bore a hole through metal. I have a sense that the two dresses, neatly steamed by a bought-here-on-site-industrial-strength-steamer and hanging side by side on the mirror in the Bridal Suite, had something to do with her persuasive powers.  I'm also fairly certain that no one recognized it while it was going on.

Getting it right feels so good when the kids are no longer in constant need of surveillance.  When they were younger, I had so many opportunities to intervene.  If I screwed it up now, there was always a later right around the corner. But distance and experience and respect demand a lesser level of involvement, even when a granddaughter is involved.

Little Cuter and SIR took FlapJilly on her first road trip this weekend.  Tailgating at the Indiana-Iowa game with SIR's extended family, it was the battle of the stripes, but all my girl seemed to focus on was her unending cold and the baby's schedule.  I cogitated.  I composed.  I deleted. I rephrased.  I hit send and I held my breath....

Great pep talk, Mama! was my reward.

Parenting adults ... it's not easy, but the rewards ... oh, denizens, the rewards.......

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tucson Mission Garden

The Happy Ladies Club took us to the Birthplace of Tucson today.
Located on land which has been continuously cultivated for 4100 years,
its focus is on restoring the native crops to their original home.
This Three Sisters Garden (Corn, Beans, Squash)
deserves a paragraph all its own.

These lime trees, which froze back to mere stubs last winter,
require an ode to "the right plant in the right place" all their own.
The signage itself is worthy of a post
Sadly, I have not the time
and Picasa has not the will
to allow me to create verbiage worthy of the experience.
I will try over the weekend, and you will see the results.
For now, trying to make Evernote talk to Blogger or Picasa or even my phone seems to be more than I can handle.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Where's My Sunshine?

This is what I saw while waiting to go through the intersection and pick up Mr. 9 after school.
 It was an ugly scene on the roads in Tucson today.
People here do not know how to drive when it's wet.
They slow down to zero before turning, or they speed up and slide around the corners.
It's a small town with a few main through streets, so it wasn't totally surprising that the teenager chatting me up in the doctor's waiting room had seen the same accident I'd passed on my way in. 
The driver of the crushed vehicle was in a neck brace, surrounded by paramedics and flashing lights, but turning her head and talking from the driver's seat as I inched by.  It was an intimate glimpse into what must be the worst day she's had in a long time; it felt intrusive, and yet I couldn't look away.
Mr. 9 chimed in, wondering if there was blood, because I had blood when I was in the hospital, did I remember that?  Yes, I did, and I remembered that he came to visit me in the hospital on another rainy afternoon, which is when he saw me in the bed... with the drainage tubes filled with blood.
Yes, it was scary for all of us. Yes, I'm glad that I'm okay now, too.
I love that little boy. 
He hugged my waist as I hugged his shoulders and we bumped our hips from the school gate to The Schnozz,  running beneath my brand new purple mini-umbrella .  He was completely under its protection while I held it, yet he insisted on holding it himself, taking fiendish delight in moving it just enough to his side so that I was wet... then wetter... then wetter still.
Somehow, his laughter made it all okay.
He waited for me at Pilates, watching me breathe deeply.
He slid across the lobby in his socks.
He ran around in the mirrored classroom.
And then, there was this.
Asleep on his hand, breathing deeply, he did what everyone wants to do on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. 
It was a shame to wake him up, but the smile on his face as he opened his eyes answered the question in the title of this post.
There's my sunshine.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz, and Old Boyfriends

I like an eclectic mix of music, but jazz has never been a big part of it.  My kids know musicals and light opera and rock and roll, but if they've ever heard of the gentlemen in the title of this post it's not through any fault of my own.

And yet, in high school, I dated boys who knew all about the inner workings of jazz. One after another they came through my living room, introduced to my parents with the added bit of information that "He loves Stan Getz," or "His parents saw Dave Brubeck," or some other bit of trivia that would get my father engaged on a subject about which he could speak.  Left to his own devices, I never knew what he'd throw at my date; it was always safer to have a conversation in mind before the doorbell rang.
In college, the first male friend I made took me to all the live venues in Ithaca.  He was a senior to my freshman, he drove a blue Kharmann Ghia (though his didn't have those very cool wheels), and he introduced me to James Taylor and Traffic and It's A Beautiful Day, whose White Bird in a Golden Cage still conjures up memories of his red hair and his goofy smile. 

I never loved him, but I liked him a whole lot, just not as much as he liked me, which was a complicated situation when I was 17.  Thankfully, he appreciated the fact that I'd go with him to hear any music any day of the week, no matter how late it was or how far we had to drive.  I never go to an outdoor concert without flashing back to the summer day we spent at Shea Stadium, 1970's protesting The War or something equally important as an excuse to hear Creedence Clearwater Revival , Janis Joplin, Peter Yarrow, Paul Simon, John Sebastian, and Poco

He set high standards, Gumps did.

Poco was my first exposure to bands which played the kind of music G'ma would enjoy.  In graduate school, my friends were part of the crew which fed the musicians at the University of Chicago's annual Folk Festival.  One day every winter we'd prepare tables-full-of-food, and watch the performers dine.  The New Lost City Ramblers, Flatt and Scruggs, the Staples Singers... I first heard them then and I listen to them now.  By that time, TBG and I were an item, and he was in D.C. while I was in the Windy City, and there's no romance attached to these memories. 

Instead, there's something even better, because it's not tinged with regret or broken hearts or "what if's."  When I hear this music, I'm in long braids and overalls and a flannel shirt, rockin' out with the other 877 people in Mandel Hall.  Craig's to my right and Big Steve's to my left and life is good. My aches and pains and sorrows retreat into the background.... it's 1977... leave me alone.... I'm dancing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tucson in the Fall

We spend May and June and July inside.  There are few outdoor events of note, and those that do exist begin after the sun sets, or just as it rises.  Like January in the Northeast, the outdoors is there to be examined but not explored.

Then, with the cooling monsoon and the start of a new school year, performers begin to wend their way to our little corner of the desert.  As the fruits ripen, a day trip to Apple Annie's Orchard is called for.  There's wine country to the north and to the south, but I've tasted Arizona wines and .....

My yard is showing the effects of neglect; I'm still trying to work out the kinks in the irrigation schedule and the dessicated little leaf cordia reproaches my efforts as I drive by each morning.  I seem to drown it or starve it, and fertilization only seemed to make it worse.  I've decided to ignore it until the winter time, when it will be cool enough for the snakes to disappear.  Then, I will take myself and my trowel and my garden books out there, make a little nest for myself on my Cornell kneeling pad, and see if I can figure out what to do.

I bought a fall wreath at Michael's yesterday, just because it was marked down 60%.  TBG's not usually a fan of faux floral arrangements, but this one made him smile. It's happily ensconced on the little gate to the courtyard,
announcing that fall is here.

I hired Mr 9 & 11 and their friend, Good Will Hunting, to help me adorn my house.  They carried boxes and unwrapped carefully and made decisions on location and arrangement and I emptied my dishwasher.  "She lets us put stuff wherever we want," Mr 11 had informed Good Will as we drove to my house.  "It's really fun AND she pays minimum wage."

Only in middle school would that seem like a treasure.

After so many years of creating "the look,"
 it didn't take any supervision  
to get the scarecrow just right. 
After they left, I rearranged the inside (slightly), and stood back, surprised. Putting away the decorations last year, I tossed everything which was damaged.  No more positioning that candlestick so that the chipped piece doesn't show; into the trash it went, along with the wrinkled papers covering the bottom of the box.  Once, they were beloved, second grade art work.  Two decades later, they were trash. 

That left me with quite a hole in my decorative arsenal this year .
I had all these little toys, and nothing appropriate to contain them. 
A quick trip to Michael's and they were contained.
It is a curiously functional accessory; there's nothing "fun" about how or where it was purchased.
That makes it an outlier in my collection.
I had disposed of the half melted candles which usually light the first few nights of the month until I get to the store for new ones.  I decided to use the tea lights I bought at Ikea last year; 100 of them in a flimsy plastic wrapper for a ridiculously low price.  I put the purchased-that-same-day-at-Ikea white tapers in the Halloween candelabras and it's really not any less celebratory. 
I'm making my own Fall outside, even if, to you in colder climes, this does not look like October:
There are concerts in the park on Saturday nights
and cool weather crops in the containers and the Heavenly Bamboo is turning red.  The changes are subtle, but they are here.   Turn off the air conditioning, open the windows, and bring on the long sleeve shirts.  It's fall in the desert.


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