Monday, July 30, 2012

Who are you?

I went to Can-Do's memorial service this morning. Its the first funeral service I have attended for a hospice patient.  I held myself together well last week when I visited my other friend at the same facility.  But this morning I rather predictably lost it.

It was a very small service.  All but one of her 5 children where there I think.   And this is what I learned.

She loved her children and her grandchildren A LOT.  She was a devoted and supportive mother. She was, indeed, southern. She was a pastor's wife! she loved to throw her grandkids a Christmas party every year and she wrote them all a letter and gave them something of some meaning with each letter.  Her email address was "angelsong" and she apparently had a set of pipes that was to be envied.  She was in fact a teacher, a sunday school teacher, and Christian school teacher and was always very encouraging, which hearkens back to the can-do spirit.  She got an AA degree when she was 58.  And she prayed about everything...even finding parking spots.

Its funny to me that  even though I only knew her in her redefined, somewhat disabled state, that so much of that came through in my short visits with her.  I knew almost all of those things instinctively.  She had many pictures of her grandchildren displayed.  She loved giving me treats to take home to my kids and she seemed to really love the holidays.  Early in our visits I asked her about her faith and I got a story with the can-dos....she drew her hand across her mouth, and she arranged things in the air in front of her and because it seemed an involved answer, I was pretty sure that she was a woman of faith. 

Her family described a woman that I felt like I actually knew, even though I only knew her for a short time. 

It was a lovely service.  I was particularly drawn to her grand daughter, who was really emotional.  She also had fabulous taste in shoes and a stunning purse but she sobbed the whole service.  She spoke about her grandmother as her best friend, and they spent a lot of time together.  She was the grandmother I always wanted to have, truthfully.   Another granddaughter read a Christmas letter from her grandmother from 2001.  It referenced 9/11, and it was fascinating to hear words read in Can-do's own "voice".  It validated all of my feelings about her.

You know the old church song "They will know we are Christians by our love"?  Well that should be Can-do's theme...She couldn't tell me a thing about her. But all of those things that her family knew shone through in her demeanor every time I saw her.  Those were the things that made her HER, and even when her ability to speak and do much for herself was stripped away, I still knew who she was at her core.

Who are you at your core? what would shine through in you?

That's what I'm asking myself today...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Statements of the 70s' in music. (sounds like an essay huh??)

so I was listening to the album "Solid Gold of the 70's" this morning while I got ready.  I'd like to make a few observations about the decade in which I was born.

 the first song that caught my attention this morning was this one by Dr. Hook - Sharing the Night Together.
So you can watch the nauseating video below to hear the lyrics, or you can just read them below...
You're looking kinda lonely girl Would you like someone new to talk to Ah yeah, alright I'm feeling kinda lonely too If you don't mind can I sit down here beside you Ah yeah, alright
If I seem to come on too strong I hope that you will understand I say these things 'cause I'd like to know If you're as lonely as I am And if you mind
Sharing the night together, oh yeah Sharing the night together, oh yeah Sharing the night
We could bring in the morning girl If you want to go that far And if tomorrow finds us together right here The way we are Would you mind
Sharing the night together, oh yeah Sharing the night together, oh yeah Sharing the night
Would you like to dance with me and hold me You know I want to be holding you Ah yeah, alright 'Cause I like feeling like I do And I see in your eyes as you're likin' it, I'm likin' it too Ah yeah, alright
Like to get to know you better Is there a place where we can go Where we can be alone together And turn the lights down low And start
Sharing the night together, oh yeah Sharing the night together, oh yeah Sharing the night together Sharing the night together Sharing the night together Sharing the night together

So first of all, if some dude came over and said to me, "hey baby you look lonely" I would either punch him in the face, or tell him to fuck off.  Who are you to decide what the condition of my heart is, asshole!! Maybe I like solitude. Maybe I like drinking alone.  Did you see me crying into my beer? or my vodka cranberry? No.  You know why? Cuz I'm fine.  I'm not lonely.  So fuck you.  You idiot. 

At this juncture I would like to say that my readers can just keep their opinions about why I am still single to their damn selves.  

Anyway, really...who says that? "you look lonely. I'm lonely too."   Lonely is not hot.  Was it hot in the 70s?  Its lame.  And face it, many of us ARE lonely!!  but we just don't talk about it. As a matter of fact, when it comes up in conversations, women lecture each other about it. "you're not lonely.  you're fine. you need to learn how to be alone". fuck alone! alone sucks.  so yeah, I might be lonely. But if some dude swaggered over to me with this shit, I'd be out.  

And its not just this song of course. Its soooo many in the 70s. One of my favorite bands ever is the Carpenters.  And we all know Karen was a sad girl.  But holy jeez there are more songs about lonliness and heartbreak in their discography than Air Supply!! 

So there's that...GoodBye to Love. Then there's Yesterday Once More, Rainy Days and Mondays...and more.

The next song in my morning soundtrack was this one: All By Myself by Eric Carmen

Then a Melissa Manchester song came on. No matter what Melissa sang it was fucking sad.  Clowns and Circuses, love making, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches...Melissa could make you want to drink about that too. 

And then ...a break in the lonliness.  this one.  OMG.  my brain bled. And look, Its Tie a Yellow Ribbon...I  know,  its a classic.  I know its Tony and Dawn.  I give major points for the not depressing factor, and for the happy vibe.  But Bitch, please. This song sounds like something from The Wiggles!!!  That syrupy sing songy shallow melody makes me want to go all American Psycho.  And then Tiptoe around the bodies.  And its about a dude coming home from prison, (so he was probably lonely too). Why is that romantic? Was he falsely accused? Was he in the klink for killing a man that hurt his woman? we don't know. Chances are he was fucking lonely and knocked over a 7-11, assaulted a hooker, and then passed out in the park listening to the Carpenters and contemplating the meaning of life.  What...the...fuck.  Listen. I dare you.

I prefer the wiggles, frankly...

My morning routine was saved by Carly Simon, yet again.  With the ever classic and fabulous and not wimpy loooooonely...."You're so Vain".  YES!! Sing it Carly.  Don't tell that bastard you want him.  Even if he looks so hot in that apricot scarf and cockeyed hat. And of course I thought about my girl friends.  You know who you are, and you know why. :)
So I don't really know what the hell was going on with the lonliness in the 70's.  Its seriously a frowned upon thing now, is it not? To be lonely is to be weak and pathetic and needy.    I think its too deep for me to muster it now, but I know there's a deep thought there waiting to happen.   We are independent and disconnected now.  We are plugged into stuff and not each other.  We aren't supposed to be lonely because we are all connected by the internet.  And we have online dating. I mean, come on! Who can be lonely with online dating around? Right?!? That's not THE loneliest place on the planet or anything.

I will say this about the 70s'...people said what the meant in songs and in life.   There wasn't any ....Coldplay.  What the hell are any of his songs about? anyone?  We don't know.  We love him, but we don't get it.  Jason Mraz.  Beautiful stuff. But huh? You have to be in a coffee house to get it.  Goyte.  He sings about "somebody that I used to know".  and so does the girl.  But do they want each other back? Who the hell knows? Cuz they are dancing around the topic denying that they need anything. Yeah I loved you and I sold your records cuz you broke my heart and if you'd just apologize and give a shit, maybe I'd go get them from Frankie at the pawn shop but no, you're just standing there all proud and smug and irritated that I broke up with you because your depression is ruining my life.  You were lonely even when you were in my company! What the hell does that mean? I'm out, yo.  fuck your records.  Damien Rice's "Volcano".  I want you, but I shouldn't and I can't give you what you want and deserve and nothing you give me is enough either but I still want you so let's hurt each other".    Pretty much my theme song.

So...I guess the 70's were lonely.  The 80's were decadent and high on coke. The 90's were dark and flannel-y and wore lots of eyeliner, and somewhat angry and  the 2000's...? what are we? numb? mad? disillusioned? confused? afraid?  We won't really know until our kids have us figured out.  But in the meantime, say what you mean.  Unless you're lonely.  In which case...listen to the Carpenters, remove all sharp objects from your area, and go on a dating site.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Can Do

I found out this morning that my Can Do friend at hospice finally passed away.  I have been with her for nearly a year. The prognosis to enter hospice must be 6 months or less.   She obviously didn't get that memo.  I think I have talked about her before, but as a refresher...she was an "end stage stroke patient".Her left arm and leg were affected by the stroke.  And her ONLY speech consisted of "yes"  "no"  "can do" and "you can do it".    I have often wondered...if a stroke or something took my ability to speak and left me with only 3 phrases, what would they be? what is so engrained in my brain to mouth freeway that it would be the only thing left? "WTF?"  "OMG" or "LOL"  "for the love!!" "good gravy marie!" ?? What kind of person is left with "can do" and "you can do it"? what did she do in her life that this is what she is left with? Stunning.

When they first assigned me to her, she was only my 3rd patient. My first 2 died very quickly. I was not sure how I would relate to a patient who could not speak. ME? How am I, the most talkative person in the northern hemisphere, going to relate to a person who can't talk? Who can't respond to what I'm saying?

I would be so wrong.  We eventually had entire conversations, and I would struggle to explain to you exactly how, but we did.

At first it was hard to figure out what she was "saying", needing, wanting.  But on our second visit, she fussed and fidgeted and was very annoyed and kept trying to get something from the Aide.  The ice cart came down the hall and she was a flurry of wheelchair activity trying to get attention. After much deliberation between myself and the ice cart aide, we determined that she wanted TWO cups of ice.  Once she had her two cups, she started fussing and pointing for me to get something - her diet Pepsi.  So I got her a pepsi.  Then she started chattering and pointing for me to sit down, so I sat down across from her.  She poured half the Pepsi in each of the cups of ice and handed one to me.

We had "tea on the porch" so to speak.  It was Pepsi in the hallway, but she was clearly hosting me.

I quickly learned that she enjoyed hearing about my somewhat nutty life.  I spared her the sordid details but I did tell her about my kids often.   She lit up when I spoke of my children.  She seemed to love them.  She sent me home on Halloween and Valentine's Day with packets of goodies for both kids.

She was always happy to see me, and with the exception of a few times when she was very ill and confused, she recognized me. She would usually sit up and say "yessssss" when she spotted me. 

And that was how we visited.  I asked her how she was. She gestured and chattered about things and I learned to tell what certain hand gestures, accompanied by "can do",  meant.  The swipe across the mouth hand gesture with "can do, can do it" usually indicated some kind of story...she was telling me how she felt, or she was remembering something.  If she reached out and touched my face or my hand and said "can do" she was clearly telling me "hello, I missed you" or something along those lines.  When she seemed to be arranging small objects in the air in front of her with "can do" it was her telling me how she felt and what was going on with her body this week.

Many times in almost a year I thought she as very close to the end.  About 3 times I was certain she was not going to make it to my next visit.  Then the next week she would be out of bed, in the dining hall, "can do'ing" and drinking her iced tea.

Iced tea and diet pepsi.  and she loved to color. She had a drawer full of crayons and markers and pencils and coloring books.

And her shoelaces were silver.  I tried my 6 inch pumps on her one time and said "do you feel sexy?"  and she laughed and did this funny "oh my goodness" hand gesture.

She was always in her clothes, not a gown. Always fully dressed, with nails polished, and usually wearing an accessory like a necklace.  She had lovely blankets on her bed, and lots of pictures in her room.  I never saw her family (her children) apart from my very first visit with her.   I'm sure her lingering and withering away was very hard on them.  She was very very thin in the end, nothing like how she looked in the beginning. But still got herself out of bed, even when she wasn't supposed to.  Still fed herself until the very end.  Still drank gallons of tea, with sweetener.  and she always stirred it.  I don't know where she was from, or what her roots were, but she sure seemed Southern to me.  

Every time I left her I hugged her and kissed her cheek and told her "Ok behave.  No wild parties. No sneaking out.  Do not go to vegas...without me".  and she would just smile and say "ooooooo noooooo, can do, can do it..."

In the last few months, I have been very conscious of telling her "I love you" when I left, because I wanted her to know it, and  was never sure how much longer she had.  I would hug her around her skinny shoulders and kind of press our cheeks together so my mouth was near her ear.  And I'd tell her to behave etc.  She would put her good hand on my other cheek, like a grandmother would, and pat it.   

In the recent weeks it was apparent that she really was near the end. But man that stubborn ol sweetheart hung on.  Her angels must have been playing tic tac toe for a long time waiting for her.  One visit she was particularly unresponsive and slumped over.  She was very agitated and upset.  So a nurse and myself spent a great deal of time trying to ascertain what she wanted and needed.   She cried a lot.

I knelt down next to her wheelchair and talked to her about my kids.  Mandy this...Cliffy that.  She smiled.  I talked a lot about what a spit fire Mandy is. I usually showed her pictures until she seemed uninterested or I ran out of new pictures.  On this occasion I didn't have any new pictures. So when I finished speaking about my kids, I said "so, I have a date tonight"  and I swear to you, she sat up, her eyes came alive, and she said "ooooooooooooo!!" and kind of chuckled and nodded a slow, knowing nod.  I laughed and looked at the nurse and said "did you see that?!"

Nearly every weekend for a year I have heard her saying "can do, you can do it".  I will always hear her saying that.  And I will take that with me forever.

Its going to take some time for this one to sink in, for sure.  I am going to visit my other patient friend on Friday and it will be really strange to be there without her.

  God Bless you, my Can Do friend.   You will always be with me and I love you.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cage vs. Sky

I was musing on the way to work about balance.   Specifically I was thinking about the inverse relationship between security and freedom.  This thought was actually not at all spawned by political discussions, but it occurred to me after I had applied this to relationships in my life that its exactly what we are struggling with in this country (among other things).   When you have total security, you have very little freedom or autonomy - like a baby being held by its mother.  When you have total autonomy and freedom, you have very little security but what you can provide for yourself.  But as you know, providing your own security doesn't make you feel safe. It makes you feel tense and on edge.  Its nice to be taken care of a bit, isn't it? Of course.
The trick is finding that balance between  the two extremes.  

What do I want out of a relationship, should life ever grant me one ever again (eye rolling at the universe)?  Do I want to feel totally protected like a sweet damsel?  The idea is really appealing sometimes. But in those little fantasies I tend to forget that that kind of protection comes with a price...personal freedom.  If I have a man who loves me in a chest pounding I will protect you from all harm and danger kind of way, I tend to not have the freedom to be myself and the crazy free bird that I am. 

If I succeed in being the colorful wild bird, gifted with flight and song and blah blah blah, free to soar and free to explore and free to go, I am exposed. 

Ultimately I guess, I want to fly, and have a safe place to land. I don't need someone to put me in a cage for my own protection. Or carry me around all day.  I want to be admired for my gift of flight, and then have company on my perch. 

The same is true of jobs.   There is that struggle for balance between freedom and security.  

Its a pendulum.  It swings to either extreme.   And ultimately it should be right in the middle.  There is a third option, which sort of represents my former marriage...and that is that if the pendulum can't push the energy one way or the other, it will push everything down, so that you have neither security nor freedom.  I think in some eras of my marriage I had security, but rarely freedom.

When you push something down it will eventually bounce back.  The laws of physics. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. I was pushed down, and eventually I pushed back.  I gained freedom, lost all security, and now I'm trying to find the middle ground. The middle way.  The middle path.  ouuuuuummmmmmm

Balance in all things I suppose. 

Geez life is a pain in the ass. So beautiful sometimes.  But damnit a pain in the ass!!