No Regrets – First Quarter Update

In January i identified a few things i’d like to focus on this year – things that will help me get to the finish line with no regrets. Not ‘resolutions’, but an attempt to be more mindful about things that matter. Last year, the quarterly blog updates proved to be a useful accountability tool. While these are certainly not the most riveting words, it helps, and i appreciate your tolerance of my introspection and intellectual monkey-spankage.

To better position myself for a ‘clean house’ at the end of my life, i picked three general categories:

Bridges – repairing relationships that have mattered to me.

Ducks – getting things in shape to assure the least hassle to my children after i die.

Vessel – assuring that my body can carry me through the adventures i desire.

Here’s how i’ve done in the first three months of the year.

Bridges: Got off to a quick and easy start here because an old friend finally replied to an e-mail i’d sent him last year!  Yoda re-appeared, after a post-retirement hiatus. He had been a friend and mentor, and we had an intense and occasionally tumultuous friendship until he retired a few years ago. Through a series of e-mails, we caught up a bit, reflected on our relationship, and considered prospects to meet up again.

One close friend was set adrift about four years ago. In a moment of anger, i slammed the door on a decade of friendship, with no explanation. He politely responded to my unexpected birthday greeting in January, and through an exchange of e-mail, we shared updates on the current contents of our garages. Not all that weird considering we’d spent a lot of time together in automotive pursuits. Need to keep working this one… at least i started a conversation.

Ducks: Building on my efforts last year, i have continued to work on reducing my physical footprint by shedding unnecessary ‘stuff’. A good start here, with three Jeep-loads of possessions taken to thrift shops. Also did a few ‘facebook flea market’ weekends, where i gave away items to friends. Re-homed many former necessities, and cleared a good bit of space in my storage room.

Six months after her death, i continue to bash through my mother’s estate. i have learned just how unprepared i am to die. Not much progress here, but i did manage to visit two different financial establishments today, the last day of the quarter! Making two major bank accounts payable on death to my children will reduce the complexities if i drop dead tomorrow.

Vessel: Started the year with a three week “cleanse”. Mostly as a means to jolt my brain into a healthier eating mode, it was also a chance to let my digestive system re-boot. Studley joined me, and we set about eliminating alcohol, dairy, wheat/grains, caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners and most fruits from our diets. Instead we ate a shit-ton of vegetables and lean protein. It was a good thing. i re-learned to make soups, and cook. Packed my lunch and saved a lot of money by not eating meals out. Saved money on booze, too.

Biggest surprises? i didn’t miss alcohol, sugar or caffeine all that much. What i missed? Cheese. Oh, lord, i do love a blast of bleu cheese or goat cheese on a salad! A nice hunk of smoked gouda makes a great snack! But we made it. We were eating well, shitting like cows, and very focused on whole foods. Many of these habits have stayed with me, and i feel pretty good.

Exercise has picked up, too. i added a ‘high intensity interval training’ workout on Saturday mornings, with modified workouts at home a couple of nights per week. Typical week has 4-5 workouts, plus bonus bike rides now that the weather has improved. I’m down twelve pounds in three months. A lot more to go, but a good start.

no regretsMuch more to do in all three areas of my life, but i’m content with the progress so far. The quarter ahead offers some challenges – major home remodeling project, several business trips, two significant vacations, three heavy-duty volunteer gigs and maintenance of an active social life, while working full time and finishing up Mom’s estate.

i can sleep when i’m dead. And if i do this right, it’ll be with no regrets…

No Regrets

Death.  It is inevitable.  It is closer than we expect.  Always.

My father died many years ago.  He was squared away with his life.  He told me that he had no unfinished business.  Nothing left undone.  “Can’t say I’m looking forward to it, but I’ve done what I wanted and needed to do.”

Go without regrets.  As good as it gets.

Mom?  Not so much.  She fought to the very end — with a ventilator in her throat, she gave a deliberate nod to inform the doctor that she still wanted to be resuscitated should her heart stop during the procedure to unblock her lung.  Three days before she died, she was still calling the shots.  Clearly, she was not ready to go.

i’ve learned a lot while handling her estate.  She did an exceptional job of getting things in order – the big things, anyway.  There are some things i’m discovering that have me scratching my head, but mostly she wasn’t confused about her wishes and had everything in place to make that happen.

i have some work to do… not just regarding the disposition of my estate, but making sure i can go without regret or unfinished business.  This will be a year of mindful attention to that.  Focus on a few items that could potentially be deathbed regrets.

Bridges:  There are people in my life that i have loved, and for whatever reason, discarded or lost.  In some cases, i have no interest in rebuilding the bridge – i feel an urge to nuke it til it glows and strafe it in the dark.  i can count such people on one hand.

There are others… a misunderstanding…  getting angry and closing the door, sometimes without explanation.  My tendency is not always to discuss, argue or sort it out.  i have, on occasion, simply walked away without explanation.  In other cases, it’s just life, distance, and circumstance that has led me away.  People i used to be close to, but our Venn Diagrams no longer intersect on a regular basis.  We’ve just lost touch.

If i were to find myself on my deathbed in the near future?  Suspect i’d have a few regrets about these relationships.  After Mom died, this started to gnaw on me a bit – a couple lost friends bravely reached across the divide to offer condolences. Condolences that were graciously accepted, and appreciated.  i need to work on a few bridges – not to rebuild old relationships in all cases, but to assure that there are no unresolved questions.

Ducks:  i’m over 50.  i have multiple hobbies that are somewhat high risk, i need to get my ducks in a row financially.  Simplify.  Direct assets rather than leave an estate.  No great epiphanies or soul-searching here, i just need to do the work.

This also includes a un-fucking my space.  We still haven’t started excavations on the massive storage locker full of all of Mom’s ‘stuff’.  i do not wish to leave a bunch of useless shit to my children.  The Boy says he’s selling my place fully furnished, all ‘stuff’ in place. Truth is, someone, somewhere, will be stuck going through all of this and i’d like to make it as simple as possible.  So the de-clutter and un-fuckage continues.

Vessel:  Retirement.  The clock is now UNDER three years.  As it looks, i will be able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle without working again.  This is amazing, and i should not squander such good fortune… Travel figures prominently in my future.  More than a week on holiday here and there, there will be months spent on the road.  Chasing the Northern Lights, hiking through the Sun Gate into Machu Picchu, being a volunteer SCUBA diver supporting reef health monitoring in a variety of warm climates….

i must continue to un-fuck my body… the vessel that will carry me forward (with any luck) into some ridiculous adventures ahead.  This is a lifetime thing, not a ‘one year and done’ endeavor.  Having a reasonable exercise schedule ingrained gives me a decent start.

battle cry“Life is short. Death is forever. Nothing left undone. Go joyfully” – Alan Cottrill

This is my charge for the new year.  The quarterly blog updates were helpful – i felt accountable.  i’ll do the same this year – as much for myself as for your entertainment!

 

 

The Perfect Day

The dog was dying.  His owner decided to give his pet a perfect day.  i’d read this sweet story of how one man prepared for the loss of a beloved companion a few years ago.

Since then, i’ve given this some thought, and have planned to do something similar for my old pup, Mr. Pickles.  Rather than wait, i’ve thrown in elements of ‘perfect days’ for my dog as we go about the business of living – why give him just one?  Three weeks ago on a hot June day, Studley and i decided Mr. P needed to go out for ice cream…

He loved it…

Mr. P gets ice cream

Having a dinner of Mexican food and killer margaritas with my children, Studley, and his daughter, we discussed the elements of Mr. Pickles perfect day.  Discussing all the things he loves, we tried to lay out the things he most loves… Cheese.  Chasing a ball.  Chasing the cat*.  Naps.  Splashing in water.  Riding in the jeep.  Eating his own turds.**

i was interrupted during dinner by a call from my niece, DQ.  Mom had been admitted to the hospital earlier this week with fluid in her lungs.  Stepping out to take the call, i got some fairly grim news.  The lung cancer is probably back, and not treatable.  Mom was feeling rotten, also battling a staph infection in her blood.  We made plans to meet with a counselor from hospice.

Returning to the table, i kept the news to myself for a bit – not wanting to take a steaming shit on a really good time.  i filled my children in on the news from The Park when we got home.

The Boy:  Maybe it’s time to craft a Perfect Day for Granny…

daisyfae:  i’ve already done a bit of that… but yeah, we could do more!

In January, i brought Mom to visit when my sister, T and her partner came to town for a long weekend.  We spoiled Mom with attention, and food and entertainment.  Not to mention blessed quiet, which is in short supply in her current living arrangements.

Last May, i had her up for another fun-filled weekend!  Cooked steaks on the grill on a Friday night, then went to a local women’s league luncheon the next day, where she was showered with attention amidst a great deal of silliness.  Putting on two ridiculous Derby hats that i’d crafted, we went to a bourbon tasting – where she enjoyed a perfect mint julep.  Sunday morning, we brought her to the horse show, where she got to see her “baby” compete in the arena with all the other kids…

The prognosis for Mom isn’t great, but it seems the cancer is slow moving.  She’ll need more in-home skilled nursing care in the future.  But she’s not quite dead yet, and finding ways to give her elements of “The Perfect Day” is deeply embedded in my brain.

Derby Day

 * The Boy thought it would be most fun if we tape the cats back legs together, allowing Mr. Pickles a better chance to “play”.  Although Huey is a team player, i’m not sure i’ll go that far…

** Nope.  Not gonna happen.

Please Stand By

Please Stand By

Having successfully completed the “Shit My Daughter Needs” scavenger hunt, and the subsequent game of “Suitcase Tetris”, i’ve reached the phase of travel preparation where i touch my passport a thousand times, and make sure i’ve got a credit card.

Summer roadtrip, part deux.

Once again reminded that i am a very lucky woman… A woman who continues to wonder how she got here…  Best not to waste too much time on that, however, because i’m circling the drain at an ever-increasing speed.

It’s only for now…

Ace Hole

“Pull back! Harder! More! MORE! That’s it! Tighten your stomach. Keep your eye on him! LEFT! Keep pulling back, but push the stick to your left knee!”

Upside down, banking left in the middle of a vertical loop – a barrel roll attack or an Immelmann. i had no fucking clue. Head back, looking up through the canopy as my eyes watered, i was trying like hell to keep track of the other plane – which was doing the same sort of maneuver. Pulling over 4 g’s.

It wasn’t the fear of death that was chewing on me. It was the fear of failure. The instructor pilots fly these “missions” three times a day, or more. Thousands of hours experience. They’re not going to let an ego-driven derp, with more money than common sense, do something stupid and wreck one of their sexy Marchetti SF-260’s.

When i realized we were going to be ‘scored’ on our dogfighting skills? That’s when i got a bit puckered. Why? Because i don’t know how to fly a damn plane!

“He got you! But you hung in there! Level out a bit, catch your breath. OK. I’ve got the plane.” i looked back and caught a glimpse of theatrical smoke coming out of the tail of my plane.

Not exactly what i was expecting when i drunkenly raised a paddle at a charity auction last February. What was i expecting? Not upside down, three-dimensional combat, with my hand on the damn stick! Not a fur ball over Lake Erie!

The day started with our “Mission Briefing”. i met my “opponent”, Dennis, as he arrived with his father-in-law. JR, our instructor pilot, asked us both what brought us to the briefing room on that particular day.

Dennis: My wife bought me this as a gift!

daisyfae: Jack Daniels.

JR: Yeah. We get a lot of referrals from Mr. Daniels…

JR briefed us on basics of safety, including how to use a parachute. Fundamental Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM), specifically basic fighter maneuvers. We were instructed how to maintain 500’ clearance, and how to hold our opponent in the gun sight before firing. The flight plan included formation flying on the way to the operation zone and tactics – trading altitude for airspeed, avoiding overshoot. After two practice dogfights, we would be engaging in four freestyle fur balls.

concentrate

JR used two toy planes on sticks to show us how to execute the maneuvers. They were cute. At first, i tried really hard to track and internalize what he was saying about “angle of attack”, and the proper method to perform a Low Yo-Yo. After about 10 minutes, i started to think about whether the sanitary undergarment i had put on under my flight suit would be sufficient to contain what i’d eaten for breakfast that morning…

what was i thinking

When i bought the Air Combat package, Studley (the world’s most amazing wingman) briefly considered buying one as well, so we could play together. After further thought, he realized i might need a driver… and that as a licensed pilot, he had a lot more to lose by a shitty performance… He also figured it would be fun to watch.

Off we go

It was out to the planes.  i’d already put on my true safety gear before getting into my flight suit.  For what it’s worth, these things are quite comfortable!  Good to know, i guess…

D Ring

Additional safety gear included a parachute and life vest.  “That’s your ‘D-ring’.  No!  Don’t pull it right now!  Only if I say ‘Bail, bail, bail!'”

  grease 'er up

With a little bit of WD-40 and a crowbar, my instructor pilot, Smudge, corked my lardass into the itty bitty cockpit.  Left seat. Yeah. Totally didn’t expect that either…

It was a stunningly gorgeous day – and we launched in formation out to the ‘battle zone’, 16 miles north of Cleveland over Lake Erie. Once we cleared the pattern for takeoff, Smudge informed me that it was my turn to fly the plane.

“Just follow Dennis. Stay to the right and down.”

Simple enough, in theory. i couldn’t do it. Tiny movements of the stick led to gigantic movements of the plane. i had expected the stick to sort of be ‘neutral’. Nope. For all 16 miles i was bouncing around, trying to stay stable. It occurred to me that if i couldn’t manage this simple task, doing anything more complicated was going to be impossible.

We did some basic tracking and targeting. Then the High/Low Yo-Yo maneuvers. These were fun. Diving speeds you up, so you work the angles in all three dimensions. Swoop back up, and drop right down on his tail.

Maybe i could do this?

We rolled into the dogfights. i lost the first one – totally surprised at the intensity of that whole ‘upside down’ thing. For the second round, i decided to put my mind on hold and listen to Smudge, who was telling me exactly what to do. “Pull back”, “Hard left”, “Nose down”, “Track”, “SHOOT!”

i got him. Smoke from the ass end of his plane. “Shack!”

Marchetti

Two more rounds. i won the next fight. Dennis wore me down after an extended battle for the fourth. By the time he finally hit me? i was relieved. Having done at least three vertical loops in a row? i was wrung out.  Time to head back. 

“It’s your plane. Just keep your nose down a little bit, and aim to the right of downtown. Can you see the airport? Make an easy turn so we’re flying parallel to the runway.”

Without realizing it, i was now flying the plane – steady and level – and getting us back to the airport. How the hell did THAT happen?

yay

We landed, taxied back to the apron. Shaking hands with Dennis, we went inside for the ‘mission debriefing’ – which, in my case, included removing my completely un-soiled undergarment!. Watching the cockpit videos was a little bit surreal. “i just did that? Whoa…”

Studley drove home, as i was still a bit rattled even an hour after getting out of the cockpit. We had a chance to do a bit of a post-game analysis in the car.

What i spent on that “charitable donation” would have gone a long way toward becoming a pilot. It would have at least paid for my “Pinch Hitter” course – how to land a plane in an emergency.

The flight was fun, and definitely exciting. But it wasn’t on my bucket list. That’s because i don’t actually have a bucket list. i put this in the category of “contrived thrills” – where all risk is managed, and you pay money for an adrenaline rush, and a chance to say “I did that! Woo Hoo!”.

It required no skill. There really wasn’t much risk. When you get down to it? Not much different from bungee jumping, or doing a tandem parachute jump. i have done neither of those activities, nor do i wish to…

Excitement? Of course. Growth as a human being? Not so much…

As we worked through this in the car, Studley asked if i’d do it again.

daisyfae: Probably not. i mean, it was pretty amazing. But…. It was a stunt. What about you? You were getting pretty jazzed during the mission briefing!

Studley: I might think about it….

daisyfae: i would probably do it with you… but i think i want to learn to fly first.

The Weight

It’s easy to trace elements of my constitution to parental influences.  From my Father?  Intellectual curiosity, empathy for the less fortunate,  love of music and the arts, and complete comfort among people from diverse backgrounds.

From my Mother?  Cold, dispassionate strength*.  The kind of strength that would allow me to bury a body…  Umm… if ever needed.   She is fierce, in her way.  Good Appalachian-American breeding stock.

Unfortunately, i also inherited one of her more crippling afflictions.  She is a hoarder.  Excavating her house prior to renovations took three months.  i have to fight it, or fear that i will become buried in my ‘stuff’.

It’s not bad.  Yet.  But i catch myself saying “Hey, i might need this someday…” as i find a stash of wood scraps in the garage.  That old coffee pot?  “It might come in handy if…” Rubber bands that i’ll never need.  Twist ties.  Plastic storage bags.

i fight it.  i recycle aggressively, and throw things out regularly.  It’s there, though.  Percolating beneath the surface.  It isn’t obvious to others, since i’m fortunate to have a LOT of space.  Plenty of storage space lets me squirrel it away.

January is when i have traditionally launched my “winter project”.  Last year?  Organizing the office, and building the Murphy Bed.  This year?  i want to finish my theater room/exercise room/bar downstairs.  To do this?  Excavations are required…

But…

It is hard for me to let go of a cardboard box.  You never know when you’re going to need a box, right?  i like a wide selection on hand.  As i started to dig, i was surprised at the number of empty boxes i had stashed in the storage room.  Round one?  Break ’em down and send ’em to the recycler!  Boom!

Reluctant at first, now i’m in a “GIVE IT ALL AWAY” state of mind!  The local thrift shops will be delighted to get the Jeep load of appliances, clothing and odd housewares!  Bed, book case, shelving unit?  See ya!

The “stuff” now feels like it weighs me down.  Makes me less mobile.  Pins me to the floor.  i am making progress…

Not only at home, but at work.  Last week, i started a new assignment.  New building.  New office.  This required a move.  After 31 years working for the same employer, i’ve got “stuff”.  i thought i was pretty brutal when i packed it all up – filling two large boxes with papers and documents for the industrial shredderator.  Many trips to the dumpster, too.

This week?  Unpacking and setting up the new digs.  Is there anything more promising than a clean, empty desk?  Vows to “get organized” sproinging around in my head.  Such promise!

And the purging continued…

Not too hasty, mind you.  This little pic?  A gag crafted by my colleagues.  Appeared on my office door.  While getting hammered at a conference team building during a business trip, i’d mentioned that i find intelligent men attractive.  i was challenged – “What about the smartest man on earth – Stephen Hawking?”  to which i replied “i’d have his love child”.

He wants me...

And this.  i have an obsession with post-it notes.  As the boxes were unpacked this morning, i threw post-its in a heap.  All shapes, sizes and colors.  These?  i’m keeping…

i can quit anytime i want to

Memories.  i discovered a map of Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, along with photos taken from my hotel room balcony.  My first trip to Europe in ’92.  i can keep these a few more years…

We'll always have Paris

At the end of the day?  Boxes.  So very tempting to break them down, and stick them behind the desk.  Prepare for the next move.  Always be prepared to move.

boxing day

Perhaps the best aid for rapid deployment?  Travel light.  The boxes went to the recycle bin.  Weight reduction.  Lean up for the new year!  i’m getting better at this…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* It occurs to me that i haven’t told her full story here.  Future blog homework.

Just live…

“It’s not a wake.  It’s a ‘wake the fuck up'”.

Direct quote from my friend Denise as we planned my 50th birthday party.  i’d played with the idea of using a “Practice Wake” theme — to make sure the folks in my life know what i expect them to do when i die… but she thought that a bit melodramatic.

She’s right, of course.  So it’s just gonna be a big ass ol’ fashioned throw down.

My forties have been rather spectacular.  Not sure if my fifties can top them, but that’s the goal… Try as i might to ignore the significance of a milestone birthday, it’s tough not to notice that i’m well past the halfway point in my life, if things go according to statistics.

Which they don’t always do.

My imaginary friend inside my computer, Bad Yogi, has been my virtual muse for the past 18 months.  He’s done the hardest thing i can imagine.  He buried a child.

As i tried to support a friend who was going through it, Yogi was my spirit guide.  Reminding me to pay close attention 3, 4 and 5 months out — when others begin to pull away.  It was good advice.

He just marked the second year anniversary of the death of his daughter, Alysia.  He did it with this piece.

And this is just what i want my friends to know before i go “poof”.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“When you hear that I have died, think of this.

“Think of cool nights breezes while you walk to meet your friends for a beer on a Thursday. Think of waking up in flannel sheets on a snowy morning and kissing someone you love. Think of hung-over diner breakfasts and the best cup of coffee in the world. Think of the sound of tires on seamed highways while you travel, think of French kissing and leather jackets and push-up bras and bourbon, think of the joy of hard work with friends. Then think of me.

“Not sad, not the melancholy solitude of empty skies, but the full days and crowded bars and signed contracts, a smile too big for my face, remember I said I stay busy enough to fit three lives into one.

“When you hear that I have died, know that I want laughter, and dancing, real dancing, to music that makes you move without thinking, you’re wearing boots and jeans and a great t-shirt and wondering if the girl at the edge thinks you’re cute. And you motherfuckers had best DANCE, none of this bull­shit rock-nod hands-in-the-pockets shoegazer nonsense. No, make an ass out of yourself, feel your hips, kick off the high heels and sway on the shoulder of a stranger.

“When I die, you’d better be laughing your ass off on sidewalks, eating deliciously unhealthy food, drinking shots and tipping your bartender well no matter how much money you make.

“When you hear that I have died, the best thing you can do is to get laid that night with a comfortable stranger, use my story to get their sympathy, and when you kiss them for the first time, think of me then.

“When you hear that I have died, and you will, remember your best revenge is to live well, take risks, save up money and chase your perfect happiness. Beat the system and learn to make your art really support you, craft into something your audience can’t live without. Then make the world an even slightly better place ― stop throwing your cigarettes on the ground, vote in the next election, graffiti your life on the eyes of the hungry.

“Then just do me one last favor. Please. Love some thing. Anything. Start with your self, but find passion in everything, from an apple pie to a novel, make a family, get a degree, walk what ever path is yours with your chin up and feet planted firmly. Have the best stories to tell in the old folk’s home, about life long friendships and epic love affairs, about the time you lost every thing and yet found yourself happier than when you began.. and remember that time we got in SO much trouble…

“Poets, remember: This is the story that never ends. When one of us leaves, another walks through the door. The pages turn, the sun keeps rising. All you can do in the meanwhile…is to speak for yourself. Raise your voice high, tell your story, join hands against the dark and sing our souls to the sky. Know the best in me comes from the best in you, that as you tell your story, you will be telling mine, and our lives will be linked together for ever, and every one who hears you will become a part of the change we make.

“So when you hear that I have died… just …live.”

Gabrielle Bouliane

Upon further reflection…

One of the imaginary friends who lives inside my laptop* wrote a lovely post this week – preparing for the new year ahead, which includes a milestone birthday.  This is the year that Manuel will turn 40.

Replying to his post while assaulting my liver with bourbon, i hoarked up this:

one small bright spot, perhaps.  i turned 40 ten years ago.  and my 40′s have been my best decade so far… mostly because i completely stopped giving a flying fuck what anyone thought of me.

“yes.  i’m fat.  fuck you for noticing.”

“yes.  i have wrinkles AND pimples.  fuck you for noticing.”

“yes.  i just drank a martini for breakfast.  at my desk.  because i needed it.  fuck you for noticing and alerting the management”

It was a toss off comment.  But it’s true.  And it’s incredibly liberating.

It’s not that i don’t care what others think or feel.  i simply couldn’t give a microscopic sliver of a fractionalized fuck about what they think or feel about me.  About how i live my life.  About how i look.  About how i choose to spend my time.

For the past few days i’ve felt like i should do a “year in review” sort of post… To clear my head, maybe.  Sort out a few things.  Take advantage of the pinning point of a new calendar year.

There are a few small flies in my soup.

But i didn’t really want to.  Just couldn’t get the words up.  Couldn’t be bothered, really…

i use the blog as a way to collect thoughts, amuse myself, make friends, sort out things that keep me awake, and to get a handle on the complex relationship i have with my extended family**.

It’s all still there.  i just don’t feel like examining any of it.

This is effectively captured in a quote that anniegirl1138 used in her New Year’s post that has nestled itself comfortably in my brainpan.

You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could’ve, would’ve happened…

or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the fuck on.

– Tupac

Yep.  What he said… It was a good year.  Next.


* Sounds a bit freaky… kinda like that old joke about Princess Margaret and the Bentley…

** Who doesn’t?

Another round…

Mom sat in the chair holding her cane with both hands.  As if she needed it for support, even while seated.  Shoulders slumped.  Droopy eyelids completely closed.

Dr. M* looked up from the computer screen, where she was taking electronic notes while doing the quarterly medical assessment.

Dr. M:  Other than the pain in your leg, how are you feeling?

Mom:  My heart… My heart just feels heavy.  The pacemaker keeps it going, but sometimes I just wish it would stop.  I’m so tired…

We’d been focusing on the lung cancer treatment for the first part of the year.  When i took Mom out-of-town on our whirlwind adventure last week, my niece had warned me that Mom had trouble walking, and was having pain in her right leg.  And Mom struggled during our trip.

Pain in her shin has been the consistent indicator that Mom has a blockage in the iliac artery – successfully treated with angioplasty and a stent twice before.  The procedure is only mildly invasive, and has worked wonders.

In addition to that, she had a follow-up visit last week with the pulmonary specialist, looking over the results of her CT scan taken after the radiation treatments, targeted on the cancer nugget in her lung.

Dr. M was pretty sure that the occlusion in the CT scan results was due to bronchial blockage, and that was probably what was making Mom feel so generally crappy.  The body needs oxygen.  If the lungs got gummed up by radiation, oxygen isn’t getting where it needs to get…

i’d taken Mom out for lunch before our visit with the doc.  It was pretty obvious she was feeling crappy**.  So crappy that there wasn’t even much energy in her complaints.  A lot of sighs…

Dr. M confirmed that between the bronchoscopy treatment proposed by the pulmonary doc, and replacement of a failing iliac arterial stent, it was possible that Mom could be feeling much better with only a moderate amount of medical treatment.

But Mom just sighed…

As Mom told the doc about her heavy heart, Dr. M looked up and caught my eye.  She could see mine becoming a little leaky.  And behind those sexy, smart-girl glasses that she wears, i could see that i wasn’t alone…

image from the geniuses at despair

“That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable”

 

* Ridiculously sexy cardiologist.  i’ve written about her beforeHere, and here, too.  And here, in a footnote… The massive “girl crush” i’ve had on her for the past few years has bloomed into “deep love” due to her ability to provide spectacular care as both a cardiologist and integrating physician for my mother – while demonstrating sincere concern for her as a human being.  She is not a doctor.  She is a goddess…

** True to form, however, she was not feeling so crappy that she didn’t race to a table in our favorite pre-cardiology visit restaurant, and then clean her plate of all food molecules prior to leaving…  We are not “wasting away” people.  Far from it.

Tales from the grave…

“Each of us has a story to tell.  So do they.  Come hear them speak for themselves…”

And we did.

Loaded Mom, and my cousin, S, into the car and drove a few hundred miles to attend the “Voices of…” living history event, held in the old cemetery in Mom’s hometown.  My cousin, L, had told us about this during our “Cousins Weekend” last August.

A crew of volunteer researchers from the local historical society, some writers, and a cast of performers have pulled this together for the past four years.  The scripts had to be factual.  The individuals must ‘reside’ in the cemetery.  Ten new stories each year.

i’d had to keep this one to an overnight, due to other obligations.  This was a bit aggressive for Mom, not used to such whirlwind travel.  We’d settled into our hotel rooms by mid-afternoon, and managed to take a brief siesta before dinner.

For a woman who constantly complains about her failed vision, and difficulty walking, she can absolutely haul ass when you put her in the parking lot of her favorite barbecue restaurant on earth.  She didn’t have to ask for help reading the fine print on the menu, either…

From dinner, to the cemetery for the main event.

It was pretty brilliant.  We climbed onto the hay wagon that would take us on our tour just as the sun dropped behind the horizon.  Getting my 83-year old Momma on that wagon wasn’t easy, but she was game.

Stopping at the first location, the tractor was silenced.  Two men appeared from the dark, carrying lanterns.  Telling their tales from opposing sides of a skirmish fought during the Civil War.  It was brief, and compelling.

We continued on, hearing more tales.  Well scripted and well told.  Not sure what i’d expected from this small town troupe, but i was blown away.

As our tour came to an end, the narrator riding on our wagon said “None of us will live forever.  Only our stories will live on.  What will yours be?”

From the cemetery, we headed back to the hotel for the night. Lying in bed, i listened to Mom’s light snores underneath the blast of the television – she can only sleep with the television on for company.

She just turned 83.  She’s got a bad ticker, and the respiratory system of a woman who smoked like a fiend for 65 years.  She was diagnosed with lung cancer at the beginning of this year.

We’re at the “Two Minute Warning”.

The next morning, i woke up to the sounds of her snores.  Relieved to hear them, actually. She was getting up and dressed, as i prepared to do my push-ups.  Five sets.  i rest between sets.  Sometimes for many minutes.  She didn’t understand the process.

Mom:  Why are you getting dressed?  I only counted four sets!

daisyfae [tongue clenched between teeth]: i’m resting.  Figured i’d run down to the breakfast bar and get you a bagel before i do the final set…

We had a nice brunch with local family before heading out to drive the 300 miles home.  As my cousin and mother chatted about various bits of family history, i couldn’t help but wonder “How would Mom tell her story?”

to be continued….