Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Time Passes



Well, it has been more than a month since Lynda's death, and it is no coincidence that this is the first entry I've made since. It isn't that is has been difficult to write, though that may have something to do with it as far as the mechanics are concerned, but as important as it was to express myself in words during the last few weeks of Mom's life, it was equally important to get on with my life after being released from the ever-present obligation that was her care in my life of late, and writing naturally has fallen to the bottom of the list of things to do.

And there are many of those things on that list, chief among them being R&R for myself and time to spend with my family. Pierre is back at home, struggling to find himself but working at it with sufficient diligence to warrant my approval and support. Maddie will only be at home for another few months, then she'll fly the coop, likely forever, so it is important to spend some time with her and with Pierre now, to try and balance out the time spent on Lynda this past year.

And time for myself is also important, so I've already managed to get out for a brief round of golf with my friend Blake. Though I've not made good on it this week or last, I do intend to dedicate some time every week to spoiling a good walk, as it were. Hancock golf course is just nine holes and only a few block from UT, so hopefully I'll manage to get out on a Monday afternoon or two per month.

There are house repairs to take care of, as well, and though it doesn't sound like a satisfying personal experience to have the bathroom repaired, it is in fact a great relief to have it done for us instead of by me! This means I am free to put up bookshelves etc and generally bring the house into line with our needs and desires. Next will be the kitchen, which we will also pay someone to do with the hope of enjoying it before we have to move out!

So all in all, it has been a great great relief to be living my life again these past few weeks. There have been a few moments of tears and pangs of regret that certain things will remain forever unsaid or unknown, but these moments are fewer and further between.

I am now starting to think about all the people who helped me get through this and thinking I need to acknowledge them in some way. It is hard to express the depth of my gratitude or even to remember who is on the list of deserving and helpful individuals such has been the tumult of the past dozen or so months. Likely I'll not manage to remember all who deserve thanks, but as I regain my strength and energy I will find a way to work toward repaying these folks with my actions as well as my words.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Yesterday Was the Day



Well, at long last we reach the end of this part of Lynda's story. She died yesterday about 5pm, peacefully and in no pain or discomfort. Though I wasn't with her, it was nice to know that Cheryl was, and that the smells of good food and the sound family talk and laughter were filling the house. What better way to pass on than with the smells of food and the chatter of family in the background?

Of course, now there are any number of things that have to be done before the last page is written, and it is my intent to follow up on these words by continuing to write about our lives together. This is her legacy to me now; I am released as the writer I've always wanted to be, and, beginning with the fertile ground of our memories, I will be able to raise more than just maudlin recollections, reaching instead for those resonances that I know to be to essence of being and being together.

Today is not a day when I have much to say. The tears long held back do not seem to be near the surface, yet I am sure there'll be a moment when it'll feel good to cry. Right now, the feeling is one of relief, both for her and, quite frankly for myself, since I have not had much opportunity for recreation in the past year. Selfish though it may be, I am now free to spend my time in pursuit of the things I enjoy, like playing golf! This is a pleasure I've not had enough of lately and now I will be able to pursue it without feeling conflicted.

There are many other such conflicts now resolved by Lynda's death, and though I will be absent the great friend and loving person that was my Mother, I am finally grown up. No longer the son, I am now the father, and a new chapter begins.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving

Well, today is Thanksgiving, and Lynda is still with us. I seriously thought yesterday was going to be 'the' day, as when I arrived after work about 3, she was very drawn and of course as unresponsive as has become the norm in just this past week.

I think she knew that Steve and I were there, but we sat and talked about life and family as if she was part of the circle even as she would stop breathing for so long that we were compelled to get up and see if this was the last. But it wasn't and after a couple of hours, we both went home to take care of the ordinary chores of life. Honestly, I lay down and took a nap. Funny how easy it is to feel guilty for what should be an easy gift to oneself, but the nap felt good as did dinner, which Valery had prepared while I was sleeping.

I went back to Lynda's after dinner to read and just listen to the rhythm of her breathing, which, oddly enough, was much more regular and therefore much less alarming. After a few hours it seemed as though she was going to make it through the night, and, apparently, she did. I haven't called yet this morning but I will as soon as I get ready to go visit.

Thanksgiving is a big day at the restaurant. It's one of the three days of the year that we serve brunch, so the joint will be jumping from 11 am to about 11 pm. Sara is opening today but I have to go in before it gets too busy so I'm 'in the flow' so to speak as we really get busy in mid-afternoon. Today is cold and windy, so it promised to be a tough sell for the patio tables and nothing in the yard, which may prove to be our undoing. Nonetheless, Sara is very gifted at this sort of thing, so while I'm nervous about how it will all work out, I'm also convinced by experience that it will indeed. I do look forward to coming home to our own Thanksgiving day table, which will hopefully still be littered with the remains of many delicious foods and surrounded by a sated and happy family.

The table has always been the focus of our home life. We always at dinner together as a family when I worked only at UT, while the children were growing up. We made a tradition of every day being thanksgiving, since Valery and I agreed that it wasn't just on the November holiday that one should be thankful. So we began every meal, and still do, by joining hands and being thankful to the Lord for bringing us all together and in good health for 'one more day'. Each day that I said this prayer I though of Lynda first, knowing that 'the' day would eventually come and being as grateful as I knew how that 'that' day was not 'the' day.

Well, 'the' day may finally have come and guess what? It's actually Thanksgiving! Lynda and Bill were married on Thanksgiving in 1955, so the day has been a melancholy one for her since his death in 1981. I doubt she actually knows what day it is, though, and for many reasons I actually hope that she doesn't die today. Not least because it would then be associated with the day for us, but also because it's likely to spoil Cheryl's Thanksgiving day feast, which she is holding for her family at the house. She's been such a kind and wonderful caregiver, I would hate to burden her so on this day. There is nothing I can do about it, though, except get dressed and go see her. So I shall.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A penny's worth of beans...

I am a middle child, first son of Lynda's second husband, properly named Wilbur Earl but called Bill all his life. The connotations of this birth position are many but it is mentioned here with one purpose: to illustrate the fact that I was, all my life, also the son of an older-than-average mother, one who could actually claim to have lived through the Depression. And, oh did she!

Lynda's first husband, Jack, was killed in the War, and left her with a three year old son, my brother Stephen, and a daughter, my sister Anne, not due for three months. Technically, they are in fact my half-siblings, but I have never thought of them as anything other than my brother and sister. When you are young, such distinctions are meaningless, and when you are older, if you have a good relationship with your siblings, as I hope I do, the distinction is of even less significance because of all we have shared over the years. This relationship that we have in common is much more than a mother, it is a lifetime of memories with still more to come. What was significant, though, especially when I was young because it was so unavoidable, was the difference in our ages. Stephen in thirteen years older than I; Anne is ten.

The other unavoidable consequence of having a mother born in 1917 was, as I've said, the fact that she had lived through the Depression. That the one with the capital 'D'. Now, for the generation ahead of me, or, even half a generation, in the case of my older siblings, this situation may have been considered normal, as they were indeed only one memory away from that terrible time.

But for me, having a mother would could not just recall being poor (as we certainly were still), but desperately so, was a condition that made my situation unique, or at lest it felt that way to me, sitting at the dinner table, staring down that last horrible pile of cold and nasty rutabagas with the admonition that I would not be relieved of my self-imposed nightmare until they were all consumed because once, a long time ago...

"When I was a girl," the story began. It always began the same way, of course, because it was the kind of story that you really only needed to hear once to remember, but it was trotted out at so many opportunities that I actually had it memorized long before I memorized the first three lines of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (fifth grade).

"Four score and seven..." No wait, wrong memorization...

"We were so poor that my Mother used to give me a nickel to go down to the store. 'Gladys', she would say' 'Go down to the general store and get us a penny's worth of beans, a penny's worth of rice, a penny's worth of fatback, six eggs and and quart of milk.' And that would have to last us, sometimes, for a couple of days."

"I used to dream of the day," Lynda would also often recall, "When I would have two dresses in my closet."

And, dream she did. She also realized her dream and much more. She did indeed get the two dresses when she went to work, and managed to clothe her mother and sister Anita as well. Work was the means to the end, and the end for Lynda was an escape from poverty.

Certainly, though I may make light of it, and often did through the years--a luxury made possible by that work--the grinding poverty that Lynda was born into is not easily escaped, even by those with iron wills such as Lynda. She gave up a lot, beginning with her formal education, to not only break out of poverty, but to ensure that her family, including her mother, whom she supported for twenty years or more, would not be poor and would not face the possibility of sliding back into poverty while she had anything to do about it.

Lynda's philosophy of life is one I have inherited: "Get up, make your bed and go to work". This ethic was born in the crucible that was terrible want, and not just for the many useless perceived needs invented by consumerism, but for the basic necessities that would make the difference between going to bed hungry or full.

I never went to bed hungry.

Often, I ate more rutabagas and perhaps chicken a la king that I wanted to (like a bite) but I was never hungry. Not really hungry. And I even know what that feels like, but I didn't get the opportunity until I went away to college--that is definitely another story. Suffice it to say that I do know now what Lynda was protecting me from then by forcing me to clean my plate. I am glad to have had a childhood free from the kind of existential fears that she had to face. Hunger was just one of those fears, and doubtless, not even the worst.

I didn't force my children to eat everything prepared for them, but I certainly saw to it that they never went hungry. The preparation of and sharing of food is a key component of the legacy that Lynda has given me, for I will never forget that food was at one time a scarce commodity for many, even a luxury for some. That nickel has gone a long way, after all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Not the last day

I took today off from work at Hudson's, thinking that this might be the day, but in truth my motivations were more self-centered, for even though I expected to spend more time with Lynda with the whole day free, I actually could bear no more than my usual hour or so, and then I retreated to the comfort of chores and buried my thoughts with choices about tires and traffic. The mundanities of life are strangely appealing when faced with the alternative. In my case, my best efforts to stay focused on Lynda and ease her burdens here at the last have, it would seem, already come and gone.

Today, when I entered the room, there was no recognition, no awareness of my presence In the face of this reality, I can stand only so long before I have to step back and seek ground in the details lest I be dashed to it with unrelenting force. I am safer here in the low altitudes for now; soaring is just tempting the release of the flood of emotion that needs still to be contained.

So, curiously, even after writing about how the feelings are pent up, the writing of this diary has allowed so much to be released that I do not now fear the end for my own sake. There was a time when I was nervous about my reaction to Lynda's final breath, yet now I know that the reaction will not only be natural, but it will also be no more or less than I make it.

Now that is a hackenyed phrase, yet I use it with utmost innocence. I cannot expect to be surprised by Lynda's death, so the moment will not rush upon me like a wave, nor will it simply leak out over time by virtue of the spilling of a few words because as much as I prepare by writing, they are, after all, mere words. No, my emotions and feelings will come as combination of the two. It will doubtless be a slow release of an absolutely ripping torrent and it will be mu choice what to make of it. Part of me wants to wail; the other says, hey man, it's just a phase.

That's it then. Death is a contradiction of terms. Although it is the very essence of human emotion and thus fraught with hypocrisy, it is yet, by virtue of its innate inexorability, bound to the unvarnished truth. To put it another way, watching Lynda die has been a tug-of-war between my heart and my head, and simply knowing that it has to be this way doesn't make it any easier.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Death Mask

As we are now in the last days of her life, I can't help looking at the calendar, wondering which of the coming dates will be forever changed in my life by the termination of Lynda's. It's more than a morbid thought; it is also a bright indicator of how my perception of time has been disorted by the slow process of my mother's death. There is little to recommed to others in this decline as I have unable to move it, faster or slower it doesn't matter. The inexorabiltiy of the process is not unlike the way an accident unfolds in milliseconds as opposed to days and weeks and months; it all seems so damn slow there is just nothing to do but wait and watch.

So today we came to observe again, Pierre and I, and we found Lynda in a state more removed that ever before. Today it was apparent to us both as we came in that she has gone down even since Saturday. Her face was more drawn and the mouth more gaping. She didn't respond to my voice or my hand when I held hers, and unlike even yesterday, there was no acknowledgment of my presence at all.

It seems like this could be the night tonite, or tomorrow the day. I have taken off from Hudson's in anticipation of the event, and even though I realize it is unlikely that I'll actually be there when she passes, it is something that I've hoped might happen. Now there is a morbid thought, I guess, since what difference it could make is just about zero. This isn't to be taken as a sign that I make no difference, just that I realize we've gotten to the point I've long imagined and dreaded in the one and the same moment.

The gas lever

These days, with gas hovering around three dollars a gallon, it may seem hard to believe that in 1968, when Lynda and I used to drive around together in her 1963 VW bug calling on potential purchasers of the life insurance she was then selling to support the family, gasoline cost only thirty cents a gallon. Yet, for Lynda, that wasn't necessarily a good deal.

No, for Mom, a good deal was to be had by taking advantage one of the many gas wars that were then underway, so I can recall driving across town to fill up the tank for a mere fifteen cents a gallon! Now, these were also the days when 'gas attendants' actually were available to pump the gas into one's tank, but the odd arrangement of the VW's gas tank under the hood meant that it was my job, at the very least, to jump out and find the latch under the hood that the attendant could never seem to find, and, on occasion, to actually pump the gas while the attendant-gasp-washed the windshield!

Although it wasn't the only reason I was invited to ride along with Lynda on her sales calls, one of my jobs also related to gasoline in the VW was to switch over to the reserve tank when the primary tank ran out.

Imagine this: In the VW bug that we owned, there was no gas gauge but there was a reserve tank. There was a lever to turn on the floorboard just to the right of the gas pedal, so when the driver (Lynda) suspected that we were about to run out of gas (sputtering, coughing and general power loss) she would instruct the co-pilot (me) to get down there and turn it. Often this was done 'on the fly' so to speak, and since we were not encumbered with the burden of seatbelts, it was an easy matter for me to crawl down behind the stickshift and turn the little brass handle to the right 90 degrees.

I recall this bit of trivia because of late I've been thinking of all the things that Lynda and I used to do together, and for some reason the memory of turning the gas lever is a particularly strong one for me. I can recall quite clearly the smell of the sissel floor mats and the oily gasoline smell that wafted up from the back seat. the seats were scratchy and the metal was hot and of course it was very noisy and hot all the time, even in winter.

We drove from Abilene to San Antonio in that car when we moved there in 1968, with me in the front seat and my brother in the back with all the clothes and bedsheets we had crammed in every bit of space. When she went to work for Bankers Life and Casualty Insurance Company, on Saturday mornings, she would gather up the lead cards sent in that week and we would set off to cold call some of the poorest people in the country, trying to sell them life insurance.

I am reminded of the movie 'Paper Moon' where a backcountry grifter travels around with his daughter, selling bibles to widows, because, even though I wasn't used as a prop to sell life insurance, I was certainly there to provide support to Lynda when she would return to the car after another rejection, shoulders sagging and eyes downcast.

I was also there when she'd get a sale, too, and those were very special moments indeed. While I understood the practical benefits of making the sale, it was, of course, a self interest that motivated me as well, since I could expect to get some kind of treat when we went to the grocery store later in the day.

Now, not only did Lynda sell the insurance, after making a sale, it would fall to her to go and collect the weekly premium. Often, that would be the only money we'd have for the week. Sometimes, the people either couldn't or wouldn't pay, and that meant nothing. And, at times, people couldn't pay in cash but wanted to honor their obligation so they would give her something like a dozen fresh eggs or a loaf of homemade bread. That, at least, was enough to keep us from going hungry, but it wasn't enough to keep her from crying, and I have to say I saw and heard a lot of tears in the darkened car on the way home.

If it seems like an odd way for a kid to spend his Saturdays, well, I was an odd kid. The conversations that we had while driving were always part of the motivation for riding with her. After all, I had her all to myself! One thing I have always enjoyed in my conversations with Lynda is the sense that whatever I had to say, she was always genuinely interested in hearing it. So, even though I cannot recall what we actually talked about, I do recall talking for hours with with someone who actually cared. Even if her advice was always the same("get up, make your bed and go to work"), the words were always directed to me, and always in my best interest.

That aspect of our relationship has not changed until now, here at the very end, and even now, I find myself ready to dive down to the floorboard and turn that lever just once more. If only she would tell me it is time.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Resonances



Visiting Lynda now is a much more calming experience than it has been in the recent past, in part because of the quiet setting that she enjoys, but mostly it is because Lynda is herself is so serene.

Often, when I would sing and/or talk my children off to sleep, I would find myself with eyes closed, ready for the release I was offering them even before they'd had a chance to get there, so that last verse or paragraph became quite a challenge, often lost till prodded to wake up so they could get to sleep. It is no different with Lynda, for when I come in and after I've had a chance to say hi and give her a kiss, she is so quickly returned to sleep that I immediately feel the urge to drift off myself, which, in fact, I do.

I pull up the lounger to the bedside and stick my hand in between the bedrail to hold hers and in the very next minute I am sleeping, not soundly, but softly, in response to and in resonance with her own restless repose. There is, of course, nothing really to say that I haven't already said, save the affirmation of love spoken when I first hold her hand and feel her taught and tender skin against my lips, so the communication we have flows between our connected hands and our brains, long used to interacting with spoken words, now silently and softly speak within the language of resonances, physical as well as spiritual.

There is not much discussion of the spirit and/or god in these essay not just because I do not wish to impart my own feelings about the nature of our being into thoughts and comments about Lynda's last days of life; readers may refer to the clearly marked yet deftly obscured subtext for that. In fact, I make no mention of spirit or god because it is simply not relevant. In our many discussions about race and religion and politics, we often talked about god, but never in the context or her death, and that long before it was an imminent condition. What matters is not what will happen after she is gone, but what we've done up to that point. I may be fortunate enough to discover what happens to her after she's gone, but that's no incentive seek spirituality in these final moments.

I feel the flesh fading and know there will be soon only that feeling of resonance left in my empty hand. So, someday soon, I will hold my hand or mouth a certain way; cross my legs or cough, laugh or lift my leg for a fart and I will not just think of Lynda, but in fact, I will be Lynda, or what is left, anyway, resonating still in my body. For that small gift, and the many more to follow, I will be grateful.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Not the time for tears



I have, for the most part, managed to keep my emotions under control through this wild ride, reminding myself that now is not the time to loose the flood of feeling that has been building up behind the eye, lest the blood cloud my vision and prevent me from caring for the rest of my world. Too much of me is needed for the care and comfort of others to dedicate my time completely to Lynda's care. Though I feel guilty for leaving, I know that I must separate myself from the fading flesh and maintain enough personal integrity to actually be of use to others. Allowing myself to wallow in, or at this moment, dally even momentarily in the warm bath that is self-pity is an indulgence that neither I nor my family can afford at the moment.

Not that I don't secretly yearn to fall on the floor and sob uncontrollably at the unfeeling inevitability of the universe, because indeed, that would really feel good for a while, but I am also sanguine enough to realize that such relief would only be temporary and worse, failure to resolve the conflict would only exacerbate the pain.

Such is the case with life itself, for as soon as we succumb to the temptation to be weak and afraid, fear and weakness are already constraining our ability to thrive and we need only continue to wail and rend our hair to realize the ironic fate we so hoped to avoid with our vocal and spiritual laments.

Today, however, I came uncomfortably close to the release of that suppressed emotive force, not because I wanted to finally enjoy a bit of the bittersweet fruit long dangling before my sore eyes, teasing my hurting throat with the promise of liquid relief, but because I was not vigilant to the insidious attack of a metaphor; a word whose meaning I had not expected to come from so deep and to mean so much without warning. But such is the nature of words in my brain; they hold more information than one can see from any single side, yet when turned around in my synapses, the meanings pile in on one another, multiplying and potentiating the power of sense until it has the blinding force of nuclear fission.

Suddenly without more than a second to contemplate the word, when told that Lynda was convinced that she was on a train and worried about when to get off, the entire force of a million-pound steel behemouth was routed directly to the center of my brain and hence to my half-frozen heart. I did not need the hospice nurse to explain the metaphor of the train, though she did so with great kindness; no, in fact, the many layered implications had already wound their way round and round my spinal column and had me wide-eyed, electric and defenseless against the flood of tears now held back so long I had surmised it might have leaked out the other side to pose no threat, but suddenly realized that it was no imaginary force bearing down on my defenses. The very real feelings of grief and loss that arrived in that moment were possesed of such incredible intertia as to sweep away any matchstick and paper card protection I may have managed to construct in the last year. I began to cry.

All gone, in less than a second as I walked to my car on this most gorgeous and cloudless early November day, so I called Stephen to tell him what a beautiful day it was and how much I enjoyed hearing his voice. He wasn't sure what to say, but it didn't matter, since all I need for the moment was to hear just the sound of human breathing, as if all I needed was to find the right sychnronous rythym and fall into resonance with it.

The tears were suppressed, the breathing brought under control, the vision directed upward to receive the gifts of light and the fragrance of fall that now surrounds us actually made me grateful for this development as the year winds to a close.

It has been more than a year now since we began, and for the first time I sense that the journey is almost at an end. We are not there yet, though it won't be long, there is still something left to be done, and the two of us will do it together, as we planned for so many years now. As I hold her hand, watching her fade in the rich late afternoon sun, it feels right, not just inevitable, and for this feeling I am most grateful.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Art



Although I am the same child who sat in front of the Dallas museum for three hours rather than be dragged though it for the same length of time, I now believe that it is no coincidence that when I learned that I had a choice in matters of study in college, I elected to abandon the international business angle that had gotten me in and turned without hesitation to the study of art. Of course this choice had something to do with the budding relationship I was enjoying with my mentor, but that is another story and a different angle on the same thing.

If I can now claim that I have a love for art, it was not born from but was nutured by Lynda, recognized by the two of us as a common interest that developed into a lifelong dialogue, with a vocabulary shared through countless discussions and reviews.

Lynda, began her career as an artist as many artists do; collecting and admiring the works of the masters, but in a most unusual way. Over her dresser, still, to the right of the heavy cut glass mirror, hangs a tiny colored photograph of a large old white frame house, surrounded by trees and vegetation. It is printed on textured paper that resembles canvas, and the intent is clearly create a painting from a black and white photograph.



What makes it remarkable is not the subject, though there is doubtless irony to be made from more thought on the subject, but the object itself, for it was in fact the reward for winning a contest when Lynda was in grade school. My recollection is that she was in sixth grade, but I have always asked her and promptly forgotten the answer...how many of those questions have I left to discover?

The teacher announced the contest early in the year, and it so caught my mother's attention that it led to one of the most crucial moments of her life; alearning experience about herself, her mother and her love of art. The contest was simple enough; students were to cut out and collect pictures of art that they liked from magazines and turn them in as a portfolio at the end of the year. The prize was to be a painting. Lynda was already interested in art, and had been admiring the pictures re-printed in the Saturday Evening Post. When the weekly magazine was discarded by the adults, Lynda picked it up and read it cover to cover, of course, but also clipped out the weekly painting, mounted it with glue on construction paper and put it in a book. At the end of the year, hse had collected dozens of pictures, all neatly packaged in a portfolio. She turned it in and was most excited. Eventually, it was revealed that Lynda was the only student to turn in a project, but the teacher told her that because she was the only entrant, she couldn't really 'win'!

This upset her, of course, but not nearly so much as it did her mother, who went to the school and raised such a fuss that the school capitulated. Instead of the promised presentation during a school assembly, it was simply given to her in the principal's office, and the feeling of being passed over was one she learned to internalize for the first of many, many times in her life. Nonetheless, she was proud of her award, proud of her mother, and so proud of her collection that she saved it, and gave it to me. I will also inherit the prize 'painting' and something much greater; her love of art.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Anne's Visit



Well, Anne has at last made her way to Austin again to see Mom. I say at last because I know she'd have come sooner but she's been quite ill , and it is only now that she's got the strength to travel.

I spoke to her on the phone in the morning and arrived at home in mid-afternoon to find her sitting on the couch, talking with Valery. She looks good, though still a bit frail from her now two-month ordeal. She said she lost nearly 25 pounds, which, for someone who only began with 125, represents a considerable portion of her body mass.

Nonetheless, she remains upbeat and was most delightful on seeing Lynda in her new space. Even though she didn't open her eyes for long, I saw Mom look at her lovingly. She smiled at Anne's presence, reminding me of how things used to be not so very long ago.

With such small, visible playful gestures and a dozen more unseen, at the least, I feel, Mom is aware of our love and care. She definitely appreciates seeing Anne. After all, she only asked about her every day for the last two weeks! They have a special bond, formed, not just in this illness, but as all mothers and daughters, over time and through many changes.

Sadly for Anne, though, during this visit, unlike times past, there isn't a whole lot she can actually do for Mom. Gone are the days of shopping and cleaning and arranging doctor visits and hairdresser appointments, now replaced with long minutes of listening to quiet, measured breathing. We read to her, we talk to her as much as we can and mostly we are simply there for her. It is amazing to me how simple things have become.

So, Anne's here till Wednesday and will likely come again later in the fall. She mentioned bringing Jennifer, which I think would be good for the both of them. Certainly it would be good if Jen were given the opportunity to say goodbye to her Gram. Dan, is, of course, in London, so he will not be likely to see her again, but doubtless he's been thinking of her, especially in light of his own Mom's illness.

For my part, I have reached a level of comfort with the arrangement (especially given Cheryl's tender care)and hope to maintain this sense of calm throughout the days and weeks ahead.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Good Day



Today was a good day. Lynda has moved to An Angel's place. It was a long day, or so it seemed because so much came together in what was, in hindsight, a very short amount of time. I began the day by picking up the last of the very personal items from her apartment at The Continental.

We've condensed her possessions before, and this time it was much easier, though more difficult because we are now down to the final pieces. Some of these are absolute treasures; some of them not even sentimental value will hold them after she's gone. Much of what remains is either something that Chris wants or that we will give to Goodwill.

Looking around at the final set, it occurs to me how little of this I desire to possess. I do think we need to make an inventory at this point, before Mom passes, to make certain that there are no misunderstanding later on. It is likely that she's given away the same thing to all four of us over time, and now we have to decide who has claim to what, or, more important, who really wants what. I've certainly taken on the art, perhaps because there is no interest in it for the others, but I do not have many an interest in many things, but there are only a very few things, now that we approach the final distillation and disbursal, that I do find I want.

Immediately, though, it was nice to dispense with these thoughts by placing as many of the most precious and interesting things that she's collected in her room, most notably, her art. It all was of her choosing, really, since these are the things that she selected when moving to the Continental. The reduced space has had the effect of concentrating these things, but as Lynda, they come together in colorful harmony.
Mom was delighted to see her room and even said so! She called me by name and thanked me and was polite to Cheryl and even smiled! She is still heavily medicated, but I think that Cheryl will find a balance that will keep her pain free but not so sleepy.



The new place will allow us to establish a schedule again, which is good. Steve will be visiting her almost every day now, which is good because he'll see her tomorrow and Friday when I simply can't (I've used all my leave time at UT), but I'll see her again on Saturday. Chris will go out with Valery on Friday to find her way. Finally, if Lynda feels like it, I can tell her friends where and when to come calling. All that is just a bit down the road tho.

In the near future, however, Anne comes in on Sunday around noon, and we'll go out there together I am sure. I know Mom has been looking forward to her visit, and I think this place will give them a chance to be together in a way that is comparable to the Continental. Cheryl will reassure Anne as to the quality of her care, and I hope this will be acceptable to her.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Final Move



Well, we've made the decision and the move is day after tomorrow, to the private care home called Angel's Place. Cheryl did indeed go by to meet with Lynda and said she had talked with her and felt she could care for her. More than that, she said she would take care of Mom and this with the earnest smile of one who means well and who will do what she says. Of course it won't be easy, but this is the role she's taken and I'm grateful to have her and the home she's providing for Lynda.

Steve and I went to install most of her furniture; a table, bookcase, lamp and dresser. Hospice will arrange for delivery of a hospital bed tomorrow and Wedndesday afternoon, after I get off work, we'll move her.

The place is quiet, sunny and clean. It smelled good when we came in and her room is, of course, clean and well lit. We'll finish arranging thins once she's there and I'll go hang some paintings and put up books and things around to make it more 'hers'

I don't know how much she'll notice, however, as on our visit today she was again curled up in bed and unwilling or unable to turn over to look at us, She did open her eyes to look at me when I sat down on the bed and leaned in close. I stroke her hair as she closed her eyes and mumbled something softly. I told her what we have planned and she nodded and gave the slightest shrug. 'What am I gonna do, say no?'
is what comes to mind, and I can't say as I blame her. Yes, she doesn't have many choices left, but I hope this last move will at least bring her some peace and quiet.

It may be weeks now, but I don't see it lasting more than a month. IN any case, I think she's waiting to see Anne, who'll be here this coming Sunday, to let go. At least, I hope she won't linger much longer after they have a chance to talk again, if only because I want her to find peace sooner rather than later.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Another Move...

Well, once again, it pays to have an open mind and listen when someone comes calling. I know there have already been a lot of stops on this slow route to oblivion, but its seems that there will be just one more.

Yesterday I got a call back from someone I'd called earlier when looking for a place to move Lynda from the hospital. Cheryl McCulley is a social worker who has opened a private assisted living home in southwest austin called An Angel's Place. It is a nice home, large and small at the same time. It is a large home, with six bedrooms and two baths, new and clean and full of light because it is out in the country. It is an inimate environment, though, because there are only about five bedrooms for residents (Cheryl lives in one) and she currently has only one resident. It is certainly quite different from Marbridge, which, because it is an officially licensed nursing home, has requirements that make it, like so many others, an insitution designed for the lowest common denominator instead of for the individual needs of the residents.

And Marbridge is the best place I've seen so far, so this isn't meant as an attack on that fine organization. Indeed, the people there have been so accomodating and understanding that I actually regret the thought of their hard work having been in vain; yet I also know that I have to do what's right for Lynda, and my concerns for the insitution, any insitituion, are secondary at best.

And even though we haven't made it official, I feel that if I can pull this off, it will finally be for the best; I will have actually done something--anything--to improve the quality of Lynda's last days.

Today, when I wen to see her, she was sleeping, of course, turned on her side in a semi-fetal position. She acknowledged my presence with a 'Hello darling' but didn't have the energy to turn to me or even open her eyes. I told her about my plan and she shrugged with a half-smile of resignation and allowed that she would visit with Cheryl when she comes by to asses her later today.

This is not a done deal as yet, because Cheryl must go an evaluate Lynda's conditon to make sure she is capable of caring for her. It may well be that she is too far gone for this final move, but I don't feel that way right now. Honestly, there isn't a lot of care required because we have now decided that there isn't any 'therapy' that isn't directed at quality of life and that she be allowed to rest comfortably till the end. Yesterday she told be that she wished they'd 'just leave her alone' to get some rest, and this is exactly what I hope will happen if we can move her to the Angel's Place.

I feel a bit funny writing those words, especially because I sensed that Cheryl is very religious individual, but at the same time, it was comforting to see that she didn't specifically refer to God or any religion, keeping it in the more neutral synchronistic 'everything-happens-for-a-reason' frame of mind that I prefer. In short, we were in agreement about pretty much everything, including, for my part, the payment. In fact, even though it is a completely private-pay arrangment, it is also more affordable than the full-time professional nursing care that is required for Medicare/Medicaid.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Boring or Hectic?

Ironically, as I contemplate Lynda sleeping away her last days, bored because she is no longer interested in the world, no longer interested because the world is no longer interested in her, my life has become all the more hectic. Today it seemed as though I had only the few minutes I spent in the bathroom completely to myself, and actually, I didn't get all that much done. It seems that the things I actually do are only in preparation for the other things I actually do and then I do it all over again, without ever know if I've actually done anything or just gotten ready to do it later, perhaps tomorrow.

Yesterday was a tough day, but not necessarily because of Lynda. In fact she was better than I expected, especially after I had a meeting with a volunteer from Support Source, a service that provides volunteers for the bedridden and dying folks who have not yet been blessed with the label: Actively Dying. Intended at first as a service to aids victims, it has expanding to serve anyone who is not on hospice care but who clearly does not have a long time to live. The woman I met, Roni, was extraordinarily nice and sensitive, not just to Mom's needs, but curiously, to my as well. I say curiously because it was a surprise to me when she suggested thaat I might need someone to talk to, but as soon as she said it I realized she was right. I think that time will come, but I told her I wasn't ready yet; I'm still too busy taking care of Mom.

Roni said she understood, and listened patiently as I described Lynda on one of her worse days, warning that she might be 'grumpy' or worse; she can sometimes be rude. Of course, I've seen said behavior, and truth be told, most of the people who get the toungue deserve it. She doesn't need to suffer fools, gladly or at all, and now will not even for the most innocent seeming query when it is not earnestly meant. Treat her as an object and she'll do the same to you.

Well, of course, after these dire warnings, we went in together so I could introduce Roni and lo and behold she was sitting up, awake, with a pink color and focused look. She was not doing anything, but to find her conscious was a pleasant surprise. Even better, she greeted me by name and was actually polite to Roni as she intorduced herself. She even opened her eyes for some of the conversation, although she looked at me instead of Roni. Nonethelss, it was not the angry or weeping or suffering Lynda that we met, but a dimly lit chimera that allowed our guest to see Mom as what she must have been. Roni paid particular attention when I told her that Lynda was an auto-didact and that she had read voluminously and widely for many many years. She heard me when I told her that Lynda was an artist; we never discussed her 'profession' as such because it was understood. In the room, Roni asked Lynda is she would like to draw and she said yes, that her pens were in a case on her desk. They are indeed, and I promised to go get them, which I will, though I have doubts about whether or not she'll use them. It can't hurt, that is for sure.

So far, Steve and I have visited her every day, sometimes twice a day, and Valery has made several trips as has her loyal friend Chris, who has cared for her more tenderly and lovingly than anyone other than Stephen and Anne. She went yesterday to her house to gather some more clothes, then went and sat by her for several hours, talking and helping her eat.

Chris has helped me more than she's helped Lynda, I do believe, and that's saying a lot, because she's helped Mom a LOT; she's been a real godsend in the most literal sense of that word. This family has pulled together to care for Lynda, but it's safe to say we relied quite a bit on Chris, and without her help, it would have been a far more difficult and less humane process.

That's the important part: Chis has helped Lynda maintain her dignity, which is important for this old southern lady, and I'm immesuarably grateful for her. I only hope there is someone to care for me of her caliber when the time comes.

But damn, the time comes too slowly, even when it's coming too fast, or at least so inevitably and inexorably at any pace. It can go too fast and too slow all at the same time and in the same place. This too must be explained in a unified field theory, but that is of little comfort when lost in the dim room where Lynda sleeps next to me. I long to go back or forward either one; staying here is just to damn boring. I'd have said painful, but that seems so melodramatic when I know it's just because there is nothing to say or do and it makes you crazy after only a minute, mostly because you know it's only been a minute and there are so many more to go. And yet, so few...round the circle and out the door, I head home with a dry throat and dry eyes, wondering if Roni is right, if I'll let it out sometime soon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

First Memories of Lynda

My first memory of my mother was also the birth of my lifelong desire to please her. I remember it as a single incident, but more likely it was a series of events which I have distilled for the purpose of recalling it with the importance it deserves.

It is important, of course, because it is my first memory; try though I have to recover something earlier, it is in fact my first real memory, and I don't mean that it is just the earliest visual recollection of my mother, Lynda.

I mean that in all these years, as much as I have searched my consciousness, the memory of helping my mother hang the laundry out to dry in our back yard in Abilene Texas, in 1960 is my very first entry in this life journal I have lived now fifty-one years. It is significant not only that it is of my mother, but the very memory is associated with feelings and desires that persist to this day. Some of those feelings are unpleasant, and some of those desires have left me unfulfilled, but the feeling of sincere love, unfettered by a past or any knowledge of hers bore up the desire to free her from the pain she expressed about life. At first, it was physical things, feeling sad that she didn't have them and wishing I could get them for her, but the desire evolved as I learned more abouther and realized that wasn't just things that this woman didin't have, but it was also a stte of mind that she was inacable of acheiving.

Simply put, I soon came to realize that my mother was unhappy, and not just that, she was not ever going to be happy. I realized this at the age of four, and yet have not yet failed in my quixotic attempts to miitigate, if not outright eliminate at least some of the unhappiness that my mother was constantly expressing. I say I have not yet failed because the quest, though now very near to it's end, is not actually over. Lynda is as of thiswriting, still alive, tho I expect futher entries in this memoir to come after the inevitable loss of her life, her love, companionship and trust that will also mark the failure of my quest.

But are not the real quests of life destined to end thus is failure? It is not being hopeless to realize that some searches will never result in treasure and that some desires, no matter how heartfelt, are destined to remain unsatisfied. If at the age of four, when hope is not imagined, but felt, lived as though it is all we have because it is, I could hope for my mother and yet knowthat it was hopeless, what matters is not the thought,but the deed, what I did in response to both the hope and the knowledge of the certainty of failure is telling of the human force, what makes us different in yet another way.

There it is, I knew then that my mother was unhappy but I also knew that there was nothing I could ever do to change that. I remember thinking, 'She likes being unhappy!' 'Complaining makes her feel better!' 'If she didn't have anything to complain about, then she would really be unhappy!' That is an odd thought sequence for a four year old, but that is what makes this a memory. Not only do I remember the physical circumstances of that moment (or more likely, moments), but I recall, with a clarity that is not diminished with age, these thoughts, and how they fit together as an answer to a question I had, probably since birth: What's wrong with Mom? Why is she so sad?

These thoughts, and the conclusion I reached, then represent my first awareness of my ability to reason and find an internal answer to troubling aspects of my life. It's as if this was the day that I 'woke up', that something happened in my brain that was not just useful or exciting but extraordinarily pleasurable. 'Hmmm...I can think!' is sort of the way I would describe that thought, followed by another one: 'This could be useful' and then 'Maybe even powerful...' It is indeed.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

David's Visit

David came in from D.C. yesterday to see Lynda and spend some time with us. I must say the former was an served as an obligation but the latter was delightful, at least for me, because he always cheers me up.

His sense of humor has always tickled me and I feel a release of tension when he's present because he has the same inner calm that our father Bill had; it can be perceived as a lightheartedness, but it is more significant than that, for there have been only a few people in my life who generate the calming energy that makes those around them feel comfortable in an effortless way and my brother is one of those people.

Ironically, I relish his aura as my own is so different, so red to his blue, so frantic when held next to his stability. Steve and I share the freneticism and can thus feed my self-doubts, but David has the collected wit to counter my gloomy inclinations. David's calm is almost dispassionate, however, and here is where we diverge as individuals, because my own energy, however negative and self destructive, is also born of an irrepressible passion. Would that I could look upon Lynda as he did today with a final smile and nod, but I cannot leave the show, no matter how horrible it becomes, because I have to know how it will end.

No, indeed, I always want more, I want to be there, witness to the end itself. Then I can say goodbye. I am not reluctant to release my mother, of course, but I am simply poor at making major transitions. Turning the page has always been difficult for me, especially because I habitually read from the end of the book, but this chapter will not close for me, apparently, till I am obliged to observe and chronicle her last breath.

To be literal, the breathing is now more labored, and she sleeps most of the day. When we came in today she was on her side, tucked up but not curled up with her eyes closed. I said hello and she even said my name in reply, but did not turn or even open her eyes. Even when David came in, she was not easily encouraged to look at him, though she did acknowledge him by name. It was as we said goodbye, however, that I noticed her looking at us both, with an intensity I haven't seen much of in recent weeks and months.

She knew David was leaving for good; I could see it in her eyes. I could see the fear that I cannot quell, and saw the plea for me to return. Doubtless it is an imagined plea, but even if it is only to satisfy that self-imagining, I will return. Tomorrow is Monday, so I will go see her after work, in the afternoon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Choices



Well, it was a long weekend and I am not convinced I've made the right decisions, but at least Steve is back to help. He went to see her yesterday and began working on the paperwork. There are some serious questions that have little to do with her health, but everything to do with how and where she will live until the end.

I don't think she can return home now, as weak and disabled as she's become, but as of today, Lynda has not accepted this fact. She still thinks that she'll get stronger and can return to her apartment, and remains in denial after I've told her there is no way that we can take adequate care of her at the apartment. In fact, we've given notice at the Continental, and of course, the more reasonable option would have been assisted living, but I think she's past that. Certainly she couldn't be admitted to the Park because she was too feeble.

One thing I haven't done enough of is looking for places that can accommodate her that are not necessarily in or near South Austin. Steve is talking with the various players in the process (Marbridge and Hospice) to find out how we can best make use of Lynda's Medicare/Medicaid benefits to maximize her comfort level here in the final days/weeks/months. Of course, Marbridge isn't the facility I'd expected to land her in, but then my expectations are different from Lynda's, and both are wildly divergent from the reality as it finally presents itself to us.

The fact is, unless one is wealthy enough to afford full-time in-home care for one's last days, we must expect to end up among the ranks of the merely disabled, if we are lucky and the cognitively impaired if we are not. Neither is an attractive end, but one may either avoid the fate altogether by committing suicide at an appropriate time, or resolving to make the best of the final suffering and at least comfort those you are leaving behind by letting them know you chose this end and will take responsibility for it.

Otherwise, we end up where we are now, when the family feels guilty for the suffering but was powerless to avoid it and is equally powerless to end it. I think we must all take this responsibility or face abandonment as caregivers lose the desire to help one who will not help themselves.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Awake Again

From Lynda's Retrospective...


Well, today I got a call from Lynda. She began by calling me Steve, then told me that she had somehow arrived in a strange place. When I told her that I was Phillip and that I had arranged for this, she said, "Well, this isn't the place for me, Steve".

I know that she won't be happy with any arrangement, including her home, but I do feel that living in her apartment is no longer a viable option. In fact, the only option we have left, after have successfully delayed admission to an assisted living facility. Of course, there are many things we could have done differently, but always we tried to accommodate Mom's desires, so in the end, we are where we are because that's where Lynda asked us to take her. I really did try, several times, to get her admitted to the Park, but each time was met with the desire to be independent and her concerns that the assisted living would be too confining. Well, what we have now is even more confining, but at least it's not so cramped and noisy as the Southwood, which is where she spent two week prior to going home the last time.

So Steve is over there today, arranging for the paperwork and will check her out and let me know how it is going. I don't expect more than I've already heard; that is, that she is not happy and in pain. Honestly, at this point, I don't think she'll have it any other way, as the pain meds make her somnolent and she has never been happy.

From my perspective, Marbridge Villa is a very nice place for what it is. After all, this is a place where people come because they have to, not because they want to, and in most of these places, the caregivers take advantage of that fact, yielding little or any real 'care' and substituting in it's place perfunctory and often rude treatment. Marbridge appears to be different, in that eveyone I've met so far has been very nice and genuine about their concern for Lynda. They seem to recall that we all have parents, and that the treatment we give to others should be no different that that we give to our own.

I hope this day is the day when Lynda realizes how much we care for her and how much we've done to make this part of her life more comfortable. Loving her is no more difficult now that ever before, but caring for her has become more of a challenge than I anticipated.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Marbridge Thoughts

From Lynda's Retrospective...


Well, Lynda has now been moved to Marbridge Villa, which is a skilled nursing home in Manachaca (in far south Austin, but quite near to our house). It is in a rural setting, with a view of horses in a pasture out the window, if Lynda were inclined to look out, which she has not for at least the first two days. Those days were Saturday and Sunday, and she was so heavily sedated that she was unable to do more than acknowledge my presence briefly on arrival.

I visited her twice yesterday; in the morning to see where and how she was, then in the evening to deliver the clothes and pictures and other personal effects I brought for her from home. Both times she was only just conscious and then only for a brief moment. I think she knew that I was there, but I don't think she she who I was. I watched with sad fascination as she slept, wondering how we got here and how it will end. I want it to end and yet, how can I? Most difficult, and it's probably easier for me than her, because her mental state is so tortured by these latest physical and psychic twists and turns. I'm still young enough to take it; she's just had enough.

So, the nurse phoned me first thing today to let me know that they hope to wake her up and get her out of the bed today. I left clothes and a comb and her barets out on the side table, so perhaps if they dress and groom her she'll feel a little more human. I can't say I know why I think this might be a good thing, since it would be nice if she simply slept peacefully (from the exterior) until the end, but then I do miss her already and wish I could tell her again how much I love her. And, come to think of it, I haven't actually said goodbye. I guess this will come at a time when it's too late for her to actually hear me, because the utterance is too final for me to deliver just yet.

I have to finish what work I can today, then I'll head over to see what I can do for her. I suspect it won't be much. If she's awake, I would like to read to her. I've been reading aloud from the Atlantic while she sleeps and I think she enjoys just hearing the sound of my voice. I've not read aloud since my children were little and I'd forgotten how visceral the pleasure is. I even learn something from reading the Atlantic as opposed to the thirtieth re-reading of "Wet Cats"!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Hospice Thoughts

From Lynda's Retrospective...

Well, today was certainly one of the toughest days I've had in this whole process, but at last we seem to be coming to some sort of conclusion. There are so many details that I could relate but it all seems so irrelevant at the moment, I'll confine myself to observing that in spite of my efforts to do what's right for Lynda, I can't seem to deliver on my promise to make the end of her life more comfortable.

To be clear, I am not mired in grief, hence these feelings are not retributive but they are borne on the wave of guilt than has somehow been generated in the course of our lifelong resonance, Lynda and me, so that now I feel the guilt she felt for abandoning her mother, even though that is only the hyperbole that she sold me through my youth to shield me from the inevitability that is life and, of course, death.

I was in this manner protected from this inevitability (the truth) when I came to this final stage, thinking I would be able to do whatever it took to make her comfortable and remember that through it all she was still being loved and cared for.

It is no wonder, then, that I stumbled right out of the gate and failed to protect her from the saviors, those who could not nor would not face that inevitability and therefore sought to sell their chimeras as hope and light, as a salvation from pain and death. Sell those falsehoods to her they did, and in concert with alchemists and necromancers they succeeded in raising her from the dead (with her complicity, of course), selling them, in effect, what remained of her life for a handful of beans.

Now of course the beans have failed to work their magic, and though the healers did as they thought was right and sacrificed first the white chicken and then the black one, they way they'd been taught to restore the non-living, it did not actually work on Lynda. Ironically, the saviors are interested only in saving their own immortal souls, and of course, the alchemist and necromancers are only pretending to heal in order to protect the illusion that is their livelihood; they have all, in fact, already stolen her away, and the eyes into which I peer for life and the ears into which I pour my affirmations of lifelong love are closed and shuttered already; battened down for the heavy storm that approaches.

She is still not ready for the maelstrom, now, I think but perhaps only because I've already truly failed her, and all that is left, as she said to me today, is for me to "walk out and never return". I won't do that, of course, but it won't change her feelings of abandonment because, at the end of the day, so to speak, that's just what I am doing. I could say that it's what I'm forced to do, but I know and others will too, that in fact I am giving up, perhaps just to save myself, and the selfishness embodied in that resignation is appalling to me. Of course I have to give up, but didn't I say I won't? That is the difficult part to face: I haven't the will to face this fully. She knows that. That's what she meant. I will walk away.

By this I mean that I have not been able to devote the necessary hours and days to her care and well being. I've been able to see her once or twice a day, but to really follow through on my promise to Lynda, I should really have taken her into our home as soon as Pierre moved out. We could have gotten a hospital bed and I could have arranged for a day care nurse and assumed the night time responsibilities myself. That's what I could have done, should have done, and no doubt, this is what Lynda thinks I should have done and failing to have done this is the same as failing to fulfill my promise.

After all, she did buy the house for us, so in a way, it was her due. And yet, when it came down to it, the room is used for storage, and I never faced even the possibility of discussing it with Valery because I didn't want to put her in the position of having to say yes and resenting me and Lynda for the morbid imposition. I didn't even want Valery to have to think that the decision was hers because that would have inflicted the very same guilt I am now resolving.

The fact is, I love both Lynda and Valery. But Valery is my partner and to her I owe far more than the compound debt I acquired from my Mother. It is, alas, but another of my compromises with the fabric of life surrounds and envelopes me; I yield, as to the howling wind that erases my words ere they are spoken. Nobody's listening, eh? Might as well be mute.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hospital Thoughts

From Lynda's Retrospective...


Lynda is stable but in hospital again. She was admitted this time because of swelling in her legs. The ultrasound was negative for blot clots, but we are still waiting for CAT scan results to see if the cause might be the cancer. Whatever the cause of this latest debilitation, it's incidental to the larger downward trend, and it is just one humiliation more in what has now become nearly a year-long retreat from dignity and even sanity.

I now know, of course, that whatever I expected to encounter in these last months of Lynda's life were absolute chimeras, imaginary constructions of a death mask and the dimly lit room that had more to do with cinematic memories than the actual rather unpleasant and often disgusting derogation that is the death spiral that has gripped our lives of the last ten months.

That said, and re-read, it sounds melodramatic, which is it decidedly not. If anything, it is mundane and oh-so-common, a fact one is reminded of when visiting the hospital. O, right, I remind myself, this happens to everyone, and the thought is sometimes comforting, sometimes frightening, and always a little depressing, which is why I try not to talk about it and why, ironically, I am writing about it here.

For those that might occasion to read this, keep in mind that these are nothing more than raw therapy notes . They may provide an insight into my thoughts and feelings, but those are of consequence only to me, so the reader should in no way be interpreted as a journal of factual accounting, as I have no intent other than the obvious selfish desire to speak my thoughts without fear of anything but self-censure. Would that I had a winswept promonitory from which to shout my opinions and receive at least the howling erasure of my self expressions; better than the less demonstrative but certainly more nihilistic silence that comes with speaking to oneself over the internet.