Sunday, July 16, 2017

Signs

I was going to go see Sherman Alexie at the Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham. He was on tour promoting his latest book, You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, a memoir about his relationship with his mother. His mother died in 2015, and he wrote this book as part of his grief process. I ordered it and read it in preparation for going to see him, but then he cancelled the majority of his tour. He explains why on his website.

Some weeks ago, I saw a book on my co-worker's desk called H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. At my co-worker's invitation, I picked it up and paged through it. Chapter 2, "Lost," starts out with her account of the phone call from her mother telling her that her father is dead. I also saw references to her reading Elizabethan and other-era treatises on falconry, a literary touch that appealed to me. She wrote well. I gave it back to my co-worker and said it looked like a good book. My co-worker offered to loan it to me after she read it.

After I read the Sherman Alexie book, although she had not yet read the Hawk book, my co-worker told me to go ahead and read it, as she would not get to it for a while. So I have started it. I'm in Chapter 3, "Small Worlds." In it, the author is reading The Goshawk, by T.H. White, an author I like, though I haven't read this particular book by him.

Sherman Alexie, in his memoir, mentions a number of visions and feelings of encounter with his mother that he has after her death. Ironically, he claims not to believe in life after death. He says that, even though he doesn't believe in ghosts, he sees her ghost. In the letter I linked to above, he recounts more mystical experiences of his mother's presence, and he says:

As I write in the memoir, I don't believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time.

As I also write in the memoir, I don't believe in magic, but I believe in interpreting coincidence exactly the way you want to.

I don't believe in the afterlife as a reality, but I believe in the afterlife as metaphor. And my mother, from the afterlife, is metaphorically kicking my ass.

It's frustrating. I do believe in the afterlife as a reality. I don't believe in magic, but I believe in miracles, prophecies, and visions. And I don't believe in ghosts, but I believe in the eternal life of the soul and the coming resurrection of the body. But I never hear from my parents now that they've passed on.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Enlightenment

So I was getting into my car this afternoon according to my usual method, which is to put my right foot into the floor well, keeping my left foot on the ground next to the car, sit down in the driver's seat, then pull my left leg into the car. Well, as I sat down, angling my left leg as necessary, I suffered an agonizing twinge in my knee.

As I sat recovering from the pain, a light bulb turned on over my head. Actually, it was already on—it was just the dome light in my car. But, in a completely unrelated event, I had an idea. Maybe the way I've been getting into my car is the root cause of my knee pain. Before the popping event on Friday afternoon, I had wondered what was causing my knee pain as I so seldom exert myself. It's not like I play contact sports. But I do bend my leg awkwardly getting into the car.

So now I'm going to see if a new method makes the pain go away. I shall sit down on the driver's seat with both feet outside the car, then swing both legs in.

A few years ago, I had a similar aha! moment with the plantar fasciitis I had been suffering. Plantar fasciitis is an excruciating pain in your heel. It bothered me most when I first got up in the morning, but I felt it at various times. Then one day I parked in a strip mall parking lot and, as I walked to the place of business I had come to visit, I walked across a grass median. I noticed that walking on the pavement hurt, but walking on the grass did not. If I had been in my car, the dome light would have turned on. I realized that, living in a basement apartment, my floors were basically cement, I walked my dog on the sidewalk, and just in general trod hard surfaces either in bare feet or thin-soled shoes. I bought thicker-soled, more cushioned shoes, including Birkenstocks to schlep around in in the house, and voila! my plantar fasciitis disappeared and never came back.

I confidently expect the same for my knee pain.

On my knees

I'm thankful that my knee is much improved today. It's not completely healed. It's still a little tender, and I still have to be careful how I move and walk, but it's much improved.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Ow

My knee hurts. My left knee. For a while, recently, it has felt not-good, as though I had hyper-extended it. It felt stretched-out and often painful in the back of the knee. I felt like it was improving, though, until yesterday after work. I was jay-walking across Cornwall Avenue in Bellingham to get to my car to go home. The way was clear, except there was a car, far off, to my right, that would be coming through a green light into that further lane, so I walked quickly. Mid-way through that crucial lane, I felt something pop—I may even have heard it pop—in the back of my knee and the sensation was extremely unpleasant. I still had to hurry the last painful three steps to the sidewalk, and then I stood realizing the discomfort.

Writing this, I just remembered how, when I played Barbies as a little girl, my brother would occasionally rush in, bend the Barbies' legs forward at the knees, and then rush out again. My knee feels like I did that to myself.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Holding hands

A little while ago, I saw a picture online of a little boy holding a parent's hand, and it made me think of my dad. We clasped hands often. I had a special grip for helping him get up from a chair. When I left him to go home, we would press each other's hands.

In his final illness and on his deathbed, my sister-in-law, sister, and I held his hand as much as possible. When we brought my mom in her wheelchair to see him, he would put out his hand to hold hers.



When he was past the point of speech, he would sometimes pull the hand holding his to his lips and kiss it. He loved us all tenderly to the very end.

It's a painful realization that for the rest of my life on this earth, I can never take his hand again, never hug him hello or kiss him good-bye. Just gone.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mother's Day

Well, about a month after her 85th birthday, my mom died. She passed just two and a half months after my dad. I felt like this time we knew the drill because we had just done it. Back again in the funeral director's meeting room. Same coffin as my dad, same schedule of viewing on Wednesday evening and burial and memorial service on Friday afternoon. Similar emails with the church office, same order of worship for the memorial service—different hymns and Bible passages. Meeting again with the pastor to go over the service. Siblings flying in again for the obsequies—but not so many of my folks' grandchildren, as they had used up their money and time off just a couple months ago coming for my dad's service, and we also felt that their seeing my mom at that time, while she was still with us, and comforting her then, was more important than coming to her funeral.

Different weather. The day of my dad's graveside and memorial services, in early February, was the beginning of a severe winter storm. At the cemetery, a freezing wind blew ice crystals against us, and some people who would otherwise have come to the memorial service stayed home because of the driving conditions. The day of my mom's graveside and memorial services, in mid-April, was a lovely spring day, mild air, trees in bud, flowers in bloom.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Abide with us

But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. — Luke 24:29 (KJV)

It has been 51 days since my father died. I wrote at the time how I woke my mother up and told her of his death. She came in her wheelchair to the room where he lay, and she saw his body. She came to the viewing of his body at the funeral home, and she was at the graveside service and the memorial service. But she has not really been able to take in the reality of his death. Almost every time I see her, she asks where he is.

This past week, we celebrated her birthday with family and friends. She was in her wheelchair, and for some time I sat next to her to watch over her during the party. I told her who all the guests were, and she asked me, "Where is Lou?" As usual when she asks this question, I said, "Dad passed away, Mom. Do you remember? You were at his memorial service. He's in heaven now." As usual, she accepted this and seemed to remember that it was true once she was reminded.

My sister was here from out of state for the celebration. After her last visit before going home, she came back to my house in tears. When she was leaving, my Mom had asked her, "Where is he?" "Who, Mom?" "Lou."

They were married for 64 years, five months, and eleven days. No wonder she can't comprehend life without him.

When I knew my mom's mom in her old age, she loved the hymn "Abide With Me." If I fiddled around on the piano, I could be sure of a grateful comment if I played that hymn. It is the beautiful prayer of one approaching death. I pray it on my mom's behalf.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.



Words: Henry F. Lyte
Tune: "Eventide," William H. Monk

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Adjustments

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, I gather. For the past number of years, I've watched the Super Bowl with my dad, just to keep him company. I would buy some snacks and beer and we would partake fairly moderately while watching the game and the commercials. I'm not really interested in football for its own sake, and in recent years the commercials have been disappointing, but I usually had fun talking with my dad and posting my thoughts on Facebook.

Today my father has been dead for more than a week, and his funeral was two days ago. I don't think I'll watch the Super Bowl. My brother is staying with me, post-funeral. If he wants to watch the game, he's welcome to put it on and then I might watch it by default. But I have no plans about it. That's my "new normal," as the saying goes. I can no longer think of little things for my dad to enjoy and then do them.

Emily Dickinson expressed it well:

The Bustle in a House 
The Morning after Death 
Is solemnest of industries 
Enacted upon Earth – 

The Sweeping up the Heart 
And putting Love away 
We shall not want to use again 
Until Eternity –