Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Some end of year thoughts, prayers, wishes:

that we visit my brother-in-law very soon

that my next door neighbor has an easy journey

that Annie’s neck heals properly and quickly

that Jason continues on the road to recovery

that Tony is all well by now

that Lizzie and Zach bring a baby into their family – by adoption or ???

that we spend most of the month of May on vacation

and, that Ben and Marissa live happily ever after. We have a wedding coming up this summer. We all have that wonderful event to look forward to.

Bring in the LIGHT in 2010.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Post op three weeks and all is going very well.

Bob went to see his knee doctor today - post op three weeks - and doesn't have to come back for a whole year. He just needs to keep his knee moving (inactivity will build up scar tissue which is the enemy of a complete recovery), walk 20 to 30 minutes or more a day, do his exercises, and ice after them. That's it. No special physical therapy needed at all. He can take Advil if he has pain and has permission to drive – even though he’s been driving for a week and a half already.

This is definitely a partial knee replacement success story.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009 -- not that great a year either

Last year at the end of December I wished for more rest and no deaths. I said, “Those are definitely the things that mean the most right now. I’m forever tired. And I’m tired of the losses in my life.” Like last year I’ll have to celebrate Paul’s birthday at the cemetery again this year – the 11th of his birthdays I’ve spent there with him. So, again, I wish for “no more deaths. Only happy occasions. And stop with the bad news already too. I’ll take the tiredness any day over sickness and death.”

So, looking back on 2009 I find an abundance of sickness and tiredness. Three of my friends spent a lot of time emailing friends and family and asking for prayers, light, hope, good thoughts, and love relative to their loved one’s illnesses and recovery. These emails resonated with me because I have used writing to heal for the last 16 years – ever since Paul was first diagnosed as bipolar. But, I never thought to get my writing out there almost daily to friends and family. These emails have been updates on progress and/or set backs, and in all cases show much frustration because the writer can’t do something to make everything better quicker. Yes, writing is a way to get the frustration and guilt out too. In Jack’s case, his first reaction was guilt that he wasn’t injured in the accident too. He just couldn’t understand how he could walk away from it without a scratch and Annie was so beaten up. The other emails are from a mother and mother-in-law. These are so close to home they make my heart hurt. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been reluctant to open and read the emails coming from one of them – for fear of the worst. Thankfully, the last email showed some improvement. Any improvement is good in this case although there has been improvement, then a set back, then improvement, then a set back – and so the vicious cycle has gone month after month throughout this year. I’m thinking light, light, light that this latest improvement will stick and her young son will regain his health permanently.

So, what else happened this year?

Bob’s sister had successful back surgery – something she put off for years and now that she finally had it she’s totally free of all pain.

Bob’s brother has just been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer – his lung cancer has now spread to his liver and bones. And, this was a cancer that was discovered during a routine exam to find out if he could withstand knee replacement surgery. Bob would like to beat him up for smoking all those packs of cigarettes a day for over 50 years and doing this to himself, but it’s too late for repercussions. We just need to visit with him. Ben spent most of a day with him a few weeks ago. I’m so glad he got to do that.

It was one of the busiest years at work. I worked on one proposal throughout the whole year with a few extra assignments in between. The one I’m most proud of is the LCROSS Aviation Week award application. We got the award and the satellite was instrumental in finding water on the moon. Because I worked for a short time on the application I felt very much a part of its success. Not so much regarding the year-long proposal. Though we successfully delivered it the day after Thanksgiving, I found it one of the most frustrating efforts I’ve ever participated in. There were a lot of people changes, a lot of strategy changes, a lot of interference from upper management, a lot of last minute changes to the written document, and in the end it’s hard to tell whether what we ended up with will sit well with the evaluators. It certainly didn’t sit well with our in-house evaluators. I felt so bad at the end of it because of all the time and effort I put into it and that all the last minute changes did more to ruin it than make it better. We’ll see what the customer thinks soon enough.

I had several poems published this year and now I’m volunteering as a reading for a great on-line and print magazine. I also completed two poem-a day-challenges – one in April and one in November. I’ve learned to fit my writing in no matter what is going on in the rest of my life. I have to. It is my salvation. However, there’s still no light at the end of the tunnel regarding my memoir.

This year also was a year of loss socially. A friend of over 25 years has left my life – because we’re geographically incompatible, because we don’t have the same interests anymore, or because of a reason totally unknown to me. At any rate this was the first Christmas in all those years we didn’t exchange gifts or even cards. It’s amazing how a close friendship like that can deteriorate so fast – and without any clear reason. I lost another friend simply because she refuses to spend time with me in my environs – she always wants me to come to hers. But, I don’t feel such a loss with her – she and I had newly connected just a couple years ago. It was nice hanging with her, but she’s not a big loss in my life. Like I’ve always said, life is too short to deal with such pettiness. I guess that’s what it all boils down to. Like Annie said to me a few days ago, her accident has made her realize what’s important in her life. She acknowledged that I discovered that concept years ago as a result of Paul’s death. It takes a big event to create that kind of epiphany. The pettiness of where we should meet for lunch or when to have a cup of tea is just that -- pettiness.

And, now for some good news from this year:

• Ben and Marissa’s engagement
• Jeremy and Kelly’s wedding
• Bob’s successful partial knee replacement
• We've grown back our nestegg almost to where it was before the crash
• And, we’ve finally made a firm plan – actually put a deposit down – for a cruise trip in late May – our first real vacation in three and a half years.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

New poems

I just submitted the chapbook I created as a result of the November poem a day challenge. The prompts were creative and varied. And, I swear I tried to limit writing poems about Paul to a bare minimum. But, as usual I couldn't help myself. And, since this is his birthday week, it's fitting to post those now while I'm here in my office in what used to be his room. And, as always he is very much on my mind. It turns out I wrote four Paul poems out of the 30 poems I wrote last month - not too bad for me, usually a one-subject poet.

November PAD 6 – someone (or something) covered

The rabbi sets the baggie of ashes
into the tiny grave
and we, shovel by shovel,
cover him with dirt.
After a year we lay a gravestone
on top of the bare earth
as an added protective cover.
I return to that gravesite
two times a year –
on his birthday and his death day,
always wishing I could
lift off that granite stone
and dig away the dirt.
I wish I could uncover my boy,
reach inside that baggie,
take those ashes into the palms of my hands
and transform them
back into the son
I lost so many years ago.

November PAD 10 – a love poem

What do you do with love
for someone who is gone?
Where do you put it?
How do you contain it?
I haven’t learned yet
after 10 years to stop
loving my boy
who left us
by his own free will.
I love him as if he were
with me right now
and not in the cold ground.

November PAD 21 – an invention poem

Bach’s Two-part Inventions

As a girl I was enthralled by Bach.
I would practice his inventions over and over
on my piano
never tiring of the intricacies
of his compositions.
When my son, Paul,
started to take piano lessons
I introduced him to Bach
and he too, played the inventions.
He integrated them into his daily pratice routine
and made them sound so much better than I ever did.
It was if Bach had invented his inventions
just for him.

November PAD 22 – an emergency poem

There are no more emergencies.
After my son’s suicide death
and the calls to 911,
police and fire emergency vehicles
blasting their sirens
as they came down our street,
strangers stomping through our house
looking for evidence,
breaking him out of the shower enclosure,
then taking him in a body bag
to the coroner’s for more investigation,
nothing is an emergency anymore.
Nothing else could top that.
So, I stay calm and collected
and take things as they come.
There are only little worries now,
nothing I can’t overcome.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Reading pros and cons

For the last several months I've been a reader for the online and print magazine, "Memoir (and)." After they published a couple of my poems they asked if I would be a volunteer reader for the next issue or so. And, of course I was honored and said, yes.
However, this volunteer job has become a bit of a push given that I work full time and the reading assignments come in once a week like clockwork. This morning I submitted 10 critiques that had been in my queue for that last several weeks. Now I only have five more pieces left to read and critique - over my holiday break.

But, the plus side of this exercise is how much I learn from it. So many of the entries come in with typos, overwriting (my writing guru always said to "write like you talk)," lack of organization or a set topic, no dialogue, telling and no showing. Some of it looks like pages full of random ideas.

But, to be fair, I have found a few good pieces, and a few pieces that could be improved with some heavy editing, Mostly, though, I've seen nothing to write home about – so to speak. This encourages me to keep on reading. I'm learning from it, and it really makes me think I’m a pretty good writer after all.

By the way, "Memoir (and)" is an excellent magazine. In the end they pick out the cream of the crop to publish. I'm honored to be a part of this magazine. Check it out. You'll see my name on the masthead.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Time heals

In less than two weeks my husband fired me as his driver. He had had just about enough of being tied down to my schedule. He didn't want to wait until I had the time to take him where he needed to go.

Well, one would think a person post op from partial knee replacement surgery would not have a lot of places to go. Well, my guy defied the odds. One week after his surgery he declared he was ready to go to work and thus began our little routine: get him there by 8:45 am, pick him up sometime in the noon hour so he could go home to ice and rest, take him back to work after that, etc. And so it went Monday through Thursday -- many trips back and forth while I was trying to complete the professional responsibilities of my own job as well.

When I dropped him off at his office on Friday without the credential that allowed him to get in the building where he worked and without his regular glasses -- he had left them in the car -- and he couldn't reach me to come back to help him for over an hour, he was done with our arrangement. He demanded his car keys and off he went, acting like he had never had a surgery at all.

And, you know. I was very pleased to hand the keys over. I had had enough too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Road to recovery

I have only to look at this photo of my dear friend, now in a rehabilitation hospital, to know that I have not a thing to complain about.

I wish her a speedy and complete recovery and many more walks on the beach with me.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A heavy week

This past week has left me exhausted. I can feel the weight on my shoulders and see a drained and old look on my face.

It started with Bob’s knee surgery which, it turns out, has not been so bad an ordeal after all. He had a couple of hard days, but sometime on Wednesday night he decided to abandon his walker, and he’s been almost self sufficient ever since. That is, he can shower, dress, change his bandage, and turn his refrigeration machine on and off by himself. However, he is still not able to drive, so besides keeping up with my own work load and being the chief cook, I am the chauffeur now as well. And that job got a little busier since he decided to start back to work today.

But, then things can always be worse – not for us, but for some folks we know and love.

One of my oldest friends – we went to high school and worked on the high school newspaper together – was in a terrible automobile accident on Saturday. It was a one-car accident – the car she and her husband were driving in went out of control and rolled over several times while they were driving through New Mexico. I understand they were both wearing seat belts – luckily; otherwise who knows what would have happened?

He was uninjured. She had severe injuries to her neck – such that she needs to be in a neck brace, called a “halo,” for 10 to 12 weeks and heavily medicated for pain. And, once she is released from the hospital in the next day or so, she’ll be medically taken to a rehab facility near where she lives in Arizona. He has been sending us long emails describing her progress though we haven’t spoken to him (or her) yet. He says her cell phone is MIA.

Another one of my old friends – in fact the first friend I made when I moved to California in 1961 – has been updating us on the illness and treatments for her son. He has had heart problems for several years and recently has been hospitalized for rapid and irregular heartbeats. Today he is undergoing an ablation, hopefully to correct the problem that is now affecting his liver, once and for all.
Our friend keeps asking that we hold the LIGHT for him. Believe me, I’m holding the light. I know so well how hard it is to mother a sick child – even if the child is an adult.

Well, today is Monday. Maybe things will get lighter in this new week.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Two days post op

Well, it hasn't been as easy as the doctor said. The surgery went perfectly on my husband's right knee but the recovery is going much slower and with more complications (swelling, loss of appetite and nausea, and drowsiness) than we were led to believe.

Thank goodness for the ice and compression machine, the pain medication, the walker, and his calm and caring wife -- without us all where would he be?

After this is over I'm going to need a good long girls only vacation.

Any suggestions!?!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Back from Denver -- there's no place like home

I was expecting cold, and what I got was COLD. And today, my last day to be there, it was so snowy, that I decided I had to get out FAST.

After a few quick calls to the airline and family members, I changed my flight to the 1:00 instead of the 4:30. But until we were in in the air -- after an hour and a half wait to take off -- I really had my doubts that I'd make it out of town in time to take Bob to his date for knee surgery tomorrow.

Even so, the visit with family was wonderful. It's just their choice of a place to live that I find a problem. As I've said before, we all make our choices. And, it's very clear, some folks make choices that are not necessarily in sync with our own. But, that's a story for another time. Right now I'm relaxing on my family room couch, blogging, reading the Sunday paper, and glad that I won't wake up tomorrow to a snowy landscape yet again. Sure, the snow is beautiful, but not in my backyard.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Finally a choice -- after too long a delay

Today is a special day.

I decided to take the day off so I could go with my husband for his appointment with his knee surgeon in Santa Monica. The appointment started at 8:00 and after xrays, an exam, and much conversation, we decided to go ahead and book Bob’s surgery for Monday. How's that for making a decision!!! How's that for finally choosing to act rather than living with pain and the inability to walk more than a block without discomfort.

Also, the prognosis is very good. He only has damage on the inside of his knee – no more cartilage there so the bones are rubbing against each other and causing him the pain and his leg to bow. So, he only needs a partial replacement. Before I saw the xray I was definitely an advocate of full replacement, but not anymore. Plus, recovery time is much less with a partial.

Anyway, he’ll have the surgery on Monday, they’ll get him walking the same day, he’ll go home the second day, and he will be able to go about his business almost immediately after that. The doctor says he should be able to walk a mile without any pain, limping, leaning to the right and with a straightened leg within three to four weeks. Amazing. Really amazing.

It’s just too bad he didn’t choose to do this two years ago when his first doctor offered him corizone to ease the pain instead of telling him the benefits of surgery then. Think how much pain and knee and leg damage he would have avoided.

Well, he says he was scared. He needed a push to go forward. That his sister had a successful back surgery in the last year pushed him a bit, but I think my saying over and over that I couldn’t travel with him until he could walk distances again was the actual springboard.

Hopefully, he’ll have a successful time of it, and he’ll stop calling himself an old man once he can walk normally and long distances again -- without any pain!