Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Stroke

The absurdity of this farce is wearing off as the reality of living in this play settles into place.

Justin's mom died nine weeks ago.

Justin's dad had a stroke a few days ago.

Granted, it was mild, but a stroke is a stroke.

My brother's reaction: "Well, you know how people get to be at that age where everyone is getting married? I guess they're at that age where people start getting sick and dying."

"You'd better rethink your thinking on that. They weren't that old. Justin's mom was only 59 and Justin's dad is 66. Mom and Dad are in that age range."

"I know," and he continued.

We are not at that age where parents are supposed to die. We live in the United States of America. We have good health care here. People live well into their 80s and even 90s. People have grandparents and grandchildren--not that Justin and I are helping that cause--but the parents could be alive for all of those possibilities.

They are not supposed to be dying already.

I wonder how Justin is doing in the Emergency Department tonight. So far he has loved it and he has been doing a really good job at it. I wonder where his mind is. Probably perfectly focused, the way work does that for a person whereas having time for a mind to wander about just leaves us shell shocked, confused, tired and hurting.

We've barely got anything left as far our store of emotional energy goes. A rest from this kind of thing would be great.

God? Could you give the guy a break please? He needs to apply for his residency program and finish medical school, and so if we could just go, oh, say, maybe a year or two without a crisis would that be OK? Think you could please swing that? Please? We're getting a little worn out down here.

Sweet Jesus, enough already.

Can't a guy get a break?

Justin's biological father who lives in Denver, CO, had a stroke.

Granted, it was a mild stroke and his symptoms seem to consist of slurred speech, searching for words and facial drooping, but it was a stroke.

Today is July 31.

Justin's mom died on June 6, after being admitted to the ER on April 29 and enduring a six week fight with pneumonia that really began seven years ago when she had a cancerous brain tumor removed.

Dad 66.

Mom 59.

Justin figures he "won't be one of those guys who lives to be 90 something."

I told him he had to because we had to die together--so he joked about a suicide pact (for later, of course.)

I'm a little too stunned to be upset in a grieving kind of way. Just seems like a cruel joke to keep this for whom the bell tolls toll continuing in rapid succession.

When I told my mom in her typical bright-side fashion, she said something like, "At least all the factors that have impacted your marriage have been ancillary."

No, they have not. No matter how old we are or how far away from them we live, our parents are still the center of our core. Their living and dying directly affect our own being. And not just their mortality--but when they are alive the way they live affects us.

So in our five year marriage, Justin almost died of a bone infection related to his partial foot amputation and for six months I nursed him by giving him IV antibiotics in the middle of the night, crying while changing his bandage every day, visiting him daily for weeks in the hospital, and observing home visits from a nurse. He applied for and began medical school--an experience which wears many relationships into divorce all by itself. I had a miscarriage and MDD that put me into the hospital for some time while he feared my death and moved our household without my support. His mother was ill and died. His father had a stroke....

These are experiences central to our individual existence as human beings. These are experiences that are central to our relationship. These are experiences that individually could have pushed love to the breaking point. These are experiences that in other marriages have caused rifts so deep and wide they cannot be repaired. These are experiences that end relationships.

But Justin and I go through all of this together. We are each other's life partners. Perhaps it is because of our first-month-of-marriage experience with Justin's near death that we gained the strength and wisdom to know that we need each other so deeply and seriously. Perhaps we just know.

People look at our marriage from the outside and comment on its ease, its happiness, its luckiness, its joy, its perfection.

It is all of those things.

But despite our continuing affection and attachment and silliness-laughter, marriage is work.

We're not so happy just because we found each other.

We are so happy because we work hard not to lose each other--not for any reason.

We are happy because we work hard to save each other, protect each other, love each other. We are happy because we work for the joy and happiness of our partners, despite the constantly varying levels of ease or perfection we see in that person.

We are happy because we know that our marriage is our most important job--or as it was called in Justin's first year of medical school classes "the other elective."

Monday, July 30, 2007

Puppy Love

The veterinarian says there is nothing physically wrong with Stan according to the blood tests. This result leaves the possibility that he is simply emotionally distraught. While his human mom is home and taking loving care of him, his human dad is in another state visiting family. So, perhaps Stan is simply missing Kevin.

"I wish he'd take up smoking or drinking or something instead, find some other way of lashing out, instead of pooing all over the house," Diana said.

"He could at least say, 'Mommy, I miss Daddy! When's he coming home?"

Diana prefers to think there is something physically wrong with him--the idea that he shits all over the house because he misses The Man is too pathetic.

Still, I brought him over to our house to visit Justin and get some lovin' from a boy before going back to the House of Girls.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Parasites

The vet said Stanley probably has a parasite, so that's what's making him puke and shit every where. They're running tests today (I shudder to think on what--Diana was asked to "bring a sample in"), but I figure they're probably right.

What do you expect when the dog snacks on Cat Shit when we take him for a walk?

I'm finally getting back into my art life--working on redoing a painting to include it in a larger mixed media piece and also working on getting stuff together for my shows and photography career. Mo's is going well too--I love working there, but need to get enough sleep to have the stamina necessary for the night shifts.

okey dokey, talk to you soon! my low battery l...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dog Shit

It was everywhere.

More later. I don't even want to think about it right now.

But poor Stanners has some serious intestinal trouble going down and out.

All over the house.

And what better way to find it than stepping in it.

Entry way.

Living room.

Kitchen.

No where anyone would expect to find it...

And then Diana came out of the bedroom (I hoped the shut door meant she was spared--she has a final tomorrow), and it turns out she managed to sleep in the odor of a bedroom full of dog shit.

I'd already tried to clean 3/4 of it up, but then we double teamed it and I took the dogs to the park (too much shit to walk them....) and she managed to mop the whole floor after getting more paper towel from the garage... I had used all they had in the house for the first few piles. Well, not exactly piles. We're talking projectile diarrhea.

Who needs kids when you've got shitty dogs?

Who needs dogs when you can just borrow them and not usually have to deal with all their crap?

Borrow puppies and borrow babies, I tell you, that's the way to go.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Snippets

"I was just a little taken aback..."

"What was there to be surprised about?"

"Oh, I don't know. There's the woman I have never met before who was almost passed out on the couch when I got home. Plus Joe standing there looking confused and like a kid who just got caught playing a mean trick. Not to mention my husband slurring his words and talking about going out partying again..."




I hear the funniest bits of conversation in this town.

Though, I could do without the one that I can still hear carrying on outside my apartment window. Sounds like the girl thought she'd just come home from work and relax because her husband and their friend was supposed to be out having "just one drink," but when she got home apparently there were people in her house and one of them was puking.

They're quieting down now... after a lot of, "No! No!" shouts, I think the guy friend took the stranger-girl away and the husband has decided (on the guy friend's advice) to stay home. I heard him say, "Make sure he doesn't leave the house." hmmmm.... given the key-required-on-both-sides locks in this place, that shouldn't be too hard.

The Power of the Pink Flamingo

I have been dubbed the most dedicated Mo's Girl in Pink Flamingo History.

Not only did I participate in the inflating of hundreds of pink flamingos and hanging them with fishing wire to every hangable place in the restaurant, yesterday--Sunday night at Mo's--I wore the pink flamingo costume The Whole Night.

Not just for an hour while I handed out pink straws shaped like flamingos, pink headbands with flamingo bobble heads on top and rainbow colored rings, but for The Whole Night.

The Power of the Pink Flamingo, is that despite my straight-femaleness the men at Mo's allowed me to be a part of their drunken revelry and more importantly let me though the crowd because I had a huge flamingo ass. Padded with Captain Morgan foam hats filling the ass. I needed more padding--newspaper throughout the body would have filled out my 120ish pound frame, but at least everyone knew who they were following to get to their table. Also, I could not really see with the bling-ruby beak hanging in front of my eyes, which was a great excuse for powering through the crowd and actually bouncing off the huge muscular gay men, or (oops!) stepping on the pretty pedicured toes of the ...women who fly with them.

I have one Polaroid shot of me that I hesitate to post--and the guy who took it didn't include the whole outfit, so I'm not all that thrilled with it. But I'm in numerous photos with drunken fools... some of them who claimed they will find me on myspace and send their shots to me.

Me, I'm just glad Pride is almost over. I love the concept, but not so much the debauchery, even though it does pay for my yogurt and mocha breakfast.

Meanwhile, the answer to the question, "Why are you wearing that costume?": I had to be there anyway. The costume was making people happy. It made it more fun for me to be there because I made them happy with my fluffy flamingo dance, rather than just a straight girl trying to make it through the crowd with arms full of empty glasses and plates.

So, it was Mo' fun.

With enough requests, I'll scan and post the photo. :)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Moms

The other day I was working at Mo's and this beautiful older either Indian or Fijian couple came in to eat. As I cleared their plates and offered anything else, the gentleman said, "No thank you, we have to get back to the hospital to take care of my mom."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Which hospital is she in?" I always wonder if Justin and I are connecting with the same people, just in different venues.

"Scripps Mercy."

Not this time. "Well, I hope she is doing well," I said. I looked at them and thought, "These are people who are old enough to have hospitalized parents, not us, so young as we all are--too young for his mom to die too young."

"Oh yes, she is a strong woman. She'll be fine," her son said with conviction. Perhaps contrived. Perhaps hopeful, but with sincerity and conviction he said it.

In my constant attempt to connect with a fellow human being I continued, "My mother-in-law was recently in the hospital too."

"Is she feeling better now?"

I paused briefly, I was carrying away their plates, so maybe it seemed natural. Then I said, "Yes, she's feeling much better now."

I couldn't tell a customer she was dead, not a visiting stranger whose mother was hospitalized. One or two of the close customers, the regulars who know Justin and me and like to chat with us know and really care; I see them every day. But Mo's is not a place to bring doom or gloom. Plus it's true. Toni is not suffering anymore. She is feeling better, I am sure. I imagine she's floating around heaven quite happy and relieved to be moving on her own again--out of the wheelchair, though when she looks down to see her boys grieving I am sure she worries. With only one miscarriage I DO understand a mother's love for her children. And a wife's love for her husband.


I am reading a book called "Missing Mom," by Joyce Carol Oates. It has drawn me in--a carry-me-everywhere book whose story is nearly finished. I bought it because Oates wrote that it is the story "that will become everyone's story, in its own unique way." The loss of a mother.

Our lives do not parallel--it's about a widow who is murdered, and a 31-year-old daughter who finds her and then has to work through the aftermath--the estate, the trial, the family dynamics without the motherly glue to hold everyone together.

But Oates is right--it is everyone's story. Our mothers are our past and our present and our future. As my therapist said, "We carry our parents with us for a long time."

To which I responded, "Yeah, Toni's dead, and she's still fucking around in our heads."

But from our mothers we take everything that is good and everything that is bad and have to figure out how to sort through the pieces and decide how we will use them to make ourselves. There is always bad--whether it be too nice caretaking that covers the secrets of the dark insides of all the generations spewed into each being that comes afterward, or simply abandonment, or untimely death, or drinking, or parents living the lives they wish the had lived through the children who wish to live their own lives, even abuse of the mind, the heart, the body... the soul.

I recently heard that "When you're a parent you just live your life in front of your children, and they see the good and the bad."

I've also known of those parents who believe they are hiding the bad, but children always know its there--they lie in their beds and know and hear and feel the electric tension flowing in vibrant sharp currents through the walls of their homes.

Parents do not know what they are doing. Children do not come with operating instructions. They are just pushed into a world and everyone involved simply does their best to survive. Some thrive.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I know there is so much, so much, good in the raising of a child. For me, I know it was there--art and opportunity and love and camping trips and homework help and hugs and food and a home and education. All this from immigrant parents who came to the Western Hemisphere with nothing and built their lives and ours into relative American success. An engineer son. An artist daughter. Good people all. But every story must be complete to be believable and the bad cannot be ignored, the bad is incorporated into the building of the soul; of who we are despite our experience of living.

For that experience parents cannot be forgiven at the same time that they cannot be held accountable. Which means they must be forgiven because they knew not what they were doing.

Even Jesus cried to God, "Why have thou forsaken me?"

But, in the holiest of examples, parents do not forsake their children, at least not mine nor Justin's, they simply live their lives in front of us. Then, in their demise, they live their lives again, as we sort through the estate of memories, keeping the good and putting the rest out for disposal. "Not good enough to use, but not ready to throw away just yet," wrote Oates.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Ethics of the Dying

"I still have a lot of guilt over killing my mom."

That's the way Justin puts it.

I tell him, "You didn't kill her, she made that decision. She was dying. You just helped her be comfortable."

He's told me before that sugar coating it does not help.



Meanwhile, Oakley's mom is dying in a whirlwind of secrecy and tradition--people around the dying person always tries to be so strong and they say it is "for [that person]." So there is no crying. I think if no one cried near me when I was dying I'd feel as though they didn't care. On the other hand, when I was in the hospital to avoid death, perhaps if my visitors had cried in front of me I would have felt guilty, I would have felt responsible, I would have felt angry, I would have felt sad, I would have felt like I needed to do something to make them feel better.

No one knows how to let death happen, it seems.

I have always been a proponent of euthanasia and assisted-suicide. I think people should be allowed to die with dignity. I think when life becomes too much of a burden to continue, when there is no "sweetness of life" left, or so little that the torture or pain of being alive outweighs the good moments, it is time to stop the suffering.

But maybe I am wrong--though it is just my opinion. No judgement.

However, now, when I think about Justin's feeling of "guilt for killing my mom" I wonder about the results of euthanasia and assisted suicide or DNRs. Do they hurt the family more than they help the family?

Perhaps the progress of medicine has gone to far. Perhaps it was best when the survival of the fittest wasn't intervened with by plastic and metal and tubes and mixtures and electricity and pumps.

Perhaps it was better when people just died because that's what they were supposed to do, because they'd reached their time.

Perhaps all we ever should have invented were painkillers.

For everyone.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Home at Last!

Due to the extra-congested traffic on the I-5 because of the fair and the races, it is a general policy of mine never to leave San Diego in the summer. Plus, like most of the people we met in Monterrey said--why would we go anywhere else when we have San Diego?

So, until maybe August, when someone is getting married (wedding #3 of the summer), Mark is having a birthday, and my dad is having an art show we are not going north.

Except for that one day when I have to drive to Carlsbad for a modeling job. But other than that...

I am ready to break out the bicycle and ride to work, even.

Tomorrow I get to walk Yaz and Stan and work at Mo's! I'm so excited! I've missed everyone so!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Conondrum of Presence

Over cinnamon rolls in the fresh Morro Bay morning air, I asked Justin if he missed his mom.

"Yeah."

"Is it different than the way you missed her before?"

"It's easier."

"What's easier?"

"Before I missed her and I felt guilty about it because I couldn't see her. Now I miss her, and I really can't see her."

We sat in sad air for a while.

"I wonder why we didn't do more of what we're doing now when she was still there," I said, referring to the time we've spent with the families, cleaning the house, barbecuing, talking and even just giving each other hugs.

"You dreaded being there," he said.

I objected, "You didn't like it either.

Why were we like that?"

Knowing I get queasy over all things medical, he said with accuracy that puts me to shame, "You were freaked out; you didn't like seeing my mom that way."

"Neither did you."

"Yeah."

"I'm so glad she had Mark there."

"He's a good man," he said. I could tell he was getting teary. "I'm glad he was there. I am so glad she didn't die while he was gone. I'll never forget his, 'Bye, Toni.'"

Our conversation switched to our continuing relationship with Mark, with Justin saying, "I think Mark was afraid I'd disappear after she died."

"Yeah. But I think it's pretty clear we're not. Besides, Mark needs you. I think he sees so much of Toni in you." The blue eyes. The dimples. The strong will.

Later he confessed that he was really worried that Mark would leave him--but their lives are so
intertwined; Mark has been there since Justin was 13. Any man who sees a boy through his teen years, his amputation, his first disastrous accidental marriage and college--from however far away--cannot just disappear, not a good man.

Besides, where would be go? We all need each other. It's not like my family in California is bursting at the seams, just the four of us and Aunty Pat and Uncle Nirmal. And however crazy the rest of Justin's family is (all of them... Andersons and Hines), at least they are family and that's more than I have without them.

So here we are. Wishing we'd have been there more, but never having known how to do it.

"Why didn't we do all that while she was alive?" I asked. "We could have cleaned the house and stuff. But it seemed like we would have offended someone, like they weren't doing a good enough job. But they always wanted help. I wish we hadn't seen things in such extremes. Mark always wanted you There. There to take care of her. But that was not possible. I wish we had realized the smaller things we could have done."

"He could have said something."

"Yeah, but Mark never says anything." The family of silent witnesses.

"But he could have. There's always regrets," he said. Could have, would have, should have, I always say.

"I suppose. No matter what."

Family can never truly escape each other, I guess. It seems that at this point the best we can do is learn from what has happened and try to play the future with a clearer understanding of the set of cards we have been dealt.


And maybe sometime in the future, when Justin really is a doctor perhaps, Oakley, Brandon, Justin and I can do a tour of Thailand and India.

Just to see.

Home is Absolutely Where Justin Is

Yesterday we woke up just after 4 a.m. and were thrilled.

"Happy Vacation!"

He was sleepy.

"Do you want to sleep and leave at 9, get up and go now before traffic?" And before anyone wakes up.

"Let's go now."

Prepared, our clothes were laid out and our bags were ready to load into the car. We dashed for it--and stopped to get donuts like the other "we"--my family of four--always did. They have flavored coffee, so Justin was happy too. Chocolate with chocolate icing and coconut, and a lemon filled powder sugar covered donut. No milk though, just water and sips of Justin's coffee. I was happy clapping in the donut shop and told the shop worker "I really am this happy."

Once we hit Ventura, I fell asleep.

Morro Bay is beautiful--Justin is duely impressed with the giant rock that is/is a result of a volcano. I've seen it before, I have a feeling several times, but hope I got some cool shots of it. Our stop in Santa Barbara reignited my drive to become more involved this summer with my photography and painting, to have shows again and truly pursue a professional wedding photographer career.

But I also miss Mo's. I miss the hustle and bustle, and I miss the people--my co-workers AND our customers. Mo's is the land of love--however lubricated with alcohol that love may be. I am definitely looking forward to getting back to real life, but I'm still just so happy to be with Justin free and alone.

He is my true Love. He is my safety, my harbor, my light.

Justin is my life.

Last night we went to the nicest restaurant in this town--Windows on the Bay--and had martinis (Monday special--$3.45) and the most delicious flatbread with roasted garlic, some kind of amazing brie/blue soft cheese, and olive tampenade spreads. Plus a crabcake that was had strings of real crab, think with juciness and yumminess. Plus giant prawns in a cocktail sauce spicy "sorbet." Best of all, there was a jazz singer who is an award winning (in France!) local soprano with the smoothest voice who scatted (like Ella... our Ella Grace remembered and loved briefly), supported by a strong string bass and a male alto singer that complemented it all well, even if he is the usual headliner.

I was thinking about it this morning, and from our love falls all the rest. Because Justin and I love each other so much the things that need to be DONE happen. Justin and I are not two people in a business partnership who focus on the necssary accomplisments of marriage--cleaning, cooking, money, working, maintaining our relationship and relationships with friends and family. Because we love each other we fulfill those parts of life. It's like the Wanting/Needing-->Doing-->Being v. Being-->The Doing Gets Done-->The Wants and Needs Come Naturally model.

Our love gets things done--for each other and for others.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Home Sweet Home.... where?

Somewhere along the line Justin and I have both said that "home" is right next to each other. Cavalier with our love, we have each claimed that we didn't need to be in any particular city, with any particular roof over our heads, in any particular style of housing.

If we had known then that from Sunday, April 29, to Friday, July 6, 2007, we would spend so many days and nights outside San Diego, trading our usual school/work routine for hours spent in various health care facilities and our parents' homes, I wonder if we would have still gushed about nothing mattering but our ability to hold hands.

I suppose the proof that we meant it, and still do, is the fact that each other's presence calms us when we are in these places that are not really our home.

I am not convinced that it is truly funny that people who are not related to the people that aggravate each other in families find watching these families in action so funny. Somehow though, Justin revels in telling me that my parents and brother only annoy me because they are related to me by blood. He thinks they're very funny. He thinks it's cute. He says if I were watching him with his family I would think they were funny too--even though he would probably be annoyed.

I do not believe he has a very fair argument any longer.

But hey, right now I am equally annoyed by my husband and my dad. I like to be able to concentrate in relative quiet while I am writing, but Justin is blasting my parents' TV in the next room, while my dad wanders in and out of his office talking to me about Justin "watching nostalgic movies" that are "way before his time" (it's one of the first surf movies ever--obviously my dad hardly understands Justin's penchant for "watching hippies"). Here comes Dad again, talking to himself (no, me) about the neighbors' kids "getting to that age."

I can only imagine that he means he heard them fighting when he went into the backyard to smoke his pipe (after asking me where it was, as if I would have moved it....). I can't actually hear the kids over the surfer narrator on TV. Now my mom is offering to eat dinner in the den, so Justin and Dad can continue to watch TV.

Tomorrow we leave on our vacation. Just me and Justin.

Yes, a vacation. A period of time spent away from home wherein the vacationers enjoy the break from their routine.

Yet we cannot wait to sleep in our own bed. We crave routine.

I think though, that once we get on the road (cell phones off! like a good old fashioned vacation! I'm not even allowed to blog! (a rule I don't think I'm actually going to let Justin make for me) no contact with people who know us!), we will be fine with going north instead of south. Sure, we have recently spent two weeks away from San Diego, but obviously that was not a vacation (though I'm sure if we had regular jobs it would have swallowed our vacation time whole).

Home is where Justin is. And I can't wait until we get away from all the people who think one or the other of us is already home.

Estate Sales Suck

The best part of yesterday's sale was getting an incredibly dark tan on my arms and upper body because I was wearing a tank top and capris. The worst part was that we only sold some of Toni's cotton pants, a game, a couple of books and a badminton set.

The problem, I think, is that we are located on a street that I still have trouble finding, after almost six years of visiting this house. I wish this sale were on a main boulevard, but it's in the middle of one of those suburban mazes and I even got lost after I put up three signs yesterday.

So today, we have advertised again that for sale we have Lazy Boy recliners, a wooden chest, vintage and modern jeans of all sizes, T-shirts, a fan, Pampered Chef Bakeware for making gingerbread houses and trains, Avon car, truck and pretty shaped perfume and cologne containers, and board games for sale.

I'm sure it will make all the difference in the world.

In the meantime, I can't help but think I would have gotten more sleep and made more money if I were in San Diego working at Mo's instead.

But who cares. I'm up here in Lakewood and we got to BBQ with the combined families yesterday and then Justin and I went to a fireworks show with Brian and Terri. The show was spectacular. Brian said, "You're a real fireworks fan, aren't you?" because I was happy-clapping and grinning like a little kid. Plus I had hugs from Justin and that always makes things good.

Anyway, so far today we have had two customers and no buyers. I'm going to get my laptop out and work on some photography stuff soon. But first I'm going to internet blast the sale and also look up Long Beach vintage stores that might buy the jeans and some of the glassware.

Wish us luck.

Meanwhile, I wish I were in Thailand with Oakley to help her with her mom situation. I've gotten quite adept at taking care of dying women, and the language barrier would hardly matter since she's not really talking much at all.