Life is so very short

I am a very lucky girl.  On my fortieth birthday, I spoke with my father over the telephone.  At the end of our conversation, I ended our conversation with, “I love you.”  He replied, “I love you, too”.  It was the last thing he said to me, my dad unexpectantly died that night.

A friend of mine recently passed away.  She left us without surprise.  What she left was a large family and a long 97-year life of love and many friends who came and went before her, numerous still remain.    Phyllis Bacalis was one of the best people I have met in the twenty-one years I have lived in Colorado and in all of my 66 years.  She had a way about her. A person could not help but be swept away in her sincere charm.  She was kind, generous, honest, smart.  She taught me acceptance.  She showed me there is a difference in what matters and what to let go of.  When my heart was broken at other losses, she was there to comfort me.  She knew the pain of losing a loved one, more than I could ever imagine.  Many times she would lament, “I just want to go be with my Paul”. (Her husband who passed before her).

I had the distinct privilege of being an in-home caregiver to her. Everything I did for her was appreciated.  Anything anyone gave to her she appreciated with great joy.  I do believe she kept every single card and gift ever given to her.  Anything I picked up of which had been a gift to her, Phyllis would reminisce the occasion and the person, telling me something wonderful about them.  The only time she grumbled was at the squirrels in her back yard which went after the seed in the birdfeeders or a bad golfer going after their ball onto her property.  They had crossed the line.

She rarely ventured into self-pity, and despite her physical pain, she complained very little. At most, she would say, “Oh, me” and then move on to another and better thought.  She found reasons to appreciate life in the wildlife venturing about her property, the flowers growing in the planters, birds swooping in for seed, and just being on her back porch in the summertime meant much to her.  If it seemed she didn’t understand, it was because of her impaired hearing.  She was brilliant, hers was a very sharp mind. Each time I went into her home to care for her, the way she expressed her appreciation to see me won my heart over and over again. For that reason, I could not do enough for her.

Phyllis Bacalis quietly taught me many things in the ways she was Phyllis.  For her, I would like to tell you to always be grateful, always find a way to express love and joy.  Let the small stuff go, be kind to one another because life is much too short.

Phyllis will be missed.  I went to see her just a few days before she went to be with her Paul.   I’m a very lucky girl. As I turned to leave I blew her a kiss and said, “I love you,”.  And she said to me, “I love you, too”.

 

 

A letter I will not mail

I’ve learned the hard way, the growing up way not to send every letter I write.  There have been many I have shredded, trashed, rendered unreadable in ways most likely to insult you.  A famous Coloradan burned a letter during a period of drought.  Fires were banned across the state.  People were warned against having a campfire.  The famous person torched theirs at a campsite in the National Forest and ended up torching 138,114 acres of land, stretching across four counties, resulting in 8 deaths and the loss of millions of dollars in property losses and time in Jail.  We still see the scars, miles upon miles of mountainous terrain slowly coming back to life, never to be what it once was, at least in my lifetime.

I’ve been tempted to write a letter to an entity, a person of whom has trampled on my soul.  Their behavior so unpolite I am without the nerve to match the effort.  That and it is just not my style to lower myself to their standard of social interaction.

Even though time has marched past in a rhythm normal to daily life, I find my own thoughts from time to time, stuck in the audacity of their unkind actions.  Writing that unsendable letter could help me to cleanse my head and be rid of the past.  It’s just that I have done so, because of the same folks numerous times, yet here they come again.  And they will be back, clueless as usual to my seeming indifference to what they have to say or do.  I do not respond to their emails, invitations, expectations I should accept their insensitive behaviors and join them in the dramatic, traumatic pace of their lives.   We all have downs and ups, gains and losses, challenges and effortless wins.  Yet, in their minds, other people do not matter.  Nada, nothing, zip.  Their lives should have more value to me than my own, it appears.

So, I won’t go there. There are too many others glad to see me, happy to hear from me.  Curious and caring enough to really listen to how I am doing.  Thank Goodness for them.

 

 

The shoe drops

Finally, someone brave took action. Thank goodness for the sake of goodness. My head said ENOUGH is ENOUGH. Someone has to step up, stare down the blob of blonde (this week) and take them on. This is OUR country. The country has been crying for the blatant abuse of position to come to an end. Finally, I again feel hope our Democracy will survive. Its been 3 long years.

A New Moon

The magic bullet! I’d prayed for it, long ago, back when I was a chubby girl. Why did I have to endure the slow metabolism gifted to me? Life was painful. I was bullied everywhere I went excepting church and Girl Scouts. I would wish and wish for the overactive thyroid the underfed bullies seemed to have. Fifty some years later, I got my wish.

There are times I feel as if a lamprey clings to my throat, sucking and sucking the last breath and word out of me. It is difficult to speak, swallow, think.

The warm spring season is to me oppressively hot. Everyone it seems to exult in the fair temperatures. I want to bite their heads off, this is Death Valley to me. Sensitivity to temperature is an understatement.

I have lost weight without trying. Muscle mass is being replaced with empty skin. Strands of hair clog the drain, hairbrush, carpet my bathroom floor. Brittle ends fly in the air with the Zodiac dust. One pass of a pocket comb my hair hangs lifeless as a straw broom.

I sleep in the afternoon, a fitfull thing. Perhaps I rest to get a break from the headache I’ve had for a month, maybe longer. The left eye has the sensation of a baseball bat pushing it from behind, sort of like an ice cream headache without the actual treat.

A walk uphill and my heart is pounding. It takes about four steps up to kick into overdrive, a very long time to slow down. My stomach joins in, a hammering duet of bodily discomfort. Sometimes I feel faint. The world swirls around. I grab anything tied down: the counter, staircase railing, a tree, brick wall, anything. This is not the life I expected of my body. I thought thin would be easy. Not a joyride at the carnival at all.

Look up symptoms of hypothyroidism. I have experienced all except a goiter. Two weeks from now I will have a nuclear test to get a good look see of the beast in my throat. Yippee. I wonder if I will glow in the dark. Shut off all the lights: on night of the new moon you may see me.

Rusty sled

We had a red saucer

Rusty, beat up hitting trees

Thrown around

Tossed about

The random slide down

Man-made hill

Who knew where what how

the trip would end.

 

Boredom ruled the life I lived.

Day in day out no fun

No friends.

 

They took me sledding a Sunday night

End the week start the next

A pinch of joy,

Laugh, smile!

Dad in the saucer

holding on tight

Mom pushes him gently

Down  he goes, a tiny spin

A little circle

They do this for me.

 

My turn, frozen unable to play

Weeping, tears slalom down my chubby face

They ask questions, I don’t know why.

Rusty thrown in the trunk another dent

We go home silent.

 

They are gone these

Many snowfalls

Each one I see them,

Agile willing parents waiting, patient.

The answer arrives sixty some later

I cried for them, their offering, Love.

Back to the hilltop

rooted in place

a small tree growing in place,

Never leaving the spot,

I wish to run

Throw my arms around them,

Thank them for their love.

 

 

 

 

RADON

I was living in the Florida Keys the first time radon entered my vocabulary. A wildly improbable concept, radioactivity seeping up through the earth invading living spaces in that area of the world. Thanking my lucky stars for where I resided,  I went about my life ignoring the need for a radon test in my home.

I have been living in Colorado for 20 years. I’m rethinking the need to test for radon. Having fled the gray gloomy skies of the Great Lakes I have managed to keep Seasonal Affective Disorder at bay by living in beautiful sunny places. Sure, I have incurred little specks of benign skin cancer. My Gynecologist informed me sunblocks have been shown to increase the incidence of pelvic fractures. Gonna need a big hat, like that of Large Helmet in SPACEBALLS. My sunglasses haven’t stopped sunny skies growing cataracts (my last eye exam showed 13 growing in one eye). Cataracts were probably going to happen regardless.f soils, geology, structures. His work took him spelunking crawl spaces  holes in the earth. An otherwise healthy looking fellow who hardly looked the part of someone who would later be a victim of the Big C. He fought for his life; chemo, stem cell, radiation therapies, etc and zoomed through a bucket list to dream of. A pretty penny spent in the battle, he left behind 6 kids, a large number of friends and relatives who thought the world of him. He is missed, his widow misses him most.

I decided to get a Radon test kit and it is collecting from my basement as I write. We have lived in this house for 10 years. In that time three of our cats have become very ill before I had to make that heart-wrenching decision to let them head for the Rainbow Bridge.  When I get there to collect my kitties there is going to be a heck of a catfight over me. Woohoo!

I’ve had this weird ache on my ribs, feels like a bruise. Oh well, this too shall pass, I thought and maybe it will. However, the area has expanded from one to several on my right side. Should I roll onto my right during sleep, I am going to wake up.  Last week I was fatigued, often nauseated.  I felt short of breath and really funky on a Sunday Drive to Cripple Creek, something I usually don’t even blink at. Probably altitude sickness.   So what’s up with the hypochondriac party?  Why the Radon concern?

Silver Sneakers sends me newsletters via email.    I read one recently that noted the symptoms of lung cancer.  Pain in the ribs was one of them. Fatigue, nausea, yup.  Those too.  How do non-smokers manage to contract lung cancer?  Exposure to asbestos, second-hand smoke, living or working around areas of extreme pollution or carcinogens, exposure to radon.  Some of my neighbors have radon disseminators installed for their home.  The house directly across the street has one.  I can just about hear the Geiger counter ticking away, crackling like the snap crackle pop of a breakfast cereal.

I have made the decision not to put myself through the rigors of Chemo, the depletion of funds for other therapies and copays.  There isn’t money for retirement the way the tv commercials depict people my age.  I won’t be out daysailing, kayaking the days away in the Polynesian Islands, basking on the beaches of the Carribean.  I will work until I am no longer alive or able to work.  It just is a tough reality.  Money has never come very easily to me.

My bucket list was completed long ago.  I’ve lived on a sailboat, had my dream job, married my best friend, took my dream vacation, own my dream car.  The last time I spoke to my father I told him I loved him.  I apologize as quickly as I realize the need to do so.  I’ve learned to smile and smile most of the time.  I do not carry guilt around.  I still practice random acts of kindness.  I wish I had time to pick up all the litter I see trashing up our beautiful earth.  Please and thank you flow out of me when appropriate.  I rarely worry. I like the warm fuzzy feeling of being at home on Sunday nights. I learned to meditate.  I can say no to doughnuts.

The bucket is shallow: install a radon disseminator if need be and get some life insurance.  Make sure all my ducks quack in synchrony.  Get a chest x-ray.  In that order.  Maybe I just need to work out more often, pick up some weights.  Go dancing again.  I hesitate to say out loud that I think I may have cancer. I don’t want to worry anyone, burden them with concern.   The logical part reminds me of the advice my Grandpa would offer in the face of worries, “Don’t put the cart before the horse”.

I sure do hope I just need to go dancing.

 

Seasons Greetings and a rant

Janet on Santa's lap

I was a happy toddler.  Many a time my mom would recollect with melancholy how as a baby I would laugh endlessly and oh, what happened to me?  She’d scolded me to stop laughing somewhere around the age of 9.  Her anger was so deep and everpresent I did stop laughing.  There was not a deep enough breathe I could hold to float above her unhappiness and stay out of the danger of being punished for exhibiting joy.

You may think what follows to be unkind of me.  It’s been 27 years since she asked why did I stop the laughter.  Poor mom.  She’d suffered from Parkinson’s disease had become bedridden.  I sat at her bedside and fessed up she’d told me to stop.  She was mortified.

I believe that until that moment she had forgotten the miserable battle ax she was at one time.  Obese, her unhappiness selfishly furnished the little bungalow our poverty-stricken life afforded us.   I was an obese child from the age of 6.  Bullied everywhere I went, school, outdoors, the neighborhood and yes, even at home, she was just as much a tormentor to me as anyone else.  One day she found her way, discovered Weight Watchers and drove across Detroit to the other side of the tracks to lose weight and not be hungry.  It worked, way back in the old days as we at WW like to recall, when we made our own ketchup, substituted canned bean sprouts for pasta, ate liver once a week,  fish five, added no fats, sugars, starches, sweets, and ate specific foods in specific amounts.  She weighed everything on a tiny little scale she even took with her to restaurants.  Seventy-two pounds dropped off of her and she suddenly became a happy person.  I was suddenly seen as the grudge-a-mudgeon she and the rest of life had trained me to be.  Good lord.

She tricked me into joining Weight Watchers.  For a while, I succeeded.  Then I got distracted, I missed eating like a normal person, the skinny kids around me had sandwiches made with two slices of bread.  My sandwiches were made with one slice of toast that was then sliced or shall we say cloned in two pieces from top to bottom so that the bread appeared to be two separate slices.  I took enough hounding at school about my cracker sandwiches I would eat my lunch in the toilet stall so no one would see me struggle with the 4 ounces of tuna fish mixed with dried onion flakes and French’s mustard.  I often recall this regimen when taking a pee.

I did start to “cheat”, taking a taste of this, a dab of that, a bite of a candy, cookie, cake, ice cream, etc.  letting the little food scale go over slightly, or using heaping tablespoons instead of a level measurement.  But I was hungry, I just didn’t really understand what I was hungry for.   Sometimes, if the item fell out of my hand, I would remind myself God was watching, and watching out for me.  I spit out a lot of this and that tidbits.  Call me a spiritual anorexic who was not thin.  Just fucking hungry.

Because I’d been cheating, my weight stopped its decline and I held steady at a weight I wasn’t taunted for yet not trim enough to get a boyfriend.  Mom, who had been recruited by Weight Watchers to open and lead groups on our side of the tracks, decided to put me on the adult program with a LOT LESS food to eat.  That didn’t help.  It did save me from having to chew.  Growing even hungrier, I cheated more.  When I earned a driver’s license she would allow me to take myself to the Weight Watchers meetings for teens and children.  She would check to see I’d checked in and with a heavy sigh not understand why I wasn’t losing weight.   In hindsight, I see I was an unhappy child who was hungry for love, approval, and the opportunity to make some of my own choices.  I also needed a good laugh.

During true adulthood, I finally gave up being stubborn and joined Weight Watchers, determined to lose the weight.  I did. Not easily I made it to goal weight and earned Lifetime Member status thirty-seven years ago.  I struggle to keep it off, and that struggle is my own doing when I submit to drinking wine as if it counts pointwise like water, eat ice cream as if there is no caloric value to it, and frost my toast with enough Smart Balance it just isn’t smart anymore.

A niece of mine died suddenly on a Friday the thirteen this year.  I proceeded to drown my sorrows and grief in an ocean of wine and ice cream.  A late friend of mine who had been a recovered alcoholic for a number of years before he too passed, put his finger on it for me when I explained to him my unmistakable hangover as a result of having to send my cat of 16 years to wait for me at the Rainbow Bridge.  “You just don’t want to feel the pain, do you?” he observed.  I will always be grateful to him for that wisdom.

I knuckled down to WW (as Weight Watchers is now known)  when my jeans were fitting too snug and too short.  I didn’t want to feel the pain, but I was feeling the pain of not being comfortable in my clothing, or in my skin.  September 30th I went back to the meeting place to show up more than occasionally and get back the feeling of confidence I have as no longer the fat kid in the house, on the block, in the class, in the troop, in the hood, in the pool, on the earth.  I made my goal weight yesterday and damn, it sure feels good.

So here I am, and you are probably wondering about why Santa and I are featured on the page.  It is that most wonderful time of the year and I can feel that same smile I had on my face when the photo was taken.  I could use a good laugh but I will settle for being content.

Oh, and by the way, Mom apologized.