The mall is a dangerous place 

I went to the mall today, the first time in months. I know that it isn’t good for me, I see stuff I want and things I think I need. I am usually broke or my money is already allotted for bills, either way I can’t spend it. 

I did buy something, a blue cotton rug for my room. I got it on sale at Dillard’s for $7. I went looking to see what kind of clothes are in the stores, not so much to buy but just to look. Then if I liked anything I saw to look for similar stuff at the thrifts. Or so I told myself. 

I didn’t make it beyond housewares. I had lunch before in the food court and it quickly and violently disagreed with me. I was in the bathroom a long time and all I wanted after was to take my clammy, queasy self home. Window shopping be darned.

It is the back to school season and though I haven’t been to school in years I still want new clothes. 

It’s also looking at my clothes, my jeans in particular and realizing they need to be replaced.  The hems of several pairs are fraying and they look worn, not in the intentional sense just old. 

I look like the Before in a makeover. 

I don’t want cheap trendy clothes or uncomfortable clothes or shoes. But I want updated versions of the stuff I have. A couple of pairs of jeans or pants, some new tops and dresses or skirts I can wear to Mass. My real quest is for dress shoes, low heeled but not geriatric. 

Though I never made it downstairs I did see some Pendleton luggage I really wanted. Though I have one 25 in. suitcase already, don’t plan to go anywhere and probably won’t need them, I was thinking how cool they looked. I even told myself they would be easy to find on the luggage carousel and I’d look good pulling them through an airport. They were on sale and it’s not likely I’d find all the pieces together again like this.  I could have bought the biggest suitcase or two of the smaller ones or I could pay my car insurance this month. I walked away before I started to think about it. Feeling lousy helped. So whatever made me sick today, I owe you. 

Maybe I don’t need car insurance. 

But I still need clothes. I like window shopping, it’s usually safe. I rarely buy anything. I am used to thrift store prices and freak out from sticker shock. Frankly most clothes, aside from underwear, are okay to buy used. When I worked at Lane Bryant I saw clothes sent to the dry cleaners to remove stains and even funk before they were put back on the floor. The idea that new clothes were pristine vanished. The main downside with thrift stores is a top, dress or pants will come in only one size or color, and if it is too small, big, long, short or a color I don’t like, too bad.  But I might consider something different because it’s less than $5 and if it doesn’t work I can donate it back. 

Even though the mall on the weekend is crowded, more hectic and prone to bad overhead music, I’m thinking about going back tomorrow.  I will avoid housewares, luggage, all stores and departments but women’s clothes. And the food court.

ANTICIPATION 

I am in a strange state of anticipation. It’s not a good place, anticipating something I want or to earn. Rather I am waiting, monitoring, the health of my mother-in-law and dad. Both are elderly, unhealthy and I am preparing myself for the inevitable. In other words, I am waiting for them to die.

I am not a vulture, ready to inherit money or their possessions. It’s likely I may have to contribute financially, especially for my mother-in-law who has no savings. What my dad leaves will be mostly memories and a lot of junk (sorry, dad) in the garage. I’m not rubbing my hands together in greedy anticipation. There will be stories, memories and pictures, those we will share and carry with us. I know this because I’ve been through this before. With Jerry and before with other relatives, I know what to expect and I want to be prepared, as much as it is possible to prepare.

I don’t mention this, of course. I look at my sisters and wonder what it will do to them when our dad goes. They were young when our mom died and it affected them for years after; they missed her when they graduated and got married, and when my nephew was born. Our dad was able to be there for those occasions at least y u how much longer? I know they think about this too.

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We all had lunch today with our dad; my sisters, their husbands, my nephew and me. It’s a rare thing for us all to be together but they made the effort because we all know our dad has one operating artery and there is nothing else the doctors can do but give him pills. He goes to his cardiologist on a monthly basis. He eats bacon and pork rinds without being scolded. While we were eating he casually mentioned the pastor he wants to do his funeral, he’s already asked him. I just swallowed some Diet Coke and choked a little. I know he’s made his arrangements, a military funeral and burial. I know, we all know, the funeral home handling the arrangements. He did this because he’s trying to be helpful, to make it easier on us when the time comes. My grandpa, my mom’s dad, did the same thing. Truly it did help but there are still details and hard moments, it isn’t easy. Grief is a layered business.

My mother-in-law is a contrast. She’s not planned for anything. Honestly I don’t blame her, denial is a pleasant place. She’s in Florida (God’s Waiting Room, she once called it) I talked to her and she was groggy on painkillers. She has heart problems too, but raises the stakes with a large blood clot in her left leg. She had surgery on her leg, the clot was bigger than they thought and now she’s recovering in a rehab facility. My brother-in-law is helpless and frankly useless. I ask him how she is, what the doctors said, what about her meds and treatment and he says she’s not good but that’s all the info he has. He’s never had to deal with stuff like this, I know he loves his mom but he isn’t a good advocate. Jerry did all that for them both, he was the steady and responsible one, taking care of them both from an early age. He’s not here now and neither of them seems to know how to cope, Ruth because she’s sick and weak and Mike because he never learned. Most of my info comes from Bear, who takes his dad’s role as protector seriously even when he’s 10,000 miles away. I dread getting a phone call from Bear about his grandma. I hope that when the time comes she isn’t hurting or alone and I hope someone is with my brother-in-law too. I am concerned that I may have to go to Florida, she once told us she was paying on a funeral plan with a funeral home but not sure she kept making payments and I don’t know its name.

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I don’t look forward to making arrangements, calling people, deciding whether to put it on Facebook (probably will for my dad), finding something to wear and dealing with the condolences, among other things. Been there, done that, don’t want to do it again but I know better.

Bear messaged me and said he is thinking of visiting soon. His wife’s Visa is still being processed and they don’t know when it will be ready. He says he might come anyway. He says he misses Fall but we both know the real reason; he wants to see them both and say goodbye.

Roughing it

I am not a fan of camping. I do not see living outdoors without modern conveniences to be a fun thing. My idea of roughing it is staying in a hotel without room service. 

So I am not taking well to having plumbing problems. My bathtub didn’t drain well for awhile, I would be in standing water after a shower. My dad noticed it too. We lived with it, complained about it to each other and muttered under our breaths. 

He got fed up and called a plumber from the phone book. Plumber came out, and according to my dad, stuck a crowbar down the drain and called it good. He took his $80 and left. When my dad went to check it out there was some evil looking sludge in the tub. 

Phone calls were made, the plumber came back, looked at the evil sludge and gave my dad an estimate for $1650.00. When I got home my dad was not happy. Neither was I, since I was looking forward to taking a shower. 

The sludge changed to a tub full of murky water. It looked evil and it smelled evil. I described it to my sister as “smelling like a nursing home.” I’m sure there are wonderful, sweet smelling nursing homes with honest, well-trained staff and well cared for patients but I’ve not run into them, that’s another issue for another time. 

I drained the tub using a bucket and plastic cup. It took me several stinky trips to dump these loads way in the back of the yard. All was well, for awhile. Unfortunately we still had to answer Nature’s Call and the tub backed up again. So I got the bucket and cup and started the process. I tried not to think about cholera and other diseases that ran rampant because of bad sanitation. 

 I wiped down the entire bathroom with bleach, which helped.  Then I wondered how people dealt with the smell, especially in summer. As much as I am fascinated by history I am glad, overall, that I live in the 21st century. 

I’ve left the house to go to the bathroom, including going outside at the river. I’ve taken “cat baths.” I just washed my hair in the kitchen sink. But I still have air conditioning and a microwave. It’s the closest I hope to come to camping. 

Walk hard

That is a thing. Sometimes walking is hard. I have not done my usual walking, due to life getting in the way. Porkchop was sick and then died. I just couldn’t, I didn’t feel it. Even though my body knew it should and it could, it wanted to stay inside and not move.  Then my dad was in the hospital, he had chest pain. We went to the ER, he was admitted, they ran tests, drew blood and he got to watch cable when they woke him up. He came home when the tests confirmed he had blockages, and only one functioning artery. Surgery was a high-risk low value option and he didn’t want it. While he was in hospital I mostly hung out there with my sisters and we got to enjoy the free Wi-Fi while he dozed. I didn’t walk then either. The temperature was in the 90’s and that didn’t help.

So I managed 2 days in a week and half, and this was an effort. Not just physically but mentally, I was aware of everything around me. It was hot, the sun beating on me with little breeze, and the distance seemed longer. I wondered if I should be there, besides the weather I was aware there were things I could or should be doing. I even felt the geese were judging me. More than usual.

I still miss Porkchop waiting for me at the door when I come home, see that weird empty space where his cat box was, and just miss him. I can hardly eat in my room because I keep waiting for a little gray paw to reach for my food. My dad is all right, relatively speaking. He’s dozing in his recliner with a bag of pork rinds next to him. Following a low salt diet only happens in the hospital and frankly it won’t help much anyway, it just annoys him.

Today I did my walk, I didn’t do the full distance I should have but came close, less than a mile short. I started early, it wasn’t hot yet and there was breeze. I brought a bottle of water and later wished I brought a second. It was good, better than I expected. I thought about last June, when I took off to see how far I could go and nearly gave myself skin failure and heatstroke. I didn’t walk 11 miles like that day but I didn’t have the rapid heartbeat or fatigue either. I’ve also learned to put one earbud in my left ear and the other one down the front of my shirt. I know clipping my phone holder on my left front helps too. These are little things that make a big difference.

The other change is I didn’t berate myself, tell myself that I suck, should be further along or failed. It’s an old pattern and an effort to not listen. I don’t like clichés but the journey, the walk, is the goal not just a number. Not how fast or how far I went.  I am starting to believe in it.

Cows! Police cows, I took this on the way back.

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Kitty

Porkchop was an excellent cat. He was really my son’s cat but after Bear moved to Asia consented to live with me. He was an old cat, I told my cousin he was 15 but when I thought about it, realized he was 20. If he were human he could vote.  EDIT: Porkchop was 16, not 20. I’m just losing it here.

He was sick, he started sitting in the tub during the day then his appetite declined. He stopped eating and I took him to the vet on Friday. He lost weight, had trouble standing and walking and then stopped using the cat box.  

The vet said he was anemic and they would run tests but didn’t sound encouraging. The tests showed he had kidney failure and his body was shutting down. His temperature was so low it didn’t register on the thermometer. I called Bear in Saigon and told him. He took it well but asked if I could bring his kitty home to die. I said I would try. I would go to the vet clinic in the morning and ask. 

Yesterday morning the receptionist ushered me and my cousin, who came for moral support, into an exam room. A vet tech came in and told us he had passed early that morning. I made arrangements to have him cremated, per his boy’s wishes. Later I cleared away his things and cleaned the cat box for the last time. It occurred to me later that Tuesday was the 3rd anniversary of Jerry’s passing and Porkchop passed four days after. I like to think of Jerry hearing his meow and looking down to see Porkchop and asking “When did you get here?”

What do people say about you

Something we wonder about, but may not want to hear. People talk, they see and judge, either in our favor or not. Their viewpoint may be skewed, taking offense when none was offered. They may judge us for things we never did, good and bad things alike. 

I try to keep a low profile,  not draw attention to myself and I think I succeed overall. I’m rather proud of my obscurity.

Last night my dad was talking to one of his nephews. He mentioned us, his daughters, and my ears went up like a Chihuahua’s when he said “the oldest one.”

So what did he say, my dad, a person who knows me fairly well and who lives in the same house?

He mentioned Jerry, saying he died 3-4 years ago (it will be 3  years in July). He said I’m alone and I go to a different church. My family are Southern Baptist and I’m Catholic, so that’s a bit of an understatement. 

My identity is based on my status as a widow. I’m alone. My sisters are married and he went on at length about their husbands. I got nothing. I am not angry or offended that my dad defines us by our marital status. Much. It’s the way he is, he is the product of a conservative rural background and another time. 

His nephew didn’t want a long detailed description of us, my dad just hit the high points, so to speak. I got off lightly. He could have been nicer but he could have been meaner too. I’m used to the Catholic thing. Though it bugs me that I’m labeled as less than because I don’t have a husband. 

Long walk

For me, anyway. For some people, short little hike, no big deal. I did my morning walk, I walk about 3 days a week and this is my longest walk of the week because I have more time. More time to do and to recover. 

I took a bottle of water, room temperature,  with me and I’m glad I did. It was awkward carrying it and I need to wear pants with pockets. Although it’s only 79 degrees F I am sweating like a politician on the witness stand. I even sweated off my eyebrows. 

Besides sweating a lot, I feel accomplished. It takes effort, just making myself get up and drive to the river was hard today. I knew I was going to do 6 miles and that I haven’t walked that far in almost a year. I managed 5 miles but one more was intimidating and a little frightening. I told myself I could do this, I could go slow, I could rest if I needed, it’s okay. 

I did stop once, to go pee between a couple of fir trees. Got pee on my leg, poked by a tree branch and hoped nobody saw me, especially the truck passing on the bridge on my left.  

As I turned around and started back I said “you’re more than halfway there.” I repeated it and checked off the streets and bridges as I passed them on my way back. Once I made it to my car and changed my shoes I began thinking about the other stuff I need to do today. After I conquered this, and I feel conquer is the right word, I feel like I can do anything now, today. 

 Yeah, I need to pluck those brows.