Monday at the hospital

I’m in a hospital waiting room. My sister had shortness of breath yesterday and I brought her to the hospital.  She was admitted and will probably be here a week.

I’m one of the few people who feel at ease in a hospital. I spent more than 10 years in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals with my husband and with various family members.  I can’t say I enjoy being around hurting, scared people, exhausted nurses and vending machine food but I’m used to it, I can cope. So that’s why I stayed with her most of yesterday and today. Why I’ll be back tomorrow and so on.  I am like Anne Elliott, the first one who is called when somebody is sick, it is expected of her as a spinster (widow in my case).

Not that I had stuff to do and I admit I would rather be here, to be on hand when the doctor comes, orders change and to ask questions. I did it for Jerry.

She is not used to being sick, forced to stay in bed, or follow orders.  She’s feeling better,  she was bored earlier because there wasn’t anything on TV.

But there is one difference.  She’s had visitors. Yesterday and today, people came to see her and pray over her. I’m glad, really but I am a little perturbed, not pissed but a tad upset. This is why.

None of this happened when Jerry died. No one came to visit me and Bear, we received a few cards but no visitors. No one came to check on us. Even though its been nearly two years I’m surprised I am still this resentful. Yes, nearly two years, in five months it will be two years.

It doesn’t change anything, today’s events or 19 months ago. I am glad she had visitors, it’s important to feel loved, to know people care. But it reminded me of how alone Bear and me are, and how it felt.

Mental

I’ve learned that those pumped up inspirational quotes and memes about the mental aspect of exercise and training are really true. I’ve known it on a superficial level for years but secretly considered most of it hype and hyperbole. The physical is more important; without the ability there’s no game, no results no matter how positive your mindset.  Or so I thought.

In the past I considered the mental aspect as that little voice pushing me to finish, to go harder, try a little more, a little longer. It was just positive thinking.

Ironically one reason I walked was it helped me deal with change. When Jerry died last year going for a walk was one way I could think and clear my head. The extra oxygen helped too. This year when my son told me he wanted to start walking we did, he started slowly but being younger he adapted quickly. Our distances increased and it gave us both something we needed, time to talk about things including his father. He told me his plans to go overseas again and by the time he left he had lost nearly 30 pounds. The only physical difference I noticed was my butt wasn’t as loose anymore.

This summer I was doing well, even going for little one and two minute sprints during my walks. Then there were some big changes: my son left to work in Vietnam, I left my job, and I moved. So I stopped walking, it was time-consuming and I had to pack and sort Jerry’s things. There were more important things to do. Being summer it was also hot, even in the evening it was in the 90’s..

I quit for two months, then started again in a half-hearted way. Sometimes I walk three times a week, sometimes just once. I gave up yoga because I couldn’t afford it anymore.  I’ve been lazy, finding reasons to not walk. I can, I know I need to and I know it’s good for me but I can’t find the motivation to go.  This is when I learned that mental strength is important , without the will there is no way the body will follow. It’s a heckuva way to learn a lesson.

I walked today, a short walk, because I was forced. I put on my walking clothes this morning  thinking it would push me into going. It didn’t, I made some weak excuse and it wasn’t until my sister pointedly asked me if I was going to walk, so shamed into it I did. I still didn’t feel like it, the day was warm but there was a cold wind blowing. I went anyway,  I felt better after but I know I’m a long way from being where I need to be mentally. If I can get that back the physical part will be easy.

Being realistic

I hate being realistic when it is depressing and the result isn’t what I want. Yet I know I have to face facts, truth and be prepared for what may come.

My future is like a rickety swinging rope bridge. I have to cross it, what lies on the other side might be good or might be lousy. But crossing that bridge comes first and I have no choice in the matter. I can’t look down, can’t go back or stop in the middle.

Right now I’m aware of how fragile my situation is. I’m unemployed, living at my sister’s house, and have no idea what I’m supposed to do or where to go. Also a widow. So I got all that going for me. The only creature who has any faith in me is a chubby Chihuahua. The cat gives me side looks and I swear sometimes he shakes his head at me.

image

What I hope for is to have a good life. To move to a city that accepts rather than tolerates a nutty old broad like me. Where there is interesting stuff like bookstores, opera companies, and museums. Somewhere I can breathe, but I’m afraid that’s not my future

I know what lies ahead, at least the most likely scenario. It’s not great but not terrible,  just mediocre. I’m trying to psyche myself up for it so I’ll be ready.

I see myself coming home from my job, going up some stairs, walking my dog and reading a book before going to bed and starting it all over again. I’ll go to Mass on Sunday, and not much else. In some ways I’ll be withdrawing from the world. But that’s my plan, while I hope to make friends I know I will depend on my own company most of the time. I know it sounds lonely. But there’s not much here for me, my interests and my politics don’t fit in here, and being an introvert I’ve got all the qualifications to be a hermit. I’m reconciled to the idea even if it seems depressing.

I will have my freedom and independence, hopefully a long time. I won’t have to do things I don’t enjoy if I don’t want to.  Being an old broad gives me that privilege. It comes with a price, being alone and occasionally lonely but I know what to expect. Better to go into it knowing than not.

dealing with disappointment

I feel like Inigo. I have had job interviews but no job offers, mostly because I tell them that I’ll be gone for 2 weeks over Christmas. Which also means the only income I have is my savings, which was another debacle. A regular transfer took 2 weeks to complete, something that normally took 2 days and I had to see my bank account overdrawn for several days knowing I could do nothing about it. I would consider going into the revenge business myself, if only I could wield a sword.

Besides being friendless, broke and unemployed (but at least not in Greenland) I am watching over my sister while she suffers with cirrhosis. It’s not something she’s thrilled about either, she has swelling in her abdomen and feet, hurts and spends most of her time trying to rest or sleep. We may be taking her back to the hospital, 3 hours away. I’m disappointed in that because the town where the hospital is located doesn’t have a Sonic; the closest Sonic is 20 miles away. And now my dad learned an old friend has passed away, the funeral is next Sunday, he’ll probably want to go though it’s 2 hours away. I may have to drive him.

I spent a year and half being a caregiver to my great-aunt, six months of that I spent every day at her house. I even left my job. It was the hardest and longest time of my life, between her and Jerry I was tired and most nights after I left my aunt’s house I cried while I drove home. I have a sense of dread it’s starting over again, it’s beginning to smell like deja vu. My dad watches most of the same shows my aunt did and now he’s even sitting in her old recliner.

This month is Jerry and my anniversary. We never did big things, no trips, no parties. We usually had dinner somewhere, gave each other cards and maybe a gift. In those early years Bear was little and we were broke. Even when Bear was older we rarely went out because Jerry wasn’t up to it. But he always remembered and I knew to expect a card, he usually put it out before I got up in the morning. I am sorry to admit I’ve thrown away most of those cards, each time we moved I tossed things that seemed like clutter. I still have a few, somewhere in those boxes in storage. Last year there was no card and though I knew I was still disappointed. There will be no card this year either, I plan to go out to eat somewhere. Last year I didn’t feel like it but this year I think I will.

Just crap

That describes so much: my mood, my general situation and possibly what I’ll have for lunch.

I  am accepting that I probably won’t find a job until the first of the year, at the earliest. That’s at least 2 months, 2 more months of being broke, feeling like a loser and bum, 2 more months of nothing. My sister is letting me stay with her and I’m kicking in some for the bills, from my savings which are slowly dwindling down. Like feeling sand slowly slipping through your fingers, down your palm and disappearing. Gravity and life pulling it down and away, nothing can be done, it just is.

Telling a potential employer I am leaving the country for 2 weeks around Christmas is not helping my cause. I had a job interview 2 weeks ago and really hoped I might get it but I didn’t, it was retail, working in a bookstore. Christmas is the busiest most intense time of the year and telling them that I couldn’t make it sabotaged my chances. Telling them I was a cannibal wouldn’t have been as bad.

Interviews have been scarce. I’ve had only 3, and I’ve been looking in Seattle for 4 months and here for 2 months. It is discouraging. Yet I have hope the law of averages will be on my side and eventually I’ll find something I can live with, live on.

I have been unemployed before, for a year I looked for a job before I found one. It was different then, Jerry was here then. He told me it was okay, told me not to worry or feel badly. He seemed to like being able to take care of me and Bear. And it was socially acceptable, being a married woman who didn’t work, very traditional. People didn’t automatically think I was a parasite or loser. Jerry even encouraged me when I got frustrated and impatient with the whole job process.

This time is different. It sucks big time. I’m more aware of how alone I am now, except for my sister who is letting me crash on her couch, there’s no backup or support system this time. Although the couch is technically mine the house it is inside is hers ( and partly mine too, thanks to our aunt’s convoluted estate). But I know I have to look after myself and the pets. I can’t look to Jerry to pay rent or give me money for groceries. He isn’t here to tell me it’s going to be okay, that he believes in me.

Which is another reason this sucks. I feel like I’m letting him down too, that I’m not as strong or smart as he thought.

Tomorrow is a 5K I signed up for a month ago. I wasn’t as bummed and still walking and going back to yoga. I felt better. But I haven’t been walking as much and went to my last class last night, I can’t afford yoga anymore. I will do the race, and it will be the last one til I can afford the luxury again.

Shepherd’s Crown ( a book review and warning)

This is more like a public service announcement instead of a book review.

I finished reading Terry Pratchett’s last book, The Shepherd’s Crown and had mixed feelings about it. Pratchett wrote it before he died, he suffered from Alzheimer’s and took his own life earlier this year. He had been an advocate for the right-to-die movement and even wrote editorials arguing to change the laws in Great Britain. Assisted suicide is still illegal even though Pratchett killed himself with the knowledge and consent of his family and friends.

Shepherd’s Crown is the final book in his Tiffany Aching series, which was originally a trilogy. It’s a Young Adult book but might be categorized as Fantasy, Sci-Fi or even fiction depending on the bookstore or library’s whims. I enjoyed this book but I want to keep people from buying it and reading it.

If you see this book and think “I’ll just get this for my friend/family member who is still hurting and in  mourning, who needs a good laugh and distraction from grief” do not do it. I repeat, do not do it. Step away from the book. Put. It. Down. Now. Even if this is a person who loves Pratchett, fantasy, good strong female characters and puns, walk away from this book.

One of the best loved (and feared) characters in Discworld dies. Pratchett kills Granny Weatherwax, a old wise woman. Though she’s officially a witch she’s not the typical Macbeth/Halloween witch though she does wear a pointy hat. She’s not satanic or evil, there’s none of that here and she would be offended by the thought. Granny Weatherwax is a midwife, healer, herbalist and leader. She doesn’t do nice, she does what’s needed. She is a badass. I love her and she reminds me of my Aunt Donnie, who passed away 5 years ago. And that’s why I don’t want anyone in mourning reading this book, especially someone mourning a mother or grandmother. Anyone mourning anyone really, fresh mourning and grief are way too raw to read this book. Even if the person is a Pratchett or Tiffany Aching fan, suggest they re-read some other Pratchett book. If you are the person in question leave this book alone for awhile, trust me on this.

Granny Weatherwax’s death is handled beautifully and with care. Pratchett loved Granny too; he even dedicated Shepherd’s Crown to her. She faces her last day without fear, she knows what’s coming and prepares herself for her visit from Death and his horse Binky. She even makes her own casket and stakes out her resting place. She makes this painful event as efficient for those left to find her body and bury her. She even leaves a note, a will actually, on her chest. I cried reading these pages. They come at the beginning. The death of Granny Weatherwax is felt throughout the entire book, showing how a person’s life can affect people and events long after they have gone.

The simple descriptions of what she does and how Death finally comes was hard for me to read. It was very like what happened when Jerry died. He had a peaceful death, at home, and died sometime in the early hours, like Granny. It was difficult to read because my Second Thoughts were that Pratchett was dying when he wrote her death and how he faced his own mortality by sharing it with the world. Reading Granny’s death was painful and dredged up hurts I thought had gone away. Jerry passed away 15 months ago and I know there’s no way I could have read this any earlier. I hope no one starts this book thinking they can detach their own pain and grief, telling themselves that because Granny isn’t a real person it won’t be so bad. It is. It will. Put. It. Down.

What happens after Granny dies is going to be familiar. It’s like being poked with a stick, over and over, pointing out this detail and that reaction, in case you forgot, From not getting time to really grieve, like Tiffany and Nanny Ogg to dealing with troublesome people like Mrs. Earwig, it will be real.

There are feegles, fairies and jokes,even a passing Python reference, it isn’t grim throughout. Those things make the loss bearable but the loss is still felt and touches everything in some way. This isn’t a sad or depressing book, it is funny and has some great moments, great lines and there’s Pratchett’s cleverness. I will probably re-read it at a later date but only when I’m ready. I don’t know when that will be.

I’m going to listen to the rest of the Wings-Oilers game now.

Sleepless in Seattle revisited

I talked to a friend of mine tonight, she was checking on me and that surprised me in a way. She’s one of the very few who will ask. I’m beyond the one year mark of widowhood, according to society I should be healed up and okay again. Which brings me to something that disturbed me far more than it probably should.

I’ve wanted to move to Seattle but I’m still here, 2000 miles away. I’ve been bored, frustrated and getting depressed over many things. So I decided to watch Sleepless in Seattle as an escape, it’s a light romantic comedy, it unites being a widow/widower and moving to Seattle. I needed to kill some time and feel a little better, at least temporarily. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.

What I remember as a sweet little romantic movie is about a stalker who targets a man and then lies to a man who genuinely loves her and breaks some laws and compromises her ethics. Also it shows how easy it is for a person who lost his spouse to heal and start dating because people tell him he should.

I didn’t remember Meg Ryan abusing her job as a newspaper reporter to track down and spy on poor Tom Hanks and his precocious kid. In those early Internet days it was harder to do but she lies about her identity and credentials and gets away with it. She even flies across the country and takes pictures of him without his consent. She has a brief moment of doubt, that she might be a bad person but Rosie O’Donnell as her relentlessly supportive pal tells her nah, she’s not. Crisis resolved and she lies to poor Bill Pullman, whose only crime is he’s a little dull and not Tom Hanks, who believes all the crap she tells him. Meg being a lying morally questionable person I’d say Bill dodged a bullet there when she tells him ON VALENTINE’S DAY she thinks she loves somebody else, she has to go but hey, no hard feelings. Man, I felt so bad for Bill, who has to suck it up and smile while Meg runs off leaving him with the check, having to explain to all those family members and friends, cancel their registration at Tiffany’s and deal with being dumped. If I was Bill I’d make Meg take responsibility for all that stuff and explain herself.

As much as Meg bothered me Nora Ephron’s treatment of Tom Hanks’ grief bothered me a lot more. At first we see him and his son standing alone at his wife’s funeral, awkward post funeral visits and conversations with well-meaning married friends (ironically played by Tom Hanks’s real wife and Victor Garber, who I was almost dementedly gleeful to see now I know he’s gay and that changes how I see their scenes). A co-worker tries to help, giving him a card for a support group and Tom pulls out a stack of other cards he’s received and goes off on the poor guy. He imagines talking to his wife, even sees her and when he describes her to Dr. Nora (I get it, Nora, Dr. Nora, ha) there’s longing in his voice. He’s hurting, mourning and that’s understandable. It’s totally reasonable and realistic.

Then when he’s leaving for Seattle Rita Wilson tells him he’ll start dating again. He snaps that he’ll grow a new heart and she makes a weak apology that nobody believes. But that’s what happens.He’s had a whole two years to mourn and it’s time to snap out of it, to get on with his life. So he asks Rob Reiner about it and the next thing we see is him asking out a woman for a date. That it’s done with “Back in the Saddle Again,” by Gene Autry in the background makes it worse.

None of these well-meaning dolts have lost a spouse, have any experience with this kind of loss and all glibly assume he’s ready because he’s had two years of being depressed and gloomy and they are tired of it. I imagine Nora Ephron felt the same; the time limit on his grief was up and of course he would be ready and willing to “get back out there.”  Seeing a sad man who misses his wife doesn’t say romantic comedy so we fast-forward past all that stuff and get to the fun part, what we came to see. The happy ending. We don’t see Tom going through her things, boxing them up and sending them to charity, we don’t see him looking at pictures of them or of her when he packs to go to Seattle, we don’t see Tom explaining his wife is gone to his son’s teachers, to neighbors and other people who haven’t heard. We don’t see much of his son’s grief either, which really bothered me. He’s a little sad but besides a bad dream he’s okay and eager to replace the mother he lost rather than remember her. I didn’t think about those things when I first saw this movie but I do now. Granted it would be a buzzkill, having to see some of their hurt and tears but editing those parts out left me feeling cheated.

And when Tom starts dating, that made me cringe. It was fairly easy, he asked a woman and she said yes. They began dating and there was no guilt or reluctance on Tom’s part about starting a new relationship. The woman also made me cringe but the reasons why changed. Years before it was because she seemed phony, had an annoying laugh and bad hair. Now it was because I saw her as sad and desperate to please, to find and latch onto a man because she didn’t want to be alone. Her hair was still bad.

Even though I didn’t like Tom’s girlfriend I felt badly for her too. Being stood up because Tom’s son runs away in a attempt to foil his dad’s weekend with her as well as to find his new mother must have sucked for her. But having him show up later with Meg Ryan, I’d love to see Tom explain all this to her. I bet it still would have been less mean and selfish than Meg’s goodbye to Bill. I like to think that maybe somehow Tom’s girlfriend and Bill got together and had their well-deserved happy ending.

The ending which made me sigh now made me want to shake Tom by the shoulders and warn him about Meg. Yeah, you totally trust this strange woman holding your kid’s teddy bear, whom you feel warm happy feelings for but know nothing about. You at least recognize her as the nutcase in the middle of the road who nearly gets run down by a truck. It’s a sign, Tom. Run, take your kid and run back to Seattle. And tell Rob Reiner and everyone who says you need to do things you may not be ready for to shut up and go away.