Wednesday, July 9, 2014

In The Heat of Summer, Two Marital Moments

In case you haven't seen us in a while, here we are!

Yesterday I left the kids at home, idling in their summer torpor, and met Matt for lunch. After a pleasant interlude, we were walking out, and I said, "Do you like my toenails?" I gestured to my blue polish, which I thought was rather jaunty.

"Yes," he said.

"I did that myself, because I am frugal," I said.

"That's what passes for being frugal now?" he asked.

"Well," I explained, "With tip, it would have been $25 if I'd paid someone to do it."

"Well," he replied, "You could pay someone to wipe your ass."

Um? If anyone can penetrate the labyrinthine convolutions of this husband-logic, please elucidate. Because I was all, whut, and then like, sweetie, I love you so much that I want you to savor this moment of makin' your point and being right, right here on the sidewalk. Zing! Only what I actually said was, "Uhhh...." But it was in there, in the silence maybe.


Last week we were on vacation in the Berkshires. Matt's brother and my lovely sister-in-law have a lake cottage, and we all crammed ourselves into it for a wonderful week of reading and swimming and doing nothing. One night, as Matt and I climbed into bed in our little white bedroom, it struck me that we had spent the entire day side-by-side and were now tucking in to spend several hours in a row right up against each other.

I said, drowsy, "It's nice that we don't get sick of each other."

"Yes," he said. "And for whatever reason, I've decided my highest purpose in life is to please you."

"I like all of that," I said, "Except for the 'for whatever reason.'"

And he laughed with a self-congratulatory giggle that rolled out the open window, wafted through the cool night air, and disturbed some nesting loons, possibly.

That is what's up around here. I'll be back. Meantime, I hope there's somebody who wants to please you. xoxo

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

After So Long, A Sad Update

Hey friends. Carol (my beloved Normal Neighbor to this blog), died on May 1. She had been diagnosed with colon cancer at the start of 2011, and there were lots of ups and downs and calm periods and crises, and finally it was all too much, and there was nothing else to do. I'm breaking my blog silence to tell you about it because today, her mother called me, and I went over to Carol's house, and she gave me my old wig back. It was the wig I wore four years ago and had given to Carol a while ago. But she also gave me another wig Carol got for herself, one I'd gone with her to pick out. So somehow I lent one wig and got two back. She handed me the bag with the wigs, and I looked down inside it, and in that moment, it was just so much living for one day that writing about it really seemed like the only possibility.

Right after we found out her time was short, I talked to her best friend, who had just spent the whole day with her. "How was she?" I asked. I wanted to know if she talked about dying and in what way. The whole three years of her illness and treatment, we never talked about dying and we fully embraced a narrative of cure and healing, that she would do these painful, arduous, or merely pesky things and then finally be free of it all. But with that narrative taken away, I wanted to know how she was facing it. Her friend said, "Oh, we didn't talk about any of that. We talked about normal things. She wants to get the bathroom retiled." We laughed. But I thought, if that were me, I would want to talk about it. I'd want for someone to say, "This is happening and it's real."

When I got to talk to Carol myself, in the midst of her telling me about the hospice facility she would eventually go to, I said, "How did we get here so fast?" And we both started to cry, the first time we ever cried together. Because always before there was a hope, or a meal to organize, or a thing to be done, or something else to be said. But not anymore. And she said, "I know, how?" I said, "I just wanted you to have a good summer." She told me that she didn't want to die at home, because she didn't want the house to be gloomy forever for her kids, and I said that I totally got that. Then we talked about each of her kids and agreed that everything would be okay. And then I was squeezing my face together and trying not to make any noise because I wanted to hear her talk. And she said, "Of course I want more time, but you know...I don't want to just hang around."

The very last time I saw her, she was still at home, and we didn't talk about any of that. I hugged her and sat with her for about five minutes. She was sitting up and dressed, and we chatted about where I was off to next. I don't know, something insignificant. It is a lot harder to think of meaningful things to say than it should be. I think I told her I loved her. Or maybe that had been on the phone. Then a few days later she was sleeping most of the time, and then she was admitted as an inpatient, and then she was gone.

We had a funeral and a gathering of friends and neighbors, which was good and necessary. And now that has been several weeks ago, but I have felt all this time that she was at home around the corner, and we just haven't gotten a chance to catch up. It has been like one of many summers where we're both busy, or in-and-out of town, and we may not be together for a few weeks at a time. I've seen her husband, and her kids, but always with a sense that while Carol is somewhere out of sight on that day, eventually, soon, her absence will be over and we will meet.

Then, today, her mom summoned me to the house, where she's been going through Carol's closet and dealing with her things. Her mother is seventy-five and vigorous, capable, talkative--a big presence. Years ago Carol would sometimes suggest, with good humor, that her mom could be overbearing. But now she is running the house when Carol's husband has to be working. God grant all of us a busy, overbearing grandma to step into the space we leave behind.

So Carol's mom gave me a houseplant and a plastic shopping bag with the two wigs in it, the same shopping bag I'd put my wig in to lend it. And I thought, again, "How did we get here? How did we get here?" I didn't want the wigs at all. Mine, I am sick of looking at and I promise you I would never wear it again, but I bear it no ill will, if that doesn't sound ridiculous. But looking down into the bag and seeing Carol's, I felt such a shock of recognition--like, that's Carol's hair--and it brought her sadness and her vulnerability from that time all back to me. How did we get there? How do we do the things we have to do? How did I get here? And why me and not her?

I took them and thanked her and said that I would either keep them in case someone else needed them, or that I would donate them. "You never know," she said. And I walked home and put the plant in a bigger pot, then I took the wigs out of the bag and shook them out and looked at them, then I put them back into the bag and sat it at the bottom of my staircase. Then I went to Pretty Neighbor's house and drank three beers.

Now, as I have said in this blog so many times, you know everything. If you have read all this then thank you. xoxo

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Happy New Year! I believe you can wish people a happy new year for all of January, don't you think? Definitely the first time you see them in the new year. I still have a handful of New Year's cards unsent. When I sat down to order my Christmas cards this year, I realized they'd better be New Year's cards, and that was the right call. It's taking a little time because I'm writing personal notes on all 60 of them. I only mention that to shame you.

LOL jk not really! Not really about the shame that is. I really am writing the notes because what else do I have to do?

Anyway. I thought about you guys yesterday morning after I played a tennis match. My partner and I got beat, but I was driving away from the match feeling fine, thinking about my day, my friends, my kids, people I know who are sick, people who are grieving, my own health, just all the things that I think about. And it came to my mind to tell you how, back when I first started playing tennis in earnest, two years ago, being on the court was the only time that I didn't think about breast cancer. In those days I was worried all the time. Cancer dread was a constant background noise to all of my other thoughts. God, exhausting.

That dread is not gone. It has just changed from being uncontrolled and omnipresent to being a familiar part of my mental furniture. I see it every day, but it has a place and I keep it there and try to ignore it. I think this gets easier over time, the not feeling afraid. And also, you know what? Fuck it.

We're diving deep into the mind of Becky today, looks like.

So yeah, when I'm playing tennis, I don't think about any of that. I don't think about my kids. Yesterday I realized that when I'm playing, I don't remember that I even HAVE kids. And I'm not even very good! I marvel at how pleasurable and restful the sport must be for people who have real skills. I think this is the concept of flow, of like, being so immersed in an activity that you aren't even aware of your own self or of the passage of time.

I remember once Laura told me how she feels at swim practice sometimes. She said, "It's like I'm asleep, but I'm awake and my body is working." I think that's flow.

I think being in flow is good for us. I just wanted to poke my head in and ask you, what activities do you have or do that make you feel that way? We're supposed to start the year the way we mean to go on, so let's get flowing, shall we?

Back soon with a holiday update, etc. Yes my Christmas tree is still up, in keeping with our tradition of leaving it up long enough to honor Dr. King. xoxoxo