Campus is closed until noon today, so this morning it felt incredibly indulgent to sit and watch the sunrise from my couch instead of through the windshield of my car.
That, my friends, is my definition of luxury. Ponder on it a while. I pity the folks who have everything but the time and sense to sit a while and watch the sun mosey up over the mountains, painting the underbellies of the clouds pink and lilac and tangerine and gold. The dearest treasures are those that we know we can hold for only a few moments.
There's no photo to share. You'll just have to take my word for it. And find your own sunrise.
I'm not a fan of Thanksgiving. I dream of being able to spend the November holiday anonymously, perhaps traveling to a place where they don't celebrate gluttony and violence (football) and unfettered capitalism (Black Friday). While I do have some happy Thanksgiving memories, in recent years the day is just something I want over with as quickly and undramatically as possible.
This year we -- my mother, daughter, and I -- were not invited to anybody else's "celebration," and so I cooked a more or less traditional dinner. My daughter and I like the leftovers more than the meal itself, it seems. My mom enthusiastically helped herself to the homemade cranberry jam, "that red stuff" as she keeps calling it, even piling scoops of it on her salad and pecan pie. Whatever.
Since it was just the 3 of us, our table conversation was easily enough steered away from anything political -- my condolences to anybody who had to endure otherwise. We talked about the dog show that was broadcast earlier in the day (why do dachshunds never win Best in Show?), the wildfire smoke that made the day seem glooomy, and Thanksgivings past. Although my mother and I shared my first 25 or so Thanksgivings at HER mother's house, my mom's brain betrayed those memories, and instead she complained about having to cook Thanksgiving back when she was married to my Dad and lived wherever that place was called. I tried to make some references to specific traditions and dishes that were part of all of our actual Thanksgiving get-togethers, but Mom didn't really seem to make the connection, to remember that she was there, too.
Instead of worrying about my mom inventing memories, though, I kept to myself how hilarious the idea of her making a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for my Norwegian dad was. Sticky sweet potatoes, turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie -- all of those foods were indeed foreign to him, and we never had anything like that in our house unless it was leftovers schlepped home from Gram's.
As I was saying, the reason I made Thanksgiving dinner was so that we could have leftovers. And I guess leftovers are like memories. You can recreate the same meal you originally enjoyed, true, but you can also create something entirely new, like my Mom did with her memories of Thanksgiving past. It's not worth getting upset over, it just IS.
I wonder what she'll be putting cranberry jam on today.....
...if you won't be able to get through the next 4 years without therapy.
My issue is that I just ... can't ... handle ... the Donald's ... voice. It provokes such nausea and disgust in me, seriously, that I don't know how I will make it through the coming months.
Luckily, my new job is housed in the same building as Counseling for Faculty and Staff, so I can relatively easily get the help I need. I suppose part of the problem, though, is that I don't want to accept hearing his voice as a normal part of my existence.
Fall kind of snuck up on us this year. The weather, even for this region, remained stubbornly summer-like well into October. But now, finally, the trees have begun shedding their leaves in earnest, and there is frost on the neighborhood lawns this morning. I'll have to remember to grab a jacket when I head out for work tomorrow morning, to my still-new job that this fortune cookie foretold.
The new job is a welcome development. I'm still at the same university, but in a department that seems vastly more grounded in the day to day business of helping students achieve their goals, and am free of the drama and dysfunction and denial that made going to my former job such a chore. I am working a lot harder, but also getting paid a lot more, so all in all life is good between the hours of 8am and 5pm.
But Fall isn't the only thing that snuck up on us. When I wrote my last post about my mother's increasingly unreliable memory, I wasn't prepared for how rapidly and severely her memory loss would progress. In fact, the neurologist said, let's stop referring to this as a memory problem and recognize it as Alzheimer's. To which Mom, always ready to deflect what she doesn't want to hear, said "No, I won't have that." She saw my step-father virtually disappear from that disease, so I can only imagine how terrifying it must be for her, if she allows herself to think about it. I'm not sure she does think about it, though....
It seems strange to say that this disease snuck up on us, since I have been living under the same roof as Mom for the past 12 years. But, being the stubbornly independent women that we both are, we have been doing a good job of living our lives as we damn well please for the most part. Mom had given up driving 2 years ago when her chronic pain condition made her afraid to drive, but other than when she was recovering from a broken wrist and then from pneumonia last year, she gave the impression that she had everything under control and let us know that she was just too lazy to be bothered with certain things.
Now, though, as I try to organize the physical clutter that has accumulated around my Mom so that she can better negotiate her mental clutter, I am seeing signs that she has been trying to compensate for lots of things for a long time. It felt somehow disloyal to attribute some of her odd behaviors over the past couple of years to anything other than the eccentricities one might be entitled to as they age. And when the elder in question already has a lifelong tendency toward the unconventional and non-conformist, it's even harder to tell when they're just being themself or when something isn't firing properly in their cranium.
So, I admit that it is pretty damn scary to look ahead. However, I am embarking on this new "journey" with open eyes and an open heart. I remind my mother that I understand that what is going on with her mind is something she can't help, and I remind her again. I'm touched that she trusts me to do what is in her best interest, even as we try to work out what exactly that is.
Fall is finally here, yes, but it won't last forever. I am not going to take a single one of these bright, clear, sunny days for granted. Metaphorically, or meteorologically.
A sunset without colors is just a marker, a way of indicating the passage of time. This day is done; better rest up for tomorrow. Lately it does seem that the days are just boxes to be checked off, one at a time. There are lots and lots of boxes filling my days.
There are the little boxes in Mom's pill minder that need to be monitored, and re-filled weekly. But some days those boxes cannot provide enough structure, and a pill is missed or a double dose nearly ingested. Thankfully it is not a life-or-death kind of pill.
There are the boxes created on the notepad where Mom also writes down what pills she takes and when. The day of the week and date is followed by her shorthand for the type of medication -- BP, Pain, Horizant -- and some times the days seem to mix together, and the lines on the notepad are unable to contain the confusion. No, today is still Saturday. Tomorrow is the 8th. And so on. Adding a new medication creates chaos. Did I take that pill? I forgot to take my pill. Am I supposed to take a pill? What is this pill for? All these questions in the course of an hour's time.
So I need one box for my impatience, another for my snark, and a separate, waterproof container for all the tears I cannot cry.
I don't have sufficient words for the despair and anger and sadness I feel after this weekend's massacre in Orlando. But I am working to find the words to tell public officeholders how their failure to act on reigning in our country's ridiculous gun laws holds them complicit in the deaths of these latest victims, and others.
Activity on this page will be suspended until at least mid-March while I tend to matters near and far. My mother has a smorgasbord of medical issues going on, and as her short-term memory gets worse and worse, I need to call up more and more patience in my dealings with her. I'm not complaining about the caretaking role, though -- only about the amount of energy it requires. But who knows how much longer she will be with us -- it could be 20 years or 20 days -- so I will do the best for her I can. Whether she likes it or not! Seriously, she wants to assign a dollar value to all the tasks I do for her, and while I've tried letting her know that way of thinking upsets me, I don't know what good it's done. Perhaps part of the issue comes from her not living nearby while her own mother was in declining health, leaving her without a frame of reference for the way families take care of each other, the way roles get reversed when the child becomes the parent's caretaker.
Anyway, I do have a break of sorts in sight. Work requires that I travel to southern California in 2 weeks, and while I was hesitant to spend more time away than absolutely necessary, my sister convinced me to go ahead with plans to visit my cousin in Santa Monica while I'm out there. "This might be the last vacation you get to take for a while," she said. Well, I didn't want to think that, so thanks, sis!
And yes, work is still a 4-letter word in my book. Not only is my immediate work environment increasingly dysfunctional and unpleasant, the University and the state are not supportive of activities such as ours that have a noble mission but do not rake in piles of tuition dollars. Already a number of "retirement" announcements are filling my inbox as changes are happening across campus. I've got to put in another 5 years before that is even a semi-feasible option for me, though. (They haven't completely slashed benefits to the bone, so at age 61 with 15 years service, I could collect partial retirement while looking for a new gig. But five years is too long to be miserable, though!). I've been trying to change roles at the University, and with more people getting disgusted and retiring early, I just might have success one of these days. It's really starting to look like it's time to cast my resumes in a wider circle, though.
But not too wide, because I have to stay put to care for my mom.....