Last Days

(Somewhat fictional, somewhat factual.)   The ICU was on the ninth floor of the hospital, at the very top. On the bad days, Lisa wouldn’t wait for the elevator, but would take the nine floors without stopping, and arrive in the waiting room certain that she might need to have the bed next to her brother. Steve had been here for the past two weeks, brought from the rehab hospital with a 103-degree fever. Two days after the move, she answered the phone to a nurse’s voice saying, “Steve has gone code blue, and we need your authorization to resuscitate him.” They were able to start his heart, but he never woke up after that.   So Lisa was sitting in a hard chair, staring at a photo of a stone caught in a stream, poised on the edge of a river, and ready to go over into the unknown water. Yep, one never knew when college would come in handy; she got metaphor and simile when she was 14, and finding a deeper meaning soon became second nature. This was both a light and darkness in her life; as an english literature major, everything had to mean something, whether she wanted it to or not.

“Lisa Solozzo?” Lisa made it to the window in a second and a half; the ICU nurse motioned to the door, and she walked over, opened the entrance, and walked in.   The darkened halls were painted white, and there was a light at the end. Just like heaven…or hell, Lisa thought, as she walked down the hall towards the nurses’ station. She knew where Steve’s room was, so she passed by the nurses, and glanced to her left, where he lay in the half-light of the various machines that were attached to his body.

She walked into his room, and looked at him. Steve had lost most of his weight that he had maintained over the years through alcohol, fast food, and dedicated couch surfing. As Lisa stood and watched her brother, she could swear that his hand moved. Nights of not sleeping, crying, and drinking enough gin to numb the pain had scrambled Lisa’s brain to the point that she knew she was seeing things. Steve’s hand hadn’t moved, and it wasn’t going to move. Lisa understood the first part of her thought, but not the second half. Steve would get up, and talk again, and get better, and everything would be all right.

But it wouldn’t be all right. As Lisa left the hospital room, and walked back to the waiting area, she felt as if she was the stone at the edge of the river, with no way to hold on to what she knew; soon she would lose her secure place and fall, and keep falling….and without Steve, she had no safe place to land.

People, people, people!

(I miss George Carlin – he always said what needed to be said.)

As this year moves forward, I find that I’m having a recurring thought about the state of the people in my state (California).  I would really like to get this out in one breath, so here goes:

We have lost our courtesy, our compassion, and our intelligence. We all walk around in the same sloppy clothes, watch the same movies and television programs, read the same books, and think the same thoughts. Rudeness is the new standard of behavior; rewards go to the rudest on television,so we mimic what we see so that we can be rewarded. There is no individuality, no critical thinking, and no creativity. Everything is programmed, curated, and manipulated for our maximum enjoyment by a corporation with a computer program.  Everything is slick, and cold, and neat – no holes, no mistakes, no passion.  Everything is boring, and from the looks of it, Americans have given up on taste, manners, and style.

Ok, back to the post. I am aware that there are intelligent, clever, interesting, fun, down to earth people out there. I am fortunate to know many of them- however, it is a little discouraging to go out into the general population and observe the behavior that is now appears to be acceptable.  It’s not so much what people are wearing, although that is part of it – what you wear is important in determining how you feel, and how you feel can have a huge impact on how you behave.  It’s really more about how people act towards one another; a few weeks ago, I was at Target, pushing my cart up and down the aisle, shopping for…everything, and a woman turned down the aisle that I was in, pushing her cart.  Rather than backing her cart out so I could get through, she just stood there and stared at me, waiting for me to move out of the way for her.  People don’t move out of the way for you; you are always expected to go around them, no matter how many boxes or bags you’re carrying.  And if children are out with these adults, they are usually screaming, crying, or being generally obnoxious (to be fair, the well-behaved children usually don’t capture my attention, so my observation is a bit skewed.)

I was out at breakfast with my girlfriends last week, and we were catching up on our lives, when it occurred to us that there was some background noise that didn’t seem to subside. We realized that there was a screaming child at the next table, and the adults at the table weren’t making any attempts to make the child stop; not only did they not do anything, they were laughing.  This went on for a good ten or fifteen minutes, until one of them finally took the child outside.  I won’t get started on what I observe in the way of , or substantial lack of, parenting skills; I will say this: just because a couple is biologically capable of having children, that doesn’t mean they should.

I have no solutions for what I’m seeing; it’s like the ATTACK OF THE STUPIDS in 3-D, and it’s playing everywhere, in malls, movie theaters, and restaurants.  I love where I live, and I know I sound a little discouraged about it all; maybe it’s different where you live. I hope so, because there are days when the Golden State seems a little tarnished.  Maybe we can all put down our smartphones (at least something is smart in life these days; eventually all of our intelligence will be sucked into our smartphones, and we won’t be able to make a move without them), and start talking to one another to find ways to be…better, damn it, just better than we are now.

Mom

Mom,

I miss you today, more so than usual, since it’s Mother’s Day.  You left two years ago, while in the hospital; you waited until I walked outside to make a phone call, and when I came back, the look on the nurse’s face as he walked toward me was all I needed to know. If you were still here, you would have been without a foot, as they wanted to amputate it when the sore on it from being bandaged got so bad that nothing else could be done, and it wasn’t healing because you had no circulation in your leg from the stroke, and your skin was so fragile.  I was told that even if the decision was made to amputate the foot, that you still might not make it, as you had an incredible amount of blockages in all of your arteries.

There was no one else to help me with deciding what to do, and when I asked you what you wanted to do, you said you wanted to keep your foot.  I still don’t know if it was the right decision, but it was the one that I made.

My earliest memory is of you singing to me when I was in my crib; you  usually sang “Would You Like to Swing on a Star?” I think I remember that because it had so many verses, and choices; I could be a mule, or a fish, or a pig, and that was pretty neat.

Would you like to swing on a star
Carry moonbeams home in a jar
And be better off than you are
Or would you rather be a mule

A mule is an animal with long funny ears
Kicks up at anything he hears
His back is brawny but his brain is weak
He’s just plain stupid with a stubborn streak
And by the way, if you hate to go to school
You may grow up to be a mule

You loved Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin, among other crooners.  I grew up with music, dance, art, and books, because of you and Dad, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’m all right most days;  and I miss you when the going gets rough, like it has been today. I like to think that you are with Dad, and Steve, and Naomi – give Asia a big hug for me. I love you, Mom.

I shot my cell phone (but I did not shoot my old PC)

I’m at the end of my four-day Christmas break, watching “The Witches of Eastwick” (Susan Sarandon, Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Jack Nicholson – let’s see, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jack Nicholson both played villains in different “Batman” movies; the family had a couple of “Batman” discussions over the break, including how many stars have played Batman, who were the bad guys in each one, etc. Guess my brain hasn’t moved on, plus I love playing “what other movies have these stars been in together?”).

Spent Christmas eve and Christmas day at the family’s house – the whole family holiday get-together has changed over the last couple of years, and maybe you have noticed it at your house, too – while talking and watching television, and eating, we are also checking email, playing games, checking Facebook, texting, and looking up stuff.  (I’m mostly knitting and chasing the dog, but I’ve also been known to take a peek at my email, and lots of peeks at Facebook – in addition to being ADD, I also have a touch of ocd; just a touch, so it’s in small letters).  Everyone has a cell phone, and there are also iPads and laptops lying around, in case someone gets an uncontrollable Angry Birds urge.  (My husband was startled one afternoon, when, out of nowhere, he heard me yell, “Die, pig, die!”  while sitting on the couch with the iPad in my hand.  It’s not a relaxing game, but it is irresistible).

When in my lap, my dog will actually push my hands away from the keyboard so he can be petted – he believes he is the alpha laptop, and isn’t pleased about sharing real estate with my Mac.  I wonder if any studies have been done on animals who live with families who have no computers or cell phones, as compared to those who live with families who have multiple devices, and if there are differences in health, mental state, and behavior. Might make for an interesting experiment, if the variables were controlled (sorry, my psych minor is showing, or should I say, my almost-finished minor – I balked at statistics, so there you go).

I think one of my New Year’s intentions will be to have more conversations, and limit the technology in my life – the phone is silenced more than before, and now I have to work on curbing Angry Birds and Facebook (not eliminating either, I love Angry Birds, and Facebook has brought some wonderful people back into my life.) We’ll see; maybe you can text me and let me know what you think…ha!

(P.S.  I don’t know if this is obvious, but the title of this post is meant to be read to the Eric Clapton song, “I Shot The Sheriff.”  Yes, I am a little bit corny, and a little bit rock and roll…)

Body and mind, heart and soul

Sometimes (and those of you who know me will bear this out), I can be a ding-a ling. Tonight I am a revelatory ding-a-ling; allow me to elaborate.

Last night I took my LBD (little black dog, in case you weren’t aware) to the vet, because his little eye was was kind of squishy looking, and I wanted to make sure that he didn’t have an allergic reaction to something.  Fortunately, the hospital wasn’t crowded, and while I was waiting, a couple came in with their cat – the woman was interesting to me for a couple of reasons. First, she had long, straight hair that was dyed pink – may I say here that I love when anyone does anything with their hair that is different from the usual, and this was a very pretty pink.  Second, she didn’t have what you would call a perfect body – she was big, and had some areas that could have been more toned.

After thinking these two thoughts, I had a third one – the first two things didn’t matter. Her boyfriend (husband, significant other) was with her, and comforting her, and her body didn’t enter into how he was treating her, because he was there for her when she needed him.

Now I know that I have long-standing issues with my physical appearance; I like very few photos of myself, and for a long time, I wouldn’t let anyone photograph me without covering up the bottom half of my face.  (More issues, and I’m not going to get into it, because then you will know what bothers me, and you will look for what bothers me, and….let’s just keep it a mystery.)

So what I’m getting to here is that I’m working on taking another little step away from the self-loathing that I seem to wallow in so often, and liking myself a little more, the way that I see other women do so well. It’s hard to erase decades of treating myself worse than my worst enemy, but maybe now that I’m a woman of a certain age –  yes, 50, all right? Happy now? (I’m told that I’m allowed to be cranky after 50; I prefer to wear the cranky pants only on special occasions, or else nobody listens), I will give myself a break.  Just thinking today about living without being self-critical and nit-picky made me feel lighter, like the kid in “Up” with the balloons.  A little lightness sounds good right now —-

On another note, today marks the fifteenth year that I have been without my friend and sister-in-law, Naomi Toma Thorpe. I first met Naomi when I was 13, and she was 17, and friends with my brother at Jordan High.  She and I became close friends, and then she became my sister-in-law in 1980. Naomi was a beautiful, funny, brilliant, silly, strong woman who matched my brother in intellect and talent.  She was my confidante and my touchstone, and I treasure every single second that I was fortunate enough to have known her. Here’s to you, my friend; I’m getting along without you, but it’s harder without you….