staycation

staycation

all the kids

all the kids

Friday, August 7, 2020

My Little Flowers

Don't take your demented mom on a trip to Santa Barbara.

I pretty much don't have to say any more than that. But that would be unlike me so maybe more specifically, don't take IN your demented mom, to your house and your life, if you ever want to spend any coherent time with your children again.

We had to go to SB to look at an apartment for Emma who is heading to College in a Pandemic, and last time we left mom for over 4 hours she was chasing her babysitter around with a broom, scarring her for life and obviously not getting any sweeping done.

So what we did then was sit on a razor's edge of mood for the hour and a half there, while there, and then hour and a half back. And layer in please the incredible ability of nonstop talk that my mom could always do, just now with this new superpower of notmakinganysense and extra topping, paranoia. I'm pretty sure my mom might murder me if she thought I took her 14 quarters that she keeps counting. Good news is she can't figure out knives and really the ONLY thing that receives her constant unflagging attention is fallen leaves. 

She will not leave a leaf on the ground. She could be on FIRE, hobbling from a burning house, and she would stop to pick up that leaf.

I like to think that she is in transition from earth to spirit, that she's somewhere in that place we straightforward serious thinking people don't have time for, aren't in need of yet, that's why it's so annoying, what is she talking about, why has her body eaten her brain, is she describing with her chatter the steps to the place she is going, is it mossy with slippery grass, the ladder twisted with flowers, I hope she will fall into a soft bubble and float up the rest of the way, her feet draped out like she does in the pool

I miss my mom, the way she used to be, and who I got to be when she was here

I told my daughters, both of them still here, out in this outside land that I barely get to visit right now, in the Land of Function, I told them it is still important that the bigger one is going to college, and that it is a huge thing for any family, the preparation of feathers for the first big launch out of the nest, and here our whole experience has taken on this horror movie soundtrack but have to STOP, we can't let it get in the way of these moments, the big love of all our babies, these we have raised for this very moment happily

So we're trying to keep our eyes on that very bright floating planet, that Emma, the Jupiter right there  that we can see in the night sky right now, tiny next to the huge moon, but steady just the same.

I am following my mom around scooping up the loose brain that is getting all over everything and trying to tuck it back in like the goop in those farting putty jars, endlessly just stuffing it back in like the brain waitress. But I'm still here for them. My little flowers I love so much. My eyes are on that star.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Colors May Fade

My thoughts on dementia today. First of all, you learn that language doesn't leave you, you might not get the words anymore but the feel of the words never goes away. She opened a fortune cookie and could read all the words except "priority" which is kinda funny but then took a bite of the cookie and said uhhh. Taste like candy. ...Like happy.  Candy does taste like happy. 

Then later I got her a new bathing suit (new to you on ebay anyway) because I can't put her in underwear and bra with all the swimming, forget it, so this is close enough and hers are all worn out, the ones she left here like 10 years ago that are still in the drawer of course, so she loved it, a pretty blue and then started reading the label.

JANTZEN
a girl is flying on there. (there's a drawing of a girl diving)
over C C C C (which were waves drawn on but did look like Cs, so A+ bro)
and then L (large)
(these are the translations, duh)

Then she is reading very slowly

do not bleach
do not (spells) I -R -O -N
do not.... may F-A-D
(may fade, I say)

She looks at me pretty seriously and says so far it doesn't sound very nice.
She looks down at it, resigned. Thinking pretty realistically: Why don't you turn it in and get something you really like, there's alot of things against it.

(this was the BEST moment of my day)

Then she reads the whole label again. And gets to
Colors may FADE. (she says again)

She sighs. I say, as we're sitting outside in the gorgeous sunshine, with dogs and pool and eating chicken salad and this conversation is fairly entertaining, so I say all colors fade after awhile you don't have to worry about it.

She thinks. That's true. Well you might as well throw it away. It'll be fine maybe for the first time.
She looks at the deep royal blue color, with serious misgivings. Finally resolves, It's pretty right now though.

Then she read it TWO MORE TIMES. After which I wanted to hit her with a bookshelf. Then I went swimming to do laps and she read the glossary for Gilgamesh (which emma left out) and fell asleep. But I was happy she was reading so I read her a poem when she woke up which she liked and immediately handed me some dog hair wrapped in a leaf. She's an amazing cleaner.

For the rest of us needing more input on what will be on your Dementia warning label, here's what's coming at you: You will not like huge dog bones on the floor. The ones that look like elephant knuckles. You will find those so disturbing and complain about those SO MUCH and hide them so I keep finding them under cushions and pool towels and stuffed behind the table. And the most serious note - all flies are your mortal enemy. It's like flies wiped out her village. She's General Patton with flies.

On a good note, apparently you can always remember bad Chinese food. She kept talking about the Panda we ate yesterday and said that was the worst thing I ever had in my life.

I'm pretty sure there should be a Dementia ride at Disneyland, and there should definitely be a Dementia candy. Think of the fun packaging. The ride will just be an endless line and there's no prize at the end.

The good part about being the daughter to the dementia is that you still ignore and mistreat your mother the same way you did when she was regular. Like I knew it was too late to give her a bath but she was in a bad mood and I wanted to irritate her so I said let's go wash up. So I forced her to get into the bath which I knew she would do (95% sure) and then later apologized for doing it at night when she's better in the morning. But still I got the bath done. I felt like wrestling and winning a battle and I got that one but in general she wins all the battles and I'm just her medical waitress with inside keys to her inner thoughts kingdom from years of scurrying down those tunnels. So sometimes I use those keys for my own personal gain.

On the third reading of the bathing suit, after do not iron, she did find that funny. Duh she said. Looking at me with humor like It's a bathing suit, man.

So. Colors don't all fade. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

baby book

It's hard to leave your mom when she tells you at night that you're her favorite person.

But when she starts counting her quarters I just have to go out and buy a flyswatter for two hours. While Bess watches her.

She cries when I get back. Then at night she says she's sorry. She doesn't mean it. She says she doesn't know why, she's stupid. I tell her yes, she is stupid. But that it's my turn to be stupid tomorrow.

I like her at night and in the morning. It's the whole middle part.

Tonight I was putting some of her stuff into her newly finished place. I found the box with the baby books and was reading things she and dad wrote about me when I was 2 and 3 and 4, when they were just starting out and they seemed so relaxed, sweet, loving and funny, in the writings. It made all of this mess, the getting the mom mess, the bringing her back mess, the caring for her every minute mess, the brain not functioning mess -- it made me remember who she is, and look for the little glimmers I still see of her every night.  Like tonight putting her to bed, she moved over in the bed and said wanna get in? 

The pictures and the books made me remember who she is and alllll the time we've spent and everything we've gone through. And when I was bringing stuff in and she was still up she saw me carrying an old chair she's had forever that was in her shed and she hasn't seen it for at least 15 years, she said "that's my CHAIR!!" I put some of her pictures up so tomorrow she's going to be freaking out happy. I know life isn't about the stuff but life is kind of about the stuff. A blanket with a certain pattern, the shape of a chair's back, a pretty colory lamp, a rug she's had for a million years - these bring huge comfort. I feel bad I couldn't bring more of her stuff but there is much familiar, and more unpacking to do in the next few days and I am liking the person I am, the new pretty place she can be and the help I am bringing to her. Because she wrote about me at 2 and 3 and 4 and said 

juliet loves to read. she will stop anything if you will read to her. 
julie loves horses. julie swims every day and lives in the water.

Knowing and reading that your parents loved you, that far back, and knew you when you didn't even know yourself, and finding the baby book 50 years later, and nothing has changed. 

That's comfort. I'm grateful to still have my parents, loving me the way they do, still.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Pandamomium

My mom did not come home. My mom is never coming home in fact.

I didn't realize it until we were in the car with Nathan and his friend Patrick my fake son. We took her for a spin in her own her fast car and even though she knows it's her car, she is rambling about stuff. The boys think it's funny. It is funny maybe if it's not your mom. I take it all so seriously it's like we're watching two different movies, the kids and I. Mine's more tragical. As Anne with an e would say. Because I have to see her like this all day and they only have to be in the car for a few minutes.

Why did they send the shell of my mom and get rid of the meaty part. Her meaty part wasn't even that meaty, she was more for decoration, with some dancing and sexfiendishness and suffering, intense suffering since I was 9 years old. Maybe since she was 9 years old. We did play alot of comedy records. Steve Martin. Monty Python. Sam Kinison. Smothers Brothers. Alot of funk music. Prince. Who Let the Dogs Out. The unfortunate Billy Jean album. Diana Krall at least. Movie musicals.

Why did I get this dish served up to me right now.  Momdemic.

She was a nurse in a dementia ward in Crofton Maryland for so many years. She zoomed there in her fast car in her white nurse's uniform that she ironed every day with her white nylons. She was small and spastically happy, she worked hard. Those people needed me, she said the other night. They had no one.

We would visit her at work and we were used to guys walking down the hall with no pants on. Hallways that smelled like pee. No natural light. One nurse, two aides and 30 patients. No one wants to work in the convalescent centers. Everyone wants to work with babies. Babies without pants are cuter. Baby pee is cuter.

So she worked and then she had Lyme disease and lived with us and then got better and then left and now she's back or what's left of her is back and I'm sitting here with here everyday thinking what happened.

All that is left is she likes to pick up sticks. She's obsessed with things that have fallen on the floor. She was always clean but now she would never wash her hair if I didn't do it. She would never change her clothes. She would only eat apples.

She is back to becoming an animal. Returning to the earth when I see it from a more beautiful spot but tonight I can only see that I got ripped off and she, she definitely got ripped off. If she could see what she is like right now she would be horrified. She would be disconsolate.

Instead, I am.

I was the closest thing to being her that she ever was. Heaped on me at a young age, her distresses, her heartbreaks, her loss. We became one. A giant mother.

I went on to giant mother my own kids with that superpower and my kids have come out pretty damn amazingly even the last one who has gone tiktok lesbian because her phone tells her who she is. Technology and boredom have taken the real person away right now.  Instead of stopping it I sit with my mom who hates flies and sings nonsense songs and doesn't remember how much she loved me.

She told me so much, so many times over and over all these years how happy she was that she got to have me. Now she doesn't know that I'm her daughter or have any memory of the importance of all those years and all those moments, including my birth. This magical thing that started me. That cheerleader is gone.

This is my sadness.

I feed her and I clothe her and I exercise her and I am patient and I scratch her head and give her happiness. Today sitting outside at the table she cries with joy when she finds her bag of quarters because she thought she lost it. She's sitting right next to me and crying and thanking god for the bag of quarters.

This hurts.

I don't know what to do except be wildly inconsistent because I am not a trained objective nurse, this is my mother and she has forgotten me.

It scares me to see how much you can forget. You can be wiped dry. There can only be some froth left, and a sore body. What was it for, then. All those years she loved us kids, if she can't remember them.

This is so incredibly sad. It is just like alcoholism. I am left holding the bag, standing with my mom in the bathroom while she is numb and I am feeling it all. Eventually I stopped trying to solve her problems and just watched her go to rehab. This time, I don't know.  Today I am standing to the side and seeing that I can love her greatly and it is nice to do that. Or I can stand to the side and while she might be slightly sadder not to have me she is not devastated. She is just sick with the kind of sick they don't send the doctor out for. There is zero mental help here.

I guess I wanted her to have everything to the end. I have no power here. Bonnie no Powers.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Momumental

When your mom stops knowing your name exactly, you love her because of her sounds and shapes, every single one of which you know. It's scary to love someone as they are fading away. She isn't fading away physically although that is lurking. She's blowing mentally with the breeze.

She notices the colors of things.
She is extremely grateful at 5 in the morning when you show her the way back to bed.
She loves her little dog.
She is running on fumes even though I am pushing her up the mountain.
A daughter cannot stand a mom who can't stand, and will not stand for it. Until I saw how tired she was the next day after forcing her to go to the beach. There were no old people at the beach, I noticed as we were leaving, as we walked her brokenly across the sand, and my little baby son who is now 19 and 6 feet tall finally picked her up like a fireman and set her gently on the pavement. She did the beach because I wanted her to do it. But. She sees it from through a mist. Her eyes spray a mist and she feels her way through.

It's mentally tiring to see new things and not know where your shoes are. It's not fair to not know where you're living. All her stuff is in a little bag.
We're building her a little place she can have all her stuff and not lose anything. She can have a refrigerator and get all the apples she wants.
I don't mind the wave of sorrow that happens when she coughs and says I can't do things like I used to. She can't even cough like she used to. It frustrates her. She was so busy always.

She sweeps all around the pool. In the morning she sings.

I make fun of her when she is being annoying but I always did that. I don't know what I'm doing, I'm clearly unqualified to care for someone at the end of life, how can this be near the end, at only 77. If there was a me next to me, the me that I trust who sees me through most things and cleans up the messes of the other me, that me can stand up and help her out of the pool. That me is the one doing everything while the other me sees only the world as a bunch of spilled paint and I'm wiping the colors all together with my flat bare palm. That me sees love and pain.

All the emotion and all the people helping and all the dogs and the kids who used to count on me to feed them and my other life from before all of it is spilled everywhere and there are so many tears here. Not for me, mostly for child me who wants mom to be like she was, annoying as she was, loving as she was, not shelled and unsalted like this spent pistachio.

Luckily no one is in charge not even me. So I can cry and all of us can cry and we'll still build the house and we'll not have a whole world of conversations but we'll see the blue flowers I planted from the pool and she'll float and point out the blue and say did you see those

they're wonderful.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

We're the Hamburger

How to write about the last few weeks without being dramatic.



Hmmm.



Well let's see, we had to go get my mom from Maryland because my brother was arrested for manhandling her and my Uncle Wayne was keeping her at his house because um well it looks like she's a wandering ghost who can't be left alone anymore. When did this happen? I saw her in October, which is like three years ago in Covid years, and I guess in that short span of time she had stop being able to dial a phone and my drunk brother was not telling us how rapidly she was declining, and I did get one phone call in April, in the middle of deadly virus, where she said "could you come soon?"



So my uncle has her and is saying "could you come get her" and then Emma is graduating in the worst year for graduations ever so I said "could you keep her" til I could graduate Emma and not miss that. Then we had to drive across the country to pick up my mom because of virus and because my mom had hidden her wallet from my drunk brother so she had no i.d. to fly her.



So there were 9 days that I needed to cross the country and no one to watch my mom since my uncle is 80 and didn't feel like following a dementia patient around for weeks on end since she liked taking his heart medicine or actually ANY medicine that was left on the counters and she liked putting paper towels on the stove. So I called my big brother up north to see if he could help, go fly and watch her until I could get there. Our family on my side doesn't do anything like this, we don't HELP really, there's no superhero situation or really any kind of situation with my brothers. Like I said, the one was playing mean drunk nurse in MD and the other is a bipolar pot smoker stage manager. But my friend Linette said make brothers do things. If they can help, make them help.



My older brother has this habit of talking like he's blowing up a balloon with how great he is. He doesn't believe it, and we don't believe it either, but that balloon is getting larger and larger anyway as we talk. It's exhausting. In the middle of our talk I realize I am talking to a crazy person with a good heart but right now I need a warm body at my mom's and he wants the job. Unfortunately he looks just like my little brother, all pale and wispy blonde but that makes an interesting effect on a demented mother who got attacked by that brother it turns out and we'll reveal later.



So we have no money. So we rent a big van and take out a middle row of seats and make a cushion bed in there and this is our cross country castle. I have to find an army to take care of farm here at home while we're gone. A family army of friends, who have never taken care of a pool and chickens bunnies horses dogs and my horse boarder helicopter pilot says he'll help with horses and then B's oldest son Bruce who just failed at his PhD attempt says he wants to pile in the van and go (and isn't this the plot for Little Miss Sunshine? Like exactly?) and we pack too many games and we go.



Then it is countryside. And Utah. And countryside. And Yellowstone. And countryside. And Cody Wyoming Dairy Queen. And sunsets. And farmland. And Minnesota. And Deadwood. And Mount Rushmore. And talking in the car. Laying in the car. Not one game is played. All we do is look out the window and count the rivers. See the Badlands. South Dakota. At one motel pool Emma meets another teenager and we say we love South Dakota and what is it like to live here. He says South Dakota is ass.



We cross the Mississippi and Bruce swims out into it. We pull into Chicago which is too much input after farmland and Bruce swims into Lake Michigan. We ride bikes for 15 whole minutes along the lake. We have dinner in a park and play frisbee happily with cousins we never see. We see where Barry grew up. We drive to Pittsburgh. There is a BLM protest one block from our hotel. We chant for trans black lives. We are now in Forest Gump. We see where my dad went to college, in the drizzling rain that feels like fairies are crying soft shyness on our shoulders. I pee by the car on streets my dad ambled down at 19, feeling important, feeling his whole life ahead of him. We see him there, young.



I cry alot in Pittsburgh  because I see the end of my life coming, I know I'm taking on the life of my mom, and I know the weight of that commitment. I don't wear commitment well, I can do it, but it chafes. I am a wild horse.



We eat Amish pretzels in Maryland. I eat Amish Market everything because their simple clothes bring me peace. Also, their hot sweet potatoes and green beans. There's an Amish guy with hooks for hands. He can pick up change with his hooks. I feel wide eyed like a nine year old Tom Sawyer when I look at his hook hands, so close to a hot pretzel. If you have hook hands, you can do anything and how does he not tear his shirt. He must have tons of towels with like holes all shredded through them at home.



We spend time with Mom. My friend comes and we have one day to attack her house and pack it and there is sweating and arguing and finally silent depressing packing and then rainstorm and there is so much memory and so much left behind, furniture that doesn't fit you can't cram 77 years of a life into one truck sized packing crate. There's no crate for all the caring.



We leave feeling unsatisfied and wrecked and there's so much crying in the loft at my uncle's because that's all that's left, is the mom who doesn't know anything is going on and us behind the scenes, washed up the shore of destroyed, working aching angry tired sick and still going. There are kayaks on the water and fishing and every day we do that because my youngest daughter says you cast out your problems and if you reel in a fish, your problems are gone. If there's no fish, you cast them out again. I love this girl, watching the pain, and making it lyrical, and physical.



Sunset water soothes. Also the friends. The friends, and family, near and far, that keep telling me like I'm still worth something, telling me I matter. That they love me. I can't hear anything, but they still build this bridge out of words and they keep me on the bridge, made of clouds. I can't do this, not even Dairy Queen is holding me up, and they say just hold onto us. We are here.

Their words are my eyes. 

I am emptied out like a vacant medicine cabinet.



The day comes and we pack mom into the van and tell her we're going to California and she explodes. Our last leg of the road trip home lasts 10 minutes of fury and we have to turn around. All the kids are crying. We meet my uncle in a parking lot at an Acme, where all disasters take place, and he tries to talk her into going. She is not going.



So truth didn't work, and we move smoothly onto lies. Gentle ones that will get her there safely. We pack her dog in the van and send the boys on the trip home. We tell her we have to find her dog. She is fretting. We are still getting to know each other and now there's this pain. 



My brother will fly her home and my daughters and I fly home a day before her. These are anxiety pancakes, these days. The dog missing. The mom mental. The trip home.



My friend drives three hours to get us and take us to her house and then we realize her house is an hour from the airport we fly out of. I can't stay at her house. I have to uber at 9 pm to Washington. I cry for the entire hour to Boogie Fever on the radio with my daughters in masks holding my hands in the dark.



The hotel has 18 floors and we are all in weird family shock. The only thing that feels normal is the shower. It is antiseptic there, and we are outside of our bodies anyway. We sleep there for 6 hours and then catch our flight back.



The next day Mom comes in at 9 pm after wrestling through 12 hours of traveling and horrible anxiety for both her and my brother flying her. She gets her dog back. She is stretched beyond her limits, and the next few days with my brother and fam and me in LA, we try and pad gently around her, and pad her up with love and the life she will hopefully accept. I also am scared like she's on fire and I'm made of paper. What if I can't do this. What if I have no choice. 



I get to ride and being on a horse makes me feel normal. The horses look at me with slow blinks, and the feet thudding the ground like nothing in the world has ever changed since the beginning of (wo)man. There is security in that plodding. I don't believe in security anymore, but I am looking sideways at it. In some tiny breath, in the corner of my body, there's that silent thing raising it's tiny one finger. Hope.



It's been four days now. Each day takes many minutes all of which we all feel, like skinny sharp individually wrapped toothpicks. Waiting for things/mood to again dwindle down to terrible. There is some terrible. Some faces of hers that are twisted, some anger, all of it is warped though, not directed, just upset with no bag to put it in. She is hanging on to, carries everywhere, her little embroidered bags with quarters and dimes and pennies in them, and she has to have those with her, and her dog. That's all she has to help her know she's okay. At 77. That's all she brought. B always tells this story where he took acid and there was a hamburger on his nightstand and when he was freaking out he kept staring at that hamburger and if it was still there he knew he was still real, and alive. That hamburger brought him through.



Today my (turns out to be) good brother left back to Oregon and I was scared to do this alone. What saved me and has saved me for 3 days is the pool. Put a mom in water and she sings. She floats and sings, and moves her legs and arms and this is better than any medicine. The water unties all the knots in her mind and her body follows. It's Frankenstein's music. We put good food into her and talk gently and slowly my life is melting back around ourselves. Maybe there is room for her. We hope she will allow us in.



Tonight the pool had tired her out and put her in bed at 730 and sang some Danny Kaye "Lullaby in Ragtime" and she murmured happy sleepily, and her dog who looks like a fat footstool with legs was next to her. I went outside on the loudest night of the year, July 4th, and before the loudness started, I got to see the light on the tippy toppest of trees, that golden light that surrounds the end of the day like silent orchestra music and is a million dollars, raining down on me. Reward. 



My brother said getting my mom here, we did a B+ job and I said next time let's shoot for C, C-.



Pool water and twilight, the most basic elements. All free, if you just feel it, and wrapping my mom up and giving her back to me, inch by inch. This day, at least.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

One Small Leak for Mankind

A variety of things are happening. Our pool sprung a leak. My mom's brain sprung a leak. Our daughter is graduating during a pandemic.

The mom and pool thing are equally stressful. The mom is all the way across the country so going to get her means I have to go all the way across the country in a fairly old van with by then 3 teenagers. The pool has been losing water for a few weeks and no, hot tub fix it guy, it is not evaporation. I know my pool, man. Today after going to Emma's graduation recording speech on the lawn in front of her school, with her in a cap and gown, I came home and dug up the pipe hoping it was the one leaking since it was the ONLY ONE above the ground that wouldn't require a jackhammer which I CAN'T DO we all know the louder the tools, the more the money is flying out everywhere. I dug up that pipe I could see using an old rusty hatchet that I found under the bushes where I guess it had last been used to scalp someone during Lewis and Clark's adventure. I first dug with a big fat screwdriver that no one was using obviously in the shed, but why use that when you can use a rusty tomahawk? Why do I have no little shovel? I dug out the fucker in a DRESS that I wore for Emma's graduation speech because there's where I was, I found the hatchet and my hands were THERE already.

The dirt kept getting wetter and I was thinking PLEASE LET THERE BE A LEAK HERE and I didn't chop my fingers off and there was the leak, just down a few hundred feet kidding just like whatever that measures, right there, like right down there. I feel huge relief. Now I just have to convince my friend Tim who is having to move out because my mom is coming to take his place, I have to say hey while we're kicking you out and making you move all your stuff, could you um fix this like you fix everything else. We'll see how that goes. I found the SOURCE. Do you know how big this is when you have 20,000 gallons of water, every drop that you're (as the farm mom) responsible for, and there is an end in sight. Do you see how big that is? And I did not get my dress dirty.

My mom's brain leak, well, that's a bigger thing and I don't think Tim can fix that. But it's no big deal, just drive 3000 miles, empty out her whole house, and drive back, all in two weeks because kids have work and school. But the good news, who knows how it will all go. And good news, the kids have never seen the country. And good news, we have a home to come home to. And good news, moms are important. So one thing at a time. If you can find where the leak is coming from, it does take more than just you to stop it up. Tribe logic. Tribes matter. I am not alone. I hope.

Then Emma. Oh man, when Nathan graduated on that big football field at sunset two years ago, all of us were crying. It was so beautiful, all the graduates milling around, feeling celebrated, feeling accomplished, feeling excited about college and the next growing up years. These are the years, the ones where all the colors start to get filled in, you can see yourself and who you are becoming after your parents set you off to sail.

Emma said can you come with me to record my speech for the graduation they're going to do online. She'll be in a cap and gown. So this is this year. Just Emma, in an empty school on a Wednesday at 10:30 am in May, when she'd usually be in Stats class, and there's only four kids here, recording their speeches on the front lawn. Under big lights and bounce boards and reading from a teleprompter. In front of this majestic school where she danced and did pole vault and shredded every math class she could tear apart with her vicious insatiable math brain. Where she stood on a bridge overlooking the basketball gym at lunch with her friends so she could spy on the cute boy she liked. Like all of us did, all that time in high school and it's ending so differently.

We walked across the big green field, the tiny just us, and that's where I started tearing up remembering Nathan's big night there and here's this weird time. But Emma recorded that speech and I quick called her dad and sister to come up because it felt like this was the graduation. We watched her cheerful, proud self talk spiritedly to the camera that would later be all of her classmates watching online next month. She made us cry because no matter the dumb virus, she is here and she is incredible. She is graduating, she will be at college by the beach, she has a mask her uncle made on his sewing machine, and it matches her Verdugo colors. She despite the weirdness, is weirdly  
         still perfect.

Maybe things don't look the same and that bothers us who like things to look the same and we deserve it all, we deserve exactly what everyone else gets, all through history.
But we got this moment on the grass watching her, which is all we ever get anyway.

We will drive by the school on the day before virtual graduation, and all the kids will wear their cap and gowns and we'll celebrate them and decorate them and yell for them and it might be shorter, just a loop around the school, waving at teachers, all in a line, but her friends will be there who have been there all four years, and it will be a new thing never before done and never expected ever and we will laugh because
that is Emma, and her whole life with us

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

It's Not That Big a Puzzle

You  know we all fit together, right.

I've been doing a lot of puzzles and even when you open them new from the box and dump them out and you're days into solving it and you're sure there are missing pieces even though it was NEW you just have to hang on. It was NEW. It's all in there. And even if you have an old puzzle, as my niece Neisha said, when I was grumping over an old puzzle and was sure there was a piece missing, she said, so you color one. Shrugging. Stick it in. You still did it.

My friend was texting me cause she was worried about getting the free food from school for her kids. Because you feel poor when you drive thru and get free food. She said do they ask for i.d. Do you have to have a kid in the car. I don't live in the neighborhood. Can I get some for the grown ups. I said it's a social service. We're in an emergency. It's even advertised as open to the community. They WANT to give you the food. They're nice. Even though I worked there and know that's how they feel on the inside of the operation, I would also feel nervous about driving through that line. Asking for basic things I need. Why is this? In life? Why am I shy saying could you please touch me. Could you please talk to me. Could you please love me a tiny bit.

I know that all of it is all connected, that's all we do in nature and life is recreate connection. We fit screens to fit exactly into window frames. Bees connect all the flowers so we can have honey on toast. Dappled sun comes through tall jungle leaves in dots and so leopards are bathed in black dots against forest yellow floor fur. So they fit. Nature wants us to fit. No wait, nature doesn't want us to fit, nature just fits. If you turn around when you're in a hula hoop and try to figure out why it's going around your waist with nothing holding it up, you're missing out on the fact that you're in the middle of a magical hula hoop.

There's alot of  noise out there trying to distract us from the basic fact that all our pieces fit. Even the leader of our free world tries hard to tell us we don't fit. We're doing it all wrong. He is on a pretty high platform, he could even scrape the top of his head on god if he was looking up. And still he doesn't understand the puzzle.

The food is for you. I got to make it for you for awhile. Other times you make it for me. The impossible puzzle with the million black edge pieces with the yellow stripe will fit together. Sometimes you can't work from the outside edge in, usually that's easier to get the frame first. But sometimes you have to go where you see a picture you recognize and work outwards.

Friday, May 8, 2020

From Egg to NUTS (my mom oscar speech)


For someone who doesn’t wash her hair until it is gummy, moms everywhere, I feel your love pain and explosive well of happiness and soulrage.

To be awarded for putting my daughter on the porch when I was done with her the other day – because the award is for the NOT KILLING of the children but the everything else, the everything that is mothering, not just the days at the beach which are beautiful and sand filled momentary dreamscapes but also involve lugging, managing, spraying, feeding, yelling, lifting, digging, stacking. Protecting. Takes a lot of my time.

I’m not even that protective and yet I am internally and externally yes that’s all I’m doing for 20 years now. I’m happy I’m standing up here and still alive to take this award actually. No wonder I look like this. Old and used and beaten. I believe my body and soul are the reward for this valiant attempt at raising 3 people from egg to nuts.

I am wiped out. I am the wicker chair outside that has been outside a long time and if you sit in it your ass falls through and makes you think about dieting, while also hoping no one saw you and that you can get fat ass back out and not wear a chair around for the rest of your life.

Let’s call it, I’m done. My youngest is 12 though, so I better skate thru these last years like I know what I’m doing when let’s face it, I know less and I remember nothing.

But man I can appreciate cool water on a hot day, and I can see beautiful light around 5 o’ clock on the trees outside and I never stop worshipping the earth and the sounds of nature here in my own backyard.

I am raising myself just right.

But this award is for mothering, okay, man, then thanks. I HAVE made a lot of things with cheese. I have poured many a banana pancake. I have been lucky enough to chase a baby with a saggy diaper and wrestle naked wet babies into a towel on a bed. I have loved loved loved loving all my babies, and watching what they do and listening and providing. They grew me.

I don’t mind the overlapping of anxiety and anger and frustration and work and yawning impossible tiredness and looking up at the huge children with my hands empty with nothing left to give having given all sometimes. I have reached that place where my spoon scratches the empty bowl, sometimes every day. And where does it all renew? How does it?

I think if you give it all to something you are wrung out and tossed aside and grow a new skin. I’m scared every day that I’m not getting it right. Then somedays – how? you just float.

I’m alone in that I’m me and no one else is in here, and it’s loud in here what with all the critics and the jokes, the police and the laughtrack. Lately there is the sound of ending maybe it was always there but I shut that storm door and put bricks on it but there is a fierce wind coming.

Until the door gets torn off I’m going to buy an apron and fill it with raisins. Because I decided as I am now almost 54 which is ridiculous if you knew me, as I age the only things I keep seeking out are more things to put raisins in and more pockets.

I want to keep everything close by. And it’s good to have a snack.

So back to my Mom Oscar speech, I am honored to be among you. Even though damn I see a lot of you doing a shitty job sometimes right in FRONT of me and I just watch with huge eyes and it doesn’t actually matter what you’re doing really, because I just want to do well at MINE. I sowed 3 rows and I have killed every plant I ever had but these 3 rows I have REAPED buddy, they are glowing, growing tall and there is a lot of passion in there I mean passion with a capital PAIN STRUGGLE PUSHING WORK RESOLUTION DETERMINATION RECKLESS ABANDON

That’s the most important part! The haphazard reckless loving, getting in the toboggan on the steep snowy ice, packing in the kids and heading straight down, fast, for that tree you will certainly hit. The kids are in fact aiming for it. Because the terror and the hit and the flinging out onto the snow breath knocked out, right after that is the laughing wheezing in cold freezing air, fam scattered all around like puffy jacket starfish dominoes and you know hot chocolate is inside because your mom is here. Everyone’s okay, and your mom is here.

I love the world, I love my 3, and I love being nominated in the category Most Likely to Never Be Nominated for Anything Else.

Also can I just say, my favorite parts were the dumbest parts. The routines. The McDonald’s we go to after the Fair every year when we’re hot, tired done and happy. The little mechanical horse you ride for a quarter on the street in Montrose. The giraffe on the way home from the beach. My mouth’s bleedin, Bert every New Year’s. The living with people you like, the best you can do it, all those days in a row and not leaving. Trying again, and then the light on the trees right before night. Every day, the world hands you that momentary light show. For free. For everyone.

I see it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

she is our flower


Imagine being old enough to be dropping your daughter off at college while still inwardly being dropped off at college yourself.

Remember how pink and still forming I was, and here is this concert pianist serious daughter (except math is her piano) and I feel younger than her, looking at her.

Visiting this beach that will be her home, when she was crying so HARD a month ago for not getting into the school she wanted and here is her new place on the coast, in this place that could only be where estranged Hawaiian kings wash up and declare their new kingdoms, this quivering edge of where beauty hangs growing, shrugging like it’s nothing, by a breathless cliff, this Santa Barbara.

I was looking at Emma in the car on the way back with her leg up on the dash, playing her music, in her clothes she’s comfortable in, with her tan she’s been working on after never doing anything but work for the last 12 years, and I know every piece of her shape, the way she walks, the smell of her, her loud cussing laugh, her devotion to boy bands and quiet girl renegades, the way her heart has fringe on the edges like a sea anemone, where nothing is wasted, all is gathered and held close.

She knows what’s important, and has been able to balance it with a gymnast’s precision since she was naked chasing Nathan around the driveway in a plastic car. They were always naked. Because why not? They were perfect.

I was thinking about her with the background blurring out the window, the farmland road we take to the beach in the fake countryside that helps us feel like we’re not in Los Angeles, and I think about how much work it takes to form and then grow a luscious, ripe, superior person, and how much was actually already in her, I just made the pancakes. How lucky I got to make the pancakes for this person and watch every ripple of her life. And now here is my second one, I set her in the lifeboat and shove her off and with Nathan it was so confusing, first one, would he ever come back, did I waste my time – but then he hasn’t gone, he is still right here, wondering if we’re doing an easter egg hunt this year and he’s almost 20.

So then Emma, #2, I can set her off with a sort of freedom, knowing where she is, that she doesn’t have to love everything we did or didn’t do, that she got to go to that concert when she was 12 at the Rose Bowl because Barry said these are things that make up your LIFE  not just annoying extra things that I don’t have time for, no       these are the things, he said.

Watching her next to that blurry car window, he is right. The concert. The little tiny elementary school where we knew all the teachers, we were there every step of the way. When I felt like I had no more energy but we showed up anyway, at the book fair and the talent show at the dance concert, at the football games, at back to school night, why does it all come at you so hard and so much

Because then you are in the car and the ocean is taking your daughter and you made a deal with the sea witch to take care of her and let her grow and meet people and study and laugh for god’s sake and have us in her every step of the way because we are her background music and

she is our flower

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Drive Thru Friendship

We had to meet fruzzin(friendcousin) Rowan in a parking lot because he was turning 12, quarantine or not, and we've gotten really good at parking lot meetings.

There is usually fast food involved, but today I had a lot of food from my school food job, so there was a trash bag of food for them, and then a birthday bag of stuff I found in the garage that had been unopened a few books unread or barely read and some paints and things that might keep a 12 year old feeling happy on his birthday in captivity. I also gave him 12 bucks because who wants a card without your age in money in it.

So in our parking lot by the abandoned movie theater, our two cars parked parallel with the van doors slid open facing each other, here's what captivity can't do to us - it can't stop us from looking well rested, or enjoying a face that we haven't seen in awhile and knowing that face has been with us at other places like the wide open beach and on rides at the Fair and flat out running to the Matterhorn at Disneyland (and later hobbling off saying man that ride is a shittyjerky bumpfest) and maannny days of watching the kids put on dance shows and walking from the park home in the rain singing -- these are all things from the gravity of friendship, and they're smothered on us like hot thanksgiving gravy on the cement of white hot homemade potatoes.

So fuck you Covid, and thank you Covid, for drive thru friendship. A parking lot is a fine place for laying out the life that has meant something to you, and to those people in the other car. Who cares if the birthday balloon is deflated and taken off the kitchen doorknob from Emma's birthday back in February.

It's still a birthday, and turning 12 on planet Earth? A ripe thing to do.