Thoughts on My Brother’s 65th Birthday

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My brother, his ex-wife, and daughter, 1979

The other day I read an article by a guy who’d lost his brother to alcoholism. I got very angry with the writer. His whole point was that if there were a scientific and methodical way to treat alcoholism, no one would die of it. The writer (I wish I could find the article and if I do, I will insert it here) railed against AA and other 12 step programs because, mainly, they put the cure of alcoholism in the hands of the alcoholic.

Statistically, AA works for only between 10 and 20% of alcoholics. Personally, I don’t think the statistics matter when one sober person is enough (IMO) to call the program a success, at least for that person’s family.

I get it. No one wants to rely on the drunk to cure his/her own problems. Who is more unreliable than an alcoholic?

Anyone who loves an alcoholic wants a powerful outside force to come and wrest the problem from the drinker and awaken that person to the wonder of a sober life. I wanted that for my brother every single day of his life. For a time I thought I could BE that power. Later I thought I could ally myself with that power (various rehab programs and hospitals that tried to help my brother). I busted my ass working extra jobs to pay for my brother’s rehab, housing, food, medical care. In all that I learned something important.

There is no such power.

The United States already spends about $35 billion a year on alcohol- and substance-abuse treatment, yet heavy drinking causes 88,000 deaths a year—including deaths from car accidents and diseases linked to alcohol. (“The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous” The Atlantic)

Science continues to research the problem of alcoholism (which is as old as humanity, I think, since we started brewing brew and vintnering vino early in our history) and comes up with chemical aids to treat and help alcholics. The bottom line THERE is that even with the help of science, the alcoholic has to be motivated to use the medications or the psychological treatment.

It’s a pretty common-place notion now that many alcoholics have underlying psychological problems and that booze is self-medication. My brother very likely suffered something like borderline personality disorder. Both our childhoods were traumatic at key moments in our development, and we were very different kids. Some people are intrinsically more reslient than others, less dependent on others, react differently to stress, able to develop alliances outside the family. I am a survivor; my little brother wasn’t. Even as kids if someone picked on him, I beat them up. My reaction was to fight back or leave. My brother’s was to stay there and take it.

In 2004 I realized that though he called me, he didn’t even know where I lived, what my life was like, or much about who I was. I was just an open wallet to him and he would — and did — lie and con me to get money. It was hurting me teaching 7 classes and holding down a 20 hr/week clerical job. His life wasn’t worth more than mine. “Don’t call me again until you stop drinking,” I said on the phone, feeling like my heart was being pulled from my chest.

“Fuck you,” he said.

I never heard from him again. I was totally OK with that. I had realized that I couldn’t do anything to fix my brother. It was 100% beyond me. I wasn’t mad at him, I loved him as much as ever, I wanted him to pull his shit together as much as I ever had, but I finally understood that it wasn’t my job. I had a lot of help reaching that point, the kindness of loving friends who’d experienced something like this in their lives and some of whom knew and loved my brother, too. I took a lot of shit from some of my family over my decision, but those who understood really did understand. I will always be grateful. ❤

No one ever saves anyone who isn’t already clinging to the shore asking for help while he or she tries to pull him/herself up.

My feeling now about alcholism is that there isn’t, and will never be, a “one size fits all” cure for this problem other than the one we know and that is that the alcoholic can stop drinking if he or she is motivated to do so. I’ve known several people who stopped drinking because something outside of them mattered more to them than drinking. My dad’s sister, my dad, my grandfather — just to name three, but my list is longer than those three family members. People do stop, but my brother didn’t. He died of an alcoholism related stroke in 2010. I didn’t even know until five months later.

Today is my brother’s birthday and he would be 65. The ONE thing he refused to try was AA. Who knows?

In any case, I miss my brother, and I would much rather be baking a cake today than writing this. I think I’ll go take a walk. ❤

Two songs for my brother and me:

 

 

The best song about addiction I know:

Old Dog

Dusty is suddenly old. He was a young 13 two weeks ago and now he’s an old 13 (which is to say, 13). Dogs his size and the two breeds he seems to be made of have much shorter average lifespans than that. He’s restless and frightened at night. He can’t see. He’s scared (his basic nature) a lot of the time.

Tonight he’s kept me awake at night pacing on the hardwood floors, panting, looking for me. He has challenges controlling his bowels that he never had before. I don’t want to drag this out, either.

I know where this ends. I know it’s considered wrong to jump the gun. We have to wait until he can’t move under his own power and is urinating and pooping everywhere. I hate this dilemma. But we’ll visit the vet this week and see if there’s relief for Dusty’s nighttime anxiety.

Then we’ll see. He’s been a hard dog to love since the beginning, but I do love him. His early puppyhood trauma left him scared and aggressive (sounding). He was hard to train and ultimately needed a professional to see that he was properly socialized and calm enough, in general, to ride in a car or go for a walk. I also don’t think anything or anyone has ever loved me as much as Dusty does.

I’ve drugged him (mildly) hoping we can both get some sleep now. I’m very tired from my trip to Colorado Springs. I slept badly Sunday night and went to bed early tonight (9!) and went right to sleep, to be awakened by Dusty pacing and generally freaking out.

Anyone who rescues a dog from a shelter (which I highly recommend) could face a challenge like Dusty T. Dog. Some dogs are just easier than others.

He’s lying here at my feet, finally calm. I don’t know if it’s the drugs finally kicking in or whatever was disturbing him has stopped. It might have been the sprinklers (which switched on about the time he started pacing and I have now turned off) or maybe it was a bad dream. There’s no question in my mind that dogs have more access to our thoughts than we to theirs.

He’s finally asleep. Dare I? ❤

 

Mitigating​ Factors

I’ve known this tree since I was 16 or so. The first time I saw it, my friend Kathleen and I climbed up the cliff face. Back then the “Bluffs” was a quiet, seldom visited, mildly wild-and-woolly place. It was Sunday afternoon after church. Kathleen and I went to the same church, lived in the same hood and went to the same high school. We walked to school together every day and hung out on weekends. She had a horse named Irish Luck and a great dog, a Border collie named Ronco. We had a lot of fun rambling around up there and life was (mostly) good.

Life in my family wasn’t so good. My dad’s abilities were deteriorating quickly from his MS, and I was scared about losing him. There were family fights almost every night. I avoided home as much as possible by doing lots of extra-curricular activities at school and getting a job.

So anyway, one Sunday afternoon Kathleen, Ronco and I went up to the bluffs, found a trail, took it until it petered out, saw the sandstone cliff, climbed up and arrived at this amazing tree. I was stunned. Out of the ‘dead’ trunk of this Rocky Mountain Juniper rose a straight new tree, back then about 18 inches tall.

I grew up with poetry and the whole thing of metaphors and symbols. I immediately saw in that tree a metaphor that was useful to me. The tree grows in sandstone. There’s no soil or anything from which you’d think it could derive sustenance. It’s hundreds of years old. Where it looked like it might have been on its last roots, it wasn’t. Right then and there I took the lesson. Whatever’s going on around, you don’t let it defeat you. You just quietly and according to your nature, keep growing. It may seem strange, but that tree became a kind of surrogate mother to me.

2

From then on, pretty much every time Kathleen and I took a hike, we’d visit the tree for a few minutes unless it was our destination and then we’d go there and hang out. Today, you can drive to it if you want, but back in the late sixties, that wasn’t the case. Also, we walked from home. I’d pick up Kathleen and we’d trounce across a then nearly-deserted Academy Boulevard, run across a hay field, and into the thickets of scrub oak of the lower Bluffs, the neighborhood wilderness. That world is gone.

The day before yesterday, I saw my orthopedic surgeon. He X-rayed the hip replacement, examined me and said, “No restrictions. Go run up a mountain. Go ski. Where will you ski?”

Yesterday, my friend Lois (who grew up in the same neighborhood and also rambled around in the Bluffs with her brothers) and I went to see my tree. I had a lot to tell it. I can’t say I went up the hills like a mountain goat, but I did OK. My only struggle now is a lack of confidence in my footing. I will have to relearn the confidence I once felt on rocky slopes and sharper hills. We got near the tree and noticed a small one, pretty much just like my tree, but younger — maybe only fifty years old! It could easily be my tree’s daughter. They are the only two Rocky Mountain Junipers in this immediate area.

1

Young Rocky Mountain Juniper

At my tree, I did what I did as a girl. I wrapped my arms around her. I cried, releasing all the emotion of the past several months, and I told her everything. Then, my feelings spent, I looked at her and saw how well she is doing. She has secreted sap and she was loaded with juniper berries. ❤

Have you seen God in His splendors,
heard the text that nature renders?
(You’ll never hear it in the family pew).
Robert Service, “The Call of the Wild”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/rdp-sunday-secrete/

Tiny Bear

Lots of unfathomable stuff goes on in the world every day. Most of it is way over my head. One of the strangest things in my life this past few months has been the effect of anesthesia from my hip surgery.

Vets often say, “I don’t like to do teeth cleaning on an older dog. Anesthesia is very hard on them. The longer they are under, the more dangerous it is.” Lily almost died in a teeth cleaning. I should’ve been warned…

One of the advantages of the type of hip surgery I had is that a person doesn’t have to be under as long as with the traditional type. Still, I went very deeply under. The effects are lingering. My physical therapist said that for an older person (and I qualify) it can take eight months for the effects of anesthesia to vanish completely.

Almost every day I find something that reminds me how out of my mind I was (and perhaps still am). Yesterday I got my little pack to take to the quilt show.. It’s a hydration pack, but the bladder has long vanished. I put my water bottle in the insulated part that would hold the hydration bladder and I put my stuff in the front.

As I was digging around in a front pocket I found two new tubes of hand cream and an organza bag with Tiny Bear inside. I bought Tiny Bear from a friend’s shop in La Veta on the way up to Colorado Springs for surgery. She was made by a Native American artist of alabaster and turquoise. These little animals are meant to protect their owner.

A couple of months ago, in between my coming home from surgery and my excursion yesterday, I threw this day pack into the washer. Tiny Bear and the hand creams have enjoyed Splash Mountain and a Tide Pod. I didn’t remember putting anything in the pockets.

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/16/rdp-sunday-fathom/

Vanity…

Just got home from the supermarket and I am tussling with vanity and reality. And I want to punch a self-important little gay kid in the face and say, “Dude, when you’re 66 you see how it is for you, you little faggot!” I know he’s gay because — besides the obvious — he’s wearing a very conspicuous rainbow ring and speaks with the kind of lithp one might pick up from TV or movies as part and parcel of the identity. I have nothing against gay anybody — one of my most beloved boyfriends also happened to be gay — and a person’s gender preference is none of my fucking business (and vice versa) BUT we’re talking major advertising.

OK everyone’s shocked but here’s what happened.

I pull into a lane to check out my groceries. I’m behind an extremely obese man about my age in a motorized cart with his groceries in front of him as one who uses such a cart is likely to do. He’s fine. He’s typical. He’s got on a blue and white gingham shirt, red suspenders and a c’boy hat.

“Are you with him?” asks the child wearing the store badge, the rainbow ring, a Roger Waters moustache and is clearly a checker.

“WHAT?” I ask a question that means many many things beyond “I didn’t hear you.”

“Are you with this gentleman? Because if you aren’t, I’ll check you out on lane 5.”

“Cool,” I say and follow him to where he can do his job briskly and as he was trained including annoying the shit out of the people behind me by explaining to me my receipt (because I’ve never seen one before?) “If you give me a review you’ll get extra fuel points.”

You don’t want my review, child. You do not want what I would say.

I would like to meet ONE woman who EMBRACES being old, who loves gray hair and a body that responds to neither diet nor exercise, who thinks walking with a limp is the be-all and end-all of human experience. Who KNOWS that no matter WHAT she does, she is never going to look all that good. She might look fine. She might look “attractive for her age” or “that color is great on you” but (with rare exceptions) she’s never going to be pretty (except for her age). My Aunt Martha, for example, was a 9 — maybe even a 10 — for 80. Except, maybe, for the chin hairs.

How in hell would I be with a grotesquely obese old man? And why did I feel insulted by the kid’s assumption? And why didn’t he just say, “I can help you on number 5. ‘Hubby’ would’ve come along had that been the case.

And what about hubby? How did he get there? Broken back? Farming acccident? War wound? What right did I have to be insulted by the kid’s assumption? That’s the part that bothers me most. Yes, the kid had poor social skills, but I’m a superficial bitch.

With whom WOULD I be if I were with someone? That’s a moot question. I wouldn’t be with anyone. I’m not and it’s (pretty much) by choice. Mr. Right probably DID come along but I’ve never been Ms. Right. Too emotionally warped. And am I so superficial that I am insulted that this little twerp would think someone as spellbindingly lovely as I would be with a fat old guy wearing red suspenders shopping from a motorized wheelchair? Yes. I am that superficial. Exactly that superficial.

And I feel bad about it — and that’s weird, too, because how many times was I NOT asked to dance in bars because I wear glasses and, though pretty, nothing flashy or glamorous? I can tell you. I was NEVER asked to dance back in the “what’s your sign” days.  As a friend said of me once, to a guy she wanted me to meet, “You won’t notice her when she walks into the room, but after 20 minutes, you won’t see anyone else. Martha is THAT interesting.”

Maybe the guy in the wheelchair is interesting, too. I don’t know.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/07/07/rdp-37-embrace/

Mushy Post about Friendship

Yesterday two of my neighbors came over for a pre-surgery tea party. We had a really nice time.

I’ve been thinking about friendship a lot since I moved to Monte Vista where I did not know anyone. It’s kind of a “different” thing to do (as I was told repeatedly). I did it knowing that if I never met anyone I’d still be OK. I’m nothing if not internally resourceful. But I did meet people — quite a few and most of them I like.

Friendship changes throughout our lives, I think. I remember as a kid wanting playmates, mostly, and that one BEST friend. Both of those things were hard for me to make. First, I was a little kid. Second, I was very sensitive and, since I was a little kid, I didn’t know that other people might be just as sensitive — or more! — than I was. I didn’t know then that people react differently to things than I might. It’s not that little kids think they’re the center of the universe. They’re figuring out who THEY are through the ecolocation of childhood. It’s pretty hard to figure out who OTHER people are when you don’t know who YOU are. I had a friend who sulked when she was mad. I didn’t understand that at ALL. I lived in a family where you threw tantrums and got it off your chest. I was always trying to go to Debbie to get her to talk to me. I always felt her silence was forever. My mom said, over and over, “Just leave her alone. She has to sulk. She’ll come back.”

Mom, of course, was right.

I discovered playmates through team sports (baseball, softball, kick ball, kill the man with the ball) and I found a best friend (finally!) in sixth grade. I looked her up a few years ago and we still like each other.

In high school I remember wanting a (male) soulmate (was I really thinking of my “soul”?) and girl friends to do stuff with. It was important that we UNDERSTAND each other in some ineffably deep way. In adolescence we don’t understands ourselves very well. Maybe that’s why we seek understanding from others. Any little bit of help, right?

In my working years, friendship was often transactional and transitory. It depended on the people with whom I worked, but I did, in my 20s, discover the second best friend of my life.

An we still like each other.

All this to say at this point in my life my understanding of friendship is completely different. By now I’ve known tens of thousands of people (many of whom wandered in and out of my classrooms). Friendship now is not about all the things we have in common, or shared memories, shared goals, as much as it’s about the actual PERSON inside the physical carapace. All of our lives are so different from each other, our experiences, our responses and reactions to those experiences, the disappointments we’ve had, the hopes we still hold, our responses to any given moment, that once you know who you are, you don’t expect to have all that much ‘in common’ with others. I know I am like an iceberg in the Atlantic — there’s a bit up on the surface, but most of it is below) and everyone else is an iceberg, too.

It takes a lifetime to learn who we are, I think, or maybe I’m just a slow learner.

Listening to my friends talking yesterday (I mostly listened) I thought about all this. I don’t have a lot in common (superficially) with my friends in Monte Vista, but on other levels that don’t come into the conversation over a pretty table with cookies on it, I do. The biggest thing is we are all survivors and we want to share the good we have with others. I think it’s one of the perks of being old(er).

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As the party was breaking up, they asked, “When exactly is your surgery?” We knew why we were all there. I wanted to spend time with them before I go up for my “procedure.” Why? Because once in a while, people die in surgery. I know it, they know it. We know people who have died that way. You don’t talk about it, it’s nothing to be spoken of (though I am) but it’s there. You also don’t talk about being afraid, but you (and your friends) know you are afraid. I told them all the basic information when they asked, and the subject went back to dogs or something else.

There are the rare friends who know your heart, though. And I’ve been amazed — blessed — in my little town to have found that.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/tide/

Intimations of Mortality from the Living Room Floor

You can end up alone and old in a lot of ways. My way was simply that I had no kids, and I was never able to make a long term relationship work. I honestly didn’t want kids, so when it happened that I didn’t have any, that was OK with me. As for the LTR? I don’t know. That’s a lie. I do know. I didn’t learn the skills when I could have, should have. Instead I learned how to survive in the family I was born into. Ironically, that family did not survive me. So, in my case it’s not just that I don’t have a husband and kids, I don’t have siblings. When you’re in my position and have medical problems, there are systems designed to help you out. Yet, somehow, I feel that I failed. I sense that people — medical people — speak to me of these systems in whispers, though they probably do not. Innocent questions sound like accusations, “Do you have someone to take care of you when you go home?” (“Otherwise you’re a loser.”)

But… It doesn’t matter. Many people are going to survive everyone. My grandmother, in her 90s, told me how hard it was to be the last one among her friends. There were no people left in the world with whom she could share the memories of HER life. She lived with her daughter — an arrangement that was good for both of them — and had lots of contact with grand and great-grandkids, but we had not shared her young days with her. The life we shared with her was OUR lives, not hers.

My little fall and minor rib injury this weekend prompted care from the people around me ❤ and from friends at a distance, one of whom was worried that if something happened to me she couldn’t get to me fast enough to help.

It haunted my sleep. I might live in Heaven, but Heaven is a not place where I can sell my house and make any money. I am going to stay here for the duration. And where would I go? I have a really small income.  But in my dreams, I headed north looking for an affordable home closer to friends. I kept trying to wake up, but there was no way that was happening. I thought (in my dream) that I am really old and frail. I thought, “No, I’m not. But I look that way because I have white hair and I’m small. People who haven’t known me longer than five years might think I’ve shrunk.” Still, I acknowledged that my will and spirit are much younger than my body. I thought about attempting to reconcile the two, and saw quickly which has the upper hand. It’s the one with the actual hand (ha ha).

This morning I’ve decided this isn’t worth thinking about. Dusty is older than I am and HE’S not thinking about it. I’d be astonished if he did!

An homage to my dad who did not get to live long enough to deliberate these problems or dream these nightmares, but who was right in giving me the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam as a lesson in what matters in life.

XXIV
Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and–sans End!

XXV
Alike for those who for To-day prepare,
And those that after some To-morrow stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries
“Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There.”

XXVI
Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss’d
Of the Two Worlds so wisely–they are thrust
Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
Are scatter’d, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

XXVII
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went.

XXVIII
With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;
And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d–
“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”

(The whole poem is here)

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/astonish/

Rosebuds

I’ve begun reading the Goliard poetry. The commentary/introduction to the Goliards of the book I’m reading, Wine, Women and Song by John Addington Symonds irked me big time yesterday. It was all Renaissance this Renaissance that and you know, that bugs me. The way historians conventionally talk about the Renaissance you’d think all that just SPRANG out of nothing, that people lived their primitive, un-Roman, grubby little lives until, voilá, Leonardo. The book is around 150 years old, but that notion lingers on.

This historian compared Goliard poetry to Renaissance poetry and, IMO, that requires a time machine. If I were an intellectual living in the 1880s I’d be tempted to look more at INFLUENCE than comparison, but not this guy. I wanted to hit him over the head with a mallet. An example — at the end of a long and beautiful love poem, the benighted Mr. Symmonds writes:

It would surely be superfluous to point out the fluent elegance of this poem, or to dwell farther upon the astonishing fact that anything so purely Renaissance in tone should have been produced in the twelfth century.

I want to throttle him.

It’s funny to me how we name historical epochs (for our convenience) and then go on as if it were a real thing. “Hey, Leonardo, dude, here’s what I’m thinking. Renaissance? What’s your take on that? Like it? I think it’s a hell of a marketing stragedy for my badass ceiling and sculptures.”

“Mike, leave me alone. I’m writing secrets backwards.”

Yesterday I read this 12th century exhortation to love (remember, these are songs):

THE INVITATION TO YOUTH.
No. 8.

Take your pleasure, dance and play,
Each with other while ye may:
Youth is nimble, full of grace;
Age is lame, of tardy pace.

We the wars of love should wage,
Who are yet of tender age;
‘Neath the tents of Venus dwell
All the joys that youth loves well.

Young men kindle heart’s desire;
You may liken them to fire:
Old men frighten love away
With cold frost and dry decay.

For some reason, it reminded me of THIS (written during the Renaissance):

To the Virgins to Make Much of Time
Robert Herrick, 1591 – 1674

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former. 

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

The Carmina Burana is filled with songs on this theme.

What IF (and this is a revolutionary thought) one thing leads to another?

But I’m not fair to Mr. Symmonds. His job was to open the minds of his readers to the notion that the Middle Ages were NOT a Dark Ages. He used the handholds he had to do this. I’m not exactly the audience for whom he was writing and I bet the audience he hoped to reach got his point which was, “Hey, these are really cool and beautiful songs kind of like all that stuff you like from the Renaissance!”

There are HUNDREDS of Goliard songs. I can’t imagine that they just lurked in dark taverns with iconoclastic young clerics. I’d bet they were EVERYWHERE these wandering scholars went in their, uh, wandering. I bet LOTS of non-wandering scholars — you know, just people? — knew them. I bet they had a larger influence than we know or the Church would not have wanted so badly to stem the tide of disillusioned drunken libidinous clerics wandering Europe, looking for teaching jobs and criticizing the hypocrisy of the church.

The OTHER egregious thing Mr. Symmonds does is compare some of the church-criticizing poetry to the Reformation. Again, that requires a time machine. BUT…WE look at the Reformation as a discrete event in history that sprang up spontaneously (simultaneous to the Renaissance?) but it wasn’t. Symmonds even opens his book with a quotation from Martin Luther. Again, for his Post-Reformation readers, that could strike a chord legitimizing the redemption of the “Dark Ages”.

The British art historian, Waldemar Januszczak, in his series for the BBC The Renaissance Unchained makes a good case (pretty much my case). His argument is that the Renaissance is Papist propaganda designed to combat the Reformation. When I began watching the series a year or so ago, and he made that point, I cheered. I’m not casting aspersions on so-called Renaissance art at all (it’s amazing), but those guys were PAID to paint and sculpt what they did to convey the message the Church wanted them to.

Do I like the songs/poems I’m reading? Not a lot, actually, but what’s behind them is very attractive. A whole world. Reading one spring/love/sex poem after another brought me to poor old Faust on Easter, bewailing his age and all the years he’d spent in study rather than gathering rosebuds.

That roses have thorns is, maybe, the wisdom of old age.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/mallet/

Famdamily

Yesterday I talked to one of my cousins, the remaining son of my Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank. It seems my Aunt Jo — 94 and dealing with dementia — is on the way out. That right there is not news. The word “imminent” is the big change. My cousin — whom I like very much — and I talked a long time. He doesn’t like his mother much, and I thought it’s interesting how most of the cousins — children of my mom’s sisters — don’t like their mothers much. Something in the gritty past of all those girls left them warped in some mysterious way. They could all be very, very mean given the right (or wrong) concatenation of events.

After my cousin and I talked, I was very sad. I love my Aunt Jo and she has been unfailingly kind and loving to me. I owe her many of my good memories, some of my good habits as well as the knowledge everyone needs that they are loved.

I fed the dogs but didn’t feel like cooking or eating supper at all. I’d told my cousin i would come up to Montana, so I sat down and tried to find a good air fare and a place to stay. “I still have the folks’ house,” he’d said, “but there are no beds in it. I don’t feel right about you spending all that money to come up here and stay in a hotel and all that.”

I haven’t gone to Montana for 7 years for that very reason. To fly, stay somewhere and board the dogs is a huge chunk of change. It’s more than a garage door. It’s a third of a garage roof. It’s money I don’t have.

Finally I gave up. I couldn’t think clearly, anyway. Memories and images of past moments pressed against my eyes; I could SEE them. I sneaked out the back door with Bear and went to the slough. Besides sadness, I was carrying loneliness. When someone we love dies — or stands on the brink of death — loneliness is part and parcel of mourning.

It was nearly 7, an hour away from sunset. A good wind was blowing, promising rain to someone but not to us. Perfect. The light was soft and healing. The clouds blue gray. We hit the trail. I noticed the milkweed were still blooming, and I wondered if I’d ever see a monarch butterfly (I never had). Soon, I did. She flitted up above Bear and then in front of my face. “Bear, we’ve finally seen a Monarch butterfly,” I almost whispered to my dog who was watching it fly away.

We turned the corner and there in the near distance stood a large mule deer doe. I was downwind of her so she was calm and unaware of me for a while, then the wind shifted for a second or two, and she looked right at me. I watched her. Bear was very still. The doe finally decided that while I didn’t seem to be a threat, better safe than sorry, and went bounding back in the direction from which she’d come. I watched her go and saw her stop in the tall chamisa a ways away, still watching me. Bear and I continued. A large bird approached and flew overhead; an osprey.

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/grit/

Ski Bum Revelation, II

Those of you starting out in life or making your way over the GREAT BRIDGE of life’s productivity, saving the world (I, for one, am grateful) well, maybe this post is not for you, but I think it is. I retired three years ago and moved back to the Rocky Mountains which I had missed more than I can ever describe for the 30 years I lived in someone else’s paradise. Don’t get me wrong. I was very happy in Southern California and found a Coloradoesque life for myself in the wonderful mountains that rim San Diego. I learned to see and love the coastal sage and chaparral, my great teacher in so many ways, but I always, always, always missed the mountains.

Once I retired and came back, I launched myself right into what I thought I’d want to do as retired person. I have arthritis in my knees, so I figured I needed surgery and/or I was a cripple. I never had enough time to paint, so I figured I was an artist. I had an unfinished novel, so I figured I was a writer.

Over the course of this three years, my understanding of myself has changed, shifted. Images of myself that I held up there peeled away. You might think it’s all about self-discovery when you’re young, but I’d say for me there’s been more of that in the last three years than any other time since, well, ever. I don’t have that stuff in front of me, all that “Que sera, sera,” stuff. A lot of my stories have ended and I know how they turned out. For example I know I’m not going to be anyone’s mom and I’m not going to make a million bucks or save all the people in an impoverished country. No one expects anything of me any more, except to creep inexorably downhill physically, to be more out of touch with technology than I am or ever will be, to be not all that bright. It’s funny, but after you do a pretty good job through your working years, there will be people (usually younger) that don’t realize that you once were where they are and YOU MADE IT THROUGH.

There was a point in life in which dreams turned into imperatives such as “Holy shit, do I earn enough to make my house payment?” I remember, sometime in my 40s, telling my brother that all I did in my life was “patch things up and hold them together.” He, for his part, was impressed that I could do that! 🙂

So now…the other day, riding the stationary bike and watching a movie, The Last of the Ski Bums, I realized that I was happier skiing than doing any other thing in my life, ever. And I wasn’t very good at it. That’s important. Skiing, in and of itself, was just great, sublime, exciting, beautiful. Snow, high mountains, speed. Wow. I decided then and there that in my next life no one’s going to hijack my aimless existence with their idea of purpose. No sirree.

Then… Well, I work out a lot. Simply being able to walk requires that the muscles of my legs are strong so my knees work like knees should. I don’t know what I was doing, but I found myself in a skiing maneuver. And I thought, “Damn. I can do this. Godnose that next life idea is unpredictable. I might come back  wombat or armadillo or something. Or a child in the tropics where there is no snow and no hope of any. I can’t hang my ski bum dreams on some next life. I missed out this time, but putting my money on my next life is really too big a gamble.”

So I did research. Lots of people ski with arthritis. Since I was never any good, I can probably have a pretty good time on the baby slopes, maybe even blue circles! There are braces people wear on their knees. Then I remembered reading something on the website of the local ski area, just 50 miles away and no mountain pass involved, Wolf Creek, (which, BTW, usually gets the most snow of any ski area in Colorado). Their ski school has classes for “Baby Boomers.” A lift ticket for “seniors” is $25. I might not be the only one living out their Late-life Ski Bum Dreams