Category: family, friends, students

Anecdotes about my friends, my family, our students


Laughter, Joy, and a Few Tears

It was a service of caring, of sharing, of laughter, joy, and poignancy, the pews filled to overflowing in a beautiful non-denominational church called The Gardenia Center in Sandpoint. I sat quietly behind the piano after my accompanist, Laura Clark, and I started the service with “Greensleeves,” chosen by Patrick because it harkened back to their wedding. Laura then bridged between the Western and the Eastern with an improvisation on Native American flute.

The Buddhist ceremony, led by the benevolent Reverend Master Zensho Roberson, was short, yet beautiful, gentle incense discreetly flavoring the air, after which came Patrick’s eulogy, an extemporaneous expression that brought much, much laughter, joy, and delight from the attendees. Patrick is a wonderful extemporaneous speaker, always engaging his audience with encouragement and embrace. His eulogy broke the shyness of others who then shared with us how Elaine had touched their lives. It was a very good send off. We finished with the playing of ‘Here Comes the Sun’, a bright and hopeful ending, and people seemed satisfied. I didn’t stay for the reception afterwards, but, by all accounts, it went off very well, too — Elaine remembered well and surely with joy and a few tears.


End of the Week Update

This week has been fraught. Just fraught. Everything was a crisis, everything was a scramble to get done in time, and I managed to just squeak through by a just keep pounding away at it determination, all with almost no sleep. Today, after the last flurry of frantic, I crashed for five hours this afternoon. Then, I got up and sat outside in the cold, letting the crystalline snowflakes coming down outside land on my upturned face. The feeling was wonderful after such a numbing week.

Today is Mom’s birthday, Mom who unexpectedly died October 13th of complications from a twisted intestine, which itself was the result of having an appendectomy when she was just nine years old. Today, on Mom’s birthday, I finished up the memorial service program for Elaine’s funeral and got it to the printer, saw a proof, and then did all the other jobs and chores still pending with their own deadlines. Elaine was one of Mom’s friends — a family friend, actually.

I think the whole winter has just been one overwhelming hurdle after another. Everytime I think I can maybe get my life back, something else happens.

Anyway, sitting out in the cold with the snowflakes hitting my face was a small recess. It felt good to just sit and let the cold seep into my bones after such a hectic time. I know more “hectic and frenetic” is just around the corner, but the time out felt wonderful. It was sorely needed.

Here’s what the memorial service program looks like. It’s a trifold, top is the outside, back, and inside flap; bottom is the inside.


Family Friend Elaine Tormey Has Passed

I got a phone call Sunday morning last. Family friend, Elaine Tormey, who Mom spent untold hours with on projects and talking about their projects — making quilts and clothes and other things, Mom doing embroideries for them, Elaine sewing them up — passed away. I’ve spent the last few days helping Patrick with preparations for her memorial service, which takes place March 3rd. I’ll be playing flute at the service, the intro and outro, along with a lady accompanist named Laura. This has been a winter of death and passing. More later when I get my feet grounded, again.


Morning’s Hot Toasted Buns

I have an author friend who doesn’t wake well.  She doesn’t wake ill, either, but she does wake slightly brain-dead, slightly out-of-sorts, and slightly, only slightly, mind you, miffed by people like me who bound out of bed with a bounce.  She wakes up slow. She wakes up stiff. It’s a back thing. And she deals with it by using a microwavable heating pad applied to her backside, plopping down (gently) to toast herself as she herds her first cup of coffee down her esophagus.

Now, I want you to imagine a woman in her late middle years who’s vivacious, perspicacious, and wry, whose humor is enough to send you into coffee-up-the-nose paroxysms at one of her witticisms once she’s finally gotten herself up to fighting speed. Then, she’ll run rings around those bleary-eyed twenty- and thirty-somethings still suffering the effects of their wild night spent at the rave in the arms of their latest heartthrob, the ones you find desperately hustling their kids off to school and themselves to their day job, their phones in their left hand, their right plying makeup using the rear-view as they careen down the interstate, driving by knee and a curse.

Breakfast for some is a bagel, for others a beer, but for friend Laura Belgrave, morning brings hot, toasted buns.


Home Alone on Thanksgiving.

It’s Thanksgiving across America. In countless homes, somebody (or even several somebodies) is up early prepping food to go in the oven. Me? No. I’ll probably grab a hunk of cheddar cheese for my daily sustenance, same thing, same amount I had yesterday.

Food isn’t important to me. Never has been.

Oh, sure. I do love (real) mashed potatoes and gravy. I love a good casserole. Turkey stuffing is the best …when done the old-fashioned way. I eat none of it since my body decided to pack on an additional, unwanted thirty pounds that stubbornly won’t come off, despite years of an 800 – 1200 calorie per day diet that includes no carbs.

Sure, a wonderfully grilled steak is a treat. A good piece of fish or chicken….

Such used to be life. No longer. (Mostly I exist on coffee.)

Thanksgiving is mostly about people, though. And, honestly, people don’t figure prominently in my life. Animals, yes. Not people.

I have a few good friends — cherished friends; I have my best friend — my husband, F. W. Lineberry; I have acquaintances — I’m talking real world people, here. Most of the people I care about now, though, most I name as ‘friend’, are Netizens. I’ve never met them in real life, and we certainly don’t share a meal on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving used to mean spending several days prior and the morning of prepping a huge turkey, baking squash, homemade bread and special sweet cakes, making stuffing, peeling potatoes, pulling frozen garden veggies from the freezer. There was polishing gold- and silverware, washing up heirloom china, sharpening carving knives, digging out the special table linens, cleaning house from top to bottom. No more. Not for the last few years. I think the last time Forrest and I prepped a Thanksgiving dinner was in 2011, when we lived in town, two years prior to moving back to Dad’s house. It was a smashing success, the guests people who were lonely and alone, folks who had no caring family or loved ones. And, since then, yes, I’ve put on dinner parties, but not a Thanksgiving. (Turkeys sigh with relief.)

In my life, there’s no real reason to make a big fuss on Turkey Day. Dad’s been dead for years. Mom just died. To them, Thanksgiving mattered. So, it mattered to me. No longer. Were my husband home (but he’s not; he’s still fighting nasty roads in BC, Canada), we’d have a meal together, delighting in each other’s company…just like we do any and every day that he’s at home — not often.

I’m a zentaoist. Every day is Thanksgiving. Every day is precious. More, every moment. And, honestly, putting on a feast, unless it’s for those who are lonely and have no family or loved ones who care, unless its for those who need it, makes no sense …to me.

For the lonely? The bereft? Sure. But I do that any day, sipping coffee, water, or tea, maybe even orange juice, sharing a meal of whatever best comes to hand from the pantry and the frig, sitting down around the dining room table with someone who arrived spontaneously and just needs a spirit lift.

I listen to them and, if they get too morose, will liven the conversation with subtly pertinent anecdotes from life. It can last as long as four or five hours. Then, needs fulfilled, they venture back into the world, me returning to my solitude, grateful that I know I’m loved.


Update on Dawn’s World

So you all know Mom died mid-October and, yes, I’ve been way under the radar when it comes to both the real world and the Internet. Why doesn’t have as much to do with grief, though there’s that, as much as it does shock and anger. Mom was not expected to die. Nobody, even the surgeon who fixed her torsion, expected it. Yes, she was that healthy inside, despite atrial fib. That she died came as a complete surprise. That she chose to do it during the two hours I was gone from her post-surgery room in ICU, having left her to go home to check and feed animals with her numbers excellent and stable, that she chose to check out in a matter of minutes to the ICU nurses’ disbelief, her heart rate steadily declining from normal to zero in ten minutes during my absence, felt like opportunism. She took advantage of the fact that I went home to check herself out of life, and all because of the indignity of a stomach tube threaded down through her esophagus into her stomach to drain off her backed up digestive effluent.

I’m not kidding, here. This is no joke. Her aunt and a great aunt — both of them — did the same thing — willed themselves dead, the 101 year old, having just finished doing a batch of pickles, sitting down on a couch and going in 24 hours upon deciding to die and the 103 year old who, likewise decided, but instead took three days to do it. And, according to family lore, it was the nature of these Eurasian women who, having survived child birth to enter old age, then extreme old age, all of them healthy, to simply and suddenly decide that they now wanted to die …and then they’d do it.

It’s always been eerie for me to hear the tales. What’s knocked me into retreat is the fact that she just had to demonstrate the quasi-validity of her stories, much as the pragmatic side of me sits here and vehemently shakes my head ‘no, not plausible’.  What brings the shock and anger, though, is something else: She had everything to live for — friends who called, friends who visited at least once a week, opportunities to gad about and socialize, go to dinner and to parties….  She embroidered, still beautifully. She voraciously read books. She lived in my home, then back to her own home with me there to provide for her every whim and need …excepting those things which I couldn’t provide — being the daughter she yearned for — something feminine and pretty, something vain and vacuous, something willing to chat about triteness for hours on end, none of which is me. I’ve never been able to be ‘one of her dollies’, though how she persistently tried to coerce me to be.


I wrote a short story a few years ago. Though it’s slightly fictionalized to preserve some semblance of dignity, I think I’ll share it… because this, for me, is what it was like having Mom live with us …us living with Mom. It’s called A Moment of Morning, written under my pen name, E. J. Ruek and originally posted to that site: https://www.ejruek.com/a-moment-of-morning/

A MOMENT OF MORNING

In the dark of the morning, I sit in the cold, listening to the faraway, echoing horn of a train. It’s 3:30 AM, my rising time—by habit and need.

My mother sleeps in my living room, slowly dying of self-neglect and petulance, and there’s nothing I can do. There’s nothing that her many doctors, visiting nurses, CNAs, and physical therapists can do. She makes her choices, refusing advice, urgings, instructions. She sticks to those choices. Rigorously. I’m just the maid. My voice doesn’t count, even if I am her only daughter…her only child. (She lost all eight others as fetuses, maybe by choice. I knew by the time I was four that she sure didn’t want me.)

Sipping coffee, waiting for the love of my life to phone home, I cast my mind inward, wondering at a woman who, my whole life, insisted that I “move.” And move I do, more than most, more than any of my contemporaries, except maybe Kathy. Three years ago, Mom moved, too. She was agile and fit. Then, due to her own choices of personal neglect, her ability to do so with ease and vigor vanished. At sixty-eight—did I tell you that I was a very late baby?—she became a maimed slave to a syncopated heartbeat—atrial fib. Now she lays on a bed, ordered to keep her legs up, and delivers me anger seasoned with pouts and, worse, self-pity.

My mother is, in her way, a prima donna—very vain. Yet, she is…or was…generous and caring, too. To and of others. (Never me; never my dad.) She cares for ‘her’ others a lot, especially her anthropomorphized dollies—thousands of dollies.

I keep thinking to myself—what will I do with all of those thousands of dollies, some worth ten thousand, each?

I know nothing of dollies, care nothing for dollies. I find them rather horrifying—porcelain, cloth, plaster, and plastic reincarnations of someone’s symbolically human ideal. (Are humans ideal? Even symbolically? …I wonder in doubt.) “You can tell the artist,” Mother will say, her delicate, model’s hands fondling a dress, a hand, a curl. She’ll line them up and point to the nuances of a particular artist on dolls that cost more, each one, than Dad made in a month. (After she bought them on time, he couldn’t afford the price of his heart pills.)

A friend suggests that I catalog them, then sell them on E-Bay. The very idea exhausts me. The research to price them would, alone, require a year of my time—time I don’t have with running a business and maintaining two households—never mind my writing, recording, and session work.

Then there’s Mom’s piles—decades’ worth of magazines and old newspaper articles, boxes of clothes bought at thrift stores and sales, yards of material waiting to be run up on one of her five pricey sewing machines. There are hundreds of books that she’s never read, toys still in boxes, foot lockers filled with embroideries. There’s hoards of too many dishes and vases and lamps; upstairs is that old wicker couch overflowing with teddy bears….

It’s a five bedroom house, filled to brimming with all of Mom’s treasures—old cradles and buggies, doll houses and miniature tea sets—and all of it’s covered in decades of dust. (She never cleaned house after Dad’s heart began failing—no reason, I guess.)

That’s just the inside. Outdoors, there’s the piles of old garbage, the broken down fences, the rotting car, truck, and trailer, this last a haphazard minefield inside containing a vast store of treacherous gardening tools. (I’d keep the gardening tools and fix up the fences.)

Another train’s passing, its horn dulled by the distance. My coffee is cold and so are my feet. It’s time to close the laptop and get myself started on chores, but I linger out here on the patio, outside in the cold and the snow.

My cell phone rings. I touch the headpiece I wear to hear hubs in my ear, his grumbling voice a relieving welcome.

He’s headed for Canada, a load full of giant, cumbersome coils. He asks after me, then requests some safe truck routes through cities in lower BC.

I oblige, ‘Googling’ the easiest routes. Then, to his question, assure him that, yes, the roof man will be here today to clear barn roofs of snow load.

Did I snowblow the driveway?

No, but I will.

Best do it before the temperature plunges to zero.

I know.

Did the dog’s blood work come back?

Not yet. It’s expected today.

I love you.

I love you, too.

Gotta go.

Bye.

_

In the dark of the morning, I sit in the cold, listening to emptiness. It’s 4:00 AM and time to get started on morning.

~ ~ ~


So Mom Died 10-13-2017

…which is why I completely disappeared off the Internet. Here’s what happened:

Took Mom to Emergency Monday, October 9, about 7:30PM or so. She was complaining of pain in the lower right GI, exactly where her appendix was taken out when she was nine. After 4 shots of morphine that didn’t touch the pain, the CT results came back, and they got her a pain killer that worked. Wednesday, she went to surgery, again about 7:30PM. Came out with flying colors. Surgeon was ecstatic. She was sooo healthy inside once he removed the piece of small intestine that had twisted because of scarring from her appendicitis operation so many years ago, something, I was told, that is common with those who have had appendectomies. (Wonderful news, that!) Anyway, Thursday she was doing great. By Thursday afternoon, though, things changed, and, Friday morning, at around 4:40AM, her heart rate began to steadily slow, till, about ten minutes later, it ground to a halt.

So there you have it. That’s what happened, for those who want to know, mainly, of course, her relatives.

Be in Joy, Mom.

Dawn


Where Was I?

This may be premature, but I certainly hope not. I made a grave mistake. I bought somebody a birthday present. That led to a blossoming of complications, all of them due to the fact that the individuals involved, namely him and I, think differently, and, even though we both speak English, it’s like one of us speaks alien and the other speaks archaic Greek. (Yes, it’s that bad.)

So, for the last five weeks, I’ve been creating website infrastructures, only to tear them apart, then create different versions, only to tear those down and begin again. Anything I created wasn’t ‘right’. Hours turned into days, then weeks …upon weeks. Finally …maybe … I’ve managed to get at least one of the four domains involved set up enough that things will finally settle down for me. No guarantees on that, but I can hope.

…Now, where was I….


This is going to be a Rough Week

 

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Well, it’s already apparent. This is going to be a rough week for me. I’ve got eight days to survive tippy-toeing around a husband who, home for a much-needed rest from driving big rigs on nasty, congested highways rife with ignorant, rude, in-a-hurry 4-wheelers, is taking exception to almost every word and phrase I utter. So I’m taking a vow to remain silent unless asked a direct question. It seems the only way to avoid huge, ugly conflicts. I am hoping that he’ll mellow out in a few days, but that might be asking too much. As he gets older, he gets less tolerant and more and more testy, and I’m about the only one he feels ‘safe’ to blow off steam around. But I don’t like it; I find it hard, sometimes, to just shut up until he finally mellows.  Other than leaving for the week, which is an option I’m prepared for, silence seems the best plan until and unless things start getting very ugly. It’s a good thing I’m good at silence and zen.

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Caring About a Stranger

Forrest_1-13-2015_900webMy husband sacrificed his first vacation day and night because he cared. A stranger is taking over his weekly LTL run through Canada’s Alberta and BC provinces this week while he takes a short vacation. But, upon reaching the shipping dock, Forrest discovered that, instead of the usual load he’s been getting the last couple of weeks, it was one of those “loads from Hell.” The load topped the weight limits, and even getting it loaded right took hours with the forklift driver so the rear axles weren’t overweight. Then, even with the load shifted as far forward as possible, the rear axles are maxed.  And, of course, the run includes just about every tricky, nasty receiver on the list of possible delivery locations. It was the kind of run that Forrest says can push him to the limits.  And, so, he worried. For the driver taking it, a driver who’s never done this run, or even one like it, a driver who has about one year of driving experience and has never driven a heavy haul.

So Forrest sat down with the driver, and they went through all the problem areas–all afternoon, five hours worth. Then, because the driver’s GPS doesn’t do Canada well, at all, and he wouldn’t use Forrest’s because he didn’t understand how to use it, Forrest came home and spent all night till 5:45AM this morning typing out explicit directions and reminders of ‘how to’ so this guy had a reference sheet on where to go, how to best get there, what problems to expect, and how to negotiate all the very nasty potential problems as well as regular, legacy problems at each receiver.

Caring about a stranger–I wish all of us did that…for everyone.

Thank you, Forrest.

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