Monday, May 28, 2012

Hair of the Dog That Bit Me

About a week ago I saw a story on TV about a little boy who'd been bitten by a dog. The three-year-old smiled into the camera, despite the stiches that held his upper lip together and the ones that criss-crossed his chin. His good spirits were a striking contrast to the story being grimly reported via voiceover. The seriousness of the child's encounter made a strong impression upon me. He was so little, so fragile, and so obviously naive to life's dangers. His diminutive stature had placed him eye-to-eye with the dog. It was amazing to me that more damage had not been done. Yet there he was, happy and obviously trusting the reporters and camera operators around him. He was likely donning the same cheerful look that had been on his previously unscarred face as he and the dog had approached each other. A few days later Ben and I picked up two of his grandsons after school. I'd already met the amazing and talented Logan at soccer practice a few weeks prior. Now Ben introduced me to his five-year-old adorable and precious Evan. Arriving with the two young boys at Logan's home, I was also introduced to Baxter. Baxter, a beagle-pug mix, came bounding out from his cage as we arrived. Baxter knows Evan. Baxter knows Ben. Baxter lives with Logan. I was the only novelty in the room and Baxter's enthusiasm focused upon me. After Ben pulled the dog away I went to wash off the slobber and discovered streaks of blood running down my legs. It wasn't anything serious but I bled for several minutes. There'd be scabbing, but there probably - probably - would not be a scar. Still, it prompted me to talk to sweet little Evan, who stands only three feet high, about the boy I'd seen on that TV report. I reminded Evan to never approach a strange dog: to be wary. But maybe being wary of strange dogs isn't a strong enough message? This morning as I puttered around my cottage I noticed my neighbors had arrived to their cottage next door. I went down my steps to say hello. Denny was walking Rascal, her mother's Scottie. Rascal's tail wagged as I leaned in to Denise's hug and greeting. The next thing I know, Rascal has lunged forward and chomped onto my leg, just above my knee. I am yulping and pulling back, instinctively bending over and clamping my hands around the wound that is pumping blood out of me in a mini geiser. I was shocked at how much blood was dripping onto the ground despite the pressure I'd placed in a circle around the swiftly swelling punctures. I never even looked at Rascal, apparently trusting that Denny would keep her dog back as I addressed my injury. She did. But had she not, I was crouched down and far more vulnerable to a secondary attack. I thought of this later as I lay on my couch recuperating. Why on earth hadn't I thought to protect myself better after that first strike? What if the dog had come at me again when my face was down within reach? But that isn't what happened. Denny held her dog back. Denny's mom - or someone - brought me ice and a paper towel. I guess I honestly do not remember who was doing what for me. I just know I was applying pressure to my leg and watching the blood dripping all over the yellow and beige stones that cover my yard. Red red blood, pulsing out of me. And this was just a single bite: three small punctures from a small Scottie dog that I have known for several years. Dog bites happen. The hospital staff has an established routine to deal with them. There is a special form. There will be follow-up phone calls from the health department. I got a tetanus shot, antibiotics, anti-nausea medications, and x-ray to make sure there were no teeth broken off into my wounds. It was a two-hour process, having been "fast-tracked" through the ER. I'll take ibuprofen for the pain and I'll ice it as much as I can. I have to stay out of the water, even though it is now 80 degrees on a spectacular Memorial Day weekend. The holiday is humbling: how can I complain when there are folks who've laid down their lives for me. I am trying to be a "soldier" about all this. I have tried to calm my neighbor's guilt and fears by acting as though I am taking it all in stride. Even so, I am, deep inside, very upset. Animals are animals. Even the animals we "know" can surprise us, pleasantly or otherwise. Heck, humans can surprise us too with their hurtful outbursts. This weekend it appears that the Etan Patz mystery has been solved. 33 years ago a man, who people considered to be such a nice guy, bit into little Etan's life and when he was dead he tossed him into a dumpster. If we can't trust a fellow human, we should not trust our neighbor's dog. I am sorrily disapointed. I doubt I will ever see my neighbor's dog again without remembering how quickly it snapped. I am left leary of familiar as well as strange dogs. I am changed. I hate change... especially when it is not for the better. I do want to grow older and wiser. I do not want to grow bitter and suspicious. I do not want to be looking under every rock for the danger that may be lurking there. Nor, however, do I want to blindly go forth to hug a neighbor who's dog may suddenly percieve me as a threat. Is there a middle ground? I am a naturally trusting soul, but I've been told I trust too much, too many. Is there a way to protect ourselves, our kids, our grandchildren, from the threats of the world while allowing for retention of the glowing naivete of that three-year-old victim of a dog bite? How do we keep ourselves safe from the killers of the human spirit of freedom? How do we do that? How?

Monday, August 8, 2011


I've been able to stick to my writing goals for a big three days so far. I've actually cranked out more than 250%! But it is blazing hot out and I'm not feeling so well today. If this continues, tomorrow could be a bust!

Meanwhile, I startled myself this morning by almost walking into a hummingbird outside my front door. Needless to say the little bugger was even more surprised than me. He did a couple back flips before buzzing off over the house.

I couldn't stop smiling for two solid hours!

Friday, August 5, 2011

1000 Per Day

It’s a good goal. I need to break out of my writing slump and kick myself back into working my craft. If I commit to writing 1000 words each day, am I asking too much of myself or too little? Some days I can easily rattle off 2000 words. Most days, for the last nine months, I don’t rattle off a thing. I miss being in my Noble Writers writing group. I miss the one in Red Bank too, though it was Wendy that stopped those meetings and refused to let me help her get them going again. The group at the library turned into only two people, and those two spent more time chatting than writing. The other library group seemed cliquey… and unfocused… but with a strong leader... despite the weakness of the writers in the group. Just not a good fit I guess...

So it’s been nine months since I did any consistent writing. 1000 per day: that’s my new goal. Let’s see how far I can get with that. Not here of course. This is a blog; not my most creative forum. But I will try to keep up with this as well, to self-monitor, self-appraise, and to keep a record of what’s going on behind the scenes when I write.

Health Update: Bronchitis gone but still coughing, albeit productively. I’m still having trouble walking after any period of being stationary. This is only the third day that I’m off my statin, but if that was the root then I was hoping to see some improvement by now. If I see nothing after a week, I’m going to have to see the dern rheumatologist. Drat.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Maintenance... I am plagued by a lack thereof. It's not my forte and anyone who knows me could tell you that. I suffer from a severe lack of motivation in nearly all categories of expected daily human maintenance. If only I'd signed up for the military earlier in my life, but by the time I realized I needed to learn some self-discipline it was too late to enlist. I've regretted that many times over the better part of the last twenty-five years. But then again maybe the military would have destroyed the essence of who I am?
     I excel at joy... and frolicking... and avoidance of all things mundane but necessary.
    Today, for instance, I "should" be doing some dishes, vacuuming the spent flower blossoms that have blown from the deck into the living room, cleaning that bathroom, paying those bills, finishing fixing the skimmer on the pool... The list, sadly, goes on well beyond that and the list has been growing, in earnest, for well over thirty years. It's positively dumbfounding how long I can procrastinate on the aforesaid and all the ancillary duties that everyone else apparently manages to fit into their lives. But how, then, do they ever get to be who they are? Is who they are really reliant upon the accomplishment of changing bed sheets and pulling weeds?
    My self-appraisal, currently, is surprisingly tied to my scores at computer games such as Bejeweled, Farkle, and Family Feud. I was thinking about this earlier today when I could not step away from my laptop until I'd won "just one more" game of Hearts. I spent seventy-two minutes trying to stop. If my diuretic hadn't been working so well I would still be locked in a battle with Mr. West, North, and East (North is the worst; I'm convinced he cheats by telling West and East what he has in his hand so that they will know exactly how and when to stick me with the Queen). How can I permit myself to be so absurdly irresponsible?
    Forever self-critiquing: I should be embarrassed, but most unfortunately I am not.
    I am, however, very disappointed in myself for letting my blogging be so sporadic. My writing is one of the very few things I am certain I am supposed to do in order to be a fulfilled me. My last post (was it March of this year?) left me looking like a scene from "Looking For Mr. Goodbar" and, though there is that aspect to some of my weeks, there is just so much more going on here.
    Well, there is more but there is also less. I live a soothingly calm and deliberate rhythm akin to less than a waltz, less even than a lullaby: a rhythm sometimes so slow that you might not detect a beat for days at a time. And I'm happy in it. I'm happy to be drifting along masquerading as an insignificant shred of goose down, undirected, unaccomplished, enjoying the ride with no need for choosing my journey's end. I would rather be mired in moments, like this one, where I am sliding from my keyboard to the wall of windows onto my deck. Through them I watch the water churning up under mottled grey skies chopped with less-grey and sometimes-white clouds and patches of almost blue breaks. There is enough wind to make the whitecaps roll into waves out on the open bay. Some of them occasionally reach the shore of the flat green peninsula that juts out for five hundred feet or so into the bay. Their impact throws salty sprays into the air, and then rains down onto the patchy grasses, making the gulls waddle back and forth in search of a better spot to watch.

     Isn't this enough to do? Isn't this enough?

    Convention would tell us it isn't: not if I want my lights to stay on. And that's where I find my confusion. I cannot help but think repeatedly upon that story about Jesus and the woman who stopped at his feet to listen to his stories while the other woman was rushing around trying to make him a decent dinner and setting a decent table. She was frustrated with that lazy b-yatch at Jesus' feet... but that lazy b-yatch is me... and she's the one that Jesus thought was the better for it. Still, we have to be realistic don't we, because nobody is going to make it through the day if somebody isn't making a meal. We're all gonners if no one brings home the bacon and fries it up in the pan. We cannot all be sitting around watching the waves break on the shore. It is the mundane but necessary stuff that ensures survival. Art, creativity, and playfulness are luxuries, aren't they? Is anyone going to pay me to do the little that I do? My bank account will tell you the answer.
     It is obvious to me that I have temporarily lost my place. My entire life I have prided myself on functioning at my highest and best use and I've always been fully cognizant that I'm a supporter, a cheerleader, a lover and an artist who paints with words. I'm the left side to a right, the "better half" of a whole, the veritable wind beneath the wings of birds who died or have flown the nest. I'm grease in need of some squeaky wheels. In their absence I'm just hanging out and calmly, peacefully, happily, slip-sliding away as I await my next opportunity to serve.
     Something deep within me knows this is where I need to be. I do not understand that. I try but I don't. How can I be so entirely complacent watching the unpainted windowsill rot? Why aren't I bothered by twenty-four years of unopened boxes in my basement? The question nags at me, but less-so than the answer. Somehow I belong where I am, doing what I am - and am not - doing.
    To my credit I did create a nice little women's group this summer. I invited some local gals who I barely knew but who had instantaneously impressed something within me. We've met and kept a weekly date for more than a month. We talk. It's nothing more than a meeting of minds. Yet it has been absolutely marvelous for each and every one of us. Somehow, out of the clear blue, I sensed a need and created a group that it turned out each of us were craving. Last night as we said goodbye to Jill we were all surprised to discover how much we were going to miss her presence among us. She's headed back to China. We will see her again next summer. It is amazing after only four three-hour chats how truly connected we feel. I did this and I am proud of it. As I pulled into my driveway after last night's gathering I patted myself on the back and applauded my decision and action. It brings me enormous jubilation to think my gut moved me to do something so simple and small and yet so splendid. It's the sort of reason I am still here on this planet. I know it.

I feel pretty certain that the Universe is smiling at me today. I just wish it would send someone to clean the toilet, return that letter from the IRS, and deposit some cash into my checking account.

    Maintenance: mundane... but necessary. The trick has always been in finding a balance.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Disturbing Evening

After last night I cannot help but wonder if I haven't been working the online dating scene too long.

I've done my best not to become jaded. Indeed, somehow I manage to talk myself into approaching each date with enthusiastic optimism. Of course I do believe unreservedly that I am a great "catch", but my assumption is that there are a lot of great male catches out there too. For that reason I am willing to meet with potential suitors who do not necessarily present themselves well in their online profiles. I mean, heck, I'm a writer so of course my profile is fabulous! But I can understand that not everyone possesses the communication skills that I take for granted.

This is not to say I don't have some minimum criteria that must be met prior to scheduling a first meeting. They need to indicate financial stability. They need to not look like a serial killer in their photos. They need to at least pretend that they are not angry and embittered over the life and relationships they've had so far. (You'd be surprised at how many guys that eliminates from the starting gate.) If they do that then, yes, I'll come out for coffee or wine.

I prefer not to come out for a meal. Most women on these dating sites seem to think that a free meal is the goal. I don't want or need a free restaurant meal. I'm happier to stay home to eat my own healthier food. My goal in meeting these guys is to see if there is any potential. I've learned that it only takes about fifteen minutes of chitty-chat over a beverage for me to know if I want to spend more time in this person's company. My time is valuable and I've no interest in taking advantage of any man's wallet.

That said, last night after painting my nails and applying mascara I went out to meet a guy who appeared to have potential. I asked to meet for a drink but he took one look at my gorgeosity and immediately asked the hostess to seat us at a table. He was mildly charming so I didn't resist. I set the menu aside and ordered a glass of Pinot Noir. He got a Miller Light (clearly not what he normally orders or he wouldn't be those 45 pounds overweight that made him struggle to slip into the cozy booth we were given. The waitress returned three times before we finally ordered two appetizers.

"Fine," I am thinking to myself, "he hasn't said anything too bizarre and he's come straight from work and he's gotta be hungry and we seem to be getting along... so sure, why not?"

It wasn't until about an hour into the conversation that things got really weird.

I don't know this guy. Absolutely nothing about him seemed even vaguely familiar. Nothing. I swear. Like too many first dates, he was consumed with talking about himself. He'd told me about his job, his commute, his education, his ex-wife, his son, his son's girlfriend, the reason he didn't like his son's girlfriend, the crazy things his son's girlfriend has done... He was going on and on about himself and his son with very little room for me to insert anything about me, but I've seen this plenty of times before and I am a patient soul. After all, a lot of that can come from sheer terror on the part of the guy. They are so afraid of lulls in the conversation that they fill up the space with blather that borders on embarrassingly inappropriate self-disclosures. I've heard a lot of that. Really, so far this guy last night wasn't any worse than the norm. I even managed to politely ignore the food that missed his mouth and came to rest where his belly bulged at the buttons of his crisp blue oxford shirt.

And then it happened. He began to tell me a story that I had heard before.

It wasn't just similar to a story I'd heard before, it actually was a story I'd heard before. He was telling me this story - about why he'd broken up with his last serious girlfriend - and he was telling it in words that I had, verbatim, heard before.

My stomach tightened up so much that I put down the bite I was about to take and pushed my plate away. I had just slipped into the Twilight Zone.

He didn't notice my reaction at first and continued to recount his tale. I listened, knowing precisely what he was going to say next, but hoping somehow I didn't. My mind bounced back and forth trying to explain what was happening. Had I met this man before? Was this a prolonged flash of déjà vu? Is there a book all the men read on "Stories to Entertain Your First Dates"? How could I possibly know this story?

Earlier in the conversation he'd mentioned how his marriage had failed after the death of their youngest son. I hadn't picked up on it then, but now, hearing this story about his ex-girlfriend, I could remember exactly how his son had died. Good golly, I've heard all of this guy's stories before. I know this guy. Why don't I recognize him? My mind was in an absolutely dizzying whirl. My upset had become obvious by now, even to this self-obsessed talkaholic. But aside from his noting that I'd stopped eating, he continued to tell me more things I already knew as I struggled to neutralize the expression on my face.

I let the conversation run its course, doing less to encourage him than I'd been doing before my revelation. In time his food and banter ran out, the bill came, and we made our way to the door. He was none the wiser, though I myself was grateful for the cold night air as we stepped outdoors and parted company. I watched his brake lights as he backed up and exited his parking spot. I sat still in my car, completely unsure of what I'd actually just experienced. Is it possible that I had dated this man and have zero recollection of his face? Is that really possible? It would have had to have been within the last three years, since that's when he told me he moved back to NJ. Could I really have met someone within the last three years and have no memory of it whatsoever, save the stories that he'd told, then and now?

I have no explanation. If it had been déjà vu, wouldn't I have recalled his face? Every other déjà vu I've ever had possessed precisely identical scenarios. Those few déjà vu’s were incredibly clear: the faces and conversations were exact replicas. This hadn't been like that. I'd heard the story, but had not been in that same restaurant booth when I'd heard it. And it cannot have been a story that guys want to use for first-date conversations since it wasn't a "good" story; it was unhappy, and strange. So all that's left to conclude is that I had, in fact, met this guy at some time during the last three years and I have absolutely no recollection of it. I’d be concerned that I was having early onset of Alzheimer’s, but he clearly doesn't recall meeting me either. How can two people both not know that they have met each other within the last three years? Or is it possible that this guy was "gaslighting" me?

Twilight Zone indeed.

I had a hard time falling to sleep last night. With all of this still churning in my head this morning, I went to my email inbox and saw that after nearly three years of silence I'd received correspondence from Carmine. My heart fluttered. Oh Carmine, is your swim in the dating pool exhausting you too? I opened the email with a grateful resurgence of sunny optimism, only to find Carmine's email account had been hacked and some schlock web sales pitch had been sent to me, along with everyone else in Carmine's contact list.

Sigh... Is the universe sending me a warning that it may be time to take a break from dating?

On the upside, apparently I am still in Carmine's contact list...

My oh my, how can I continue to be such a cockeyed optimist in the wake of such a bizarre episode? What will it take to crack my rose colored glasses?

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Moons of Jupiter

JUPITER AT ITS BEST: Tonight, Sept. 20-21, Earth and Jupiter converge for their closest encounter in decades. The giant planet will soar across the sky at midnight, outshining everything except the Moon itself. Although big, bright Jupiter will remain close to Earth for weeks to come, tonight is the closest of all. (From

Last night I sighted Jupiter... so pretty, hiding there in plain sight as if she is just another star. When viewed through even my cheap old telescope (especially now, while Jupiter is so close) you realize that sparkling prick of light is not a star, but a sister to our Earth. So I took my scope over to Mike's cottage and showed Mike & Vicky too... and they seemed pleased and impressed to view the planet and four of its moons, miraculously circling their home planet. And off to the east of Jupiter was our own moon, not quite full but brilliant in the light from our sun which had set four hours prior.

It all made me wonder... where will I be... where will they be... what will life be like in twelve years when Jupiter comes this close again? Will they remember this night with me? Will they remember their younger selves, merely 29 & 30, peering up at the planet over Mike's cottage... a cottage which will, most certainly, no longer exist twelve years from now if Mike's plans come to fruition. Will they remember these sweet romantic days of their courtship when hanging at his summer cottage relieved their city-dwelling stresses? Are they embedding these cool September nights into their memories, to warm them into their old age when children - who have not yet even been conceived - will tickle their hearts as they tickle mine?

Every day, every moment, every experience hangs like smoke in the air, waiting to be dispersed by whatever wind of change may blow. It is all so brief and tenuous... all of everything we see and do. Twelve years ago I could not possibly have foreseen myself, as I am now... Twelve years ago my sons were barely even men at only 16, 17, and 18. Twelve years ago I was merely 42, married and in love, although still trying to figure out how to really get along as a couple. I never thought to see today. I never imagined what time might do to each of us.

In twelve years hence as Jupiter pulls close to our Earth again, will I be here? Will I still be interested in peering at her moons? Will my children's children be clustered at my side, pushing to have a turn to see what the heaven's hold? Will I have the chance to share more spectacularly, splendidly, divinely humble and inconsequential moments like last night with the people I love? And will I remember that I did? And will they?

My heart soars as I open an email from Mike only a moment ago.

"thanks for the jupiter moons, really cool to see!"

How very sweet to think that we may have shared a moment in time that will last forever in our hearts...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thoughts on Productivity

Admittedly, I am in love with my life.

I know it isn’t a life that my children seem to understand nor is it one that the average Joe lives, but I love it just this way: the way that it is. I do wish, however, that my feelings about my own existence were not under such constant scrutiny from my own conscience.

I am supposed to be productive.
I am supposed to clean my house – regularly and thoroughly.
I am supposed to exercise.
I am supposed to eat healthfully.

Some of the shoulds that I nag myself with make more sense to me than others, so I embrace them, in moderation. But the vast majority of my days are pissed away in a decadent state: feet up on the couch, video game or computer screen in front of me, a drink by my side (coffee, water, red wine, as the day progresses), and snacks. Here at my summer cottage I break up the bliss with wanderings around my yard, watering and picking as the need arises, though I am very comfortable in putting off the picking until tomorrow.

The watering has turned into somewhat of a grind. I find myself resenting its necessity, though I am too compelled to nurture living things to allow my resentment to kill them off. I made a commitment when I planted. I am bound to the commitments I make. It's my only curse.

But aside from watering plants that appear too desperate to wait, there is almost nothing I cannot justify postponing. The box of hair dye has been perched on the bathroom sink for two days. Today may be the day. Or not. Roots be damned. And I’ve stepped over that basil leaf in the middle of the living room floor at least three times now. I’ll get it, eventually. Probably. Even brushing my teeth can be put off. Nearly nothing matters enough, right now, to be done.

And in the freedom of my apparent lethargy I step out of the billowing curtains into the brilliant heat of a late morning sun and I spot a sailboat on the bay. Through my enormous black binoculars I spy on the couple stealing a kiss and laughing. And there on the bay the sunlight is glittering in a way it has never done before nor will it ever – exactly - do again. And I hear a woman’s voice behind me. She is some four hundred feet away, down and across my lagoon, and she’s on a phone saying,

“Hello? Hello? Can you hear me now?” and I cannot help but laugh out loud and my guffaws echo, as all sounds do here on the water.

Who takes the time to notice these things? Who has the time to take? Just me.

Doing nothing is a great counter balance to my anxiety disorder, but occasionally I worry that my GAD isn’t my only issue. I worry that I may be seriously depressed. After all, who but a seriously depressed person can do as little as I do? Comparing myself to the industrious lives of my dear friends leaves me wanting for some stronger direction of motion, a clear motivation, and some ostensible sign of success (or at least progress). What good am I doing for my world? What contribution can I point to?

Today’s soft end-of-summer breeze blows such concerns away. They can only beg at the question of why my doing nothing is any less valuable than their doing something. Who made these rules? Who set us up this way? Why is humankind so obsessed with “doing” anyway?

The rest of our animal kingdom live simple lives. Birds may build nests in the spring and conscientiously feed their young, but by and large a bird’s life is about eating, singing, and maybe flying south in the winter. There they will eat and sing and hang out with their friends.

I like the sound of that.

I know I am blessed to have a home – two homes actually – and enough money to buy the spare food required to maintain my thirty pounds of overweight. I come and go at my leisure, volunteering at the theater to satisfy my altruism as well as catching free shows to sustain my cultural side. I cook creatively; using many ingredients I’ve grown and harvested myself. Today I made a breakfast quiche and mixed up some crab cakes for later. I used home grown red and green tomatoes, fresh parsley, red and green peppers… there will be fresh mint in my iced tea as I dangle my toes in the pool. I feel like a Princess, yet I live on a budget that the government says is below the poverty line.

In the midst of this economic downturn I would ask, what more does a person want? What more does a person need? Why are all the people around me working so diligently? To what possible end?

The sound of salt water lapping at my bulkhead and the scream of a laughing gull flying overhead: these things ease my soul and whisper “This is enough”.

If I hit the lottery tomorrow, my life would barely change. I’d be able to stop stressing about which bill to pay, but my GAD would haunt my nights none the less. At least I would be sure that there would indeed be enough money to feed me when I am ninety. Aside from that, I have absolutely no interest in increasing my consumption or raising my standard of living. I don’t feel any desire to dress any “better” or have a fancier car. I most certainly would invest in one of those automatic watering systems so I could sleep in on the hot summer mornings when the plants dry out before 9:00 am. But other than that I would be completely happy to eat, sing, and fly south in the cold weather... perhaps north in the hot weather, east when Parisian baguettes call to me, and west when only authentic Pad Thai will do.

Really though, most of that I have already done... so, like I said, I love my life.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Death in a small town

OMG... the guy who came to look at Sue and Bruce's house this morning is back this evening... with his WIFE! OMG... Do I smell an offer in the works?

And do we care that Bruce's ashes have not yet cooled?

Two weekends ago, Bruce died (in the bath tub) across the street. I know they had talked about selling their house down here in the fall - it's a second home for them and they'd had enough - but who would have thought that Sue would march on with her life in such short order?

Not me.

I don't mean that I wouldn't have thought it about SUE. Geeze... I hardly even know Sue... but could I have EVER, not in a million years, marched on with MY life, 2 1/2 weeks after my Joe died?

It does give one pause... I mean... really... what IS the difference? None. Certainly not to Bruce. He's gone. Gone, gone, gone...

I don't thing that Bruce - or Joe - have much of anything to do with it. It comes down to how a widow wants to live her life, after his death.

I've chosen my route and Sue has chosen hers and... gulp... maybe her way is actually better?

Just a thought...



Monday, July 26, 2010

All Hands on Deck

My oldest son, Patrick, called me last Thursday to announce he was coming that night to start building my deck in Middletown.

We'd only discussed building the deck in passing, although we both knew I really needed it done. Still, seemingly out of nowhere he'd decided that he was ready to tackle the project immediately. Offers like that need to be welcomed - encouraged even - so I didn't dissuade him despite the fact that I knew we were totally not prepared. Instead I mustered sincere enthusiasm, headed to Home Depot for deck plans, and then packed up my stuff and left my shore cottage, heading home to Middletown where he was waiting. We worked through the weekend in 90-100 degree temperatures. My middle son, Mike, came too, plus Vicky, plus a friend of Patrick's. Home Depot delivered three times. It was coordinated craziness for three solid days. Today is only Monday, but it feels more like a week has passed.

Knowing the kind of weekend I'd just had, my girlfriend emailed me this morning to ask how my back was feeling. I admitted that, though I'd been hurting like heck on Saturday, surprisingly today I am okay. On the other hand, I do not feel "well". I could not describe in words how it actually is that I feel (not even to Dr. Vicky, who was down with my son, Mike, helping this weekend), but it is very scary feeling this way. I just feel very... NOT well; suspiciously not well.

So imagine my further dis-ease, when I learned that in my three-day absence from Tuckerton two - not one, but TWO - of my neighbors had died.

Okay... so the one really was old... we knew she'd go eventually... But Bruce... Bruce is my age. He'd gone fishing with George (another neighbor) and when he came back apparently he was feeling hot and generally yucky so he climbed in the bathtub to try to cool down and he seems to have simply died. I heard the story from Frank, who heard it from George that Bruce's wife, Sue, then had to deal with trying - unsuccessfully - to drag his carcass out of the tub to try to revive him, which of course did not happen... so a neighbor fished him out for her... but it was already too late.


Not surprisingly that information is making me even less at ease with feeling vaguely ill this morning.

Not to be overly dramatic... 'cause I do NOT think I am about to die... but on Friday (in the 98 degree heat with air quality warnings ringing, I was wielding a shovel and carrying crap and running up and down stairs, fetching and gophering to the hilt) I was pretty much feeling like death was imminent... and the rest of the weekend through today has simply been an echo of that. Is it stress? Is it the heat? I can't even say: I just feel ill.

Truthfully I wonder if it isn't that I am feeling all of my 54 years. I feel very fragile - in every conceivable way. My back, therefore, seems to be the very least of my concerns.

When I saw another friend's email last night - 15 minutes after she'd written it -somewhere close to 1am - telling me about her cleaned-up workshop (pictures attached), my only response to her was,

"Awesome! Now go to sleep!"

It wasn't creative or even particularly thoughtful... it was a reflection of my own exhaustion, having driven back to my Tuckerton Cottage at 11pm last night after yet-another grueling day of work on the deck... which isn't anywhere close to being done.

I am, BTW, in far better spirits than I sound. Mayhaps I'm just enjoying the craft of writing and conveying an impression of my experience, 'cause this morning I am alive and well and enjoying, God bless me, the cool Tuckerton seashore breeze on a blue sky morning... having witnessed a dozen egrets flying over at dawn... and better still, last night, when I slipped from the 70 degree breezy night air - just after midnight - into my 92 degree pool... I looked up and watched a brilliant shooting star pass between me and the full moon.

My observations of our natural world do not get a whole lot more phenomenal, exceptional or rewarding than that. Seeing these things brings enormous peace to my soul, even if I do feel strangely somehow "not well".

Maybe then I am okay... just shaken... by an awareness of my own mortality, in the face of a world that will spin without me when I am gone, and is still spinning despite the death, yesterday, of Bruce.

How long should I wait before going across the street to covey my condolences? My gosh... poor Sue. He first husband died, like my Joe, of pancreatic cancer, and now this. Geeze. That's going to be pretty rough.

I made some cornbread and wrapped it up nicely, carrying it across the street to express my sympathies. I returned two hours later, filled in on all the frightening details of what it is like to lose, yet another, husband. I think my presence helped. I think I said the right things. I know Sue valued my visit, remarking that I am one of the few people who can understand what she is going through. She said this through clear eyes, composed and thoughtful. It's been less than 24 hours since he passed. She's still in shock, but doesn't know it. She's in a free fall down a dark hole, not aware enough yet of the drop to even begin grasping for something to catch her. But she will... Her awareness will kick in soon enough.

She wants to take his body home, to their primary residence in Pennsylvania. The coroner can't release the body until they rule out foul play. She laughs as she tells me this... The idea that she would have killed a man who was so good to her, so good for her, is absurd. I joke too.

"You'll be the Black Widow of Tuckerton, killing off husbands left and right."

"Yes," she says "It wont make the Philly papers, but this tiny seashore town would gobble up that story."

We laugh. Then we sigh. She is chain smoking, apologizing each time she lights up, as if I'm the least bit judgemental. Not now anyway.

There is no good ending to this blog. It is what it is. But it makes me wonder why I've been alone these last five and a half years. Life is short. Time is slipping by. And I don't feel so well.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Havin' A Heatwave

It's hot as heck down at the cottage: 88 degrees in the shade when I crawled out of bed at 7:45. I was swimming before 9am... Okay, maybe it's not YOUR kind of swimming, but it's MY kind... in my 8' baby pool.

Next, on a mission of mercy, I schlepped to the steps to wet down the containers of annual flowers: marigolds, cosmos, salvia, begonias, geraniums, impatiens, vinca, amaranth, gazania, a couple of ponytail plants, and some mandaville (most of the crew was rescued from the clearance bin at Lowes, although I did start those marigolds, amaranth and cosmos from seed). Then I drenched and quenched the herbs and sundries on the deck: Out there I have dill, oregano, Thai/Sweet/Genovese basil, lemon & plain thyme, variegated and standard sage, chives (which need some serious pruning) cilantro, Italian parsley, creeping and standing rosemary, spearmint and peppermint, lavender and a whole gaggle of gladiolas.

Then I started on the veggies. I watered three canisters of cukes, the bed of beans, six tubs of tomatoes, a scuttle of squash, a bucket of banana peppers, and a bin of bunching onions... Everybody is thirsty. I have beakers and bowls, boxes and bags, cans and carafes, crates and crocks, hoppers, jugs, pails and vats. It's a total of 33 receptacles!

But they are mostly small, especially in comparison to their burgeoning occupants, looking like middle aged women spilling out of their pants.

To me it's the lower 40... making my cottage its own little Garden State... of mind.

But I'm hot as heck again and need to jump back in the pool! Who can write when the sweat on your forehead is dripping onto the keyboard?