Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve 2009

Getting ready to leave the house to start the 2009 New Year's Eve celebration. I'm celebrating already - I went to Kohl's in a desperate last minute attempt to find black heels that I could wear with a new dress (I hate heels. Never need them. Until I need them. And then its too damn late). Or boots. They had nothing. Christmas had cleaned them out. And then, on a shelf, mixed in with shoes I would never glance twice at, was one pair of Aerosoles knee boots, in my size, in black. Only one pair. And they were 50% off. It was a sign that it was finally time to buy myself some slutty-ho boots. And since they actually zipped (with a slight struggle) over my (ahem) "athletic" calves, I just about ran to the check out.

I'm wearing slutty knee boots to ring in 2010! Yay 2010!

I'm going to squeeze one more workout in before 2009 ends, then Prof and I are going to dinner at a time suitable for only the over 65 crowd, so we can get our asses to the symphony, where we will pretend to be cultured (and I will probably just stare at my boots thinking how cool they are) and drink champagne. After the cultured part of the evening, we are heading to his friends house to debauch at a party wishfully dubbed "Live Nude Girls, 2009." (Note to everyone out there - if you put the word Nude in your Evite, most of your friends will never get it because the spam filter will get to it first).

Its going to be a good night. As long as I can get those boots zipped one more time.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The way we were...

In just another day, we are ringing in a whole new decade. Bye bye oughts. Hello teens! Is that what we are going to call them? At any rate, I did a whole lotta growing and changing in the 00's and found myself thinking about what my life was like 10 years ago, as we desperately searched for our old Prince albums so we could get our dance on like it was 1999.

In late December 1999, this is what life was like:

I had just bought my house and moved in with P. Rex. We had been here for about a month. Everything was new and fresh. We didn’t have a washer and dryer yet – Sundays were spent at my mom’s house robbing her of hot water and electricity so I didn’t have to hang out with the poor people at the Laundromat. I guess I didn’t realize it, but I was the poor people I didn’t want to be hanging out with.

I made less than $27,000 a year at my entry level public service job. With that $27,000 I paid my brand new mortgage, student loans and credit card loans, while finding the money to buy cheap IKEA furniture and food. And gas!

But gas was no big expense. I drove my red 1989 Dodge Omni 5-speed 60 miles round trip to work, but gas was something like $1.25 a gallon, and although the car companies want you to think that cars that get over 30 mpg are a new thing, that friggin’ car averaged 35 mpg and it hauled ass. Finding money for fuel was never a problem, but finding money to keep that damn car running sometimes was. The paint would leach off and leave a ring around the car every time it rained, and the horn would randomly go off as I was driving down the road. Or pulling into parking spaces. Or sleeping (my neighbors loved me). I eventually unplugged the horn and prayed I would never get myself into a tight spot (safety first!). For the record, we were so poor that Prex didn’t yet own a car, and commuted 60 miles round trip (in the opposite direction) on his motorcycle. All. Winter. Long.

OMG. I SMOKED CIGARETTES! I just remembered that, when thinking about that damn Omni. The Omni smelled like a big mobile ash tray, because I refused to ever (ever!) throw a butt out the window. I much preferred to let them accumulate on the floor.

Clearly, in 1999, I was a slob. And slovenly. And lazy. And overweight. I had not yet run my first mile. I didn’t know the difference between a kayak and a canoe. I don’t even think I owned hiking boots. Yet, P.Rex and I fancied ourselves outdoorsy. Yeah. And delusional.

I also thought a good meal out involved Taco Bell or Macaroni Grill, the restaurant where they give you crayons to color on the table with. I had no idea how to cook food. I had yet to learn how to sauté, let alone knowing how to use garlic as a potent culinary weapon. I think our diet mostly consisted of pizza take-out, sub shop take out, then Chinese take-out, then Chinese leftovers. Guess you wouldn't be surprised that I was doing battle with acid reflux, would you? I couldn’t stomach medium salsa or anything that even remotely smacked of spice. Indian food? Forget it. Thai? I didn’t even know that was different than Chinese.

As we got ready to ring in 2000, all my friends from college still lived nearby. And I actually saw them on a regular basis. We partied like it was 1999 (with that Prince album someone miraculously found in a box somewhere). Except, I totally forget where it was that we partied. Seriously. Who forgets where they rang in the new century? Me, apparently.

And how did I make a special play list for New Year’s Eve 1999? By carefully selecting songs from my CDs and painstakingly transferring them to a tape (that’s right. I said “tape”) on my super sweet Sony RX 70 mini hi fi component system, after spending hours considering the correct sequencing. And once the tape was made, I could copy it with the high speed dubbing feature. High speed dubbing!

And, wherever I was on New Year’s Eve, I was taking pictures with my 35 mm camera. My 35 mm film camera. Remember those? You had to load the film in, then rewind it after taking 24 or 36 pictures. Take the film out, deliver it to the nearest drug store, fill out a bag for each one, wait a week and pray that there was at least one picture taken of you that didn’t make you look like a drunken crazed lunatic (p.s. there never were).

As we get ready to ring in a new decade, I am ten years older, twenty pounds lighter, totally smarter and way more funny.

I’ve been in my house for an entire decade. Prex is gone, as are the several thousand other boyfriends who saw action here. The walls have all been painted, many more than once. The basement is filled with way too much crap I never use. Gardens have been built, destroyed, and rebuilt. A new deck was built. Windows were broken and repaired (sometimes) and neighbors have come and gone. Its probably time to replace the washer and dryer we scrimped and saved for. And before the night is out, this starter house will have big girl sustainable wood floors.

Wood floors that I can pay for because I make way more than $27,000 even with the recent pay cut. I don't want to rub it in for those of you who don't have it, but expendable income is a really nice thing. Its something I definitely didn't have at the beginning of this decade. The cash, might I remind you, only exists because I never moved out of my starter house and I never popped out babies who like to be clothed and fed.

I did buy a new car though. And it likes to be fed. And clothed (yes, the car has a bra). And as the new decade begins, the new car is almost as old as the omni was last decade, and is starting to have just as many quirks. Still running pretty good for a 9 year old VW with 192,000 miles.

Yes. If you include the miles on the omni during 2000 and the first part of 2001, I drove over 200,000 miles this decade. That's 20,000 miles a year. And 6,666 gallons of gas (I'm not making that number up.) So much for my carbon footprint. And expendable income.

All my college friends moved away, to more exciting lives in NYC, Boston, Indianapolis, Utah... We are still great friends, but I miss the days where we actually hung out and did things without a month long planning effort. I was lucky enough to find really great local friends at work and in the neighborhood who have gotten me through the majority of the decade. But, with husbands and babies, even though they are geographically close, it still takes a month of planning to get us all together (or at least an intense morning of reply to all emails).

I quit smoking at some point, and started running. And bought my first kayak. And then second kayak. And third, and fourth... And despite talking about it for years, I still have yet to rig some pulleys to store them under the deck, or in the basement.

I learned how to cook. I learned how to eat and love spicy food. I learned that all white wines don't taste like ass, and learned that there was more to red wine than chianti and merlot (wine taste thanks to expendable income. See above).

And even though my iPod is circa 2002, at least I'm not making mixed tapes anymore. And the bad photos are gone. I learned the chin down, eyes up method. And learned how to use the delete button on the camera. The waterproof, underwater, digital camera (amazing!).

There's so much more that happened this decade. A cell phone! A laptop! Social networking! My first real international trip. And my second, and my third. And the whitewater kayaking. And the death. And growth. And learning how to be a good friend and a good neighbor and a good daughter. And finding myself. And then, finding the Prof.

(I know. I want to barf too, but it had to be said. Its really nice to be ending the decade with him)

I don't think that 1999 Susan could have ever imagined 2009 Susan. I hope she would be pleased.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Grief Calendar vs. the cynic

Hospice keeps sending me stuff in the mail. Little letters of encouragement. Bereavement tips. Info on their annual quilt (with patches made out of your loved one's favorite shirt, blanket etc.) and Christmas angel tree. Reminders that they are they for us...

It all gets immediately recycled.

Its gotten particularly bad as the holidays have approached. I just went through a pile of mail and found something they sent after Thanksgiving that contained the "December Grief Calendar - Hope for the Holidays." The calendar contains an action for every day in December to help you through "this difficult time" and remember your loved one. The Grief Calendar lists things like "draw a picture of a bird, symbolizing the soaring spirit of your loved one" and "draw a picture of a wreath, symbolizing that there is no beginning or end to love." My personal favorite, for Friday December 11: "Write the word "hero" and the first name of your loved one."

Really? Does anyone actually do this b.s.? Its like Stewart Smalley himself graduated from personal affirmations to bereavement counseling and calendar development. I spent December 11 hauling 50 pound boxes of sustainable wood (giggle) from unsustainable SUV to living room. I found that to be much more therapeutic than writing "Hero Dad" on my refrigerator. Then having to vomit up my lunch.

Its no surprise that a cynical, unsentimental person like myself would be sickened and horrified by the Grief Calendar. I am sure, that there are people out there, somewhere, that would find this useful. And don't get me wrong, the hospice people are just trying to help. But every time I get their mailings, I feel bad about myself. Because I'm really not grieving. Particularly now.

Remember my migraines? Daily, unrelenting, disabling headaches? Gone. Poof. Almost like magic - right after dad passed away. The stress of caring for him went away, and so did the headaches. Granted, I've still got a lot of stress dealing with his house and the estate and money and bills, but I haven't once taken a day off work or canceled social plans because of a headache since we buried him.

And the holidays? So simple this year. And so unstressful. Holidays with my dad were never pleasant. When I was younger, he was prone to fits of rage during the holidays and we were always on edge until the tree came down. In college, he was downright scary during the holidays and for several years in a row, I spent Christmas Eve in tears because of something he said or did. When he was older, and I had moved out of the house, and his mother had passed away, Christmas was just a sad event and we spent time with him mostly out of pity and obligation. He really made an effort in the last years of his life, but the scars of my childhood holidays will never leave.

And so, now that I'm done making fun of it, the December Grief Calendar goes in the recycle bin. And I'm going to Kohl's, because part of the reason that this holiday has been stress free so far is that I had convinced myself I didn't need to buy things for people. Now, the Christmas panic is setting in. Where's my Festivus pole?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow Day

I'm freshly showered, wearing black underthings and am snowed in with my boyfriend. Too bad he is busy playing Halo with his best friend who struggled up the street in the driving snow to take a break from his wife and three snow covered kids.

Eh. I guess you can't have it all.

The East coast is mired in a major snowstorm - the first one we've seen here in several years, so people are going ape shit. The weather dude is calling it the "Beast from the East." Seriously. But whatever, it is a great chance to sit in and do absolutely nothing. Which I really need to do. And having a boy to do it with is an extra nice bonus. Also a bonus, the fireplace, which just got lit.

We stayed in bed extra late this morning - no reason to get up because we weren't going anywhere in either of our small, compact cars. We watched some 24-hour a day snow reports "They are out of shovels at home depot, Cliff! That's right. There is a shovel shortage..." Then shoveled the driveway and sidewalk. Then, went sledding.

He was a bit skeptical at first. Me: "Let's go sledding!!" Him: "I haven't been sledding since I was 12.." "The snow isn't good." "Its too cold" It took a little working up to it, but we went walking with my plastic boat sled from 1987 and my inflatable tube sled from decades ago (can't believe it still held air) and found a street with a decent hill to sled on, which happened to be right in front of his Halo friend's house. It was slow going. The snow is powdery and dry. And we are heavy and old. These things did not go real well together. But after slowly making a track, we had ourselves a nice slick run. Too bad it ran into a mailbox and a car. Whatever.

We were sledding for maybe an hour and a half, maybe two, and then ran out of steam. I mean, we are adults after all. Walking uphill in the snow is exhausting! And it was freezing. And after numerous faceplants into a snowdrift, my scarf was filled with snow and making my neck cold. We drank some spiked hot chocolate at the friends house, and made our way back to Prof's.

The Halo game is over and his friend has left. Prof is now strumming his 12-string guitar and the fire is burning. And I'm blogging. I'm silly. Think I'm going to grab a glass of red wine and make some use of this storm.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Born to Blog

I was destined to be a dating blogger.

Last week, I started going through piles of paper at my dad's house. The things that got kept in that house are amazing: stacks of letters from various neighbors and relatives from when you still had to put a stamp on something to send an update on your life; report cards; scripts from middle school plays; school newspapers comprised of crossword puzzles, interviews with teachers and gossip printed on dot-matrix printers and.... my 7th grade class journal.

I vaguely remember having to write in the journal, but I don't remember the teacher who made us do it. It looks like every few days, we were assigned a topic to write about. It is so utterly interesting to read through what 7th grade susan thought of life. I remember 7th grade being the worst time in my life, but there is no real indication of that in what I wrote. Either I was putting a happy spin on my life, or I was truly delusional.

On October 22, 1987, we were apparently asked to write about our most embarrassing moment. For your reading pleasure, here it is, completely unedited and unchanged:

"I was most embarrassed with Mark R. (the biggest drip in the whole school) kept sitting with me on the bus and told someone he liked me.

For one thing, he wears his jacket rolled up over his elbows 'till its like short sleeve length. He tries to act all cool. With his hair, well I don't know about his hair. Yesterday I asked him if he was going to the Halloween dance. Yes. I'm going. I'm going to be very embarrassed if he comes up to me. I don't know what I'll do. He'll probably pester me through the whole thing. Uuuggh! I am going to DIE!

I mean, Mark R.! REALLY!"

I mean, really! I've been saying snarky things about boys in writing since 1987. And my writing style hasn't changed a whole hell of a lot; except I say things like hell. And fucking.

And if that wasn't funny enough, I will leave you with this, from November 17, 1987:

"If I could meet somebody famous, it would be Kirk Cameron. Why? Because he is Sooooooooooooo Cute! He really is, but he probably wouldn't be too fun to have around, all this cuteness probably went to his head."

Oh. My. God. If I only had known what was going to happen to that dude.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Disconcerted

You will be glad to know that soon, very soon, I will no longer bitch every other day about how my carpet smells like cat pee. But tomorrow morning, the garbage men (ahem, I mean, sanitation engineers) are going to be plenty unhappy with me because a big mound of cat pee carpet awaits them.

It is out of my house. Gone. Ripped up. I am living on subfloor. And it blows.

I turned the living and dining rooms upside down this weekend. It was like I was packing to move, except the only thing leaving is the cat pee. All my pictures, cds, videos, clutter, plants, more clutter and books got put into boxes and carted to the basement (also slightly cat-peey) or the guest bedrooms. Some furniture got moved out, some just got realigned. The end result is that I feel like I'm living in someone else's house.

Its so weird. Downstairs is empty, and sounds hollow when I talk. There is nothing left down there that screams "Susan!!!". It could be anyone's house. Anyone's beat up couch. It is quite disconcerting. It feels sad somehow - like I'm leaving. But I'm not. I don't know why the empty floor is freaking me out so much. I tried to sit and watch tv for a little bit, but I couldn't. The tv is in the middle of the room. The lights are in weird spots and the echo is awful. I just don't want to be in there.

It might be extra disconcerting because this process is going to begin soon at my dad's house. The carpets have to come up, the furniture has to be given away, my first car is going to get hauled away to the car squasher and my pink, horrific childhood room is going to get painted beige.

My installer is coming next week (please, please, please let him not postpone my job) to put in hardwood (smirk) floors. Just in case you are curious, I'm going with carbonized bamboo. Its sustainable wood (snort. giggle.) and really, the only reason I even bothered to mention it was so I could make that bad wood joke. I'm clearly running out of material.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A collective Aw

I'm free.

Last night, we had a class "celebration" on our final night of fall semester. I turned in my take-home final (12 pages of inspired bullshit) and endured 45 minutes of small talk with my classmates, followed by 45 minutes discussion on "what you got out of this class."

Frankly, not a whole hell of a lot (although there were snacks). So I'm glad its over.

As we were leaving, my classmates invited me to join them at the local wine bar. I shook my head and said "Sorry, I have a dinner date." An entire half of the room collectively said "aaaawww!" I rolled my eyes. Come on people! One of my classmates was actually a T.A. for Prof several years, so she is pulling for us. And always asks me about him.

Prof walked down from his office to meet me outside class, and as I was looking for him, my classmates were quizzing me. "You are dating a professor?" "Who is it" "Yadda yadda." "Nosy nosy." All of a sudden, Prof's actual name was dropped and suddenly, I had a classmate's arm around me. She had an adoring look in her eyes. "He was my favorite professor EVER!"

It was SO funny. You could tell that her opinion of me changed instantly as soon as she found out who my boyfriend was. Before I was Prof's girlfriend, I was just this annoying, outspoken and cynical adult student that she had to endure during class. Now, I'm Prof's girlfriend and worthy of respect and adoration. I should have name dropped way earlier in the semester.

Its rare that people have liked me more because of who I was dating. I've gotta find a way to exploit this.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What is Quorn, you ask?

This post will serve to lend credence to Kiwi's comment that this blog is slowly turning into a food blog. So my love life has become stable and secure and happy and healthy and I have absolutely nothing to talk about except what I shove in my mouth (get your mind out of the gutter, you dirty, dirty person you). Its only a matter of time before Prof and I fight, or break up, or have babies (that one is for you Elena) and then, this blog will become interesting again. Until then...

I apparently mystified some of you with my constant reference to this thing called Quorn over the past week or so. And I can't let you go one more day wondering what you are missing out on.

Quorn is a meat-substitute that is deeeeelicious. Its a chicken-like substance, without any of the chicken guilt. It comes in breaded nugget form, breaded cutlet form, unbreaded cutlet form, chunk form for stir frying, and a petite little roast. I think I recently saw some kind of fancy cheese stuffed form in the freezer section too. Its low fat, low calorie, no cholesterol and high in fiber. What could be better than that?

Well, it has a couple problems: One, its more expensive than your typical garden burger variety meat substitutes. Two, its made from fermented fungus.

That's right folks. I had an orgasmic thanksgiving experience eating fermented fungus.

The company prefers to call it "mycoprotein", for obvious reasons.

Rumor has it that in the 1970's crazy survivalists started messing with alternative protein development (think soylent green) and stumbled onto some strange soil fungus that they cultivated and grew and put barbeque sauce on. It was sold overseas for decades, but only made its way to the U.S. about eight years ago. Apparently there were rumors of severe allergic reactions (started by Garden Burger, maybe?) and that kept them out of the U.S. market for quite a while.

Tofurkey used to have the corner on Thanksgiving meat replacement, but it never really did anything for me. The fake meat was gelatinous, the stuffing it came with had a texture I could never quite place, and it sometimes tasted like licking a salt cube. But Quorn is good, despite being made out of fermented soil fungus. It has texture. And taste. And its not too salty. And it makes a damn fine leftover sandwich.

And I ate the last of mine for dinner tonite. I guess Thanksgiving is finally over.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Leftovers

The crappiest thing about riding mass transit to and from my Thanksgiving celebration this year was not the angry black woman sitting next to me, or the smell of the bus bathroom, or the riots, - it was the distinct lack of leftovers I had in my baggage.

The day after Thanksgiving we munched on leftover (and delicious) rosemary biscuits before I hopped on the train, but that was it. No leftover Quorn and veggie gravy could be packed in the bags. No cranberry sauce! No mashed potatoes! No sweet potatoes! No heavenly brussels sprouts. No homemade stuffing! Not having to battle turnpike traffic and wonder whether my car was going to survive another road trip was nice and all, but...

I really like leftovers.

So, I got a bug up my ass on Monday and made leftovers for myself. Boxed stuffing, quick cranberry sauce, and brussels sprouts with parmesan cheese (I know that many of you have already heard me talking incessantly about these brussels sprouts, but I can't shut up about them). It was ok, but it left me wanting more.

So, I did it again on Thursday night, this time with Prof. I fantasied about stuffing and sweet potatoes all afternoon, and on my entire commute home. I realized I was being ridiculous - who gets excited about Thanksgiving dinner a week after Thanksgiving is over? Me, apparently. And luckily, Prof too.

I haven't cooked that much in my kitchen for years. All four burners were going at once, plus the oven and the toaster oven. Nothing was overly complicated or difficult, it just required a little pot planning. And it was so worth it. Particularly considering that Prof and I didn't spend actual Thanksgiving together. Quorn, cranberry sauce (not in the shape of a can), stuffing, those brussels sprouts I can't shut up about, sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie (frozen Sarah Lee. I'm not freakin Martha Stewart. I can't do it all). Mmm...mmm...mmm...

And I still have leftovers.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Double Crappiness

Holy mother of god. I need to stop being so freakin' cheap.

I headed to NYC for Thanksgiving for the third year in a row. We've made a tradition of spending Thanksgiving in the city, watching the parade, seeing how much food can be cooked in a ten square-foot kitchen, and celebrating with friends. Family gets me at Christmas. Thanksgiving is for friends.

After last year's fiasco where we circled the city for three hours looking for a parking space, I decided that there was no way I was driving in. And after the Mexico trip last year, I became a big fan of buses. Well, Mexican buses anyway. And, if I can get along in Mexico on the bus, I can certainly do it here, right?

Perhaps I should have taken Greyhound. Instead, I took the local Chinese bus. For $35 round trip, my local Chinese bus picks you up on a random street corner in my nearest city, and drop you off on another random street in NYC. If you are lucky enough to survive the trip.

My first mistake was trying to travel anywhere on the East Coast on the day before Thanksgiving. My second mistake was the Chinese bus. Prof drove me to the bus "station" (he stayed home to be with his family) and we were 20 minutes early, as the website had clearly instructed me. There was a huge crowd of people waiting on the other side of the street in the rain. They looked angry. And mean. I was pretty confused about where I was supposed to be, but the little dude running the place kept waving us back and telling us that the 2:00 bus was 30 minutes late.

30 minutes my ass. The 2:00 bus pulled up at 3:00. Prof and I joined the angry hoard on the other side of the street to try to board the bus. There was yelling. And pushing. And more yelling. And more pushing. I tried to get my bag in the luggage compartment but couldn't get near it. The little dude grabbed my ticket and waved me on, past a really angry black lady who was screaming "I was here first! Number 1! There's gonna be trouble if I don't get on the damn bus!" I left my bag with Prof and prayed that he could get it in the luggage compartment. I was jostled to the back of the bus, but fought my way back up. Prof is still standing there, with my bag - they wouldn't open the compartment for him.

Turns out, Prof got in a little screaming match with the bus driver, and he eventually succeeded in getting my bag on, as well as a bag some little Indian woman gave him to take care of. Once I was reasonably sure that my luggage was going to go with me to NYC, I desperately tried to find a seat.

What I found couldn't technically be called a seat. The Chinese bus people had clearly gotten creative with bus remodeling because there was no way an ordinary human being could fit in the space I was jammed into. Thank god my seat-mate was pleasant and didn't smell. She squeezed in next to the window and turned her legs at an awkward angle into my "leg space." I did the same into the aisle. Before the bus had even pulled away, I noticed that I was getting wet. I looked up - the emergency hatch in the ceiling was cracked open. It was cold. And wet. I prayed that when we started moving, the wind would keep the water off me.

So, the journey sucked. Totally. I didn't have room to even pull my magazine out to read, and because we were so late, it got too dark to read pretty soon after we left. I could have turned the overhead light on, but, I doubt it worked anyway and because of the creative seat arrangements, it wasn't really in the right location. Besides, no one else on the bus had a light on. They probably would have lynched me if I had even attempted it.

So, instead of reading, I chatted with my seat-mate, Ebony. This was the only good part about the ride. She was pleasant, not angry and able to have an intelligent conversation. When we were bored of each other, I just started listening to people's stories. The $35 Chinese bus is kind of a sad place really. I was there for a lark, being cheap for cheap's sake. Most of the other people probably didn't have a choice. The angry lady was across the aisle from me. She scared the crap out of me and she was the last person I wanted to be sitting anywhere near - but then I overheard her story and understood why she was so angry. She was traveling with her 15 year-old daughter, who seemed to be not all quite with it, to visit her mother in NY. Her mother was paralyzed and in a facility. She visits twice a month and is hoping to get her moved closer soon. No wonder she was angry. Twice a month on that stinkin' bus, a crippled mom, a weird daughter, no car and not enough dough to take Amtrak. I'd be angry too.

We were doing pretty well for time until we got to Exit 7 or so on the NJ Turnpike. Then we sat. And crawled. And creeped. I think we went 25 miles an hour from there all the way to the Lincoln Tunnel. Except once we got near the Tunnel, we just stopped. For like an hour, maybe more. And because we were no longer moving, it became apparent that the emergency hatch above me was the only fresh air on the bus. The heat was zinging, and the bus driver wouldn't turn it off. I started getting claustrophobic. And the rest of the people started yelling. "Its HOT!" "Turn the AC on!" "I'm gonna pass OUT!"

The driver jumped up (which he could do because we hadn't moved in like fifteen minutes) and shouted angrily "NO A.C.!" No A.C.!"

Oh my god. I thought he was done for. I really thought there was going to be a riot.

(PS, at this point, the bathroom started really, really reeking. Bad.)

Eventually, people settled back down, but it stayed ridiculously hot. I started sweating. So did the people around me. I wanted to tear off layers of clothes, but I only had one so that wasn't really an option.

I had never been so happy to see the Lincoln Tunnel in my entire life. What should have been a two and a half hour ride, maximum, ended up being a four and a half hour ordeal. Amazingly, nobody was trampled getting off the bus. People cooperated and helped each other. I think we were all pretty much united against the driver of the bus. I didn't see him when I got off - he was probably hiding, and good thing too.

Kiwi was there waiting for me, and we had a great time and ate delicious food.

There was no way I was fighting my way back on that bus - the mere suggestion made my stomach flutter - so sucked it up, spent the money and took the train. Oh how I love Amtrak. Clean, on-time, spacious, friendly Amtrak. No more Chinese bus for me. Ever. Lesson learned.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Randomness

The darkness when I leave work is having a serious impact on my energy level. I was going to write a big long post for you all, but I simply don't have the energy. My eyes are stingy. My body just wants to lay on the couch, be fed, and watch Grey's Anatomy. My head also would like a serious painkiller (I really need to nab that big bottle of Percocet at my dad's house. He doesn't need it anymore, but I do.)

So, I will leave you with some random thoughts and promise to bring you totally up to date soon:

1. The new mammogram guidelines are crap. Who cares if you have 2 days of anxiety, or repeat tests, as long as your boobs get to stay attached to your body?

2. A Dr. Beavers was discussing said mammogram guidelines on NPR. If you don't think that an OB/Gyn named Dr. Beavers isn't funny, well, I can't help you.

3. My father's doctor called me and left a message last week. I haven't called back. I think they are trying to schedule a follow-up visit. Guess they didn't get the memo.

4. Along those lines, the nurses from his hospital wing sent him a get well card last week. Guess they didn't get the memo either.

4. I'm having increasing moments of sadness. I keep trying to squash them because I don't feel like dealing with it. This is probably unhealthy.

5. I need to pay bills more often. I think the utility company likes to be paid monthly. I'm not quite living up to that.

6. Its dark ALL THE TIME. Perhaps you have noticed.

7. Prof and I have been together for six months. And I still like him. And I've never, not once, wanted to wring his neck. He's never made me cry. He's never made me mad. He's never made me feel unloved or unappreciated. My, what a difference a year makes.

8. I'm NOT having his babies. Enough said.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Love Cynicism, Exposed

I let Prof read my blog.

I'm going to let that sink in for a minute...

Ok, let's continue.

My blog has become a window to my soul. Sure, the blog can be amusing. I make fun of myself, I make fun of others (I really like those parts), I rant and rave about random shit that annoys me and I dish on boys. But there's all this other stuff. This sad stuff. This remorseful stuff. The me trying to understand myself stuff.

And I showed it to him.

This probably means we are either going to break up, or I'm going to end up having his babies.

I don't really know how it happened. We were hanging out, talking. Watching this couple talk about sex and why you shouldn't name your children after cars or liquor. (I don't know how he finds this crap). Then we started talking about our first few dates, and I told him how lucky he was that I had gone on really bad first dates with the engineer and wrinkly shirt guy right before meeting him. My expectations for my first prof date were so incredibly low, it made it sooooo easy for him to exceed them. Then all of sudden, he's all like "you should at least let me read about your first date on the blog. Come on. Its only fair." And I was all "no way!" Then I compromised and told him he could read about the engineer and wrinkly shirt.

And so, he did. I cut and pasted it into an email and sent the stories to him. Not that I should have bothered, since he already knew where the blog was. To his credit, he has known how to find my blog since our 3rd date and he hasn't read it. Until I told him he could. Now I've opened up all kinds of cans of worms of various types and sizes.

It was nice, actually, watching him read what I had written six months ago about loser guys, then about him. He was incredulous that the engineer didn't walk me to my car - then was reminded that he didn't walk me to my car either that first night. He laughed (I am friggin funny) at my funnies, and made sympathetic noises at my sads. And it was so nice, in a way, to be able to finally share this with him.

Then, I freaked out when I found out that he kept reading them after I left his house last night. (Oh yeah, I stalk the people that stalk my blog). I'm not sure I had even started my car, and he was back on the site, reading my take on him and this summer. I told him he could, but I didn't expect him to. Why, I don't know. I'm an idiot. Of COURSE he was going to want more! He's wanted to read it forever. ("The whole world can read your blog, except me! How's that fair?") And I gave him permission.

He read more this morning. Then, apparently got bored of me (I don't know how that's possible, really).

It freaked me out. It was fine when I was sitting there, watching his facial expressions as he read. It was safe - if I saw that something had bothered him, we could talk about it immediately. But when I'm not there, its out of my control.

We talked about it tonight - round and round and round in circles (all due to me and my unwillingness to tell him what I really wanted to do). I want to be able to let him read it, uncensored and unmonitored, but I can't. It leaves me really, really, really vulnerable. My walls have been shattered over the past few months - this is too much. It removes too many of the remaining bricks. So, we came to a compromise. He is allowed to read them, but only with me, as a joint activity. That way, we can talk about what I was going through at that particular moment, why I said or thought the things that I did, and he won't stew about it or wonder. Or think I'm the biggest freak he has ever encountered.

I knew this day would eventually come, and I've been dreading it. But, I think I'm handling it ok. After what we went through with my family last month, it really seems silly to shut him out of this part of my life any longer.

Friday, November 6, 2009

First Week

Going back to work and school this week was a surreal experience. I felt like things should be different; feel different; but they didn't. After all, I no longer have a father. Or any grandparents. I have endured this major life-changing event that makes people make the pity face whenever I walk into a room. I have never gotten so many cards in the mail in my entire life; well over twenty just this week. I feel like I am absorbing all of the available pity within a 10-mile radius.

But I don't feel different. I smile. I laugh. I go to the gym. I sweat. My muscles hurt. I listen to the iPod and sing. I still feel refreshed when the sky is blue and the air is crispy. I bitch about work and my boss. I even play Beatles Rock Band.

And I feel guilty for all of these things.

Monday was the worst. It was the first time many of my co-workers had seen me since the ordeal started. When they asked me how I was doing (complete with pity face), I smiled and said that I was "hanging in there." I felt like a traitor. Shouldn't I have been in tears? Unable to function? I felt like I didn't deserve to have had off all week. Shouldn't I have had to prove that I was so wrenched with grief that I couldn't drive? Tuesday wasn't much better. I went to class for the first time in several weeks, and our professor had shared with everyone what was happening in my life. A couple of them got me cards. One of them brought me a box of chocolates. I felt like an impostor.

I know I shouldn't feel guilty for being able to hold my shit together and continue on with my life without collapsing. But I do.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Old Home Place

Today, we put my father's ashes in the ground. I feel an immense sense of relief - I've fulfilled one of my final promises to him, plus his ashes aren't sitting in Prof's living room any more. I'm not even going to comment on how creepy it is to have your dead father in a plastic box while ghosts and vampires are knocking on the door begging for candy.

Ok. I am going to comment. It IS creepy. Creepy, creepy, creepy. Enough on that.

Several days before dad was unable to speak anymore (and on the day that I had made his funeral arrangements - I never got to tell him what a deal I had gotten) I asked him where he wanted his ashes to be put. He was fairly noncommittal, but thought that somewhere in the small rural crossroads that he had grown up in or on the family farm would be a good place.

Well, I tossed out the idea of the family farm immediately. The farm was auctioned off in the early 60's. My great-grandparents hadn't made a will, so when they died, the 13 grandchildren squabbled about who would get what. As a result, everything was auctioned off, including the 16th century stone farmhouse, and each sibling got a paltry amount of money. My father was always bitter about it. He worked the farm as a child, rising before dawn to milk the cows and spending summers cutting hay, and walking uphill to school both ways, and I guess thought he would someday have a share in it. He never talked about it much, but I'm sure the bitterness backed up on it as he was struggling to pay for a mortgage and braces in the Reagan recession years by selling American made cars that people wanted to buy less than they want to buy Hummers today.

But my mom didn't toss out the idea. In typical mom style, she was undeterred by the fact that the farm no longer belonged to my family, or that we didn't know the family that owned it. Last weekend, she drove up there, saw a sale sign out front, marched up to the door, chatted with the elderly man that lives there and secured both a tour of the historic house and a place for my dad anywhere on the property. I was incredulous when she told me. That woman is persistent; and while mostly annoying (like in the case of the great chicken salad incident of 2009), sometimes it pays off.

So, today, mom, brother and me drove up there with mom's boyfriend and brother's lab puppy in tow to tour the house and find a spot for my dad to spend the rest of eternity. Boyfriend and puppy stayed in the car. Mom's boyfriend is a perfectly nice man who have never said a bad word about my father (even though he had reason to) but it would have been weird to have him physically with us as we dealt with the ashes. So, I was relieved when he stayed behind.

Mr. L greeted us with probably the oldest German Shepard I've have ever seen. My brother and I introduced ourselves, then we went into the old house for the first time ever. My great-grandparents lived and worked there. My dad grew up in a house embedded in the hill below (since condemned and demolished) and spent lots of time in the old house with his grandparents. The house looked huge from the outside, but was small and cramped inside. I guess because the walls are so thick? It smelled like old. Old people. Old stuff. Old books. Old wood. It had been renovated in the 70's, but needs some updating now. Too bad its hours away from my job. And is listed at 900k. Sheesh. Its not that nice. But with the land, and the views, my god, the views, its probably worth every penny.

After the house tour, we grabbed a shovel and the ash box out of the car and walked around looking for a good spot. I had initially thought that down the hill by the stream would be a good place, but changed my mind when we got to the very highest point on the property, where the entrance to the milking barn used to be. It was breathtaking. The sun had come out after days and days of rain. The leaves on the trees below were gold and auburn and orange. You could see the stream, and all the rolling hills that Dad used to look at back in the day, only occasionally interrupted by a disgustingly large and out of place McMansion. That was the spot. It was perfect.

Brother dug a small hole, and I opened the box, feeling a little sick. Seriously - all that is left of dad is in this tiny little box, in a bag closed off with a twist tie. A twist tie! I didn't really know what to expect, but the ashes weren't really ashy. More grainy. It freaked me out a bit. But, I gritted my teeth and emptied the bag into the hole. Old German Shepherd nosed his way in a couple times. I'm sure he smelled bone and wanted a piece, but we managed to get the hole covered before he got in there. God, I hope that dog doesn't dig it up.

I didn't know what we were going to do after we placed the ashes. Were we going to say nice things? A little prayer (not that we know any)? We hadn't talked about it. I figured I would just let it happen organically. And it did. I think I just said "I brought you home Dad" and that was it. I teared up a little, as did my mom. My brother remained stoic and perhaps slightly annoyed. That was it. No hysterics. No prayers. No speeches. Just a hole, some ashes, some flowers and a nosy dog.

We made our exit quickly, thanking Mr. L profusely and wishing him luck at the 55+ community he will be moving to. And now its over. And I still haven't lost my shit. I'm beginning to think I have no tears left.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ghosts, Ghouls, and Gripes

Halloween is definitely less fun this year.

Images of death, dying, ghosts and the afterlife used to be funny and amusing, today, they are just disconcerting. The week before Halloween is definitely not the best time to lose two family members. I guess it could be argued that there is no good time to lose people, but right before Halloween? No good. I keep wondering what Momom's body and Dad's body would be looking like right now. Then I remember that they are ashes, so I don't have to worry about it. But its tough to get that image out of my head.

Regardless, Prof and I will be handing out candy tonight. Mostly so I can get it the hell out of my house.

Right around when Dad first got into the hospital, Fright-Aid had a really good deal on candy. I bought a shitload. $1.88 a bag! What a steal! Yeah, except that when you have Halloween candy in your house, and people are dying off left and right, and you haven't been to the grocery store in weeks, and you are sad, AND you are hungry, Snickers really starts to satisfy. And they satisfied me until the whole, entire bag was gone. Then I started in on the Butterfingers. And the Kit-Kats. Oh, and the Reece's Cups. Mmmmmm....

But I'm off the kid candy now. A very good friend sent me a Harry and David gift basket filled with goodies. Now I'm moving on to adult candy, like truffles and chocolate covered cherries. And Pepto. Must find some Pepto.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Back on the job, kinda

I went back to work today. Kinda.

There was a day-long meeting. You know, the kind of meeting where all the talking heads that make triple your salary and do half the work talk about things they know nothing about, while you steam and stew and try not to get up, tell them they are stupid, and slice their heads off? Yeah. I went to one of those today. And it felt weird. I feel like I should still be in mourning; that its too early to move on and go back to being the loud-mouth know-it-all girl in the corner at the meeting.

I went to work five times in October. Total. Five times. I'm way behind. I'm out of the loop. I totally don't care, but its weird that things have gone on without me. I'm expendable, despite what my enormous ego thinks. Work has managed without me, and while they will be glad to have me back (mostly), they managed without my technical knowledge, policy expertise and potty mouth. I'm so thankful that I work with people that are so supportive, and for an organization with decent benefits.

But going back to work is going to be really, really difficult. My head is elsewhere. I've become accustomed to letting myself sleep as long as I need to; and I need a lot of sleep right now my friends. Dealing with dad's estate, and my emotions, and my mother's emotions AND work? Its going to be tough.

Tougher still? The conversation I had with a well-meaning colleague at 8:35 this morning:

"Hi Phil. How are you doing?"

"Hey Susan. How are things?. How's your dad?"

(GULP. AWKWARD!)

"Oh. I guess you didn't hear. Dad passed away last week. Grandma too."

Pity face from Phil. Plus bonus sympathetic shoulder rub/pinch.

I hate the pity face. And that conversation? That conversation is bad for me, and bad for the person on the receiving end who was just trying to be nice. I handled it. I think I did ok. But, shit. That is going to happen over and over and over again when I get back into the office for real. I should just wear a big button warning people not to talk to me. Come to think of it, that might not be such a bad thing, deaths in the family or not.

People have said that the hardest part is behind me, but I don't think it is. I think the hardest part is yet to come. Getting my life back to "normal", without 2/5 of my family? That's going to be the hard part.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Caught in the Middle

My cellphone died as I was talking to my brother about dad's house and how mom is insane. He called me seconds after a phone call with her. Mom called me five minutes later, while I was still on the phone with brother. All they want to do is tell me how the other one is wrong and/or crazy.

I resisted the urge to plug the phone in right after it died and hover next to the wall while mediating between the two. Instead, I plugged it in and left. it. off. Off. Off. Off.

I will deal with them when I'm good and damn ready to, and so the phone has been off all afternoon while I scrubbed mold off of pots and pans that have been left in my sink for weeks.

My mother can't sit still. And my brother gets aggravated when she does stuff he doesn't entirely agree with. And me? I feel like the freakin peacemaker. But I'm too exhausted to be the peacemaker right now.

Mom is at my dad's house, pulling up carpet in the basement. We found the basement flooded on Friday night, after Momom's funeral. It was the hot water heater - it had been leaking for weeks and weeks and since nobody has been living there, nobody noticed. So we dried it out and that's all I wanted to do. I'm not ready to pull up carpet, or put furniture out to the trash, or take things to the Goodwill. I want to sit and chill and think and reflect. She wants to tackle and clean and do. My brother? I'm not sure what he wants to do, but its probably somewhere in between. He wants to get a big dumpster and just get rid of stuff. Mom wants to put it out for the trash slowly. I want to get all my friends over to the house and say "have at it." That requires a dumpster. We can clear that house out in a day, if we wanted to.

Thing is, I don't want to yet. Brother doesn't want to yet. But mom? Mom wants to stay busy. And by staying busy, she is avoiding feeling the grief that I know needs to be felt.

So, Dad has been dead for less than four days, and tensions are already rising about what to do with the house. And I'm caught in the middle. I don't want to hurt Mom's feelings by telling her to lay off, but I'm going to have to. And I hate the thought of telling her stuff she doesn't want to hear so soon after her mom died. But what else can I do?

And so, the phone is off. Maybe I'll turn it on later.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Evil Emotions

I haven't slept in my own bed since last Monday night. I haven't been alone for more than an hour since Wednesday. I'm at home, alone, now. And its unnerving. And scary. I'm afraid that the emotions are going to let loose and I'm going to lose control. I'm afraid that there is sadness suppressed deep down inside, waiting to come out. Sadness I don't even know that I have.

I'm not a big fan of emotions. Love? Yeah, well, we all know where I am on that one. And Sad? Don't like that one too much either. Sad is uncontrollable. Overwhelming. And it comes when you least except it. I like to know. I like to schedule. I'm ok with being sad - I know that I need to take time to grieve, but I want to do it when I want to. Not in the middle of a random conversation. I'd like to pencil it in. You know, squeeze in an hour or so of mourning in between spin class and dinner. Instead, its coming out when it wants to; unscheduled and unprepared for.

I was having chocolate martinis with old family friends on Saturday night. We were telling old high school stories stories, then I started talking about the last week and everything was fine. Then we moved into how the guys had proposed to the girls, and how they had asked the dad first whether they could marry the daughter. All I wanted to say was that if some dude asked my dad whether he could marry me before he asked me, that there was going to be serious trouble. And I only got halfway through my sentence before my face screwed up and tears started coming out. I couldn't finish my thought and it just sucked. Tissues were brought. My nose was blown, and I recovered, but it still sucked.

Today, Prof and I went to see his friend play bluegrass music at the co-op. It was a beautiful fall day. We sat and listened and I smiled and clapped and sang, just appreciating the fact that I was alive and outside. Then they played their last song; an old bluegrass standby called May the Circle be Unbroken. Its about death and being left behind. Oh lord. I started bawling. Two seconds before I had been fine and happy and good. Then do a verse about about a casket and I'm done. I really liked that song too. Before.

I always thought that it was impossible to be sad if there was a banjo playing. I thought wrong.

I also wasn't expecting the anxiety. Prof has been by my side every minute since Wednesday. Saturday, we were invited to a Halloween party. I wanted him to go see his friends, but I had friends in from out of town that I wanted to see. So I told him to "Go! Play with your friends. I'll be ok." And then he said "You sure? Ok then..." And then I had a mini panic attack. Separation anxiety. "Shit. He's really going to go. What am I really going to do?" I felt like I used to feel when I was three and my mom would drop me off at day care and I would hang onto her leg. All clingy and out of control and sad.

It happened again tonight as I gathered up my stuff to move myself back into my own house. Who is going to pat my head and rub my back when I get sad? Who's going to help me fend off my crazy mother? I need to be home. And probably need to be alone. I've never had an issue being alone before, so this new low level fear of being alone is freaking me out.

I've always been so in control and self-sufficient. Its been tough to admit that I'm not unbreakable. And that I need people to help me through the tough times. I suspect that this experience is going to leave me a pretty changed person.

Friday, October 23, 2009

It Sucked and Its Over

Dad passed away at 10:25 pm today. Mom, brother and I were all with him when he took his last breath and when the blood stopped circulating. Prof was there too. Holding me, as I held my father's hand.

My grandmother's funeral is tomorrow night.

I've gotten maybe 2-3 hours of sleep over the past 48 hours. Whoever invented the concept of "bedside vigil" should be shot.

I have a lot I'd like to say and work through, but now is not the time. Now is the time to drink the big glass of Merlot that is sitting in front of me. But, before I do, I wanted to thank everyone out there who has sent me vibes, prayers and thoughts; my close friends, my far away friends and internet strangers. And friends of internet strangers too. Without all of your support and knowing that you were there for me, this would have been a lot more difficult. It was still tough, but I knew I wasn't really alone, no matter how alone I was feeling. Thank you all for that.

It sucked. And its over. And tomorrow, a new phase of my life begins.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Its Raining, Its Pouring...

They took my grandma's body from the Hospice House yesterday at about 8am.

At 10 am, I called the social worker at the Hospital.

At noon, the doctor asked my father if he would like to let nature take its course.

At 2, I signed paperwork.

At 4, the paramedics picked him up.

At 4:30, my father was admitted to Hospice House. My grandmother had been dead less than twelve hours, and we brought my dad here to die too.

Yesterday was a very, very difficult day.

Momom was right. This is going to be the hardest week of my life.

Yesterday, my mom and I met at McDonald's for breakfast. I hate McDonald's and have avoided eating there for years and years and years, even on long desolate road trips. But I made an exception in this case. All families meet at McDonald's in their time of great tragedy, right? Plus, my mom and her boyfriend aren't really the Starbucks types. We talked about Momom's funeral, joked about fun things to do with her ashes, then mom came with me to the hospital.

I had absolutely no idea that my day would turn out like it did.

I feel like I've caused his death. Logically, I understand that his kidney disease and his cancer are not my fault, but I'm the one that called the social worker on his ass when he winced in pain so badly it made me nauseous. I signed the paperwork. I gave the doctor a knowing look and a nod of my head when dad was having trouble making his wishes clear.

It was so heartbreaking. The doctor, a big black woman with a sympathetic look in her eyes, leaned in and tried to assess dad's mental condition and his wishes so that she could make a recommendation.

"How are you feeling?"

(mumbling) "Oh, fine." (really Dad? Fine? That's not exactly how I would describe it)

"Do you know what's wrong with you?"

"I'm constipated" (not untrue, but certainly, not the biggest of his issues)

"Do you know what else?"

"Something about I might have cancer." (Doc looks at me. I raise my eyebrows)

"It is cancer."

"That's right. Cancer."

Dad was confused. Wiped out. Having trouble getting word out. How do you get someone in that kind of shape to make decisions for himself? I wish the social worker had been more up front last week because he could have been more clear. We asked him leading questions and he agreed to "let nature take its course" (we think) because he couldn't really do much else. Then I went into the hallway to put the wheels in motion and sign the paperwork. The Doc almost cried when I told her my grandmother had passed away that morning. She hugged me. I was bawling. To lose your grandmother and send your father off to his death on the same day? Its emotionally taxing. Just a little.

They were supposed to come get him at 3 to take him. The ambulance people didn't arrive until 4. So I sat. Watching people. Every time I heard something with wheels go by my heart jumped and I felt sick. It was like he was safe and stable in the hospital. Once they came to get him, that was it. No turning back. Dad would have days left. Not weeks. Not a week. Days.

Its kinda like when you decide to euthanize your pet and you put him in the car for the last time. Except that with the pet, its over quickly. With a person, its a slow death. Unpredictable. Will there be pain? Will there be confusion? Will there be shaking? Drool? Puke? All of the above?

My mom was here at hospice when I got here. My brother came later. I signed some stuff. Went over medical histories. Confirmed that there would be no more dialysis treatments. Stayed for a while and made sure that he was as comfortable as he could be, then drove home to pick up migraine pills at my local pharmacy and pack up some stuff for a few days.

When I got back to the hospice, mom, her boyfriend and my brother were going through pictures of my grandmother for the memorial service. I joined in. It was so unreal, sitting there in the hospice "living room" pulling pictures of my dead grandmother out of the photo album and making sure that my dying father was comfortable.

Prof's house is, thankfully, only about 5 minutes away from here. I spent the night with him and came back this morning to be with dad. Dad hasn't opened his eyes all day and is having a little trouble breathing. I've seen a definite decrease in his condition since last night. The nurses have seen a decline since this morning. Its not going to be long. And that's good, because I can only watch this for so much longer before I totally lose my shit.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blink

Its amazing how quickly someone goes from being alive to being dead. From being a part of your present to being part of your history. From being in your life to being in a hearse.

The phone buzzed at 5:33 am this morning. I was in a deep sleep and only heard it just as it stopped buzzing. I knew someone was dead, I just didn't know who it was, Dad or Momom. I rolled over, wrenched to phone from the crappiest charger cord ever invented and fumbled with the key lock button. The missed call was from my Mom.

Momom. Its Momom.

I called Mom back immediately. She very matter of factly told me that Momom had passed just after 5 am. She had been at Hospice for only 9 hours. Mom was with her all night, and was with her when she died. She passed away in her sleep - the very best way to do it. But, my brother and I weren't given the chance to be there. Mom must have known at some point - otherwise, why would she have stayed all night? The hospice nurse said she thought Momom had at least a couple days left, but you can't predict death.

Momom had called me from her cell phone on Thursday to tell me that she was thinking about me, and that she loved me, and that she was sorry I was going through all I was going through with my dad. She said that the next week was going to be the hardest week of my life. I found out today that she told my brother the exact same thing. I wonder if she already knew that she was going to check out soon? It was definitely out of character for her to use her phone for outbound calls and I was touched that while she was slowly dying, she would be worrying about me. No need to worry about me though - I was in Clark's buying comfortable shoes. I drove to the nursing home afterwards to visit. I showed her my new shoes, demonstrated how cushy they were, re-programmed her tv remote, ate some oreos and left.

The last time I saw my grandmother was on Friday. She was markedly worse than she had been the day before. She was having trouble breathing. Her arms and hands were shaking when she tried to do anything. She wanted ice chips, which I got for her. We watched the Balloon Boy land on CNN. I told her it was bullshit. She agreed. But perhaps she just lacked the strength to argue with my commentary on the current state of the 24-hour media.

I didn’t see her this weekend because she was in such bad shape. I wanted to wait for her to have a good day; problem was, she didn’t have any good days left.

She came to the hospice at 8pm last night. She slept all night, and passed away in her sleep. My mom was with her. I wish I had gotten the opportunity to see her one last time. But, she knew I loved her. She was ready to go. She was tired of living. Tired of fighting to breathe. Just tired.

I'm overwhelmed by her death, and the impending death of my father, and my mother's emotional needs, and my emotional needs (which I am pretending don't exist). Momom was right. This is going to be the most difficult week of my life.

Goodbye #1

My grandma died this morning at 5:05 am.

Still processing. More later.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Two for the price of one

I am watching two family members die simultaneously. It would be comical, if it wasn't so fucking sad.

My dad would be enough death and dying for anyone to deal with. But not for us! We get the special two for one deal. Dying Dad and Dying Grandma.

Momom went back to the hospice facility today. She is in really bad shape. Unable to talk, or catch a decent breath. She can't walk, or use the bathroom and her hands have started shaking terribly, which makes her lose her breath more, and on and on. The hospice nurse said that she is "exchanging very little air." I have no idea what that really means, but it ain't good. She's either not getting enough oxygen, or not expelling enough carbon dioxide, or both. My mother and her boyfriend spent the weekend moving her out of her apartment; her decline started close to the time that Mom told her she was working on the apartment. Momom's home was taken away; and I think it also took away what little will to live she had left.

Dad was barely able to speak today, after his first round of radiation (purely for pain management) and a dialysis treatment. He's back on a purely liquid diet. If you are on your way out, a liquid diet sure doesn't help you want to stick around, that's for sure. He was given two tiny tubs of apple juice, and some chicken broth. He managed 1/2 of one of the apple juices, and that was it. He grunted, rather than spoke. I didn't stay very long. He was in and out of consciousness and I just wanted to let him sleep.

I don't know whether he was wiped out from the dialysis today, or if he's just gotten that much worse over night. I've taken tomorrow off of work and will run from the hospital to the hospice and back again. I expect to lose one, if not both, of them by the end of the week.

I once joked about having them both in the same hospice facility at one time. As that reality approaches, it no longer seems funny.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where the Crying Things Are

I left the hospital a little after noon on Friday. I had been there every day since the previous Friday and had nothing left to give. I met with Dad and the cancer social worker in the morning. I thought we would resolve something; that she would present real world options about hospice care and nursing home care and make it abundantly clear that dad could not go home. I don't yet know where he thinks he is going when he leaves the hospital, but its not home. He needs 24 hour care. He can't shift himself in the bed without assistance. They are moving him on the bed crane for ease (he only weighs 150 pounds). He's barely eating. Home is not an option.

The options are nursing care, or in-patient hospice. Hospice, for those of you who are blessed to have never needed their services, is an organization that provides end of life care. They specialize in pain management, making patients comfortable and helping families deal with the emotional baggage of a death in the family. Most importantly, Medicare pays for hospice services 100%, including in-patient hospice. But you have to be really dying to get to the in-patient facility. If dad doesn't qualify for the in-patient hospice, I'm going to have to get him into a nursing home. And pay for it. There's not a lot of cash for nursing care, and his house couldn't be sold in time to help pay. Lots of decisions rest on where he can go when (if) he leaves the hospital, and I am a person that needs to plan. I like to know weeks in advance what I'm going to do, and what needs to be done. My meeting with the social worker made it abundantly clear that we aren't going to know what dad qualifies for until hours before he gets discharged from the hospital. Planning for his discharge isn't going to happen. I have to be flexible and ready for anything.

I'm not flexible, and I hate uncertainty. Particularly in this case. Not knowing is fucking with my life, and I'm focusing on it all the time.

So, I took the afternoon off and headed to Prof's house. I caught up on some work; it felt so good to talk to the office and respond to emails. I watched some of the DVRed National Parks PBS special on his big high def tv. I just laid on the couch and tried to block out everything else.

We went out for a nice dinner, then got tickets for Where the Wild Things Are. I knew that the ratings were mixed. The Village Voice said it was like a group therapy session. Other reputable reviewers said that the group dysfunction and inane monster dialogue made it almost unwatchable. But we went anyway.

Largely, I was bored. The monsters were reminded me of dysfunctional Jews from a Woody Allen movie. Seriously. Each personified an undesirable character trait; pessimism, depression, anger, overly anxious to please, cannibalism... Carol the Monster's anger made me uncomfortable; JW's condescension annoyed me. I was glad when Max finally got in his boat and sailed away.

Except that I was bawling.

Max said his goodbyes to all the monsters, except Carol who was too busy in an angry rage to be there. He finally shows up and just watches Max leave. I'm sure everyone in the theater applied that scene to their own families, and their own situation. For me, it hit too close to home. Saying goodbye? Expressing regret? End of a journey? It sucker punched me.

I had to sit there until everyone in the theater had left. Then I got up, trying to hide my face from the Prof, and about ran into the bathroom to try to compose myself. I had been crying for maybe 5 minutes, but my face was red and puffy and my eyes were squinty. I looked a mess. And felt ridiculous. Angry, dysfunctional monsters made me cry; not the news that my dad had cancer.

Its the first time that I've lost my shit all week. The first time I've cried. The first time I've let my feelings anywhere near the surface. It felt awful. Holding it in is much easier.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hospital Breakdown

I'm exhausted. Mentally, emotionally and even physically. My body is stiff and all my muscles are sore from sitting on my ass for a week. Mentally, I'm shot. I'm trying to figure out "what next?" and nobody in the hospital thinks past the end of the day. One day, they are going to release my father and expect someone to take care of the details. It is not out of the range of possibilities that they would send him home, expecting his family to provide 24 hour care. I can't provide 24 hour care for my dying father. I work. I have a home. I have a life. I'm not giving them up to care for a dying man for an unspecified period of time.

Its all resting on me. My father is too sick to make any real decisions or phone calls. I've been hounding the hospital social workers. I've been talking to the doctors. I've been helping him brush his teeth and even occasionally helping him eat. I've seen my dad's raw nakedness as he is lifted on and off bed pans and uses urinals.

I feel very, very alone right now. My brother has not been helpful. While he's stopped by to say hi a couple times over the last week, he's not doing anything productive. He's not taking off work. He's not paying the bills at dad's house. He's not investigating end of life decisions and how long it takes to die if you stop dialysis. Guess who is doing those things? Yeah. Me.

And no, asking the brother to help is not really an option. He's not mature enough, he doesn't care enough. Hospitals make him uncomfortable. "I don't like hospitals, I can't go there everyday." Yeah, cuz I just love hospitals and dying people.

I just want it to be over. Like now. And its become very clear that its not going to end as quickly as I had hoped.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bad to Worser

Its amazing that just when you think you've gotten all the bad news you could possibly get, you get a little more to add on top. My suck bucket doth spilleth over.

But really, its not my suck bucket. Its my dad's suck bucket. His is like a suck pond. Maybe a suck lake. Poor guy had a colonoscopy today. Seriously. If I'm dying, the last thing I would want to do is drink a gallon of Miralax, poo my brains out, then have someone shove a camera up my ass. But someone thought it was a good idea. Oh, plus, 4 hours of dialysis afterwards. And its like they don't even really give you a choice. They just come get him and I think he is too weak or scared to just say no. Nancy Reagan, this should have been your Just Say No campaign. Screw recreational drugs. What this country needs to say no to is unnecessary and painful medical tests.

He failed the tests. Bad. The cancer is in his colon. And his lungs. And his liver. And his hip. We've spent weeks going to doctors trying to find out why he couldn't put any weight on his leg - thought it was fractured or arthritic or something. Nope. Fucking hip has cancer in it. Just like the rest of him.

I was fortunate (?) enough to be in the room when one of the oncologists came in. My brother was there too (unhelpful as always). The oncologist looked like an albino mole. And had the bedside manner of one. He didn't look any of us in the eye. He came in and just started talking. Didn't even introduce himself.

He launched into "well, we got your tests back. Turns out you do have a mass in your colon. We are doing a biopsy now. We also found cancer in your hip. Its inoperable. But, what we recommend is chemotherapy and radiation. It won't cure you; it will just shrink the tumors..."

Then he went on and on about how difficult it is to treat cancer in dialysis patients because the artificial kidneys kick the drugs out so fast, but that there are these special drugs that sometimes work.. and yadda, yadda on and on and on. Dude didn't look up - not once - to read our reaction. I was looking at him cross eyed. Do you SEE my dad? He weighs less than I do. He's old. He's in pain. He's tired. He's blind. Come on! You really think he wants to toss his cookies and lose his hair in addition? So that he can come back to his baseline health level of "life is barely tolerable?" Enough is enough. If he was a dog, we would have put him down already under the life heading of "its the kindest thing to do"

How come they can't have the common decency to treat my dad like a dog?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bathtub of Suck

Forget the bucket. I'm drowning in a bathtub of suck. Who's got the bathtub gin? I need to water it down.

I learned today that my father's cancer is Stage IV; they don't know where its coming from and they don't know where its going. They wheeled him out to scan his brain to see if its moved there. The nurse said the doctors are acting as if he might only have days to live. The doctor said she was unwilling to speculate how long he might have. They are running more tests tonight and tomorrow. They might know more then. But then again, they probably won't.

Call me a horrible person if you'd like, but I am relieved that his cancer might be so bad that death is imminent. He's tired. And weak. He hasn't gotten any joy out of life for years, if not decades. I've spent the last four years caring for him; sometimes intensively, sometimes less so, but always there. Shuttling back and forth to go grocery shopping for him; enduring dinners at Perkins so he could order off the senior menu; feeling guilty when I go away for the weekend; mowing his grass; cooking for him; taking him to doctors appointments; taking him to the hospital... In the past four years, I'd guess I've missed two months worth of work or more because of his various issues. Its funny, because I'm sure he never missed a day of work to take care of me.

I feel sorry for him, but I also resent him. 90% of the tears I have shed in my life were caused, in one way or another, by him. He's the reason I feel the way I do about marriage and relationships. He's the reason I occasionally check myself when the alcohol consumption goes a bit up. He's the reason I haven't moved, or looked for a new job. I couldn't leave - he can't take care of himself.

Now, he could be gone within the week. Or, he could suffer for months. And I could suffer for months. If the cancer doesn't take him quickly, things are going to get very complicated because health insurance won't pay for long-term care and hospice won't take him unless he is really dying. If we have to pay; we have to sell his house. You try selling a house with an avocado bathroom and orange linoleum in this housing market and see what happens. Nothing good, that's for sure. And, I can't simultaneously take care of his health needs while tearing up red carpet from the 60's.

So, I don't know how bad he is, I don't know how long he could live, I don't know where he is going to go if he gets out of the hospital, and I don't know whether to dance with glee or curl up and cry. For now, I'm just going to curl up and go to bed.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The C Word

I left the hospital at 6 am, as the drunk college kids were getting their IVs out and headed back to campus. I had been there since 12:30. My dad, who has looked like he needed hospitalization for weeks, finally called 911 because he couldn't breathe.

They ran test after test all night long. The 12-year old resident couldn't tell us anything; nor could the attending, other than that they were keeping him.

Today, after about 4 hours of sleep, I dragged myself back to the hospital. Dad looked terrible. And had terrible news to give me.

"Its cancer."

I haven't talked to a doctor yet, but apparently its all over his liver and intestines. He doesn't want to treat it. I don't know yet what that means for a man on dialysis. Do you stop the dialysis and let the kidney disease kill you, or do you wait for the cancer to get you while continuing dialysis?

Or how about this question: What the fuck am I going to do?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Big Bucket of Suck Theory

I have a new theory on life.

It goes like this: "If you just sit and take what life gives you, all you get handed is a big bucket of suck. But, if you get out there and make things happen for yourself, you get good things you can use to water down the suck.

This idea came to me this summer. I was in the car, on my way to the river at something like 6:30 in the morning. I was so glad to be escaping my life and getting to the river for the day, or the weekend, or whatever it was. And I realized that if it wasn't for whitewater kayaking, the past year or so would have been just about unbearable. Kayaking gave me new friends, new skills, and new confidences. Most importantly though, it gave me a much needed distraction from all that was (is?) going on in my life: dad dramas, health dramas, dad health dramas, friend dramas, pay-cut drama, job drama and of course, boy drama.

The only things that have ever been handed to me for free are raw deals. Nobody just hands out the good stuff. And if they are, they aren't handing it to me. Or anyone I know. I've kept my sanity, and figured out how to make myself happy by actively doing things that make me happy. Ok, well, the black eye didn't make me happy, but it did give me a hell of a story to fill the gaps at dinner parties. And that makes other people happy.

Yeah, I'm going through a tough time right now, with the headaches and the elder care issues, but its nothing compared to what other people go through, and nothing compared to what some of my friends are going through right now. And, despite all the suckage right now, I've still got the boats loaded on the car and ready to go, whenever I get the chance. And that definitely helps water down the suck.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hospice, Hospitals and Headaches

Nothing in the world is more stressful than end of life decisions.

Unless you are involved in two of them at once.

Until my early 20's, I had three grandmas. A great-grandma on my mom's side, mom's mom (momom) and dad's mom. Super Granny (as I named her when I was three or so. I think I had her confused with Super Grover) snuffed out at the age of 94 or so. Dad's mom lasted until 90. She died in the nursing home up the street from dad's house, right after I told her that she looked funny with her teeth out (why would you hold on to life after that?). My last remaining grandma, Momom, checked herself into hospice on Thursday.

She had been in the rehab center/nursing home but to stay there and have insurance pay, she had to do therapy and make progress. Momom's lungs are shot from decades and decades of heavy smoking. Even with 24 hour a day oxygen, the lungs aren't working. Ain't no amount of therapy in the world going to make those lungs start pumping again. She's frustrated, and tired of needles and the blood samples and the restricted diet. She's ready to die - not because her brain is giving up, but because her body has given out on her. She still wants to travel, and see the grand canyon, and ride the train across the county, and cruise with the elderly through the Mediterranean... But she can't. She can't walk across the room to pee, let alone pack a bag and plan a trip.

So, she signed up for hospice, where she can eat what she wants and do what she can, until she can't do it no more. Which honestly, might not be that long. While I definitely have mixed feelings about this, I am happy for her. Happy that she made this decision consciously and happy that her last days will be free of needles and doctors and worry. I am sad for me because I won't have her anymore. And sad for me because I know she still had stories to tell that I never heard, and probably never will due to the fact that she has discovered that hospice nurses give you whatever pills you want, whenever you want them, and that some of them make you feel very, very, good.

On my way to visit her on Thursday evening, I dropped by my dad's house to deliver some pills he needed and some other stuff I picked up at Fright Aid. He looked like he needed to be hospitalized. His leg is swollen. He's in pain. Dialysis isn't keeping up with his fluid buildup. Yet, he is unwilling to do anything about it. "Dad, do you want me to make an appointment? Do you want to go to the ER?" "No, I'm just going to go to bed..." Nice. You just go ahead and get sicker and sicker, so I can run around more and more trying to meet your needs. And when you are finally sick enough to not protest an emergency room visit, the nurses and doctors can judge me for being a bad daughter. Thanks.

I took Friday off so I could visit Momom and be ready to take him to the hospital. Of course, he didn't want to go. So, I cleaned his kitchen (it was dangerously dirty. Couple a man who never learned how to take care of himself with a case of blindness and you get some sort of black mold buildup in the sink..) and made him lunch (had I not been there, he would have eaten a pack of crackers). My mom is on my ass about getting him into a nursing facility. Problem is, he's gotta get sent there by a doctor or the hospital, and to do that, he would actually have to go to one.

Its stressful. I've got a dying momom, a mom who is doing everything in her power to avoid dealing with the fact that her mom is dying, a dad who needs to be in the hospital, a job that I keep missing to deal with all of these things, and a house that just won't clean and organize itself. Strangely enough, despite the stress and the strife, I had no headache yesterday. Perhaps I am getting this thing under control a little bit.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Foot Down

I had a breakdown in the parking lot of Target on Friday. My head hurt. My friends needed lunchtime cellphone support. My dad called because he needed extra help over the weekend getting to and from an extra dialysis appointment. My mom on the phone preaching to me about how I should be calling the local assisted living place to see if they could take dad for a while. Did I mention my head hurt?

Did I mention that dad needed to go to dialysis at the EXACT time that I had scheduled a massage and facial for myself?

Its the little things, really, that tip you over the edge of sanity and make you look like a blubbering idiot in a parking lot. Just this one thing. I had done for myself. Made time. For _myself_. Needed relaxation. Needed something to help the headache go away. But, oh no. No, no, no, no. Other people's needs interfered. Again. With me getting back a little sanity.

Its hard to feel sorry for yourself when your father needs life saving medical treatment and all you need is aromatherapy and steam treatment. But I managed to do it. Oh. So. Sorry. For. Myself. It wasn't the massage. Its that it is so very difficult to meet my own needs these days because other's needs are more important. Friends in crises. Grandma in hospital. Dad in serious health decline. Me, still needing to go to work and class and act like a functioning human being. With a headache.

So, I put my foot down. Thirty-seven parking lot phone calls later, I had arranged for my mom to take dad to dialysis, and for brother (yes, I have a brother. Don't think I've ever mentioned that before) to pick him up. And for me to keep my massage appointment.

And oh, thank god. I needed that intensive pampering. I even managed not to snap at the woman who was trying to sell me chip proof nail polish for special occasions. She doesn't know that all my special occasions involve wearing a helmet. Deep breath. Smile.

My massage person did wonderful things for my neck and shoulders. Apparently, my neck was a knotty mess; she pushed and pressed and put heat on it for such a long time. Aaaaaaaah. I felt great afterwards and I had no headache for the rest of the day. It came back a bit on Sunday, then a bit more today, but Saturday was gloriously relaxing and headache free.

The massage made me realize that a lot of my headache problems likely lie with stress. I don't feel stressed. Overwhelmed? Yes. Stressed? No. But apparently, I am. And its exhibiting in head pain. And neck knots. And probably unfettered bitchiness towards people who don't deserve it.

I guess I need to set a new goal for myself: Find a new way to deal with stress. Cuz drinking, bitching and blogging don't seem to be cutting it.