Monday, October 31, 2005

Got Change?

I’m back. I am so back! Stuff going on has been jamming my gears but I’m going to write it instead of fight it.

So many changes going on. My Dad’s passing was just one, tho, like the mechanism of a kaleidoscope, it is the pivot on which so many of the others hang and are jumbled in the turning so that my view of all events--personal, familial, public and political--are colored by it and my attention is fixated by the jagged-edged shards of a broken rainbow in an endless swirl of chaos, cloned and self-replicating to create order iterated by mirrors. Illusion? Or perception entrained by mixtures of grief and satisfaction seasoned with guilt and shame? Does it matter? The mind is a mirror-lined maze, every perception a reflection of deep-rooted biases, carelessly sewed or lovingly cultivated. Who was it that proved that all philosophical systems rest on a number of irreducible assumptions which cannot be proved from within the system? Was that Karl Popper, Alfred North Whitehead or Bertrand Russell?

I could find out in a couple minutes if I were on line but telephone access trumps internet access between 9am and 9pm here at my Mom’s. But at least I have 24/7 use of my computer! And yes, I said ‘my’ computer. That is one of the BIG changes, second only to loosing my Dad. And it was the need to leave Phoenix for an indeterminate amount of time in order to be with my family for my Dad's last days and the follow-up rites which propelled me into taking the plunge for which I had been poised on a high-wire of indecision for months. For I could not bear to be without my ability to write unrestrained by the limits of pencil and paper imposed by poor vision and frequent pain and weakness in the hands and compounded by an often paralyzing perfectionism which prevents me from progressing to the next paragraph while any previous one sports any error of commission or omission.

I had been saving for a laptop for nearly four years. The combination of price drop and the growth of my secret stash brought laptops within my reach about this time last year. There were so many reasons why I waited but I will mention only the most obvious and the most weighty--that it didn’t seem kosher to be spending money that way while continuing to live under my in-law’s roof. But when I got the news that Dad’s liver was failing and I had only days to get to him if I wanted to see him again while he was still lucid, I feared for my sanity to have to go through the ordeal without unfettered access to the only proven coping mechanism--writing copiously via the keyboard.

I was also panicked at the thought of leaving behind indefinitely all of my files--journals, stories, novels-in-progress, essays, drafts of old and in-process blog posts, writing exercises, poetry, research, book-reviews, HTML pages for my other two web sites--over 60 megabytes of material accumulated in 20 months of intensive work to make a comeback from the last time I got on a bus and ’temporarily’ left behind a similar cache of my work never to see any of it again. Salvaging only a portfolio with a paltry 100 pages of hardcopy manuscripts. Between my onerous perfectionism and frugality with ink and paper, that was all I had left of fifteen years worth of effort. I started retyping those manuscripts on January 1st 2004 as part of my New Year’s Resolution made in response to the new computer my in-laws bought themselves for Christmas. I kept my resolution to take back ownership of my writing and thereby of my life and sanity, in spite of the fact that three days into it I received the news of my Dad’s diagnosis with colorectal cancer.

The retyping of those manuscripts was the first step in a plan of action towards a future of financial independence and freedom from debt. Because of my vision and hearing deficiencies and other health issues, my only hope to contribute to such a future would be some kind of work-at-home gig and the best fit for my skill set, talents and accessibility needs was working with a computer in some capacity. My logic seemed impeccable but it rested on certain assumptions. Beginning with reliable access to a computer and the internet. Reliance on my in-law’s computer and internet access might open the door for me but I couldn’t camp out on it 24/7 nor depend on it to be available indefinitely. What if my husband got that raise he hopes for and it is possible for us to move out on our own. The probability of having our own computer and net access immediately was imponderably low. We would be starting from scratch in terms of household necessities. A computer and net connection would not be a priority unless I could prove it would pay for itself before the need to move was upon us.

But the project to find a money generating gig kept hitting intractable snags, not the least of which was the availability of the computer only between 10pm and 7am. And there was my insistence on not becoming a parasite online--a spammer or splogger among other things. I ran across a number of schemes and scams I refused to stoop to. Like free-lance term paper writer! A perfect fit for my skill set but not even for the cash to payoff the student loans from my own attempt to get a degree would I help someone else cheat their way toward a degree for which they have such contempt.

I’ll still be writing this next week if not the week after that if I continue to dwell on all the if/then, and/or, and yes/but considerations and their caveats. And that right there is one of my issues. The need for an elaborate planning stage with the inability to take the plunge when a no-turning-back decision point is reached. Usually I have to be pushed, pulled or trip and fall over the edge. The more significant the object of the decision the harder it is to decide. And yes, Dr. Phil, I am aware that not choosing is a choice.

All of this has been either procrastinating against or preparing the ground for what follows because what I’m about to relate is the central issue which has been blocking me from productive use of my new laptop, the reason why I have never blogged about it and probably one of the intensifiers of my grief. Because, whether pushed or pulled, I did take the plunge. I got on the bus September 20th with the money I’d saved, including over ten pounds of coins, having arranged with my brother to take me shopping in Portland before driving me on up to Longview. But this detour delayed my arrival at my parents house by as much as six hours and kept me from my father’s side during his last afternoon of intermittent lucidity. For when my brother and I arrived after eight that night, Dad was in the middle of a pain episode and an attempt to get to the restroom. My brother had to rush in to help, leaving me to be escorted into the house by his eleven year old son, who had arrived with his sisters and mother hours earlier.

While I waited for my chance to go in and greet Dad, I opened the box and unpacked the components of my dream machine, with the enthusiastic help of two nephews--my sister‘s boy is also eleven--and two nieces ages 15 and 9. I was still riding a high as it had been less than an hour since I walked out of the store with it. I can still remember the exaltation I was feeling, the awe and reverence with which I handled each component as I lifted it out of the box. I was consciously storing the memory with as much sensory detail and emotional tone as I could load it with. Which is why it continues to pack so much punch now that it has been juxtaposed in my mind with the realization that while I was doing and feeling all of that, my Dad was experiencing the equivalent of torture in what would be his final attempt to get out of bed.

Thus was my choice rewarded and thus the recrimination, guilt, shame and regret overwhelmed me, tainting the experience of acquiring a significant element of my dream and setting me up for an even tougher time with the next decision. This issue affects every aspect of my life and none more than writing. If I could produce as many words of finished text for stories and essays as I do for outlines, character sketches, timelines, plot flowcharts, theme and metaphor agreement schemes and research notes for data relating to the story’s era or a character’s hobby, profession, health…I could have ten finished novels to my name by now. If I had accumulated 60 MB worth of files on my in-law’s computer after twenty months then I had to have had at least triple that on the computer I left behind in Santa Clara, CA in 2001. And several thousand pages of paper drafts and notes as well. This is why the NaNoWriMo challenge is especially challenging for me and why I believe it is especially important that I take it on. So most of my posting here for the month of November will probably be related to that project. Although, I have more to say regarding ‘change’ and this post is past long enough. So we’ll see.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Shattered Paradigms and the Caldron of Chaos

So many changes in so short a time! I can’t seem to adjust. I never did like change. Mom reminded me recently of the time they remodeled the bathroom when I was about four and I confiscated several of the nasty old floor tiles and hid them under my mattress. I cried inconsolably when they took them away from me. My reaction was the same when I grew out of my clothes, when the lawnmower gobbled up the dandelions, when the vacuum cleaner salesman took the old machine away with him, when the clown with a painted-on smile and bright white face spoke to me with the voice of a man in the aisle of a supermarket. That last was not so much about change as it was about the totally unexpected, the shattering of a paradigm. I had no context with which to interpret the phenomenon of a person in disguise as a storybook character, having yet to be exposed to TV, movie theaters, fairs, parades, school plays, circuses, or malls.

But that is what this last month has been about for me. About changes--some of them wanted as much as others were unwanted--and about shattered paradigms. About the new and the old in juxtaposition, in a clench like that of the twist in the center of a pretzel. I am reminded of that old Star Trek episode with the character(s) named Lazarus--two who were one and yet, not. The premise was that they had encountered their counterparts in alternate universes and became each other’s arch enemy. The encounter had so shattered the paradigm of one Lazarus he became insane and hunted down his nemesis as Ahab had the white whale, caring not who got hurt, what local rules were broken, whether he himself lived or died, not even that if he ever were to lay his hand on his Other, both of their Universes would be annihilated since one was matter while the other was anti-matter. The other Lazarus was just as determined to capture his anti-self, but only because the Other’s obsession was endangering both of their Universes. The solution was the ultimate in self-sacrifice. The two must be trapped without exit in the interstices between the Universes, held in the fervid embrace of eternal enmity.

The first time I ever saw that episode, I was reminded of the story in Genesis of Jacob wrestling with the Stranger AKA ‘angel of the Lord’ all night and at the break of dawn receiving, as a parting salute, a limp and a new name. And I was never to hear or think of that ancient story again without coupling it in my mind with that modern day space opera. Later when I encountered the myth of Tiamut, it mixed in my mind with the other two, tinting and being tinted by them. Into that mix went also, Captain Ahab and his Moby Dick.

It is these stories and their interwoven themes that best reflect the state of my mind this past month. And still. There is this sense of a titanic struggle underway in the depths of my spirit. There is a coalescing in the abyss of my subconscious of a plethora of themes and memes, of meanings and dreamings, of memory, history, mystery, and story. It is only tangentially about my Dad’s death. That might have been the catalyst but these things have been brewing for years. And they will out. If I don’t provide them a proper forum for forming themselves out of the energy of chaos into coherence and a structure with which to create an ordered expression of themselves, they will turn on one another and on me and with a great thrashing of limbs and bloody dismembering they will take the substance of self and life and feed it to the caldron of chaos.

Am just getting started but must stop here. All this alliteration and rhyming flowing this easily is a bad sign. An indication of severe sleep depravation. 29 hours and counting. A case could be made though that this is exactly when pushing on could provide that very forum for creating order out of chaos. But I think not for a blog post. Not for public display. The proper forum for it would be my private writer’s journal. I am letting this stand only because it is still at least marginally comprehensible (at least after extensive editing) and because I haven’t posted since last Friday morning and have spent hours on this so giving up now would be unacceptably demoralizing. Besides, it still makes my point and still sets the stage and provides an intro for coming attractions.

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Lost

Am lost tonight (this morning’s wee hours) can’t get online. Been trying for an hour. For the first forty minutes the AOL dialup process couldn’t get past step 2. Was given a bit of hope when it finally broke through to step 3 and shortly thereafter to step 4: requesting network attention and I sat and stared at the connection log as it racked up 14 attempts. I had been canceling after five attempts but that little bit of hope….. Then I remembered that Dr Phil mantra that the definition of insanity is obsessively repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result. I realized that I had just spent a precious hour watching the computer endlessly repeat a behavior and getting the same unwanted response while I sat helplessly chanting (silently) ‘go, go, go’ or alternately, ‘please, please, please’. Either I or the computer must be insane. :)

I decided that I needed to find something else to do for a minimum of twenty minutes. Obviously the local dial up numbers for AOL were having some kind of problem or were down for regularly scheduled maintenance. At least I do hope that is the explanation. Besides feeling hopelessly lost while disconnected from the www, I have several things I need to take care of online which are of a more urgent nature than surfing for news and info or blogging or IM-ing or whatnot.

The first is the need to send an error report to Microsoft as something odd happened the first time I tried to go online tonight. Windows quit. The screen went black with a lot of different colored font that looked mostly like code. I caught a brief glimpse of a phrase: Windows encountered an error and must shut down. Then the screen went totally black followed by the cold boot up screen. I panicked for several moments. Until the familiar welcome screen appeared with the logos for mine and my husband’s desktops. I clicked on mine and it loaded without a glitch but once loaded it popped up with the error report message that the system has recovered from a serious error and requesting that a log of the error be sent to Microsoft. I must confess that I don’t always send those reports. Especially if I am not already online. But a ‘serious error’ at the system level does tend to send shivers up your spine. I don’t know what good is going to come of sending the report anyway. There is never a response so it is not like I am going to be learning anything helpful by doing so. Still….

Anyway the second urgent matter I need to tend to is to go online to Jackson County Library System to renew the books which are due today. I am still out of town. This time tho, there are only a few which will renew. The majority of them have had their two renewals already. A few of those I have with me. So I am going to have to make a long distance call to the library tomorrow to explain my situation. But first I need to renew the ones that will and then send an email to my husband regarding the ones that need to go back which are still on the shelves in our room. I have been doing that every Friday since I left town. And my husband has not always found and returned all of the relevant books on time.

That relates to another way I am lost tonight. I had no idea when I left town how long I would be gone. The trip was planned and executed on an emergency basis without any way of pinning down a time-frame. I had gotten the word my Dad’s liver was failing and time was short. But ’short’ covered the territory from hours to weeks. Thought they expected him to have only days of mental coherence left, he could have possibly spent weeks in a comatose state. So my plan when I left was to stay for the duration plus at least one week beyond the funeral. I left Phoenix four weeks and two days ago. It is just twenty-some hours short of four weeks since Dad died. And it is one day short of three weeks since his funeral. I am in limbo in my mind and heart. Neither place is really my home. Here is my mother’s home and there is my mother-in-law’s home. Not a good position to be in for a married woman in the last half of her fifth decade.

The whole meme of ‘lost’ for this post was inspired primarily by the ABC series, Lost, which I watched with my Mom, sister and nephew last evening. And, yes, I mean Thursday evening. They record it because it’s new timeslot on Wednesday night is past my nephew’s bedtime. I was surprised to discover that my family had been avid Lost watchers last season. Including my Dad. I would never have predicted. Anyway, it is the only show that I was hooked on last season that I am getting to watch while I am here. I missed all of the season premieres. I gave them up without a peep because most of them would not be child-friendly and many (Desperate Housewives, Boston Legal, Medium, Joan of Arcadia, Grey’s Anatomy) do not have the appropriate values frame for a mostly conservative, evangelical household. I would have expected Lost to have fit in that category too. I’m stymied as to what attracted and hooked them all to it. Especially Mom and Dad. I can see its attraction for a not yet fully indoctrinated eleven-year-old boy. And my sister has always been rather eccentric. And come to think of it, my Dad used to watch Star Trek with me why back when and seemed to enjoy it almost as much as I did, making no comment to my Mom’s frequent query as to whether he didn’t think it was sacrilegious.

The only other series this family watches every week is 7th Heaven. I used to watch it regularly too until my in-law’s switched from cable to satellite two years ago and opted not to pay the extra for the local channels. WB was the only ’local’ channel that will not come in on the regular antenna for them so I lost the ability to follow the Camden family exploits about the time Mary announced she was pregnant, Matt’s wife walked out, Lucy was just married, Simon was leaving for college a year early… Now I am completely lost while watching it.

And tonight after Lost was over, a situation developed in which I came close to loosing it. It being my composure, my precarious balance on the emotional tightrope I walk each day while here. The entire hour of the story had been riddled with interruptions because one person or another had not caught one scene or phrase etc and another would fill them in either muting or pausing the tape or talking over the dialog or occasionally rewinding. I have my Dad’s ears as well as my Mom’s eyes. (10-15% of my field of vision left and under 50% of my hearing range) So it was very frustrating. To make matters worse, I had not slept that day, having stayed on the computer most of the day. Well both my sister and her son have been diagnosed with ADD and my sister suspects that both Mom and I have it too. But if I have it, it presents quite differently for me. I hate to have my stories interrupted. I have never had a problem sitting quietly thru them. Mom never could and still doesn’t. She gets up to putter around in the kitchen during commercials. Even when someone is fast-forwarding thru them. My nephew chatters incessantly. He opines on the character’s motives, he predicts the next plot development. And he is seldom right because he has not been listening closely enough and jumps to conclusions. His Mom or Grandma then feel the need to correct him or request he calm down. But not in brief form. Unless you might be referring to a legal brief submitted to the Supreme Court. :)

Anyway. I was on edge when the story ended. And then my nephew pitched a fit when a preview for another story came on the TV. I am unclear as to whether the tape was still playing or this was in real time on one of the channels. It was apparently for a new series dealing with serial killers and the images were graphic and violent. My nephew is susceptible to nasty nightmares which images like that witnessed just before bed can trigger. He jumped up and ran out of the room crying and, in escalating volume, chanting over and over: Shut off the TV. Shut off the TV. SHUT OFF THE TV. Followed by shrill wailing and then: WHY IS THE TV STILL ON? DON’T YOU CARE I’M GONNA HAVE NIGHTMARES? WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT, ME OR THE TVEEEEEEEEEE?

My sister had apparently noticed that I was interested in that preview and so had not immediately complied with her son’s request. Myself? I had been blocking out the distractions to some degree so had not tuned into the situation in time to realize my role in it. And once I did understand, instead of immediately empathizing with the distressed child as I am wont to do, as is my well earned reputation in the family.. I felt myself becoming a distressed child on the verge of a meltdown of my own. The weeks of listening to his whining, me-first, me-NOW OR ELSE voice, his sarcastic, in-your-face back talk to his mother, I had enough. I am easily overwhelmed by sensory overload which is one of the reasons my sister suspects me of ADD too. The volume of his voice and the TV, my sister’s attempt to get his attention, my Mom’s clinking and clanking the dishes as she loaded the dishwasher…. I had to get out of there or I was going to stick my nose and mouth in where it didn’t belong. My head was bursting with phrases more typical of my Dad than myself. And the fact that I was sitting in his recliner took on an eerie significance and I felt as tho I had to get as far away from that chair and that room and that ruckus as possible or risk loosing my very sense of my self.

I went downstairs and sat in the dark watching the computer’s screen saver. And I did finally loose my composure. For the first time in nearly a week, I wept. For loss and for feeling lost. For confusion and for sensory and emotional overload. I let the tears flow for probably five minutes. And suddenly I was exceedingly weary. I decided to go to bed. I’m not sure how soon, but I slept for a time before being awakened when my sister came to bed a couple hours later. Then I got up so that I could have a session. Now that the house is silent and dark.

And I used to think that I wanted a dozen kids!!!
Well actually, I still do. But that’s another story. For another day. Or another lifetime.

Meanwhile that incident and its aftermath has fed into my current conundrum. I have been dithering about whether to stay or go for the past ten days. I’ve tried repeatedly to compile a good pro and con list for staying and another for going back. And all I get out of it is a steady flip-flop on a six to twelve hour pace. And I guess I am not going to solve it now by reiterating all the reasons for going against all the reasons for staying here. It has been well over an hour since I tried to log on. I think I will try again. And if it works get those afore mentioned tasks taken care of and then post this.

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Cleaning House, Rearranging, and Taking Out the Trash

Spent the last several hours deleting the spam comments from the posts still on the front page of Joystory. Don’t know if or when I will go into the archives to chase down the rest but since the problem didn’t really become a problem before late August, I can probably let them slide. But I had to take that step I’ve been reluctant to take: I activated the verification code on comments. I guess I haven’t minded too much when I was required to enter such codes while commenting on other blogs or claiming my mystery credits on BE, so I am hoping no legit commenters will be dissuaded by this.

While I was at it I also activated the new Blogger backlink option to track those, so far, few posts linking back to me. And I opted for comments to appear in a pop-up window. I hope this doesn’t inconvenience anyone but I am hoping that it will solve part of the issue that has kept me procrastinating on this task for weeks: when I visit my own blog comments Site Meter tracks my visits in spite of doing everything Site Meter recommended to prevent this. So my Site Meter account is registering all forty some odd page views that accumulated by my going back and forth between the front page, the comments and the delete-confirm page. I suppose I will have to reset the counter at Site Meter now. If it is possible that is to reset it to just subtract those visits and page views that I know were mine.

I don’t know. I’m finding it hard to care one way or the other. What exactly am I keeping track of and for what purpose? It seems to be nothing but a distraction from the work, which was my passion, which prompted me to start this blog one year ago next week. All this admin detail is time consuming and feels meaningless to me at this moment. But I set myself these tasks today in hopes of re-engaging myself heart and soul back into the (game? Project? Passion? ….?)

In the beginning was the word…. For me, writing, reading and thinking was the impetus and the reward. But lately all three of those have been mired in mental mud. Rough drafts too rough, too raw, too muddled, too morbid and yes, occasionally too maudlin, to impose on anybody else. Or is that missing the point of blogging in the first place? Maybe I need to relax my standards for the time being. Things being what they are right now.

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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Oh Baby Mine!

Still haunted by that dream but the bright, adoring eyes of that baby and her eager arms reaching out for me has begun to override the overwhelming sense of shame and guilt and the patina of abject failure. I sense the unconditional love and the innocent expectation that it is reciprocated and the unfathomable well of forgiveness which is her heart. I don’t claim any expertise in dream interpretation but it doesn’t much imagination to see a baby in a dream as a symbol of creativity, regeneration, self-expression, self-renewal….. There is probably much more depth to plumb but that is enough to work with for now.

I believe that among other things, this dream baby was alerting me to a major pitfall before I actually stumbled into it. She was reminding me that I have been neglecting the very thing that I know from repeated experience has been the solution or at least the source of solutions to every crisis I’ve encountered in my life. In one word: Story. Writing is therapeutic and journaling and blogging have legitimate roles but they can only go so far. It is the activation of archetypes, symbols and metaphors encouraged by Story that has the most potential for healing.

Thinking along these lines, I remembered that I had just received the announcement email from NaNoWriMo that the 2005 contest was upon us and it was time to reactivate our accounts if we wished to participate this year. When I saw that the other day, my first reaction had been: I can’t do it this year. Not with everything that is going on right now. But after contemplating that dream for a few days, I took a second look at that assumption. What better way to work through raw grief than to transform it by Story.

So, as you can see in the sidebar, I’ve become an official participant of the 2005 NaNoWriMo contest. Not a contest really so much as a challenge and a community of support from fellow travelers on a quest to churn out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. What better way to focus all this raw emotion and the swarm of agitated memories than the discipline and play of Story?

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Friday, October 14, 2005

An Exercise in Exorcism

All that sleep and yet I don’t feel rested. Sleep is full of dreams with high octane emotion and high voltage images in colors so intense they seam to sear my retinas so that the colors of waking life are grayed out, no more than a watermarked backdrop for the dramas playing out in my mind. More real than real, these dreams intrude themselves into every moment. The images haunt and the emotions harass me throughout my days and nights. I could write several pages a day for a year on the themes and intricate plots and the archetypes of those dreams of just the last ten days.

The one I woke from Wednesday afternoon still has me in its grip. The entire dream, comprising dozens of scenes, took place on the property of the Bible Chapel (the non-denominational, fundamentalist, church I was raised in) and the houses to either side of it (one which my Aunt and Uncle, as caretakers of the property, lived in for nearly forty years, the other which my husband and I lived in between 1993 and 1999--after I had stopped attending and during the slow-motion collapse of the church under doctrinal dispute which culminated in the selling of the property.)

This dream began with me setting up a crib in a small fenced in yard that existed only before 1977 when the construction of a kitchen-equipped fellowship room and Sunday school rooms began. My reasons for setting up this crib were vague but I seemed to be expecting to watch a baby for someone--something I was well known for before, during and after any events held at the church, but also family get-togethers held at my Aunt and Uncle’s house.

After setting up the crib I went inside the church building to get something. Toys or diapers or blankets or possibly the baby? Once in there the scenes of the dream shifted often and arbitrarily and all of them were a whirl of motion and color and activity. The themes of each were some mixture of looking for something, sorting collections of items, a variety of housecleaning tasks. The scenes took place in rooms in all three buildings mentioned plus the three garages on the properties and these rooms and the landscaping outside could contain objects and configurations from any time between the late fifties and late nineties mixed together.

Also present throughout were the people from my past in any way associated with any areas or eras of those properties--and they too could be as they were from any of those forty-odd years without chronological logic. Or any other logic for that matter as they could also be in two or more places or times at once. By which I mean that I could leave the presence of someone only to have them appear again in the same or another area or era, at the same or another age.

I never worked so hard and was never so exhausted in waking life as in this dream. It seemed endless. It seemed that in these few minutes of real-time that dreams are known to be limited to that I had lived (or relived) a lifetime with all of its angst compacted and focused like a laser beam.

The one figure noticeably absent from any of these scenes was my Dad. There was no sense that it was he that I was looking for or expecting to encounter either. There was possibly a sense that he was observing my quest or that the errand I was on was at his behest or that I was going to have to explain or report my activity to him. But that wasn’t clear. What became clear to my dream self near the end of the dream was that I was not going to find what I was looking for on or near this property and I needed to go elsewhere to fetch it back there.

In the final scene I was preparing to get in a car to leave when someone asked me about the baby. And it was then that I ‘remembered’ that I had put the baby down for a nap in that crib and had left it unattended as I searched. Frantic with fear and self-recrimination, I went running to the crib which was not where I had left it but was now setting in the middle of the exit driveway which ran between the church and the house in which I once lived. The crib was empty and I was nearly abject with despair.

Then someone led me to a sliding glass patio door in the side of the church which never existed in any era of waking reality. This door opened on a room which also had never existed. In this room a woman with long flowing hair sat in a rocking chair holding an infant. The baby, a girl about six months old, saw me and squirmed with exuberance and reached out for me. It was then that I realized that this baby was my own, not one that I had been watching for someone else. With that realization all the emotions of guilt and shame for abandoning her intensified.

I could not meet the eyes of the woman as she handed the baby over. But I caught a glimpse out of the side of my eyes (something I can only do in dreams now) and knew that she was full of doubt and regret at the need to release the baby back to me and a deep yearning to keep--in the sense of protecting, nurturing and taking responsibility for--her. I realized that she had no confidence in me, nor should she, and I was filled with a shame as viscous and as suffocating as quicksand.

This shame has clung to me waking and sleeping for over forty hours. Writing this has been an exercise in exorcism in hopes that clothing it in words would tame it and sharing it will diffuse some of the intensity of feeling. Hoping also that the act of confessing is in some sense taking responsibility for that baby--meaning whatever aspect of my psyche she symbolizes.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Halfway to Far Enough

The bouquets are drooping, the edges of the flowers and leaves browning. Mom is humming hymns as she stirs hamburger in the skillet, echoes of my childhood harmonizing with the sizzle. The familiar ritual of meal preparation is necessary once again as we finished the last of the leftovers from the flood of delivered meals by Saturday (the 8th). The phone remains silent for long hours at a stretch now. I am sleeping again. Long, dream saturated sleep. After nearly three weeks of sporadic sleep with several 48 plus hour stints of no sleep at all, my body and mind are greedy for sleep and slurp it like a small child with a Popsicle on a summer afternoon.

In the last week I have gone several times with Mom on her daily walk around the block. The blocks here are not square city blocks but curvy lanes ending in cul-de-sacs. So ‘around the block’ is not quite correct either. It would be well over a mile to make a full circuit so we turn back and retrace our steps after one of us judges we are half way to far enough.

What a sight we must make--two women wielding white canes but gesturing hither and yon at this flowering bush and that leaf-turned tree. Mom warns me several yards in advance of every root-raised sidewalk slabs, every curb, every fire-hydrant and every twig that hangs down below forehead level over the sidewalk. Her RP has advanced much further than mine but tho she sees much less, she has nearly three decades more familiarity with this neighborhood than I do.

Mom spoke of Dad in the present tense three times yesterday. But I did not call her on it as I know she is neither delusional nor in denial. It is just the grooves that language wears in your mind, mapping experience. Repetition of new experience will redraw the map--in time. Grief is much like a walk in unfamiliar terrain. You put one foot in front of the other, advancing through the minutes, the hours, the days. Routines reassert themselves but they are like old maps superimposed over new territory, giving only an illusion of ’normal’ as your steps take you past missing landmarks or stumbling over unmarked obstacles. And no matter how many steps you take, you are always one step short of halfway to far enough.

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

His Legacy Was Love

You can read the obit which my mother wrote for my Dad in the online version of The Longview Daily News. I don’t know how long this link will hold but when and if it dies I will republish the obit here in this post instead of linking to it. I would just do it that way now but I still haven’t learned how to post photos to my blog.
Meanwhile, now that things are (somewhat) calmer here, I am writing again and am preparing a post relating some of the past weeks events in a more coherent form then the last few posts have been.
I would like to thank those who have expressed their sympathy via comments here or email. They have been much appreciated by myself and my family. I have shared some with my sister and shared the fact of their existence with my Mom who is busy at this time with opening the dozens of cards she has been receiving by snail mail since the Tuesday after Dad’s passing. Read the obit to catch a glimmer as to where those cards are coming from. The circle of lives impacted by my parents is not negligible! This is an honorable legacy.

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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Eternity Encompasses Time's Passages

Can it have been a week already? A week. Days passing in a dreamscape of memories, tears, hugs, doorbells, phone ringing, food-bearing and flower-bearing arms floating through rooms where scattered memories startle laughter or tears or both at once. Children’s chatter. Hymn-singing. Prayer circles. Photographs. Remember this? Remember when? Remember that time?

This afternoon will be the memorial service and Monday morning will be the internment. Will it get easier then? Quieter maybe….but easier? I can‘t imagine. Time. They say it will take time.

This is the poem I wrote for my parent‘s 40th anniversary:

TIME IN ETERNITY

Time was there was no we
Only you and only me
Solitary I’s enclosed, apart.

Time went far to bring us here
To where we are--our
Unitary I’s--entwined by love.

Time is now for making strong
Our fragile, time-made bonds--
Singular I’s and thou’s in synergy.

Time will be when all our we’s
Conjoin in heaven’s harmony--
Tributary we’s in eternity.

I am to read it at the service today. If I can stay composed. If my desire to honor my Dad can overcome both grief and the swarm of panic-anxiety triggers to be expected in a crowded public setting where sensory overload is immanent. If Eternity will encompass time, providing a buffer against the pain and fear and give free passage to the Voice which which Love speaks in time.

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