Sunday, December 29, 2013

Scenes from a Christmas 2013

My mood is a little better than it was at my last post  (a post the first paragraph of which I was about to tone down, when I saw that it had gotten views already, so I left it alone, figuring if I felt tired and depleted, and it showed, then heck, the truth was out).

It was a quiet, small Christmas.  Elder daughter had a couple days off, so she was with us, and we were all away from this neighborhood and the aching absences of it.   We took the two indoor cats, since hanging around with no cats is awful. 

  How COULD you do this to us?
 It's an outrage.

They were freaked at first, in a strange place, and then quickly decided it was wonderful.

We missed Scooter, the outdoor cat, a lot, but his favorite cat sitter came over to placate him.

K Mart, late afternoon Dec 24th.  "OK, Christmas is over!  Clear that space and have it full of Valentine stuff by one minute after midnight!  Let's go, people!"
We all went to a Genuine Episcopal church Christmas Eve, and it was a really joyful service.  I roasted a turkey.  It was small and Rombauer insisted it needed a day of refrigerator thawing, for every 8 pounds of bird, but after 36 hours the 8.75 pound bird was rock hard and took a lengthy series of cold water quick-thaw procedures.  Dinner turned out pretty good.  I really hate dealing with frozen turkey.

I had time to do some thinking and a lot of vegetating.

Here's the tree, with village underneath.  The church, and the two simple houses in the background, are a village that I made in 1992.  Back then, it sat on the windowsill of my single-woman apartment, on a white pillowcase and with low watt bulbs tucked under the buildings, to make them glow out the onionskin windows.  It was cool looking and I was quite proud of it.  I wanted to use them this year, among the rest of the houses and shops we collect:

I made my buildings out of mat board.  I wanted them to last. and the walls themselves are still colorful and haven't warped, but my joining methods were pretty primitive, so they're separating and need work to tighten them back up.  When they were new, lights under them looked awesome, kind of glowing out of the plain home windows, and the stained glass window I colored for the church looked nifty.  But the stained glass is really Flair [tm] pen coloring and has faded some.

So now, internally lit, the church looks like this :

Yet that somehow seems appropriate, after all the church infighting that's gone on.  In fact it's a good illustration for the quote that's probably getting overused lately :  "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A year to shut up about

I'm of two minds about blogging right now, because whether readers want to hear about how I'm handling things with this unexpected loss is less important, actually, than whether I want to blog about it.  This has been a bad year in a lot of ways before this.  Blogging about it without whingeing has seemed impossible and blogging with whingeing has seemed pointless and dreary.  The most important things are better -- everyone is pretty healthy -- and some legal crap is still unresolved,  but this sudden loss of Dad was....

The basics are, though, that it's OK in some ways, and awful in others.

There is nothing I could have wished for, or that I prayed harder for, than that my dad be spared a long disability or loss of his splendid mind.  I threw all those  "Thy will be done" prayer rules to the wind.

I know that the suffering people have to go through has absolutely jackshit to do with whether they deserve it.  And for all the good my father did, all the true caring for the hurting people in this world, all he taught us about giving, and his strong, amazing faith, I said to God,  "Dad deserves to enjoy life right up to the end, he deserves an easy passage, and so, GIVE IT TO HIM, do You hear me?"

God did.  Dad ran his life and made his choices up to the end, which was after only 9 days of illness. I could have wished him a last Christmas, and all of us a last Christmas with him, but the Hands that were in charge did good enough.  I guess.

Dad loved Christmas.  He was prepping, as he did every year.  The Christmas CD's started to play at his house on Nov 1., and he started  his Christmas cards.  This wasn't a premonition that he should get it done early.  His hands were stiffening badly and writing was time consuming, so he did a couple a day. (I've had to mail them with notes about his passing enclosed - these are old and dear friends, and needed personal letters.)

We had the annual Christmas planning conference:  who will cook what, how we will collaborate on the adopt-a-family shopping and wrapping, sharing the funding but Larry and me doing the leg -- and wrapping -- work.

He also ordered presents early, since he wanted nothing to do with computers or credits cards, and instead snail-mailed checks with order blanks.

A week ago, a package notice appeared in his mailbox. The box contained this.

There is no one else in his life he would have bought this for, but me, and yes, I cried all the way home. And will cherish it.  It's more than just a book he thought I'd like.  Cat mysteries abound in that catalog, but he'd never bought me one.

This is a "Black Cat Bookshop Mystery" and it tells me that he (who didn't like cats) knew I was secretly (a secret from him.  I thought.) feeding a black cat that was hanging around his house.

We joked about the cat.

"That damn black cat keeps hanging around."

"Hmm.  Well.  There are stray cats all over the neighborhood, but I guess it has too much competition up the street and decided to move into the woods down here."

"I'll just shoot it."  (Phony scowl.  Clearly trying to get me to react.)

(And I complied): Don't you DARE!"  (Knowing he really wouldn't.)

His driver license expired in August and he didn't try to renew it.  We set up errand mornings for me to take him around.  I found out later that, afterward, he would wait for Larry and me to drive off somewhere, and then take the car out for some illicit driving.

I have to explain why being told this made me so very happy.

He loved going out doing his morning errands, and, though he relinquished the license voluntarily, he hated the dependency.

He couldn't run errands illegally, because hey, when I came over to drive him, he needed to need the groceries, dry cleaning, haircut, etc.  So he must have just driven around because he could, and undoubtedly partly for the same reason he was so dedicated to his errands before -  the awful emptiness of the house without my mom.

But it seems to me that one of the worst things about getting old would be that you can't really have a private life anymore.  Even if someone you love and like to be with drives you, and you make all the decisions as to what and where....still, that person is all There, In Your Business.  You've given up a lot of your private life.

When I found out that he had a secret, and that he demanded, and by damn had, a personal life that didn't involve me, I cannot tell you how happy I was.

But there is a rightness about his passing that none of us felt about my mom's passing.  Hers seemed unnecessary, too soon.   And I have real guilt about ways I treated her, ways I failed to appreciate her, guilt that I don't have over my dad.

He and I were a lot alike, and we both had strong opinions, and we disagreed a WHOLE lot about some serious issues.  But we were fine with each other voicing those opinions, and we knew when and how (with a joke) to close a conversation.   He had the rare gift of disliking some of my beliefs, while making it clear not only that he loved me anyway, but that he found me genuinely admirable.

But I still can't deal with being in my parents'  house.  The people who made it matter are gone, and the thought of Christmas anywhere near this place and these memories is unbearable.

We have a good, soul-soothing place to go.  And when things calm down, I will tell you about that.  But understand, I did not want to do Christmas at all.  I'm enduring it partly as an homage to his love for it, and partly because flying to Las Vegas (Seriously, I want to do that.) would hurt feelings and be impractical.

But when I told my brother about that idea, that I want to because it is the total opposite of anything resembling my real life, he understood.

(Photo from a couple years ago)
%$#ing Ho.  Have a good one, yall.

Friday, December 20, 2013

To ponder

My old friend from college sent me this poem.  I love it.

     The Way It Is

     There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
     things that change. But it doesn’t change.
     People wonder about what you are pursuing.
     You have to explain about the thread.
     But it is hard for others to see.
     While you hold it you can’t get lost.
     Tragedies happen; people get hurt
     or die; and you suffer and get old.
     Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
     You don’t ever let go of the thread.

       -  William Stafford

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The homage I didn't get to give

When we met with the minister to discuss Dad's funeral, he said there would be a chance for people to speak. At our mom's, we spoke at the interment, but this time it would be in the church service.

On the day itself, we had the interment and the minister invited anyone who wanted to say anything there to do so, and said there would also be an opportunity during the church service (to which more people would come).  My brother said that if heaven is like the house our parents ran, it'll be a wonderful place. I really loved that.

The church service came. The church service went. At no point did the minister invite anyone, much less me, to speak. I was and am furious.

 Fortunately, the guy, who knew my dad well and had had many talks with him, said a couple of the things I intended to say. This loss was personal to him too.  Maybe his mind just fuzzed out.

But basically, it was important to ME to speak for my dad. For the occasion it needed to be short, so this barely scratches the surface, but anyway ... here it is, appearing in this venue only :

Everyone here knew my dad, and most of you knew the different sides of him.  He had a great sense of humor.  He was deeply dedicated to any cause he took up.  He could be grouchy and diplomacy-challenged.

He despised poverty and abuse, especially when the victim was a child.

He had a scientist’s understanding of the environment, but he had the love for the earth and the wilderness, of a man of faith, who believed in a creator, and in our responsibility as stewards of that creation.

When he believed something was right, he had trouble accepting compromise.

He had both empathy and wisdom.  Once when I was about 12, something deeply upset me.  I wish I could tell you what it was.  I don’t even remember now, but it was some fact of life, or pain, or death,  that I had become aware of.

I told him about it,  and I said,  “I try not think about it, but I can’t stop.” 

And he told me, "Don’t try not to think about it.  Do the opposite.  Think about it,  face it down,  keep on,  until it loses its power over you."

He was a great dad, and a man of integrity and compassion.

I will miss him more than I can say.