Category Archives: caregiving.

Moving along

Some thing’s getting done. Other things getting fucked up (by you know who — don’t ask me about aprons right now).

Will make (an unexpected) run to Salem today in order to take my sister to the North Shore housing office. She’ll be signing the lease for subsidized housing this afternoon. Hooray!

Now if only Son #2 would get a job — something, anything — if only to stave off K and me having to ask, “What is our limit here?” I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that many families would’ve considered it reached and then some.

It is very cold today. Very. As in, bitter. But, Finn and I walked around the lake with a friend and she graciously shared stuff about the child of hers that has needed extra this and extra that.

Her words were the first gift of the week. The second is that K has agreed to come home early so that I don’t have to abbreviate the visit with my sister in order to accommodate the dog.

Off to fix and apron!

Back light and self pity

It’s a little funny to me that just beyond this serene house quilt is the huge mess associated with tree clean up.

Happily, my brother in law came to help yesterday, otherwise we’d really be behind the eight ball.

It’s still a bit daunting. For one thing, on closer inspection, we noticed that the tree did hit the house, so I’ll need to get an insurance adjuster out here as soon as possible (after two back to back nor’easters, I imagine they’re very busy!) More snow coming Tuesday, P.S.

With the ladder leaning on an about-to-be-cut branch, there were plenty of Wily E. Coyote jokes.

We tried to broker a meeting between Finn and his dog cousin, Ziggy, and did everything right up to a point — (starting in neutral territory, keeping a good distance, then closing the distance, then a break apart) after which it did not go well. It turned into a minor disaster, actually, because when Finn went apeshit, I slipped in the snow and let go the leash. Ziggy seems to be fine, but it didn’t prevent one of my self-pitying laments about difficult dependents.

Speaking of which, after eight years on the wait list and three application updates, my sister has gotten subsidized housing. This is the best possible news for her (and secondarily for my brother, whose financial burden will be greatly reduced). For me, it is a giant chore with no real benefit (did I mention self pity about difficult dependents?) I am happy for her, don’t get me wrong. I just wish there was someone else to orchestrate the move.

Meanwhile, these are my last few weeks to prep for Newton Open Studios. We will pay rent for my sister’s current apartment through the end of April, which hopefully will make the transition manageable.

(Just so you know, we moved all her belongings into storage in 2009, out of storage in 2010, and then had to assist with near complete possession pack up during the bed bug ordeal last year. These were the same years that we moved our sons a total of seven times).

How unbelievably great

I didn’t stay long at the hospital this morning because as it turns out, my sister had to be transported from one hospital to a bigger one for testing.

In comes Handsome Ambulance Guy number one, named Jimmy. My sister bemoaned side boob. I commented, “Gee, couldn’t they have sent the guy with acne?” Jimmy was really handsome, not just a little handsome. Then another cute guy came in, all solicitation and sweet, professional regard for my sister. Also named Jimmy. As they wheeled my sister out, I said, “Well, you know I have to say it: Thank you, Jimmys!” They laughed.

I was heading home from the hospital when I got the text about my bag. Can you believe it? K and I dashed down to the Boston Police Department to pick it up. I got to meet the honey-voiced, uber-competent Officer James. He outranks the Jimmys as my hero of the day.

A morning filled with powerful proof of good people.

P.S. At first I thought my noise-cancelling headphones were the single item stolen out of the bag, but heading home on Route 9 my kind and sane husband made a suggestion: ‘Maybe you didn’t bring them?’

Sure enough. They’re in the drawer with the dog medications where, believe it or not, they live. NOTHING was taken.

It’s all good. My sister is getting the best medical care there is. K mowed the lawn in spite of sticky humidity and I deserve a nap. Maybe it’ll rain soon. That’d be nice.

Forms of distress

img_0781Ruin porn is a thing, you know. I learned the term after Season One of “True Detective” which was set in Louisiana and featured one ruined landscape after another. This post’s photos were taken at the Aiken-Rhett House in Charleston, SC. It’s a site dedicated to preservation rather than restoration, meaning a tour affords a gorgeous array of distressed surfaces. Evidence of life, sorrow, styles, labor, wealth, oppression, and the passage of time are made plain on every surface. I love history speaking this way. I find the peeling paint, scraped up wall paper, splintered wood, and decaying furnishings so evocative. I know it would make you swoon, too.

But here’s the thing: distress of the soul does not enamor me. It most certainly does not make me swoon. It is NOT where I want to start, thank you very much Pema Chodron.

After a morning of being told how unsympathetic I am, hearing my sister’s reports of ongoing (possibly life threatening?) diarrhea, and making multiple calls to arrange the dissembling of one hospital bed and the delivery of another (there is such a long and fraught story there), I’m on to ordering sheets and mattress covers and protectors, with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I just want that feeling to go away.

And then, there’s how the dog lunged at people this weekend! It’s discouraging, hard not to blame myself, or feel a stab of self-pity — (“Couldn’t I have gotten ONE easy dependent,” goes the whine). I’m watching Cesar Milan and adopting his interventions but worry they won’t work because I lack inner calm and confidence. (“My dog makes ME anxious not the other way around!” goes the defense). Finn’s distress might be partly physical, too — oh how he itches lately! He’s always been allergic, but that too has worsened. So far efforts to identify an allergen have failed.

Writing’s hard and sometimes (truthfully — OFTEN) I just hate it. Love it. Hate it.

There’s a new house renovation four doors up the street, meaning the summer of ’17 now rolls into its ninth or tenth week of jack hammering. On Friday I just couldn’t take it anymore and fled the house as if my pants were on fire. Writing in a coffee shop turned out to be a good thing, but still…

Then there’s the absence of compensatory external rewards, like you know, a paycheck or communicative children.

Image result for monty python it could always be worse

from “The Holy Grail”

I DO KNOW it could be worse, because it could always be worse. (Think: Monty Python’s crucified characters singing: “always look on the bright side of life!”).

For instance, I just read about a father who traveled to Texas last week with his family so his son could have brain surgery. The parents were stranded at the hotel, unable to visit their hospitalized boy on account of the flooding. The poor man said, “It’s bad enough that my son has to have brain surgery without also having to deal with a hurricane.”

So yeah. I have a lot to be grateful for. Today? The sun, the cool air, the time to write, the financial support to write, a stocked fridge, noise-cancelling headphones, tons of state-sponsored care for my sister, an upcoming trip to see Son #2, the coming of fall, friends, ice cream.

Ta-da! What’s on your gratitude or complaint list today?

Still life, figures, and Matisse

The Matisse show at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts takes a novel approach by displaying objects the artist collected along with some of the paintings they appear in. It’s fascinating.

Naturally, I especially enjoyed the textiles but even to see chairs, vases, and pewter coffee pots alongside the paintings they inspired was interesting.

I was shocked to discover, standing in front of the well-known ‘Purple Robe’ portrait below, that early on Matisse was ‘afraid he would never do figures’.

Lucky for us, at some point the artist figured out how to transfer the confidence he felt giving life to inanimate objects to the human figure.

With that and my unpopulated quilts in mind, take a look at the right margin of this slightly wonky tower I’ve been working on. Doesn’t that dark grain suggest a female form — staring up at a butterfly, perhaps? She reminds me of one of Grace’s drawings in its early phases. Mightn’t the nascent figure be saying something — Come on — stitch me into an empty structure! Let me enliven the yard or a room or even the attic!

Somehow this quiet and solitary day felt full. Almost too full.

Our morning walk was replete with scenes like these, peaceful and lush, but riddled with thoughts about aggression, primarily about the differences between aggression expressed from and for power and reactive aggression. They might appear alike from the outside but are worlds apart. Working with Finn has been a real lesson in this, inspiring me to quip from time to time, “Dog training’s taught me that I may be a mouthy bitch, but I’m no alpha.”

Sad, but true. Finn had a set-to right before this yard. Bark, bark, bark. My sister and I are having set-tos all the time, but this week they’re about re-configuring the distance between us. Bark, bark, bark. I can’t take it anymore. It’s amazing I’ve put up with it for this long. If she can’t accept my moving away some, I will vanish from her life. I’ve done it before. I was hoping not to do it again, but I am exhausted, tattered, and unwilling to continue at current decibel levels. Bark. Bark. Bark.

After what seems an impossibly long time without sun, out it came for our afternoon walk, so the day contained cheer, too!

img_4552-2Lastly, the TV is all fucked up and you know what that means (wink, wink)! I may be forced to read for a spell here (and miss The Great British Baking Show?) or watch LIVE TV on the tiny shit box in the kitchen. Boo-hoo. Then again, the house is filled with good books waiting to be read.

Five hours

This is an erasure post. The original version was both too long and too revealing. The skeleton version makes less sense but holds more mystery, I think.

In hours, pushed, eye-rolling, huffing.
Five hours. I found her angle.
Risk a fool, like picking a scab. A person,
a villain, at least refusal. If hope
would speed silence!

Little judgment next. I gathered my things.
Later! Bother! In five hours,
the scope, nothing.

What I meant was, I’m wracked. I’m shutting
the door, halfway. An about face. HEAVEN!
It took unreason to drive the welcome —
Oh file, reference — mantra even. Five hours.

Back. Just BE! Oops.
Like morning needing witness,
she would chance fact, impossible
keep. I am

Ask, “do I want to be tagged home?”

Christ can track down the days, night,
a person.






White and grey catch up

These peonies bloomed for the first time in years. Gifts, I would say. They seem more like repositories of light than flourishes of cellular organic matter. At the Boston MFA’s Matisse show, I was taken with the shadows of one of the artist’s chairs. Later, with the similarities between peonies and chair-shadows. img_4159

On Wednesday, there was a hearing in Newton to consider a House Resolution asking Judiciary Committee to look into impeachment. I spoke. Lots of others did too. It passed.


img_3801Because one objection has been that impeachment is a matter best left on the federal level, I hunted for precedent and found one in the “History of Newton”, by Samuel Francis Smith. If you read the second sentence, swapping ‘the Trump presidency’ for ’embargo’, it sounds like something Charles M. Blow would say.


I repeated this quote (“My Name is Mary Sutter”, by Robin Oliveira), quipping that I’d like to tatoo it to Nancy Pelosi’s forehead.

On Thursday, I listened to Comey with friends and was impressed and captivated, to say the least, but started feeling ‘off’ around noon and left early.

Came home to a message that my sister had been hospitalized. This wasn’t a surprise — her doctors have been calling for her admission since late March — but still. Her oxygen levels were very low, but after a few days of high volume oxygen and an IV diuretic/catheter to take down swelling, she is much better. They ruled out pulmonary embolism and pneumonia.

Stories and stories dwell in diagnoses, don’t they? Entire lifetimes, in fact. These stories are better left untold for now, though for some reason on Sunday, I spent hours trying.

And now off for my weekly Local Indivisible Power tele-call. Then to the hospital. Then, GODDAMNIT, to the page! Well? Except at 2:00, there’s the weasel Sessions testifying. I don’t expect to be impressed. More like this: Finn slinking up the stairs while I hurl imprecations at the TV.

So, maybe tomorrow?

P.S. The lab work came back negative for both shingles and herpes and since it spread to my arm and since K. has poison ivy right now and since our dog traipses through a band of the oily stuff to get to the field where we play fetch and because I snuggle and kiss Finn constantly, I am now convinced I have a mild case of poison ivy, which makes more sense than a case of shingles with no other symptoms and negative lab work.