Category Archives: caregiving.

Scripted and unscripted love

After reading Fiona’s post describing the making of her banner for Mo’s project (“I Dream of a World Where Love is the Answer), I decided I wanted my own embroidered “love”. So I stitched the word on a strip of walnut-dyed cloth just below an appliquéd heart. It seemed a good spot.

Have you noticed how often typing on a phone that one mistakenly types ‘live’ when one means ‘love’ or ‘love’ when one means ‘live’?

The quirks of a teeny iphone keyboard dishing up a philosophical message is emblematic of our age — for what is life without love?

To live is to love. To love is to live.

If one is loving, of course.

We were out of town this weekend and I got to witness the tender care my sister-in-law gave her 91 year old father. Did he need anything? Could she read his cards to him? Didn’t he look sharp in yellow and how about walking down the hall a little ways? I reflected on how my manner with my sister in no way approaches such soft, tenderness; how I could NEVER get her to walk down the hall a little ways; how impatient and defended I can be.

There are lots of reasons for the differences, reasons both exonerating and out of my control, but the weekend felt like an object lesson anyway.

Because it was also Kentucky Derby weekend, the guys made mint juleps.


The visits are always short these days and all the more precious for being so.

Beets and radishes

Anyone who camps knows how even the most pedestrian meal is enhanced to a near-miraculous degree after a day in the wilderness. It happens all the time. “How can a bowl of pasta with canned sauce and chopped zucchini taste so good,” you wonder. And yet it does.

The visit to Salem was tense and then tenser. We didn’t manage to capture the cat. The aide had to leave a full hour earlier than expected. Plans had to be abandoned, limitations accepted. But before we got there, a fair amount of hostility was expressed. I spent a lot of time walking around the building, sort of wishing I smoked.

My sister blamed her temper on a transiting Mars / natal Sun conjunction and pretty much everything else on me.

She kept telling me to sit down and to stop moving. I kept suggesting that it might be time to put some pants on. The aide cleaned the kitchen. Then the bathroom.

My wish to get something done collided with my sister’s refusal to move. It’s often this way.

It’s a kind of wilderness, really — and I think it made the salad I made after getting home taste ridiculously good.

The gorgeous food blog, Harvest and Honey, inspired the choice of ingredients.

With the sweet, candy-like beets, the smooth and creamy avocado, plus a little goat cheese, chopped scallion, sliced radish and a handful of micro greens, it was beyond delicious.

Recipe (you hardly need one!)

1 large beet, roasted, peeled and diced*

1/2 scallion chopped, including white end

1 radish, sliced thin

1 1/2 Tbs goat cheese

Handful of micro greens

Dress with a tangy mustard vinaigrette (loaded with garlic).

* if you stow beets, post-roasting, in their foil wrappers in a large, unsealed zip lock bag, be very careful carrying the bag to the cutting board unless you want your kitchen to resemble a crime scene!

Trip along

One. Indivisible Group telecall and coffee. Two. Empty trunk of car. Three. Text Dog walker. Four. Set phone to blue tooth so I can listen to “Pod Save America” on the drive to the North Shore. Five. Stop and get future cab fare cash for my sister while praying we can grab her wily cat when the time comes. Six. Arrive in Salem, make sure I say enough of a hello before kicking into gear and fetching cat carrier from basement. Six (a). Crawl around looking under furniture for cat, hopefully with success, and then fill trunk with stuff for N’s new apartment. Seven. Drop my sister and her aide at new place. Eight. Take cat to vet for shots. Nine. Pick up my sister and her aide. Ten. Write pet escrow check for housing authority. Eleven. Drop check, proof of vaccinations, and form at housing authority. Twelve. Probably collapse momentarily at old Salem place before driving home (not likely to have to argue about whether to go to hardware store too because my sister tires way faster than I do). Thirteen. Drive home saying OM TARA TUTARE TURE SWAHA. Thirteen and on: Record expenses. Dog Joy. Food (his, mine). Sewing. Bath. TV.

Once again random capitalization suits. This time: Dog Joy.

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 an 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

hipstamaticphoto-508700880.644213
img_0641img_0668img_0760img_0640
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?