Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Sure hope they come up with Lifelines soon.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Late last night my phone rang with the gang up at Lake Louise, telling me they had gone through the beer and were into the tequila (I could have guessed) and were playing Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. In my first opportunity as the phone-a-friend, I failed dismally (I didn't know India even had its own rhino much less how many horns it had, though if I'd had more than 20 seconds it probably would have come to me) and lost Robert and Erin $250,000 in fake money. Er, well, I hope it was fake money. However, I must have retained some credibility as they called me back later for a question of word pronunciation (that one I knew).
Kari said they'd had to stay in most of the weekend because the overflow on the ice is too dangerous to do much snowmachining. It was -28F there last night. It was fun to be on speakerphone and hear all the laughter.
Spending several days here at home, once the fever broke, has also confimed the fact that MY HEAT ISN'T REALLY FIXED YET. Looks like +64F is my upper limit on both floors of the house now and I just didn't realize it. My landlord came and fiddled yesterday but Rome didn't burn. With the much colder temps last night, the living room dropped to +58F. I'm ready to return to the good old days when it was 85 degrees upstairs and no heat downstairs, at least I could choose my biosphere then.
On a more philosophical note, I also had an email exchange last night with a friend who's also single and lives alone - she commented on how horrid it is to be so sick and alone, perhaps a preview of our older years. But how valued are the simplest things in life as we emerge from illness. I have been feeling so grateful for things like my dog's being willing to lie next to me for a few minutes when I shook with uncontrollable chills. For being able to get up and get dressed and spending more of the day sitting instead of sleeping. For the taste of a cold ginger ale even though I could only handle a few sips before the chill set in. I thought for a while yesterday about how damned grateful I was for the pain and fever to have stopped, and wondered how much worse it is for anyone who is experiencing real illness long-term. Well, I don't need to wonder because I can remember those years for myself. But I did get better - I just didn't have any assurance that I would, so lived in a protracted state of fear and frustration and defeat. (hey wait, how is that any different from now exactly?)
Such elemental parts of life come into stark relief, and I would like to keep that clarity. I would like to keep it while living comfortably at +70F too.
Friday, November 25, 2005
I couldn't ask for a better companion when I'm sick than Hunter, who is so undemanding and adapts well to shattered routine more than any other dog I've had. Possibly this only means that I've given him so little structure to count on in the sort of tenuous life I provide for both of us that he's come to expect very little from me. He is still recovering too so did not get too stir crazy about being shut inside. But I did nothing except sleep and stumble downstairs a couple of times to let him out and throw some kibble in the bowl at bizarre times, finally it was too much to go up and down the stairs and when I collapsed on the couch, every time I woke up he was curled up at the other end by my feet. I've lost all track of time, with that protracted fever I would lie down 'for a minute' and find that hours had gone by as the snow kept falling.
Last night I thought I could stay awake long enough to watch a movie, and a few minutes before it started, I heard a noise on my front steps. My neighbor Gregory was clearing my steps and driveway - I wrapped a quilt around me and peeked out the front door into the single-digit night. He said he knew something must be wrong because we'd had three significant snowfalls and I was the only person not out shoveling, though he'd seen that Hunter had come and gone outdoors so he knew I was home and semi-functional. I thanked him and lay back down on the couch, and after that much effort I didn't even see the opening credits; woke up three hours later in time to go to bed.
Early this morning the fever broke, I had heavy pajamas on (hand-me-downs that my mom bought and didn't like, so altered them for me before she left... thank goodness, because in my adult life I would never own a pair of flannel pj's otherwise, and I really needed them) and was under a double comforter and was still cold. And my very non-bed-snuggling dog obliged me by staying in bed close enough to keep my legs warm until the worst of that was over. I was just so grateful that he stayed put - he really hates that generally but I was so cold I wanted to cry.
So it's been a rough 48 hours. By this afternoon the aching had lessened and my eyes felt normal again, and I felt well enough to sit up more and sleep less. We stayed on the couch all afternoon and eve and are both headed to bed now. I suppose it's a measure of how sick I still am that I actually don't care all that much that there was no Thanksgiving and no wintry cabin weekend. I don't have the energy of interest to feel bad about it yet. Hunter is feeling better also and burned off some steam in the backyard today for a few minutes. I don't know what he looks for when he buries his head in the snow - my other dogs would push down and maybe sniff hard or root around and come back up - instead Hunter stands very still and stays down there long enough to alarm me a bit.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
By early this morning, however, several inches of snow had fallen, more was coming down, roads had not been cleared, and a winter storm advisory was in effect. This was my view for the over four hours' round trip to get the 50 miles to the clinic and back. Very glad I was headed the opposite direction from the morning commuters but still it was unnerving. I have a lot of experience driving in crummy conditions but I never take that for granted. Slow and careful got me there. If I hadn't made it I could have called George and Becky and had them retrieve him but I really wanted him home with me. Had I gone later in the day, I wouldn't have made it at all - an accident with injuries closed the road for three hours. These are the disadvantages to having only one road out of town - what a drag for anyone trying to go north from Anchorage today for the holidays too.
And maybe Hunter is fixed now, and maybe he isn't. (If you are put off by a description of my dog's lower intestinal tract, go away.) Dr. Ron said that he got out all of the sutures that he could find, but there was a track leading to what he is sure were more buried stitches. He also said that the tissue itself - sort of that productive lining at the back end of the operation - was friable and just kind of fell apart. He began to remove that tissue and said he just pursued things as far as he felt he would with his own dog, stopping short of turning it into another more serious operation. Enough may have been removed that with time and meds, Hunter may be able to tolerate whatever is still in there. If he doesn't, it's another surgery and it would begin to compromise the actual structures too. Ron and I were both discouraged.
Got him bundled into the car and back into the nasty weather. Back to Anchorage and ran some errands. Here's a diversion: This is where Hunter tucks himself whenever he's waiting in the car. A 60-lb dog should not be able to fit under the steering column of my tiny car, but he does. Once there, however, he is unable to get out. (PS: May I just point out that this is the most adorable dog ever???) So when I return and open the door, I have to help him get extricated out onto the ground, turn around and get back in the car. This is repeated at every stop, so on a day's outing we go through this perhaps 6-10 times. People look at us funny but I'm used to it. He started doing this about 8-10 months after I first got him. Initially I thought it was because it was a warm summer and he was trying to get out of the heat. I have no idea why he does it really, though I'm sure he feels safe and out of sight from people. But why he doesn't just do it on the passenger's side where there's room, I have no guess.
Not that there was much room on the passenger's side today, and let me hasten to say that under normal conditions my dog is also not surrounded by that many cases of booze. This was my part of the preparations for an expedition northward to the Campbell family cabin at Lake Louise from this Friday through Sunday. I can't wait to get up to that breathtaking spot in the mountains - there'll be a ton of snow up there and just all that winter beauty plus a beautifully built place to stay (with heat! power! satellite TV! propane fridge! everything except plumbing!) will make remote camping awfully luxurious. We'll park at the lodge and snowmachine back to the cabin.
Anyway - back to the day's wrapup. Hunter was feeling punky and climbed onto my bed. He looks pretty pitiful here. I think he was hurting because he didn't protest when I got in bed too, curled up around him and we both slept - I conked out for about three hours and felt a little ill on waking, think I've just been pushing hard for a long time and also the day's tension had rather knocked the stuffin out of me too. It's snowing again and there's no place I need to be until Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, and that's even within two miles walking distance if the roads were bad. So I am content and just glad to be safely back at home with my little boy.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Angel is rapt whenever Hunter is in the backyard. She sits at attention and her eyes never wander - just fixed on him and whatever he does. She also idolizes her 'big' sister though her big sister is already smaller than she. Zoe reminds me so much of Courtney. Hunter doesn't seem that interested either way, but I notice that when Zoe is out, he will often stand with tail wagging furiously though he doesn't approach her - he adored Courtney and I wonder if he sees the resemblance too.
Got myself an early Christmas present today in the form of a very inexpensive digital camera to make life's blogging moments easier. Actually it probably just means lots more pictures of my dog:
Or the stuff that's on my walls, like this pretty print that I just looooove so much and finally had framed this summer with Nancy's help - when the frame I wanted was way beyond my ability to purchase, I settled for something less (but still nice) and that stinker Nan called the frame shop and had them upgrade to the frame I'd coveted so much...
Or just what I'm currently wearing:
Yep, you're probably feeling real glad right now that I got a new camera.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
I've just been through one of the hardest 5-6 day stretches I can remember. The regulatory audit felt grueling; the last time we went through it I wasn't present - not sure why though probably just because I was working a part-time occasional schedule. I feel very proud of how we did but it was a constant scramble under the sort of pressure that went past difficult and into truly debilitating - my muscles hurt, my face was gray and drawn, felt like there was just no inner space of peace or calm, nothing but unrelenting pressure. It's the kind of thing where you welcome the scrutiny - besides the fact that it's an ongoing requirement - because it confirms that your clients have the best possible representation, and you learn things that you can do better. And the examiners were good and decent people, conscientious about their job but pleasant in their interactions. But it's also like a test for which you can't study, you can only rely on having never missed a detail, never having looked out the window or let your attention wander, and knowing where every piece of paper is too. And to pass requires a perfect score.
The lifeboat was Kari and Erin's stepping in to take care of Hunter every day. What a godsend to drop him off as soon as they opened in the early morning in order to get to work a couple hours early, and know that for the next 12 hours I didn't have to worry about him for a single minute. They were really the only other people who saw me during this, and from their feedback I gather I was projecting as someone to be worried about. Without my mom here as backup now, I just don't know how I could have coped - there would have been no moments that I could leave or do anything to have taken care of him. It was a hard week anyway but it didn't impact his well-being - he hadn't been in daycare for several days in a row before, long days too, but he handled it and I'm so grateful to them for that care. Also grateful to Nancy, who offered to foot the bill as a demonstration of her own thanks.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Didn't happen. Some months ago that friendship tanked. A few weeks ago I canceled the tickets and paid a fine for the privilege which I guess means they really weren't free. Got back to the real world where wonderful delicious plans aren't part of life on Planet Peg.
Check that. This morning I awoke in the dark with my dog buddy breathing quietly by my side, got up and got the coffee started. It's been a working weekend as we prepare for a regulatory review that's part of operations every couple of years. Hard concentration kind of work but interspersed with Emma's companionable attentions and those incredible oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that Nancy makes.
Listened to the quiet from the rest of the house now that my mother has returned home. Went outside in the snow. Met the two new dogs next door (photos soon!), one of whom could be Courtney's sister. Heartstrings pulled there, but gently.
Put a few of those yummy cookies in a bag for Keith for a drive-by as I head to work. He answers the door and we set plans for O's fluids tonight so he will feel better soon. Get on the phone to Michele about dinner tonight since Chuck is still out of town. Send a few emails, catch up here and there. I'm working at the computer, Nancy's clearing some files away, there's the sound of the table saw from the workshop where John is building his beautiful wooden boat. Emma naps throughout.
Today is a breathtaking, clear winter day, work is challenging but the pace and the energy is easy, friends are woven through the day making it rich with warmth and moments of meaning. I thought perhaps I'd feel sad today but I'm just too content. Life is all about the changes in plans, and I'm checking out the airline schedules to choose another warm place I've never been.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
And she's gone, and after nearly a year here that will take some getting used to, in finding our way into the life pattern that happens next. But I still have the next 12 hours to worry myself sick before that happens.
Friday, November 11, 2005
My brothers, though their own memories are only those of small-childhood too (they were 10 and 4 when Dad-Dad passed) regaled me through the years with their bragging about all the spoiling that they got and I missed out on. Frankly, I think a precious little granddaughter would have really messed up that gig for them! A black and white snapshot shows Dad-Dad cuddling my brother Barry who has been dead nearly 30 years. My mother's memoirs contain a chapter called My Father's Hands, which begins with how when she was born weighing only 3.5 pounds, her height of 13" was measured in the span of her father's hand.
On this day of days, it isn't that my grandfather was the only soldier my family sent to war. We sent all of the men, on both sides. My dad was a Navy cook and a gunner's mate on a subchaser in the Pacific, while both his brothers were sent to Europe. Though one of his brothers deserted while on leave, the other was decorated for valor in crawling alone to a machine gun emplacement and singlehandedly taking it out.
Both my mother's brothers were drafted into the Army and sent to Europe. Her oldest brother Amory was a young father when he went to war, and the period of long weeks when he was injured and missing were hell on his family back home. Her other brother Marion remained in Europe for a time after the war's end as part of the occupying force.
But it was Andrew Jackson Burrell who went without being asked to go. At the age of 53, he enlisted rather than only send his sons where he himself was not willing. He was sent to the Pacific as a boiler tender on the USS Ticonderoga, called "Pops" by his young shipmates. And he was in the boiler room on January 21, 1945 when the first kamikaze struck. About 40 men were killed in the first strike, and several planes stowed on board caught fire and the ship began to list starboard. The captain ingeniously ordered the port bulkheads flooded so that the ship would list to port and dump off the burning planes. But not long after, the second kamikaze hit, killing a hundred more including the captain, and wounding over 200 others. My grandfather survived, though it was a hell of confusion in the depths of the burning ship - the vignette I remember vividly was being told how one of his young friends tried to escape up a ladder, and was melted to the steel.
There are other things that measure my grandfather in ways less dramatic. Those large hands wrought furniture and tools and a lovely little house built on our Pennsylvania dairy farm. He could imagine and build and repair. He raised his children, adored his grandchildren, and was a husband three times over.
My grandfather has always been shown to me through others' eyes. My mother's reminiscences, my brothers' memories of a grandfather who must have seemed godlike to these small boys. My own few contacts with two of my grandfather's nine brothers, nearly 30 years ago now, but which left definite impressions on me. His spirit as wrought in his oldest son, my adored Uncle Amory who died when I was six but whose impact on me is indelible. In Amory's son, my cousin Mike, in whom I see the same qualities of intelligence and humor and integrity and strength.
But now in my own middle age, I find I set aside the interpretive lens of others, and their memories, however precious. I think instead of the man who left behind a wife and daughter, and went to war believing that to do so would bring his own sons home. I think of the man with imagination and capacity, who knew what was right, and lived it. I reach out and find my hand engulfed in one that is impossibly large but entirely familiar. I realize I have always known my grandfather. And I speak to him, and he knows who I am.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Monday, November 07, 2005
(updated) He's leaving now. He's kneeling beside her and kissing her nose again and again and crooning to her about what a wonderful girl she is, and rubbing her ears and kissing her some more. This is a company for all your home renovation needs!
Sunday, November 06, 2005
And he is old and confused and in renal failure and seizuring. In the years I've known him he's gone from sullen to vulnerable, and in his little sphere of influence, a claw has hooked into my heart.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Ray's essentially perfect existence has no beating heart of its own. Mirabelle lights all the corners of his life in a way nearly divine for its simplicity and its depth, but he chooses to use only a small part of the bright love and beautiful grace that surrounds her. This part, and nothing else. He refuses her more, and he shows her his limits in a painful way, and the decisions she makes for herself are clear-eyed and sure and true. She loves deeply. . . and she values herself. When some months later, Ray sees Mirabelle one day in the arms of the messy and incongruous man who has dived headlong into loving her with all the truth of his heart, Ray realizes the full measure of her worth and the measure of his loss. I am still feeling the tears behind my eyes when he murmurs, "I did love you."
Friday, November 04, 2005
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
The most powerful acting comes in its non-speaking moments. Dozens on dozens of them - where Josey has to pull up all of her bravery to keep going in the face of unspeakable intimidation and the rejection of friends and family. Where women in the mine confront the constant horrible traps laid for them but contain their reactions to keep the paycheck coming. Where the good men around them feel outrage, then quietly put away their courage and say nothing to disturb status quo. Where a husband still has eyes only for the woman who once was his vibrant wife, now a shell melting away from Lou Gehrig's disease. Where that same woman - the first woman to breach that environment years before - struggles out of a union meeting painfully and men behind her feel only appreciation that at least there's one bitch out of their way with no effort from them.
The thing that disappointed me about this movie was while it tells so masterfully the horrors these women went through, it then puts the "sexual harassment" label on it. This goes beyond creating a hostile work environment - it was a protracted series of mob attacks carried out in conspiracy and approval of the mine's management. The depths to which these women were openly degraded, and the capacities for the gang mentality to justify it, make this a story to challenge the mind long after the credits roll. Best of all, the real women behind these events give it their approval.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever; I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood,
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
--W. H. Auden