Funny thing about life and being in your 40's. Hard stuff seems to happen more often and the roller coaster only gets rougher and wilder. When Jen found out she had cancer after eight hour surgery in Augusut, 2007, alert levels shot to Severe. Then things were made more clear, a plan of chemo action was made and that became the new normal and we all eased to Elevated. She did really well and then she didn't and then she died in April of 2008. It was eight months from surgery to funeral.
In February of 2008, Kurt's mom got very sick with a bad infection. It was not life threatening, but she was 89 at the time and so it was going to take a long time for her to get better. And she lived in Texas with no other family around. There was much flying back and forth to DFW to make sure she was doing fine at the nursing home (where she recovered) and to start the process of moving her to assisted living in LA. But first she had to recover and be well. That took until late May of 2008. Six weeks after my sister died, there I was, helping Kurt pack up his mom's house into a moving truck and store her leftover things. It was all I could do to speak to people without bursting into tears constantly. But this is how life works and you just deal.
During the very same week that my sister was really ill and then died, my stepfather was in the hospital with blood and heart issues. It was very serious and he seemed at death's door. He was 84 so this could be real. I don't know how my mom remained upright. Though she did sleep a lot for the two weeks around my sister's funeral.
The mom in law recovered and moved in nicely to her place in LA. My stepdad recovered and did very well. Things kind of went back to that other "new normal" after someone dies. Alert status levels were no longer Severe but got no better than Guarded. But soon the levels got back up to Elevated and High as the stepdad had a few more scares, at one point discussion of the DNR orders were had with the doctors. Thankfully he recovered. Then my brother in law, Jen's husband, had a serious emergency medical problem with surgery required and levels were back up to Severe.
Last year had a lull and levels were at Guarded again. But 2011 ramped back up to High with a broken hip for the mom in law and surgery. Thankfully she's recovering extremely well. (The take-away from her situation is KEEP EXERCISING!) But this week the step dad is not doing great at all. Alert levels are now at High as he seems to be suffering from congestive heart failure. He's 87 now and doing very poorly. I'm constantly in touch with my mom about when I should get on a plane. We're just watching and waiting.
I don't want to be 26 again. Seriously, I don't. I was such a dunce then. Well, I'll be kinder to myself: I still had so much to learn. But it seemed, even with my dear Grandma Jane dying that year, alert levels mostly stayed Low. But now, whew. It can be exhausting.
I'm strong, I'm a rock, I have handled everything brutal that has come my way and always will. I have to because this is life and hey, it gets really hard sometimes. There is also much joy to be had as well, which I always remember and am grateful for.
None of these alerts are a drill. This is all real life. The only way out is through.
Suddenly I turn around and as of today it looks like this!
The books simply seem to multiply like rabbits!! Leave them alone in a dark room for a couple of weeks and whamo - more books! Okay okay, to be honest, I know what happened. After reading my previous blog post, my mom sent me (surprise!) the two books I wanted to get (Franklin and Eleanor and Diviner's Tale. Thanks Mom!) The Patton Oswalt book was a gift for my birthday. (Thanks Tom!) The top two on that stack are a little harder to explain. And by explain I mean excuse. Mom and I were talking about Hawaii stories, books, movies, etc and told me that George Clooney had been there to shoot a movie based on a book called The Descendants. So I thought I'd read is as RESEARCH (no really) because there is a tv show or mini-series idea I have that takes place in Hawaii and I want to see what's out there being made...The Paul Theroux book is there because it was in my cart on Amazon and if I bought it (along with a third book that hasn't come yet) I would get free shipping. So yeah, free shipping is always better, right??
Getting an e-reader of any kind is going to be tough for me (and probably won't happen for a long long while - no mom, DO NOT buy me one!) Finding more space in our 950 square foot house for all these books is also going to be tough, but that is a challenge I am looking forward to solving.
I have finished two books -- Russel Brand's Booky Wook 2 and Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw. They are similar in that both writers are loud, opinionated and passionate about themselves and their careers. I love them both for that and more power to them. I'm finishing up the Vanity Fair with Beiber on the cover and will probably start my RESEARCH by reading The Descendants. Looking forward to it.
Oh and Russell is in a remake of "Arthur" (a movie I also love) and I'm really looking forward to seeing it. He's perfect for the part and OMG Helen Mirren as Hobson??? Oh yeah. Here's the trailer. (Sorry for the ad up front...)
I can see my comfort zone. It wouldn't take much to step back over there and fully immerse myself into it, pulling down lots of income and spending hours and hours every day focused on something incredibly non-creative and mundane. The money always looks good, but I have to remind myself that there is no such thing as easy money. No Such Thing.
Luckily I had two great quotes come at me through email this week. The first from Seth Godin:
"You don't need more time...you just need to decide."
And from Thomas Edison:
"When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven't."
Both of these things kept me away from the CZ and toward my goals.
UPDATE: After posting this I found out that today is Thomas Edison's Birthday! Nice timing. (See Google for their cool artwork celebrating this fact!)
Back in the olden days, before the Series of Tubes, before the Internet, before the Information Superhighway and the World Wide Web, there were newspapers. And you could learn all kinds of things and even connect to people through the paper. When I was in 8th grade (13 or so) I wrote to other kids my age and got pen-pals. Somehow they were mostly in Germany (West Germany at the time) and we wrote tons of letters to each other. At one point I had about 18 pen pals! Stopping at the Post Office in Paia to check Box F was very exciting every day.
By the time I went off to college, the number had whittled down to four. They are my friends Antonia (Toni), Elfriede (Evi), Andrea and Ute. I have visited them all twice in Germany. First in 1989 and then in 1992. I got to meet all their mom's except for Andrea's and they all were so kind and took great care of me. Toni's mom washed clothes for me and I swear my clothes had never been that clean in my life! There was much drinking of coffee and eating of cake every afternoon and I felt loved and cared for, even though I was this odd backpacking creature from California.
After a few years the letters wore down to christmas cards and I have not heard from Toni in about ten or so years. I would really like to find her again as we had such good letters and we spent time riding horses in the black forest in a driving rainstorm. That was exciting! Ute and I found each other recently on Facebook and have been more in touch.
So it was awful and sad yesterday when Ute wrote to tell me her mother had died quite unexpectedly yesterday of a heart attack at age 86. Luckily all her kids were nearby and they were at the hospital before she died. But still. Heartbreaking and devastating. Ute said her mom died in her arms. (And that just makes me sob to type it.)
(In the photo: Ute on the left, sister Manu in the middle and Mutter. Look at that face!)
In her message Ute said: "I´m sure you haven´t forgotten her when you were here for the first time. She never forgot you." How could I forget her? Both times I went to visit she was so kind and sweet. Here is what I wrote about her:
August 21, 1989
I left Ute and her family this morning. Her mom drove me to the station. She of course speaks no english so it was a quiet drive. I of course couldn't speak because I was all choked up. I don't know why I get like that. I guess because it's been a long time (2 months) since I've had some real family type love. Big hug from Ute's mom here. She was so cute - little and feisty spunky. I wish I spoke german.
Then in 1992 I wrote:
June 5, 1992
We went to visit Ute's mom and sister Manu. Her mom had ovarian cancer a few years ago and had major surgery. Now she goes back to the doctor's a lot for check ups. She's the sweetest, most wonderful character. Wonderful face and old scratchy voice. She's 67. She seems more like a grandmother. But she's so sweet! She came in and gave me BIG hugs and was so happy to have me. I had tears in my eyes that I tried to hide. She could die soon and she's so wonderful that it would make me very sad.
And I am very sad. (Though I'm glad it was almost 20 years later that she died.) That little woman in the photo had such a big heart and opened her arms wide with big warm hugs for this perfect stranger that she only knew through letters from far away. What a wonderful person to know and emulate. I don't even know her first name, I just knew her as Frau Schafar.
I'll have to go and pay my respects in person one of these days soon.
I live in Los Angeles. In the summer of 2006 I worked in Mexico City. Instead of sending out giant emails full of photos to friends and families, I started this blog. The summer turned out to be a crazy one and this blog and my camera kept me sane. I didn't want to stop observing and writing when I got home to LA, so I kept the blog going.