Stories Are My Life

Stories. My stories. Your stories. The stories we have lived, and the stories we have denied.
 
I am not sure how you see your life, whether it is one big ball of silly putty, or a string of events that don’t seem to have much rhyme or reason.
 
I can’t handle my life as one big ball of silly putty. I am more like a book. I have moments that are words, some are sentences. Some sentences stand alone and others morph into paragraphs. I have also lived in vignettes, almost stages settings that I have envisioned prior to them happening.
 
There are parts of my life that have revealed themselves in chapters. Short chapters, long chapters … that will, eventually, become the book of my life.
 
Writing and thinking in such a manner help give me some structure and order to my life so it doesn’t totally go out of orbit.
 
Yes, there are times when my thoughts and emotions get sling-shot to outer crazy land. But in putting what has happened into context, into a story, pulls me back into a place where I can live.
 
If you think about it, how do you see you life? Is it a story-board? Is it random things that seem as hough you have no control? Do you drag the past with you or carry it in you purse like a tube of lipstick? Or, do you see it in some other way?
 
I was so enthralled with the podcast I listened to, yesterday, that this morning, after cleaning up the remainder of the stuff in the kitchen, from our baked ziti dinners that we cooked for hurricane relief, I needed something to pull me back to center.
 
I scrolled down the list of podcasts on Invisibilia, and found won that sounded interesting. It was about a woman whose husband had died, leaving her bereft, who could not function well. She decided to jump out of an airplane. You will have to listen to the podcast to get the story, which is part of the reason that I am writing about life as story, today.
 
The other part of the episode was about a couple from Montana who raised bees. Someone stole all of their bees at the worst possible time, (not that there is a good time to steal bees).
 
Again, a story of loss.
 
We all lose things, don’t we? keys, purses, glasses, receipts, friendship, friends, spouses, children, parents?
 
We mourn and go over and over the past and the emotions and the stories of the past. Sometimes, we change the stories to make us feel more comfortable.
 
There are times in our lives, dare I say, that we don’t even know how we will move on, or if we want to try.
 
Think about the people who lost everything, including loved ones, in the recent hurricane. Many will have to start their lives over.
 
How?
 
As this podcast told so well, those who are able to move on, do so, in part, because they learn to create new stories for their life. They mourn the past, but instead of sticking in “I, I, I,” mode, they begin using pronouns such as “him, her, we, them.”
 
I know that is how i push myself forward. When it is too much, “I,I,I,” I know that there has to be a shift. My thinking needs to change. My attitude needs a vacuuming and there is a need for letting go.
 
Maybe, that is why I do some things that others think, “Why does she do that?”
 
I can tell you why, as it has become clear to me.
 
Because I want a new story to live, to experience, to share. There is something in me that drives me, and entices me to try this or that, so that it becomes a paragraph or chapter in my life, and that helps me engage with others.
 
There are times when I wonder if I could or would I want to go on if Nick dies before I do. When the woman in the podcast, the one who was grieving for her husband and her lost life, said that she didn’t get joy out of doing the things they used to do, together, I put myself there. I can bring myself to tears thinking about that, especially if I am driving in the car, alone, and hear a song that moves me.
 
Who knows if that will happen?
 
But in my mind, I pray that if that does happen, I will do as this woman does … jump out of a plane, metaphorically, and begin a new, different chapter. And if I look at it like that, I think I might be able to handle it.
 
Susan
 
https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510307/invisibilia

Bonus Time

Yesterday, a week ago, Nick thought he was dying.

I did, too.

But thank God and good doctors and support of his kids and caring neighbors, Nick lives to be quiet and then drop a zinger that makes people laugh.

He lived for another trip to Blowing Rock.

It has been a hot and cranky summer. Little rain, big water bills, and a rain dance or too, that involved a pool. I will not say if it were Nick or I, who did the pole dance. But I bet you could guess.

It was mountain type of day. Nick had rested all week and he was ready to see something different. Mountains. They have always been an elixir in our life. Some people love the beach. We love the mountains.

There was a buoyancy in the car that hadn’t been there for a long time. We played music. Nick didn’t even mind my opera. Pavarotti. Three Tenors. Me, screeching.

We didn’t stay long at Blowing Rock. I think we wanted to see if it was still there.

Oh gosh, there is my woodpecker. I love birds with long peckers.

I think I scared him with that remark. He flew back into the woods.

We walked just a bit in Blowing Rock and had to decide if we wanted to eat lunch in a restaurant or pick up a pizza from Mellow Mushroom and take it to the mountain lake that is covered in places, with water lilies, has a wide walking path, and makes you feel free and healthy.

We got the pizza and drove to the park. We ate by the car and thenNikc got his walking stick out that I bought him a few weeks ago at McDowellNature Preserve. I got out my walking sticks that I haven’t used since last summer.

And we hit the trail.

Nick has not been able to do this for a long time. His walking is mostly in shuffling steps. But since his episode last week, and treatment with strong antibiotics, he walks better. He still isn’t strong and he has to watch his balance, but he can move.

Hallelujah!

We walked toward what had been a fish hatcheries, but now, only has water and some crawdads.

Nick sat on benches or rock walls, to rest. I bopped along with my camera and found things to shoot.

We talked about a neat-o tree and the lilies and I pointed out things that others, without a camera, not see. That is the thing about taking photos … you look for what others might miss.

I played with settings and chatted-up a couple of passers-by.

We didn’t go far in distance, but we went an eternity away from where we were last weekend.

The drive home was delightful. Nick shut his eyes and rested and I drove along in silence. No opera. No lalalalala screeching from my throat.

It was great fun being a wife yesterday. Nick had a delightful time. Bonus time.

And now, I shall go make some scones, tend my diminishing garden, fold clothes and do whatever I have to do to live in gratitude.

Because we just never know.

Susan

La Ploop

It is a mountain morning here in Clover. Cool, clear and chipper.

The backyard and outside are inviting. If I try, I can imagine that I am in Cades Cove, one of my special places. It would be nice to be there, but I am content with being here. Today, I don’t want to run away from myself.

The birds are skirmishing and I want to tell them to settle down, things will be all right. They might not be what you expect or desire, but they will be fine.

Yes, both feet are under me. The darkness of recent events with Nick have passed. Other situations are still in flux, but they will have to figure themselves out without me sorting them out. I have tried, trust me, but it is time to step back and return to my own life and things that I can control.

Good Grumpy Old Men, I can sound like I am picking lint out of navels.

Life involves a certain degree of naval lint plucking, doesn’t it? You feel washed by other people’s problems and forget things like boundaries and the fact that each person makes his or her own decisions.

Living other people’s lives is exhausting. Sometimes, I have to figure out the difference between support and enabling.

Winston was looking for his buddy, Tucker, when I took him out. Tucker’s mom stepped in and took care of The Boy, when Nick decided on joy-riding in an ambulance and partaking of hospital cuisine.

I have wonderful neighbors. Thought I felt alone last Friday, yes, a week ago, today, I found out that that we weren’t. Offers to help day or night, have been givenIt made me feel so much better. Several delicious dinners have been provided. And words of comfort have flowed.

The leaves on the trees have stilled and the birds are quiet. That makes my thoughts go in a different direction.

The Boy has come out to the porch with his tennis ball. Now he is staring at me.

We are just being.

I read Brad Pitt was having a heck of a time with Angelina Jolie and I read that Ben Affleck stopped at Jack in the Box on his way to rehab. Dennis Shield, Bethenny Frankel’s on again off again boyfriend died of a drug overdose a couple of weeks ago.

Messy lives. Money. No money. Fame. No fame. Money. No money. Hearts are broken at all levels. Bad decisions are made. People treat people they love or loved, like shit.

There really is no figuring life out, is there? As soon as we think aha, something happens and we, say, “What the hollandaise?”

OH, there is Mr. Woodpecker. He excites me. And there he goes. Skittish. Must have had an emergency on his branch.

It is a random thought, but I hope I don’t outlive my mind.

I am trying to decide whether to give people who brought us dinner and sent treats, my homemade sals or chili sauce. I know they will get a card with one of my paintings.

Back to my neighbors. As you can imagine, Nick and I miss a lot of parties and things because he doesn’t feel real chipper. I think people understand that. But even though we aren’t able to make a lot of things, they make us feel that our presence is missed, and I think that is lovely.

There are 3 goldfinches at the feeder. Nick just came out to sit. And he left.

You know what got me though the last few days?

The little things. My hot tea. Checking my propagation bins. Figuring out where to move which plant to get better light. Dead-heading some flowers. Talking to my neighbors and seeing their eyes full of concern. Knowing that the kids are back in their own lives. Having lunch with my daughter-in-law and laughing about stupid stuff.

Yesterday, I made myself laugh. I decided, after listening to a French song, that French people don’t poop. The ploop. I must go la ploop. And eat a baguette.

My toes have straightened themselves out. For the time being. Oh, ploop, the ugly birds arrived in a group.

But I clapped and they are gone.

A week ago, I thought that life as I knew it had ended.

I love it whenI am wrong.

Susan

When Your Mind Runs Amok in a Crisis

Life is one weird taco salad.
 
I feel like life has been one of those “48 Hours” episodes. Except without commercials that bring in revenue or at least give you a bathroom break.
 
First of all, good news. On his second ride of the day … to the dump, Nick said that although he still feels sick, he thinks he has more strength than he did before. We guess that it is because this infection had been brewing longer than we thought. But those words were wonderful.
 
Last night as we were scrolling through Netflix for a movie, I blubbered up a bit. Out of the blue. So Nick asks, “What’s wrong?”
 
“I thought I was going to loose you,” to which he replied, “It didn’t do me any good, either.”
 
Yessirreebob.
 
Here is one of the things I learned.
 
Episodes like this are emotionally charged. I looked at nick on the gurney in the ER, his blood pressure really high, unable to move much, scared, filled with anxiety, and weak. He was afraid. I saw it on his face, in his eyes.
 
At that time, I was not in control of anything, except being there and trying to assure Nick that he would be all right. That involved a cool washcloth and constantly rubbing his head and arms. Those were familiar touches to him.
 
Other than that, what happened, what was found or happened, was in the hands of professionals, but also, people I didn’t know. Yes, it was in God’s hands, too. But in that moment, you are looking eyeball to eyeball with people who have to make decisions that can make a person live, or, well, go on a very long vacation to some part of eternity.
 
Backing up. One of the toughest things I had to decide was do I call the kids? When should I call the kids? Should they come? Or do I say that I am taking care of things?
 
Is this life or death or is this me playing or sounding the wolf howl? Am I over reacting?
 
What are the doctors saying with their eyes or body language? Is this that time that I have always dread, where it will be the end of our lives together? Really. That was what was in my head. And heart.
 
I didn’t cry in front of Nick. But when I went out of the cube and tried talking to my son or a nurse, my face and voice simply went there. And then I sucked it up and went back in and got that rag cool, again.
 
After it was determined what was wrong, and a course of treatment began, a certain part of the anxiety is lifted … somewhat. Even if the treatment worked, what were the physical and metal repercussions of this? What if Nick couldn’t walk, go to the restroom on his own, talk, etc?
 
I have talked about time. Aging. Tim. Aging. Life.
 
In moments lie these, time, instant time, the time of the moment and future time, hit you all at once. People aren’t kept in a hospital until they fully recover, or not. They are sent home before your mind has caught up with what has happened.
 
My kids saw me at my weakest. I am not weak. But I can be weak. And I hated them seeing me be old and weird and sort of foppish. I really hated that. Would I go down in their estimation? Would they think, “Oh my God, look at what we are going to have to deal with?”
 
Would they think that all I would do is look at them and cry?
 
It isn’t that I had nick dead and buried, but as i drove in the dark to the ER, I thought, what if this is it? And what if I am going to be left alone in the dark of the night?
 
My dear daughter said that she would stay with Nick the first night. She knew I was exhausted. But I said, no. When she said, again, that she would do it, I said, “I don’t want to go home to the house without Nick.”
 
In the layers of my concern, I thought about how the kids had busy lives and they dropped them to come down and I felt so torn about that. Life moves on for everyone, sick, dying, dead or alive. The all had commitments. Why couldn’t I just handle this on my own?
 
I had thought that if things had gone the other way, and Nick didn’t make it, and I had said don’t come, it will be all right, would they be upset with me? Then I thought, how many times can I call wolf?
 
I swear, so many times I end up saying, well, dad has Parkinson’s or he has cancer, or I have cancer or I can’t see well or yada, yada? Will they wish we would just drop so they wouldn’t have to deal with aging parents?
 
I know that some of my thinking is ridiculous, but that is how I am. It is who I am.
 
Fortunately, we dodged a bullet. Someday, it won’t be so.
 
I am not out of my emotional woods yet. I was exhausted yesterday. On fumes. But I cleaned and went around like it was just another day.
 
And it was. And so will today be.
 
I am at my desk right now. No more screened porch for the time being. That reminds me of the past. I want to use this episode to change course a bit.
 
What good came out of this is that my kids still seem to be speaking to me. They are back in their own lives, flying here, there, teaching kids, living their lives. I have wonderful neighbors who care, really care, and have told me that 24-7, they are there if we need them. I think they really mean it!
 
Nick is up. I just heard him. I better go and see how he is doing.
 
I will let you know.
 
Susan

When Life Changes in An Instant

You think about it, but try to get such thoughts out of your mind. Middle of the night calls or emergencies.

On Friday morning at 3:30 a.m., Nick had to use the restroom. but he couldn’t. He couldn’t lift his body up off of the bed. He had no strength, was dazed, yet needed to go. He asked me to help him. I tried to lift him and finally, got him to sort of sit up. But it took all of my might. He couldn’t stand for a moment, but then leaned on me to get up, took a few really wonky steps … he didn’t make it to the restroom, and I could barely get him back on the bed.

“I’m going to call 911, I said.”

“No,wait a bit,” which meant, no, don’t do that.

I looked at him and listened to him for about 30 seconds and said, “I’m calling.”

Winston was on the bed sleeping.

I unlocked the front door, threw some clothes on ad stayed with Nick. He just couldn’t move and was getting worse.

After the ambulance arrived, I grabbed his medicine. I forgot about his medical cards.

Winston was excited to see the EMTs.

The EMTs and I talked about which ER to take him. In Cincinnati, I would have known. Down here, no.

They mentioned one that was close. Not an in-patient hospital, but the said he would be transferred to a hospital from there, if necessary.

I had to make decisions of whether to call the kids or someone. I called my son who lives in town. I had to have someone to stop me from feeling that I had been sling spotted into an orbit of no return.

I watched Nick be wheeled out on the gurney, unable to control his muscles and with no strength. Was it the Parkinson’s, a stroke, what?

I didn’t even remember getting to the ER, but on the way, I did think, geese, what are all of these people doing on the road.

At the ER, I got in to see Nick right away. He was scared. HIs blood pressure very high He really couldn’t talk. At that point, my son came. I called one of my daughters in Ohio and my son in Ohio. I didn’t call our youngest daughter because because I wanted to know what we were detailing with and it was the middle of the night, and I feared she would go to pieces. Even in an emergency, you have to think, think, think of how this will play out with your family.

A woman came into the ER. I said, “Do you know if the doctor has seen him?”

“I am the doctor,” she said.

I felt like an ass assuming it would be a man. Middle of the night thinking.

She said that she noticed what she thought was cellulitis on his lover leg. She bowed me how large of an area it was, how red and how hot. I had not seen it and Nick had not mentioned anything.

The last couple of days he said that he didn’t feel well, and he laid down to rest more. He also didn’t eat much. I told him he probably had the bug I had earlier in the week.

Me and my “bugs’. That is what I call an everything I get that is just a malaise, nausea, sleepiness, whatever.

They drew lots of blood and hooked him up to an IV with fluids. The doctor said he might have beginning sepsis.

Now, I am pretty knowledgeable on medical things. I have always had an interest and read lots of medical material. But I really didn’t know much about cellulitis, except it was a inflammation of the skin. Sepsis, was never on my horizon.

They arranged to send NIck to a hospital. The one that was closest was full. The next was Downton.

Let me backtrack. When I told my son that dad was sick and I had called ER, I asked if he could call his neighbor and friend who is a doctor. I hated being unconnected down here. I wanted and needed a point person for Nick so that he wouldn’t get lost in the system.

While they were assessing Nick,my son was on the phone with his friend who was working at a downtown hospital. He told Benhe would arrange a bed and that if we wanted, he would oversee Nick’s care and bring in the specialists, if necessary. My relief was great.

Nick was transported to the hospital, which was towards Uptown and a 40 minute drive.

As I drove, I felt scared and as if my life was collapsing. Nick and my family are my life, as they are many of us.

My daughter called and said she would be on a 1 o’clock flight.

Soon after we got to the hospital, my son’s doctor friend was in Nick’s room, examining him.

Although weaker from Parkinson’s, Nick has always sustained a certain degree of strength, fortitude and determination. Even through cancer and radiation and heavy duty chemo, he was strong.

But now?

The doctor suspected it was the cellulitis that might be beginning stage of sepsis, but the blood test results took 48 hours. But he was going to treat him as if he had it, anyway, because the signs were there.

Nick was put on two very strong antibiotics. He moaned and couldn’t get comfortable and was restless and filled with anxiety.

He was hot. The only thing that soothed him was if I rubbed his head and arms with a cool rag. So that is what I did.

A neurologist came and examined Nick and said he didn’t see signs of a stroke. He thought, as did the other doctor, that the infection had been brewing for a while and had taken over Nick’s system and caused the Parkinson’s to really go to town. They also believed that after the infection was taken care of, there was a good chance that Nick would return pretty close to his Parkinso’s level as before. Hopefully.

That is when I called my youngest daughter. Although upset and scared, she handled the news because we had information.

Our daughter who arrived and came to the hospital, saw Nick and passed what she saw onto her brother in Ohio. He decided that he should come down.

It is hard not to pretend not to be a basket case. I was very worried about NIck. I was in turmoil because I wasn’t sure how much I was going to have to handle. Worst case scenarios went through my mind that hadn’t had good sleep. I saw the cup as half empty and cracking.

Sleep that night was pretty much nonexistent as the cot they had was brought in from the Tower of London Department of Torture.

But I didn’t want to leave Nick. And it is good I didn’t. He needed my reassurance and cool rag rubs. My word, every hour the were drawing bloodd and taking vitals and things beeped and were just a mess.

I was officially loopy from lack of sleep.

When I have sleep, I can deal, am not a wimp and can’t make decisions. But I was glad my kids were here to help figure things out and to reassure me. I felt weak and I hate that. It is so hard to see Nick in such shape. But my kids? They stepped up. There was nothing but love in that hospital room.

It really bothered me that they saw me so wimpy and scared. And, I was a mess. I was going to wash my hair the morning Nick got sick. I looked like hell.

The amazing thing is, the antibiotics worked fast. Nick’s numbers returned to normal, quickly, including his blood pressure. He still felt awful, but he began to understand what he had and that treatment was being done.

The next night, even Nick told me to go get sleep. Our son said he would stay all night. He also said he could sleep anywhere, so I thought that cot wouldn’t bother him.

My daughter and I went home. She was exhausted and stressed and wonderful. Her life is busy, yet, she dropped everything to be here to help. She got pizza and I took a much needed shower and went to bed.

Nick’s numbers had improved so much that he was going to be released on Sunday. I was still not sure how this would play out. What if Nick couldn’t walk or make it to the bathroom? Over a couple of nights, things had changed. Was I strong enough? Where would I get help? What if I had to lift him, which I can’t do?

Fortunately, on Saturday afternoon, the physical therapist came. Nick could get up. He walked with a walker, down the hall. He went to the restroom. WEak and he needed some assistance. But he did it.

My stomach and heart felt relief.The what ifs left my head when I was told that the doctor had ordered home health assistance. People would come and check on Nick and his progress and provide physical therapy.

It turned everything around. The kids from Ohio rearranged their flights to go home Sunday evening, after we got Nick released, home and settled.

Nick had started bossing me around, so I knew things might return to close next to normal, or at least, doable.

As soon as we got home, the three kids and and my daughter-in-law and tewo of our grandkids came to the house. One had bought barbecue. Nick ate a bit but was weak, tired and sick. He went to bed but said visitors were welcome.

You know, there was a time during this when I thought, God, what have we done? I knew it was stupid, but as I said, I was exhausted.

The word had gotten out that Nick was sick. I heard from some friends and wonderful neighbors. Actually, I forgot to mention that Winston was well taken care of by my neighbor and friend, next door, who has a dog that Winston likes. Nick and I were so worried about The Boy, too.

By 3:30, yesterday, my two Ohio children left for the airport. They were on the same airplane. They had to go back to their lives. I couldn’t get the words out to say goodby. My eyes did that mother thing, you know, throwing tears. As hard as this time had been, and with our future still uncertain, good came out of this. To see how good my family is, how strong they are, and how much they have our backs, was the good that come out of this. That, in itself, made me stronger.

We missed our youngest daughter, but she was on the phone with us and with her dad in spirit. She told me that Friday was the first night that she didn’t have her dad tell her he loved her.

I am emotionally a physically wiped,but boy, am I counting my blessings. This morning, I took NIck with me to drop Winston off to get groomed, and then I took him with me to the dump. I certainly know how to show Nick a good time.

I allow steamed and scrubbed the bathroom and kitchen this morning. Though pooped, I have nervous energy.

But I am once again on the screened porch, looking at things differently. It is weird. Right now the garden doesn’t matter. The two cracked tiles in the bathroom I found this morning suck, but are not to be dealt with right now.

All that matters is Nick’s health, love and knowing that Nick and I planted the seeds for some really fine people. Not bad, huh?

And how was your weekend?

Susan

I don’t drive at night, but I did then. My mind was

Unexpected Losses

It isn’t that we were actual friends. More like pleasant acquaintances. I know of her but hadn’t talked to her until she began following my writing. At that point, we had a few email conversations about some of the subjects that I had written about.

One of those subjects was Ireland. It made her think about her trips to Norway, where she visited relatives.

I love Ireland. She loved Norway.

The last time I saw my friendly acquaintance, was just prior to our moving south. I saw her in a local carryout. I was buying scratch off lottery tickets pats and she had just purchased cigarettes.

We chatted for a few minutes. I told her we were moving. She mentioned that she and her husband had moved into a little schoolhouse type building. She mentioned that her son had bought their big house on the lake.

It was a peasant chat. Friendly acquaintances. A pleasant sort of relationship.

One of my sons knew her husband. I think that they were friendly acquaintances, too. One day, maybe a year or so ago, I received an email from my son, saying the husband of my friendly acquaintance, had died.

I didn’t know him, but I felt badly for his wife.

Remember when Robin Williams died? That hit me. I didn’t know him, but I grieved. The same with Anthony Bourdain. I recall, crying, when Nick told me what had happened. Nick asked why I was crying, and all I could say was that I was just very sad. I was going to miss him.

Maybe it is my age, or how the world is or just the way my mind works, but when I hear about certain deaths, though I might now have known the person, feel like a bit of a punch in the gut. My equilibrium takes a hit, and I grieve.

I have a friend that I have had for probably 35 or 36 years. Long time. Good friend.

The other day I called her. We chatted and caught up on what her kids were doing and how my kids are. We talked politics and laughed and about my old neighbors and that the people who bought our old house, which is next to hers, are taking good care of my cottage garden.

She asked me if I knew a certain person. This person was my friendly acquaintance. I said, yes, I know her.

“She died last week.,” she said.

My gut immediately hurt. She was only 67.

I can make 67 sound young or old. It depends on how I am looking at it. For death, it is young.

My friend told me the circumstances for the woamn’s death, which unsettled me even more. Fire, burns … suspected to be caused by smoking.

My mind flashed back to our chat at the carryout. She and her husband had a lake house and were planning on spending more time there. Her obituary mentioned that she and her husband began dating at 16.

Now, 3 years later, they both are gone. Their 3 adult children have lost their parents and their children have lost their grandparents.

And though I didn’t know either, well, they are in my craw.

Futures. Plans. Pasts. Unexpected Losses.

I think I will sit and watch some birds for a fe minutes.

Susan