Tuesday, October 20, 2009


In response to a friend telling me about the death of another friend's mother...

A year ago I would have read about Julie's loss and sort of nodded in a
"yeah, that's too bad," kind of way. But my own Dad died 6 months ago,
young too, 78, of cancer and since then I'm fairly speechless when I hear news like this.

The rug that was pulled out from under me hasn't been replaced
with any sage thoughts on the matter. It's just plain old sad is what
it is.

Last night I dreamed that my Mom had put some of Dad's things on
a table for giveaway. Crappy stuff of no value, like if someone had
emptied the dish on my desk that houses assorted pencils, loose
change, buttons and paper clips. My Dad was there, and though he
looked well, I knew he was dying. I saw a scarf of his, some
slippers. "Can I have these Dad?" I asked him. He shrugged, sure.
Those things didn't matter to him anymore, they never did.

They didn't matter to me either, though it was all I had to take away.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Go Dodgers

My Mother and I are talking about taking a 10-day walking trip. “We have to do it next year,” she tells me like we’re running out of time. But of course we are, even though I can’t imagine my tomboy of a mother any different than I know her today.

“Look for me on T.V. this afternoon,” she says. “1:00, behind first base at the Dodger game.” She’ll be there, mitt in hand like she is every game, and I hope the cameras pan to her because you won’t see a happier person in that stadium; surrounded by my sister’s and their husbands, in the middle of the day, a Dodger Dog in her hand. I think it’s an important game too because if they win, bla bla bla, my Mom won’t come up for the Ellen Bass poetry workshop that I’m producing, but if they lose, bla bla bla, she will come up.

“Do you hate me?” she asks when she reveals her choice of the Dodgers over poetry and Ellen Bass. “Hate you?” I say over the phone, “I love you because you know what makes you happy, you know what you want and that life is too short.”

“Do you really understand that?” she says, “that life is short?”

“Well, of course I think I’m going to live forever,” I tell her as I multi-task like a mad woman, making coffee for the morning writing class, applying lipstick and sending an email all while I hold the phone to my ear. “But it was seeing Dad at the end,” I tell her, my throat thick. “All the things he regretted, what he hadn’t done.”

“Like learn to love?” she says and goes silent.

“Like learn to love,” I say. This was something my Dad told us at the end, that he hadn’t learned to love.

“I’m going to look for you behind first base,” I tell her. “Go Dodgers Mom, go Dodgers.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Ring

All I had done was take off my wedding ring, just for a second, to see if it fit on any other finger, just in case, you know, it wasn't going to be a wedding ring anymore. But there must have been some force in the way I grabbed it off my finger because it went flying, which might have been fine except that I was sitting in the sand, not just a pile of sand like a sand box, but an entire beach of sand that went for miles. I held my breath, craned my neck down the beach to where my family was playing, looked down to where I was sitting and I started to dig.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Girl's Dream

It's good news she's just given you on the phone. A girl's dream come true. A fantasy. The highest nod of approval from her peers.

And maybe it's the shock of it that makes you bungle it, say something stupid like, "How is this possible?" Which is when she hangs up on you because she thinks you're saying, "You? How did this happen to YOU?" Just like Cinderella's step mother said when she found out the prince had come looking for Cinderella instead of her own horrible daughters. But you didn't mean it that way, it's just that you were so shocked and so proud and scared at the same time. It's just that your very your first thought when she told you was "they'll hate her, people are going to hate her for this."

When you call her back and ask for forgiveness you ask her to do a re-do, to tell you again and let you answer more appropriately.

"Okay," she says, rolling her eyes on the phone.

"Hi Mom," she sing songs, "guess what? I've been nominated Home Coming Queen."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Here I Am

I'm not tired or feeling rushed or put out by this detour off the
Central San Rafael exit to find a bathroom for Zoe. I'm mostly glad
that I took her seriously when she said she felt sick. Usually when
she says that we're on our way somewhere and while not always in a
rush, I'm one of those people who are determined to get where they are
going, leaving exactly enough time to get there. So I'm glad now that
after craning my head to the backseat a couple of times as I drove and
seeing her pained face, even after I rolled down the window and told
her to breathe, I'm just glad I had the sense to pull over and now
here we are in the gas station bathroom, which is in fairly good
shape; smelling of toxic cleaner, but a perfect place
for her to lose her breakfast in the toilet.

I'm standing behind her, one arm around her middle
just to keep her steady as she heaves into the bowl,
and another hand on her back rubbing it slowly, not wanting
to distract her, but just wanting to comfort and let her know
that I am there. A small bit of vomit splashes out of the toilet and
hits my bare feet in sandals. I don't care, I'm just glad to be here,
grateful to be here after all those years of trying to get away from
my children because I wanted to be alone or work or do my own thing.
This is where I want to be now, there's no place I'd rather be.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

No One Knows

Last night, sitting in the hot tub with my mother, both of us naked and one of us more wrinkled than the other, one of us sipping on some sweet plum drink that one of neighboring rabbi's, a man who never comes without some new brew he's concocted--last week it was a fig tincture, this week plum with brandy--both seriously strong. Sitting in the hot water in the dark after an early evening rain, I said, "this waiting is like staring at the sky searching for signs of the coming storm. We know it's on it's way, we know it's coming, but no one knows when."

We've written the obituary, the eulogy is on its way, the little thank you cards for thinking of us have been ordered, the casket, the papers signed. We've even discussed what we'll wear and whether dad will be naked with a simple wrap or whether he'll wear his favorite sweatshirt--stained and well loved as it is.

This waiting, it's not that we're in a rush--no, we love holding his warm hand, the squeeze of it, his strength in the face of death--it's a joy to be able to walk into his room every morning and chirp, "hi dad!" simply because you can--lucky you.

But the waiting is strange-- all of us, especially dad, packing the bags for a journey we know he'll take, but we don't know when.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

patch of earth

He always said he wanted to be cremated. Never was sentimental or romantic about the big burial. But then a couple of weeks ago my mom turned to him and said, "I want to be buried next to you. Do you want to be buried next to me?" And he turned to her and smiled and nodded yes. I wish I could convey the importance of this simple exchange, these plans made around a patch of earth. Mostly it's about how my parent's love has caught fire in the last 6 months since my dad has been sick. It's the way he asks where she is when she's out of the room. It's how he opens his eyes when he hears her voice, how he reaches out to her when she comes around to his side of the bed. It's the way today, when the six of us were gathered around that bed talking to my father about whether he thought he could handle one more hit of chemo or whether he was ready to let go...it was the way he turned to my mother and they just looked at each other for the longest time.


I don't think we want it to rain, though the weather is changing down here in L.A. The skies, while still blue, have patches of white and gray as well. It's not just the Sunday hunt for the little kids that might be spoiled, their disappointment for having to do it inside the house, but it's my dad and everything that has already fallen around here.

It's how he's stopped speaking to us because it's too much work, because it only comes out in a whisper, because there's nothing more to say. "Are you in pain?" we ask, "On a scale of 1-10
is it a 5?" we'll prod. "Are you hungry dad? Should we turn on the ball game, listen to some music?"

They say that the dying begin a retreat from everything that is life. "What's the point?" they think. They won't be a part of it anyway.

Rain, rain go away, come again another day.