04 February 2015

Reflections

I have somehow been spending a lot of time reflecting recently. I say "somehow" because I have no idea how it's possible to reflect in the chaotic din of dinosaurs, monster trucks and super heroes all fighting with one another constantly. Couple that with the occasional screech from the small child, the myriad of bleeps, honks and tunes coming from the 27 electronic baby toys lying around and the incessant yapping from the chihuahua and you would agree that it's an aural cacophony of dissonance that would likely drive anyone batshit crazy within mere moments.

The Dinos prepare for all out warfare
(Side note here: if you should grow weary of the dinos and trucks and spider man all waring with one another and remove them from your boy child's grasp then crayons will suddenly rise up against pencils, pipe cleaners will torture poor defenseless cotton balls and alphabet refrigerator magnets will explode like bombs, shooting googly eyes and construction paper bullets everywhere. The death and destruction NEVER ENDS. Just FYI.)

Perhaps it is because of this constant noise in my home (paired with the severe lack of adult conversation or companionship) that I have found a way to retreat. And rather than sitting myself upon a sunny beach with a rum punch in my hand and dolphins jumping near the reef in the distance, I have chosen to hash through all sorts of old and completely random memories from all periods of my life like a broke bargain hunter at the world's largest rummage sale...so much for sale, no money to buy...trash and treasures galore.

But mostly trash.

Reflecting can be a seriously useless exercise. Scratch that. Reflecting can be downright dangerous and bad for your health. All the wisest idiots throughout history understand this - it's why we are so often at war and why rome will fall again and again: reflecting is bad for the cyclical nature of progress and failure. God forbid we should learn from our mistakes. But I digress.

I'm not trying to be a negative nancy here but my reflections have turned up a lot of awkwardness at best and grief at worst. So here I am sifting through embarrassment after embarrassment, mistake after mistake, death after loss after missed opportunity. Even high points have turned into something to be mistrusted...did that really happen?...perhaps that person was just lying to me...

Yes, welcome to my melancholy.

People are messy. So are memories. LIFE is messy...really fucking messy. And I'm trying to figure out when I became a neat freak. (Figuratively of course, my house is a mess: I rely on the dogs to clean up after the 11 month old has eaten, the six year old - as I mentioned before - well, all I really have to say about him is: he's a boy. And I'm a terrible multi-tasker.) No, what I'm saying is I'm trying to figure out when my desire for The Life I Understood became incompatible with The Life That Actually Happened.

How interesting that the changing currents of the present can completely and dramatically recolor the past. What is there to be relied upon? We are terrible eye witnesses. TERRIBLE.  11 different people had 11 different versions of what happened to Michael Brown the day he got shot down by a cop in Ferguson Missouri. We cannot be relied upon to recall events accurately in any way. So why are we plagued with the talent of remembrance? Cursed with the skill for the totally unreliable recollection of thought and experience. Why must we keep lying to ourselves and calling it the truth?

One of the first posts I wrote had to do with an old trunk I have that I open only when it's absolutely necessary that I put something in it. When I do open it I don't dig around - I put the thing in and shut it as quick as I can. This trunk holds old remembrances that I can't possibly part with but which I also cannot possibly stand to have about my house, just out where I can see. The act of touching these old things I own produces a kinetic shock to my memory. It's like I have to relive all these old experiences when I touch these old photos, journals, scrapbooks, etc. So I lock them away...maybe for a time when I hope they will have lost their potency and I can finally manage to just throw them away without concern for the sentiment of that symbology.

These reflections I've been having are like digging through that trunk. But now I can't just open it and put something in real quick and shut the lid. That doesn't really work when it's your brain. (soul? Where are memories stored?) In this instance the trunk seems to be full. Overflowing in fact. Which means it's time for a purge.

Hence the blog today. And maybe one tomorrow. Tomorrow's will be about kindness. About how Im interested in seeing it make a comeback.

21 July 2014

Does this make me a hippie?

That I changed my daughter's name? In my defense I'd like to say that we still have not gotten her birth certificate so changing her name was as hard as just starting to call her Rowan instead of calling her Marley. Plus she'll have a really funny story to tell her friends when she gets older about how her mom is indecisive and perhaps even a little bit loony.

I knew there was a reason I gave her two middle names. See her name was Marlena Rowan Harper and now she's Rowan Harper. I'm not that crazy ok? It's not like I changed her name to Moonbeam River Trout Storm. Yes I co-sleep with her too but that also does not make me a hippie, it makes me lazy. It's a serious pain in the ass to get up 6 to 8 times a night to soothe a waking baby. AND YES MY BABY STILL WAKES UP 6 TO 8 TIMES A NIGHT SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT IT. (Please) I'm so sorry, that must have been a little sleep deprivation induced rage. (Seriously though if one more person asks me if she's sleeping through the night...ok that's another post entirely.)

It really is this simple: she seems much more like someone who is called Rowan than Marley. She's very charming and smiley, she can be extremely loud and pushy, and she already has a razor sharp focus. Rowan is a tree. it also means red in the Irish context. So she's rooted (which she is). And her hair is a little red in the sun.

And also, because I said so.

Yeah ok, that doesn't work on Jack either. So I'm a hippie. Here's another hippie thing about me: I've been wondering lately if all these planned cesarean births in this country are screwing with kids numerology? I don't even think i believe in numerology but if I did I would be concerned about how parents are deciding their kids numerology rather than...biology, I guess. And so what does that do to your identity later in life?

Ok that's pretty ridiculous and also I think sleep deprivation induced hysteria. Can someone google it for me and find out if there is a whole "Don't mess with your kid's numerology" movement out there? I'm curious. And now I will nap.


18 July 2014

Fortunate Fool


I woke up this morning and came out to the living room to find my 5 year old boy sitting on the couch looking quietly contemplative. Generally when I see this sort of scenario I try not to make eye contact and I sit quietly near by, sort of minding my own business. I do this because the morning, at this point, can go one of two ways: either he's relaxing and nothing is wrong, or he's pissed off and if I look at him for even a second he'll call me names and throw himself on the ground crying. (Actually he doesn't do that so much anymore, and getting a 5 year old to laugh through a scowl is about as easy as yelling "stinky butt!") But Jack can tend toward the moody in the mornings so it's best not to prod the tiger. I sit on the couch with Rowan on my lap, too tired to chat it up anyway.

"Hi Mom." Hmmm, ok, it's cool to make eye contact now since he initiated conversation...

"Morning Jack." Pause.

"I was just reading this book," says Jack. And he lifts it up for me to see. I didn't even realize there was a book in his hands. Here it is:



Right on. No, my kid was not reading this book but man I love it when an opportunity just presents itself on a silver platter. So this is the one we chose to read (and we read it twice to savor it):

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing useful
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

It's interesting timing, this poem right now. My kid is definitely that fool who cannot fail pulling all the sky over him with his brilliant smile. Now how to keep him smiling? How to keep him young and listening to the birds?

I think about the job of parenting all the time (duh!) I make lists of all the parenting books I need to read. I am subscribed to a million blogs because I don't have time to read books. I don't read my emails because I'm subscribed to a million blogs and I don't have time to sort...247 times a day I wonder how many ways I'm screwing up my children, how many ways I could be doing things differently, saying things differently. 134 times a day I catch myself nagging, and 82 times a day I find myself getting mad and then getting mad at myself for getting mad because my kid is FIVE for Jebus sake and he is still learning and why not do nothing useful and love my kids more than truly? Why not?

Because a river of sand pours out of your shoes every damn time you take them off. Because I'm exhausted and hungry and not interested in getting up from my dinner that I only just sat down to after making two different dinners (yours and everyone else's) to get you a glass of milk. Because you beg for sugary treats like the junkies looking to score down the block and I know I'm your pusher. Because most of the time you're nice to me because you know I'll take away TV or popsicles if you're not. Because you jump on the couch and knock shit over all the time. Because you have zero understanding of or experience with concepts like compassion and generosity and the world still revolves around you and what you can get and how often and how much. Because all of these things, all of these ways that you are are my fault, and really I'm just mad mad mad at myself for failing you every single time.

and even if it's sunday may i be wrong

Sing it brother.

I get it. I do. None of that bullshit matters. (Well, compassion and generosity matter but I know that stuff takes a lifetime to cultivate...I'm just so impatient.) What does matter is the love I have that actually is so way more than truly. A clean house and clean kids could be a sign that something is terribly wrong and so I'm thinking about more sand to not sweet up and sticky fingers to hand more watermelon to. I'm thinking about how it's summer and summers are for kids and my kid is about to start SCHOOL school! I'm thinking about how I need to breathe more and relax more and how I need to make more water balloons. Before my little fool is all grown up and it's not summer anymore and yelling "stinky butt!" will just elicit eye rolls and extreme embarrassment.

Thanks for the quiet learning moment with my kid this morning e.e. I don't know if Jack learned anything but I certainly did.

30 June 2014

Do the Terrible Twos ever really end?

Because I am beginning to think they start at two and continue to maybe something like 32? I don't mean to freak out parents of children who are currently 4 and under but I am noticing that just when it seems like we're through it and the small child is becoming somewhat human, he goes and calls me a butthead and throws something at me, confirming my belief that he might remain a caveman forever.

Hello, I'm back. I hope to blog more, now that I have a second rugrat it occurs to me I'll have 4 more years of tantrums and tears to write about and twice as much fodder for material, not to mention blackmail for the teenage years which I hear are just like the terrible twos only with more advanced vocabulary, an understanding of how to operate door knobs, and no fear of going to the bathroom by themselves.

I had an old friend over for BBQ yesterday with her family. Her son is newly 4 years old and she's experiencing the beginning of the end of the torturous threes. The clouds are starting to part and you can see the PTSD starting to fade. It's a beautiful thing. Her visit got me to thinking about a few things: 1) blogging more and 2) How awesome it is to hang out with parents who believe that its best to wait and see how their kid will navigate the treacherous waters of social interaction before intervening, even when there is conflict between the children. And maybe even ESPECIALLY when there is conflict.  My friend was very gracious about letting the kids try to work it out on their own, and not a lot of parents are these days.

Because here's the thing I think we can all agree on: our sweet, beautiful, belly laughing, wonder seeking children are also assholes. They just are. And not just some of them. Most likely ALL of them are assholes. They are little humans in training. As my husband likes to say it: it is our job to teach him how to defeat his own nature. YEAH. Let that one sink in for a minute...because it is absolutely the truth. Children are unfiltered and honest and raw and emotional and unregulated and it IS our job to teach them how to defeat those qualities. Case in point: Jack says to me recently, "I said I wanted CEREAL, not fruit! I want cereal NOW!!" And in a very rare moment of sanity and calm I saw this for what it was - just honest reaction. He's not trying to be a dick, he's just saying it like it is. So it's my job to help him defeat the inclination to sound like a dick. Another way to say this is it's my job to teach him manners. Either way you roll it...our kids are assholes. Ok, back to that...

What I want more than anything is to hang out with people (and their kids) and have a full on NON-INTERVENTION policy. And here's why: my child learns very little from my words and my nagging and my trying to explain how the world works. He's 5, his attention span is BAT MAN. What I want more than anything is for him to be fully immersed in the world of learning through natural consequence. I want him to learn that when he says, "I don't want to be your friend you baby-head," that this will hurt feelings and maybe the kid he's playing with will walk away...then Jack gets to learn first hand what it feels like to hurt someone's feelings and maybe it won't feel too good. I could tell him that it sucks to hurt people's feelings or he could experience the shame from having done it and correct it.  You guess which way is more effective.

And I want to hang with people who (like my old friend) will not even give me a second glance when my kid says something that asinine and jerky. Because we don't have to judge each other guys! It's not our faults that our kids are assholes! They are 5 or 4 or 3 and they are learning how to defeat their own natures. So can we just let them do that? And can we let them do it in such a way that is more powerful than a nag from a parent?

I'm already thinking ahead to when Rowan is ready to head to the park... how can I manage to get all the adults there to not rush to her side if she takes a totally non life threatening tumble or gets sand in her eyes because she threw it at another child. Natural consequences are where it's at. I'm absolutely determined to let this be the course of learning for monkey number 2. Because I helicoptered around Jack a whole lot, partly because I had no idea what I was doing and partly because I saw others around me doing the same and I didn't want to be the odd asshole out who was "not parenting my kid".

Not to mention, if we let the kids do what they're going to do and be the little jerks they are (as long as there is no physical violence) then that just means we get to have more grown up conversation and we get to drink our beers in peace and we might actually enjoy the warm summer evening.

Thanks to my friend Adriana and her family for the nice, warm summer evening with totally limited intervention. And thanks also to her for the reminder that blogging is cathartic and connective. Now if only I had a few child free hours added to the day. Oh and 3 more hours of sleep. And would more beer be too much to ask?

20 March 2014

Marley's Birth Story

Marley arrived on her due date, February 12, 2014, at 2:40 pm in the comfort of our home on a gorgeous 80 degree Los Angeles day. I woke at 3:15am to real contractions. I had been having Braxton hicks contractions for most of my pregnancy (these are the non-painful "practice" contractions you get generally late in pregnancy. I happen to have an over achieving uterus so I contracted my entire pregnancy.) So I'm pretty clear on which contractions are which.  I laid in bed for a while and waited to see what it was all about. After a few contractions I got up and grabbed my phone so I could start tracking them. I went back to bed and started timing: every 10 to 15 minutes. I actually did that thing I'd read about - I slept in between them. I couldn't sleep during the contractions but I had no issue sleeping in between. I was relaxed. Like my first labor I assumed I was not in labor, just having pre-labor or false labor. I had heard and read so much about pre- labor that I kept telling myself, "the real deal could still be days away!" But I tracked the contractions just in case...

I got up at 7am and told Jason what was happening. We basically went into wait and see mode. Business as usual. Take the kid to school, go to the grocery store, cook some food: this was Jason's agenda. Mine included calling the midwife and having some breakfast. Angela (my midwife) texted me around 9:15 to let me know she was going to have some breakfast and then come set up her equipment. I told her I thought it might be too early (at this point I'm still pretty sure I'm not in labor) but if she wanted to come I was cool with that.

Angela arrived at about 11am. I greeted her in the driveway and spoke to her while I was having a contraction (any midwife will tell you that if the pregnant lady is cheery and able to talk to you through contractions then you've arrived WAY too early for the birth.) I resumed my walk through our back yard and up and down our driveway, walking being a good way to get things moving. Jason fixed me some great food, I ate, I walked, I swayed, I breathed. I was still pretty sure I was not in labor.

At noon Angela checked me and I was 1 centimeter dilated. This came as no surprise to me since I was not in labor. So she pulled my cervix forward and tried to stretch it a bit, achieving maybe another centimeter at most. None of this was terribly uncomfortable. Then around 12:30 she decided to leave and give us a little space, see if things might get moving with more walking and quiet.

As soon as Angela left we started to see some progress. The contractions got a little more intense and required a little more concentration. At one point I got into the bath tub because my pelvis was achy. Some time around 1:15 I told Jason to fill up the birthing tub. This is about the time I decided I was in labor. The story goes that Jason texted Angela and Aleks (our second midwife) and said "she's demanding I fill up the tub". They were at a Starbucks a mile from our house when the text came through. They looked at each other and agreed immediately that it was time to return.

At 1:40 the midwives arrived. I was laboring on an exercise ball. I recall this period of time being relatively consumed with the contractions as they were happening but then being much more lucid in between as opposed to last time where I hit a point in my labor when the whole world disappeared and I was focused inward the whole time. I remember we had music playing and I sang for a while in between contractions...it was "Old Brown's Daughter" by Great Big Sea. I remember the contractions getting much more intense quickly after that. I stood up which intensified my labor. And while I was tempted to sit back down on the ball I didn't. There was a voice chattering at me in my head that I needed to stay in the most intense physical place so that I could make progress. That voice, I'm still surprised by its presence. It was definitely a voice of reason not a voice of panic or fear or criticism. I had my own little inner coach...no idea where she came from either.

It's interesting looking back. The day before I went into labor could tell something had shifted. Sitting down I felt totally normal but standing or walking was leaps and bounds more difficult, consuming my energy and breath and focus. Something was weird and I think I even texted with the midwives saying that I was suspicious that something had changed. Indeed.

So. Upright it is. I was standing and clutching Jason for dear life during a particularly intense contraction when my water broke. Just like the first time it was so sudden and so big that I was shocked into lucidity. "Oh!" I said. Jason recognized that immediately, it was the same as the first time. "Her water broke," he called out to the midwives. 

Suddenly there is motion in the room. Suddenly there is noise in my head: a buzzing of chaos, that voice is chattering at me, the pain has its own sound, I'm groaning and moaning, the music is playing in the background. Finally I am letting go of lucidity and going into labor land but it's on the edge of too late because the pain is on the edge of too intense and I'm not quite lala enough to disconnect from it. So I'm suddenly aware that this is intense and am going to remember this one clearly and dear god I hope it's over soon.

They help me get into the tub which is this gigantic inflatable behemoth. Once I'm in I look up and everyone is really, really far away. So I cling to the edge for a while glancing briefly at the little alter I set up with my Buddha statue that was my focal point for Jack's birth, and the wooden horse statue that Jason got me 12 days previous in Chinatown to celebrate the Chinese New Year. And then the most shocking sensation of all hits me: the undeniable overwhelming urge to push. 

THIS SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF ME.

Again, something I read about but never actually experienced. Never with Jack's birth did I feel the urge to push. The midwives had to check me and tell me I was dilated enough to push. So naturally, when I felt that urge this time around, which was a sensation that could not be ignored or denied in any way, in kinda flipped out. "I'm pushing!" I yelled out, thinking I'm screwed if it's not time to push yet and I hope they say it's ok to push because I can do nothing but fucking push!! Aleks says "great, just listen to your body" and I'm thinking she's being terribly calm and accepting of this whole pushing thing. When the contraction is over I asked several times if it was ok to push and I recall someone smiling and saying "I don't think you could not push at this point". And she was right. I think back now to the stories of women in hospitals being told by their nurses to not push because the doctor hasn't arrived. Ha! Someone who says don't push has never been in labor and deserves our severest pity for their ignorance.

So now I'm pushing and it's feeling a little futile. The tub just wasn't my friend this time around. I kept trying to find a good position to push but it was difficult to let gravity be king in the tub. I was on all fours, I was on my back, and for some reason when the pushing came around I was vocalizing and grunting and yelling (which is to say I wasn't pushing since the most productive kind of pushing happens with the breath held.) So occasionally the voice of one of my midwives in my ear speaking above the din of chaos, "Kerry try holding your breath when you push," ...(oh, right...duh. Shit.) "that's good, make room for the baby." I try to widen my stance. And then above all the noise and chaos... "Heart rate is 90 during the contractions." I don't need to be a midwife or even lucid to hear the concern in that remark. A quick mental backtrack tells me that the heart rate usually hovered around 140. 90 doesn't sound too good.

Suddenly it's time to get out of the tub. I'm being ushered up and out but I have to have a quick push first before I figure out how to heave myself over the friggin side of that humongous tub. When the contraction subsides I say (just like last time) "I can't." And what I mean is I really literally cannot get out of the tub someone is going to have to lift me. "Jason lift my leg." Jason moves to help me but in such a way that assumes I can do some of this work myself - "no really, LIFT my leg". (Side note here: from the time I was about 16 weeks pregnant my pelvis got misaligned and caused me to be miserable for the rest of my pregnancy, 24 more weeks. For 24 weeks I could not lift my leg to put my pants on. For 24 weeks I could not bend over and walk. For 24 weeks I could not get out of my car one leg at a time. Now I'm being asked to hoist myself out of a waist high tub in the middle of trying to push a baby out. Needless to say they ended up having to lift me out.)

These ladies worked fast, there was a birthing stool all set up with chuck pads all over the place to catch the mess. I had to move fast because the pushing contractions were coming like every 30 seconds it seemed. As soon as I was out of the tub I sat and pushed. I don't recall if it was right away or if it took another push or two but I was lucid enough this time around to feel to entire decent of baby's head through my pelvis and out. The crowning took only one push and the head was born. I remember about half way through that push feeling that very powerful unmistakable sensation of her head descending and I remember having a stab of fear like maybe I should wait and not feel that yet. And then that crazy voice inside my head piped up and said, "Hey Kerry, the only way through this is through it. The sooner you push the sooner this is over." So I didn't back off at all and ended up achieving a lot of ground in that one moment. Angela tells me she felt a wave of relief at seeing the baby's head and watching the color pink drain into it. She poked around a bit and found a nuchal chord (one loop of umbilical chord around the neck, as well as her little hand resting right next to her chin (This little hand was suspected as the culprit of so much of my pelvic pain.) My eyes are still shut tight, there is still this loud chorus in my head of thoughts and sounds and the sound of my pain and the sound of my blood rushing and racing. And I can feel it all coming to a head, the sound rises, the room starts rotating, the sun ducks behind some clouds, the air grows thin...

The last contraction comes and I push with all my might remembering some advice from a friend to breathe out on the last push to avoid tearing (how did I remember to do the right things in the midst of such chaos?) And then here is how it happened that my child was born: she dropped right out of me and I heard a splash, I felt an instantaneous void in my belly that was such a monumental relief to me. My eyes opened and I looked down and the earth stopped spinning. The cacophony in my head completely silenced in an instant, the wind ceased, the voice disappeared. You could hear a pin drop a million miles away. Nothing in nature moved. My baby was brought to my chest (after her papa and Angela caught her all slippery, and unwrapped her chord) and the entire world paused in silence to have a look at bloody perfection in my arms. And the world was quiet. So, so quiet. It was 2:40 pm, approximately an hour and a half after I admitted I was in labor.

An hour old.


My aural memory of this event is so strong. Sometimes it's the sounds that stay with you I suppose. When I got into a motorcycle accident when I was 22 the sound was so deafening - the crash and then the wind whistling through my hair as I flew across the intersection, head bare because there were no helmet laws. Not that my labor and birth were like a motorcycle crash! No, it's that the sounds were so profoundly there and loud and then so suddenly NOT there and quiet. I could almost feel the receptors in my body releasing all the separate hormones like squirts of a powerful drug through an IV. The world slowed and tiny details were recorded like deep grooves in stone.  This is how we record and report monumental events in our lives, through a profound aural memory or a vivd recall of tiny internal details.

I feel so fortunate to have had two very positive and empowering births, and I recognize that that's not always the case for some women. But my experience has shown me the power of trust and belief in the body to do what nature dictated and I am left with a profound sense of awe for the creative process, as usual.

And so a final word about my method...I know a fair number of my friends privately believed I had gone off the rails in wanting to have a home birth and I just want to say Thanks to all of them for not voicing their criticisms. Staying in a positive environment allowed me to do this the way I wanted to as much as my diet and desire and my body's cooperation. Also, it's just not as crazy as you think. Most of the time birth is not an emergency and does not require a hospital. Thankfully hospitals are there for when we need them, and thankfully I didn't need one. Being in my own comfortable space and surrounded by people who believed in me and loved me (my husband and my midwives) was priceless. What an amazing experience.


This is Angela, one of my awesome midwives, measuring Marley.


This is Aleks, my other awesome midwife, helping Jack weigh Marley
who was 7 pounds 7 ounces.

This is love.

25 September 2013

Flights of Angels...



The advent of my mother's death was not what I expected…that's maybe not the right word…imagined? Well, and…it's certainly not what you must be thinking it was. I did not behave the way I thought I might or could…or maybe even wanted to. I was not graceful and generous the way people are in the movies at the deathbed of a loved one. I was awkward and mechanical. Stoic even, save for a few moments. I even scolded my mother a few times for leaving me with such a big fucking mess to clean up. Who does that? Yells at someone who is dying for fucking it all up? Well, I do apparently.

We had a few choice moments though. My Mom was very open to discussing death and her afterlife. And she had great moments of peaceful clarity when talking to me about what she was looking forward to, the things that were now eminent. My belief structure differs vastly from my mother's but we had one moment of alignment when discussing the soul of my unborn child. I do happen to believe that my child's soul spent some time in the ethers investigating me…and possibly others. My Mom and I agreed that it was fortuitous that she was about to cross over just at the time when my child's soul was still looking for me. She agreed to find her and greet her and show her the way.

I did ask my mother repeatedly if she was afraid or in pain. The answer was always no.

When her flame was extinguished there was not a single trace of her left. She did not seem to linger, even for a moment. It makes me think that her version of afterlife came true for her…a life that was so much more full and rich and promising than the one she left behind. I get the strong sense she went into that future without looking back once and with no hesitation. Because she is undoubtedly gone. Vanished.

But then my mother's flame in my house was always weak…like a small 25 cent votive, tucked away on a high shelf in the corner. Compare this to my son's flame, which burns in my house like a bonfire in the center of every room. Or my husband's flame which smolders solidly and strongly like coals that have been building for decades, in the best places in the house for maximum warmth.

My mother's flame was a bonfire for her husband, and he preferred to stand at a distance with a sweater until the very end when it finally dawned on him (2 days before her death) that she was dying and that there would be no recovery for her. Now he's lost. And I'm picking up his pieces.

Hours before my mother died she started what they call the death rattle. We just thought she was choking so we called to hospice nurse. When the nurse arrived she spent 10 minutes timing her breath. we all went outside and she informed us that my Mom was breathing in short intervals with stretches of 45 to 60 seconds of no breathing. This, she informs us, is the beginning of the end. She helps me administer morphine and gives me instructions on how to proceed for the next few hours. I gave her a final dose of morphine at about 2 am and excused myself to go take a nap. This was the last time I saw my mother alive. I did not tell her I loved her or say goodbye.

At 4:10am my stepfather called me and said, "Kerry, she's gone." in a disbelieving voice, implying that I should come right away and check because the unthinkable had just happened…HIS unthinkable had just happened…and was there any possibility he called it wrong? All this in his voice.  "I'm coming, " I reply. And I roll off the couch and walk the 500 feet to their home and indeed she was gone, like I said - completely and totally absent. She didn't look much different than she had for the previous 3 days, or even 2 weeks. But there was complete stillness and a profound quiet. And that was new. I touched her and she was so very warm still, she had only passed minutes before.

My mother's funeral was very…mormon. Everyone I dealt with was very nice. And very different from me. There was one woman who, while also being very nice and dropping off a great homemade stew, went on and on about her ailing and dead children for over an hour. The day after my mother passed. I guess some people just desperately need to be listened to. I couldn't tear my eyes away from her top secret special mormon under garments that were peeking through her shirt. (She was one of the serious ones.)

Anyway her funeral was exactly what she would have wanted. Which pissed me off for several reasons: 1) funerals are not for the dead, they are for the living. 2) as I mentioned before she was GONE baby GONE. There was not a trace of her, which means she most emphatically did NOT stick around for her own funeral, which was devised wholly by her and for her and ONLY for her. So it pisses me off that she made us all sit through that (very nice, quiet, somber, mormon) funeral without her.

I'm a little shocked that she is gone. And SO gone. It just doesn't strike me as being like her to do that. But my Mother had a few surprises up her sleeve in her lifetime, doing things occasionally that were so far out of character. I'm a lot shocked that I miss her as much as I do. A lot. Who knew? Indeed, who?

Saying bye to Grandma.

12 August 2013

This is Not For You

I keep hearing Eddie Vedder screaming it in my head, "THIS IS NOT FOR YOU!!" It's my theme song this week. And last week. And maybe next week. You see I'm planning my mother's funeral. With my mother's constant input. 

The wreath for the grave should be a circular creation of pink carnations with a lavender bow but the flowers for the church should be a classic combination of lily's and jackalillies or some other weird unheard of exotic flower. The program for the memorial is full of too many hyphens and the duet really needs to be a solo but maybe it should be a duet, let's think about that for a while shall we? Meanwhile the poem inspired by a recent hallucination needs to be capitalized at the beginning of each new line and that semi colon really needs to be a colon..

My mother (who mostly sees double these days due to crappy reading glasses) spent an hour looking over the price list from the mortuary and was quite pleased with the pink casket with the white satin interior that we picked out for her. Purple would have been best but hey, beggars can't be choosers. Then came the pictures taken from the cemetery: There needs to be a tree which gathers afternoon shade. The view should be of the whole valley.

The tree she will be buried beneath, complete with shade.

The view from the grave site. Not too shabby.

She thinks 10am is a good time for a burial, the sun should be just about right and it shouldn't be too hot. "Write that down." For the tenth time we go over the list of people to be notified when she dies. The list has about 10 names on it. We go over it again. "Should we get the will done?" I suppose so, if it's important to you that your tiny blue and white vase collection go to the proper person.

I'm sent on a spelunking expedition into the bowels of her little hoarder mobile home trailer to find a wee jewelry box in the midst of a mess I cannot even begin to explain. Through what must be divine intervention I find the jewelry box and am offered first dibs on any of the junk treasures inside. Now it's my duty to distribute the rest to my sister-in-law and step-sister-in-law.

I'm exhausted. From holding back the incredible urge to sing/scream at the top of my lungs that Pearl Jam song, my theme song.

But my mom finished with the paperwork, we talked through what the day would be like from start to finish, and we finished the program. We finished, and she agreed that our work was done and that the funeral sounded like it would be a beautiful affair. We finished and I closed the books and the papers and I said, "It's done mom, let's just relax now." And so she did. For the next 24 hours she had a massive influx of hallucinations. I think she did let go a little. Although today she was explaining to me that she was trying to get some help around here, that she was trying to give all the people in the room some directions and things to do. Even though there were no people in the room. She's not quite ready to let go of providing instructions to "every one in the room"

This is what I know: that a birth and a death are the surest, most powerful ways to have an unfettered experience of absolute TRUTH. These two events are also the best way to have a full to bursting experience of what I like to call You And All Your Shit that Comes With You. These 2 events are paths that lead directly to Great Unresolved Things. And these things demand to be attended to. It is in fact your job to attend to these things when a birth or death happens.

So there is this happening too...


My old friend Amy put it really well, "It is a strange stage to be in life now. The vitality, energy and pure life force of raising a child...and the exhausted calm of waiting for an end."

Yes, life is beginning and ending. What an astounding cycle I am witnessing...and creating.

Hey let's go listen to that song. I'd link it here but I'm blogging challenged.