note to self: beware emotional landmines

For part of the last week, I experienced something new:  calm and clarity.  I could feel it start on the Friday, pushing through the fog that actually parted instead of closing over me.  By that Monday I had emerged in time to enjoy the warm spring sunshine streaming shadows in the budding yard.

By Wednesday, I knew that I had been floating along gently, same rhythm as the last many months–two to three hours of “doing” followed the rest of the day and evening by “being.”  But calm.  No brain-addled anxiety.  For 5 days.  Days of — what?  How do I describe?  Days of the opposite of the last 5 months.  Serenity.

Bang.  Hatefulness right between the eyes by a once-close family member.  I had set her aside a year-and-a-half ago following a vicious attack-by-proxy.   The way I had to set our father aside a generation before he died because he was a walking landmine.

With bomblets in his pockets, he wandered through many lives, dropping them when a new shiny caught his attention.  He was a brilliant man, but his social intelligence was petrifying to observe and to be swept up in.

He taught the next generation well, but it was his social skills he taught.  How horribly sad.    He should not have been a parent.  He made a great husband, I guess, because he married six times.

What she doesn’t see:  she has improved on his version of creating destruction–he wandered away, but she flings the bombs to protect herself against any perceived slights.    And, worse yet, she doesn’t yet know that she has taught the next generation, father’s grandson, to live in fear.  She doesn’t see her ripple effects or just doesn’t care.

She also doesn’t know that sending hurt my way won’t ease the horrible hurts he inflicted on her.  Getting whole by proxy doesn’t work.

Enough about them.   Hatefulness has been commented upon.

By Friday, I was feeling tired and knew that my 5 days of calm clarity were drawing to a close.   I hung on, a deeply hidden part of me screeching with despair:  here comes the fog and upset, but it can’t be, because I felt so good and how could it just end like that for no reason when I followed all the damn rules to be quiescent?  And why do I keep saying I’ve had 5 days of calm when it has been 7 since the start of the calm?  Oh, because on the 5th day came the hate.

I don’t have much emotional capacity still.   Emotional experiences use up my limited brain battery, leaving less ability for nicer pursuits.  An overt demonstration of familial hatefulness would have been difficult in the before-time.  Now, I pay an astonishingly steep price.

Isn’t that the way of hatefulness, though?  An immediate price is exacted from the recipient, an emotional slug to the chops.  The purveyor of hate will have a price to pay.  Later.  In living color.

Now it is up to me to make room in my life for what I want:  calm.  After living through the anguish of laser-guided hate, I will put thoughts away; I must not allow them to roam around, poking at the wound, keeping it festering.  I have done this before with family.  Now that I’m well-practiced, it will go more easily, I’m sure.


Cupid stops in: An Odd Ode to Big Mister

Cupid:  Hello you, two.  Since you’re so comfortable together, surely your first fabulous meeting 14 years ago would be a good story to tell.  You met when you were in your 40s, correct?

Him and Her:  Uh, yeah.

Cupid:   So, tell us!  We’re excited to hear!

Him:  My friend Robin, the 70 y.o. Master of the tugboat Joe had met her recently.  One day during the annual Maritime Fest, she came into the 100+ y.o. wheat warehouse that housed the local working waterfront maritime center, and Robin and I happened to be standing together.  He nudged me.

Robin:  She has a kayak.

Him:  I introduced myself to her.

Her:  Can’t remember a thing.  It was the morphine, I think.

Cupid:  Uh,  OK.   What happened next?

Her:   I was attending volunteer meetings at that 100-y.o. dock building.  He had been volunteering for eons and was at those meetings.  I was definitely put off by him because  at every damn volunteer meeting, he was a crab-ass and smelled of beer.  I ignored him successfully for six months.

Him:  She didn’t talk to me and seemed pretty crabby.  I remember that she was always wearing those long skirts with those long sweaters over them and I wondered what she had on under there.

Her:  You did?!   Sheesh!  It was cold in there!

Him:  Oh yeah….

Cupid:   OK, OK, enough of that.  Did you actually talk?

Her:  Not when I could avoid it, and I was good at that!  I didn’t talk much back then–I’d just uprooted my life of 16 years, plus I was on the morphine, so I wasn’t interested in talking particularly.

One time he came into the only warm room in the whole giant building, a teeny pilot house–maybe 8 feet by 10 feet.  I was there keeping warm, getting ready to go home after my volunteer shift.  It went something like this:

To Herself:  Oh crap.  Why’s he coming in here?   I don’t want to be trapped in here with him.  Can I snake outta here first?  Nope.

I was sure he was going to be rude and surly because that’s how he was in those volunteer meetings.  Believe me, I didn’t have anywhere near enough morphine on-board to fend that off.

Him:   [looking perplexed and a little hurt]  I just wanted to ask you what you thought about Casey [a pseudonym for another volunteer].

Her:  Oh, yeah, I finally figured that out.  I held my breath for the first few minutes you were in that tiny space with me, wondering when you’d say something tart.   I kept wondering how long I had to stay in order to seem polite.  Then, you quite reasonably started talking about your frustration with Casey.

Him:  Yeah, I really needed to talk [about her].

Her:   Yep, you did.  It was then that I realized that in those meetings you were crabby because of her and you fortified yourself with beer before the meetings hoping that would help.  But I still got outta there as fast as I could.

Cupid:   Hoo-boy.  I can’t believe you two got together at all.  How on earth did you even have a date?  I shoulda stayed around to be sure the arrows actually pierced those thick hides of yours.

Him and Her:   Harrumph!

Him:   She had to go to her storeroom and really dreaded it.  It was really hard for her to see her life all packed up like that.  So, I volunteered to go with her.  And she said YES!

Her:   Oh yes, he was good company.  On the way back, we stopped for dinner at his favorite Vietnamese restaurant that he’d been going to for at least 10 years, probably more.  We agreed much later that it was a date, the first date.

Him:   Yes, she was a tough cookie back then.  Well…  still is… but, I mean, well, er.  Never mind.

Cupid:   OK, that was going pretty well.  Tell us more.  Let me get this straight:  you finally had a first date six months after you met because you both were tetchy types.  That about cover it?

Him and Her:  Uh, yeah.  [throat clearing and shifting around in chairs]

Her:   You invited me to take a walk in one of your favorite parks, my kind of place because it was unimproved.  As we walked single-file along a narrow trail, we started talking.  You kept saying amazing things:  it was apparent that you observed the world and actually thought about things.  After that day in the park, it was all downhill from there.  We were relaxed together.

Him:  I kept asking her to go do things and she kept saying yes!  I liked showing her my favorite places.

Her:   I was so dense that I completely missed that he was showing me his favorite places!  Duh.

Him:   Oh well.

Her:   Other people have always commented on our relaxed companionship.  Said they liked to be around us as a couple.  Nice, huh?

Cupid:  Very nice.  [big frikkin’ miracle if you ask me, but you weren’t asking, but still!!! …]

Cupid:   I’m wondering how you remember the date of your first meeting 14 years ago when clearly one of you wasn’t all there and the other one was looking at, uh, you know, her clothing.

Him and Her:    We met during Maritime Fest, even have the poster from the event.  It has the date on it [smugly stated].

Cupid:  How ro-man-tic[Not!  These two are, uh, I dunno.  The date’s on the poster?!   What?!  At least my part was done correctly. Never going back and asking questions in a dreamy-eyed mood.  Never again.   I’ll get squashed flat and I’m not setting myself up for that again!]

Cupid:   Well, that was certainly, uh, um, elucidating.  You two definitely come under the heading of Will Wonders Never Cease?   Good luck!  Gotta run!  Cheers!  [Let me outta here; I hope the door isn’t locked!]

we kept the date to hand! good thing because first I thought it was 14 Sept, then I knew for certain it was 28 Sept. rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, wrong on both counts!

Thank you, Big Mister, for being persistent.

Click on one of these photos to go right to the Foss Waterway Seaport site.

Historic sailing vessels in front of the wheat warehouse. (photo courtesy:

Inside the building with those massive beams–each beam milled from a single tree. Back in the days when we hadn’t cut down all the massive old-growth timber.

The glass front is being added right now! Quite gorgeous so far!

never mind; I’m used to the other way

Big Mister, swell Big Mister, has been giving me a boatload of his time.  He works hard at his job 5 days a week, makes the drive to visit my mother one evening a week, does 98% of the cooking, fixes my shoulder when it goes bad, and just generally is a delightful companion.

Today, he was helping me to extend the shelving in the studio.  My idea about construction is:  I just want two shelves right there, only about 4 feet long, so it should be fast.  No. No. No.  Poor patient guy.  He does manage to show me the error of my ways like so:

“Here, hold this.”

“Do you want to hold this up or go fetch?”  (I chose “fetch,” but he made me be the holder-upper.)

“Help me tighten the clamps, then you won’t have to hold the wood while I use the saw because it makes you cry.”

I’m willing, so start to twist the screw thingie to get the clamp to meet the boards.   I don’t even bother to think:  lefty-lucy, righty-tighty because it’s never what I expect.  I’m pretty sure the guys what put the threaded things together were actually standing upside down, and that’s why sometimes it’s left-tighty, righty-lucy, like the camper windows.  Why why why?!  So I’m helpin’ by tightening the screw thingie and he says:

“Wait!  Stop!  Oh, never mind.  It’s OK; I’m just used to the other way.”  (The other way meaning:  he almost always has to correct the direction I’ve chosen.)

I barked with laughter.  How could I not?  How could I argue or feel offended?!

Shelving is coming along.  !!  Yaaaaaaaay!


sunday sorrow

Watching lives being dismantled, to be re-assembled in new forms, tears my knowing to shreds.  Mom is in the rehab place and BJ, her roommate of 30+ years prepares to leave their home since Mom will not be returning.

To see that house disheveled with evidence of packing and lightening the load rips out the roots I had established there, unknowingly.

The story of this house begins in the 1930s at the purchase of these unimproved, timbered 10 acres by Mom’s family.  It continues to 1981, when Mom and BJ left Arizona to move to these 10 acres and make a home there.   I was a part of that even though I had finished college and was contemplating staying in Tucson for grad school.   Somehow, the power of time had the three of us moving north, although I would be continuing to Alaska.

We drove in caravan:  Mom’s VW camper van, BJ’s truck pulling a small mobile home, and a large rented truck.  I wasn’t particularly present for the trip or maybe I was inexperienced enough in road trips that I didn’t know how stressful the trip was.   Lots of vignettes from that time, especially the getting separated in one strange town.  No cell phones at that time.  The winds that would punish each vehicle and strain each driver’s ability to stay on the road.

The arrival to see a vegetation-blocked entry to the property.  The clearing of space.  The hauling water.  A couple of weeks after arriving with them, I flew to Alaska and found home unexpectedly as I left the plane door and hesitated on the jet stairs.  Looking at those snow-capped mountains and the ocean.  Feeling the 40-degree October weather and wondering how I was going to survive the cold.  But also knowing in my bones that I was home.

Visiting Mom and BJ frequently and seeing, and helping with, the homesteading of those 10 acres.  Hauling stumps out of the ground, chaining them to the truck bumper, and then riding the damn things to the dumping ground.  Going home to Alaska and feeling bemused that my mother was homesteading and I wasn’t — and here I was in Alaska, where it’s expected!

Mom designed the house, by hand, on graph paper.  She considered the sun and shade and the correct angling of the house, and where the gardens should be.  Within 5 years of arriving on that overgrown land, the house was built.  There I visited until this February. I know that house almost as well as any dwelling of mine.  I knew where the cling wrap was and how to find the spare light bulbs.

After I got laid off in February 2010, I was able to visit Mom much more frequently since I wasn’t spent from giving my energies to an employer.  The year of school got in the way a fair bit:  I commuted on awful freeways and was always beaten up and tired.  Once I recovered from that, I got to see Mom almost once a week, for which I am grateful.

Mom will move this week to a new place that is an hour, plus two hideous freeways, north of me.  She will be within a few minutes of my sister and her family so at least she can have visitors.  I need to stay away from germy places until I have an immune system again.

On Sunday, yesterday, Big drove me to Mom’s house so I could say goodbye to BJ.  She and I have shared plenty over many years, including one Arizona mountain camping trip where my 65-lb dog got bitten by a rattlesnake and we had to carry him out of the remote area where we’d been hiking.   My neck still hurts.  Maybe that’s where all the neck problems started, with a semi-conscious dog draped around my neck.  My memory tells me it took us 5 days to get out of there, but that is nonsense; it only felt like 5 days.  Pretty sure it was only one long day.

The house has lost its life:  boxes in the great room ready to be loaded into BJ’s truck for the trek back to Arizona, where she will get a motor home so she can tootle around, birding and otherwise being her naturalist self.  Seeing those hollow places in the bookshelves.

Mom’s things where they were sitting when she was hauled to the hospital by ambulance.  For the last time.  We all had hoped so much that she could live out her life in her home, but it was not to be.

Deciding that since the house was going to be people-less later this week, I should take the valuables.  Oh dear.  Wrapping up Mom’s silver, the silver she and Dad had bought eons ago….  Wrapping a small reclining naked lady sculpture, remembering it back 40 or more years.   Packing the computer was easier, no emotions imbued in those electronics.

Looking around at the house, really trying to see beyond the gloss of familiarity in order to choose the valuables to safe-keep.  I left the china and good glass.

Finally sobbing my heart out at the dismantled lives, at the between time, before the lives are rebuilt into new shapes.  Sobbing for myself, for the loss of a place that has had my roots for 30 years.   I did not have roots until Alaska and I severed those in 1998, the phantom feelings of that amputation rising and pushing to the fore, the memories of dismantling my life well-lived, with adventures and with love.

Now, four bags of Mom’s belongings here in my house that will be re-united with her other belongings when it’s time.  Mom has already made an inventory of the house and her belongings, and has indicated which kid gets what.  That must be killing my sister, the one who hated it when Mom and I would joke about wanting this or that after the other’s death.  We’d phrase it as:  “Put my sticker on that!”  One time, Mom said she wanted her sticker on my Isuzu Trooper!   And now my sister is in charge of all of this.

I remain a bystander, a never-expected circumstance.  I have had to say no to helping with Mom’s huge transition in order to concentrate on one thing only–regaining my health so that I might have a future.  I have chosen and it is not easy.

This morning, Monday, started difficultly:  as I was responding to Calpurrnia’s order for morning tuna, I stepped on something soft.  Figured it was a worn out catnip mousie.  But from the vantage of my height, it looked wrong.  I picked it up, soft and light; it was a hummingbird.  Just a few days ago I was looking out my recuperation room window and saw a pair of hummingbirds darting around the few new yellow trumpet blossoms on the forsythia.  Another pair of lives dismantled and it is stabbing me with the pain of lost possibility and loneliness.




making up for the long silence! (for Mom and my sister)

how hard could it be? (for my brother!)

which one's the throttle?

Blast off!

this one bears looking at closely:
examine the picture starting from the middle and moving right. a light-colored, straight line is the tire track. on either side of that straight line are two scuffed tracks running parallel to the tire tracks. Those scuffed tracks are the Fred Flintsone feet of my brother, tryin' to stop that scooter!
I was laughing way too hard to take a picture of that, but the tracks are a perfect testament to what happens when our hands freeze on the throttle.


stuck in traffic with Charmayne watching the world go by

Location:  a lovely island in the Puget Sound area of Washington State.  I’d been living with Charmayne for quite some time–she was my father’s 5th wife and she and I really loved one another.  My father bolted the country, leaving her behind, and me too since I was temporarily staying with them trying to recover my interrupted adult life.  (Father-stories another time.)  So, he left and I stayed with his soon-to-be 5th ex-wife.

She and I were both morose for different reasons and were either completely silly or very quiet.  We went on errands together–post office, grocery, that stuff.  We cruised antique shops–in one of her lives she was a dealer and so had very cool stuff.  We didn’t spend money because we were both broke, but we didn’t really care.

Charmayne was an artist–she designed clothes and jewelry and also created funny little sculptures.  She was kooky and smart and very funny….

On one of those days of erranding, we got stopped at an intersection with the one road/ 55mph-highway through the island:  a long slow line of shiny black hearses and 20 or 30 private cars following, lights on, crawling along.  We were in quiet mode, just sat and sat and sat and watched that line of cars.

Charmayne broke the silence:  “Look, it’s a parade, and I don’t like any of the floats!”

My dear Charmayne died at 60 years old in spring 2000 from her third bout of breast cancer.

© No Stealing!  That’s what the little c in the circle means!
© lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

BEST part about being unemployed!

It is spending lots more time with my Mom.  Wouldn’t you want to find out what’s behind that smile??!!

My Mom!

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