Today my heart…

…is heavy.

Every year, come hell or highwater (which is exactly what it was this year – thank you Hurricane Matthew) my mother goes to Paris. Paris is her heart place; a piece of her soul lives there. We who love her, know this, embrace this, and send her on her merry way every October.

She’s almost 80 and legally blind and a badass adventurer.

But my 85-year-old father’s health hasn’t been so good lately. Actually, we’ve had some pretty big scares recently.

So Mom was going to cancel her trip but instead, I flew to Florida to hang out with Dad.

Perfect solution for all of us.

And then came the hurricane. Mom was gone, Dad was evacuated, I didn’t know if I was going to even be able to arrive here.

Turns out I was. Dad had just returned to his home which was damage-free, yet still a mess. When I got here, there was a massive amount of debris and the steel “shutters” still covered every window and door except the garage.

It was mighty dark and fortressed in here – like a bunker.

Dad was in pretty good shape and very good spirits. I was super psyched that I was here.

We’ve had a week of cleanup, chores, and lovely talks. We completed some projects that he would never have been able to do on his own.

And I have seen things; I’ve gained insights into my father and into being elderly in general.

I’ve witnessed that a sense of order is important. I’ve experienced the frustration of not being able to do simple things by oneself. I’ve opened the doors to the near empty refrigerator of people who no longer cook for themselves. I’ve met the comrades who take care of each other because none of them can do it completely on their own. I’ve been here for the death of a close friend’s child.

This morning my father is visiting a friend who can no longer leave the house and has become isolated and depressed.

I sat in the cardiologist’s office while he explained that they can’t explain what is happening to my dad’s heart and lungs.

I’ve watched my father wince in pain. I’ve seen that he needs to sit down and catch his breath after taking the dog into the yard to pee.

I made the decision to stay with my dad rather than take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity to see my best friend from high school – a choice I certainly would never have made when I was 17.

And, I’ve borne witness to his strength and resiliency. He’s still the same guy; kind, witty, intelligent, loving, and totally unwilling to give into old age and sit on his ass.

Vital.

We’ve had gallons of coffee, bowl after bowl of ice cream; we casually ate our meals at the bar in the kitchen rather than the dining room table. We’ve lingered, we’ve shot the shit, I shared some incredibly personal and painful bits of my life

For the first time EVER, we have watched the news and agreed on politics.

I have been told, repeatedly, by many of the folks in this town, “You are your mother.” I am honored.

My father is amazing, a gem. He is the most decent man I know. After close to 60 years of marriage, he and my mother are still in love.

So today, I depart. He will drop me off at the airport at noon so I can return to the rest of my family who I miss terribly.

But I am sad. I could stay here forever. I would love to be here when my mother arrives (tomorrow) and have more time with both of them.

This trip has brought to my awareness the fragility of life and the desire to share these last years with my mom and dad; they won’t be around forever.

I get that in a way that I’ve never really gotten it before.

I adore my parents. I am so fortunate to have been born into this family.

I am so thankful that I outgrew my stupid teenage rebellion.

On my chronic pain wagon

I just posted this article on FB:

5 Things the Healthy World Should Know About the Chronically Ill World

It popped up on my news feed and I read it because, well, I have a chronic pain disorder, that hurts, sometimes, a lot.

And, I am not the only one I know in the neighborhood that has a chronic illness.

I’m not crying out for sympathy, I’m writing because I am on vacation and I’ve been astounded by just how much sleep I’ve had and continue to need – some days, more than my 85-year-old father.

I’m working down here – plenty of hurricane cleanup, but it’s not like I’ve been felling trees and re-shingling the roof.

My days involve morning coffee while I lie on my heating pad, chores, nap, chores, dinner, bed early. I even fell asleep sitting in the sand on the beach.

Mentally I read through a list of reasons for why I might need so much sleep down here:

humidity?

getting a much-needed rest from working so many long hours at home?

emotional fatigue?

being lulled by the sound of the waves?

dehydration?

Then I think that this pretty similar to how it is when I am at home – the main difference being that I am not working 12 hour days so I do have the luxury to lie down, often.

It freaks me out sometimes. Is it just laziness? Do I not like to do work?

At home I worry about not pulling my weight around our home – because I don’t.

My ex constantly berated me for my unwillingness to work hard (another term for laziness.)

So every time I put my head on the pillow, that voice runs through my brain.

Throw in my ever-present anxiety, and you have the perfect storm.

And yet, I could sleep all day; sometimes I do.

And then I feel slovenly and guilty as fuck.

And ashamed.

But after I read that article, I thought, “Oh yeah, you do have that pain thing going on.”

So then I clicked on a link to yet another article and read these words:

“Am I lazy? No. I can do a load of laundry or cook a meal. I can usually get my son dressed, fed and to school in the morning (though not always); however, it usually means I will need to sit down and rest and recover from a simple tasks that most people take for granted.

Sure, I can take a nap whenever I want. But I never feel rested. It doesn’t matter if I have had two hours, 12 hours or 20 hours of sleep, my body can just never seem to catch up.”

For just a couple of minutes, I was able to let up on myself, show myself a little compassion.

Those warm and fuzzy feelings didn’t last very long because the voices in my head, and the ones that I imagine are screaming in everyone else’s heads, are louder than the more gentle, soft ones.

I will not be a victim to this and will not use it as an excuse.

But, sometimes a valid reason is just that, not an excuse.

Reality hits

92
Everett

 

Position
Linebacker
Height
5-11
Weight
195
Class
Fr.
Hometown
Mancos, Colo.
Highschool
Mancos

HIGH SCHOOL: 2016 graduate of Mancos High School … Competed in football, track, wrestling and basketball … Four-year starter … Played linebacker and full back for the Bluejays.

PARENTS: TW and Suzanne Strazza

Fort Lewis College

© 2016 FORT LEWIS COLLEGE ATHLETICS | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

The dinner party

When I was in Florida, my parents and I had dinner at Mary Lou’s house. Also in attendance were her daughter (my age) son-in-law, and college student granddaughter. The additional guests were old family friends who I haven’t seen in 20 years.

Lovely is the best word to describe the evening; lovely setting, lovely dinner, lovely company.

imgres-1Elegant is another word that I might use; from the 52 pieces of silverware at each place setting to the Wedgwood Blue striped wallpaper to the ocean waves lapping at the patio edges just outside the living room french doors.

Cashmere abounded.

A little wine, a bit of brie, and some very civilized pre-dinner tete-a-tete began the evening.

Then, dinner…individual pot pies crafted in the kitchen of the nearby clubhouse (country club, that is) and delivered with white gloves, hot and ready to eat (the pies, not the gloves).

There were place cards. imgres-2

Conversation was stimulating and sophisticated. We discussed one couple’s home in the Adirondacks that’s “much too big for just us.” Another diner who was “in railroads” shared humorous tales of his recent travels. One person shared her secret to serving creative, somewhat adventuresome, and delicious dinners to her family; mail order meals that arrive via Fed Ex on her doorstep 3 nights a week. “I’ve never cooked a plantain before and now I love them.”

We talked local politics where the mayor and councilperson’s party affiliations actually mean something.

We touched on prep school, college abroad, and Ivy League.

And I sat there praying with all my might that no one would ask me anything about my town, my life, my normal.

Because what could I say? “Oh our town board is working really hard on an ordinance regarding cows in people’s yards, and how many chickens they are allowed, and if they can have pigs. Roosters are out.”

Or, “Since we don’t live in town, we are raising chickens and cows and pigs.”

And, “I think I’m going to start carrying a gun when I run in case I encounter a cougar.”

Or simply, “We used to live on a paved street.”

I feel as if I come out of my town covered with a fine patina of barnyard dust and I was afraid I was going to leave a dirty ass mark on the upholstered silk dining chair.

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Vacation

I’m in Florida – we’re in Florida – Greg and Peter are with me.

My Mom is from here. She moved to this town when she was in high school. She graduated from Vero Beach High.

She went to Florida State. She didn’t graduate. Impatient, she moved on to the next adventure instead.

So my grandparents lived here and vacations were spent here while I was growing up -at least two trips a year to see them.

My parents moved here a couple of years ago after thirty long, cold, dark, winters in Idaho.

They live just a few blocks from the house where my mother grew up.

There is an element of “home” here for me.

I know where to get ice cream. I know where to go to the grocery store and where to get the best grapefruit juice. The drugstore that my grandfather owned is still here and they know me as David’s granddaughter.

But I’ll be damned if I can find an ATM in this town.

Turns out they’re everywhere, but discreetly placed inside of elegant buildings with fountains and palm trees. You’d think that with all of the old, hobbling people around here they’d have drive-throughs.

There’s this place on the beach, The Sea Burger. I actually think the name has changed but it will always be The Sea Burger. The Sea Burger has been in the same place at Jaycee Park on the Beach since my mom spent her weekends drinking beer on that beach.

The smell of the ocean mingled with grilling burgers is the best smell in the world.

When I was young and frolicking on the beach with my family, I loved going up to The Sea Burger all crusty and sandy and barefoot to get a milkshake. Their milkshakes are the very best, ever.

My mother, unwilling to move from her beach chair where she was finally relaxing after traveling and dealing with family, would hand me her wallet and say, “Go get yourself something.”

I felt so big, so independent. I hoped that the lifeguard would think I was cute as I strutted by his stand.

He never did.

I was 12.

So yesterday I was sound asleep on my towel, which was actually under my towel because it was totally freezing yet we were determined to be on the beach, and Peter said, “I’m thirsty.” So I gave him my wallet and sent him up to get himself a treat.

And there it was. In my mother’s town, on my mother’s beach, I had turned into her.