Blink

A few years ago, I wrote about an encounter with a doctor who’d treated me for seven years. For most of that time we had a wonderful working relationship, full of humor, affection and honesty, all desperately needed to make the ongoing life-and-death choices about treatment options for my leukemia. I trusted him, and he confided that I and so-and-so were his 2 favorite patients. Despite my knowledge of the nature of those comments and of our patient-doctor warmth, feelings of a more personal kind began to affect me. They did not feel good; they made me nervous in his presence. When he asked me at the beginning of an appointment how I was, I told him. Alas, he heard it in a different way. He was was shocked, looked horrified and quite literally turned to stone. He said hard things to me, and gave me 6 months to resolve the feelings. With help and work, I did succeed in restoring perspective, but in the meanwhile he’d made a decision to toss me from his practice, which he did, and badly. It was a terrible blow that lasted for years. Still, the insights into old, harmful patterns of behavior I’d gained were, in time, worth a lot.

Four years later, I attended a lecture he gave, largely to test my feelings. They had indeed gone, but so had so many of the positive ones I’d always had for him. We said hello, and later we met by accident downstairs, on our way out. Our brief conversation led to this poem:

The Gifts Unopened

We found ourselves
on the street after the lecture.
Your questions were
righteous, pretenses of caring.

You checked me over
with a doctor’s practiced look.
Then you blinked — and I could see
your search for the thing lost,

still for you too shameful
to be called by name.
It was the blink I used to wait for
in our times together.

it held those things your science mind
could find no correlation for.
It held the heart-inspired gifts of truth
you always left unopened.

Study Trust

In New York as elsewhere, every day people willfully put their lives into other people’s hands. The young man crossing the street against the light puts his life into the hands of the driver bearing down on him. I want to scream at him for doing that. But I can understand it.

I read someone’s blog today who blamed the government for the assassination of MLK. But to me, it wasn’t the case then, and it isn’t now. It’s fear, the kind that twists the soul, the kind that says someone else has the power to destroy your life. It was true of James Earl Ray and it’s behind many of the actions of the present leadership of our nation.

There is only one way I know of to fight fear. Trust. Think for a minute – isn’t it lack of trust that stirs our fear and hatred in our everyday life? I don’t trust my neighbor to care about me — she slams the door when she leaves her apt and once took my clothes out of the dryer before they were dry so she could put her clothes in. Small things, but I view her through the lens of those actions and react to her as someone who has the power to fuck up my life, and so should be feared and hated.

How can trust fight that? What kind of trust can get me through that?

Only one I know of. Trust in myself. If I have trust that I can accomplish what I want to in life, then I don’t need to over-worry about the detours I must go around to get there or over-react to the people who put them there — whether it’s Con Ed’s work crews, my neighbor’s occasional Machiavellian schemes, a niece’s forgetting the mayonnaise I need, or even the government’s latest machinations.

Does trust in myself mean I don’t ever lean on others, fight for a cause or confront someone about their mistreatment or misdeeds? No, of course not. From a strong foundation of belief in myself I am more open to help and support and more able to fight and confront effectively when doing so allows me accomplish what’s vital to my life.

But it also means I can go easy on people as I do those things. I can even see a way to go easier on the world.

Entertaining = ?

Later today G & C will arrive for dinner.

The expression “come for dinner” used to mean one thing: host or hostess put a home-cooked meal on the table and guests brought wine or dessert. These days it can mean anything, from pot luck to Trader Vic’s to ordering in —and everything in between.

When I cook for myself, it almost always “comes good,” as my Italian friend Theresa used to say. But when I cook for family, it somehow seems to miss the mark. So now when G & C come, we order up. That’s a New York expression for calling a local restaurant and having prepared food delivered!

But it takes time. What nationality food? Which restaurant? Which selections? How much money? And then like my mother before me, I hate mess on the table. I have A.D.D. and there’s enough confusion in my head. My mother hated milk or juice cartons on the table: I don’t like take-out containers.

Today though, if I can get myself dressed and out on this freezing day I’ll buy chopped meat and sausage and try to cook a decent tomato sauce for plain old spaghetti with grated cheese. What’s not to like, providing I get it right? I won’t tell them in advance. That way, if it doesn’t come good or if they simply don’t want it, we an always order up.

But why am I so timid? I know I can cook and set a nice table … I like to do it! That’s the thing. I want them to be comfortable and relaxed, feet up and all, but I also want to put a nice meal on a nice table and have it appreciated. Better than take-out containers being passed around with soda cans and pickle leaking on the mats. Right, Mom?

Well, we’ll see. Trouble starts when everyone’s trying to make everyone else happy and no one’s saying what they really want. I’ll make the meatballs and spaghetti, fill the house with the aroma of good sauce, and hope for the best.

That is of course if I get showered, dressed and out before 4PM! It’s so nice here in my cozy home — sun coming in the windows, radio on, my computer accepting my words in a friendly way, my slippers and bathrobe so comfy, and the piano always beckoning.

After all, there’s always order-up!

Static

…was one of the things that told me I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I’d made a huge decision to move to a new neighborhood, after 34 yrs in a rented Greenwich Village studio. Two years before, I’d been diagnosed with leukemia, and eventually retired from my job. Being home so much, the studio felt too small and the neighborhood too crowded. I wanted to move to a quieter area and I wanted space and sunlight.

After over a year of looking, I found a place uptown with a little view of the river, a separate room for my piano, a linen closet (luxury!), and a washer & dryer on my floor. Thanks to my mom’s inheritance finally coming through, I managed to buy the apartment without a big mortgage left over.

The first few weeks I was terrified. I didn’t know the staff or anyone in the building, and the building itself wasn’t sturdy like my old one. Every noise sounded it was in my apartment! I slept with a chair against the door.

But the kitchen and bathroom had windows, I loved walking around the new neighborhood, and most of all, I loved seeing the sun move from room to room. My studio had faced north and although it wasn’t a very dark apt, it didn’t get any direct sunlight. As a matter of fact, none of my jobs had either! It had been years since I’d had sun in my daily life.

But it was the end of September, heading fast for winter. At the end of November I got my first electric bill; it was over $350! My studio had never gone over $90. I couldn’t understand it, but one thing I knew — there was something very creepy about the heat. It was so dry, and when I turned it off the room got cold again in less than 30 minutes! Electric heat!!

And static??? OMG! There was static when I touched the sofa, the computer keys, the poor cat! I was miserable as only someone who feels they’ve made a terrible mistake can be.

Over the years, I learned how to tame the dry, electric heat a bit, but it’s a pain in the neck and still very expensive. I have 3 humidifiers I must fill and clean, fill and clean. When I get really desperate, I run the shower and let the hot steam pour out.

This very, very cold year, I faced the problem of lousy insulation in the walls. I wake up to rooms that vary from 11 degrees F to 33, depending on the outside temp. I have to run the heat all the time and neither the kitchen nor the bathroom have heat units, so when I walk in they’re freezing.

Childish feelings of rage about people “in authority” not caring about my needs come easily to me. But the fact is I can manage. What good would it do to use my energies to call a city heat agency and report the building violations when it’s not the heating system that’s at fault. If the building suddenly decided to spend a million dollars to tear walls down and insulate, the cost would just be passed along to us, the residents! So I may as well spend the money now on space heaters and the ridiculously high electric bills.

I am, after all, a grown-up, and in the end as I’m still learning, I must take care of myself. Some people learn that lesson early, but some of us need it pounded into our thick skulls over and over … that the car without its signal on when it turns as I’m crossing doesn’t need to care about my welfare. That’s my job.

Carve

Carve: We think of turkey
Starve: We think of hungry children
Scarves: We think of Muslim women wanting to cover their heads and countries that won’t allow it like Turkey (on and off)

Parve: a variation of the term for foods that violate no laws and so may be consumed by members of Orthodox Jewish sects that “keep kosher.”

So it seems that “-arve” words bring us easily to food, to religion, even to politics!

Two out of three are forbidden subjects …

And there’s a 3rd forbidden subject these words bring to my mind: Aging (the theme of most of my blogs).

The need for people my age to CARVE out a place for ourselves in a world increasingly desirous of forgetting the old.

Welcome to my tavola!

Be Not Proud

I’m just a very, very emotional person. Abnormally so. Have been all my life. It’s good for piano playing, sometimes for poetry writing, but not so good for keeping a clear perspective about things, not for seeing things calmly and in proportion.

All is well so far with my sister and husband (see previous blog). They did the drive to Stsnford U. through a driving rain, and they are happy with their 2-night quarters. My sister’s little description of the place — she used the word cozy and talked about a lounge where they read and watched TV — brought me to tears. I weep and weep.

I hate the day ahead where I will lose them. I can’t stop crying. This must be the sadness about losing my father as a child, the sadness I had no words for and had no place to cry aloud or person to cry with. It’s called transference. You all know the term.

Oh, thankfully, there are also times I do see things clearly and in perspective.
No doubt after this cry, I will again. I know death is a part of life. I know it’s hard but that we survive the death of those we love. But it all went so fast, you know? Not anywhere enough sharing of happy times or experiencing each other’s love. Not nearly enough to look back on, to hold onto.

I emailed back. I just said I love them. They have no need of my tears. They don’t feel sorry for themselves one bit. And I do feel better now.

T-Day

In the next few hours, my 82 year-old sister and her 88 year-old husband will drive down the heavily trafficked highways of Northern California from their home in Berkeley to Stanford University, about 30 miles southwest. There she’ll begin a trial course of treatment for her disease.

He’ll do the driving and will stay by her side as much as possible. They are a couple who likes to do things together, and he’s the kind of man who extends himself in acts of gallantry for friends and family. He will not let her go through this alone if at all possible, and she prefers it that way.

They’re not strangers to new places. From their earliest years together, they have traveled and lived abroad, and flown extensively to visit parents, then children, then grandchildren. Packing and unpacking are familiar.

Plus, driving is what one does if one lives in the Bay area, where the nearest big cities are reachable by crowded and somewhat dangerous roads and long, wide bridges filled with slow-moving vehicles.

His eyes and mind are almost as sharp as ever. But his body has taken a beating these past 2 years and there is some question as to how well he will weather the trip and the 2 nights they’re required to remain there.

And of course, there is also the question of how her body will respond to the treatment, and how the disease for which it is designed will fare.

I wish them well.