“The Waltons” (Really Not Fun To Be Them)

“The Waltons” television show was a show during the seventies that I watched religiously.  I loved  the interaction of three generations living in the same house in the old days, eating meals together, without heat, without electricity, without modern day appliances and without complaint. Not so for my family.  Two weeks ago, the county that I live in came head to head with a blizzard whose strength was overwhelming. Nobody thought it would be that bad…little did we know. We got about 21 inches of snow, heavy, wet snow and it snowed for days. Sometime during that first evening our lights started to flicker. Uh oh. They flickered again. This time we were feeling uneasy and doubtful. Sure enough, two minutes later, the lights dimmed, the electricity halted, the tv turned itself off and we were in our little house, feeling the heat escape rapidly, minute by minute.

I must say we were all calm. We had put our flashlights and candles together at the first flicker,  thinking that we probably wouldn’t need them. The snow kept coming and the trees were getting very heavy with new wet snow. Some heavy branches were already kneeling down in the snow from weight.  When we started to hear trees and branches breaking and hitting the window, we were justifiably scared. It sounded like something you could only imagine in the movies; but it was very real and terrifying. Whip, Crash, Shudder, the branches sounded like breaking glass as they threw themselves at our house.

We managed to get through the four (really long) days and nights with firewood, food and an afternoon with my mom. My daughter had a sleep-over for one night, which she practically had to beg for, and my son and husband who volunteer for the ambulance corp, were able to spend time in their quarters too. Even family members of the ambulance corp were invited. Luckily we had cell phones that were able to be re-charged.  Interestingly, the absence of noise, brightness, computer screens, X-box was almost fun. Almost. I did miss listening to music but I read by the fire in the daytime and at night we huddled under our covers, blankets, sleeping bags, down jackets and pajamas. When it was just my dog and I home one afternoon, we lay against each other on the light green, navy, red squares of the carpet in front of the fire and cuddled; a sweet memory I am not apt to forget.

Our neighbors moved into their sister’s house, five minutes away in another town. All 4 grabbed their sleeping bags and left for the entire 4 days. I envied them at first,  immensely. There was no question of where they would go, it was a given.  In the beginning we were annoyed that no-one had invited US into their homes for the night, not to mention the duration of the storm. When I complained to my sister and mother we heard things like “well you should know you are welcome” and that angered us more. I was brought up NOT to ask but to wait for an invitation, especially knowing my mother and sister’s love (NOT) of overnight guests.

Our family stayed together, we froze together, talked together. Not a lot of that happens when school is in session and when everyone is so busy. There was no X Box, no computers, no music, no television. We sat, in front of the fire and talked, hearing the twigs crackle, the orange flames enveloping the logs, the night silent and still with utter darkness. The only light we had was the brilliance of the full moon in the sky that shined on us late at night.

When we awoke we saw that a large tree had crashed down through our fence and it lay suspiciously close to where my daughter’s room was. Two other trees were down and hundreds upon hundreds of branches. We were lucky, noone got hurt. We may have been cold, and cranky, we complained about the cold constantly and couldn’t wait for the electricity to come back up. When it did, 4 days later we were ecstatic. The heat turned on, the refrigerator buzzed, random lights went on, the music from radios blared and the silence ended. Even though we were freezing cold and we had no options,  I think we won, staying here together. My children may yell and beg to differ but for me but I have to say, in retrospect, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Good night, John Boy.

Blessed With An Ordinary (?) Day!

Hallelujah!!!  The thrill of an absolutely “normal,” uncomplicated day.  Abnormal,  for those of us who suffer from any chronic  illness.  The sun was shining and my aches and pain were minimal; I felt great and full of energy. It is a wonder to be me today. I happily went grocery shopping, bought exotic pluots (plums/apricots) ran into an old friend, so nice to see a familiar face,  chatted and hugged!  Drove to the Thrift Shop to see if  I could find cheap toys for my dog’s upcoming 9th birthday and also bought a soft-as-a-bunny mens 3x Tee-shirt to wear to bed.  Took my daughter, to the new friendly TD bank where we deposited all our coins into their new coin machine with great glee, and met the new Manager who smiled at us both and cheered us on. Scored a free  lime lollipop and a bright green pen. We left giddy with cash, smiling and laughing,  just the two of us.

When we came home from the bank we ate dinner.  Two tasteless macaroni and cheese (in my opinion ONLY) Weight Watcher meals and a huge salad, to which I added, red grapes, soft, silky avocado, bits of hard Jarlsberg cheese and baby carrots. My daughter had ranch dressing, I had bright orange Asian Sesame Ginger which came pouring out of the bottle at an alarming rate creating a huge orange puddle. Listened to Kansas on my computer “Carry On My Wayward Son”and emailed with a friend. Stroked my dog Callie’s soft fur, found out someone in our neighborhood was caught in a prostitution ring! So much happening in just one day, all my senses heightened, the sun, glowing brightly in the sky; or maybe it was just me?

A great day with a minimum of aches and pains, mostly my stiff shoulders and the small of my back but I can deal with that. Tested positive to the Thyroiditis Hashimoto’s antibody which I knew I had but somehow I felt reaffirmed. My mother e-mailed me the name of a chiropractor/homeopath person, forgetting that all these things require money we do not have. We have money issues to begin with but she meant well. You are your parent’s child forever.   The guru Dr. I see in the city is madly expensive but I have to see him every 3 months, there is no choice, we have to find the money for that!

After dinner, Jillian baked a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for her friend, Katie’s, birthday. I helped her with it and while I do not know that much about baking cakes I am good with functional and basic things, like getting the cake out of the pan. Showed Jillian my way of frosting the cake, with swirls, and it actually made her  seem in awe of me: “Wow, Mom you could be a professional baker.”   I felt like the Betty Crocker of the 21 st. century while my daughter looked on with great admiration. She’s 15 and a half, that was a rare and wonderful moment!

Do not overlook your “ordinary” days. Those of us who have few of them are delighted when it happens because it happens so rarely.  Enjoy shopping, going to the Post Office, driving to the library, all because you can and don’t complain. When these days occur to those of us with chronic illnesses, we do not complain; we celebrate. Here’s to Ordinary Days!

Loss, 5 Ways

3/1/2010

I’m playing The Corrs  haunting  song “Everybody Hurts Sometime.” I thought I felt furious and fierce but now I know differently.   Sadness crept in like a sly gray cat.  What showed itself first as anger and disappointment were really overwhelming feelings of sadness but I have learned that all these feelings are connected.

I spent the last two days getting rid of old things, moving others, de-cluttering.  Piles of papers and thick magazines were recycled, drawings that my children made when they were very young taken down, “they were embarrassing to my daughter”: a brown horse drawn by my daughter against big, bold pieces of grass, thick as bamboo, with the title “Somewhere horses are playing;” a drawing of two happy stick figures holding hands drawn with an orange magic marker against graph paper titled “Mom and Me.”  Also, a purple lilac bush drawn against worn light blue paper that my son drew in nursery school. The  amazing sepia portrait that I loved, dearly loved, of my daughter and friends in the third grade doing the Ellis Island play, dressed as immigrants is also embarrassing to her.  What brought me such enormous love and joy every single time I looked at it, has been moved but I know it will never have the same magic in a different place.

My children, now teenagers, on the brink of adulthood.  I  took down their art and let the young woman and young man free. But, it wasn’t really them that needed freeing, it was me.  It  was not just spring cleaning but a cleaning out of all things old, old emotions, little children growing up, forcing me to deal with the present and the future and not just the past. Old memories, old feelings, old hopes and dreams. Even when you organize and sift through things, remember, the feelings still remain.

We are starting to think about a Sweet 16 party  for my daughter; and with it  my own 16th birthday memories come flooding back. Sitting in the yellow, plastic kitchen of my childhood apartment with cartons of greasy Chinese food containers and no laughter, and no guests.  Sometimes how things connect in your brain still come as an unexpected shock.  We are all connected to our past; the past can get better but you can’t shake that past away from you like you would an annoying spider. The past are the imprints for all that we do and see and feel in the future; the blueprint of our lives.

I am also feeling like half a woman instead of whole. I am playing a lot of Cat Stevens’ music and yesterday watched Harold and Maude for at least the 20th time. “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out” is easier said than done; especially when you are an adult, married and with children, a dog, house and mortgage. I am usually proud of my age, 53, but tonight I feel old, unappreciated and tired. I picture my face with hanging skin, my eyes narrowed when once they were bright, green, wide-eyed and had the ability to hold a stranger’s gaze, longer.

With no fantasies or plans for the future I feel like I am living just part of my  life, since there are so many unknowns. It’s cleverly hidden on the outside so nobody can tell; its secret shaded by a tree weighed down with heavy, wet, clumps of billowing snow. I dearly wanted something new to think about, to look forward to, to have a crush that would give me that delightful feeling of effervescence that I haven’t felt in a very long time. The thrilling feeling of a secret does eventually become old, like a shiny new penny that was crushed and trampled by a train; barely recognizable, scratched and dull.

One of my favorite poems is named “Stolen Apples” by Yevgheny Yevtushenko whose words I cannot find anymore but in essence it said that ” the taste and smell of stolen apples were much more delicious than ordinary apples.” I longed for small smiles of sweetness. I’ve always liked secrets, me a secret keeper.

I  cry and then I understand  that I am overwhelmingly sad inside.  Sad about the losses, stressed about my life, missing a deceased friend whose bold colors went with her and left us with all things gray, colorless and dull;  her loud booming voice is just a whisper of a silent memory. She, who was abundantly  filled with the love of life, made life happier for the rest of us just sharing in her joy of people, traveling, volunteering, enjoying life for all of us through her excited eyes.  Pain has no memory;  I cry again for my father who died more than ten years ago because he gave the love and nurturing that only parents can give.  He was so optimistic all through his life until the last few years when he no longer wanted to live. Watching your father not wanting to live anymore is devastating, his twinkling eyes turned to dull gray. His body was fairly healthy but his soul was dead.

I am writing and growing and feeling healthier but inside I feel like a fraud. Our lives are not perfect, is anyone’s? Our children get so uptight even if we just disagree; they do not need to worry. Unemployment, no money coming in, relationship issues, two teenagers who are not children yet not adults, pulling, pulling away. They yank their arms away as if they were toddlers but it’s worse this time, because they pull at your emotions and they do not give up or let up, not even for a one short moment.

We lost power in our house for more than four days. We slept, shivering, under blankets and sleeping bags, wearing sweaters and jackets. We had no control over anything, no light, no heat, no music. Today, the electricity came back on and with it, appreciation and understanding. The day is brighter, the hours seem shorter and life, as we know it, continues.