29 February 2012

It is 3 in the morning. I’ve been up for a couple of hours. I washed dishes, cleaned the stove, and then set to sorting two boxes. One was filled with small notebooks, most of which were labeled “house log” and dated. Jan.-Oct. 1987. Sept.-May 1988. I am trying to remember if we kept these by the phone or somewhere else. The places we lived in at the time were so small that even if they weren’t near the phone, they were within an arms length away. They are an account of our daily lives in notes, phone number, to-do lists, dinner invitations, scribbles, David’s doodles which he did incessantly while he was on the phone, moving lists, travel lists, apartment prospects in Manhattan, Park Slope, and Bloomington with crude sketches of layouts, doctor appointments, application deadlines, party plans, grocery lists, menus, phone messages, schedules of play dates and babysitters, Christmas gift lists, rehearsal schedules and cancelations. And in some, notes for a story or play or screen play that David, and occasionally I, was working on. Instant inspiration. Notes to each other: “Sweetheart, you have to pick Cheshire up today. I need to sleep. D”

I had forgotten all about these notebooks. I didn’t know that we were carrying them around. They are almost the scrap paper of our lives.

There is no reason to keep these. None of them. Some of the notes don’t even mean much to me now. Looking through each one, because if I am going to discard them all, which makes so much sense, I have to know what I am throwing away, I am caught up in the rhythm of the time, a distant drum beat that I can almost hear. This was how we kept our day-to-day in order before we kept complicated calendars, before we joined a full-time working world. This was how we kept ourselves from falling off the earth. This was how we made up a life defying gravity.

I don’t want to keep these little books, but damn it, what is sad about trashing them is that again and again, I have to throw away evidence of the life that we lived together. I have to throw away David’s unreadable scribble and there will be no more of that scribble for me to find impossible to decipher. I could have thrown these books away before David died with only a slight nostalgic thought. As I do it now, I am burdened with the finality. With the end.

Tonight, I resent that.

There is a quote that I cannot find right now, that says that the surviving spouse gives their spouse the gift of remaining behind, the gift of letting him go first. Whoever said it said it so much better, but the sentiment rings in my head. There is a contingency in most standard wills that speaks to the circumstance of spouses who die together or within a short time of one another. I can see that circumstance as a wish. It would be so much easier than all this grieving, mourning, surviving, picking up the pieces, moving on, and living a new rest of a life. No, I am not contemplating anything, but surviving is exhausting.

I moan and groan about sorting through yet more boxes of papers and notebooks. I’ve complained that my family of origin did not write anything down. There is no way to know what I did not know as a child, or to know what anyone -- parents, grandparents -- were thinking at any time. No secrets. I’ve lamented so often that there are no journals, no letters, nothing like our house logs, and now I am lamenting that David and I had too much of all of that. And still, no secrets.

Strangely, I don’t have any more of an idea of what David was thinking and feeling when he made notes for stories or lists for groceries. I wonder if someone who did not know him or us would glean something from all these words stored in so many books. Or not. I don’t get any more than I already know. I can remember and remember more because of the notes, but there is no enlightenment, no explanation, and no answer as to how we could have changed that life to change the eventual outcome.

Walking the dog with Julia yesterday, she asks again if we are going to get a cat. She tells me that she’d really like DidiChi back and I tell her that he will not come back and I hope he was found by someone who took him in as their pet -- these statements have taken on the quality of ritual. Last night, Julia broke the familiar pattern of question and answer. She told me that she wants a white kitten. A girl. And she would name her JB. “That’s an appropriate name for a kitten,” was what she said. I am thinking of a male, golden somewhat like DidiChi, and JB doesn’t stand for anything. I know it is just the sounds together that Julia likes. But I like that she is voicing her preferences. I like that she has preferences.

28 February 2012

written 27 February 2012

I woke on Sunday ready to engage. Like a switch thrown. I have been on the fence about everything, even the simplest of things. I could not decide anything just in case . . . I am not sure what I was waiting for. Revelation, possibly? Enlightenment, certainly. None is coming. Half way through this year of fallow lying, I am bored and tired of it all. I am not as far along as I want to be. There is no going back and I want to complain about the slog forward. I want to throw myself into something that does not demand reflection. I’d like to do some work that I detest so that I can indulge in food or late night movies or even a shopping trip because I deserve it for all that I am suffering. Instead, I have only my own choices to contend with, to complain about. And who can I complain about except myself to myself. I have become someone who I would have despised a short while ago.

I may just be cranky.

Still, Friday was fun with therapy in the morning, the new Myasaki in the afternoon, and Amy’s house at night. Saturday was equally enjoyable with more therapy during which I made new strides in my sorting the junk of life, church during which I was lay associate, and supper with Mary and Robert and very good Indian food. I was exhausted after both social engagements because I had engaged. I need to build up my engagement chops. And the sorting work was more satisfying than it has been in a long time.

And so, on Sunday I posted on FaceBook a status update: Julia and I have lived in Wisconsin for almost 5 years and we've visited very, very little of this glorious state. I am looking for weekend trips to fill our summer. Yeah, there is a budget, but we have a tent and we are ready for adventure. Any ideas???

And to those dear ones who have ever thought about visiting, this would be a very good summer to do so. Adventure is always more fun with company!

I am not completely sure why I have held back, but even the good ideas that I’ve had remained ideas that I would not take a step to accomplish. I want a cat, but I’ve done little except to look for one on Craigslist. I’ve talked to a few organizations about an exchange student for next year but have not filled out the forms to even begin the process. I was on the fence about what to do about Spring break and summer vacation. I have had a nameless anxiety about making decisions, in case, in case, in case what? Something changes? The sky falls? As if I want to be ready to move on when some call came. As if life was going to change once again so I better not make myself at home. I am still not sure of anything long range, and that is true, I have no idea what I will be doing next year at this time, but I cannot wait until all of the big decisions are made. I cannot put dinner plans on hold until I discover my destiny. Okay, a bit dramatic, but a good description of the way my mind has been working.

I woke up on Sunday feeling ready to engage. The feeling has been coming on since Thursday, and on Saturday, I really dove into the cellar work. I have been working around the periphery of stuff for months, taking boxes from this shelf and that pile. The periphery has seemed endless -- like my mother’s estate --, I could not plunge into the center because there was just too much. There is still a lot -- “What a mess!” Julia said when she saw my piles in the middle of the basement -- but I can imagine an end.

Just imagine, not see right now.

Finally, I was able to clean out what used to be the coal storage room. It has a door with a lock and is always dry. (The basement is generally dry but can be damp when it rains heavily in the spring, or there are pipes, appliances, or a water tank to burst in other part of the cellar.) I’ve used it as a storage room since I moved in but it was really the junk deposit room! I had no idea what was in there for the most part. Then with the renovation, it was stuffed to the top so that larger items could go in the main cellar. I have enough room in the main cellar to clear the smaller storage room. I washed it down and lined one wall with my matching metal shelving units. I have five of them and they fit nicely along one long wall. It’s funny that I/we never put all of those shelving units together. They were in three different places in the cellar and the storage room was lined with unmatched shelving that was not efficient at all.

I started filling the shelves and I had no question about those things that I want to keep -- the christmas boxes, extra kitchen stuff that is used occasionally, camping equipment, travel bags. It got me to thinking that when I am not sure about keeping, maybe it is time to give away.

This spring may see another garage sale. As soon as I am sure there will be no more snow, I will park my car outside of the garage and start filling the garage. Last year, that was such a good way of parting with things. And it was a good way of knowing what I needed to take back. Not much made it back inside my house but a few things did and I wanted those things.

This post has gone from my crankiness to cleaning, still without decisions. The engagement that I felt is still on a horizon slowly coming into view -- a kitten, an exchange student, inquiries about an adoption, some work at investment, and thoughts about a LEND project. In all the instances, feelers can be sent out. I remain anxious about making mistakes, but I cannot be more articulate about my fears or the possible mistakes.

In medius res. A lousy place to be.

26 February 2012

7 pictures

Seven little pictures taken at the breakfast table on Saturday morning. What is so special about them? Out of 7, there is only one, yes 1, in which Julia is not looking at the camera!! If you could look into my iPhoto library, you'd see that the ratio is usually in the other direction. Step-by-step. Step-by-step.


25 February 2012

Julia and I went to Amy’s house last night for a family game night. It was my first time out with more than very close friends that I enjoyed myself. 19 and a half months. I wasn’t my full social self but I didn’t feel like a drain on the energy of the evening -- something that I definitely was many times over this past year. I think I even made a few witty comments -- not sophisticated or complicated, but I actually said a few things that made other people laugh.

There is both joy and sorrow for this step. I no longer carry the burden of my grief into every room I enter. Big whew! I can speak easily of my life, our life, and of David without calling the clouds of doom and despair. But it also mean, at least to me, that David is so far away that my tragedy of losing him no longer colors my every word and deed. Damn. So much is so bitter sweet. Healing, recovery, finding the new normal, whatever you want to call it, is not cure. Like I needed to learn that. Right.

Julia had a very good evening as well. There were 7 girls at this get together who ranged from a year older than Julia to a few years younger. Much of the older girls’ play was too sophisticated for Julia, but the entire group of girls stayed together for most of the evening and Julia was in there with them. I did need to prompt her twice when she stayed behind the group to play quietly in another room. I rounded her up, helped her to bring the toys she was playing with to where the other girls were. Julia found kids to play legos with and also to play Janga. She is very good at Janga. There was a period of time that the girls were running around all three floors of the house and Julia was with them! I reminded her once to speak kindly to one girl when Julia was being too bossy, but other than that, she played and talked and found ways to fit in, albeit at times the fitting in was around the edges of the group. This was her most successful social time, without therapist or much parental intervention. When she got home, she told me she missed a few of the kids and she mentioned them by name.

Julia did not eat at all at the house party. I usually sit her down and make her eat something but she was having such a good and successful time that I did not want her to stop. Food for the soul at least as important as food for the body? I will stuff her full of good food today.

For months, for more than a year, Julia has been participating in small peer group interaction at the IDS clinic twice a week. I have not tested what she has learned there. I had not thought to do so, but last night was a very successful test.

To take a step back, Julia knows most of these kids from school. None are in her class but they ride the bus with her or she sees them on the playground. The kids of the house are very accepting of Julia and their parents encourage them to play with Julia. One of those kids really likes Julia. And so, this was not a blind social interaction. I do not suppose that this would happen at any gathering, but I am so happy that it happened last night.

And now, it is time to get out of bed and wake the sleeping dinosaur and get started with out day. We have a full weekend of therapy and dinner with friends after church tonight. More socializing that I usually do.

And that is good.

23 February 2012

When the student is ready . . .”

Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you.

Embrace me, you irreplaceable you.

Just one look at you -- my heart grew tipsy in me;

You and you alone bring out the gipsy in me.

I love all the many charms about you;

Above all I want my arms about you.

Don't be a naughty baby, come to papa -- come to papa -- do!

My sweet embraceable you.

This was the song in my head yesterday -- singing it over and over. And over some more. Tearing up on, “you and you alone bring out the gypsy in me.” Today, I can sing the whole way through. It is such a lovely song. My NYC singing teacher, Norman Fields, used to say, even though I know he heard this from someone else, that you had to sing a song 1000 times before it was your own. Well, I have a few songs that are my own -- performing them 1000 times is much better than singing in the car and the shower, but it all counts.

I sorted stuff -- first family pictures and then my old files -- on Tuesday. All day! I was coughing by the end of the day -- mildew and dust. Oy! Julia was coughing when she got home as well. I saw a few things and made a few decisions.

Seeing: I have reinvented myself a number of time. I have practice doing what I am doing right now. Looking at the files pertaining to the Court House Historical Society that I joined when it was formed in Indy and then stayed with through the centennial celebration for the courthouse, I feel so distant from that person. It was part of Thriving Where I was Planted -- an early motto for a year or two. But I was part of that historical society from the initial brainstorm meetings, to writing articles for the historical magazine and for a law journal, co-writing and then directing the re-creation of a famous case in the same courtroom that the film 12 Angry Men was shot in, doing a huge chunk of the planning for the dinner at the State Museum, and planning for a new mural in the building. I was finding ways to fit into a life that I took on.

The directing of the recreation was interesting. I had helped to write the script that was cobbled together from trial transcripts, old newspapers, and scholarly articles. It was not a good script but credible for a bunch of lawyers working on such a thing. I helped assemble the cast which included two of our judges and a bunch of important lawyers. I was at the first rehearsal just to make sure that the script worked. The cast read through the material and they were awful. I suggested they do it on their feet and they were worse. I started to tell them what to do, where to move to, where to stand, how to face the audience, when one of our judges said, “You are really good at this.” Such wisdom. I said, “This is what I did before law school.” And at that moment I understood that switching careers was viewed as a failure, a lack of talent, by many people who were in my legal life. It was chilling at the time, now I think it was wonderful. I have not always had the opportunity to see myself as others see me. Most of the time I have no idea what other people think. But for a moment it was all clear, be it wonderful or awful, I knew. And that bunch of people were very happy to assign me the task of putting the “show” together which involved far more than directing. And we could be collectively proud of our work.

What springs to mind right now, is that I have never looked like my job. When I was an actor, it surprised people that I was an actor. When I was a lawyer, it was the same. I was told that I didn’t have enough ego to be an actor, and I was too nice to be a lawyer. This always puzzled me. Always. Part of me still longs to fit in and look like what I am doing, but doesn’t matter as much anymore. What people think of me as a dottering mother of an 11 year old is of no interest to me -- and maybe that was what I was the point. What I was training for all the time.

I met a woman yesterday, a friend of my dog-walking friend, Theresa, and we had coffee together. She is a widow of 10 years and Theresa had been trying to get us together for a long time. She was sure that we would hit it off and that I might find real value in talking to someone who had walked the path that I am on now. It took me a long time to email her. I am finally ready to really start talking. I wonder if that means that I will not have to write about mourning and grief all the time?

She shared her journey and not surprisingly, it was so similar to mine. It was great to hear that 18 months is not a long time, that it took her three years before she was really ready to assume some sort of normal life. That time and more time is normal and that those who have not lost a very dear one have no idea. Time and again now, I talk or write to some people who seem to be tapping their toe strongly suggesting that it is about time. Well, it is not. And from talking to her, I see that it would benefit me to find a group of people who I can talk to on a regular basis. I can’t blame acquaintances for not wanting to hear of my continuing journey. It is rather depressing. But others who are on the same path are probably a better match for my ramblings. I will find a grief support group.


She learned to live alone. She changed where she lived and the way that she lived. She has a partner and he has no trouble with her lingering attachment to her husband. She works and is reasonably happy.

All this sounds very good to me.

As for my sorting of stuff. I spent too much time separating photos in some of my mother’s photo albums. I took the family pictures after my mother died, and intended to do a lot of scanning of pictures to send to my siblings. Well, that is a project that will never happen. Those ambitions were too high. I have my family’s pictures, my mother’s pictures, David’s childhood pictures, his parents’ early pictures, and my grandmother’s pictures. This is the work of many years, not many months. My revised plan is to send what I’ve separate and sorted to my siblings, David’s sister and cousins, and friends. But to stop sorting albums. There are albums that I have no idea how to sort because they have pictures of more than one of the Buchko children, or have no children but might be interesting for someone to keep although that someone is not me, or are not my family at all, or are people who I don’t know. And so, I will take from those albums the pictures that I want and then send the albums on to either my siblings or to David’s sister and let those people save or discard. I do have pictures from my grandmother that I will eventually scan some of them and send disks to my siblings, but that will not be soon.

I admit that this way, someone else is making the ultimate decision of which pictures to throw out. I’ve had too many of those kinds of decisions to make. I’ll let others do the ultimate deed this time. I will share the trashing.

I did not do any sorting yesterday, and I am in a much better place to do it today. Did I say that it feels endless? Yes, yes, yes. But the basement is only so big and sooner or later, pray for sooner, I will look at the last box and put the last item in the garage sale box or St. Vinnie’s box. That will be the end of one tunnel although today, I am still in the dark.

20 February 2012

Seeing what Julia can do in math:

Number ordering is coming along:

1, 2, 3, 4

8, 9, 10, 11

25, 26, 27, 28

37, 38, 39, 40

48, 49, 50, 51

2, 4, 6, 8

20, 30, 40, 50

325, 326, 327, 328

5, 4, 3, 2

12, 11, 10, 9

27, 26, 25, 24

Julia was able to fill in all of the underlined numbers. At the beginning of last summer, it was a challenge arranging numbered tiles 1-15 in order.

She had a harder time with:

90, 80, 70, 60

Needing a good deal of scaffolding and support.

We did a few greater-than, less-than. The signs are still drawn like alligator heads with the small number eating the bigger number. She was fine with:

3 > 1

4 < 7

17 > 9

But had some trouble with

25 < 47

We did addition and subtraction which she is still doing with manipulatives; however, she is using dots on the page which she draws and counts herself. She has been rash about subtraction at times, making dots for both numbers and adding them together, but this morning she has been very careful about noting the difference between addition and subtraction and doing it properly.

4 + 7 = 11

8 - 5 = 3

12 - 2 = 10

However, she had trouble with:

9 + 8 =17

15 - 9 = 6

She got both of these eventually, but she needed to slow down and a bit of prompting.

I cleaned my old desk for Julia to use today. One of her therapists pointed out that the little table that they use is way too little for her and that she had noticed a desk in my basement. Yes, indeed. It is the desk that David bought me as a wedding present. A desk to write on even when he was not so sure that writing was not what he preferred me to be doing. David always had some ambivalence about my writing. Our bitterest argument “began” when, during a regular disagreement, he blurted out that he “didn’t marry a writer.” He wanted to be the writer. Oh, it took awhile to get back to even keel after that one. We were so utterly young at that time and had no idea how many times we would change during our marriage. For each change, adjustments had to be made. There were some square pegs in round holes, but the glue that held up together also allowed us to bend and morph when necessary. We were and became what we needed to be for one another.

We, David and I, were so different and so much the same. We have such completely different styles -- where I wanted to read him my every draft, I never was allowed to see his work until it was almost done. There were a few stories that I didn’t read until they were published. Part of our wedding vows was to protect each other’s solitude. That promise was as important as anything else we did for one another.

So, I cleaned out the desk. Yes, it was mine first and for years, but when we bought a computer desk, I assumed that and my desk went into the basement. Then, David adopted it bringing it first to the third bedroom on Washington Blvd and then to a similar room in Madison that was also Cheshire’s bedroom when she was with us. Sometimes he did early morning writing on that desk, sometimes he put his electric keyboard on it and made up music that fed into earphones. During the last months of his life, the desk became drug and charting central. He had previously taken over almost the entire bathroom cabinet for his heart meds after his initial diagnosis, but when the drugs proliferated, he moved them to the desk where he could keep them in little groups for easy delivery. With the plethora of drugs came the necessity to do frequent blood pressure tests and temperature, and later sugar counts. There were clip boards for his numbers and for the drug schedule and for the instructions. I had cleared a lot of it away when I readied the house for last summer’s floor refinishing and painting. But not everything. I did it today. I still do not like doing it, but it is easier now. I remember everything but I remember lighter.

After a complete clearing out and cleaning, I brought it upstairs with the help of a therapist -- being a person alone really sucks when it comes to stuff like moving furniture. The desk fits in the space where the little table and chairs was as if it was always meant to go there. Julia is thrilled, and I smile to see my wedding present taking on new life.

A short report to sum up my experience with online dating so far. I have been meaning to do this for awhile because . . . well, because it is a part, albeit small, in the moving along on this journey through grieving to whatever the next phase of my life will be. I have not reported any actual dates because there have not been any, and the whole experience is . . . well, kinda weird. A few months after David died, I signed up for a few months of Chemistry.com. I was feeling radical and impatient with the process. And terribly lonely. I wanted to know who was out there. Simple answer: nothing and no one that I was interested in. Of course, I was interested in very little at the time. Even if some prince had written, I would have probably only seen frogs. To be completely honest, I did go for coffee with one nice, old man. It was okay, not great and it was plenty for me. So much for radical.

After the initial short time expired, I let the subscription lapse. Chemistry.com has free weekends now and then, and I’ve checked them out at times. I’ve looked at profiles and expressed interest and usually got nothing in return. Then the last couple of months, during free weekends, when I wasn’t participating, I’d get an email or two. However, whenever I followed up on the emails -- checking out profiles or even answering an email -- there would be a message from Chemistry.com that the profile was removed or no longer part of the site. Profiles and their owners are removed for inappropriate behavior and other things, and although very little that I got was inappropriate, I wondered if I was just getting mail from creeps. Oh, uck! Should I be thanking big brother for looking out for me? And then in the last few months, I gotten mail that read like bulk mail. After a few of those, I was disgusted and wrote a response which advised the writer that the email sounded like bulk mail and that if they wanted to catch a woman’s eye, they might include some personal information from the woman’s profile and ask an appropriate question or two.

And no, I have never gotten a response to my reply.

My latest foray into the online social world is okcupid.com. It is free and so the number of creeps multiply. I’ve corresponded with a few men and usually stopped after a time when I was creeped out or when there was absolutely nothing that we had in common. I’ve also stopped scaffolding to keep a conversation going. I have no problem with asking a few questions to get something going, but if I do that once or twice and the guy doesn’t do the same thing, that is, ask some questions of me, show some interest, then I just stop. I have no illusions that I am a hot catch, so I don’t think my stopping makes much difference. And truth be told, no one has felt the need to re-engage me after I’ve stopped writing. Maybe they are all why. Maybe . . . . who knows? It also seems that there are very few men in and around Madison who are within my age range. The auto-matcher, or whatever it is called, keeps churning up guys in Chicago, Milwaukee, and even Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. While distance on a computer makes no difference, I wouldn’t travel to Milwaukee or beyond for coffee or some day time meet up. Why should anyone else?

Still, I am lonely. I am not doing anything or going anywhere where I might meet appropriate men and to that end my lack of male companionship is my own fault. And honestly, I am vaguely ambivalent most of the time. I would really like some male friends, preferably old friends, who are comfortable and not threatening. Does that sound like someone hot to trot? I haven’t had to look for a date for almost 40 years. I think I’ve lost any touch that I ever had, and really, I never had much. As for male friends, I do little here to encourage that, and I am sure moving through life with an 11 year old does not encourage inquiries.

Reading this over, I wonder if this is just another part of the process.

The sorting goes on today. It is time to organize the basement again. I’ve pulled boxes from different parts and they are getting harder to reach. I now have the space to make piles according to contents: housewares, old equipment (oy, a few old hard drives to start up and look through), pictures (including many boxes of slide carousel that I fear belong to David’s early like. What to do with those?), more papers, and miscellaneous. There are also things like kitchen and travel stuff that just needs new and permanent homes. The job looks so far from finished but what needs looking at is in one place and can even be shifted around. Progress, slow as it is, is being made.

19 February 2012

Julia and I are having a very quiet weekend. Because of cancelations and a short month, we are short therapy hours -- we are required to do 80 hours of therapy a months which is not an easy amount to get in when the child goes to school full time -- and are using this weekend and next to catch up. With therapy scheduled from 9 to 4 with an hour’s break for lunch and church at 4:30 on Saturday, supper, a bit of tv or a game, bath and reading is all that is left to a day. Sound boring and stifling, I know. After two and a half years of intensive therapy, I almost can’t remember what a truly free weekend is like. The only time we get them is when we travel. I don’t mean to complain at all, but well, just a bit from time to time.

I spent the time going through boxes -- a bit more than two yesterday. That box of Cheshire’s early art was a killer. I know what happened. I remember distinctly. When we lived in Brooklyn, and that would be 1987 to 1988, we had a long, long hall that ran the length of the apartment -- typical brownstone second floor. Along that wall I hung whatever Cheshire brought home from the sitter and later from summer “camp” and preschool. Had I culled her work on a daily basis at that time, I wouldn’t have save much at all, but she insisted and I was more than delighted to allow everything on the hall walls. And then, we packed to leave for Indiana and the adventures in law school. We had help packing. Books and art was very easy to pack and to assign to others. I also knew that there would be little room for books and art in our first Bloomington apartment, so I assumed that we would go through those boxes at some later date. Jim Jones packed Cheshire’s art. He did not cull at all. He simply took it down, removed all tap, made neat piles according to size and fit it all in a moderately sized box. The box was relatively light and marked clearly with Cheshire’s name. I opened it and added to it in Bloomington. And it was again sealed and taken to Indianapolis, and of course, to Madison with never a peek inside.

Where it might be easy -- at least to some degree -- to discard kid art on a day to day basis, and I don’t have that much trouble with Julia’s drawings, especially those that I don’t consider her best work, it is almost impossible to discard the work of a long-gone sprite who is now so grown up that she would never scribble on orange paper with green crayons. Funny thing was that Julia did not want me to get rid of any of it either. Somehow I think she sees the dismantling of the collection of Cheshire’s complete early work as a threat to her continued work. Happy to report that at least two thirds was discarded and the rest put in the growing chrono files. I expect that as I go through the years when I am finally finished with the present phase, more will go.

It is remembrance, nostalgia, regret, and then coming into the present.

And I found the living room pillows that I knew I had packed before the summer packing up, but have not been able to find since. It was a big box that had sunk to the bottom of a pile. I was wondering if somehow I had thrown them out.

It was my turn to be parent volunteer at RE -- religious education -- on Saturday. The lesson on Bibleodeon was about the biblical kings and the construction of the temple of Solomon. Part of the time was spent with the class building a model of the temple. The teachers listed the parts that needed to be built and different kids volunteered to make and paint columns, an altar, the holy of holies, etc. But when it came to the 12 oxen to put the bronze basin on top of, I knew Julia had a job. She very quickly made five play dough oxen or more accurately, cows. Quickly and incredibly efficiently, she fashioned the little animals which were all about the same size and looked remarkably like cows -- ears, horns, and tails all very lifelike. She was especially careful with the legs which “had to be strong” for the cows to stand up. She didn’t need a picture or a reference of any kind. She didn’t need help. She knew what they looked like. There were other kids who were making playdough animals for sacrifice and people. Those figures were no where near what Julia made. Living with Julia and watching her draw and color and make things, and even at times, demanding that she re-do certain drawings when she is not doing her best, I forget how intense her talent is. The only reason that she did not make all 12 oxen was that she ran out of playdough. The temple building continues next week. I wonder if I should send in more playdough to insure the creation of the last 7 oxen.

Also, watching the other kids around the room -- about a dozen in all -- I was struck that Julia’s behavior falls closer and closer into the realm of the normal. Yes, she still has an aid for all classes at FUS, but for the most part she seems to listen as closely as many of the other kids -- her class is predominately boys and I am not sure that I would be seeing the same of girls -- and responds almost as frequently. Sometimes her responses are not completely in sync with the questions asked, but then that happens with other kids as well. She doesn’t have the insight of the most mature kids, not by a long shot, but I almost glimpsed the possibility of keeping up with the kids who were immature or slower or not responsive. Again, I am happy that I’ve decided to keep her in fourth grade for another year.

Julia plays on her leapster in the car as we drive around and gets in a few minutes while waiting for therapists. She has gotten better with stopping when she is asked as she has become more sure that she will be allowed to go back to it later. Many of the cartridge programs that she has -- which were gifted from an Indy friend with older kids -- have some touch with education and I used to encourage those. I don’t really have to any more, although at times, I have to ask her to stop play with the batman program that is more violent that I like. What ever she has been playing with for the past week, has been drilling spelling and rhyming words into her head. Yesterday, it clicked and suddenly she was all about rhyming. “Mom, Mom, cot and pot rhyme?” “Yes.” “And pot and rot?” “Yes.” “And rot and zot?” “Zot? I don’t think that’s a word.” “Yes, it is. In dr. Suess.” And of course, she is right. It is from One Fish, Two Fish. This went on most of the day with different sounds and words. And she was right on correct most of the time. Finally, at the very end of the day, Julia asked if “introduction” and “meditation” rhyme.

By jove, I think she’s got it.

17 February 2012

I am so steeped in nostalgia in its full meaning, “a yearning for the past, often in idealized form.” I don’t remember the past being so tantalizing, so easy to idealize. Ok, so the feeling make sense and I accept them for what they are, but they are a bit of a rut. An unsatisfying loop that I’d like to move out of. Of course I want to move along and out before I’ve touched bottom. The line between fully experiencing and wallowing is very hard for me to see. I have no wish to wallow in nostalgia because there is alway and only pain at the end of that path, but I want full experience if only to be finished, completed, processed, with the guarantee that I do not have to sink so far into the muck again.

I’ve had to postpone the sorting of Cheshire’s early “art” in favor of a two-day clean up. It took almost an entire day to go through, sort, and re-arrange the play room that holds all of Julia’s toys and therapy aids. I am sure that crayons multiply and puzzle pieces move on their own accord. And papers with exercises, instructions, advice, and scholarly articles hide under shelves, in picture books and in every folder. I did not touch my desk which sorely needs to be touched and ordered, and cannot decide at present whether to make the desk my mission today or to allow myself to go back to the grand sort. Such decisions! I laugh at myself.

When I am stuck in the yearning for the idealized past, there is some delight in the wishing I could be back in the long ago, or even the not so long ago, and the yearning clings like honey on fingers after you’ve touched a sticky jar. It infects days, it makes the present pale. It is not that I have never been here before but that I have not so taken notice of it. I feel like I will never get out of it, like it is a trap for all time, and that there is no tomorrow that could be worth looking for and expending energy for.

For myself, it comes with the devil of fear. I can be terrified that I will find nothing to do, that I will need to make money and have no way to do it. That I will be lonely and unhappy all of my life, and useless as well.

Is that the bottom of the nostalgia well? If not the bottom, a low ledge. Once I am there, I cannot take that as my belief in the future. In life. I do long for the sureness of a decision, and I am afraid, quite a reasonable fear considering my past, that I will no idea what the decision should be and will wander aimlessly forever. But even aimless wandering can be in the present, possibly even a happy present.

Much later.

As we checked in at chalice group this morning, one of the members told us that her husband who has been very ill is not sleeping most of his days. He is trying to get his papers organized to give to the University’s archives. He is more than half done but now he can only work on them every few days and then only for a few hours at a time. She talked of his acceptance of death. He has accepted it more fully than she can.

I have no words, but I nod and hope my silence give her a tiny bit of strength.

Another member is turning 70 later this year and has decided to do 70 kindnesses for her year. We assured her that she must do many more than 70 kindnesses in a year’s time, but she spoke of intentional kindness. She wants to look for kindnesses that she can do and she wants to write them down to keep track. This act of intention changes the nature of the act. Intention changes everything.

I have no place to go with that thought. I don’t understand it yet although I know it to be true.

Traci commented on Julia’s secret friend presents that she hoped that the child receiving the presents appreciated. She did! Julia’s secret friend is a little girl who has a special fondness for Julia and she was thrilled with the large picture -- this child has a pet parakeet who is very dear to her -- and the exploding box. And the candy that was inside. I was so pleased that it was this child because the is a very sweet girl, and also because this might be a friend for Julia.

Julia now has art homework. She has been given a small sketch pad by her art teacher. Julia is to draw during the week and bring it into class of Friday. I have to check with the teacher to find out if Julia is supposed to be drawing something special. This is a good exercise for her. Drawing consistently and by assignment is excellent training. Is everything therapy for this child? Almost. Every direction and lesson and even every play time needs to do double and triple duty to get another habit into her. I cannot and do not waste the precious time of her childhood that is left to me. We -- teachers, therapists, and me -- are all working on conversation right now. We ask questions of her, modeling the behavior that we want, and then prompt her to ask it of us. Many, many times a day. All in the hope that this child can learn to be a friend so that she can have friends.

On Thursday, Julia worked on the next two pages of “A Dinosaur’s Tale” with Marilyn. She was so happy to work on the first two page last week that were about a mommy and daddy t-rex have a lovely egg, expecting it to hatch, and loving their little hatchling. In this week’s pages the mommy and daddy realize that they cannot take care of their baby, they wrap her up, and look for a place to leave her. They find a big nest where other little dinosaurs are being looked after by a nurse or Ayi dinosaur. Julia was grim faced when we read the first of these pages together but she was willing to draw. She drew and then she wrote a sentence underneath the picture on the lines provided. When Marilyn asked how she felt about the picture, Julia said sad and angry. Last week, she wanted to be the egg and the baby and wanted me to be the mommy t-rex. This week, she knows that she is the baby but I am not the mommy. I told her that if I had been the mommy that I would have taken her home and loved her. She asked if the mommy t-rex was her China mommy. And we told her, yes.

She understands.

16 February 2012

Face painting at the Carnival

So with all my ranting and raving about all those greeting cards that the original Inez Schanker saved and my reluctance to throw them away even though they had very little connection to me, I came upon my own stash of old greeting cards, letters, play programs, and notes. Ummm. I am guilty as charged. A saver!

It is or rather was all in a box labeled “suzanne’s memories.” And they are just that. I had packed that box so well. Much from high school and college years, some that was stuffed in to fill the box, I suppose, and much later. Get well cards from my appendectomy and subsequent infection when I was 15, graduations from every level of education, christmas cards from high school and beyond. And like I’ve done before, I sorted, putting items in the yearly folders. And because I just fretted over Inez’s collection, I am determined to discard what will mean little to my girls and their girls and their girls. The remembrance is sweet. I saved half a dozen cards from Inez’s collection. I should do the same of my own.

I used one the Inez’ old cards for Julia’s Valentine from me. She loved the little skunks who wanted to cuddle. I gave her some soap in the shape of a dragon that could be a dinosaur. She is washing herself in the shower regularly and pretty soap is good incentive. After her shower last night, Julia asked if we could skip the medication and she could just put on her pjs. I let her do that. One night without medication is no big deal and she doesn’t seem to be scratching at night so going out the itch meds is also okay. I have been keeping her body so close, been taking such care. It is nice to see her want to take herself back. I have to be grateful that Julia trusted me enough to have me medicate daily all over her body. She has had no privacy for months now. During the last week or so, I’ve been allowing her to stay in one room while I go to another. And for about a month, she has been going to the bathroom alone. She still has about 20 active sores on her body. Each one is so persistent going through a dormant phase and then exploding/blooming into an itchy, bloody-looking mess. I am not sure but two new bumps have come out. What I am not sure about is whether the new bumps will be active sores, or perchance, they are merely skin irritations. Even the sores that are healing itch at times and there are probably about 10 to 15 more than the active 20. There is progress but it is so damned slow.

Julia and one of her therapists made me a candy tree with little snickers pinned all over a ball. Such a nice thought, but I am not sure how to avoid the snickers! Julia wished me a happy valentine’s day a few times during the day.

And Cheshire sent tulips to me and the beautiful dinosaur. They arrived later in the day and she was anxious enough to ask me in the afternoon whether anything arrived. The were boxed and took overnight to look happy in water. Red and white tulips from my dear girl. My dear girl who is looking for a new apartment, one to share with Chris, her boyfriend. It is a step for them, and of course, there is so much it reminds me of. Finding an apartment in New York is still no easy task.

The final box of the day was one marked “Cheshire” and what I expected to be odds and ends from her bedroom turned out to be a pile of very early art work -- streaks and hand prints, two squares and a triangle glued to a piece of construction paper. These were from Cheshire’s first four years in New York. I am sure when we moved it to Bloomington, I had some intention of going through it but apart from this box moving from NYC to Bloomington to Indy to Madison, not much has been done. I handled each piece of kid art, so much of it so inconsequential. There is a first face and some dates put on pages that I must have thought important. There are first scribbles and first words. I remember the charming child. The sprite of a girl who stood at the top of a staircase in Brooklyn and waved to her Daddy and said “Ci vediamo dopo,” see you later, and popping the final “p” and laughing with hands over her mouth.

I don’t remember ever being as nostalgic as I am these days. Everything and every time seems so precious. I know. It is expected. The timing, the exercise, the resolve. I seem to instinctively hold on to each and every piece of the life that I have lived, hold is very close, and then let it move away. I have not lived in the past before this, and I do not mean that I am living there right now, but I am remembering all the was sweet and kind in my life. Seeing the proof, and I have never really doubted it, that my happy life came not from my family of origin, but from the family I made, the friends I pulled close enough to become family. People have said that there were things they would have liked to tell their younger selves. Certainly, if I could speak to my child self, I would tell her that so many lovely things were coming and to hold on and dream, just like she/I was doing. And during the painful transition years of early adulthood, I would tell myself to be kinder, love more deeply and truer. And of course, there would be lots of career advice although I sincerely doubt whether my younger self would have accepted any of it. But what could I say, I would have nothing to say to the self who cared and is caring for my girls. Maybe more patience, always more patience.

15 February 2012

Written 14 February 2012

There are mornings when I can’t wait for Julia to step on that bus so that I can sit and write. Oh, how glorious is that? This is one of those days. Snow is falling, quieting my world and looking for all the world just like I imagined this winter sort and clean out would look from my dining room windows. I have been dealing with two types of things, sheet music and the old greeting cards that my in-laws sent to one another in the 1940’s and early 50’s. Both are just loaded with sentimental, nostalgic feelings, and it has been hard to rip them out of my tight fists. But why save?

The music, two full boxes of it, David’s music for his base and drums and some original compositions of his. Many violin, trumpet, and band books and sheet music from Cheshire. My contribution to those boxes was musical scores, band sheet music, choir music, and piano cheat books (that I used when I was singing with strangers, not that I ever played.). As I went through those boxes, I wanted to save everything to remember it all, but I do remember it, admittedly not as clearly as when I see the music. Still, it is from a time gone by. I have not looked at any of it for more than five years, and someone can use at least some of the material. So, it goes to a friend of a friend, a young many who is a music teacher by day and a drag queen by night. Oh, I love that! I am sure he will not value all of it. He may throw lots of it away, but maybe he will save the score to South Pacific and sing “Some Enchanted Evening” or give the Susuki violin books to a little boy who is just starting violin. And then our love of music, our experience of music, and how it enriched so many corners of our lives will live on in places and people that I will never know.

The cards are from a scrap book that David’s mother kept. She seemed to have saved every greeting card that anyone would have sent her or attached to a gift between the time that she was engaged until just after her children were born. I am imagining that there was no time for such time consuming past times once the kids were born. David got the scrap book as part of the boxes that his father was cleaning out of the attic. That was before we moved to Madison. At some time, before Madison, the scrap books’ black pages got damp and blew up like a sponge. The cards were not affected at all but the book took up an entire box. In my very early sorting before David died, it was an easy way to get rid of a box. I took all of the cards off of the pages of the scrap book and threw the book away. One might wonder why I did not throw everything away -- ah, my tight little fists held memories that were not even mine very close. I did not feel it was my place to throw the cards away, they belonged to David. David did nothing with them and so they sat until now.

The cards have no collecting value. My cousin, who is a poster collector, said that many people saved greeting cards from that time and no one collects them. Interesting that Innie was just doing what others of her generation did, and equally interesting that my mother didn’t. So, even though these cards held no sentimental value to me, in fact, I don’t know who signed many, many of the cards, it was still hard to decide to get rid of them. But once I wrote my cousin, the cards were on their way out. With no value to any collector or historical society, I decided that I would offer the cards to Julia’s art teacher and she assured me that she could find plenty of uses. I will save a few for the chron files, a few for Cheshire that she could recycle and use -- they are signed by Inie after all and Inez is her first name -- and a few that I can recycle and use. And then the rest will be gone tomorrow.

13 February 2012

I am waiting for Julia at the clinic and since she is not downstairs right now, I think I may be an hour early. So, time for this. There is a People magazine with Demi Moore on the cover. “Life in Danger” it reads with “The real story” underneath, and as one of the bullet points right below that “tortured by insecurities”. Well, I guess if Demi can feel insecure, maybe I shouldn’t feel badly that I’ve been feeling it all day.

To explain: I called my County Case Worker today to catch up -- he hasn’t called in months --, to ask him about transitioning -- Julia’s state intensive autism fund ends this spring --, and to ask him if he wanted to come to a team meeting at the clinic. I caught him up on Julia’s progress and present challenges. He knew nothing about the skin challenge! And he asked me if I had returned to work yet. There was no disapproving tone, no tone at all, it was just a question, probably a friendly question. But immediately I did some heavy internalizing. On the spot, and for hours afterwards. Ugh!

Shouldn’t I be working by this time? Should I be working? Is what I am doing important enough not to work? Does everyone expect me to get a job? What aren’t I just getting a job? What should I do? What should I get a job in? Should I renew my attorney’s license? Should I hang out a shingle and defend someone? Why am I not doing that? And what must everyone think of me for not working? Not even wanting to work? Especially at law.


I did.

I’m not going to read why Demi is insecure but she went into treatment. I haven’t gone into treatment. Ok, I got some drugs. Rationally, I believe that what I am doing is important and worth while, but man, that rational mind is on shaky ground.

My mind wanders to what I would be doing if I did not have Julia because one of my big and easy justifications for not working is that I have Julia to take care of. No, that is not the reason for taking this year of fallow, but when I think about the time I put into Julia’s care, including just being home so that she can receive therapy, there is no way I could work full time and meet those demands. No way that I could work at a legal job with the expectation that I could work any hour of the day and night and keep up with Julia.

If I go beyond Julia and think of what I am doing/ have done in the past 6 months -- the renovation, the packing and then putting the house together again, the sorting and cleaning of all our stuff, the writing, the working out, the meditating and the venturing out just beyond myself -- I know that if I was working, all of it would be put aside, on some back burner while I rushed from work to caring for Julia with time for little else. Believing that my complete sanity is worth this time, without being sure of some measurable result, is the leap into empty space that is most perilous. Most fraught with second quessings.

The work goes slowly -- the sorting that I’ve begun again. I am getting rid of the boxes of sheet music to a friend of Mary. I have greeting cards from the 1940’s that the art teacher will take off my hands. I will get all of David’s books in one place and start mailing some out to those who want it. The dining room is filled with piles and files. The look is early chaos and the basement doesn’t look that empty, but I am in the midst of the process. I feel burdened now with the amount of time the process is taking and the amount of stuff I have to sort through, but it is no where near the burden I’d feel if it was all just sitting there. I have to remember that I’ve gone through many, many boxes. Those boxes would be still sitting there. Yes, there is burden now, but no where near what it would have been.

And what would I be doing if I did not have Julia? I ponder this because so much of what I am doing and what I think about doing is intwined with her and her challenges. First, I’d have to go back 6 years and undo my passionate desire for a second child. Then, would I still be in Chicago? I was not working very well there. I don’t know how long I would have lasted if I had not been distracted by Julia’s needs and our impending move to Madison and left of my own accord. But thinking of David’s death as the unchangeable event, I wonder if I would have stayed in Madison? In Chicago? Would I have sold the house immediately? Would I be traveling now and living off a much reduced income? Would I be living with Lisa and Nick? Would I have returned to NYC? Or would I be working double hard trying to make sense of the rest of my life? What would have happened to our stuff if I sold the house? Would it be in some storage unit? Where?

No answers. Just musings. And impossible to even make guesses that we too many variables over too long a time. And how could I live with Julia in my life?

Am I a cliche? Am I asking the expected questions? Is this merely the 12 step program of mourning?

I lost my temper with Julia this morning. She can be exasperating. I am no saint. Getting her to get dressed in the morning on any sort of schedule, before her meds take effect is more than a challenge. As she is able to take back more of the process because her skin needs less of my attention, I struggle to reestablish the queues and support that can get her operating independently. Every piece is a struggle and some mornings I am just not up for the challenge. Today, I was angry.

I spent time on the phone the morning investigating options for next year’s therapy. If I can put Julia on my insurance, the family plan will more than double the current rate that I pay, she can get another year of intensive autism therapy. We all agree with this would be ideal. Now to find the money to make it happen. But now that I think about it, another year of intensive means another year of getting therapy right after school and on weekends and makes full time paid work elusive. Not that I know what I would even look for to do, but unless it could be contained in the school day, it would be impossible. The worry that this causes is not productive in the least. I need to put energy into doing not worrying.

Tomorrow is Valentines Day and I am no one’s valentine. I couldn’t even write that one last year. I have had the thought that I have only myself to please and it makes me think about the daily round that I have. How much do I like a clean kitchen? How much do I value a bed that is made? How much do I want a variety of food to eat? Do I like to wear nice jeans? Is it important to change the ugly living room light? Of course, some of my questions impact Julia and I do try to please her, but so much is what I want. Me. Just me. No parents or partner. Not sad, just curious right now. I almost don’t understand what this means. I know that when I talk about my insecurities, about my reaction to having someone ask me if I have a job, the obviously I am not completely comfortable with pleasing myself. If I was, the question would not stir the caldron of feelings. So I ponder and I wonder.

What in all the world should I be doing living for myself?