Monday, June 03, 2019

Where the Loved Ones Go

Does anyone else get in a mood where they just sit and think about the people they've lost touch with or just lost? I don't mean in a sad way - like when you start grieving all over again like you never got a chance to in the first place. I mean, like when you just thought about one of the people you've loved, then think of another and another until you go ahead and give in to all the memories? That's the mood I was in earlier today.

It dawned on me long ago that I do my best thinking when I'm not trying to think. This is why I have notebooks and pens scattered all around my apartment. It's also why I have notes scribbled on pieces of scrap paper. If someone ever cleaned out my purse and tossed out all the gum wrappers and receipts, I'd break down and cry. Every now and then, I do have to go through my purses and backpack just to collect the bits of my "thinkings". I'll either transfer them to one of my journals or put them into a folder to be dealt with later. What's crazy about this is that, when I move, I have to make a box just for all that paper and the journals. Too many memories and story ideas are buried in them. I sometimes fantasize that when I die and someone is handling my belongings they will read those scribblings and think, "She wasn't crazy, she was trying to remain sane."

A lot of the notes I have are about the people I love. If I remember a story my mother or father told me, I'll hurry and write it down. My memory is bi-polar reliant so I've learned to take mental snapshots and then print them out of my brain onto a note asap. Anyway.

This morning when I was cleaning and gathering up laundry, I thought of my Auntie "Lenore". I had a scarf turbaned around my hair so I wouldn't mess up my twists. My aunt never wore a scarf like that but something about it reminded me of her. I used to call and talk with her at least a couple of times a year, then it was once a year and then it was once every other year. I hardly ever call anymore. That's because we have the exact same conversation that lasts about 3 minutes. We run through this checklist of how I and my siblings are doing, then she tells me she's doing fine, and then she wants to get off the phone because she thinks it's costing me too much money. I don't think she gets the whole AT&T gouges me really good once a month so I can make all the calls I want. The gouging does not get any more gentle if I never even touch my phone. And don't think I am heartless for not calling Auntie any more often. I have younger aunts who use social media and keep me up to date.

Once I thought about Auntie "Lenore", I thought about another of my aunties. I'm going to run out of fake names here, but let's call my other auntie "Rosa". She was killed about 15 years ago when a drunk driver ran her down. She was one of my favorite younger aunts. She was sweet as southern tea and so shy that she practically whispered when she spoke. She had a beautifully innocent smile that I will never forget. I remember how she had a habit of ducking her head if anyone paid attention to her. She was that shy. I already have some notes tucked away that I scribbled about her.

Of course, I also think a lot about the mother of one of my SIL's. I remember feeling so broken when I was leaving Alaska once because it was right when she was suffering from dementia. (By the way,  but I didn't mind sharing Marie's real name because her daughter and I decided that she would have wanted me to.) People use the term loosely but Marie really was so "full of life". I'm happy to say that if I concentrate, I can clearly hear her voice right now. I have not forgotten her sense of humor or the way she and my mother got along just enough to drive the rest of us crazy.

Anyway, there's something I started wondering about while I was in this mood. Do you suppose that when we are dying we are already glimpsing whatever is on the other side? And what do you think it feels like in your heart or soul as you realize that "this is it?"

I have very distinct memories of watching at least 2 people die. One was my mother and the other was my sister. Neither was awake for a while before the machines flatlined but they had been so still and peaceful for so long that I always wonder if their souls hadn't already gone on. With my sister, I know that at least for a while she was somehow aware of me sitting next to her. When I held her hand and talked to her, she squeezed my fingers once. But that was early in her last hours. Just before I dozed off on the night she died, I had combed her hair and talked to her. When I held her hand then, she didn't squeeze back. Like we had done with my mother, I told her she could let go because I would be okay without her. I'm such a liar

Are you afraid of dying? Why? I don't mean do you want to die. I don't think that anyone does on most days. I want to know if you are afraid of what it will mean to be dead? I have always joked that I'm more afraid of getting dead than being dead. That's true. I really would rather not see it coming. I don't want to have to stress about things left unsaid, undone,  or finished. If I had a say, I'd want to just be here one minute and gone the next. Let's make that the next second. No need stretching things out even a little bit.

On the other hand, there are times I think I'd like to get a chance to take care of a few things. Say that last "I love you" or "I'm so glad you were in my life."

Never mind. I take it back. I'd rather not have time to plan or think about it.

I also wonder what it must be like "on the other side" (and I hate that term!). I've read the Bible and some other books about the afterlife. I've never been very clear on the whole subject. Once I asked someone if they thought we were going to be instantly "aware" after death. They made a point that maybe only Christians will find interesting. They reminded me that the Bible teaches that the thief hanging next to Jesus was promised that he would be in paradise with the Lord "this day" - meaning no sleeping in his buried body or anything like that.

No matter what you choose to believe, I want to have all this stuff sorted out in my head and in my heart before I die.

When I think about sudden death, I remember one friend and former co-worker who died of a brain stem stroke. She was in her forties and had just fallen in love for probably the first time ever. "Sue" was damn near family because a cousin of hers was dating a brother of mine. She had this maniacal laugh that was freaking contagious. It sounded like Dudley Moore playing "Arthur" - only more feminine. She'd had some difficult times in her personal and work life and just when everything was coming together in a positive way, she was taken. There wasn't any time for her to ponder the situation. She woke up for work not feeling especially well but just assumed she was coming down with a cold or virus. She made it to work but developed such a bad headache that she returned home to sleep it off. And she died.

Sue and I had discussed more than once how sometimes life just didn't seem worth living. We were both dealing with heartache and disappointment. You go through enough of that as you are getting a little older and you start to feel like all your chances for happiness have passed you by. Sue struggled to live during the times she felt like dying would be better and then she died just when her life was getting good. This will make you examine your beliefs.

I always imagine that "Sue" probably laid down with that headache thinking of all the things she'd do once she felt better. Maybe she worried about the work that would have piled up on her desk in her absence. Maybe there was even one particular client she knew would be impatient about the holdup in their paperwork.  I wonder if she had gotten to kiss her boyfriend or lay down with him in love one last time. I wonder if she got to tell him she loved him before he left for work that last morning. These are not things that are easy to ask the ones who remain behind. These are things that we can only wonder about and hope the best for.

When my father died, he was almost 5000 miles away from me. On the morning he died - a couple of hours before my aunts called to tell me - I had mentioned to my mother that I thought I heard him calling my name. Of course, we knew he was sick and I had just come back from visiting him. My mother told me that it was probably just because I had him so much on my mind. I'm not sad about my father today (like I can sometimes be). Today I am thinking of his smile (much like his sister/my auntie) and how he pronounced "either" and "neither" as "eezer" and "neezer" because he never lost his Arkansas countrified accent. I inherited his flat fingernails and these nappy assed curls that have to be tamed with all kinds of products. But I also got his long-for-our-height legs and decent metabolism. And If I really get to missing my daddy, I can always go look in the mirror or visit my little brother who looks "the spitting image" of him.

So, yeah, I get in these moods where I can't help thinking about the people I've loved. I think about them and I wonder if they know how much I love and miss them even when they can't hear me saying it.

And not because I am sad today, but because I love this song and forgot to add it to my list. It's by Dani and Lizzy. Please go support them for sharing something beautiful with those of us who grieve the loss of loved ones.


Me and Somebody's Wine

(One of my play nieces told me that it would be cool if I put up a video for each post. Sounded cool. Go support an artist.)
Sing it, Melody. Making me want a cigarette and some bourbon...

So. We all should know by now that I'm not a champion drinker. I am actually the cheapest date on the planet. After a few mixed drinks, I am a fun gal. But if I go just one drink over... That's with mixed drinks - or shots of something I can handle the taste of, like Crown Apple. By the way, that stuff is like Kool-Aid for fools. It's tricky-good. Tasty but dangerous. I've discovered I have a 3 shot minimum on Crown.

Wine, though, turns me into a different kind of fun. Wine generally just makes me feel very mellow. After a moderate glass of sweet wine, I am great company. Not too chatty or hyper, but sober enough to be good company. That's if the wine is not too strong. One decent glass of anything stronger than church wine is better than any sleeping pill my docs know about. As a matter of fact, for a long time, I kept a bottle of wine around just to use as a nightly tonic. Then I worried that maybe I was getting a little too habitual about that.

Once some years back when I was staying with my best friend, her sister treated us to a holiday outing to spend an evening at a ranch turned winery. It was during the Christmas season. The plan was to take a tour of the winery, have some casual eats, then participate in a wine tasting before finishing the evening off with a hayride on horse-drawn wagons. I was excited about the hayride and super-excited to do my first wine tasting.


What had happened was... (and please don't laugh too hard at me) is that I made a rookie mistake. I was swallowing more of the wine than I was spitting out. And, yes, I knew to spit because that was part of the little lesson we were given beforehand. The problem is, I liked some of the wine too much to spit it out. Listen, we tasted a lot of wine. Yes, we did.

I never did make it to the hayride but I made really good friends with some guy at our table who was as drunk as I was and who kept squinting at me while we talked. I think he was trying to figure out which one of me he was talking to. Every now and then, he'd throw back his head and make this crazy cackle-laugh sound. And I wasn't saying anything especially funny. My girlfriend was as drunk as I was but she tends to stay classy and get quiet when she drinks. She only spoke long enough to whisper to me that I was talking with a guy who was probably a retired serial killer. Her poor sister could only shake her head and tell us to try to eat more food while she went on the hayride.

The best thing about having gotten drunk that night was it made the ride home fun. We'd driven probably two and a half hours to get to the ranch in the first place and we'd gotten lost twice on the way there. We didn't realize until someone mentioned it to my friend's sister that we would be driving right through one of those sundown towns on our way back home. There we were, sometime after one in the morning, driving super carefully. My friend's sister was stone-cold sober but worried about her two drunk passengers. She kept giving us instructions on what to do if we got pulled over. Let her do the talking; maybe just pretend to be asleep; and, please try holding our breath because we were damn near making her drunk from the fumes coming off of us. Thankfully, we didn't get stopped but my best friend almost popped her bladder trying to hold her pee the whole way home. That was the one time wine didn't put me to sleep.

Still, I'm not as bad a wine drunk as I am a Mother's Day drunk. Like I said, the most I do with wine is just fall asleep or - only occasionally - think I can sing and want to prove it. There were times during my sister's and my clubbing days when everyone made me stick to wine only. Because they knew what I was like on mixed drinks. A predator wouldn't have to slip me anything stronger than an extra shot of liquor. During those wine nights, I fell asleep at inappropriate times. Once, I fell asleep in a booth at a club. My friends just made a pillow and blanket with their coats for me and partied on. Back in my twenties, I fell asleep in places like Denny's and IHop. It took me a long time to learn my fun-but-not-narcoleptic limit of wine. By then,  was pretty much over it. For the most part.

I'm not proud of my drinking past and I never drank as much as it might sound like. I guess because I never even flirted with drugs, I made up for it with my drinking, such as it was. The only experience I have with drugs is the time I got a contact high and laughed uncontrollably for half an hour straight and the time I ate some weed brownies. Made with Alaskan grown weed. No thank you. Have you ever been to Alaska? This is what an Alaskan grown cabbage looks like.

Yeah, so Anchorage was like stoner heaven. For years, we had friends visit us just because the city was ahead of the game with personal use legalities. And some of the best weed ever. Or so I've been told.

I do think that drinking can be as dangerous as drugs. I'm lucky that I was young and stupid and living in Alaska when it was still a relatively safe place. Very, very lucky. I only went out with family or people I knew really well. It was my sister who left me sleeping in the backseat of the car once. I had apparently passed out into a drunk snooze on the way home and she and my sister-in-law couldn't wake me. They had the nerve to say later that I had been snotty about them trying to wake me. So, they left me in the car, in front of my brother's house, in the middle of winter. I wasn't cold because they had covered me up but I was still a little freaked out when I woke up a few hours later. I got out of the car because I thought I was sober. I wasn't. I got back in the car and went back to sleep. Good times.

Those days are so far behind me now. Thank everything in the heavens.

I was talking to my best friend just recently and she asked if I had plans to do anything special for my upcoming birthday. Other than thanking God that I've made it this far? I told her that I plan to maybe get a mani-pedi and probably just spend a few hours with the family. That's enough excitement for me. I had been kicking around the idea of going out for a drink with my sister-in-law but decided to keep any celebrations on the thankful and adult side. Once alcohol gets involved, who knows, I might have to move to a new town or change my identity.


NOTE: I'm going to have to schedule this post for another day along with some other backup posts so... ignore the mention of dates.