Thursday, July 31, 2014

These are the good old days

. . .  tomorrow we might not be together
I'm no prophet, I don't know nature's way
So I'll try to see into your eyes right now
And stay right here, 'cause these are the good old days. --Carly Simon

When I was young, what I heard was a song about anticipation. Specifically, I heard that anticipating good things was a pleasant experience. I completely missed the message. Completely.

Fast-forward 43 years.

I've been engaging in a fair amount of bitching lately about the rigors of maintaining a household while trying to work and care for two animals and a sick Mr. Simply, all while my own health steadily declines. It started one night when I crashed into my reading chair after dinner and forgot to clean up the kitchen until it was already late, I was tired, and. . .


Over the last couple of days I've been paying careful attention to what, each day, threatens to overwhelm me. The complicated pet-feeding ritual each morning, which includes preparing special drinking-water mixes for each. The dishes, of course. The trash. The laundry.

And then last night it hit me: These are the good old days! I wanted a husband, a house, a dog, a bird to care for. There are aspects of each experience that I did not exactly anticipate but on the whole, I like having a house, Diana, the bird. I like being married. I like what I do for a living, and I like the people I do it for. These are the good old days, when I have a house, a bird, a dog, and a husband to take care of, when I have a job to retire from, when my body is in better shape than it's ever likely to be again. 

So I think I'll stay right here.

Back in '71, I thought that meant that if you were having a pleasant experience, you tried to hold on to it. I understand now that Simon meant something entirely different by this -- now is all we have, and it is good. I might as well stay in it. 


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Je Suis Prest

Like any good scout, I'm prepared.

I learned the hard way.

Today, we needed to call the after-hours service about a disturbing symptom Mr. Simply was having (on a Saturday, of course -- when else?) and my cell phone would not dial out. Would. Not. I had zero bars, and for whatever reason, Wi-Fi calling wasn't working either. I had 4G -- too bad I can't communicate with Mr. Simply's oncologist via Facebook.

No problem, right? I'll just use the house phone! So I did, and left my message and our number, and waited. And waited. And waited.

It seems we have Call Blocking. Who knew?

So I turned it off, and called back and left another message. And it was at that point that I believe the battery must have died (because I left the phone laying out on the coffee table last night). We only have the one wireless. So of course we didn't hear back. I plugged it in, then couldn't leave the room because as we all know, I can't run to the phone if it rings. But it was too late.

In the meantime, the symptom went away. We decided to have dinner. And I re-booted my cell phone. It took two tries, but it does work now.

Last time I was at the hospital, Tillie (my scooter) started stopping randomly -- usually in the middle of electronically-operated doors. And so I had meant to break her down and see if there was a loose connection somewhere, which is what happened once before. Except I was frigging exhausted and never got around to doing it. So here we are, on a rainy Saturday afternoon, with phones that won't work and  a sick man and a scooter I can't trust. . . Can't you just see the bitch quitting on me while I'm crossing the street in front of the ER??

So out I go, unload her from the van, tear her down, fortunately it's not raining right this two seconds, find the loose connection (exactly the same one as last time), repair it (I hope), put her back together, load her back in the van. Hopefully now if we do wind up going to the hospital tonight, she'll run.

But that's not all!

I really like to have what I call Pajama Days, in which I do not get dressed. At all. All day. And this has been such a difficult week what with Mr. Simply being in the hospital and all, that I had planned a Pajama Weekend. My pjs, all freshly washed and fluffy and soft, were laid out on the bed before I turned out the lights last night, and my plan was to put them on this morning and not take them off again until I had to go back to work on Monday.


Here's the new rule: Get showered and get dressed. 'Cause you never know.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Little Bastard

As in, Mr. Simply was diagnosed last year with lung cancer. As in, he lost the lower right lobe of his lung in an attempt to excise it all, followed that up with a couple of months of chemo, and we hoped that would be the last of The Little Bastard.

Not so quick, kids.

It's back: There are now Little Bastards on his bones, and a Little Bastard on his liver.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Dear Finger-pointing Neighbor:

I saw you. I was sitting in my favorite chair in my favorite window, reading Evernote for Dummies, if you must know, and concentrating on recovering from a cold so I could go back to work Monday. You see, I don't get paid if I don't work, and I've already had to cancel half a day for this bug.

You were walking past with your wife and your stick and your dog, and you pointed. And you said something to her -- I assume about the condition our yard is in. I mean, you could have been saying something nice about our bird feeders and nest boxes and stuff, but. As Mr. Simply put it so bluntly, when he saw you go by and point, "It's in the worst condition of any yard in the neighborhood." So what are the odds?

What you don't know is that Mr. Simply has, in the last six years, been through radiation, hormone therapy, surgery, and chemo for two different cancers. Because of his illness, he was forced out of his company, made to retire ten years early on half pay. We're a lot better off than many people who were losing their jobs and their homes in the recession that was coming on about that time, but still. He lost half his income and all of his get-up-and-go.

As for me, I have a life-long disability that has been getting steadily worse. Unlike Mr. Simply, I'm still working, but my little business went belly-up the year after he "retired", and since then I've had to cut back on my hours a little more every year so that I'm making now probably about half what I was then. 

We can't walk our dog together any more. Nor can we get out and clean up the yard like we'd like to, and we can't afford to hire it done either. Our neighbor mows the part of our yard he can get to when he mows his, and I can't tell you how mortified we are every time we see him drive over here on his little John Deere.

There are plenty of other streets you can walk down if it offends you so much to pass our place. So take your judgmental, bourgeois, ableist self on down the block -- unless, of course, you're thinking of offering to help us out a little here. In which case, sit down. Pull a weed. I'll make iced tea.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

These Boots Were Made For Walking

These boots were a gift from Mr. Simply shortly after the last time I broke my foot. He gave me a pair of walking shoes for use around the neighborhood at the same time, following a visit to an orthopedic surgeon who'd said my foot would never be the same again. I considered it a vote of confidence, and it turned out Mr. Simply was right and the doctor was wrong.

Today, Mr. Simply took them to Goodwill, along with a pair of duck boots and a beautiful hand-carved spruce walking stick with an inlaid arrowhead.

Last year another doc told me what I already knew, which is that I can't walk for fun any more. And this time it's true: My body never will be the same again as it was.

As I say, this is not news: Those boots haven't been out in the woods in well over a year. Nevertheless, they were hard to let go of. They've sat in a pile of stuff to be donated for months, and I just couldn't seem to get them out the door. I finally figured out that it was because they meant so much to me that the only way I'd be able to do it was if I had a photo to hang on to. I'd been so many great places with those boots: Pine Log, my favorite, and Dawson Forest, Red Top, too, but also all around the base of Kennesaw Mountain, up Little Kennesaw, over the saddle and down the big mountain so many times I can't remember. And so letting go of them is letting go of a phase of my life that I loved, all those long walks in the woods, and admitting that's all irrevocably past and gone. The silence of forests, the quiet rustle of leaves, the soft sound of boots on the path--I will not ever experience those in the same way again. Hanging on to my hikers was hanging on to a hope that had no basis in reality.

I remember once walking in mist and drizzle around an abandoned fish hatchery and coming upon a covey of quail crossing the trail ahead of me. One at a time, each bird peeked out of the weeds on one side of the wide path and then scuttled across. I stood, transfixed, as if my eyes were watching God. Another time there I watched as a pair of hawks courted in the sky over my head, reeling and spinning and calling through a blazing blue heaven. To me it has been as if my boots held all those memories, that I could bury my face in their tops and smell dusty Grassy Hollow Road as if I still walked it with Daisy.

I wish I'd taken a photo of the duck boots, too. I meant to, but in the hustle and bustle of the morning it slipped my mind and now it's too late. I bought them when Daisy was a puppy, and they represented all my plans to train and trial her, and all the hunting seasons of gunning over her that I anticipated when she was born. None of that worked out, but we had some grand times mudding with them, exploring creeks and marshes and retrieving training bumpers. Letting go of those this morning was like letting go of another piece of her.

I understand that this is how hoarders wind up with so much stuff that they can't live in their own houses any more. The Buddhists aren't kidding when they say that clinging is the root cause of all our pain. Mr. Simply has left the building, but the clinging to the memories and symbols of a beloved dog and of good times that are gone forever is a physical pain in my heart.

May those boots and my stick bless someone else's life as mine was blessed for those 15 years.


Friday, February 17, 2012

On Gratitude

When I make gratitude lists, they are usually made up of small, daily items--a sunrise, birdsong, that sort of thing. Then last weekend I was reading Louise Penny's third novel in her Three Pines mystery series. These are very literate novels for the genre, and one of their features is that Penny takes a theme and works it. The theme in this third book, The Cruellest Month, is worthy of a Greek tragedy in which people already have what they always wanted but don't recognize it, and destroy it in the very act of trying to obtain it. She got me to thinking about what I've always wanted, and what I have, and how tragic it would be if I lived my whole life wishing and not seeing what was right there.

So here's my new gratitude list, and I've been thinking all week about how blessed I am.

1. All through high school and my first two years of college, I was desperately lonely--not for women friends, but for a man, god help me. What can I say? I wasn't liberated yet. Be that as it may, I wanted a boyfriend in the worst possible way and my junior year of college, I finally got one--Mr. Simply, in fact. And for the next three years, I wanted nothing more than to be Mrs. Simply, and then I got that too. We still are married. I cuss about it sometimes, but bottom line? I got what I wanted and it's been a pretty good deal for me overall. I haven't been lonely since 1973.

2. Also my junior year in college, I set my heart upon a certain career path, which meant I wanted to go to grad school, too. Eventually I was able to do that not once, but twice (thanks in large part to the aforementioned Mr. Simply), was crowned "Dr. Simply", and entered my desired profession. Thirty years later, I'm still working in the same field. It's hard sometimes, but there's not much else I'd be as happy doing: I got what I wanted, and I intend to keep on doing it until they carry me out of the office feet first.

3. I wanted a house of my own. I agitated for one for years. We shopped for nearly that long (I swear we must have seen every house for sale in three counties), and we eventually bought one. As I believe I've mentioned before, although this was intended to be our starter house, we'll probably die here. We're not moving up to that Buckhead mansion! The bottom line though, is that I have what I always wanted: A cozy, sweet little house of our own.

4. I always thought I wanted a houseful of foster and adopted kids, and so we did that, too--once. And since Simply, Jr. was probably worth six of anybody else's, I consider that I got what I always wanted.

5. I love dogs, always have, and except for one brief span, have never been without a  good dog (and sometimes more) in the house. When Daisy was born, I begged Mr. Simply for weeks to let me keep her: He finally relented, and I can say without hesitation that the fifteen years I had with her were some of the best of my life. Daisy gave me a whole lotta love, much joy, and many happy memories. There's another good dog at my feet right now.

6. I decided back in the '80s or thereabouts that it would be cool to have a parrot, specifically an African Grey, the price of which was well out of our tax bracket. Some twenty years later, out of the blue one was offered to me for adoption, absolutely free, and so once again I got what I wanted. She'll probably outlive us, so she is truly a gift that keeps on giving.

7. I have loved to read ever since my mom first taught me how and in the following 55 years, I have never been without a steady supply of good books. There's one waiting for me on my bedside table right now.

So I've got my man, my son, my dog, my birds, my books, my career, and my house. What more does one woman need?


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Maybe I'm Being a Little Oversensitive, Here

Everybody's gone @ the Spanish steps, Rome, ItalyImage by Paolo Margari via Flickrbut I am getting tired--tired, I tell you--of showing up for social events and finding out that I can't get there from here.

Last night, the party was at a downtown bar with no handicap parking. None. Zip. Zero. Nada.

Mr. Simply had called ahead to see if we were going to have problems, and learned that the bar itself is laid out on three levels, separated by two flights of stairs, with "only" four steps each. I get tired of that "only" too, by the way, but that's another subject for another day. I'll just say that, for some of us, one step might as well be the Matterhorn and leave it at that. And let me add that the steps were really, really wide, and it would not appear to have been a problem to have included a ramp next to each flight in the original design, then I promise I'll move on. Except to say that when people say "only" in this context it makes me want to smack them upside the head.

Mr. Simply didn't think to ask about the parking, as parking has been mandated by Federal law for years and it never occurred to us that there would be any issue other than the usual one of there never being enough spaces to go around. (If 15% of us have disabilities, why aren't 15% of the spaces in any parking lot or garage designated handicapped parking? More, at medical facilities? Again, another subject for another day.) So imagine our surprise when we circled the block twice and found no handicap parking on the street, and entered the garage to find, again, no handicap parking. How is this possible?

Don't know what street access was like, other than the parking, as I came in to the party from the garage. But I can tell you that there was a long ramp from the garage to three back exits, one into each level of the bar. That's the good news. The bad news, which we got from the security guard in the garage when we asked for directions, is that the doors are sometimes locked. In which case, we were told, we would have had to leave the garage and go around the corner to get to the front door. At which point we would have been two levels below the party. My only alternative, did I need a scooter or chair to get around, would have been to go back out, around the corner, into the garage and down the ramp, and have someone meet me at the correct back door to let me in. This sort of thing pisses me off.

The party was not on the same level as the restrooms, either. If I'd had a wheelchair or scooter, I'd have had to leave the bar, take the ramp to the next level, re-enter the bar, then repeat the process to get back to my table--risking, of course, being locked out at each stage of the process.

I know that my temporarily able-bodied acquaintances will not always think of these things when they are planning activities that include me. (This begs the question whether the bar owners ever heard of the Americans With Disabilities Act.) Some are not close enough that I would necessarily share with them the ongoing saga of my slowly but inexorably deteriorating physical condition. I know this is not personal: The able-bodied simply take for granted their ability to get around. But I wasn't the only person there with physical challenges: I met a lady on the stair who, upon observing my cane, commented that she had just recently got off crutches. No telling how many there with invisible impairments. So you'd think that a mass of us would at least catch our hosts' attention, wouldn't you?

So maybe I'm being a little oversensitive here, but I allowed myself to have some hurt feelings for a moment, as I sat on the throne in the surprisingly accessible stall in this disappointingly inaccessible bar, feeling left out of things and close to tears as I contemplated the long haul back up eight--count 'em--eight steps to our table.

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