Sunday, August 29, 2010

Not Why ... What

If you haven't already been there, please go to Qn. Dani's blog to read more on why.

I really have no idea what a guru is or does. Aren't they wizened old men who dress minimally but wear a rather large turban on their heads? Only because I've read Eat Pray Love do I even have an inkling of what an Ashram is.

None of those images would describe the one person whom I would choose to be my guru or spiritual mentor. Qn Dani isn't wizened, but she's wise. She doesn't wear a turban, unless maybe it's purple and she's feels like dolling herself up. She may fast on occasion, but you can usually find her with a cup full of hot Starbuck's coffee nearby. You don't have to sit at her feet to listen to her and feel closer to the Creator. All you have to do is read her blog, or visit her store, or look at her heart, or talk to her on the phone, or see her smile, to know that she is a walking/talking angel who can reach out and touch you just by saying hello.

I'm blessed to call her friend.
Wishing for you an angel in your midst,
Merry ME

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Feeling Sad

Sophia Perez
Rest in Peace, little one.

My stomach has hurt most of the day. I want to blame it on the shrimp I ate last night, but I think it's probably more than that. I'm sad. Very sad. Sad right there at the core of my being. Believing in a Power greater than myself doesn't mean I won't feel the gamut of human emotions.

After a 4 1/2 month fight against all odds, Sophia lay in her mommy's arms then crossed over to sit in the lap of her Creator. No more needles and tubes. No more respirator. No more tests and people poking her tummy. Hard as it is to accept that she did not survive, it's very easy to imagine her with the angles and "doing Jesus" for real.

I can't imagine how her family is feeling today. For as long as Sophia has been sick, her entire extended family, has been praying. Sleeping a little, eating a little, but always praying. Last week I attended a prayer vigil for Sophia. I admit I did not know what to expect. Knowing I would be in the midst of what some might call Charismatic or Evangelical Christians, I figured I'd be a little out of my element. To the extent that I didn't know how to pray as fervantly as the other people, I was right. Still I think my heart was in the right place and my silent prayers accepted by the Divine Listener.

I've heard the word "beseech" before, but never witnessed it until I stood in a circle where each person believed and beseeched as earnestly as the next that a miracle would take place. In spite of all the doctors' reports this group of pray-ers refused to let go of their faith or hope for a miracle.

Like others in this country, I have "confused God with Santa Claus. We believe that prayer means making a list of everything you don't have but want and trying to persuade God you deserve it. " * There have been times in my life when I've gotten down on my knees and begged for a favorable outcome
... please let me win the lottery
... please let him love me the way I love him
... please make the rain stop before I have to cross the slippery bridge
... please let my size 12 (okay 18) butt fit into these size 10 (okay 16) pants.

However I also believe what Rabbi Harold Kushner says, "God's job is not to make sick people healthy. That's the doctors' job. God's job is to make sick people brave." In the case of the Perez family, He not only made them brave. He gave them strength and courage beyond what seemed to me to be humanly possible.

When I left the hospital, I couldn't help but wonder why. Why would a loving God, put this family through such heartache? Why does a little girl with a full life ahead of her have to die, when a 93 year old man, who claims he is ready to go, linger on? Sweetie thinks why questions are pointless. When we ask why of God we are really just second guessing His/Her infinite wisdom.

Several years ago I read When Bad things Happen to Good People . Of course I can't remember what was said, but I do remember it had an impact on my belief system. In an interview published by Time in 2006 Kushner was asked: "What about the book (WBTHTGP) gave it such a strong resonance?

Kushner responded: "It makes people feel better. It doesn't explain, it comforts. This is what people in times of difficulty need. They need consolation, not explanation. Too many books, especially ones written before mine, didn't understand that. They try to tell people why it isn't so terrible. People want a book that says it is terrible, but you can handle it. That's the first reason. The second reason is my own personal family experiences gave me the right to write that book, the authenticity. People have to listen to it because I've been there."

Then there's the question of good vs. evil. While I do believe there is an evil force at work in the world, I don't think cancer or earthquakes or or sink holes are caused by the Dark One. Acts of nature, like s*#!?t, happen. Again, I believe in an all-powerful, Benevolent Being that stands by us in our most troubled times and surrounds us with a blanket of whatever it is we need - courage or hope or strength - as we regroup and face an uncertain future.

The answer to my "why" question is simple. For reasons beyond our ability to comprehend God had already prepared a place for Sophia in Heaven. All He needed for her was a place of peace to be able to run and play and chase butterflies. I suspect it's going to be a little more complicated for Luther. He'll have to have slide rules, and engineering manuals, and Scrabble boards and NY Times Crossword puzzle books. At the very least he needs time to prepare St. Peter for some heated arguments at the Pearly Gates.

SP: Welcome, Luther, it's good to see you.
L: What do you mean by good?
SP: You know, good as in we're happy.
L: Then why didn't you say that?
SP: You're looking a little thin.
L: Thin is relative. It depends on whether I have my clothes on or not.
SP: Would you like an orange?
L: You mean an Arn-ge?
SP, shaking his head in frustration: Go on over there, PattyCakes is waiting for you.

Tonight my prayers are for Sophia's family. I can't imagine the pain they are in.However, I do know, with time, their faith will heal their hearts.

Praying for all of us who have loved and lost,
Merry ME

*http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1545682,00.html, Q&A with Rabbi Harold Kushner, by Jerry Caplan, Thursday October 12, 2006

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Long Day

Abou Ben Adhem

By James Henry Leigh Hunt

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)

Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,

And saw, within the moonlight in his room,

Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,

An Angel writing in a book of gold:


Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,

And to the Presence in the room he said,

"What writest thou?" The Vision raised its head,

And with a look made of all sweet accord

Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."


"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"

Replied the Angel. Abou spoke more low,

But cheerily still; and said, "I pray thee, then,

Write me as one who loves his fellow men."


The Angel wrote, and vanished. The next night

It came again with a great wakening light,

And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,

And, lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest!




The clock's digital numbers broke the darkness. 4:30am. It was still dark outside. Not a creature was stirring, not even the cats who like to roam around the house looking for the most comfortable bed to settle into. But not for long.

This dream wasn't funny. When Dad called me he was genuinely disturbed. He was seeing destruction all around him - roads torn up, house crumbled, dead people all about.
"This must be hell," he cried. "It must be the payment for something I've done in my life."

And so began another, intense morning. After some talking, I was able to assure Dad that everything was still standing, we were safe. I read to him from the hospice book that these "incidents" are his body's way of detaching. And I did my best to convince him that the God of his understanding loves him. Eventually he laid back down, then asked that his family be called to rally round.

I was hesitant to wake up my sisters. It's scary to get a call at that hour. Much as Dad wanted to go to the next life, it didn't look to me like he was going anywhere. I figured I could let my sisters sleep. There's that ol' Merry Me to the rescue - everyone's rescue -Jesus complex for you. Why I thought I could determine the moment between life and death, I don't know. I was going by the book. He didn't have a rattle in his chest. His fingers weren't a different color. He was just my Dad, the engineer attending to the problem in his usual way - with precision and order, the reins in his hands.

I finally got the clarity that Dad needed to have his family - on his way out or just feeling needy - the reason was not for me to say. So I woke my sister who was sleeping like a baby in the living room. We sat on either side of Dad's bed, holding his hands. He spoke to us of his life's concerns. He praised my mom, said she was just what he needed in a wife. He said he didn't care that none of us had walked on the moon - we are good to people and animals. He recited part of a poem. Then asked again about my sisters, so I called in the troops. We circled the wagons around his bed. With Alan Jackson singing country gospel songs, one of my sisters clapping her hands to the beat, another looking like she needed something to eat, another trying to decide whether or not to change airline reservations, the dog jumping on the bed to nuzzle Dad's neck and me trying to direct a play that had no script, we waited. And waited.

Then one by one, we moved about the house. When all else fails my motto is to start cooking. Dad decided he could eat some sausage - round, beefy sausage. Sounded like patties to me - turned out he wanted links.

The bath lady came. If this is to be his last day on earth, he'll go to heaven clean shaven with strains of Blessed Assurance on his lips.

The hospice nurse came. All his vital signs are still good. His heart is ready to let go, his mind is still controlling the situation. Each time, however, he gets a little closer. He's tired. I don't know how much longer he can hold on.

The day wore on. Dad slept. Daughters went to work or wandered around in a sleep-deprived fog. It's somewhat prophetic that I read this last night:

"... the fatigue alone can be crippling.
Not just physical fatigue - if anything,
the emotional fatigue is often worse.
'You work and you work, and you care and you care,
but tomorrow you're going to start all over again.'*
You don't see any progress. You don't see any way out.
All you do see is the decline, and sometimes you almost feel
as if you're on the way down too."

There's no denying that I am tired. I'm anxious, weepy and a little crabby. But right now I don't feel I'm on my way down. I feel like I'm walking along side my father, accompanying him to the place where he'll make his transition. It's his walk, I'm just here to hold his hand. I was reminded this morning, I'm not alone. I don't have to carry the whole load. Like my father who is reluctant to let go of his earthly responsibilities, I am also holding tight to the reins of my caregiving position even when there are many hands willing to lighten my load. Funny how the lessons keep coming along with the fatigue.

Thanks for listening.
Merry Me

Abou Ben Adhem: Dad could only recite the first couple lines of this poem this morning. I don't think it's a coincidence that these words, memorized over 75 years ago, are the ones that came to his mind as he lay on what he thought was his death bed ready to be judged by his Maker.

* This quote is by Carolyn Jaffe, a staff nurse at the Hospice of Metro Denver, is found on page 86 of When Parents Die, by Edward Myers.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One Into One

I'm barely awake.

I spent part of the night with dad looking for little flat pens to put into envelopes that weren't there. At times he was certain what he was looking for was in his bed so we had to be very careful that we didn't push it off onto the floor. At other times he was clear as a bell and laughed to think how crazy the whole scene was.

"What a way for an old man to die," he laughed, "to drive him crazy."

I knew there was nothing there, that he was dreaming, but when he said if it drops into the pee-filled bedside commode I'd be the one to reach in to get it, well, I did pause for a moment! Dad smiled at the idea of Miss Smarty Pants not being so sure of herself.

Finally, convinced that the envelopes were not there, he crawled back under the covers and went to sleep. But not before asking me to write down all these stories and put them together for him. Hmmm, how does one weave together a tale of 1/2 fried chickens, a new uniform for the Southern Bell railroad, and envelopes that read "one into one." I'm not sure I'm the author for this task.

Strangely, much as I don't like jumping up out of a deep sleep, adrenaline pumping through my tired veins, I am beginning to enjoy these nightly conversations. Not sure why except that it's like I'm witnessing a kinder, gentler version of my father, even if he is a little crazy.

There is no connection here whatsoever, but I just read this quote. I love it.

"Laughter is carbonated holiness."
Anne Lamott

That's what I want to focus on today. Laughter.

Wishing you a day filled with things that make you laugh,
Merry ME

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Miscellany

Since I haven't posted in a few days I thought I'd use this time when the house is blessedly quiet, except for the dog snoring, to jot down some Random Thoughts.

1. Do you remember watching old timey western movies? Invariably there was a scene where someone got in trouble and needed help fast. Against all odds a wagon train would circle around to fend off a band of painted and whooping Native Americans. I'd sit on the edge of my seat, my hand full of popcorn frozen in space halfway to my mouth as a bronzed warrior found a helpless woman, or a child or a dog hiding under an heirloom quilt. With war club suspended in mid-air, the sound of a bugle and roar of horse hooves would be heard as the cavalry charged in from over the hill. Ah, saved by the men in blue.

Well, my sister wasn't wearing blue, and she didn't fly in on her umbrella like Mary Poppins, but she did arrive this morning to spend some time with my father. Even when I didn't even know I was feeling scared and worn out, I began to relax just knowing I have four days with a little extra breathing room.

"JoJo," Dad called from the back of the house. I sat here on the couch and let her go.

2. There is a lady at church who is holding pre-natal classes for Hispanic parent's to be, in Spanish - go figure! She has been a big help to me with the Guild of the Christ Child so I'm pleased to be able to return the favor and help out her new mom's and dad's at the same time.

Clemencia called me yesterday to tell me she needed 6 shoebox layettes. I swear, I get such a warm and fuzzy feeling when I'm up to my elbows in onesies, blankets, baby bottles and other stuff that goes in these small, yet big, boxes of love. When I was finished my dining room table was full of pastel colored bags, and I had an inkling of what Santa must feel like after he's loaded up stockings hanging on a fir draped mantel. Of course I cried this morning when I saw the smiles on the faces of women who don't speak the language of my country but understand the language of my heart.

3. Over at Patty Mosca's blog she wrote about gratitude. That is a common theme that runs through the blogs I read. Yet it never feels overdone. I get a daily quote from gratefulness.com which, I find, is a good way to start me day.

Here's a sample:
"From experience we know that
whenever we are truly awake and alive
we are also truly grateful."*

Gratitude, I think, is something that needs to be cultivated. Like pulling the weeds out of my garden, having a grateful heart helps everything grow better. And when I'm awake and alive enough to give thanks for even the weeds and bugs, I am able to feel a little bit more in line with God's plan.

Patty asks us to take a moment and think of 5 things we are grateful for today. Here goes:
Today I am grateful for the silence that surrounds me.
Today I am grateful for my family.
Today I am grateful for air conditioning. It really is beastly hot and humid outside.
Today I am grateful for friends who check on me, encourage me, and lift me up.
Today I am grateful for that man of mine.

How about you? What are you grateful for today?

Wishing for you moments when you feel truly awake and alive,
Merry ME

* David Steindl Rast, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer
www.gratefulness.com, 8/15/2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

I've got a friend

"Friendship multiplies the goodness of life."

Balitasar Gracian (1601-1658)

I have a friend I haven't mentioned in awhile. My focus has been on either my father or me.
Still, no matter what, my friend is always there, waiting in the wings to listen, hold me, dry my tears, deal with my bitching, laugh at my outrageousness, share his Wavy chips with me and remind me that I am not alone.

On top of all that my friend is [mostly] patient with my father, biting his lip so not to scream at Dad driving his Jazzy wheelchair into every wall and doorway between the kitchen and the other end of the house. While it is not quite a touchy feel-ly relationship, it is respectful on both sides. On his way to the bathroom at night, my friend always stops in the doorway to Dad's bedroom to make sure everything is okay, that Dad is still breathing.

My friend is probably the most committed Guardian ad Litem there is in this neck of the woods. The kids he works for/with are lucky to have him as their advocate. Sadly some of them are so messed up they can't see the gift that is right in front of them and keep looking for the love they've never known in all the wrong places. It's frustrating, heart-breaking work, but my friend remains steadfast in his belief that there is hope for these broken kids. He shows up at court, detention centers, and group homes dressed professionally, with a positive attitude [that he maybe had to dig deep to find] and willingness to listen with his heart as well as his ears. He sets an example that hopefully one day will make a difference in troubled lives.

While I have been cursing the snails who think my garden was a leafy smorgasbord put there just for their delight, my friend has become a one-man snail rescuer. Every morning he goes to the pool and carefully picks out every snail that has crept into the pool and gotten too waterlogged to crawl out. This summer snails and dragonflies have become his animal totems.

  • Snail Totem: Snail retreats into itself and seals the entrance in dry weather to protect it's body from drying up. Those with this medicine know how to retreat when danger is present as well as seal themselves off from others. Knowing when to retreat and when to act is an important teaching for those with this totem. Snail medicine people have clear perceptions and need to learn to honor those abilities in all situations. Snail understands the value of slow movement and teaches us how to use that movement to our advantage. It holds the teaching of patience, perseverance and respect.
  • Dragonfly Totem: As a creature of the wind the dragonfly totem represents change. Creatures who habitat is in, or around water carry symbolism relative to the subconscious, or "dreaming" mind and thoughts. They ask that we pay attention to our deeper thoughts and desires.

I am not a student of animal symbology, but if I had to guess, these totems are just what my friend needs at this time in his life. It is kind of spooky that they have appeared just when my friend's "deep thoughts" keep returning to buying a motor home (the human equivalent of carrying your home on your back) se we can slowly and methodically travel around the country. Lately, my friend's dreams have also taken him to a seaside village in Belize - doesn't get much closer to a water habitat than that. Does anyone even know where Belize is?

Okay. I guess you've figured out my friend, is also my husband, my partner in life, my sidekick, my lover, my mirror, my advocate, my protector, my helper, my cheerleader, my sounding board all rolled up into my handsome Sweetie. With Sweetie by my side, I am blessed.

Like I said, I've been kind of pre-occupied lately. I haven't told him how much he means to me, so I think it's about time I shout it across the blogosphere.

Sweetie, it's not your birthday, our anniversary, Christmas or Thanksgiving, but I want you to know I am one happy, grateful woman to have you walk with me through this crazy thing called life .

I love you more than all the snails in my garden and all the dragonflies hovering over the swimming pool.

Wishing for each of you someone sweet to call "Friend"
Merry ME

P.S. Surprise! Surprise! Sweetie has finally written on his blog again.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I Had a Dream

So there we all are: John, Wendy, Shannon, Bonnie MacDougal, Jim and me, stuffed in a car. Our destination turns out to be a Disney kind of place. There are big - BIG- screens and stages in the middle of an arena - surrounded by seating sections.


Somewhere along the line we pick up a strange man (no name, no face). Everyone is in the back seat of the car, the stranger in the front. My purse has spilled out in the driver’s seat, covering it with an assortment of pencils, pens, paper clips and a wrapped tampon. I wave off any comments made - I’m known for a variety of items in my purse that could rival the check out counter at Woolworth’s.


We all have tickets to get in, except the stranger. He buys his own with cash. I am told we must pay an additional $48.00 fee even though we’ve pre-purchased tickets. A credit card won’t be accepted and I have no cash. After some discussion and appealing looks, the cashier says she’ll waive the fee. I’m filled with relief. I smile at her and ask her name. She shows me her name badge - it starts with an M and has a V in the middle. I pronounce it correctly. She tells me it means “content.”


The gang gets inside and begins looking for a seat - six seats together. It is a madhouse. I find a section that will work for us. Jim takes a chair on the edge, a few of the kids sit next to him. I take the seat on the opposite side of the box. He won’t move closer to me, I won’t move towards him. The kids have scattered. Bonnie Ann left. People start coming in and filling up the space and taking chairs to other sections. We are getting split up. I’m getting mad and frustrated. I go looking in other sections. I meet another woman who is also looking for 6 seats together - I head in a different direction.


I notice a whole section, going up to the higher tiers, almost empty. The ticket taker is charging a quarter per seat. She says we won’t see the same show. It will still have Alice in Wonderland but not the NorthWest version. I go back to find my gang. Everyone is gone.


I go on the hunt, around and around the stage. I see Wendy. She’s mad at me. We can’t find John. I figure he’s getting into trouble but am afraid he’s lost. Can’t find Shannon. Bonnie never came back. Jim has vanished.


Finally, I find John. I grab his arms and squeeze them, sitting him down in one spot and tell him not to move. I turn my head and he crawls away. I repeat the arm squeezing with a little more force. I tell him if he moves he’ll turn into a spider.


Now I’ve got to go get my black cat who has gotten loose somehow. Or is it a black dog? Whatever the show was it is now over without any of seeing it. Crowds of people are leaving. Jim is nowhere in sight. I’m getting panicky. How are we all going to know where the car is? How have I lost everybody?


I am in one section that turns into an airplane, taking off the ground and skimming over the parking lot so I try to locate the car and kids. I say I must get off, I am told we’re heading for Delaware. I keep crying and telling the people around me that Jim is going to be so mad he’ll leave me.


With that I am awakened by the blessed sound of the alarm clock.


I’ve heard that some fathers-to-be have sympathetic food cravings or labor pains. Is it possible for caregivers to have sympathetic stages of the dying process? Such as:

  • Most of Dad’s pain the last year has been in his abdomen, back and hip. Recently it changed to his right arm. Would you think me crazy if I tell you every morning when I wake up my right arm hurts like my leg did when I had bursitis?
  • Dad has lost most of his appetite. I’ve found it. A dinner not followed by ice cream, brownies or a Klondike bar is just not a dinner.
  • Dad has dreams and hallucinations. I dream of losing the people most dear to me and leaving on a plane without saying goodbye.
  • Dad sometimes laments not being able to do the things he once did without even thinking about it - balancing a checkbook, driving a car, bathing himself. It’s been five years since “my friend” last came to visit. Do you think that by dreaming of a tampon, I’m mourning the loss of having periods?


Yesterday I read yet another book by a hospice nurse. She listed dream themes that are common among the dying:

"Dreams of closure - May include seeing old friends or family, both living and deceased.

Dreams of a pending trip - may include a feeling of restlessness, of waiting an not yet being able to depart

Dreams of a body of water - the dreamer is on one side of the water and wishes to cross but cannot" *

It all sounds familiar to me.


Sweetie recently brought home a DVD on Dream Interpretations by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Naturally I fell asleep before it was over. I remember, though, Estes said to be aware of the feelings you had in the dream.


In last night’s dream I was angry and scared and anxious about being left behind.

I guess under the circumstances those feelings are not particularly alarming.


In the foreword of the book Living at the End of Life, Dr. Charles Sasser, MD, FAAHPM, FCAP, writes “People who are dying want more than anything to have caregivers who are both loving and competent. Their caregivers want more than anything, to provide loving competent care.” ** Maybe, for me that means walking, hand in hand, as much of the way as I can with my father. I like to think I’ll be with him as he walks up to that beautiful, serene place of crossing over. And when he's ready, I’ll let go of his hand and he’ll take a step and cross over without looking back.


Wishing for you peaceful dreams,

Merry ME


* Living at the End of Life, Karen Whitley Bell, RN, Sterling Publishing, New York, NY, pg. 20


** pg. x



Saturday, August 14, 2010

Some of my favorite people



Sometimes pictures say what words cannot.

Ashley and Grampy

Ashley and Johnson

Johnson, Grampy and Ashley

Wishing for you the people who make you smile,
Merry ME



Friday, August 13, 2010

Happy Birthday


"Because time itself is like a spiral
something special happens on your birthday each year;
the same energy that God invested in you at birth
is present once again."
Menachem Mendel Schneerson



It's hard to believe that a whole year has passed since
we welcomed two little babies into the world.
But it's true.
Elliot and Alice Wichansky turned ONE today.



What seems like it was only last month to ME probably feels like 100 years to E and A's mom and dad. A baby's first year is full of the wonderment of new life - experiencing all sorts of things for the first time. It is also fraught with sleepless nights, diapers too numerous to count, breast pumps and bottles, projectile vomiting, tears, vaccinations, runny noses, and if you live in the NW countless putting ons and taking offs of many-zippered snow suits. Now double that for twins. Whoowee! I get tired just thinking about it!.



Most of you already know I am
a true believer in birthday celebrations. I think everyone, be they one or 101 should enjoy b
eing King or Queen for a day. Everyone needs to have the feeling, if not every day, then at least once a year, that they are God's special creation and worthy of cake and ice cream and balloons and presents. On that note, I hereby declare today Elliot and Alice Day in the land of Merry ME.



To Elliot and Alice:
Bless You
When the first light of sun
Bless you
When the long day is done
Bless you
In your smiles and your tears
Bless you
Through each day of your years
Bless you

I also want to say to their mom, Molly Jo, their dad, Gary and big sister, Ivy Jane, I salute you. Hard as it's been you've given every challenge of the last year your best effort. If you had just climbed Mt. Everest you'd get to plant a flag on the top of the mountain. If you'd swum (swum?) the English Channel, you'd have a bottle of champagne waiting on the beach next to your towel. If you'd placed first in the Olympics you'd get a gold medal to wear around your neck. Alas, I don't think they hand out awards for surviving the first year of twin baby hood.

So what to do? Hmmmm?
I've got it.....

Molly Jo, for dedicated Mommying in the face of all odds,
Gary, for all round support whether near or far away,
Ivy Jane, for sharing your mom and dad and the
royal throne of the first born child
and
Your village of friends and helpers
by the authority vested in ME,
I hereby present you with the official

Merry ME You Rock! Award
Congratulations on a job well done.

Wishing I was there to share in the celebrations,
Merry ME, aka Grammy Mary

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Serendipity in the Book Store

A couple of days ago, after Dad had a few hallucinations and mid-night pee calls I was ready for a break. Sweetie was home to guard the fort so I sped off to my favorite shut-out-the-world-place - Barnes & Noble. I knew I was on a time clock but I didn't let that bother me. I just soaked up the yumminess and splendor of the store. There is nothing like laughing at the noise and confusion of kids singing in the Children's department; renewing myself in the music section, test-driving CD's with serene titles like, "Music for Meditation, Healing & Inner Peace" by Steve Halpern, "Spiritual Healing" by Deuter, and the one I settled on, "Zen Breakfast" by Karunesh; and tickling my reading fancy with all the "NEW" titles filling up the tables by the front door.

My quest was for something to read before falling asleep at night. I was looking for a suspense story. Something to get caught up in so I didn't want to put the book down. But I would have settled for something sweet and romantic and girly. Instead, to my amazement, I found myself, in the death & grieving section. My hands glanced over traditional books on the subject by Kubler Ross before landing on, When Parents Die - A guide for Adults. As if placed in my hands by guiding angels, the book fell open to page 90 where I read this paragraph:

Double Binds
If your parent is dying, you're probably finding that no matter what you do, not matter how hard you try, and no matter how well you ultimately accomplish your goals, you always feel as if you have offended someone, deprived someone or hurt someone.

... Something always seems to be bumping other obligations out of the way. It's impossible to do anything without getting in a fix.

This is the double-bind, the "damned if you do and damned if you don't" dilemma. In the case of looking after your parent, it's a situation in which no matter what you choose to do, you will probably aggravate, anger or hurt someone - or you'll at lest feel as if you did.

... What is [also] at stake, often as not, is your basic self-respect.

... Pulling the whole situation together takes a toll. You want to do as much as possible for everyone, but doing so may leave you feeling lost in the shuffle.

... Everyone and everything seems to be taking up your time and energy and patience and sense of humor until it's hard to tell if anything's left. Where are you, meanwhile? Somewhere in there, hiding under the bed in your mental attic.

No, I thought to myself, I'm standing in the grieving section of Barnes & Noble having a God-moment. But I can totally relate to that hiding under the bed thing.

So I bought the book. It is not what I'd call "light" reading, but I trust my Sweetie will pick me up something from the library with enough murder and mayhem to entertain me between chapters on Neglected Grief, Burden of a Slow Decline, and, last but not least, Funerals and More. I don't know why I feel the need to read about what I'm living through. Maybe it's to help me feel less like the only person in the world going through this - to make my small, confined world feel bigger.

To change the subject a bit, I've been wondering about the name of my blog - Random Thoughts. Seems my thoughts are anything but random these days. Like walking into the bookstore and making a beeline to the dying section, my posts are really nothing more than a way to journal about life with dying Father. Does it get tiresome and boring to you, the reader, like it does to me the writer? For what it's worth, I really appreciate knowing you're out there somewhere, reading what I have to say and bolstering my courage somehow with your invisible presence. I'd also like you to know that when someone leaves a comment that says I've struck a chord with them, or brought back a good memory, or you share part of your story with me, I feel like I'm on the right track.

Jon Katz says we each need to tell our story. Today my story is about caring for my Dad in his last days. We all know how it's going to end. As the time for a funeral approaches, what I'm beginning to figure out is that although the chapter about ME and my Dad will be over, the next chapter of my life will be just beginning. I've caught myself thinking about my future. Like going to the book store for an hour or two, thinking about my life after my father's death is a bit of a reprieve from the work of care giving.

I'm kind of scared. The world I've known and always had to fall back on is going to be way different. Will my family die along with my parents? What will it feel like to be an "orphan"?

I'm also kind of excited. The last time I had an opportunity for a new life, I was way too young and naive to do much more than ride the romantic wave of anticipation. I was eighteen dressed all in white and dreams.

Now I'm 58 with a few good years ahead of me. What am I going to do with those years? Is there something I've always wanted to do and couldn't because of my obligation to someone else? Is there someplace I want go? Will Sweetie and I find a way to fill our days in joyous unity or suddenly yearn for something else to fill the void? Will I find a new someone/something to occupy my life so I don't have to think about me?

Chapter 8 in When Parent's Die is about "Personal Changes." Maybe that's why out of all the books in the store, the Great Librarian in the Sky led me to this one in particular. To give me a foretaste of what's to come. Who knows?

Wishing for you a "reassuring and practical guide" to follow when you are unsure about the future,
Merry Me

*When Parent's Die; a guide for adults (revised edition) by Edward Myers, Penguin Group, New York, NY , pg 90-91