Wednesday, September 30, 2009

hanging on by the skin of my teeth.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's a beautiful fall day.

I was on Facebook a moment ago, and noted a comment on my friend Jeanne's status by a local writer. I haven't actually read any of this author's fictions, though I've certainly heard of them. I also dated her brother a couple of times; for this reason more than any other, I clicked the author's name and started scrolling through her Friends list. I figure her brother will be there somewhere -- a very nice man, married now I know, probably kids. Amusingly enough, this turned into an exercise in What a Small Town, or Just How Many Guys DID I Date in College? I found (between the A's and J's alone) not one but TWO other fellas I also dated -- one just a couple of times, like the brother -- and the other one a man I actually lived with and dated for years. No, I will not Friend any of these men -- there are zero reasons to do so -- and yet. I am tempted, for egotistical and administrative reasons, to go BACK to this list and finish up the alphabet. Just to see, you know? And maybe, in a very backhanded way, it's a kind of compliment -- the author being an intelligent and not unattractive brunette. Maybe I can claim a pathetic shadow of her fame, like the groupie girl who sleeps with the tour manager (not even the band.)

In other news, there is...not much news, yet, about Dean.

I spent half a day there Friday, at his wife's request, sitting by his side while she attended to some really pressing duties to herself and their child. She has been with him nearly non-stop, and has passed the point of exhaustion. I won't say how he looked, or what his condition was then, since this is a blog and I've probably divulged too much. I just sat and held his hand for hours, and sang to him, and read out loud a little and prayed a little. He surfaced a few times and seemed almost to focus on me, the nurse said she was sure he could hear me -- and I know he tracks who is in and out of his room to a degree, though he is not allowed many visitors. He gets very upset if he knows his wife has to leave for a time. After several hours she returned, and rested a little before resuming her vigil. I got her and the kid some lunch, and then went to work. I'm glad I could help. Hospitals and sick people aren't a problem for me in terms of proximity, though it's hard not to cry when you see someone you love completely dependent on machines for survival. He looks much better than my father did though. Dean is in there, he's trying to come back, trying to find level. It's staggering how much effort it must take for him to simply breathe right now.

It's a beautiful fall day. How much time will he have lost, when he finally awakes? Every few hours the nurse yelled into his ear: "Mr. ____, today is Friday the 25th of September. It's about (Noon, 2pm etc). Your friend Jennifer is here. It's raining out today..." The nurse says sedation over many days can lead to ICU psychosis, a condition resulting from lack of normal sleep cycles and REM sleep. Sedation isn't like a long nap -- it's more a constantly submerged removal from clear time and conscious perception, distinguished from rest, not complete relaxation, not deep sleep. It must be something like a nightmare, at times. But he doesn't deal well with the ventilator, so they're keeping him under. Even his waking will be hard. I hope yesterday was a better day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dean asleep

Last night, very late, I got an email from an acquaintance passed along through another, telling me that my buddy Dean had been hospitalized Thursday night in serious condition. After 36 hours of getting nowhere with phone calls and emails, my pastor pal decided to visit the hospital -- Dean worked with us until two weeks ago, when he was laid off. 36 hours is a long time without news, and pastors have the prerogative at hospitals where friends do not. It seems Dean has a staff infection, complicated by his diabetes which is very difficult to regulate. He has been on ventilation since he was admitted, but they hope to ween him off very soon and feel they have his blood chemistry under control. It's likely to be another two to three days in ICU. He's been semi-conscious at best. I was considering a visit tomorrow, but will perhaps wait and see what I can do for his family instead. They've had a difficult year, and Dean's health has been unpredictable. Thank God they are insured through his wife.

Last night, for reasons better left unwritten here, I found myself feeling a kind of survivor's guilt -- I still have my job, after all. Dean is employed elsewhere as a college instructor, but it's not enough to live on. I would not have supported his lay-off, but I wasn't asked directly. I was, however, asked along with several others what staff cuts I thought we could bear in the interest balancing next year's budget. And I knew his position, while incredibly valued by me, was not essential at present. I wish things had been different. He's under incredible stress now, he and his wife, enough so that a few days of feeling extra-crappy would not have impelled him to complain to her or confide concern. Instead, he passed out at the pharmacy. I don't think he blames me for a second over the loss of his position, but I felt last night that somehow I should have done more to protect him. I should have tried to argue the case for keeping him, even though I know this would most likely have been rejected.

Not knowing how sick he was, but knowing how sick he could be (his medical history is complex and fraught with aggravated disease), I spent a chunk of the night wondering where I could have been a better friend to Dean. I've involved myself to varying degrees with his professional life and have tried pretty hard to funnel work his way, but our styles and attitudes differ enough that it's easier to be friends than partners. I've backed out of a couple of his projects over the years. I think of him as something of a mentor, a guide, though he occasionally comes to me for advice. I worry there hasn't been enough reciprocity.

What is a friend? I've loaned money to people, given it away really; I've held hands at the doctor's office, offered my couch to friends at various unhappy times, listened, advised, scolded, forgiven. But I fuck things up too, I neglect correspondence and forget to return phone calls, I get impatient, and I sometimes get too involved. I don't do worse than anyone who calls themselves a friend, I'm sure; maybe sometimes I've done better. And I try not to keep track of who owes whom and why. But in individual cases, the game is never played out.

Last night I prayed for Dean and his family. Right now he's asleep in a bed somewhere, with the requisite tubes and lights and bells, the noises of medical care, of prolongation. He's looking older than his years. What spirit moves in him, in his semi-conscious state, is hard to say. Soon, I pray, he'll awake and recover. I hope the gift he gets in exchange for all this, somehow, is a new future and new opportunities. For surely this is a low point. Surely he'll need strength. Just now, he's asleep, and I wonder what happens as each subsequent day unfolds for us.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

mucking out

Yesterday I pulled myself back from a threatening cloud of depression, by gardening. It was the sight of the mammoth sunflowers that did it -- oh so glorious with their dinner-plate-sized faces turned to the blue sky of July, and oh so horrible with their twisted brown leaves and decaying centers plucked clean by birds and squirrels come September -- which is what's supposed to happen, actually, but it's such a mess. Piles of sunflower seed hulls heaping at the roots of the bachelor's buttons, forget-me-nots and zinnias, rotting leaves plastered to the soil, enormous stems broken and naked-looking. And the grass grown too long around the decorative fencing, some late weeds, and some perennials that have been waiting patiently since they were overtaken by wildflowers in the early summer -- they've been biding their time, their foliage still looks good and I realized that if I cleaned out some of the crap and excess growth elsewhere these guys could still have a good month or more left in them...

I was telling my husband how depressed I was, something I rarely do. Telling him about the anomie problem, the work problems, the disappointments and the stretched-thin faith that things will all work out -- and even as I sat on the back step and moaned (something I hate hearing myself do), those bedraggled sunflowers with their broken backs and drooping heads sort of distracted me from where I was going -- which was nowhere.

It felt good to be cutting away dead growth, scooping up the stinking hulls and trimming the long grass -- removing the decay, tidying up, dead-heading -- encouraging the bit of new growth still possible before winter comes, and giving up on that which had run its natural course. I used the clean long grass to mulch around the more delicate plants, keeping moisture in the soil during this run of dry, warm weather. I raked together the rest of the refuse and tossed handfuls into the compost pile. I had to quit after half an hour yesterday, due to a wholly unexpected and entirely blessed rain shower that lasted an hour and spoiled our grilling plans (though we made up for it by ordering Vietnamese food.) Today, after church, I drank a cup of coffee and then tackled the rest of the job, listening while my son amused himself in the "bug house," calling out to him when I found a woolly bear or a worm so he could run and see. He boasts about killing insects, but his delight in them is obvious and the only critters in danger of his non-appreciation are black ants and houseflies. Which I find acceptable.

So, this gloom still lingers in the corners of my room, still a rainless little cloud behind my glasses -- but after cleaning the bathroom and starting the laundry, too, I feel prepared to face another Monday.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

a little light grumbling

The last week has shot past incredibly quickly, in part because my shit has been swamped at work given recent staffing changes that have left me more or less in charge of, well, more than I can adequately describe. And yet, since the 27th of August I have managed to squeeze in no less than three trips to the Fair (whoohoo! see Roz' blog in the sidebar for links to some great Gigapan images.) And of course, today was H's fourth day of school. He seems to be getting the hang of it now, after kind of a rough start. My brave boy. This evening, while we watched Obama, H grew tired of being shushed and went into his room. A few minutes later his hysterical laughter drew me up off my chair and I found him rolling around on his bed, reading frames of "Calvin & Hobbes" out loud to himself. A book he'd forgotten he owned. Now, all the strips about school probably make more sense to him. "Ah HA!" What a pleasure.

The new school schedule is kicking my ass as well. With 25% more work to do, I actually have less time now to do it, given the mismatch between H's schedule and the husband's most days. Too much running around -- and I've only gotten in one bike ride in the past 5 days! AAAGH. I have to start planning bike rides. I can't just leave the house on two wheels anymore. Shit. No wonder I'm tired lately.

CW just texted me. She forgot her cookie at Jimmy John's this afternoon. Now she's hungry. And she has no curtains on the windows in her room at the new place. The naked, hungry CW. Who is rooming with a church member/fellow seminarian, in the duplex home of the church Council president. A situation that gives me the willies, but hey, it's not my situation. I just hope it works out, 'cause it seems a bit like moving in with your parents. Plus a roommate, her two cats, your three cats and two dogs, your landlord's two kids under the age of 8...cozy.

Ah...tomorrow I am starting a calorie cut-back, no question. Cold weather will be here in a matter of weeks.

We're out of wine.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

and then, a first day...

Tomorrow is H's first day of Kindergarten. Up until the past few days he has seemed very detached and nonchalant about it all, but like me he's been storing up his feelings on the subject, his energy, until the last moment. Not like me this go-round, since I've been nervous for more than a week about this transition (for normal, irrational motherly reasons.) But like me in that I often don't know how I feel about something until I get there, regardless of my tendency to anticipate and imagine. Anyway, H was found when I got home from work sitting on the livingroom floor, both arms wrapped around his backpack. I asked him, Are you giving your backpack a hug? And he answered No -- "I'm protecting it, I'm holding onto it TIGHTLY." I was able after a few moments to distract him with some special First Day lunch box items I'd brought. And the evening was pretty normal -- we ate dinner, looked at some shells Dean brought us from Cape Cod (including a whole smelly horseshoe crab), read a book ("Oh the Places You'll Go," a gift today from Auntie Dede).

At bedtime I remarked that we needed our sleep since tomorrow was a big day. And he said, "I hope you will pick me up after," a not-uncommon request for reassurance. And when I reiterated the dropping-off and picking-up plan, he began quietly to weep. "But I'll MISS you!" He said. He doesn't often mention it -- missing us during the day. He had an attack of the nerves. We snuggled and cuddled and pretty soon he was asleep. But tomorrow will require some delicacy. I hope teacher Barb has a knack for this sort of thing -- I hope not to wind up lingering unproductively with my weeping child, who will break my heart. And he's not used to me being the daily transporter, another factor -- his father has been doing this for years. H has until tomorrow always said his goodbyes to me at our door, before leaving with his father for daycare. So this is another dynamic stretch. He'll need me to evince a non-anxious presence, the right amount of caring and confidence. I hope I'm up to it.

He'll be okay, I know. He'll be safe there. I hope the three-day holiday weekend doesn't undo two schooldays worth of getting used to the change.