AARP, alz, amylodosis, cardiac amylodosis, daughter caregivers, death, family, grief, loss, memoir, truth, Uncategorized

My New Now

I don’t have dreams about my Dad like my sisters do. Even Li, Mom’s old caregiver says he hugged her in a dream last week.

Oh, Jodi. I had to call and tell you because I know how much you must miss him. Especially now. He was a good man, your Dad.  He was gone too quick. Much too quick. I miss him! God, how I miss him screaming all the time about losing this or that. I got used to the screaming, you know? Or him telling the people on the phone that he was an old dinosaur…

It’s easier to just rest my left hand over my eyes as I listen to Li remember Dad. That way I can mop up the drops of saline before they slide down my face.

..but he hugged me in my dream and I thought of you. I know it must be really hard right now. 

Right now.

Right now being this very second? Right now as I watch Dad’s arch enemy the backyard squirrel dig for nuts and tear up the greenery?

Right now being–Every. Single. Day.

Little does Li know that I blotted pools of saline mixed with under eye concealer with the kitchen towel an hour prior. Or that I shouted, God damn it, Dad! as my right toe met the handle of an ice cream container full of marked and sorted golf balls.  Right now being November? Better yet the day before Thanksgiving?

Well before he joked about the weight limit on the casket, about God ordering the sod, about a half-dug grave, I knew that bitch called grief would be pulling up a chair and settling in at 1202 today. Feet planted, knees bent, she’d have a front row seat at The Arndts First Thanksgiving with a Dead Father and a Mother Home from the Memory Care Center.

So many moments in which to shine, Arndt kids!

But grief will miss Dad whipping out the Dirt Devil two minutes before everyone arrives so he can vacuum up some spot on the carpet I missed which then causes Mom to declare, I wanna get outta here! 

Grief won’t spy us all raise a glass at the dining room table as Dad’s Hip! Hip! Hooray! annual toast to me tomorrow will be absent.

All those moments together as a family. Oh, how Dad loved them!

And I loved helping curate those before/during/after Thanksgiving moments.

Grief won’t feel my arms hug Dad’s shoulders after dessert.  His left hand, squeezing my elbow twice as I plant a kiss on his cheek and say, I love ya, Dad. 

Grief, she will miss all of those moments.

My new NOW, I guess is the one that follows my Dad’s death. This new NOW takes some getting used to.

I don’t like it. I hate it actually.

But when things are shit, when I am so very sad, like today; I play back the movie in my mind of ever so small moments between Dad and me. These teeny tiny fragments are deposits he left in my heart and on my mind.

And when I want a version of those moments all to myself, I stick in some earbuds and and remind myself that this is my new NOW.

Hi, Jod, Dad. Just a little before 7 on Thursday. Or could be Friday. I don’t even know what day it is. Can you believe it? Oh, here looking at the calendar it’s Thursday. Call me back because I want to talk with you about what to get from Costco for Thanksgiving. Looking forward to having you home, Jod. Ok, love ya. Bye-bye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AARP, alz, amylodosis, cardiac amylodosis, caring for parents, dad, daughter caregivers, death, family, grief, memoir, truth, Uncategorized

That B*tch Called Grief

I cradle Dad’s pillow and push it into my right ear as I lay on my side staring at the bedside table that’s now empty.  Gone are the bits of the pot-infused chocolate chip cookies. I can’t do anymore, Jod. He’d say. Food is life, Dad. You don’t eat, you’s gonna die. Sometimes he’d come back with: Yes’a boss, Yes’ a boss. And take a tiny piece chewing it in silence. Our banter always left me with the widest smile.

But at the end-the exchange wasn’t quite like that.

Greeted with peer pressure to consume, he’d raise left index finger in silence, signaling me to cool it with the talk. Then, raise his right index finger to his throat making a saw-like gesture back and forth. Message received. Lay off the request for me to eat, kid. Defeated, eventually, piles of small, white plates lined that bedside table with the cookies he couldn’t eat.

Gone are the glasses that no longer needed to be found because its owner was confined to bed. No more, Well, I am on my daily hunt for my glasses. God damn it if you ever know where they are, Joe. Jesus Christ, it is infuriating. Absolutely infuriating. I tell you.

Gone is the insulated glass with water and just the right amount of ice so it’d be the right amount of cold for Dad. Never a water drinker, Dad would sit on the edge of the bed sipping in silence. At the end, it took too much energy to talk and drink. He had to pick one over the other.

It’s been three months since I played nursemaid to my Dad. Three damn months. And this bitch called grief, she ain’t going away.

So, in order to be proactive, I come for her well before she sends for me.  Climbing into bed with Rosie I push my face into Dad’s pillow and bitch at myself for washing this pillow case in the week that followed his death.

I want to remember his smell.

Through the months during and after Dad’s illness and death, I’ve learned to be quite the efficient crier. Sobbing is limited to the car or the upstairs bathroom once a week or so. In Mom and Dad’s bed, I allow the tears to come in spurts like a midday rain in the summer. Through the silence, sometimes Rosie will say, I hope it gets better for you because I like you. And we lay there together, Mom staring off into whatever her reality has created and I now scared that Dad has forgotten that I am down here wading through shit piles of grief, fear, and uncertainty.

And then this morning I realized something. Whether we be among the living or the dying, not a single one of us wants to be forgotten.

Yep, this 44-year-old woman is worried that her dead Dad, who is no longer physically present, will forget her. She can’t even see him or hear him yell, JJJJOOODDDDDIIIIIII, I need you.

But she’s petrified that he will forget her.

Insane. Right?

God, but it’s the fucking truth. And, in truth there’s strength, so I’m putting it ALL out there today.

This realization reminded me of Dad’s eulogy. It gave me great comfort and pause in writing it and sharing it at his service, so I say, what the hell and share it here with you now.

A couple weeks ago, our dad sat perched on the edge of his bed, his blue, yellow, and white striped bathrobe now much too big for his 145 lb frame. His bedroom had become a gathering place for us kids because Dad spent most of his day now in bed. And we ALL know that Dad was ALWAYS on the move, So to be sick, unable to do all the “Joe” things he’d do was torture for him.

In the dark with the hall nightlight on, his kids sat on the edge of the bed with him and he said something that broke our hearts a little.

It was a simple statement. He said:

I don’t want to be forgotten.

Looking out at all of you here today-buddies from Marquette, fellow Evan Scholars, members of the Western Golf Association, former colleagues, family, friends, neighbors, of Dad, Rosie, and his children,-who have come here today to pay your respects and honor Joe, I know it is virtually impossible for Dad to be forgotten. Think of all those long-winded conversations you’d have with almost complete strangers, Dad?

How could our Dad ever think being forgotten would be part of Joe Arndt’s story?

Each and every one of us has these stories that make us who we are. As a teacher and a writer, I always tell my students–Be sure to tell your story. Be proud of your narrative. Write down those seemingly small moments. Share them with others.

So today. with so much humility I attempt to tell a small portion of our dad’s story. Being a visual learner, I thought it prudent to include some of Dad’s favorite tools as a way to illustrate his story.

Tool #1: Take this Folding Carpenters Ruler. To some, you might use it to measure wood planks, maybe to then build something. I mean, it’s a carpenter’s ruler. BUT… for our Dad it was a tool he used with his morning Strawberry Cheese Coffee Cake. Crouching over the long strip with his green golf pencil and ruler in hand he’d make tick marks along cardboard to mark 16 1 inch slices.  When asked why, “Why not? I want even slices. “Everything in moderation, kid. That’s all I allow myself.”

The lesson: Do things in a way that make sense for you. If no one understands, so be it. No need to always explain yourself–even if your kids or anyone else–give you a hard time. 

Tool #2: While Dad was NO lover of the computer, the man LOVED him a spreadsheet. Making burgers up at Aunt MaryAnn’s cabin? Yep, there’s a spreadsheet for that. And the spreadsheet that you then nail to the tree so you make sure the correct cheese is on the correct burger. Analyzing individual golf scores of your fellow Evan Scholars so you can make informed gambling decisions?  You betcha. Binders and binders of spreadsheets spanning years and years. Organizing your charitable giving by letter grade? Come tax time, you know Joe did that too. Down to every last detail, Dad prided himself on exceeding expectations. Whether it be to ensure he and Rosie had all their cross country gear, snow shoes and all-He’d make meticulous notes and create spreadsheets to ensure nothing was overlooked.

The Lesson: Give 110% to everything you do. From making burgers to organizing a golf tournament, give it your all. People will remember and appreciate the effort and care you take.

Tool #3: From file folders, to one of Mom’s toothbrush that says “Rose 6/16/16” you’d be hard pressed to find something that DOESN’T have a label on it @ 1202. Take the dryer for example. There are 5 labels on the dryer that read, “Don’t ever even think of putting anything on this dryer!”  Can you just see Joe now, slapping his forehead and massaging his face because one of his kids clearly left the laundry detergent the dryer, which then caused the blue liquid detergent to make an impromptu pool on the laundry room floor. You just know–after mopping up that mess with old undershirts and underwear, yes that is what he called old rags, he ran into the dining room to find the label maker. Likely using language that you’d hear him shout on the golf course.

The Lesson: Say what you mean and mean you say, but do so with heart, passion, and honesty. As Chole, Joe’s granddaughter reflected, “Grandpa can be tough, but he has a soft side.” 

This brings me to our last tools. Plural. It’s fairly straightforward. Dad would be lost, lost lost, without his pencil, his random scraps of paper, and his piles of mail from every non-profit under the sun.  I swear any construction, excavating, bridge building company that ever existed —and Dad has a pad of paper with that company’s name on it. Literal mountains of paper and mail would greet me each time I flew in from New Orleans. Possibly boarding on hoard-ISH tendencies. Love you, Dad.

Love you, Dad.

From handwritten notes laid at the front door to remind Mom of his Saturday tee time and estimated arrival home, to letters to the Minnesota Court Payment System to dispute a speeding ticket, scraps of paper and cups with golf pencils and highlighters dotted any available table in the house.  Those scraps were action plans for Dad. He used them to plan out his words to Mom before he’d write in her birthday card, he’d grab a scrap to write down directions after plotting his course on one of his beloved maps, and lastly insert them into his CharityWatch bulletin–because he only gave dinero to those organizations that earned a B or above. He’d even mark the mail. I swear I can’t make this stuff up!

As I write this, I am realizing it all came down to Dad doing things with such passion and conviction for those things and people he cared deeply about.

The Lesson: Be generous and loyal to those things and people dear to you. Take time to pause, reflect, and live a life with purpose and conviction.

SO Thank you, Dad, for giving me the strength and courage to speak about you today. I hope my words paid tribute to the father, husband, brother, uncle, friend, golfing buddy you were to each and every one of us. I hope your children and grandchildren continue to make you proud, to live by the examples you set for us.  Rosie and your children will continue to honor you and your story by loving one another fiercely, by giving 110% to all that we do, living principled lives full of purpose and passion.

With all my heart, I love you, Dad.

AARP, amylodosis, cardiac amylodosis, caring for parents, dad, daughter caregivers, death, family, grief, memoir, truth, Uncategorized

A Little Birdie Told Me

 

 

 

Robininwindow

Well, damn I am so sorry to hear about Joe. They certainly don’t make ’em like your dad. He was out here on the golf course every single Friday–for I don’t know? Years? Before he’d take your mom with him in the cart, but I guess when she got too sick, then he just came alone. He’d spend the whole day out here, you know? Going from wood duck box to wood duck box. I never did ask him how he started making these boxes. I just never thought to ask…He loved those birds. God, he kept a log book documenting the condition of each wood duck box, the number of eggs hatched, which ones were being visited by the birds, the ones that needed more cleaning…I just don’t think we have anyone that can take care of these birds and his boxes like your dad, Jodi. 

Like my dad. The list of things that no one can do quite like my dad is just too long to share here. We don’t have enough time to recount all one liners, exasperated exclamations, and meticulously sometimes maddening behavior that is our Joe.

You see, our dad, he is dying.

And so, it would happen that last week a pregnant robin sat contently perched in a nest that could barely contain her expectant belly outside the kitchen window.

I have never seen a bird build a nest here. This is unbelievable. God, the universe, whatever is watching and listening to the happenings in this house of horrors. $100 says this young mother will give birth just as dad dies. I swear to God. This is right out of The Alchemist. It’s an omen. 

Fuck.

Katie, Jaime, Meghan, Holly, whichever sister was helping me run the show at the little place we lovingly call The House of Horrors has seen the young mother too. A head shake and a smile follow such a noticing. Oh, how the appearance of this little bird has brought us comfort amongst all the grief. Always one with the sunshine and sparkle, sister Katie coined the phrase House of Horrors in response to the accidents, the amyloidosis, the Alzheimer’s, the sequence of events that confront us.

One of my old teacher friends, Ms. Jaffe used to say, “When confronted with a pile of shit, do you walk through it or around it? It seems like you often walk through it, Arndt.”

Oh, Shelia how you knew me well. So right now, we strap on our boots and wade through this pile of shit with an expectant robin doing her best to watch and wait to give birth. Until we are ready.

But are you ever ready?

The damningly beautiful, yet sad cycle of life.

So much love for you, dad.

 

AARP, alz, alzheimer's, caring for parents, death, dementia, family, memoir, mom, truth

Roaming Rosie Strikes Again

 

The amyloid plaque tangles have created two dueling personas inside Mom’s brain. On the left, our beloved Rosie Posie; on the right a scared, but forever fiesty woman who often accuses her children and others of commiting heinous acts against her.

What a fucking shit show. That, my dear, is what I was thinking when I got a frantic call from Li last week.  On one of Mom’s escapades, she paid ZERO mind to the barbed wire fence that is supposed to keep trespassers like herself out of Arlington Lakes Golf Course. Instead, she opted to enter the course through a breach in the fence and onto the golf course she roamed amidst golf carts, golf balls, and um, well a myriad of foursomes on the tee.

 

Li: Jodi. OHMYGOD. You have to come. Your mom, she’s on the golf course. Jesus. She’s by the water.

Me: What? Fuck. Where are you?

Li: I don’t know. She went walking. Wouldn’t stop. I think we are by Harvard/White Oak? I don’t know. We are in the trees.

Me: Fuck. Jesus. Ok. I’m coming.

Mind you, when I took this call I was sitting in a teeny tiny cube @ The Arlington Heights Senior Center with this nice woman from Catholic Charities. I had just turned in my FMLA paperwork and wanted to find out about applying to be Dad’s full-time caregiver, but I digress.  One story at a time.

I thank the nice woman and she assures me there is no explanation necessary. After all, I was basically sitting on her lap in her cube. She heard the entire exchange. She hands me a piece of paper with phone numbers that I will never use for a stupid idea that doesn’t even matter and gives me a look like Good-God-What-are-you-doing?-and-damn- I -feel -sorry- for-you.

Nobody got time for a pity party. Now a shit show, though…..Plenty O’ Time for that.

Remember, I’m just doing the doing. Today, the doing requires me to persuade Mom to come home with me.

Joooddddiiiii! We are here! Joooodddiiii!! 

I inadvertently drive right by them. Making a 3-point turn in the middle of White Oak, I pull up and there is Mom. She reminds me of one of those little people statues you place on top a wedding cake, except without the gleaming smile, clean, glossy hair, and pretty dress. Mom’s face a mix of fear and confusion, the concrete stoop her pedestal.  The barbed wire fence her cage.

Oh, Hi, Mom.

I make sure she can hear the smile as I speak to her.

Hi.

Her greeting communicates she is OVER IT. Zero fucks she cares to give me or anyone else in that moment. She says hello because even with her memory gone, she is always polite.

I want to go HOME!

Now, there are three problems with that request:

  1. Mom is pulling and banging on a barbed wire fence which will not make an exit easy
  2. That fence has a lock on it that she tussles
  3. She is surrounded by trees with no clear path out

Mom, you are going to cut your hands. The fence is sharp. PLEASE Mom. You gotta stop grabbing it. I want to take you home, but you can’t get out this way.

I don’t care if I cut my hands. I wanna go HOMMMEEEE!

Li is busy negotiating with Mom to follow her through the bushes, but Mom is not having it.

I am not going with you! You are a bad woman! You keep hitting me! 

The allegations of abuse continue. I literally have no idea how I will get her home.

I am starting to get scared. Mom is strong and pulling at the fence with such force, I am not sure how she’s not cut her hands yet.

For the first time since the inception of this disease, I consider calling the police on my own mother. I don’t see a way out.

She beats me to the punch!

I‘m gonna call the police on you!

Mom, well that’s funny. I was thinking the same thing. I don’t want to have to call the police, but you have to calm down. Li is trying to help you.

I stand opposite of Mom with the barbed wire between us.

Don’t tell me what to do. I don’t have to calm down. You are so mean to me. I hate you!

With this disease, every day, every moment is different. Some days are better. Some days are a hell I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Today, I’m realizing that I’ve made the situation worse. She is escalating because I am trying to reason with the version of herself that makes such a hearts, stars, rainbows ending highly unlikely.

Li and I agree that I get into the golf course and attempt to lead Mom out. So,  I drive to the opening in the fence and walk the 18th tee before getting to Mom and Li. I imagine golfers are like, WTF? But, whatever.

The fun and games continue.

Look, there’s your daughter, Jodi. She’s come to get you, Rose.

Hey, Mom. Let’s go home, ok?

In this moment, I try to imagine what my Mom sees and feels. From her perspective, atop the concrete stoop, there is a mess of bushes, sticks, trees, with no discernable way out. She is in unfamiliar territory with people she doesn’t recognize. And I am asking her to take a leap of faith and trust me.

I pull her. She fights back.

I stop. We are quiet. Mom’s panting. She is beginning to get tired. Being afraid takes energy.

Just then, I channel Dad and am reminded of what he would say to her when she is struggling.

You’re doing good, Mom.

You’re doing real good, Mom.

You’re ok.

That’s right. You’re alright.

She hesitantly takes my hand and I lead her out of the trees.

Home.

 

AARP, alz, alzheimer's, mom, truth, Uncategorized

This Your 77th Year

moms-bday-cardMom wears Dad’s caramel colored fleece inside the house now.  Often I catch her looking down at the black zipper, mumbling something to it, and then up and down it goes a couple times.

“No, I can’t do it. It’s Mary Ann’s.” Or, “I’ll just roll the sleeves up a little like this,” she’ll say cuffing the each end of her jacket so the other two shirts she is wearing are exposed; one white, another brown. Oh, how she adores the color brown!

This brown fleece seems like no big deal, right? I mean it is winter in Chicago. With the thermostat at 70 degrees, it can be chilly. What makes her ensemble complicated is what happens when we try to go outside.

“C’mon, honey we are going to go for a ride. Let me help you put on this nice purple coat,” Dad says holding the coat at the collar, the two arms shrugging in mid-air.

“That’s not mine. I already have this one,” Mom points to her chest.

“Rose, you have to put this on because it’s cold outside. This is the coat that you love, honey,” Dad continues to hold out the coat as he circles Mom.

“I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to play these games with you,” Mom is more defiant now.

Dad lays the purple coat on top of the couch and walks into the kitchen.

Two minutes later, he’s back to try again. Likely, she will have forgotten that she doesn’t want to put on the purple coat. Groundhog Day. All day. Everyday. Fun and games.

“C’mon Rose, let’s put on your coat. We are going for a ride,” Dad tries again. The power of perseverance!

“Oh, I’d love to get out of this house. Ok, I can do this. I know how to do it,” Mom coaches herself through the process. Yep, her left arm finds the arm hole just fine. The right one takes a bit more time as she bends her arm in search of the hole. Dad shakes the coat a tad to help her put it on. Mom’s chin meets her chest, as she stares down at the bottom of her jacket before each hand dotted with age spots, pushes each side of the coat together.

Toe to toe now, Dad’s salt and pepper crown just inches away from Rosie’s bowed and greasy head. He starts the zipper for Mom.

“I know how to do this,” she reminds him.

“Well, I know you do. I am just helping you, honey,” Dad says with a smile.

I’m outside now, walking in front, ready to open the car door for Mom. Ready to coax her inside.

It’s days before Christmas and we are running to Thuringer Meats to order a sirloin tip roast and a ham. Inside the store, Mom walks right over to a package of cookies whose acquaintance she’d like to make.  Dad redirects her. I get busy placing the order so we can make a quick getaway.

Alzheimer’s makes small tasks a bitch and half, as Dad would say.

The wind is biting as I watch Mom shuffle her feet to the car.

“Come this way, Mom. Let me help you into the car,” I say.

The three of us settle in. Then, I change my mind.

“Dad, you know what? I think I am going to go back and buy you some fish for dinner. We can try it tonight. Just wait in the car with Mom.”

Purchase made. I open the car door and before I can close the door, Mom speaks to me.

 

“Ohhhh, hi Jodi,” Mom sings with all the life and twang reminiscent of her old phone message days.

“Hi, Mom,” I say super perplexed.

I am stunned.

“Dad, Did you just tell Mom my name when I was inside?”

I mean–I have to accuse him of playing the name game as he sometimes does. Which, if I am being honest, typically turns into a sad trip down I-don’t-know-lane.

“Nope. I didn’t tell her. I swear.”

For that split second, I was transported back in time. To a time where Mom was my Mom. Where she knew who I was. Maybe who she was. Who we were to each other. Now that might be a leap, but in my heart and mind, I have to believe.

It’s ironic how insignificant a name might seem until it is never repeated by those who love you. 

And then poof! The light and life are gone in an instant. Mom’s back to mumbling about how the kids are tripping her, calling her fatso.

It’s like the phone’s been disconnected, but I am still holding the receiver.

As we make our way back to 1202 S. Patton..I am thinking. How can I get that feeling back? So I go searching in the basement. I don’t know what I am exactly looking for, but finding old pieces of Mom makes me feel better. I pick through a couple shoe boxes where I stumble upon an envelope.envelope-for-mom

Why did I write to Mom in New Hampshire? I think as I take the card from the envelope. I stand there in the basement play room and read. I read the card a couple times. I am taken by the last line of the card. I bolt upstairs. I find dad at the kitchen table, cursing his pile of paper; while searching for his glasses.

I hand the card to Dad.

“Just read it,” I say.

An excerpt from her 60th birthday reads:

I cherish your friendship, I wonder at your selflessness and am moved by your commitment to our family. Thank you for being a wonderful example of a mother. I look forward to the years to come. I only hope I can show you the care and nurturing that you have shown me. 
I love you,
Jodi

Dad closes the card.

“Well, you are sure doing that now, kid. Caring for her now. Jesus. It’s unbelievable,” he shakes his head.

“Fuck, it’s like I knew even then. It’s such bullshit, you know?”

“You better keep this card, Jod. To remember,” Dad hands the card back to me.

We often joke about how Mom might think she’s at a restaurant, a variety of her children, the waitresses and waiters giving her milk, a cookie, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as she sits unexpectedly on the couch.

Then, though I think about how the simple act of serving our mother allows each of us to feel some sort of connection and closeness that has long since passed. In small acts, we are repaying the unconditional love and care she gave all of us for so many years.

On this, you’re 77th year, Rosie Sebastian Arndt know you have so many who continue to love and care for you. Love you, Mom.

 

 

 

 

AARP, alz, memoir, mom, truth, Uncategorized

Listen up, Girl!

mom-and-i-with-goggles-thanksgivingI grab my winter coat off the kitchen chair, stuffing my left arm in first, but my arm gets caught in the lining that has torn. I always forget this coat is a hot mess. I pull out my arm only to try it all again. Same result. I am the one-armed woman. How can I not figure this out? Fuck. Simple tasks are lost on me! Finally. I grab dad’s keys, say the obligatory, “Dad, I’ll be back in a couple hours, ok?” And back out of the driveway.

Puffs of exhaust from cars along Arlington Heights Road punctuate the winter air. Pairs of red brake lights parade on down the Kennedy from before Nagle on through my West Loop exit. I occupy myself with creating a chorus of curse words strung together in the most Jodiest of ways. What-the… You-piece-of.. Are-you-fucking-kidding?  Oh, you best believe I cursed myself too. That is something I do quite well–the cursing of self. Now, an amateur at the art that is Chicago traffic, my ability to remain composed while enduring a barrage of brake lights has waned.

Inching off the exit at Jackson, my nerves–shot. My hands look like two fist fulls of lower case “C’s”  from clenching the steering wheel so hard. Without even directing my eyes towards the heavens, I spy a spot on Washington. Can I fit? I square up parallel to the Audi, but in the rearview mirror, I notice this gaping hole I failed to see previously. How did I miss such a monstrosity? Something is telling me to leave it alone, not to try it. This is NOT a good idea says the voice in my head. BUT I could try it? Blocking a lane of traffic now, I can see the man behind me is losing it, so I circle the block in hopes of a better option.

I will find a parking spot. I will find a parking spot. Please God, let me find a parking spot.

Shocker, I don’t. But that one spot. It’s still there. A bit challenging, but..

For some reason, at this section of the street, the black asphalt is almost gleaming. Here, there aren’t rings and webs of salt that form to make little pictures like other spots on Washington.  Plus, at the height of rush hour, there are no cars lining up to give me the finger as I decide what to do.

Something is off. Not right. Odd.

But I need to get on with it. I think.

Yea, but wait. That hole is too much for you to maneuver.

What do you know? You’re just my head and heart. Shut it. 

Fuck. You need to listen to me. The hole. It’s much too big. You won’t make it out. 

I turn the wheel. Put the car in reverse. My hands are sweating. My left tire does a quarter turn. Ever so slowly I begin to back up.

Into the hole, I fall. I am in slow motion now. Watching myself through the glare in the window. I am perpendicular to the hole now. Free falling. There is no scream. There are no tears. I pass concrete slabs, rows of steel beams before I sit underneath Washington Street staring out my cracked windshield.

I reach for the glovebox. I’ll need my insurance, I think. Where’s my phone? I need to call 911. Maybe I’m hurt?

Why didn’t you listen? 

Here we go again. 

Seriously, why? I was trying to help you.

I. Don’t. Know.

Then, the tears come and my clock alarm sounds.

I bolt awake. My face is hot and wet. It’s still dark outside. I look across the upstairs hallway and see the bottom of Rosie’s gym shoes ontop the bed.

“It’s so cold. I don’t want to go downstairs,” she says to Dad.

“Ok, honey lay back in bed. Here you go,” Dad turns her around and covers her with the comforter.

I wait till Dad goes downstairs before I walk over to her.

“Do you mind if I lay with you a bit?” I ask.

“Sure, you can lay with me. That’s ok,” she crosses her arms and stares at the ceiling.

I close my eyes, but can’t stop thinking about the hole in my dream. How many mistakes I’ve made by not listening to myself? Swallowing my intuition. Ear muffs to the the messages of the universe? As I’ve gotten older, those mistakes have become more costly–in all ways imaginable.

Recently, the decision to NOT listen to myself has really fucked me over. While I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, I ain’t no dummy either, but then I am? Shit.

Laying with Mom this morning, I was thinking.. God, Mom please allow some of your old school wisdom permeate my soul. Somehow, someway help me be the best version of myself. A woman we’d both be proud of because right now, I need me some Rosie.

 

 

memoir, truth, Uncategorized

Tell the Truth

 

The 1887 pink granite structure peered down on the pigeons, affluent Gold-Coasters, and some homeless folks that called the park on West Walton home. Inside, dust particles danced like halos across our bowed heads.  A maze of teachers stood hunched over, card catalogs at their bellies.  Armed with small wooden, old-school pencils,  we scribed reference numbers and locations of collections we were intent on using.  card catalog

In my 3rd year or so of teaching, I did a fellowship one summer at Newberry Library. A group of teachers spent quiet days learning  and doing independent research amongst the stacks on topics they cared about. The librarians strictly enforced the “no talking” rule; so much of that summer was spent in complete silence, the card catalog becoming my companion.

Recently, I find myself thinking about those little wooden boxes. Back in the day, they compartmentalized information, provided access to materials, and allowed patrons to make sense of whatever topic they were researching. Then, once amongst the stacks, the patron sat crossed legged with small towers of books–deciding what to keep and what to omit. Sorting the books on the floor, placing some back onto the cart, shoving another back into the wrong place on the shelf, and then taking a cursory glance at the content–all those small decisions impacting the story and the learning. The card catalog housing access to the learning, but the patron deciding which cards to revisit, which texts to check out, which texts become the foundation for the project/research.

Doing the omitting–knowingly or unknowingly–influences the story.

There are parts of my life that I’d rather omit, but those chapters are still a part of my story, regardless of how horrifingly unpretty they are. It’s those, kick-my-ass-who-was-I-chapters that continue to haunt me.

If I am telling the truth.

Here’s one of my horrific truths: Someone I loved ten years ago stole thousands of dollars from me. Thousands. The forged check, my name signed by his hand, now barely recognizable.   I came across that check last week as I was looking for materials for a teacher training I was doing. I sat with the old check in my hand, bile bubbling up. Running, I spewed the contents of my stomach into the toliet. And then I just sat looking at that fucking check. Why the hell did I keep it? I couldn’t even take his black ass to court!? Often explaining away why  I didn’t pursue legal action, hoping that karma would do him dirty. A wave of humilation and anger–at myself–arose once again.

Sitting on the floor, amongst the damn reminder of me being a coward, I thought back to eight years ago. With snow, slapping the lakefront, in a tiny Hyde Park office, my therapist got real with me:

I don’t understand why you won’t forgive youself.. It’s almost as if you have forgiven him, but not yourself… You stayed because you loved his daughter. You stayed because you didn’t want to believe the evil of a person. This act of staying doesn’t mean you suck as a person–it means you’re human. He’s the motherfucker. You gotta forgive yourself, Jodi.”

A liar is a liar, so clearly this act of betrayal was one amongst many, but I didn’t call the police–I didn’t leave him right away. I stayed. I stayed too long.

Recently, I’ve been thinking quite a bit how each one of us has events filed into our own personal card catalog. Each event, experience housed in little boxes in our minds. All impacting our individual story–even if we choose to omit them. They are there. Our individual truths–they get played out when we walk into the world. For some, it’s easier to stretch the truth, than revisit the card catalog– to reflect just how things have gone down. Often we stretch the truth because we don’t want to cause harm on ourselves or others. It’s normal. Yet, for others, a little white lie atop other more substantial lies allow a sunny narrative to be perpetuated, failing to account for how those lies effect someone else’s story.

I mean, duh. Right? A crazy sociopath doesn’t give a shit about TRUTH–that is what makes them vile. They just go on.  PRETENDING.

Just yesterday I was realizing that the nightmare I had earlier in the week was in response to me finding that damn check. In my dream, I was in the gym on some sort of Precor or something. I began falling backwards on it. It landed ontop of me. The bar slammed against my mouth. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself gasping for air. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t breathe, and no one helped me.

I woke myself up.

Now, let me be clear–I am NOT a victim. I work to NOT blame others for my choices. No one handcuffed me back in North Carolina. I stayed on my own volition.

But, in that dream–I was reminded to tell the truth. As ugly as it is.