Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Another Year Goes By

The Potato Story

This is the third time I've reposted this story. It is now 26 years since my father is gone. He lives in our hearts as brightly as ever- missed, remembered, and loved always.

I first posted this thirteen years ago on the blog.

My father died of liver cancer on March 14, 1992 (Sat, 9th of Adar II, 5752). I offer this post in his memory.

In 1993, as the first anniversary of my father's death approached I was quite inconsolable. My family was still grief-stricken; my father provided a lot of the emotional glue that held the family together. He was a very kind, gentle and sad soul who derived what joy he had from his wife and children.

I felt the need to mark that anniversary by drawing on several different traditions -- burn a yahrzeit, build an altar, place stones on a grave, make an offering of his favorite things (photographs of his loved ones, mystery novels, food). So, an elaborate blending of multi-cultural ritual was conceived, and in the center the yahrzeit burned for 24 hours to mark that awful day. Roger and I took a dozen roses to the Capitola Wharf at Monterey Bay (where my father's ashes had been scattered), and tossed a rose in one by one and recited out loud how well my father was loved and remembered.

The following day, after the yahrzeit had burned out, we disassembled the altar and put everything away. I took the food offerings and buried them in the yard. It was the beginning of a closure of sorts.
Roger and I jumped into spring that year the way we always do. Lots of flowers and vegetables to plant. I typically do the flower gardening and he does the veggies. Our yard faced Monterey Bay with one of those 180 degree views of the entire expanse. There is a narrow public footpath on the bayside of the house, where lots of friendly people walk by on their way from the cliffs down into town and back again. There were often bike-riders, families, sweethearts, people walking dogs, and late into the night revelers from the nightspots below. People always commented on our garden, and we had conversations about the flowers and vegetables nearly everyday.

That summer everything bloomed and fruited as expected, but an errant potato plant showed up in a border bed reserved for flowers. We were quite intrigued by this and tried to imagine how a potato came to be in that part of the yard. We assumed some passerby, with a bag full of groceries had inadvertently dropped it there or one of our gardening buddies was having some fun with us. Maybe it had been there all along, and conditions were now perfect for it to emerge. We could not find an acceptable explanation. How ever it came to be there, we harvested it one day, and had a wonderful breakfast of new potato home fries and poached eggs. And that was the end of that.

In winter of that year, as my father's birthday approached, the gnawing sadness returned, and I missed him fiercely. My siblings and I had decided we would honor our father on both his birthday and the anniversary of his death every year. So, on December 19th, I created the altar again: photographs, novels, his favorite foods, and a yahrzeit candle. After the 24 hours of observance had passed, I looked at all of those offerings and wondered what I would do with them. I would put the photographs back in the albums, the novels back in the bookcase, and the food offerings (carrots and potatoes) I would bury in the yard. And that's when it struck me: I had buried the potato in the flower bed. It had been from the plate of food offerings I'd made on the first anniversary of his death. I was stunned by how deeply I had buried that memory along with the potato. Not even the potato plant itself could coax to consciousness the memory of my actions.

Now, the planting has become part of the tradition. Every year in my father's memory I plant potatoes. Sometimes they are standard russets, sometimes yukon gold, or new red, or yellow fin, and once it was a lovely bunch of peruvian purples. Tomorrow, I will be planting potatoes again. PS-- The yahrzeit candle is burning. The potatoes have been planted. It is 2013, and I know all these years later that love lasts forever.

And now it is 2018, and we will be planting potatoes tomorrow. Love does last forever. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Do Go Gentle

Sunday morning walk at the marsh
Over the years I have often come to the same conclusion that Dylan Thomas was absolutely wrong to wax eloquently about not going gentle in that good night. Are you kidding me, Dylan? That's about the worst death bed advice I have ever read. Maybe there is a lofty interpretation of what those poetic words mean, but to me they are the opposite of what we should hope for our dying loved ones.

"Please do go gentle," those are the words I think all the time now. It is a quiet wish for my mother who is doing her own bit of raging, pulling the bandages off the newly placed pleural catheter (the device that will help drain the fluids from the pleural cavity around her lungs). We knew there was the possibility that she would do that. It was one of the things that made some family members vote "no" about having it placed. What do we expect from a 92 year old woman with Alzheimer's at the end of her life? Decorum? Rational reasoning? Considered behavior?
Enjoying pistachios at my sister's
She has been having good days and bad. On Thursday, the day before the pleural catheter was placed she sat on the couch in the family room and noshed on pistachio nuts, looking as placid and happy as one would hope. Then came the minor surgery on Friday, minimum anesthetic, home within two hours of the procedure, and chaos. Sunday morning the bandage was on the dresser. The tube was exposed. She was not going to hear a word about behaving.

Going gently is a wish for all the days she has ahead. It is not merely a death bed wish, but a wish that everyday is calm and easy. I think we must all learn this mantra to Go Gentle. Why rage when you can embrace calm for all the time that's left.

Don't listen to Dylan. He was all wrong.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Free The Buddha

For more than a year we've seen this Buddha statue trapped in this crate. We walk by and shout to the wind and sky: Free the Buddha, Free the Buddha!

Free them all! LOL!

Monday, March 05, 2018

March: The Lion and The Lamb Already

The rain clouds finally left us, after days and days of very windy wet storms. We are having a few days of sunshine before the next deluge, and yes we are loving every warm bright minute of it. A few weeks ago Roger started a new morning routine. He heads out for a neighborhood walk at 7:00 am, after our first cup of tea and toast. I didn't join him until the morning looked like this.
I love a sunrise with crepuscular rays, the perfect reason to get out of the house and go for a walk in the brisk almost freezing temperatures. Now we are walking together before sunrise every morning. It's a wonderful new ritual, at least until the next rains show up. I won't go, but Roger will. He doesn't mind, and I really do!

We also took the opportunity to head out to the marsh, of course. I love the reflected clouds in the bay.
It had been a while since the skies were this blue and full of cumulus clouds. And of course the Green-winged teal were out and about, floating in the reflections.
After all the days and days of gray, this was a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively. It's been good to get out of the house and enjoy the coming longer days of spring. A balance to everything else.

And here is everything else: I had my wrist xrayed. It is not broken, but there are some abnormalities. My doctor never called me to explain the results, so I have no idea what's going on. I do know this, I am going to find another doctor.

My mother moved in with my sister on Friday. The caregivers are incredibly kind and supportive. My mom is not doing well, but I don't have any details. I think she is going to have the pleural catheter placed this week, which will provide her with much comfort care.

I don't really need to mention politics. You know us. We live in a state of shock, orchestrated by the shock master himself.

We really love blue skies in the morning!