Monday, February 20, 2023

 On Staying Home       


Recently I had a conversation with my hair stylist who, like me, is a homebody. She is a beautiful free spirit who thinks deeply, cares ferociously about many things including the Earth, including others. She is a gardener, an artist, a drummer, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. And she is perfectly content being home alone. She finds it peaceful. So, when a few times her daughter has voiced concern – “Aren’t you bored being at home all the time? Don’t you hate being alone? Are you ever afraid? I worry.” – she has been quick to reply. “No worries,” she has assured her girl. “I’m fine, happy, and perfectly content.”


I relate. I love being home. My husband, my best friend, is here too doing “guy” stuff, taking naps, or cooking some pretty tasty feasts. I have two beautiful German Shepherds to pamper, koi and orchids to tend, a garden to grow, weeds to pull, pesky chores to do, books to read, and writing that calls me to the computer every day. Writing – it’s the gift that keeps me grounded and makes me happy. Creating is fun – and hard – but mostly enjoyable and so rewarding when words appear in print just as I had planned. So, like my friend, the stylist, at home I am fine - happy and content.


Can everyone say that? Probably not. Surely a good many people would go batshit crazy if they stayed home as much as my friend, the stylist does, or as much as I do. The Covid lockdown is evidence in itself. The general population could hardly cope. Now, however, Covid lockdowns seem behind us and folks are out and about as never before. So, have they left home behind? I don’t think so because home, it seems to me, can be anywhere – the mall, an airport, a seat in an airplane, the office, the beach, a boat, a golf course, a retreat, a mountaintop, or even a muddy bank beside a stream. I know people who are at home running alone down a country road or riding a bicycle for miles at a time. In that regard, the old saying is correct: Home is where the heart is.


But what about the homeless? What about them – the ones in tents, on sidewalks, in an alleyway somewhere? Can a rusted out, tireless, beat up trailer be home? I don’t know. . . and yet on some level those places must become home for those whose fortunes have led them there. Is theirs a home they could never have imagined? Is theirs a home that was inevitable, predictable? Those questions are so unfathomable they make my head swim. Yet I speculate. Is it one’s ability to accept, adapt, and cope that makes home become home? Is it?


I wonder. Folks in this country live in castles, in tract houses, in condos, in apartments, in farmhouses, in tenements, in motels, in cars, in tents, and under the stars. Does one domicile deserve the title home more than another? Home is defined as a place where a person finds affection, acceptance, peace. It is where we find contentment. Outside wrapping aside, it is where we want to be. 


With that, enough said.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

 Mental Exhaustion 

I took a nap today. I don’t often do that. Though I have retired from my profession as an educator, I always am busy. Myriad tasks, some important, some not, keep me moving. Even if I am stationary, I am either reading, writing, or I admit, perusing Facebook or playing Words With Friends for a few minutes with folks I do not know, and a few I do. Today, however, my body simply said to me, “Take a rest.”


A friend of mine died a couple of days ago. She was not young, not old. She was not expecting to face death quite so soon I can be certain, but her illness came on like gangbusters and didn’t give her a chance. I do not believe I am wrong to conclude she was not ready. Neither was her family. Neither was I. And that, perhaps, is the reason for today’s exhaustion – a delayed reaction to news I was unprepared to have to accept, news that her death was near and inevitable. My friend, Maria, died of brain cancer, a very aggressive glioblastoma that took her life less than two months after her diagnosis, its evil tentacles crawling through her head, vicious and uncontrollable. When I was notified of her condition, I phoned, I texted, I sent flowers, my husband and I visited, we took more flowers . . .  and we stood helplessly beside her listening to her mumble cooking instructions. She remembered her father. She reached for her husband’s hand. And she held mine. Warmth. I remember the warmth of her touch. I will never forget it.


And I remembered that God-awful feeling – powerlessness. It was the same feeling I had when I sat beside my son, Alex’s bed in the weeks before he passed away, also of brain cancer - only his was different - a nine-year battle fighting an oligoastrocytoma he named Chet that though debulked, poisoned, and radiated eventually took his young life. He was thirty-nine – a handsome, funny, hardworking, blue-eyed firefighter, a CAL FIRE engineer, a man who always gave more than he took, a man that everyone who knew him, loved.


In the hours that have followed my friend’s death, besides being hounded by deep sadness, I have been unsettled, launching into tasks too mundane to mention, though I will: doing laundry, vacuuming, cooking, baking cookies, bathing my dog. And I have created other chores. Finally, after nearly ten years, I shredded documents, Alex’s documents – taxes, financials, medical records, photos too blurred to show an image. I have sorted through boxes of my son’s old photographs – of fires and firefighting, girlfriends, long-time friends, family, and pets, lots of lots of pets. It was heart wrenching at times to peek yet again into intricacies of my son’s life. 


And I was reminded. My friend’s family will take on that chore, that responsibility sometime in the future, of sifting through their loved one’s “stuff”. They will cry, their hearts will ache, their pulses will pound, and they will grieve over and over – one time not enough. They will be exhausted. I hope they can rest. I hope they find elusive peace to ease the pain. I really do. Reflection helps, too. It does. Like naps, musing diminishes the exhaustion that results from unfathomable loss. That is why, with this piece, I cherish memories. 


Rest now, my friend. Rest in peace. You, like my beautiful son, will live on, precious memories bridges to the past, reminders of our profound love for such beautiful souls.