Wednesday, July 24, 2013

65%

I am 56 years old. That means, according to health..ny.gov, I've already lived 65% of my life, leaving a measly 34% remaining.  I spent the last 15 years trying to deny that it, age, is happening.  Now it seems like it was such a massive waste, well, only the part where I tried to act like I was still young and cool.  Not the part when I exercised and ate healthy . It didn't feel like it was happening and for awhile, it didn't look like it.  But where once, the years would go by with the slightest sign of a wrinkle, crows foot or crease, it seems that every year, and sometimes in a few months, a new change in skinlasticity, color or location of skin or organ.

The weird thing about aging, that I think everyone, I mean everyone, goes through, is that is it so surprising when it happens to you!  For some reason, I never thought I would get old.  I grew up during a time when The Who sang, "I hope I die before I get old!"  But even The Who grew old!

I made a fool of myself trying to get through to young people, to let them know I was "down' with what they were talking about and I actually was, but all I got were smiles of pity. "What could you know, lady, about us??  But I do know.  I've been an us.

At 17, I was living on the streets.  I hitchhiked from Florida to Boston and back down again, then from Florida to California, and back again.  I lived on the streets.  I've seen things, crazy things, cur-razy things.  I've been arrested.  I and a few companions sneaked into the Ozark Mountain Festival. Look it up. It was lunacy.

I spent the last 20 years yearning, longing, for the days of my youth.  Those were the days when I  allowed myself to run free, run away.  I've suffered from what I felt was claustrophobia of life, but it was just maturity that I was having a hard time accepting.

At 56, I don't have the energy I used to have. Actually, I don't have any energy at all. This helps a great deal with the needing to run toward or away from anything.  But I miss so many things and I wonder if I'll ever see any of them again. Things like excitement, anticipation, being in love...If those things are gone forever, then I want to be too.

But, there are good things about getting older.  There's the wisdom that comes with it. I'm not quite so foolish. I also can impart that wisdom upon other unsuspecting victims.  I also get to use age as an excuse to get out of things I don't want to do.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work on work..yet.  I'm also coming to the point of accepting my body and what age is doing to it, only because I am too tired to care anymore.

I remember an old lady named Marilyn that was in my life for a while. She used to love her sweets, cakes, whatever.  Now I get it.  At this age, happiness comes in 2 x 2 tiles of yellow cake with whipped cream frosting.

I've tried to impress upon my grand kids some of the things I went through and what they may expect, but I am too far away from them. Technology, music and social rules are all different now.  What remains the same, and will until the day humans cease to exist, is that we are born, we are genetically engineered to need certain things, spiritually married to the universe, will age and will die.

There's definitely an undercurrent feeling of time running out, something I can no longer ignore.  Sometimes I feel like I'm ready and even want to go, but I know there are things undone, so I still seek to try to fix them.  I also have regrets, monstrous, persistent regrets.  I can't live with them.  I certainly can't die with them.

I have half the time that I've existed so far, according to the life tables. That could be either too short, or too long and the funny thing is that I am curious to see which.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Trivia...Or Not...

There is an actor whose every movie I am sure I have seen. I just watched a movie he did on Sunday and saw him on FB. His name has disappeared from my memory as if it was sucked into a black hole....gone. There's a blankness where his name used to be. I could look him up or someone could tell me if I wanted, and I would immediately recognize him, but his name is a trivia pursuit question at this point. What do I do if my kids' names, their faces, disappear into this black hole? Alzheimer is a frightening illness.

I feel as though I've had a vulcan mind wipe

Thursday, March 7, 2013

And Finally

about Carmichael....

Last night, I sobbed, at times howled, low and long, like a wolf in the wilderness.  I let it all go, since the only creatures who heard were the dogs, cats and unnamed, unseen creatures living in, under, behind the walls of this house.  I cried so hard my chest hurt and had a brief thought that I might beat him to the promised land.

I called for Mackie, or Big Mac, as I like to refer to him, until I was startled by the realization that I had been calling Carmichael.

After  a night of much interrupted sleep, I dragged myself around the house, feeling prepared and "strong enough" for the unpleasant tasks that had to be undertaken on this morning, as though I had come to terms with "what must be done."

I've been going to my vet's office for about  8-9 years, but I don't know the names of many of the people there.  A kind woman let me hold Carmichael in one of the rooms until Brooks and Debbie, the vet techs, came in.  I thought he looked better until his "third eyes" rolled halfway up his eyes.

He laid on my chest and purred while I stroked his ears and neck. He pushed his paw outside of the blanket we had around him to keep him warm and curled it, gripping my wrist. I told him I love him over and over again. I told him I was sorry and all the while, kept searching for a sign, praying for a miracle, second guessing myself. I weighed him, he had gained 5 oz... maybe if we kept trying he would bounce back.
 
 I asked about his levels, although I don't know what levels are, vitals maybe, but I know his life  hung in the balance.  Brooks told me they could check, but that he was too far gone.    They came into the room with a large syringe.

Debbie asked if I wanted the ashes back.

Cremated?  Is it the law?

"Does he have to be cremated?"

"Are you going to take him home?"

Yes.  I am going to take him home.

We laid Carmichael still in a towel, on the steel examination table.  He protested weakly. Brooks put the needle in his arm and began plunging the pink liquid while I cupped his head, stroked his neck and told him I love him and that I would see him soon.

I didn't even know when he was gone.  Brooks said it was within seconds, but his eyes were still open, as if he was looking at something on the far side of the room.  He was warm and soft.   I kept running my hand over his body softly. I stared for signs of breathing and when Brooks took out the stethoscope minutes later, asked her if there was anything...anything.  "He's gone," she said softly.

That's when I began to fall apart, couldn't stop the flow of tears.  Dr. Ohman, Brooks' daughter, came in and hugged me.  Brooks hugged me, then Debbie did too.

They gave me a box where we laid the body.  It fit perfectly and looked like he was sleeping comfortably.  They told me I could leave out the back door, probably for their sake as much as mine.

When we got home,  I opened the box, laid it on the floor and told the dogs that Carmichael was dead.  Jade and Tyler curiously and cautiously approached the box, quickly retreating at any sound. Kayla stayed away.  Scratch ran away and Mack hissed from my arms at the box.  I noticed that Carmichael's jaw had slackened and knew that NOW, he was really dead.

I buried him, laid in the towel in which he died, by some bushes on the southwest corner of the house where the morning sun shines with a silent ceremony that included the dogs and I.
.  
Grief rolls in and out like the tide, but I know mine is not the only loss.  My favorite ex Sister-in-Law's brother died yesterday, losing his war with cancer. A friend of mine lost her best friend from a brain aneurysm on February 15.  One prior co-worker and one FaceBook friend each lost a feline family member recently.  Suffering seems to be contagious these days.
Besides, I have five other animals to care for, although the thought did occur to me that I may have to go through this five more times.
So I don't have time to live in the deep waters of Misery, but I know I will go back for a dip now and then.
Goodbye my Carmichael boy!  I know we will see each other again some day.






Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Death and How to Deal with Guilt

I don't know why it takes dying to realize how precious life is.  It seems that only when the reality looms in front of me is it when I remember how much and why I love someone or some body.  No, I don't' mean somebody, I mean some body...a cat, a dog, a rat, a creature.
I have a little experience with the death of people and creatures in my life.
An ex-boyfriend of two months, who dumped me and subsequently rescued me two hundred miles away from an abusive situation, and who committed suicide a few months later for thinking he killed someone when he in fact, wounded them. 
I still remember the day the cops came to my house to tell me my sister had called.  She told me and I sobbed and sobbed. It was surreal.  I kept floating in and out of reality.  I was 19.  He was and will never be older than 21 . I  At the viewing, someone told me to touch his hand and I did.  It was like touching a mannequins, hard. 
Chris' personality was magnetic.  From the moment he walked into a room, people immediately liked him and were drawn to him. He was unorthodox and fun, so everything he did was new to me.  But see, this is what death does. It forces down the dulling monotonous drone of every day life down to the bottom of priorities and buoys a surge of memories and emotions to the forefront, not all of which are necessarily true.  I don't remember having any guilt with Chris.  I saw one sawed off shotgun, but I wasn't the girl who stole the guns from her father's house and gave them to Joe and Chris,; I wasn't with them when they were joyriding and shooting signs and things.  I was not there when someone accidentally shot that guy in the butt and I wasn't there when Chris left the party, sat under the tree and blew the back of his head off, thank God!
But that doesn't mean I didn't have any of the guilt feelings.  I was young, I probably thought I could have done something to stop or change what happened.  It is only age, a spiritual program, experiences friends and second-hand therapy that provides the ability for an honest assessment of any role I may have played.
And, there was Amy...another enigmatic personality, tortured by brilliance and demons of guilt.  I thought she was going to blow up my brain trying to explain quantum physics to me.  Sometimes I think she committed suicide just to find someone on her level to talk to. 
Amy called me to tell me goodbye on the morning she killed herself and for the last 6 years, I have been tormented by the idea that if I hadn't turned off my phone, if I had followed my gut and went to the apartment instead of sending the police. If I had not been so judgemental...then maybe...
But I wasn't and still am not equipped to fight her demons.  Yes, maybe, but why not maybe not?

Then there was Ginny.  It's funny how much big the personalities of these people are..er..were.  I used some trivial excuse to cut ties with her because I didn't want to take her calls or help her anymore.  She died before I could apologize for my pettiness. 
Now, the creatures -13 years ago, a woman named Liz walked into a room full a people saying that she found a kitten on 5th Avenue in St. Petersburg, but she couldn't keep him at her apartment.  I am such a sucker and fall in love with kittens and puppies instantly.  I already had two cats and didn't want another one, but couldn't stand the thought of this beautiful creature not finding a home and took him in. 
Rather than let this turn into a rambling memory lane, and to stop me from going into another sobbing fit, I'll just say Carmichael has been with me through six boyfriends and just as many moves. Carmichael always looked at me like he was in love with me, laying on my chest, trying to touch my face with his paws, using his claws when he didn't get my attention.
When the dogs moved in, I had no time energy for the cats and the cats who loved me so much, got pushed to the side.  Later the dogs started terrorizing them to the point that they didn't feel safe to come in.  So when they tried to tell me about it, or get some love from me, I was short tempered and impatient. 
I lost my job, Carmichael got sick and I decided that if he died, he died, so I let him get sicker and sicker.  Yes.  It's horrible.  Yes, I am horrible.
If anything happened to the dogs, I went to the vet immediately, but with Carmichael, I let him go, pretending it might go away because I told myself I just couldn't afford any more animal care, but then I saw him dying. Literally, before my eyes, fading away, body and all. Finally, I couldn't stand what I was doing and took him to the vet, but it is too late. Tomorrow morning, if he lived through the night, we are going to put my Carmichael boy down. 
People will tell you that you couldn't have done anything that it was "meant to be that way,"; or a number of other platitudes that you may or may not believe, as your mind or your emotions, whichever rules, would have it. Sometimes it's true, but I, personally, get tired of people saying "insert cliche here" to make me, or rather themselves, feel better.  I cringe at empty condolences. I would prefer to hear someone tell me how they got through something than to hear, 'This too shall pass," from someone who floats obliviously on a pink cloud. 
The vet tech, Brooks, explained that his condition and kidneys would have continued to degenerate anyway and that it was "a crapshoot."  The office manager where I work said her family had the very same set of circumstances occur with the same results. 
People say, well he won't be suffering, which is not an empty consolation. It is absolutely true. 
But I cannot claim that my hands are clean with Carmichael.  His death is on them. I could have stopped and reversed the process had I dealt with his illness upon my observation of it's occurrence.  Had it been one of the dogs, I would have. I thought about all the money i spent on getting my nails done or buying extra things that I didn't need when I could have been taking care of my responsibilities.  This applies to much more than Carmichael or any other creature. 
Perhaps one could think I am being too dramatic about a cat or pet.  When I told my dad about Carmichael being at the vet's office on IVs, he responded, "What a tragedy," and then laughed, because he does not view animals in the same light as evolving world. Evolving for me too.  When I was 15 or 16, I told my best friend, Marcy, to throw a cat we had that had been hit by a car into the gutter when she asked me what to do with it.  I am grateful I have evolved into having feelings.

So, on these pages, I've unloaded some of my experiences with death and the guilt, real or imagined, associated with them.
 
I heard a woman, let's call her Iris, tell her story this weekend, who, driving drunk, killed a man and served 12 years in prison.  It takes incredible courage to get up in front of  a room full of people and tell that story without dramatizing it or being self pitying and at some points (prior to the vehicular homicide) with humor.  I was crying by the time she finished.  I had no idea what I was coming home to face.
What I learned from Iris and after some contemplation about my dying cat, is guilt, real or imagined can be either productive or debilitating.  You can choose. Yes, you can.  I've been grieving for three days now, knowing that Carmichael is dying and that cannot be reversed.  But I've made a promise to myself, to him, to Amy, to Ginny, to sacrifice my comfort and time to make amends,

One of my friends best friends just died. Another close friend's brother just died. I am going to see how I can be helpful, and should anyone else lose a dear creature friend, I am going to be there for them.

It's the only way

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I Can Fly!

My adventure began before I was born. My parents are West Indian, born and raised in Trinidad of the famous, or maybe not so famous, Trinidad and Tobago, or Tabasco as I used to say. They emigrated to Canada where my mother became pregnant with me, and where I was born and raised until I was 9 in 1966.

My father said I was born with club feet and had to wear steel braces. He said he couldn't stand me crying and decided that walking on the sand would cure my knocked kneed gait.  Other than back problems and walking on the sides of my feet, I see no problem with his theory.
  
Movies, when videos were shot with film reels, picture me jumping and dancing and moving inas if the pictures were accelerated, like a Charlie Chaplin movie. My mother called me "Our Lady of Perpetual Motion."  She animatedly discussed, with her friends, theories of the causes, such as drinking Kool-Aid, and treatment methods such as the use of amphetamines to counter hyperintensity.  Hmmm...
 
I used to be able to dream of flying at will.  I spoke to God and He heard.  I had an uncanny knack of finding lost things, but I was willful and stubborn at a very young age.  At four or five years old, I'm told, I took a dime and went for a walk to find an ice cream store my father had taken me to visit. I was brought home by the police; the first of many encounters with authorities.

When I was around eight, I was dropped off late at a new school. I never walked in.  The only memory I have of that event is looking down a long wide stretch of road leading home.  Again, I was brought home by whom I assume were the police, and punished accordingly, which usually involved a frustrated, angry parent and a belt.  That's how they did it back in the day.   
 
 We moved a lot. People occasionally asked me if my dad was in the military. Nope, we just moved a lot.
When I was nine we spent a summer in Missisquoi Bay, where the Missisquoi River flows into the bay in Northern Vermont near Lake Champlain. Missisquoi means "lots of waterfowl," in Native American.   Today, it means, the water is foul.  In August, 2012, thousands of fish died in Missisquoi Bay. Blue/Green algae, low water levels and high temperature were suspected as the cause. Probably smelled bad too, but in 1966, it was a bright and beautiful summer. My sister and I picked blueberries and blackberries the entire summer with the two Swedish girls who lived on a hill. I learned to swim to a raft tethered away from shore, and reluctantly learned to skewer a worm upon a hook. 
 
 After the summer in Missisquoi Bay, we moved to Temple City, California.  I can still picture Mount Wilson from the street. 

The first Christmas in California, Santa surprised us all with a black labrador puppy.  The puppy not yet been named, lapped up everything his little mouth lap from each plate to every cup left laying around from the party the night before. My father named the puppy Nero, after the great Roman emporer.  Nero, the emporer, really wasn't so nice a guy.  The rumor is that he burned Christians as a source of light for his garden, but Nero, the dog was a great dog.  Whenever Nero abandoned his kingdom, and he did so often, we sought and usually found him at the nearest McDonalds.  But we didn't get to grow up with Nero, because when he was two, we moved again.  This time to my parents' homeland, Trinidad.

A tropical island!  How exciting!  Eventually memories of Nero faded into the blackdrop of my mind making room for new memories to come; relatives I didn't remember, friends I hadn't met yet, dogs that would not grow old with us, yet again. 

I spent a lot of time with my brother and sister on the white sandy beaches looking into crystal blue oceans, digging into the sand for tiny living clam-like creatures that entertained us by trying to dig their way back down into the sand before we gathered them up, cooked and ate them.  Food should be entertaining, don't you think?  
Trinidad, in my child-like memory, was a fascinating place; giant lizards called Iguanas, calmly and deliberately wandering down the middle of a road less traveled, dolphins jumping besides the boat on trips to island beach houses, fish nibbling submerged bodies, ooohing and awing at island lore, sleeping in nets at night because the mosquitoes were geniuses in strategy and attack but still waking up with miserable itchy welts all over.
At first, we lived in a large house surrounded by a high cement fence with Uncle Elliot and Aunt Kathleen and my cousins, Vickie, Barbara and Julia . They had a doberman pinscher named, "Max," who had to be put down for escaping and tearing apart an innocent bicyclist. I can still hear my cousin, Vickie's, wails when a giant box truck drove into the yard and Max was loaded into it.

School was very different in Trinidad.  I had to have extra tutoring before I enrolled in my first class.   I got terrible headaches that summer. When school started, it was segregated, not by race, but by sex. Some one's aunt named Sister Girly ran the convent school. My cousins and I ate with her at lunch. In the afternoon, class consisted of standing in a circle reciting spelling words and answering riddles such as a bunch of beauties is a bevy. I await the opportunity to inform someone, anyone, that a bunch of geese is called a gaggle.  Brain training, my ass. All you need is a ruler and a nun for  memory enhancement.
 
When I was 12, I had my tonsils removed in Trinidad.  I think they ripped them out with pliars and then branded my throat with an X.  I saw the X when I looked at the back of my throat.  I was a very sick kid, always had a cough or strep throat.  especially when we lived in Canada.  I am grateful that my tonsils are gone because that was hell. 

We finally got another dog, a black lab mix female called Beauty, and she was.   When I had my tonsils out, we had just got a puppy.  Beauty and the puppy were eating out of the same bowl and I heard this growling and the puppy yelping. Beauty had bitten the eye of the puppy and it was hanging by stringy threads.  I screamed and screamed.  I had just had my tonsils out a few days before.  I remember my throat burning.  Both dogs were soon gone. That's how it was when I was young.  Animals, people and things just disappeared.
 
We had a maid named Thelma that lived downstairs who let me hang out in her room, smoke cigarrettes which I stole from my parents or bummed from her, and read detective stories,  MAD magazine, the Enquirer, and if I was really lucky, Tales from the Crypt.  It was a fascinating time to be a kid.  Thelma left for a job in the United States.  Damn, there went my cigarrettes.

One day, we were out on an outing to one of the surrounding islands.  We had a new Indian maid, dot on forehead and all, who my father terrified by yelling, "SOOOOKEEEAA!" while we were walking across a plank crossing the water, from a house built on the edge of the water, on an island.  Only phonetically correct, a Sookeya is a demon ball of fire that shoots out of nowhere through the air, strikes its victim who explodes in writhing agony in a pyre of flames. She quit immediately, if not sooner.  I inherited that mischievous mean spirit. I really should have it exorcised.
The beautiful island of Trinidad was the place I earned the nickname, Horse, because of my thick legs.  These legs, thank you very much, are strong and have served me well. , It was also the place a boy was bet a nickel that he could kiss me. He did.
 
Teenagers had parties called Fetes on the island.  We would play our vinyl LP records and slow dance.  I remember Stevie Wonder's My Cherie Amor, Elvis' In the Ghetto, Suspicious Minds and the Beatles, My Michelle.  Not good dancing music but nobody was really dancing anyway.  I didn't seem to be island fare for the boys of the island and the seed of lonelines already planted, began to grow and a chasm deepen.  Two years later, I don't remember how I felt about moving again.

I was 14 when we arrived in St. Petersburg.  America didn't recognize the schooling I received in Trinidad and I was placed back a grade. That was upsetting after all the trouble I had gone through to get it.

In less than two years, I would be withdrawn from school and thrown be out of my parents house with a black yard trash bag.  My parents kept not a school yearbook, not a passport, not a thing.

It was America and the post-hippie era in the early 70s and I had arrived late.  My parents kept a stronghold on my activities, but I had begun hanging around hoodlums and I liked it. My mother's favorite saying became, "Birds of a feather, flock together," which didn't make sense because all birds have feathers.  I began buying small amounts of pot and walking around my neighborhood smoking it.  I met friends of a feather and we would walk around the neighborhood, Todd Soul, Mike Rudlow(ski) and I.  Thank God I had a firm grip on my bladder because Todd and Mike would imitate Cheech and Chong routines until I was bent over with belly cramps from laughing so hard.  I wish that was as far as it would go, but it had to go much further than that. 

Mike died about 10 years ago.  I saw his obituary by happenchance one day.  I met Todd for a cup of coffee about the same time, but the magic of our youth was gone.  He wasn't the same guy I knew when we were kids.  As a matter of fact, I didn't know him at all anymore.  His older brother, Jack Soul, is a Sherriff or something, his younger brother, Jeff, is dead. 

When I was 19, I briefly dated Chris, Todd's other older brother. I had my first child by then.  He was a handsome, popular man.  Chris and a group of friends, were riding around shooting a gun stolen from the father of one of the girls.  I remember seeing the guns before I left for Daytona Beach after Chris and I broke up.  One of them was a sawed off shotgun.  Chris accidently shot someone and thought he killed him.  In fact, the person was shot in the butt, but Chris sat under a tree in a yard, put a gun up to his head and blew the back of it off.  They did a good job at the funeral home.  He looked good, albeit like a mannequin. I put my hand against his skin, at the encouragement of someone at the funeral, and it was hard like granite.

I have tried work as an auto mechanic for one afternoon, at Taco Bell for two weeks, a waitress for a week or two, a call center representative for three months, an inventory taker for a few months, a hooker for 10 minutes, a telephone soliciter for one hour, the person who holds the sign when there is construction for a few weeks, a newspaper deliverer, a babysitter, a housecleaner, a secretary, a journalist and even did two open mike stand up bits at a comedy club, among many jobs which I am sure I have forgotten.

I've hitchhiked from Florida to Boston and from Florida to California and back again. My eldest child lived in a commune in Tennessee for the first year of her life. Then there was a failed marriage, three hurt children, and countless victims, which are, too sadly, is neither extraordinary nor rare. I'm sure I was almost killed on a stairwell in Daytona Beach when a man tried to talk me into letting him draw me nude. I was raped in Daytona also when I was 17. But for divine intervention, I would have committed suicide on Daytona Beach when I was 19.

It's been a long road of recovery; a journey of many adventures.  I am on one now and I've been through way too much to give up now.  I can fly.  My wings are not clipped.  I've just been trapped so long in my own mental prison that I forgot that I could soar. 

I've been talking to God for a long while, but maybe it's time for Him to speak and for me to listen, and then maybe, just maybe, I can finally find whatever it is I am seeking.