Sunday, June 28, 2009

Leave it

Today it was announced that one of our priests is stepping down from the priesthood after a year of discernment.

This is at the same time I took a quiz on and discovered that the three religions most appropriate for my beliefs were, in order, neo-paganism, Buddhism, and Quaker. Unitarian Universalist was right up there, too.

At least it wasn't the Shakers; although I love the furniture style, the lack of options in the celibacy department might become an issue at some point. However, I digress yet again.

The interesting part was that Roman Catholicism, the religion I converted to because tof EG's Latin roots and its importance to him through the Latino culture, was the absolute least appropriate option for me.

I am pretty open about religion, not adhering to the strict beliefs of some people that theirs is the one true way to believe, and those of us who believe another way were pretty much doomed. I always got annoyed when I would greet an in-law with "how are you?" only to get the response of "Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?" when I had seen this person just the previous weekend. I also do not understand mission work as it applies to conversion--those people were doing pretty well before we got there, so what makes us think that telling them about our spiritual doctrines would make things better for them. Besides, didn't some missionaries carry diseases into places and kill off some of the native inhabitants? There's a great way of earning bonus points.

Anyway, periodically some Jehovah's Witnesses will come aroud to the house, bringing their message, and I always respectfully listen and ask questions, much to the irritation of EG, who thinks I should announce "We're Catholic," as if that would have the same effect as garlic and a cross on a vampire, sending the witnessing scurrying to safer places, like perhaps a Baptist home or some devil worshippers.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on whose view you are taking, Penny took care of that for us. We were working in the yard on Saturday, and the dogs were out, running their acre, their radio collars keeping them restrained on our property. The kids called to me, telling me a car was in the driveway. Anyone who knows us knows to park behind the basketball hoop, as the dogs' collars prevent them from going that far; however, this car was parked in front of the hoop. Plus, this elegant elderly lady in a gorgeous emerald suit had climbed from the car and gone to the front door of the porch, standing between the flower bed and the drying rack of kids' clothes.

Penny alerted to the fact that we had guests and streaked past me as I approached the woman, who was already offering me a Watchtower and talking fast, hoping to get her spiel in before I announced we were Catholics, and thus unable to hear my warnings. "Penny, no!" I shouted. "Leave it!" But Penny was focused on her hostess duties and leaped up to greet this representative of the human race, tocuching her nose to the woman's nose as is her habit, and undoubtedly causing this woman to ponder, if she had time, that cannibals might not have been that bad after all.

"Leave it," finally penetrated Penny's brain, and she zipped off as quickly as she had arrived, pursuing a butterfly or a fly or some bit of fluff in the air. Meanwhile, the lady staggered, catching herself on the drying rack and breaking it and then recoiling the other direction, landing flat on her back in the flowerbed, which we had just that morning mulched with fresh bunny droppings from the litter boxes.

I was horrified. I turned to the kids, who were wide-eyed behind me. "Go get the phone," I said to one. "Get your father," I told the other, who tore off screaming incoherently that Penny had attacked someone. The women who were still in the car sat there, peering frantically through the windows, watching for Penny's reappearance; however, her dog attention deficit disorder had kicked in, and already she was out back, digging a rock to play with.

"I'm all right," the lady, still reclining in the flowerbed, said. I don't know if she was saying that more to reassure herself or us. EG appeared around the corner, muttering about why can't things ever be calm around here, and froze at the sight of this tastefully dressed lady supine in the rabbit urine soaked mulch, Watchtower clutched in her fist, and me standing over her. "I'm all right," she repeated. Who knows what scenario he imagined.

"Are you all right?" he and I chorused with the women who had emerged from the car. "I'm all right," she repeated, smiling feebly, staring up at the sky. We helped her up, brushing the bunny droppings off the back of her skirt and jacket, and the other two ladies whisked her into the car, where she smiled and said, "I'm all right."

I apologized profusely, but the remaining ladies all got in the car and backed out considerably faster than they had driven in.

We all stood there by the basketball hoop for a minute, staring after the rapidly departing car. Then Nita said, "She didn't leave her paper." Sure enough--she didn't.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bathing cats

Yesterday, despite the Frontline which I faithfully apply, much to the irritation of Amber Kitty, Pancho had a flea. So both cats were ushered, yowling and hissing, into the shower stall for a shampoo with Dawn dish soap.

Amber, when wet, looks like a potato on toothpicks. She is smart enough to try to pry open the sliding glass doors, squeezing her tuberous self through any and all slots or openings she could find, yodeling quite loudly, causing Nash, in the next room, to alert to the existence of cats in the bathroom and announce loudly that he could take care of that problem once and for all.

Pancho took a different tack. He tried to go out over the top, climbing on the seats in the stall, climbing my bare legs, latching onto my tee shirt when I bent over to spray him and riding up when I stood, attempting to launch himself off my shoulders and into an eight-inch opening six feet off the floor. Of course, because of his desperation, his aim was off, and he splatted his wet feline self onto the ceiling of the shower stall, leaving wet cat prints outlined in hair behind as he traveled back to Earth, digging his claws into my body in an attempt to break the fall.

Today, neither one of them is speaking to me except to hiss whenever I get too close.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Mad Vacuumer

The pool cover this year accumulated a bunch of leaves and green, algae-filled water. When we took the cover off, EG wasn't on the same wavelength as I was, and he flipped the cover, pouring all that mess back into the pool.

It was a mistake, but I was evil in my reaction. Think green pea soup and heads revolving.

So for a week, I have been vacuuming and vacuuming and skimming and generally making only a little progress. Today I ordered an automatic skimmer. We'll see what she can do.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dream and kindnesses

I normally don't remember my dreams.

However, we had an estimated 1500 to 1800 people (and three therapy dogs) attend the calling hours last night, with an hour and a half wait in line. Some people stood there the whole time, patiently, just to have the chance to say, "I am so sorry" and move on. I was exhausted, and I know my sister had to be. She kept saying, "He was just a simple man who went to work, did his job, and loved his family. And all these people. . . "

Former neighbors from his childhood, co-workers, the receptionists from the dentist's office, the superintendent of schools, the entire fire department (with their trucks), the kids' friends, people from the church, cousins, the nurse from their doctor's office, his mother's high school friends, all came as a testament to that a simple man who did his job and loved his family.

At five this morning, I was awakened by a dream about my brother-in-law, Frank, and one of those wire carts found in laundromats for moving wet clothes. Frank is well over six feet tall but was not only sitting in the cart but was somehow driving it down one of the two main roads near our house, speeding and veering in and out of traffic, wire hangers overhead banging and swinging.

And, despite my warnings to be careful, he had a head on collision with a mini-Cooper which was going east in the westbound lane.

So, of course, that was it for sleep for me. It wasn't that I was upset by the dream--it was too stupid for that--but I lay there and wondered, "Where did THAT come from?"

Our accountant, who is also a family friend of over forty years, and who lost her young husband to a heart attack, said, "Tomorrow starts numb week, followed by chaos month, where you have to tie up all the loose ends with the paperwork."

But today we say our final goodbyes.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Disaster Farm

Because Nita doesn't read well (which we suspect is related to prenatal alcohol exposures), she can have a skewed perception on life.

Which, now that I think about it, could be related to living with us.

For example, yesterday, she was talking about the movie where the animals all "went nuts" and attacked all the people. "You know," she said, "Disaster Farm."

After I had entertained a few minutes of glorious mental images of rabid-acting lambs and mad cow disease, she finally added, "The one with the dinosaurs?"

"Ohhhhh," Kiki said, "Jurassic Park."

"Yep. Disaster Farm." When I told EG, he imagined prehistoric chickens.

I am thinking about naming this place Disaster Farm.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Small bites

My mother used to say, "What is so rare as a day in June. Then, if ever, come perfect days."

This has been a rainy, cold three weeks this June. It is in the sixties, dreary and overcast, and raining.


The obituaries appeared in both papers today, which was a small piece of grief. I was the only one able to read them.

I ordered flowers, which was another small piece of grief.

Rocky and EG got haircuts for the funeral, which was another small piece of grief.

Small bites is all I can handle at this point.

Friday, June 19, 2009

It is done

Yesterday my brother-in-law passed away, quietly and peacefully, on his own terms. He was holding his daughter's hand and just eased into another dimension.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bad news

I am watching junk TV.

Today I gave my final, input the grades, and then came home, got Nita, took her to drum lessons and ran to the grocery store, coming back to pick her up.

We went to see my mother, who was agitated, throwing her arms around and babbling at the top of her voice. She smelled of urine, and her face had food on it. I was livid.

The nurse on the zone was new, and I approached him and said, "I understand you have a pad where you record patient concerns."

He said, "I do?" I explained that the pad was used to record issues so he could address them rather than me running off to the director of nursing with every problem. After looking through the med cart and the nurse's station desk, he and I went to the nursing supervisor. He told her what he wanted. She said, "I gave you one."

"You did?" he replied.

"Didn't I?" she asked. Meanwhile, my mother is shrieking "aiaiaiaiaiaiaiaiaia" from the dining room. I finally voiced my concerns to the nursing supervisor and went back to my mom; I washed her face and hands and tried feeding her. Eventually, since she wasn't eating, I took her down the hall to the dayroom and got her a cup of regular water, which she is not allowed to have because of swallowing difficulties. I gave her sips of water, pouring a few drops at a time into her mouth, until she had about four ounces. Then her eyes closed completely, she shuddered, and went to sleep.

I came home, made supper, and then told the kids about their uncle. Nita got angry and cried. Kiki knew it was coming and was philosophical. Rocky said, "So he's dead?"

"No, I said, "he's now in hospice care." Like grandma, who's been in hospice care for eight months now?

"Oh," he said. "So he'll die tomorrow."


So I explained that we didn't know when he would die, but it would most likely be sooner rather than later.

And now I'm exhausted, watching a rerun of Law and Order.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Today my sister called me. She and her husband have made the decision to call in hospice.

As brother-in-law said, he is ready to move on to the next stage of his life.

Six weeks ago, he had shoulder pain. Four weeks ago, he had a mass. Now he is dying.

This is a lot to absorb in such a short period of time. After all, my mother has been dying for three years now, with no sign of actually doing so.

With my mother, we keep saying, this could be her last birthday with us, her last Christmas, the last family reunion. With my brother in law, we were cheated: we already celebrated the last birthday, last Christmas together, the last family reunion.

So many people who got cheated.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Years ago, pre-kids, we adopted an orange tabby cat whom we named Charlie who never much was flustered or dumfounded. EG called him Mr. Kitty.

I am convinced that he was a reincarnated fraternity boy. Late into the night, he'd come alive.

"Wow-wow," he'd say. "Wow-wow." And he'd take off at a full-out run, around the living room, into the hall, leaning into the curve into our bedroom, sliding in a skid at the foot of our bed, then jumping on the bed and zipping up EG's legtothetorsoandlaunchinghimselfoffhisshoulderandbackouttothesofa.

"Whaughk," EG would sit bolt upright. "What the..."

He'd lie back down, muttering Spanish language profanities about the gatto under his breath, and go back to sleep.

A few hours later, it would start again. "Wow-wow," from the living room . . . What amazed me was that EG never seemed to hear it coming--I did, and I wasn't the one who was constantly startled by the assault.

Eventually, when Rocky was in his really difficult years, Charlie started licking himself bald and hiding in the basement. When he stopped his late night marauding, I knew there was a problem, probably depression or stress, and I found him a home with an elderly neighbor. His fur grew back, and he spent hours entertaining her, but he never once "Wow-wow"ed at her house.

Last summer, we adopted a cat for Kiki, who named the tawny tabby cat Amber. She is reserved, coming down to drink water and perhaps deign to let us stroke her one time only. she became known as Amber Kitty. A few months later, EG informed me we "needed" another cat. "We do not NEED another cat," I told him.

"Yes, we do."

"You may want another cat, but we don't need one." I only thought I got the last word.

So we went to the shelter and got a kitten, another tabby. He is sweet and loving and has adopted Nita, of all people, as his special human. She will carry him around under his armpits, and he purrs as his hindquarters swing. If she lies down on the sofa to rest, he is right there with her. And he doesn't talk much except for a squeak here and there. The kids named him Pancho, and of course he is now Pancho Kitty.

He is still kittenish and playful: chasing and attacking his tail, climbing into the empty fish tank and crouching there, quite pleased at the illusion none of us can see him, and getting into things, playing with an odd assortment of items which range from a balled up candy wrapper to a gold button from a blazer. Today he got up and politely sat on a chair at the table, only his eyes and ears visible, focusing on the plate in front of him so his eyes were crossed. I laughed at him before shooing him away. And every morning, he goes with me into the bathroom while I shower, biting my wiggling toes as I brush my teeth. And he will make a pest of himself for Mexican food, the hotter the better.

He makes us laugh no matter how sad or stressful the day. So, yes, we needed that cat.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Smart Mouth

I planted pachysandra under the pine trees today.

This morning, I finished my two final papers for my courses and submitted them, then I spent time attending a conference call, then I picked up the plants, then I ran to the grocery store, then I went to the Farmer's Exchange for 25 pounds of bunny food, then I took my sister out to lunch. Then the kids and I came home, I planted, and the kids played.

Then Nita started. First was the smart mouth, which earned her a time out. Then the smart mouth again, which earned her a longer time out. Then, finally, the smart mouth that, when she went into time out for a third time, kept on going, working her way up to 35 minutes in a time out.

However, when her father walked past her and Nita made a nasty face and stuck out her tongue, I realized that for her own safety, she needed to go to bed. So, in bed she is, although she has threatened to go out her bedroom window, out onto the porch roof, and on to another family which loves her more.

Works for me.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

800 pound elephant

The other day, the kids were at the park, and they found a small baby turtle, no bigger than a quarter. I love turtles, and since the fish tank is cleaned and disinfected, my first impulse was to bring the little one home. However, as I told the kids, the turtle would have been happier at home at the lake than in my kitchen. I know I'm happier at the lake than in my kitchen.

But I digress.

Anyway, I realized I don't need ONE MORE THING to take care of. One husband, two cats, two rabbits, three dogs, and three kids, a mom who could die at any minute (and who has been dying at any minute for a full 18 months now), a brother in law who is ill, my sister who needs support, a job, and graduate school--smack me in the forehead--what was I thinking?

So the turtle stayed at the lake and I came home.

EG is having difficulty with things right now, working hard in the yard to keep himself distracted, pruning trees, tearing out brush, chopping wood, easily exasperated at himself because he didn't grow up doing these things, which makes them three times as difficult. He works so hard he falls asleep in his chair in the evening, but then he is restless in the night. The kids have been sleeping off an on all day for the last several overcast days, sleep being an escape from what they are living with.

One thing we have learned through all this is that, if there is an 800 pound elephant in the room, we don't ignore it. In fact, we recognize it and feed it and accept it, despite the mess it brings and all the space and attention it takes.

What I wonder is what we are all going to do when the two elephants are finally gone.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Do something

My sister and I are both people who want to DO something in the event there is a problem or issue.

When my father got sick, and we realized there was nothing we could do to solve it, my sister likened our situation to when we were little girls, riding in the backseat of my father's two-door car, looking out the windows, filmed with smoke, not sure where we were, and not quite sure where we were going.

And Dad was tooling along on the expressway, turn signal on, approaching ramp after ramp, and we were never sure when he was going to exit.

With Mom, she is cruising along at a steady 45 miles an hour, not signaling much, but slower than the flow of traffic and slowing down infestimally every day. Eventually we will cruise to a stop, but we have no idea when that will be.

Now that my brother-in-law is considered terminal, the perception has shifted. He can't eat despite willing himself to do so and despite encouragement from family members. Our focus has become getting a little more time, a few more miles, out of him, addressing each mechanical breakdown and getting back on the road again, only just waiting for the next thing which will go wrong.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Normal people don't keep rabbits in the living room

I am sitting here in the living room, gazing at the rabbits, who have industrial livestock cages set up right next to my Amish-made-especially-for-me-honey-oak coffee table.

EG said to me once, "You know, normal people don't have rabbits in their living rooms."


I never realized how attached Bob and I are, mostly because I don't take him out of the cage except once or twice a week to do his visits. However, he rides on the passenger seat of the car when we go, checks on my whereabouts when we visit, and looks for me when he gets "too much" and needs a break. And on one visit to a school, when I put him on the floor to hop around, he came to me, put his paws on my knee, and looked into my face when he was ready to go back into his safe little basket.

It is odd to be attached to a rabbit. If you think about it, their brains can't be much bigger than a walnut. Just how much thinking goes on in there, anyway? I mean higher order stuff. I am sure we share some same thoughts: bathroom/litterbox; carrots/chocolate; what was that noise? However, and I have said this before, he seems to get it when it comes to the people he visits. One lady was not responding, so he nudged her hand with the top of his head, which caused her eyes to fly open and her to smile when we showed him to her. One lady absolutely loves to pet him for an hour or two at a stretch, and she talks to him. He sits quietly and lets her stroke him for all that time.

I told her I think he has come to the conclusion that I take him to a bunny spa each week.

Animals can be so therapeutic. My sister talked about the therapy dogs who greet patients who arrive for chemotherapy at the Cleveland Clinic. I gave my son a dog to keep in his room at night, someone to protect that damaged child and listen to all his concerns, someone to give him unconditional love when I was too stressed and cranky to do so. We have all heard stories about the cats who won't leave the side of the nursing home resident until the person passes. And one of the greatest experiences I ever had was volunteering for a therapeutic riding program where differently abled kids learned to ride horseback. To this day, I keep the image of a blind boy sailing over a jump on the back of a large chestnut--the glee on his face, and the attitude of the animal, almost a sense of pride, made me a believer at that very moment.

So, yes, normal people don't keep rabbits in the living room. But maybe they should.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I have been working in the yard a lot lately, partly because I need to stay busy, partly because I want the house to look nice, and partly because I want to be tired enough to sleep.

However, while I crash into bed and immediately conk out, I then wake up wide awake at three in the morning. Rather than get up and read or watch some TV, I lie there and think. The enlarger in my brain kicks on, and next thing I know, it is six a.m., and I haven't managed to get back to sleep.

After four or five nights of this, I am exhausted. So I take Tylenol PM and am pretty much worthless for the next day.

Last night, Kiki went to volunteer at the church festival from eight until eleven. Her friend's mother agreed to bring her home, and EG and I went to bed before she was due. Of course we didn't sleep. When she came home, EG got up, greeted her, turned off the lights, and locked the door. I realized that we were entering into a whole new area of things to worry about. So the sleep at the beginning of the night will not be happening anymore either.

I guess I'll have to sleep when I'm dead.