Heading to DC to spend time with my mother. She isn't bouncing back - at ninety it's hard to bounce after a hip fracture/surgery/time in a pt rehab facility/ a grueling trip from Delhi N.Y. to Falls Church, VA /12 hours in an emergency room/hospitalization and a return to her home with the support of two nurse's aides. She is tired out, losing weight and has to force herself to eat. My sibs and I have learned more than we ever want to know about how old,frail people become low priority in busy hospitals - and how critical it is for a family member or advocate to be present for everything that happens. My mother's children live miles apart and have grown even more distant over the years. We have come crashing together determined to make this time in mom's life the very best it can be. We realize we have never in our lives communicated with one another on this deep close- to-the-heart,this-is-what-I-really-think-about-life-and-death level. I am awed by them, my brother and sister, a former hippy mostly democrat and a former sort of hippy totally bush republican. Grownups who bring just the right measure of intelligence, compassion, diplomacy, humor and inyourfaceassertiveness to get the job done. Why am I surprised that I like them so much? At 58,59, and 64 we have some catching up to do. We don't call ourselves children. But my mom does. Proudly.
Walking to work update: Love it love it love it. Walking home from work update: Uphill all the way. Living in the city update: Why didn't I do this years ago? Quality of life update: Two extra hours in every day. She's got diamonds on the soles of her shoes!
Turning ninety in August was a milestone for my mother, in fact for an entire family blessed and cursed by both the longlife and shortlife genes. Turning ninety with all of her charm and intellect intact was an accomplishment she cherished and we celebrated. My once tall mother is now tiny, and fragile with skin so thin the blood pools at every touch. She is lively, strong-willed and determined most days. She has scores of friends and always makes sure others are included and supported. In her Independent Living community she writes and edits a monthly newsletter, makes lively contributions to her book group, and attends the opera. She refuses to be assigned a regular place in the dining room, insisting that she will "eat around" because life is more interesting if one meets and connects with all of her neighbors. A week ago she took a spill, broke her hip, went into surgery and woke up confused and disoriented. Her mind, more precious than her mobility began to slip into other times and places. The docs said this is not unusual as there has been a combination of trauma, anesthesia, painkillers, oxygen levels, and dehydration. Glad to report that time and Gator Aid seem to be making things a bit better.
Sam Owen was twelve and full of hopes and dreams. In March his pink cheeks turned gray. All the love and support and medicine in the world couldn't make those cheeks pink again. Sam Owen turned thirteen last week in a hospital bed. His best friend read Sam's Bar Mitzvah while his dad held his hand. Days later the motorcade that made the somber trip along the blue you can live forever lakes stretched for devastated wretched mournful miles and miles. Sam Owen was a beautiful beloved boy.
We did some time in Mississippi. He had a a pretty neat University job and Lonely Rivers thought that her job would change the world. Baby Rivers celebrated her second birthday in a house that flooded everytime it rained. A woman came to our house every day before we woke up. She made biscuits from scratch and then she ironed our clothes and cleaned our house. She wasn't afraid of the spiders and killed snakes without a blink. She made us blackeyed peas and greens and cornbread. Her laugh came from deep deep in her belly,but she never called me by my first name. Not once. She loved Baby Rivers who loved her right back. She charged ten dollars a day, cash. It pains me to say that try as I might, I just can't remember her name. First or last. But I sure do remember those biscuits.
I am tired of driving to work. I am tired of sitting in traffic, or wondering in winter if I can get home because of the snow and ice. So I am moving. I signed a short term lease on a city apartment. I am not selling my house. I am probably crazy. I just don't want to drive to work anymore. So for the next several months I will live in the city. I will walk to work. In the rain. I will take the bus or I will walk. Maybe I will write a book about being a crazy old lady who is tired of driving. In the rain. Who moves to the city. To walk to work. In the rain. And in the sunshine. Just walking in the rain. Getting soaking wet. I am not retiring. My car is.
She is a nattering nabob of negativism. A safire in the rough, rough world of my work. She complains no matter what. I can count on a regular phone call or an email (cc'd to everyone she can think of) with her opinion of why something we did or said or didn't do or didn't say is wrong. Usually I say "I am deeply sorry you are feeling that way." I have kept a file of her emails over the past five years. My fantasy: to flood her mailbox with all of her own complaints - backatcha baby.
He came to our family when he was three.. skinny arms and hopeful brown eyes. A mind of his own. We told him he was perfect and showed him his new room. In the middle of the night he got up and made a pot of coffee..a three year old with a mind of his own. Who had been on his skinny own. Too long. Long twenty seven year story short. I'm pretty sure I saw him today, I think it was him. Brown homeless eyes and a mind of his own. Lonely lonely rivers.
My neighbor's blackberries have climbed the fence, slithered into my trees and are lunging toward the hydrangeas. Feisty and mean these aggressive critters grow taller, bending,winding and grabbing. Kudzu with teeth. Cutting them back is dicey. I am left nursing jagged scratches. Fighting blackberries anywhere in the Northwest is a never ending battle, but one I have tried to fight over the years, hacking here and there and being a good neighbor at the same time. Clipping, hacking, not really admitting that my gentle soul is bent on killing. Minimal and fleeting success, a day or two, before the monster roars bigger and bolder. My yard erupts in blackberry laughter at my feeble violence. I read an article "brutalizing a blackberry only serves to invigorate it's determination." My property would soon be swallowed. I headed to the neighbor's house with forced resolve. I would smile. I would be friendly. I would carefully suggest that we consider just a tiny drop of blackberry getridder from a bottle with a skull and crossbones. Just a tiny drop. Not something I would ever want to do,but...... At the door wiping her hands on her apron, she smiled, she even hugged me. "Why hello neighbor! Come on in and join us," she gushed, "we're making blackberry crepes!" War postponed. Indefinitely.
Blessed I am. I get to see good theater regularly. Sunday I sat with hundreds of others enthralled with the sights and sounds of Wicked. The music has been in my life for a few years now, I had read the book, so Sunday was like the magic moment when butter and sugar stop being butter and sugar in the mixing bowl...the minute you know that everything has come together perfectly for a delicious treat. A treat made more lovely by the charming eight year old in blue tulle and tierra who sang every lyric as she clutched her mom's shoulder througout the production. Thrilled she was. Blessed I am.
Spring Sunshine Sunday in Seattle. We've got the bluest skies you've ever seen, the greenest hills, two giant lakes, white beaches, and ferries crisscrossing the waters of Puget Sound! Throw in a couple of snow capped purple,silver,pink,mountain ranges on either horizon and you've spelled Seattle. This rainy town turned inside out, sunny side up today, gardening, street festivaling, cheese festivaling, Norwegian festivaling, farmers marketing, and soaking up the sun at Greenlake, Golden Gardens,and Alki Beach. Sunday special: PC Lattes one dollar - no Styrofoam anywhere in our little town! Strolling Queen Anne cradling compostable coffee cup, smelling the lilacs and loving life. Sail on silver girl.
Though her house was full of her own children, barking dogs, slamming screen doors, neighbors in for coffee, and endless cooking, there was always room and time for the cousins. Interested and excited by the details of our lives, she was the Queen of Questions: "What are you reading? What do you think of it? Was that pretty sad? Did you just feel so happy when you heard that? What is your favorite....? How did you decide that?"
The Queen of Questions was also the Duchess of Delight: "Let's build a swimming pool in the back yard. Get a shovel. Maybe we could use the long picnic table for a game of Billy Goats Gruff...who wants to be the Troll? I bet there's a way to make Chocolate Popsicles. Better yet, let's all march down the hill for ice cream cones. And on the way back let's throw a few m&m's in the creek for good luck!"
Or the Mistress of Mischief..packing the younger kids in the slightly cracked trunk of the car to sneak into the fair after teaching the older kids how to cross the creek and sneak in on foot. Or the Wizard of Wonder, waking us up in the middle of the night to stand at the window to watch the flames against the distant horizon as the Oneida Market burned to the ground.
Everyone's favorite English Teacher, she loves good books, the theater and edgy movies: "LR - I think we should see this movie - it's just out, not really reviewed yet- but let's be the first- it's called - The Graduate!" She loves parades parties, fireworks, marching bands and airshows. She put a bit of glitter on every minute of every day. She has been our very own Auntie Mame.
Making memories has been her vocation, her magic, her gift. And she gave it all she had. All she had. At eighty five, my always lovely, once lively Aunt now struggles to remember. She cries out with fear and frustration. She can't grasp that she has created a precious and treasured legacy. She doesn't know that she can't lose my memories.
Lonely Rivers is rapidly growing tired of being in charge. Challenges inspire creativity, there are no problems, just opportunities. Hire great people, treat them well, teach them well, celebrate their success, keep building the team. And let them know that the the buck always stops here. Bring on an earthquake, a flood, three weeks of too much snow, a recession, or the swine flu and LR begins thinking about giving up the "big bucks" for a nice job as a follower, a taker of directions, a passive recipient of the decisions of others. Oh to be able to sit around and criticize the boss, complain about the lack of plastic spoons in the lounge, and second guess most anything. Pass the buck. Dream on.
Lonely Rivers walked five miles and in the final stretch took a spill. Good thing she had walked five miles ... everything all warmed up and ready to fly ...splitsecond trip over a crack in the sidewalk. Loss of contact with earth, brief instant of amazement that this is happening, maybe it's not happening, oh for sure it is.. the smash, the crash, the glasses flying..the thirty something kind as could be dad out with his two kids running to the rescue, the "No, no, I'm all right. Really, I'm all right!" The short limp to the car. testing truth..no real damage, scraped knees and hands. When sixty four falls, it hurts.
When we were seven we were inseparable. My cousin was my best friend. He had blond curls and a sweet, sweet smile. He was brave and smart, afraid only of garbage men, but reckoned he could ride his bike faster than they could drive the truck. Together we dreamed up skits and performed miracles. We dressed as Dagwood and Blondie in the fourth of July parade and won first prize. We played "office" taking turns being boss. He was great at typing receipts and ordering parts. Our premier enterprise was the Cousins Custom made Potholder Caper. Our business plan: hit every house in our little town. Everyone needs potholders, no one would resist the sales pitch of Dagwood and Blondie. We spent months and months weaving loops on looms creating amazing color combinations and patterns. We plotted and schemed. We stockpiled our product in a huge suitcase and dragged it with us everywhere. Eventually we pitched every house in town..potholders twenty five cents each, five for a dollar. We made a fortune. We grew up. We lost touch. He and a friend fell off the face of the earth. No forwarding address. Just disappeared. He died. In Florida. Maybe of Aids. He could have told us. We loved him. We would buy any story he wanted to tell. He didn't want to tell.
Corner stores, the 7 Elevens of my childhood, were owned by real people. My people. My grandfather started the little market after he retired from banking and happily turned it over to my father and uncle when they returned from the war. As kids we helped out on slow days,sweeping, stocking shelves, taking out the bottles, filling the cooler and cleaning up the produce. On busy days we mostly ate popcicles and stayed out of the way. My grandfather could slice cheese from the big wheel to the ounce. My dad could charm any customer into buying bananas, mustard, and white bread. My uncle made a mean sliced meat and cheese sandwich and he effortlessly handpainted news of the week's specials on the windows every Monday. Neighbors had good credit at our store, and just about everyone in town ran a bill. People came just to hang out and share stories. June, July and August were BUSY when the tourists were in town. Summer Sundays were banner days and the place filled up after each of the Catholic church services. The store was the center of the universe, an endless supply of double bubble gum, and malted balls two for a penny. A perfect place for two wartorn soldiers to do something they never dreamed for their lives. After a few years the men got their real dream jobs in the city, and my mom reluctantly took over the store. The Oneida Market up the street became a SUPER Market. The days of the handpainted windows were over. Mom tended store, but mostly read books and waited for us to come home from school.
Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring came to town riding a yellow bug. This little pig went to market and found a little cottage with windsock in the tree. She sat in her cottage...and frightened the spiders away. Jack be nimble, Jill fell down and broke her crown. All the kings horses and all the kings men and little maids all in a row are still ticked off after all these years!!
Dolly is at the Fifth Avenue. Lonely treated recently divorced daughter to GREAT seats! LR loves to hear the orchestra tuning up...the signal for the beginning of a magical experience. Even bad shows have one great song, one great dancer, one great line. Lonely loves them all! Grandma and Grandpa loved the theater. They traveled to NYC a couple of times a year to "do the shows." Though they lived in a tiny town in upstate, they were influential in bringing professional summer theater to the village. As a kid Lucky Lonely spent many a Wednesday afternoon ushering the tourists to their seats and seeing Broadway shows and stars for free. The actors loved being upstate, the tourists loved the quaint venue, and Lonely sang along. One summer a famous alcoholic director ventured upstate to "dry up" and Lonely's mom was employed as his private nurse for the six week season. He never did really "dry up" but mom's stories became part of the family folklore, and drunk director became a friend and fan. Lonely's dad was involved in community theater, making sure that our love and lust for the stage didn't dry up over the cold upstate winter. Lonely helped him learn his lines and gave lots of unsolicited kid advice about his acting. The whole family would cringe in our seats if he missed a cue. Dolly was corny and fun, the dancers were amazing, the sets and costumes fabulous. We sang all the way home. We all need more musicals in our lives.
If you are not wearing a sweater or wrapped in a blanket with your teeth chattering, you are probably not in Seattle. It has been a crazy, crazy winter in the Northwest, but we had a couple of almost nice days. Lonely Rivers entertained the idea of spring .... for about five minutes. The snowflakes this morning were as big as feathers...not little bitty bits of down, mind you, but FEATHERS! The skylight above was covered in less than a minute...and it stayed cold enough to keep it that way until about noon. It warmed a bit and then it rained buckets. And then the sun came out until it rained again. And now the wind is blowing the porch furniture around. It will be a blustery and cold night. March came in like a lion and continues to roar.
The book is called EAT THAT FROG! It is one of those time management books that made someone a million dollars. It's all about procrastinating. How not to.
The author says, if you have a lot of frogs to eat, you should eat the biggest one first. Get right up in the morning and EAT THAT FROG. He says you should clear off your workspace so that you have room to eat one frog at a time. You should push yourself to be the best and most efficient frog eater, a model for others. Keep a list of the Frogs you need to eat and check them off after each meal. Lonely Rivers sees the remains of her retirement croaking the last feeble croaks. She waited too long to EAT THAT FROG.
....when I'm sixty-four...which will be in exactly 10 days. Time goes by so quickly...and time... I was 22. It was 1967. They sang. I listened. Sixty-four seemed a long way off. I was 42. It was 1987. Little did I know that twenty two years would fly by and I would be singing solo at sixty-four. Regrets I've had a few.
Lonely Rivers is posting today from a lovely little spot in Mexico! Six days of pure relaxation at Petit Lafitte..a very small hotel with amazing food, fabulous service and a stretch of white beach near Playa del Carmen. The only drawback of remote location is the non-road leading to it ( actually a few miles of something that may someday become a road, through brambles and brush and what looks like construction leftovers. It twists and turns and bumps and folds and cab drivers appreciate the big tips they garner from grateful passengers who realize they have been most fortunate to find a driver who will suffer the trip. Our fellow guests are all very charming and friendly, and from every corner of the world. And did I say that the food is authentic and fabulous? Lonely Rivers has always loved a beach vacation...ah the SEA!!
Thank you Melissa and Mike for choosing to have a sweet and intimate beach wedding at the HUGE resort up the well paved and civilized highway. None of us counted on the hundreds of bikini clad sunworshippers who lined up snapping pictures and taking videos as you came down the beach aisle... These folks stood witness to your vows along with the sixteen invited guests...and will no doubt recall vividly the delightfully personal event...May you enjoy many wonderful memories in your long and happy future!
As a young wife and mother, Lonely Rivers was not adventurous in the kitchen. She was married to a regular meat and potatoes guy. Three meals on the table seven, twelve, and six. No pasta, no sauces, no rice, fish, seafood, or puddings. No fancy salads. Russian dressing striped over iceberg lettuce the way his mother did it. No mayonnaise and no foo foo oils or vinegars. No cake. Ever. She dreamed of a Steamy Vivaldi pasta pot in any of the Four Seasons. After the funeral she made a chocolate cake. The way her mother did. It didn't taste that good.
Today being Saturday, I will begin telling you about my Saturday gig.
As I was trying to get used to the idea of of retiring, I quickly realized that I would have to eaaaase into it (retirement). My career has spanned almost four decades..and I just couldn't imagine not going to work every single day. So, I got a Saturday job - which meant that I now work six days a week instead of five. I realize this does not sound or look like retirement.
However, the part time job, it turns out, is really fun! Since April, Lonely Rivers has been spending her Saturdays as a "shop girl" in a consignment store for lovely larger ladies. The owner of said shop is a smart businesswoman with a conscience who sets the stage for inexpensive fashion transformation. She takes in flattering, gently worn, stylish clothes, and (re)sells them at reasonable prices. Now here's the fun part - I can be the transformer! I get to encourage and help our customers put together fabulous outfits for every occasion. I love it when they leave the store feeling great about themselves, their bargains, and looking super sassy! It is so much fun!
Working six days a week has not yet caused retirement...but it has let me know that I can find great joy in doing something that is 100% unlike my day job!
Happy New Year! There are so many reasons to be hopeful today – not the least being the new administration to be come official in a few short weeks. We end our year looking over our past, and begin anew with vision and determination. We eat right, exercise, floss and remember to send birthday cards. We start over – fresh and ready. And at the moment, the dow is up! A New Year’s Day party at a friend’s home was the evidence – everyone buzzing with ideas for the economy, healthcare, and peace. And the food table laden with dips, fats and sugar went untouched while the vegetables disappeared. We are all getting fit for the new deal. I am full of good intentions! The snow events and the isolation of the holiday weeks have begun to wear on me and I am ready to return to work and human face to face interaction on a regular basis. I have read a bazillion blogs and I am grateful to all of the funny, smart people who have been my company over the past couple of weeks. I love reading your thoughts, ideas and stories…had no idea there was such a community out there!