Half Way

Half Way

It was intended to be a visit in the beginning. A visit, to grandpa’s house in Fresno. Fresno California in the heat of summer. I never drive that far. I partnered up, which is unheard of these days. A woman my age scarcely has the time to meet up for lunch. My wirey thin beauty of a cousin is my age too, and we decided it was high time we took a road trip to visit our grandfather rather than the other way around. She had just quit her “ball and chain” job of 19 years! Perfect. We were rearing for an adventure we decided. We didn’t hem or haw or teeter on whether to go or not, we both agreed to it two weeks before leaving, and then we left Monday morning.

Ahh….. nothing aligns the spirit more than then the open road, the black of the pavement held straight like a good yoga pose stretching and winding with a yellow racing stripe down its back like a Gardner snake. A road trip with two women in their 40’s assuredly has you thinking of a movie classic right now, and despite how hard it is to admit, we didn’t have a 1960’s freshly polished Cadillac convertible Sedan Deville or freshly polished Chrome wheels on my red Prius even. It was 960 miles to Fresno by car, according to travelmath.com. Our loose plan was to reach our halfway point by day two. Monday we drove to Medford, Oregon.

We pulled into Medford already having some laughs under our belts as well as a rock chip and a plethora of movies that the other just “had” to see. We were also stockpiling little nuggets of irritants we were newly familiar with about our weeklong bunkmate….soon to be overcome of course, as we channeled patience in trade for humor as if it were a spare tire. We had non-stop doses of humor daily, leaving rest areas….checking the other for toilet paper trailing out of their cracks, switching seats only to tidy the other persons spot obsessively, shrieking as if having just undergone the ice-bucket challenge, especially when an errant fly or bee entered the vehicle. It was a learning trip, times ten.

Suffice it to say it wasn’t the quintessential road trip. You know the kind. Usually you’re in your twenties or thirties and the urge comes to you like hot lightening in a Midwest summer, like a whim on a Friday night. Oh yeah, my travel buddy Candice….she doesn’t actually have a wild hair or any spontaneous inclinations, unless its advised from Linda Goodman, whomever writes the column of the daily horoscope; we were an odd pairing for a road trip, while I was reading the business section, she was studying the horoscopes. It was a road trip indeed, minus the stops at seedy little taverns for a Friday night of Karoke… or stops just to listen to the Jukebox and whet your whistle. It was indeed minus the whimsical natural accumulation of cute boys along the way, completely devoid of any alcohol consumption whatsoever, minus the carefree “drive all night for miles” plan of total escape, although I did call her Thelma often.

We wallowed in the realness of it all; having to be nowhere, and check in with no one. After an “oopsy moment” on the wrong 9th street, we indeed saw the other side of Fresno. Our first brush with fear. We felt whiter than a sugar packet swirled into hot black coffee. It was picturesque danger, Mexican gangs meet Aurora hookers with bigger boobs and possible more style. I whimpered secretly…. don’t smile, don’t look….hold the donuts, I was waiting for Ponch and John, where were they? Thankfully, we arrived Tuesday night to check in on my soon to be 90 year old Grandfather.

What happened along the way still chokes me up inside. The backdrop of night from our car window, was sublime. It was as if we were on a spiritual mission, I just thought we were checking in on grandpa, but not so. We were experiencing a coming of age, mid-life sort of twisted saga; part drama, part comedy, with a tone of courage and a soundtrack as honest as Ben Kwellor and Amy Winehouse, whom I am still angry with. The drive dredged up our pained histories, both beautiful and scary, not unlike the blonde rolling hills outside our car window. It was twilight when we had left Yosemite and cut across through Raymond, CA. Absolute roadtrip perfection, up and down hilly roads as endless as the stories we shared the impending dark setting in as real as being abandoned by your father, which we both were by grandpas son, she as a baby, me at age two. And somehow, in the darkness in the middle of nowhere we stopped looking for them. We stopped feeling jilted by Ed and Kerry and we started looking for ourselves. Just blonde rolling hills at twilight, and light against darkness Oddly driving from Yosemite National park from Raymond to Chowchilla had been just what the doctor ordered for those 40 some years of wondering what we did wrong. In the quiet, far, far from home, having to turn our “brights” on for the first time we wer about to fill in the blanks of our own history. We were awash, and I don’t use this word often, but we had been transfuse in the epiphany that we had just begun the second half of our lives.

With the pressing reality of aging at our heels, we were unafraid to ask grandpa questions of his history, “our beginning” his life story, an actual headcount of grandchildren, sixteen in all. I have never felt that excited, Aawakening to drink the kind of coffee served in AA meetings. We wrote little notes to recant what the other had heard. At times writing a question to Grandpa Gordon so that we could give the shouting a rest for a bit. His tales of Navy life were horrific accounts of docking the ship himself on the shore of Normandy, France, on the the Amphibian Seventh brigade, battalion, whatever the Navy equivalent pings of gunfire bouncing off the ship, watching his friend parachute to their drowning deaths. Coming home to meet his future wife. After making him cry and laugh and tell us,” I don’t talk about this stuff,” we took mom’s advice, “you should go meet your grandmother” she had said. Hmm not a bad idea?

As was the pattern in the family, there was divorce and usually a second marriage. Our grandpa realized along with us, we may as well meet Lucille, our grandmother, it was now or never. We added a stop to our trip: Golden Living Nursing home in Galt, California. There aren’t words to describe meeting a grandmother after a lifetime of thinking she must not want know you.

We wound the hall to the small dining room, unannounced, we approached without any need whatsoever of a nurse directing to her, we knew. She was the most beautiful woman of 85 I had ever seen. She looked up and met our eyes curiously as we approached her. We told her, we were her granddaughters, and we had REALLY been wanting to meet her. She looked up, taken aback, pleasingly awed, smiled and joked, “well it’s about time!” she said.

Every Girl

Every girl should have
The kind of friend
That calls on cue,
That knows the dream
You MUST pursue;
Every Girl should have
A tube of red,
A strapless Bra
An unspoken bond
With her PaPA,
White fluffy pillows
To drown her tears,
A boyfriend she’ll NEVER forget
For at least five years.
A favorite book;
Where her twin appears
On every page,
A secret longing
for the stage,
A song that puts the bounce
back in her stride
Black, black doe-eye mascara,
That makes her tears appear dried,
A girlhood friendship that is fleeting
An inner child who’s finally given up the beating,
A “forever” friend who moves away
With all those words and memories,
up until today.
SO what, that you were NEVER part of the “wedding”
There’s GOOD in this life,
Are you forgetting?

More Shit to do……

My scowl is fixed upon my face,
I can’t keep up with Sunday’s pace,
It’s not that I’ve got a thing to prove
My ambition and my blood are slow to groove.
My coffee cup ain’t full enough
I’m coming off as extremely gruff,
This ho hum day just needs to pass
It’s paining me, like broccoli gas,
The good thing is- I’ll ride it through
Cause Monday
There’s more shit to do.
Even if today’s a joyless day
tomorrow’s abundance
may trickle your way?

Full Circle

Dear Life:

Am feeling a bit overcome by how uncannily life’s lessons come so blatantly at you, as if served by a butler on a silver tray. The past indeed comes back at you. The other night I realized, at the neighborhood night out against crime, DUDE-I dated that guy!….I have a pretty protective trap door response in my brain; I easily forget the things I am not proud. This was my late twenties when my drinking really took off, shall we say…. I had a vague recollection of the story he told…..alcohol damage probably? He said “suit” and I could picture pinstripes, I do love men in suits. Shit that stuff IS more dangerous than pot, pot was never dangerous because it was called a drug so I avoided it. Alcohol IS truly a drug. Distilled, from the earth organic, that lock and key response that sends me gang busters out the door of mayhem, taint no sipping beverage on a patio. It’s dangerous enough to make you want to come face to face with an old acquaintance and simply say I am sorry. He told ne of the story of how we went swing dancing and he still has the suit, I know it has to be pinstriped….I know this happens to you too. Life has a way of coming ’round to us to let us finish the unfinished. Together you and life can team up, but it takes courage and full-on honesty. Nothing feels more invigorating than the chance to cross the T in the word respect; or dot the I’s in the word, inconsiderate.
SO, if there is no God or higher power, how is it- that this all went down on the same street, at the same hour as the episode where the cops took me away after an icky domestic display on the very night the beginning of the end, the abysmal, gut-wrenchingly, awful night I got sober?

So with a lovely gathering of neighbors on the street, purple coleslaws, more coleslaws, fruit salads, a laborious presentation of cheesy goodness, Lasagna in the heat of summer, mmmmm. We came out to take back the neighborhood, stand in our communal streets as a message about banning together against crimes, and here is the last guy I used to date before my descent into drinking? Indeed I said, I remember you, do you remember me?…..Lisa, I said, followed by a stoic “I don’t drink anymore.” I hugged him, and nervously pointed in the direction of my house perhaps to prove to him I had one? I told him I was a bit of wrecking ball back then and that I was truly sorry. He half smiled as if to say good to complete that question of the past. It really is funny how life brings me the opportunity to make amends on my block, on the very night where we take back the night to crime. Who said the crimes against ourselves didn’t count?

3 years, Posion Free

The green shards scattered like ants;
as angrily as they were frantic
catching the sun like emerald gems stones
smashed in the driveway,
along with broken hearts
cuffed, fighting, wriggling,
as if en-route to slaughter
freedoms dashed, anger glowing like a red sun,
privacy obliterated, on display like a hooker’s pride
catching the sparkle in the devil’s eye.
I didn’t like Chardonnay
Would I have thrown Pinot Noir…..
Some lesson’s come hard
when the oath you take
is the promise,
to find the real you?

Senior Deserve More!

For Lee, thanks for the joy

Feel free to call me a dreamer, because I am. I dream that people who plug through this life; paying bills, raising kids, paying taxes; answering to life’s ethical dilemmas, tests of honesty, heroism and even defeat, should feel some sunshine on their faces in the form of dignity at the end of their lives. Let’s face it, sexists bosses, ill-timed traffic tickets, freak illnesses, Goodbyes- life is a struggle that should have hope, dreams and fanfare at the end.

After the piling up of new years, the accumulation of knowledge shouldn’t be pushed aside like some newly formed wrinkled jowl that used to be a chin. The aged should be treated like the chief tribe warrior in this life. Not only respected, danced and drummed for, having earned the proud title senior citizen, expert in this life. It’s just not enough to get a discount at the movies. Hell my mom didn’t even get a retirement party, just a nasty display of age discrimination out of her job of 16 years at Alaska Airlines. Pooh Pooh to you Alaska!
My hope is change is on the horizon. Let’s address recalibrating humanity. Let’s address American citizenship as one including long term care. One should be assured their last breath is not with a view of a parking lot. Is it too much to add music in the room, healing tunes as they pass, Bach or The Stones, just something that suits them. Something that strikes a fanciful tone as they pass through this life
If we can send a rocket into space, clone a human, tell our computer where to drive us and have it take us there, I think we can do more with our aging. Make this happen, people. With every hyperactive overly impassioned overly sentimental breath I take, I will endeavor to make respect and dignity as sure a part of American life as grey hairs and wrinkles.
Yes, I’m a little fired up! Upon returning from vacation, I had the happenstance ill fortune to see, for the very first time, my aging dad, in a nursing home. He looked skinnier than ever, propped up by pillows, tipping over; lilting like a rag doll to one side, eyes lifeless and blank. The only emotion shown was the way he sucked in air as if struggling with basic life fueling oxygen intake. He wanted nothing, no food, no movement, no touch, no words, he wanted nothing, but to leave this world, numbed for years by the act of violence that killed his son years ago, he just looked like he hadn’t won, life had.
If you come away unscathed in this world, surviving rather than drowning, nearly dying of grief from the heartbreak you suffered, why is there still such a lack in the homestretch for humanity to grace us in the end? Why do we have such dire need for dignity to be recognized just as it was the day you were born? A warm shower, a close shave, a person to be their to smile or hold your hand, to make sure you sit up straight, see the light of day, change the channel for you, find the wee bit of life that may be left in your eyes? Why don’t we pad human life, with a little extra bubble wrap for the end, the fragile stage, the part so deserving of human heart and tender familiar hands?
It isn’t reasonable for the middle class to go for broke caring for their aging parents. Alzheimer’s and Dementia are on the rise and many forty-something’s are questioning how in God’ green earth do they fund life in longer term or nursing facilities? why isn’t aging care tacked on to sales tax for our society? We pay property tax, sales tax and then if we earn enough to pay the rent or mortgage, we can be assured, if you make it to old age that price will triple just to live month to month? How do we pay for the cost to humanely tend to our aging parents? The shock from the bills for our seniors can be as flabbergasting as the care that goes on inside of these places! A nursing facility is 3 grand a month, on the cheap, and average 5-6000 thousand a month! Why, if we Americans tout living the dream, do we not address bowing out of the dream with some grace?
My answer in the next twenty years is not to take up skydiving and lion taming so my kids are off the hook. Although it’s tempting. A person needs to end their adventure as tenderly as they did at the beginning of it. We need soft sheets, swaddled blankies for our thinning skin, and yes we indeed end up in diapers again. Why aren’t half the proceeds of each sale of products like Depends, Ensure, Cream of Wheat, Centrum Silver and stool softener donated to “Age with grace” fund for every American? When you trade in your drivers license for your bus pass a senior discount card should be status and reward? Why do they get the shaft instead of long due respect and HUGE perks? The homes serve the blandest of foods, they should get the organic applesauce and good smelling shampoo. We need better than we used to have, cause we made it this far! Sadly, This is just not the case.
When you entered this world gifts were abundant, necessities blankies, the healing powder for your bum, hand sewn quilts, color for your world to make your eyes sparkle and focus. Why is it…..that on the other end of this very same story, the non material gifts, the services aren’t just as abundant? after so many pages have been weaved together to create such depth, so many stories, so rich with life, after weathering this life with a sharp internal Doppler, spot on in shouldn’t end so dismally? Where are the 500 count sheets if you spend so much time in bed? The average care facility as the most blah beige and brown and mauve, furniture, yes mauve-a color so awful it that should be ashamed of even being called a color…..artless walls, menus with things like poached peaches, store brand vanilla ice cream, with not hint of real cream? This is where I question why? In today world college savings goes hand in hand with a need for a built into the plan reinventing the life of the aging is key. If you don’t have a will, a power of attorney, a plan to leave this world the way you came into it, make one, yesterday! Can we ever hope for a proper send off for our aging seniors, only with your help!