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As Love Unfurled

Gardenia 2

While I was in excruciating pain last weekend, Gardenia started blooming. I have never nursed a plant before or talked to one daily. Until recently, I had not consulted a gardener for specific advice or watched to see how much water this sort of living being really needed. Then finally, after the long season of teasing me with buds and then dropping them, my green friend’s real spring arrived.

But first I started pedaling Her Purpleness (my bicycle) up hills and flying back down in childlike glee. I almost felt young and strong again. I dared bragging on Facebook: “Dammit COVID, you’re not getting the best of me!”

I ignored the niggling ache in my groin until a fiery explosion radiated down my outer hip—full-on bursitis and IT band syndrome, I’m told. Unable to get comfortable in a prone position, I succumbed to the recliner for two nights of fitful sleep. I imagined I would never ride my bike again, all the while hurting, getting fatter and fatter. By Sunday evening I was relying on a cane, not to mention ROB REID, my angel.

Still Gardenia slowly unfurled and her delicious aroma began to waft.

First thing Monday morning while I was waiting for another of my angels—my PCP, Dr Marivic—to call, I answered the landline ring from the Plaza, Mom’s assisted living facility.

“Your mother is more confused than ever. Her pulse…her blood pressure…blah, blah, blah. Should we call 911 or do you want to take her to the hospital?”

I glanced over at Gardenia, gorgeous and nonplussed, basking in the radiant sunshine falling precisely on her gleaming Show-and-Tell.

“I will call you back in two minutes,” I said, knowing I would be driving the 15 minutes, come hell-or-high-water, to get to my Mama, “Our doctor is on the other line.”

I shifted phones, “Marivic, first here is the situation with Mom (fortunately, Mom is also Dr. Marivic’s patient)…”

I will spare you some details as I have retold them sufficiently…to Rob, to my blessed prayer partner, to my study group. Suffice it to say, I could have never arranged or planned the gracious timing to continue as it did. Briefly, after the phone calls and the drive northward:

  • The ice/Tylenol/Ibuprofen regimen prescribed by my doctor started working and I’m healing!
  • Then after masking, cleaning hands and phone, and having my temperature taken, I was invited in to see Mom. After all, the 911 medic had declared her well enough to stay put, she was wondering about all the fuss and, I think the staff wanted my assessment too;
  • I confirmed for Mom, “Yes, John—my father, your husband—died 5 years ago. I was there too, remember?, when he breathed his last.” The reality that she’d lost that memory during the wee hours (when she couldn’t find him) astounded her;
  • We found Matthew Fox’s daily devotional about the Christian Mystics on her bookshelves (and now, a day later via phone, we’ve started discussing what she is finding in that book);
  • While quietly working on a jigsaw puzzle together, we connected via FaceTime with my sisters and several of her grandchildren; and
  • We shared her tuna sandwich and cranberry juice and I got to witness how others care for her while we best stay away. Basic elemental nourishment is all around.

Communion continued when I got home. Need I say, Gardenia greeted me; her flare was wide open. I was able to nap deeply, prone and on my side. Before dinner, we donned masks again for a slow almost-pain-free stroll in the neighborhood.

When Rob placed dinner before me last night—white fish with his signature lime-cilantro sauce along with wild rice and deli salads, I cried tears of profound relief and delight. While sobbing and breathing, both deeply and freely, authentic prayers of gratitude sprang forth:

“We are so very human. We depend on each other. Help us somehow live lovingly.

Thank you, Jesus,

Amen.”

(Well, you know me. While those were the basic words, I proliferated about the feast before me and dear man beside me. Enough said. So be it.)

 

Anniversary Healing

Bikes Arboretum

Years ago when I was young, in my early 30’s before babies, my youngest sister Susan, was estranged from my parents. She lived at the Haven on Gabriola Island in Canada and Rob and I lived on a houseboat in Seattle. Our parents lived far away in Virginia.

I’ll never forget the afternoon Susan called to ask if I thought Mom and Dad would participate in a family conference at the retreat center where she lived. She wondered if they would sit in a circle with her and with Rob and me and possibly my other sister too, while Haven founders—Ben and Jock—facilitated a conversation.

I listened with bated breath…

And stammered, “Yes, yes, yes,” before we hung up.

Immediately alone, without her voice on the other end of the line, I burst into tears. My entire body was flooded with relief. Sobs and powerful energy rushed over and through and around me.

This was something I had prayed for, asked others to pray for, imagined and spoke of aloud with Rob. But on some cellular level, I was amazed when the real possibility, that which I had begged for, was beginning to unfold. I had only been able to convince myself just so much intellectually that these relationships would somehow eventually heal….at least enough for all of us to be in the same room.

And then it happened again when our beautiful Labrador Retriever Roxy was diagnosed with Mast Cell Disease—dog cancer—at age 5. She had little tumors all over the undersides of her ears. After blood work and a CT-scan, we learned she had some lymph node involvement. What to do? I remember bathing in my tears again when Roxy, my daughter Carolina, 13 at the time, and I visited a dog whisperer. She helped us hear Roxy pleading, “I don’t want the rest of my life to only be about my cancer. I want to keep playing with you.” We decided not to follow the recommended treatment and take her ears off….   She lived seven more years and died in old age.

Deep healing is happening yet again and I am real-eyesing it. To wit…

Rob is not a morning person but allows me to crawl back to spoon with him after his music alarm sounds at 8 AM. The phrase “for better or worse but not for breakfast” resonates for him. Still, once “Mornings with Mozart” is blaring, that’s my cue to scratch his back, perhaps blabber on about whatever I’ve been pondering in the early hours. He is generous in those moments with his quiet and reliable “hums” and “ah-has” as he slowly wakes to greet the day on his own terms (for the most part – lol).

The other day with my arm slung over the left side of him, in the time of COVID19 when his bloodwork and energy are all in the normal range but his CT-scan to monitor potential cancer details has been postponed, it occurred to me—girl of strong intuition, “My God, he’s cancer-free.” The thought just flew in and I settled on it. Yes, this is the very statement I have articulated, a prayer I have verbalized, an expectation I have imagined and asked others to join in on. But, truth be told, doubt and statistics creep in. For heaven’s sake, he’s 70. I know no one gets out of this life alive.

But in that very moment I found myself giggling, crying, profoundly certain Rob was well. While I knew someone might tell me otherwise someday, that day in that moment, I was sure. And boy did that feel grand! What a comfort, a hit of deep balm to lean into and massage thoughtfully a while longer. This was the faithful solace we’d been seeking and it was time to celebrate.

Happy Anniversary, Rob. Here’s to 37 more years, sweetie pie. If time ain’t surreal, what is?

 

 

 

No Prompt

Bluebells

Really?! No prompt?

Unless yoga ending with shavasana is the prompt.

Or perhaps her zoomed voice at our writing circle, “It’s time to write. You have 20 minutes.”

But I have looked forward to this nudge

with these women.

And now what?!

 

Breathe.

 

Only a briefly blank mind.

 

Then I hear his voice on the phone from the other room,

presumably ordering supplies;

it has that business-like tenor.

And the birds, again are riotous.

Even though the windows are closed, I can hear their exquisite racket.

 

I am grateful we live in Seattle in this neighborhood,

close to the ravine;

it is full of trees and springtime.

 

Even the bluebells that are virus-like make our garden beds woodsy.

 

I have only just now appreciated those exuberant, virulent flowers.

 

Rob and I have always disagreed about them.

They are everywhere and threaten to consume these gardens he’s slaved over.

They are not unlike the virus that threatens to consume us.

 

When we argue about the bluebells, he always says,

“But they will bloom soon. You have to admit they are beautiful then.”

 

And I do have to admit it.

 

What a petty quarrel.

 

Now I see they are here because we live so close to the woods.

Even deep in our city, close to its center, we are near a forest.

 

I wonder

Could there possibly be anything about this virus that makes it redeemable?

 

Like the chance to re-boot.

Or a demographer might say—God, stop him!—“Think on a grander scale. How else are we going to balance out this runaway human population?” Ouch.

And arguably, it does have a sheen of fairness to it. Even as I write that I shake my head. While both rich and poor can get it, the rich, with our material resources, will suffer less.

 

Consider. How could it be redeemable for little me?

 

Well, I now know that Rob and Marlene’s Joaquin (in Nicaragua) have the same birthday—March 24th—thanks to incessant, stuck-at-home e-chatter. That’s remarkable—two wonderful calm and steady men.

And my vices, like them or not, are more obvious.

I am letting myself rest more.

 

Plus I am taking the time to taste gratitude and let it roll around on my tongue:

I have Rob.

He is alive.

He is kind.

He is funny.

We have these years of getting to know each other well.

 

Isn’t that a great expression—

“Getting to know each other well.”

I think I’ll cross out “to know”—

“Getting Each Other Well.”

 

What could be more worthwhile than that?

 

 

 

 

Blessed Addendum

Carol in NicaOne week ago we learned our cruise has been canceled. So a thousand clicks later, we have changed Destination SE Asia to Destination So Cal.

Grace abides.

We’ll be going to All Saints Pasadena for the first time to visit our priestly friend, Alfredo. Then a week together in Palm Springs—also new to us—before a few nights in San Diego where we honeymooned 37 years ago. I am grateful as I anticipate traveling.

And I am confident again that Rob is well. Because that’s how he feels.

Even though I ache to cross borders, I can bridge from here. For instance, Rob and I are meditating together before bed. Last night’s version was dedicated to Global Perfect Health. He is better than I am at hearing and using the suggested Sanskrit mantras.

All the myriad of feelings remain, including the ones I wrote about last week. After all, it’s Lent, when we acknowledge our puny-ness and endure the reality of death. Worship at our cathedral will be quieter and more traditional. Not my preference but I know this too is part of the design.

At times, I still bristle of course. Like when my beloved yoga teacher saw ashes on my forehead and explained to the others, “Oh, it’s Ash Wednesday. It’s the beginning of Easter for Catholics.” I tightened briefly because no, I am not Roman Catholic and I know the stereotypes.

Even last week when our trip-of-a-lifetime was nixed, and I felt that wash of sadness, anger and disappointment, I did not get stuck and wallow like I usually do. Instead I somehow continued to vibrate and the general bar of equanimity has settled again. More calmly now, I am experiencing hopeful and open-hearted blasts of warm emotion.  For example, I finished reading an out-of-print novel recommended by the 80-something-year-old retired aviation engineer in my book group. Round the Bend by Nevil Shute spun me right around the world and back. Another delight: I found this photo from my last group tour in wonderful Nicaragua.

Infinite Joy* abounds.

The pause for writing is always worth it, whatever the feelings. This round I checked the definition of catholic (note small c) and found, “all-embracing.” Definitely fits for me. Maybe I was incorrect in my assumption that yoga Bev’s catholic had a capital C. Wouldn’t it be splendid if she recognized the “universal” (another definition of small-c catholic) lover in me?

*https://genius.com/William-finn-infinite-joy-lyrics

Soaring or Spiraling?

Bird Sunset

Sometimes I feel like I am flying solo…Alone. At times it is an absolutely magnificent, beyond-words experience. And other times I feel oh-so-lonely. Like today. And I am trying not to get STUCK here. I know how easy it is to wallow around for way-too-long when I touch these feelings of loss and I begin to speculate. This time our cruise got canceled and I realized I may not travel internationally with Rob again. Or be able to coordinate all six of us travelers for a getaway in the future. Or live fully into anything else I might want to do now that I’ve retired. Oh the dismal possibilities. Bah!

And I get so irritated at the smallest damn thing. For instance, when the person in front of me in the grocery line leaves to go get the 20th can of cat food because she miscounted 19 and really wants to get the discount. Or I knock over a full giant water bottle, the lid falls off and soaks the floor. Or one-more-person tells me, “It’s probably for the best” (and they’re probably right). Bah!

It’s easy to whip myself when I’m in this place. Yes, I know the comments are well-meaning. Yes, I do try to console myself, “Sugar, of course you have every right to be disappointed and pissed off and bereft beyond measure. You are not a bad person for these thoughts and feelings. You will recover. But how about you stay here and sob for a while and let me hold you?”

Fortunately an artist sent around this beautiful photo of a raptor flying free (thank you, Ashley Entrop). Next came a clip of PS22 Children’s Chorus singing Hallelujah, away out there beyond grief. Plus I had the good sense from the edge, to call a friend who told me about her dream—that a frozen roast was inside her hip. When she woke she started writing and now it is thawing on the counter. Maybe she will talk with it…

I am still sad. But, Thank God, also vibrating, not solid stuck, still, in one place. Inside, deep down, I knew to write; I just needed someone to remind me. My characters, Art and Vida, are out there waiting to talk with each other again. Of course, it’s time. They have a lot to say. Maybe I’ll even post a playlet some day because, I’m sure you are dying to know, WHO THE HELL ARE ART AND VIDA?

Stay tuned.