Friday, August 26, 2016

Presence of Loss

In my dream we are in a small version of the house I grew up in, crowded with beds of old people, and I follow him in the darkness, feeling his presence and his loss all at once.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

I Wish He Could Surprise Me

By walking through the door. Out of the blue, one evening, like he used to after work. It's been a year since he died.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Alone

The time around the funeral is a blur. The months after I went to daily yoga at what turned out to be a sort of cult. It kept me in my body. After that, I stopped moving for months and numbed myself in front of the TV. My mind still can't think, can't write, can't read. I am trying a new psychiatrist. Maybe the answer is new medications. I am desperate. The scariest feeling is that no one can help me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Missing You

I lost you, a year ago today. I who literally rose from the Holocaust ashes of my grandmother. I am her namesake. How did my parents go on after all of those losses? Parents? Siblings? Children? I have spent this last year in an anxious daze having lost only you. Only you, the love of my life, after two years of struggling together in and out of the hospital with your blood cancer and transplants that left you so immunosuppressed we couldn't have friends over. I had to get rid of my potted plants. I could no longer garden. You became so frail, like an old man, with a cane and a wheel chair when we visited the hospital. I have scattered some photos of you around the house, but they each bring as much pain as solace. Reminders of my loss. My parents had no pictures. Everything had been lost. Maybe it was easier that way. I live in a house full of reminders of you, your possessions, your books. I get weary of trying to give more away. It takes so much out of me. Both to keep and to part. It all comes down to loss. My parents' solace came from carrying on their belief in God and Orthodox Jewish rituals. I don't know how to hold onto you at all.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

2015 Memory I Don't Really Remember At All

From Facebook July 5, 2015

July 5, 2015
One nurse says he's just sedated in a medical coma and will awaken rested, sleeping beauty. Another says comas are forever. It's a myth anyone survives. Fuck all of you nurses who raise false hope and don't know the what the hell they are talking about. They are all myths, myths, myths. If by chance they do survive, they will never be the same again.


This was supposedly my Facebook entry on that date. I remember things very differently. He died on July 7, 2015, but awakened that July 7th morning at home on a beautiful summer day and felt well enough to drive himself to the hospital for his blood treatments. In my memory, he drove into Boston with the top down in his blue Miata, ecstatic with the sun in his face. He loved driving that car. His blood pressure suddenly plummeted during treatment, there was an attempt at surgery that failed and he remained unconscious when we removed him that night from life support. He was gone that fast. That is my memory.

I suppose I can order his medical record to find out the truth, but what is the point? I like to think that he went that fast, that he just went from a happy morning to death at night. I don't remember days. I remember a call from his doctor in the afternoon for the whole family to come in. I know it took weeks until we could get a friend to drive his car back home from the parking garage, so I know that morning did exist. That happy morning sometime in July.

My sister-in-law reminded me that I told her before they put him into a medically induced coma that I said to him "I have a really bad feeling about this" and he said, "I do, too." Did all of that happen in one day?

I miss the sound of the coffee grinder early in the morning and the smell of fresh brew. A friendly good morning each day. A "I love you, Glo" every evening. I miss you, Jim, love of my life every moment of every day. July 7, 2016 will be one year. I still can't imagine how I will go on.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

DAY 15 STEM CELL TRANSPLANT: FEAR

It's 3AM and I awoke suddenly in a sweat with a sick feeling in my stomach. I kept telling him how good he looked with no hair earlier yesterday and he did but he really is a cancer patient now and I am sick to my stomach. All the children's poems in the world aren't going to change that. I just want to go back in time, but here I am in a frightening adulthood with adult poems everywhere that are relevant to my life, unfortunately, pretentious or not.  For the record, I love the complexity of adult poetry, I'm just mad at a couple of poets.

He and I have been together for over 33 years. I can't imagine life without him. My father died in February and my mother keeps keening "we were together 65 years." I can't imagine my sons' reactions, my fear it will ruin their lives. They have such wonderful, intense, intellectual conversations I can only marvel at silently. I could never take his place. Maybe he will live, but maybe he won't. It's 50-50, though I find that hard to believe. He looked good yesterday. He looked good. He did. He did not look on his deathbed. Sleeping meds are helping. He will have his transfusion Tuesday and I will see my psychiatrist Wednesday if they don't fuck up which they often do. I will call on Monday to confirm.

I will not get through this without meds. And writing. Writing calms me. I don't know how or why. It organizes my thinking so it's not so overwhelming. And it's magic and kismet, too. If I write it down it will turn out OK. Psychological research has shown that when people write about their traumas, including the Holocaust, their immune system is stronger after the writing than before. We were meant to write as a coping skill.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

DAY 14: CANCER TRANSPLANT

Good day. J not sleeping at all by early afternoon. Cried over the death of our 13 year old cat Snowy. I shielded my emotions which I'm getting better and better at. Skyping his brother in Paris. It's a wordless day for me. No writing inspiration yet. How do you keep a promise to write a story a day when you have no words?  I wrote two stories about Lydia Davis yesterday, but they were about hers and Kafka's stories, not mine.  I'll think it over. I hate to break promises even to myself. It's hard to find words when you are shielding your emotions. We ordered an Amazon shaver and cut off all his remaining hair. He still looks like him, with a baby head.

Friday, June 28, 2013

DAY 13 - 2: SELF-PITY, CANCER AND THE HOLOCAUST

I have never been one for self-pity. The opposite. From a very young age I felt pity for my Holocaust survivor parents and their relatives who died. My whole purpose in life was to make them happy, to undo the damage. I always felt I had a lucky life in contrast. Even now, I get exhausted but I never ask "Why me?"  Why not me when it happens to so many? I feel it was inevitable in some way. Better me or my husband than our children. I don't know the stats. I haven't had the energy to do research yet. There are so many different kinds of cancer, even bone marrow cancer alone. I can't understand what I read. Focusing on research always helps me. More than reading poetry which for the most part I admit I find boring. Research, on the other hand, fascinates me. The facts over the naval-gazing. I'm bad to admit this, I know. I have a shelf of poetry I'm supposed to like. I only like humorous children's poetry: The Owl and the Pussycat and The Seal's Lullaby and some poems for adults about animals like Naomi Shihab Nye's The Flying Cat. These are my favorite poems. So when things settle a little and J's baby stem cells start to grow, I will do research into this horrible illness and what factors up his chances for survival. Self-pity is pointless. My fellow daughter of Holocaust survivors and I talk about the fact that we would lose any suffering contests in our households. We were trained young that our problems were miniscule. Even this, cancer, is miniscule compared to the Holocaust.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

DAY 11 STEM CELL TRANSPLANT

We arrived early and hung out together until late afternoon while he got his infusions into the port in his chest. All the blood counts I don't understand are at the lowest low, on the brink of a transfusion, but if he can hold out, the stem cells are more likely to kick in. So we put it off a week and finagled a day for a doctor's appointment I sorely need that is not a priority but if I don't do it, I won't hold up. For now, I can handle it all. I am superwoman.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

DAY 10 STEM CELL TRANSPLANT

Tuesday. I can hardly speak with fatigue and frustration. My husband looks dead lying on the couch sleeping all day. He will have a transfusion tomorrow for temporary energy.  I despise dealing with dishes. I'm starting to do them by hand like my mother did when I was little. It's more comforting than all the bending and mess. Then I can dishwash the racks occasionally. Such trivia to keep someone alive.

Monday, June 24, 2013

DAY 9 STEM CELL TRANSPLANT

J is getting weaker and weaker and is scheduled for a blood transfusion on Wednesday or maybe tomorrow. Meanwhile we are in a heat wave and my car air conditioner doesn't work. Hopefully they will fix it today. He's faint a lot and this is unbearable. Still struggling with the Roomba. It cleans well though erratically but is difficult to empty. Still, it keeps the dust levels down which is crucial for J's health. It can get under couches a vacuum cleaner can't. I sound like a sales person. It's hard to have to be the strong one with a partner who is so weak and sick. No excuses for me. No time for me. My whole life is focused on eradicating his cancer.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

DAY 8 STEM CELL TRANSPLANT

We're both tired, napping on a Sunday. Short medical visit and then a long trip home due to the obstacle course of a marathon and tons of bridge work between Boston (the hospital) and Cambridge (near where we live). J was told he will probably have a transfusion on Wednesday's hospital visit and feel better. Meanwhile, he's still like an old man. We can't even go food shopping together because he can't be around a lot of people germ-wise. He wears a mask and gloves at the hospital.  Wednesday will be a long visit, many hours and I'll shuttle between the cafeteria and the infusion activity and some writing.  The hours really drag but less so when I hang out with my husband. He continues to be my best entertainment, through it all. He said he overheard some guy say he felt fabulous after the transfusion for five days and then went back to feeling like shit again. I have less and less confidence in the "procedures" as they proceed. The cheeriness in the hospital is bizarrely contradictory, all these cute little angels welcoming the patients to the Gates of Hell where they will be tortured.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

MY WRITING PRIORITY LIST

1. Take RISKS, or what's the point?
2. Liminality, boundaries and boundarilessness
3. Center out to a vortex
4. Use pronouns whenever possible to induce distance of trance
5  Transformation and metamorphosis
6. Indirect conflict
7. Passive-aggressive hostility
8. Layers of inner dialogue and massive self-deception
9. No or all dialogue
10.Koans of relationships
11. Write for yourself and not the reader
12. Never be angry at the reader
13. Religion, God and Godlessness
14. Voices
15. Mighty verbs, quirky adverbs and incongruous adjectives that earn space
16, Consistent metaphors and complex symbol systems
17. Play with punctuation
18. The unreliable narrator
19. Lists
20. Bold or mysterious first sentence
21. Opposites, contradiction, confusion, ambivalence
22. Absurd and surreal
23. Memory and forgetting
24. Break all rules
25. In need of inspiration: Lydia Davis, Kafka, Borges, Poe, Gogol, silence

"A good flash, replete with a cohesive plot, rich language and enticing imagery, is perhaps the hardest type of fiction to write. A good flash is so condensed that it borderlines poetry. A good flash engages your mind not only for the short duration of its read, but for a long time after."
Thanks to Jason Stanford.


Addendum: I think that the strongest aspect of a flash piece should be a sense of character.

DAY 7 STEM CELL TRANSPLANT

No nurses, no doctors today. Just the two of us and our son who is about to move out. I'll miss him and his lectures on cleanliness and not leaving dishes in the sink. The two cats are suffering some neglect as we have to use Purell or handwashing whenever we play with them. They've learned the bedroom is verboten. J gets weaker by the day. When will it turn around? It's supposed to but not yet. It's so painful watching him shuffle like an old man. He still has his hair, but that will be gone soon, too. The thief of cancer. My big adventure today: food shopping. I have to be mindful about everything to get through it. Be in the present. Some Roomba action today is probably in order as well as I dust shelves. From dust to dust is so literal when you notice how quickly it accumulates and wonder how long it would take to just bury us. J is still too weak to go outside for a walk.

Friday, June 21, 2013

WAIT BY GALWAY KINNELL


Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven't they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Wait.
Don't go too early.
You're tired. But everyone's tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.
 

DAY 6 STEM CELL TRANSPLANT:MOTHRA

James Gandolfino (Tony Soprano) died. So my husband says: What do you get when you cross a Mafia Don with a deconstructionist? He makes you an offer you can't understand.

My husband is very tired, but he still has a sense of humor. Apparently he will get more and more fatigued unpredictably until the new stem cells kick in. No one will give him a time frame. No one knows when or if and try to keep the patter light and "normal." I fear the dark underside of their lack of specificity.

That just makes me more determined to become stronger and stronger, buying things like more maneuverable garbage and recycling cans on wheels. Taking over everything in the house, all the cooking and shopping and meticulous cleaning and list-making above all. And I slept another great night with a little less sleep meds which I'd like to get off. I'm at 1/4 dose of a year ago.

I want to be Mothra: the strong angry protector of her family from all that threatens, this time cancer and the semi-disorganization of the treating system which is supposed to be the best. It scares me that he will get weaker before stronger. He's so very weak already and the numbers in his blood levels keep going down "like they're supposed to " said the nurse. While into the tunnel we go...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

DAY 5 STEM CELL TRANSPLANT

Consecutive days with visiting nurses alternate with going to the hospital, like tomorrow for five hours. My confidence in driving is improving and I'm starting to feel more normal, less like a tentative, tense beginner, with J now unable to drive at all. I still have to concentrate very hard, with no radio or talking except about the road. I feel energetic today. I pushed myself, taking the car in, shopping errands. The money slips through our fingers but my husband keeps saying not to worry. He's very tired today. I expect his energy will go up and down. I like it when he rests. He had his first home physical therapy today. No wonder he's tired. Like newborns, those baby stem cells need lots of rest to grow and grow. He's not sleeping well though at night. He'll talk to the doctor about it tomorrow.  I slept unusually well, taking all my appropriate sleep meds which I usually skimp on. It has certainly made a difference today. I kept nodding off when trying to write as usual in the middle of the night. I guess that's how normal people sleep.  My friend Nilla reminded me to smell the flowers. The weather is beautiful. We're just too tired to get off the couches.  At least the windows are open and we can hear the birds as J nods off like a baby.

MY LYDIA DAVIS

I love that Lydia Davis can provide the best translations of Proust yet and write such dense gems of microfiction.  I love her themes and am learning how to use them to make a story more interesting and profound:  liminality, transformations, indirect conflict and contradiction, pronouns with no proper nouns that effectively pulls you into the writer's trance, passive-aggressive hostility between women, layers of inner dialogue of one's own thought analysis, massive self-deception, minimal outer dialogue, complexity of relationships in tiny koans. She's a genius.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

HOMEWORK

Her mother called but she pretended to her step-mother that it was one of her friends talking about homework which her mother found extremely irritating.

"Why can't I just be me? Let me talk to the bitch," said her mother.

That's the last thing the teenager wanted and so she thanked her mother with help for her homework and hung up.

Meanwhile, her step-mother put on make-up for a night out and complimented herself on how liberal she was about calls to that bitch mother.