This past March, as those of you following my blog already know, my partner Karyn and I took my 86-year-old mother, who is frail and suffers from dementia, on a trip from California to Florida so she could see her last surviving sibling one final time. The two sisters hadn’t seen each other in seven years and neither or them thought they’d ever see each other again, so the trip was definitely an act of kindness, a mission of mercy—one that was extremely gratifying for everyone ... [Continue Reading]
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” --Ernest Hemingway There is a deep excavation process that goes on when a writer is trying to write from the deep places that real, true writing come from. This is true regardless of genre—whether the writer is composing fiction, non-fiction, or memoir. Getting to the core of an difficult issue, tapping real emotion, a painful piece of our past or a basic truth about life—the kind of deep truth that enlivens all good writing—requires that we take the plunge and dive into some of the most difficult and painful parts of our history and our psyche. Recently, I had the opportunity to write about these issues to a student ... [Continue Reading]
It’s our last morning in Florida. I booked a late afternoon plane so we could get a direct flight home—and not have to rouse Temme for an early morning flight. This morning, Uncle Ben had to go to dialysis and I knew he'd be there for five hours, so I knew I had to say goodbye to him this morning. We shared an awkward hug—I didn’t want to knock him over—I thanked him for his hospitality and told him I loved him. Then I watched him walk with his lopsided gait slowly to the car, listening to the tap-tap of his cane all the way down the long cement pathway. Ben carried a worn insulated lunch bag, the same one he’s carried three ... [Continue Reading]
The morning went smoothly. Mom was disoriented when she woke up and had taken all her clothes off in the night, but I dressed her easily and helped her into the bathroom. When it came time to help her into her Depends and lift her off the toilet, I felt nothing but tenderness—and then my whole body sagged in relief. I was no longer that angry teenager or that estranged, distant adult. I loved my mother and I was ready to do this for her. This trip was really going to be okay. On the drive over to the airport, Mom enjoyed the waning moon, still up high in the sky. She commented on the changing colors of dawn all the way over Highway 17 as we headed north toward San Francisco. I realized that ... [Continue Reading]
Over the next few weeks, I brought up our trip occasionally. Some days Mom thought her sister was coming to see her at Sunshine Villa. Other times she repeated the story about sharing the good news with Esther. “She was so delighted and surprised,” my mother informed me, every time. Esther had learned a thing or two about talking to someone with dementia. And for Mom? It was as if the trip was continually being planned for the first time. A week before we were set to depart, I sat down with Rosa Fernandez, Mom’s RA or resident assistant, at Sunshine Villa. Rosa is the person who helps Mom with “personal care.” And on this trip, that job would be mine. So I wanted to know what was required. “Your Mom is very easy,” Rosa began. And then she told me about their routine in the morning. Rosa ... [Continue Reading]
This is the second post in a series about my trip to Florida with my mother.... A few days after I bought our tickets—paying an extra $150 per seat so we could sit in the bulkhead, right next to the bathroom—I brought up our trip to Mom. “Hey, Mom, in a few weeks, we’re going to Florida.” Mom looked up at me and beamed. Then her face filled with consternation and she asked, “How many grandchildren do I have? Really? I wasn’t sure I should ask. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. Had we really sunk this low? “How many grandchildren do you think you have?” She thought for a moment, searching the mostly empty coffers of her memory. “Well, there’s Eli. And Lizzy. And ... [Continue Reading]
I debated whether to blog this trip and once I decided to, I wondered whether or not I could possibly call it a Virtual Vacation. This is clearly not going to be an exotic armchair adventure in Bali or a Scottish adventure or a travelogue through Mexico. It’s going to be a journey into old age in America. My partner Karyn and I are taking my elderly mother to Florida for one last visit to see her last surviving sibling, her sister Esther. It’s certainly much more of a mission of mercy than a vacation, but I am tired of compartmentalizing my life—the entertaining, exciting parts, the seductive lure of worldwide traveler, me as the adventurer, and me as the daughter, me as the last remaining lifeline for my aging mother. This trip is going to be an exploration of the lines where duty ... [Continue Reading]
Sid Roth joined my Tuesday night writing class with his father on the "new student special." I loved his response to the prompt, "Ode to an Ordinary Object," and thought it was particularly fun when paired with his classmate's response (see below).
Mr. Pencil, your uses are many. I know your ancestry; perhaps your humble beginnings from tree and mountain deep reflect your strength and resilience, and the strength and resilience you lend to me. I know the other humans despise you; they say your glyphing is faint and your point is weak. It is, however, your inner integrity and inflexibility that makes you most valuable to me. Pens, they either work or they do not. I know your failure ... [Continue Reading]
Shannon LaGrandier is a committed member of the Wednesday morning writing group. She wrote this in response to the prompt: Write an Ode to an Ordinary Object. I loved it because we writers are often obsessive about our writing implements.
Oh how I love you, purple pen, let me count the ways. The way your cursive letters splatter all over this page makes my heart skip a beat. The way the ink flows out of your tip is like a gentle breeze grazing over my sheet. So many words long to leave my soul. As my heart opens to the world, you are the vehicle in which it escapes.
Each word begins to come together into sentences, paragraphs and pages. These beautiful purple ... [Continue Reading]
It’s my last day in Mexico and we’re heading back to San Miguel. We passed once again through Tzintzantzun. We drove through the wonderful gauntlet of huge statues, past the town market, and there the carnival we’d seem disembodied on the road day after day. Now it was all set up and ready for children: As Richard was backing up the car, a man stepped out in the street to direct him safely. Richard rolled down his window and gave him a 5 peso coin. “You made his day,” Suzy remarked. Five pesos, apparently was a big tip—the man might have expected half a peso or a peso for his service. “When I first got here,” Suzy said, “I was sometimes annoyed when people would come up to me in the grocery store parking ... [Continue Reading]