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This Day in My History

2001:  Speaking Ill of the Dead
Where Have I Gone Wrong?
2003:  Firsts
2004:  Wally and the Bird
2006:  Looking Back


Books Read in 2006
(Updated 12/8
"Tender at the Bone")

Currently Reading
"The Cat Who Could Read Backwards"
"Dog is My Co-Pilot"

"Lizzie Cleans Up"

Lizzie Cleans Up
click here to download

flash version here

Mefeedia Video Archive

My Favorite Video Blogs

Desert Nut

(for others, see Links page)

Look at these videos!
Hu's in China
(very funny)
Rumsfeld's Hands
Nathan Lane at Pops
Parts 1-8

(Tribute to Danny Kaye)

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Xmas Puppies

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Support liberty and justice for all

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14 January 2007

Have I mentioned in the last 10 minutes how much I love my new iPod?  I keep loading more and more music on it and haven't even cracked 20 gigabytes yet.  With so much from which to choose, I am re-acquainting myself with musicians I discovered years ago, liked, bought CDs of, and haven't played for a very long time.  Accompanying me on the ride home from San Rafael today, for example, was folk singer Cheryl Wheeler, to whose music I was introduced by my friend Susan some seven years ago, at a concert in San Francisco.

One of Wheeler's songs struck me and kind of dovetailed nicely with the kinds of feelings I have when I leave the nursing home each time.  The song is called "Unworthy" and these are just a few of the lyrics...

I'm unworthy, and no matter what I'm doing
I should certainly be doing something else
And it's selfish to be thinking I'm unworthy
All this me, me, me, me, self, self, self, self, self
If I'm talking on the phone I should be working on the lawn
Which looks disgraceful from the things I haven't done
If I'm working on the lawn I should be concentrating on
Those magazines inside, since I have not read one

When you visit a nursing home, I think you get a very good feeling for how fleeting this life we have been given is.  The halls are lined with wheelchairs filled with people staring blankly off into space, or slumped over, perhaps drooling slightly.  Or they may be looking around trying to get their bearings. 

An attendant leaned over to speak with a man who told her he wanted to go home.  "But you are home," she told him.  He looked like he didn't believe her, but he put his head down and sighed.

The rooms are filled with people who are asleep, jaws hanging open, perhaps snoring.  In one room a helium balloon floated limply, halfway to the ceiling, slowly losing its hold on life, like the body lying in the bed next to it.

Sit with my mother and the woman down the hall begins screaming.  Someone else calls out "Help me! Help me!"  The woman across the hall shrieks "I have to go to the bathroom,"  with a growing urgency.

When someone calls out, my mother rolls her eyes and expresses frustration that they don't shut up.  I haven't been listening to the cries for days, like she has, so I am less critical and impatient.  What goes through my head is the person this once was.  Maybe she was a loving mother, a powerful businesswoman, a writer, an actress, a talented artist, a hairdresser.  Or my aunt Barb.  I think of who she was 20 or 30 years ago and how she would have felt back then if she could see herself now — alone (the screamer has no visitors and her rent is paid by a trust, the nurses tell my mother), out of control, and the person who makes the eyes of people like my mother roll in exasperation.

I think of the nursing home reports I type for the psychiatrist on people I once knew years ago as witty, intelligent, vibrant, people; people I haven't seen in a very long time, but who are now like these people in this nursing home.

I think of the age of these people, and how close I am to them in age, how more than half of my life is behind me.  I wonder how much time I have left to get it all "right," to finish all those big and little things I have not yet done.

I should learn how to meditate and sew and bake
And dance and paint and sail and make gazpacho
I should turn my attention to repairing
All those forty year old socks there in that bureau
I should let someone teach me to run Windows
And learn French that I can read and write and speak
I should get life in prison for how I treated my parents
From third grade until last week

I don't think about the things I've accomplished in my life, I think of the things I haven't done.  The things I never will.  The degree I never got.  The family fantasy I wanted to create when I became pregnant with Jeri, the fantasy that gave way to reality.  I was never June Cleaver or Donna Reed. It's too late now.

I had fantasies of being my mother, someone at ease with people, who makes people comfortable, who makes a home that people want to visit.

Too late now.

Will I end up like one of these poor people in the nursing home, wearing diapers and calling out for someone to take me to the bathroom, or looking to go "home," when there is no home to go to. 

Will people be rolling their eyes at the bother I have become, or will they remember that I was once an interesting, productive (more or less) person who occasionally made a difference in her corner of the world?

It's a sobering thought.

I should spend more time playing with my dog
And much less money on this needless junk I buy
I should send correspondence back to everyone
Who's written, phoned or faxed since junior high¹
I should sit with a therapist until I understand
The way I felt back in my mom
I should quit smoking, drinking, eating, thinking
Sleeping, watching TV, writing stupid songs

¹Well, at least I got THAT part right--I don't think there is anybody who has ever written to me who has not had a response!!!




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