Sunday, May 10, 2015

Letter to My Mother on Mother's Day

Hey, Mom --

A lot is going on here and I miss you terribly in the turmoil of it all.  I've moved back to Missoula and Mother's Day is sweet with the mountains still green, the black-eyed Susans on the slopes and the smell of lilacs light in the early morning air.  I haven't seen this Montana in 30 years -- the hills are brown when I come in August and wild flowers out only in places like Glacier.
I've been here six months, staying with Jim, if you can believe it.  We haven't fought once, which is even more unbelievable.  He's been unfailingly kind, if a little hyper, and I've done my best to be cheerful and helpful or to hide when my mood turns south.

Almost the whole family is here for Mother's Day -- Lisa is in Oregon but they're moving back to Kalispell this summer and then the circle will be pretty much complete.  Little Sophie is in third grade and Anna -- did you meet Anna? -- is a very shy pre-schooler.  Michael and Leeanne moved to Spokane and all the Spokane kids came over to see Kimmie's play.  Kim tells me that every time she goes on stage she channels you.  I thought you'd like that.

I'm moving into a tiny cottage in about six weeks and oh, I wish you were here to supervise!  Will I find just the right pink for the kitchen and lavender for the living room without you?  I've bought a couch, Mom -- my first real one that Daisy will refuse to let me nap on.  I'll be gathering my stuff from the four corners and will have your/my bedroom furniture back.  You'd like this little house: it's very 30s, and so much of what I've inherited covers that period.  I want to mount your toy stove in the kitchen and I will be putting up photos of you and Dad over the fireplace in the living room.  All my dour great- aunts and uncles, the entire 23 of them!  You'd enjoy this move, Mom.  I think of you every time I buy something.  And you'd laugh at my mania to re-collect things from my childhood that got broken or went astray in the moves.  I actually bought a piece of carnival glass although the bowl you had was much bigger and more useful.  I'm going to see if I can get my part of the Azalea china Grandma Kuffel had which a friend and I have collected.  It would look swell in the kitchen.  I'll have to put a table cloth on the table to use the Spode.

You can see I'm planning dinner parties right and left.  That's your presence in me as well.

Dad is getting frail but is in good spirits.  Last night was the annual Western Montana Retired Officers' Club dinner.  Only five World War II vets left and I cried when they gathered to have their picture taken.  It was the day after VE Day and Dad was telling us about free drinks at the Officer's Club in San Francisco.  Jim found it hard to believe how even more ecstatic VJ Day was, how relieved you and Dad were that the Homeland Invasion was off.  Jim had never heard to story of you and Dad renting a room from the colonel and the colonel's wife expectation that you would clean for her.  It explained a lot to him about your dislike of the military, although you always seemed to enjoy the perks a great deal.

I was Dad's date and Jim and Brenda came as well. 
Seeing the men of Dad's age barely able to stand and hold a limp salute was a solemn sadness to us -- my eyes are pricking as I write this -- but he was terribly glad to be there, with us, and to see one or two of your remaining friends who I made sure came over and sat with him for a few minutes. 
All three of us pitched in to be ears, eyes and stability for him.  He's already set the date for next year.

He misses you, Mom.

Daisy's showing her age, too.  She'll be 14 this summer, can you believe it?  She's still active although she can't jump the way she could a year ago.  I like it that she is still at a learning curve at her age.  She has learned who Auntie Brenda and Uncle Jimmie is (she outright adores Jim!), and I taught her to stay in the unfenced back yard.  I don't know how I did that but I don't know how I taught her anything.  She's smart on her own.

You'd had laughed to see her facing down two deer one evening.  She kept advancing, slowly, barking, while one of the deer pawed the ground like a bull.  Finally the deer decided the noise was too much and ran off.  We call her the Deer Stalker and Brenda's plants are thriving with absence of ruminants invading the lilies.

Next spring I'll find a black bitch to join her.  The cottage has much more light than the Bat Cave had and I'll be able to read that little monkey face's mischief.  No dog can replace Daisy but I do love a black Lab.

It felt funny being Dad's date, Mom.  I put on an underwire bra, Spanx and make-up, but I'm ashamed of the weight.  I hope you would be proud of me despite the weight gain, and I hope you would have been proud of us last night.  I made sure it was OK for Jimmie to get in on the photograph of all the Vietnam vets -- it's the 50-year anniversary of the start of that war -- even though it was an officer's club meeting.  He felt chagrined that I did it but Brenda walked him over.  We're as proud of his sergeant's stripes as we are of Dad's bird and I'm glad we forced him into it. 

I have a new psychiatrist and she changed my meds up.  It's a huge help.

That's about it, Mom.  I want you to know how much you're on my mind and how much you would love this tender time of year and the 16 people flowing in and out of Jim's house this weekend.  I know you'd be buried in paint chips and helping Kimmie plan this doily hanging we have in mind.  Daisy misses your pocket full of cookies.

Oh -- I bought a car, Mom!  And a washer and dryer.

I'm trying to grow up.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


It's a very appropriate title, Car on the Hill, because I've been in a state of waiting -- for a car, finally achieved -- since August.  That was when I knew my move back to Missoula was coming within the year.  In October I knew it was coming in a month.  By the time I got here I was waiting to pay off debts, get said car (an `09 Ford Escape), settle into my social media work.  Then I fell off my Prozac and went into a deep tearful frightened place and waited to get an appointment with a psychopharmicologist.  Then I waited to see what the Effexor she weaned me onto would do.  Now I'm waiting to move.

I've kept up with the social media accounts although one is winding down and I'm now on the hunt for two more (I have experience in weight loss, mind/body connection, military affairs, New Age stuff, addiction for authors but I'm a curious girl and could totally get into a Civil War book or thriving antique shop).  I've put out the first feelers -- this is another but will stop here -- and am trying to get it together to put out more.

And there's the rub.

Let's talk about Effexor first.

It's gotten the Black Dog off of my chest.  I'm on the starting dose and will probably add more as time goes on (we're seeing each other once a month, my new prescriber and I) and after some weeks of stabilizing I'm much more driven, more balanced when faced with implied criticism, more cheerful.  I'm on the verge of wanting to do things I haven't wanted to do in a long, long time -- see friends from Missoula I've barely been in touch with, write, dig into research.  I'm on the verge but not there.

This blog is an attempt to get there, to care about my own doing life rather than my paid passive life, to speak out about myself.  I don't know if this push is something "I" am solely in charge of, or whether I need to increase the Effexor dose, or whether it's going to happen when I finally move in about two months. 

I've done two Frances Has Entered the Building things so far -- bought furniture and do-dads for the little 1930s cottage I'm moving into, and begun to tweet and do Pinterest in the hopes of catching two new clients.  But spending money is too easy and scary.  While I've bought a great table, mismatched chairs, a sofa and love seat, a washer and dryer (!), and a hutch that will all honor the era of my coming cottage, I've also bought depression glass, odd dolls, and summer clothes because I have no idea where mine are in my storage unit that's bulging at the seams.  Buying is fun and it's gotten me out of the house but it's not, in the end, active.

I've had to put the rosary book on hold because so many books are packed, although I have located the one church in Missoula that says a daily rosary.  In the meantime, I've had an idea for a novel whose research I've mostly done -- it took a day -- and I could write quickly if I don't get neurotic about it.

Given that I haven't blogged since January, what are the chances I'll take this steady, sane approach to a comic, soft novel?  But writing is the biggest doing-thing in my life and I want to be doing it.  So far I have a vague idea of plot, 1 1/2 names.  You see I couldn't do more because I had taxes to finish.  Then I had a manuscript to finish editing.  Then I had some ghost writing I'd put off.  Then I had to take a short break from everybody else's business and ended up packing up stuff I don't need (cut glass and a rabbit doll) and then creating eBay listings for my family.  I haven't bathed, I'm in the same pajamas I wore to bed on Thursday night, I don't remember if I brushed my teeth yesterday and suddenly it looks like a really good idea to reorganize my bookmarks.


Do men do this? finish some looming work projects and then look for other people's work to do instead of attending to some allowable selfishness?

The difference between now and a month ago is that I'd have been in bed burying my ennui instead of writing about it.  I hope that in six weeks (I'm going to Oregon to take care of a niece after surgery in a month), I'll take a shower to curb my ennui and then call a friend.  Or write two pages.

It's been a fascinating experience to live with my brother and sister-in-law for going on six months now while we've all waited for so many things to fall into place.  I haven't been around people like this since spending a few weeks with my parents years ago -- and they didn't expect much of me.  My brother and I have had a contentious relationship but I've come to realize, if not always calmly accept, that much of his critical and bossy attitude that we've fought over for 50 years is a kind of speed dial for him.  He gets a thing in his mind and it joins the 44 other things on his mind and it all comes spewing out in one big sometimes repetitive rush.  I felt nagged for a while then began to see that something like joining the Y had as much weight as how his hamstring is feeling.  That's been an enlightenment.

Sometimes, too, I see him get an insight into me.  We were watching a mama deer with her adolescent young-uns across the street.  She was cudding away but the kids were playing -- none of us had ever seen deer play.  They were jumping straight up and twirling in the air, charging at each other and otherwise acting very puppy-like.  Once Mom looked up and joined in, then went back to her grass.  I narrated her attitude: "Norman, behave yourself or there'll be no rosebush for dessert tonight.  And Heidi, I want to see you acting more lady-like."

"'Heidi'??" Jim said, laughing.  "Where do you get that stuff?"

I shrugged.  It's that thing in my brain that I like quite a lot about myself -- verbal whimsy, I guess.  When I meet someone with whimsy, I am besotted.

For the first time since I was in grade school, then, my brother and I are friends.  And I've been friends with my sister-in-law for some time but we're now partners in crime, both of us ready to drive off to the Bitterroot and take pictures or pour over Craig's List.

It's also a busy way to live.  There is always a birthday to celebrate, a play to go to, a family member needing attention.  I've never seen so much cake.

My coming cottage is small.  It has a largish living living room, a kitchen out of the `30s, and a tiny oblong bedroom that used to be a porch.  There is a basement with one finished Bat Room and after struggling over it I decided it would be my office.  I'll be too late to plant much from seed but it has a rock planter and I'll strip it and fill it with pansies.

I am waiting to give my first dinner party.  It fills me like a craving for cake, this dinner party.  It's months away -- months of finishing with furniture, painting, unpacking and more cut glass (two bids on eBay this morning).

And so I wait.  I'm waiting for checks, one of them a big piece of change that would see me through lean times when I could come up with another half a name and a shower.  I'm waiting for the lilacs to burst through their fat buds, for the river to be low enough for Daisy to swim in, for next March when I think I'll get a black Lab puppy; I'm waiting to be me while I'm entirely grateful not to be smothered under the Black Dog and to have ideas and ambitions rather than retreating to bed.

And writing this blog?

It didn't hurt a bit.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Moving: One Step Forward

I'm OK, first of all.  Thanks for so many queries asking if I'm still alive.  I don't know if I know how to write any more, but I'm willing to test the waters here.

I've moved, if anyone doesn't know that, from Brooklyn back to my hometown, Missoula, Montana.  The return of the native has become the native is restless.  I'm without a car or a place of my own, living in my brother's basement (still has more light that the Bat Cave), & finding out why moving is considered one the three most stressful life changes. 

Who am I going to be? I began to wonder as I packed up boxes of books and clothes and silliness in October.  I won't be walking dogs -- can I scrap the stained clothes I used?  I began to do that, along with scrapping almost anything I couldn't see using or wanting.  But what would I be?  Who would I hang out with?  Where would I go?

Idiot me: I thought I'd find out & I haven't, much.  The Holidays are a terrible time to answer those questions because the wheres are fancy & the whos are not dependable when the calendar changes.  So far, my crappy dog clothes, those that weren't hopelessly awful, have been fine, although today I took my father to breakfast so I'm wearing jeans & a bra & my hair is still down & I still have earrings in.

This week I hit critical mass in the cha-cha of moving.  The IRS and I had agreed I would pay by check in December.  We discussed this twice.  I wrote a check.  The IRS deducted its amount from my bank -- my New York bank which I was about to close out because there isn't a branch to be found for 200 miles.  Overdraft & stop payment fees I can't afford hoved into my checkbook.  I called the IRS to discuss all this...&, after an hour of trying to get through, their computers were down. 

Really?  So does that mean everyone owing them money on January 2, 2015, gets a day's grace?

Somehow I doubt it.

All of this was preoccupying me while I tried to be a nice person waiting out agendas on my brother's home front so I could pick up the car I'd rented for a few days, then driving said car on ice after many years of not driving on ice, going to a Zoo Town Lit New Year's Eve & being asked questions like, "How come you weren't at X party?" & wondering if that was an answer to the question of who I'll hang out with (not some of the people you love) & realizing how hungry I am for the right writer friends to talk to.  But, uh, will I?

I'm reading William Manchester's Winston Churchill biography, Vol. 1, & am reminded of what it's like to make one's way in Society.  Once upon a time, I had a small niche of my own in Missoula -- Zoo Town -- Society.  No longer.  All I can do is show up when invited, follow up on what bait I've thrown out & try to decide if I want to be in Society.

It would be nice if this involved a long white train, ostrich feathers & curtsying to the Queen.

God.  It almost does.  Ouch.

Oh, dear.  What have I done?  I can't even walk down the street for cigarettes, yogurt & kibble.

Although the kibble is half as expensive here & cigarettes $5 less.

The good thing about all that was complaining to my father.  My father as you may remember always told us kids that if we wanted sympathy, we'd find it between shit & syphilis in the dictionary, so I was wary of blabbing out all my financial, family & social woes.  Amazingly, he understood.  He actually did.  He GOT it.  I felt heard after many weeks of trying & probably failing to be mute while I smiled.

It's all temporary but it's been a longish temporary that included a vicious stomach bug & a Holiday season in which I was too broke to buy all my family gifts.   Today I finally mailed the keys back to my landlord in New Jersey...although the postage machine didn't dispense the postage until I paid twice.

You see what I mean?

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Spitting Angry

I believe that the family member trying to keep an eye on her business has both our interests at heart and I'm sorry that she's caught in a mangle of unrealistic expectations on the one hand, and my orthodoxy regarding the original agreement on the other.

But I just came back from walking Daisy after spending five and a half hours tracking down every glimmer of interest in one of my social media client's book and making a list, nearly comprehensive, of the websites I use as sources for my work for her.  Last night I spent 90 minutes explaining what and I why I do what I do.  I don't know how many times I've run through that litany but I do know that, in the nearly three months I've been charging her for the four and a half months I've been working for her, this is the fourth time she has wanted to renegotiate the fee I put in the work to earn.

And I know very well that she expects the same work for half the money.

I'm leaving for Montana on Wednesday.  I need to do laundry.  I have no food in the house and I have prescriptions to pick up.  I have other media clients and my own sorely neglected social media and writing to attend to.  There is some cleaning I want done in the Bat Cave.  I'd like to pay a credit card and figure out my trip to the Festival of the Book in Missoula in October but I can't because I don't know how much money I'll make this month, or won't until tonight or tomorrow.  I'm pissed as hell and I ache.  I'm hungry and don't want to go to the market.  I want to hide but I want a friend.  I want to spit and hiss.

I ache from sitting still in front of emails, Hoot Suite, book marks for so long.  I know I have done a good job and I know I can't make a best seller on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook.  If I could, I would have done it for myself.  I have been honest about that since we met in March.  I have told her that my job is to get the word out and fashion a persona.  I have offered to do more but have not had cooperation.  When she has asked me to do more and I've double-checked my information, I've been met with sarcasm.

But I need this money.

And this client wants to write like me.

That's a very poisonous basis for any relationship.

I haven't worked for The Man since I was a literary agent.  I don't count adjunct teaching as working for The Man because aside from some simple rules, I was free to do what I wanted.  I've now been doing social media for 19 months and until this, it's been amiable and smooth sailing.  I'm learning how to speak up for myself when I'm asked too much or blamed without information, but this has been with someone rational.  I feel like I'm back in the literary trenches again, working against someone determined at once to like me and demonize my professional performance.

With each re-negotiation except for one, I've kept a cool head, not giving into tears or sarcasm or anger.  I've stuck to my original thesis: let's make this book earn out so you can capitalize on it.  I send daily updates of my work.  I forward important possible opportunities.  I'm stolid and steady.

But I gotta tell you, peeps: I'm fucking miserable here!  Everything I do for this client is fraught with whether it's good enough, whether she'll like me that day or ignore me or deride me.  I would KILL for the income to get out of this goddammed situation.  I would love to tell her I was quitting -- and in language that would make Freud blush.

One of the things I hate most in life is justifying myself.  It sounds shrill and pathetic in my ears.  It makes me question myself, immediately handing over power to my inquisitor.  I end up being the whipping girl and I feel like I'm walking on March ice.

When I picked up Daisy, the other dog waiting for us began to screech.  I call him Kreacher because he's like Sirius Black's house elf who was so foul to people.  He's actually a fabulous dog, part Chihuahua and suffering from Little Man complex.  Some guy across the street yelled down from his window to make the dog shut up.

HE is the one I'd like to go after, since I have to swallow my fear and singled-out-ness on the other front.  If I could have gotten a look at him -- if he'd leaned out his window and made himself known -- I'd have yelled back, "Dogs bark.  I don't like it either but I can't stop it.  Do you scream at babies crying or kids throwing tantrums?  I'll bet not.  So take it.  It's life, you jerk.  Live with it."

But the ass didn't make himself visible.  He made himself another voice in my head saying, "You don't do it good enough."

And I'm sick of that voice.  I'm sick of the fact that I've done what I can do to explain myself AGAIN to people who really only want a miracle of book sales and not one word else.  I'm sick of absorbing it all as being a fault of character or intelligence.  I'm sick of people deciding I've represented myself as a king maker when to know me is to know that's about the last thing I would claim.

And I can't teach anyone to write like me.  Who'd want to?  I don't make much money.  The people I went to graduate school with will probably be in English classes in 2114.  Anyone who doesn't like me, REALLY hates me because I expose too much.  I am doomed to misunderstanding.

What I have going for me is a talent for similes, humor, being unafraid to hang it on the line.  I get fired for writing blogs like this but sometimes the bullshit reaches critical mass and I don't have anyone to turn to today and be consoled (let alone fed mild amounts of alcohol) by.  I can't teach that.  To be in proximity of someone who thinks they can get it from me feels like one of those vampires who doesn't go in for the final kill.

As if a fifth round of financial recompense didn't already feel like that.

I think I'll go query the doorman across the street to find out who the dog sniper is.

I hope my client doesn't find this post.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Weird Saturday

It's gray outside.  It's cool but not cool enough to turn off my rattling air conditioner that keeps Daisy from hiding in the bathroom on the cool tile.  Everything feels off today.  Was it because I woke up a couple of hours later than usual, after a dinner party in some friends' garden?  Because I didn't take anything to sleep, making me vaguely anxious on a day when I have few obligations to the world?  Long dreams?

I don't know.  It's after 1 and it could be ten in the morning or six at night.  I did my first, essential rounds of social media for the day and I don't think it should have taken three hours -- but I wasn't hacking around.  If felt very slow motion.  Lots of looking and not finding, but the looking is essential.

Or is it that I waited forever for Deborah Harkness to finish the All Souls Trinity and it was mind candy I haven't had in a long time?  The problem with the last two books, Shadow of Night and The Book of Life, seems to me a fear of getting going that makes the first two-thirds of each book a lot of scene changing but little tension, and then a hurry-up through what should be drawn out. 

I feel a little guilty about saying this because I'm lousy at my own plots and if I only had skill in that discipline I wouldn't have to write about me-me-me all the time.  But I think she could learn something from reading The Return of the King.  And it feels like fear rather than lack of talent.  And there she is, making a gazillion dollars despite these problems because somehow the story is really compelling.

I'm pissed off that my mind candy is done.  I read The Book of Life on Kindle and flipped to some research after finishing, only to gag at the cloyingness of some forward to a book about 20th century popes and their relationships to the Virgin Mary.  Should I read BOF again?  Would I like it more?


I also want to work, which is why I'm at least writing my blog, and I want to hear from Dar, who is or isn't dead on the streets, and I want him to go away and leave me to get over him some more.  And I want to go to Copenhagen and get a juicer and I think there's room for a pony in the Bat Cave if it wears a diaper.

Ha!  The co-op board, in its un-wisdom about dogs, put a size restriction on future canines.  Daisy is grandfathered in.  But there's nothing in the bylaws about ponies and I could save a lot of subway fare...

God.  It's not quite 1.30 in the afternoon and something is stirring in me at the same time that time feels like t-i-m-e.  I am restless to be absorbed.  It's very hard to become absorbed when one is restless unless it's to escape self.  I'd like to avoid that today -- such a lovely empty day -- but I don't know if I have the strength.

But I just made breakfast.  Maybe that will help.  Maybe someone will find something to relate to in here and compliment me, which I seem also to be hungry for.  Oi!  I should go buy flowers or really cook something for dinner or go to Pinterest with a vengeance.

Or work on the rosary proposal.  After I eat.  After I do dishes.  After I.......

Thursday, June 19, 2014

P'sst. Is it safe to come out now?

It's been 16 days since the publication of Love Sick.  I don't troll Amazon often but at last look its ranking was OK and the reviews mixed.  The Book Mark Shoppe in Brooklyn was kind enough to have me in to read, mingle and drink wine and I've done a little of this and a little that for promotion.  In some ways it seems behind me now, especially because my agent has given me an August 1 deadline to turn in the proposal for the rosary book, which I think I'm calling Oh Me of Little Faith.

The weeks around launching a book are always fraught.  Passing for Thin was months of whirling and Love Sick has been much quieter except that I didn't realize how much of myself I was exposing or how much of my past I was reopening -- old wounds and all that.

That's what I want to try to talk about today and it's complicated and I woke up in a state of high anxiety so I'm doing this under the influence of Klonopin, which was the right decision because otherwise I would have spent the morning in the bathroom.

Someone on Amazon knocked a star off her review because I made such poor choices of men in the book, starting with Dar who is 10+ years younger than I.

I'd like to say that if I was good at appropriate choices and behavior, I'd be thin, have many more books published, would not be on a see-saw of depression and anxiety, would have more money and I don't know what else.  My life has kind of been about a series of inappropriate decisions and actions.  Further, having missed out on the socialization of dating in my teens through my early forties, I don't know that much about men or dating.  Worse than that is the fact that I'm way immature for my age.  I don't, emotionally, feel 57.  I feel about 40.  Maybe.  It's hard to argue with an emotional maturity that I should be dating guys my own age with concerns and preoccupations I have no experience of -- children, grandchildren, careers, owning things like homes, boats, golf clubs.  I gravitate toward men who are still creating themselves because I'm still creating myself and haven't gotten very far.

Someone else felt the book is unfocused.  Maybe it is.  But it seems to me, after rereading for various reasons, that it centers pretty clearly on the search for good-enough, which is exhausting and which is as much about being one's own best date as being girlfriend material.  I was forced to look hard at the men in my life, how they brought me to the age of 53 when I started the book, and who I am in relation to people in general.

Those are the only points-off reviews I've read at this point and I'm not spinning in my chair to go read other reviews.

More important than how people read my book or expected me to be a grown-up, is the fall-out of the book.  So far, no one is mad at me -- or they haven't said so.  Will, who I met in first grade and whom I dedicated the book to, loved it.  So did Dar.

I could have lived without that last information.  It so happens, however, that Dar was in a depression that, he said, made him identify with every line and every up or down in the book.  He read beyond himself and into me. 

And that, my friends, is like a knife wound in the gut.

We had -- I hope/fear "had" is the right tense -- a two-week email back-and-forth in which both of us were depressed, tending to open up, waspish, complimentary in the right ways.  It was stupid of me to answer his email but, frankly, when I first did I was tipsy on champagne cocktails consumed in celebration of the publication.  Later curiosity led me into the chambers of the heart where I never belonged.  I flirted.  It felt like he was flirting.  He's wrestling the Black Dog and if he was leaking bits of that unholy state with me, I felt I had to be there for him.  I also know that we became friends when he needed me, that I've always made friends when people were in need.  It creeps me out about myself, not because I contribute to their darkness or try to prolong it for myself, but because...well, it's nice to make friends in equal daylight.

It's been about 48 hours since I've heard from him on a trivial matter that required a one-word response.
  I've been chanting to myself, "He's not in love with you, he's not in love with you" and actually praying that he'll feel better and forget about me again.  It will hurt -- it does hurt -- but being busy with work, school, family, friends in his own life will give me a brick wall to start retreating from.  And as painful as that is, at least I have 50 years of practice doing it.

The weird thing is, though, that Dar has a gift for friendship that no one else I know has.  Will and I text once or twice a week.  I rarely hear from Kevin any more.  I speak to one friend each weekday morning when I walk her dog.  Even Eric, a.k.a. the Boy from Connecticut, who, before the book came out, I decided to try to be friends with again and have pretty well succeeded (it still hurts but he's crazy in love with a woman I can only shake my head at and grant him to honor of finally having outdone himself in his own bad choices), is only as present as girlfriend and work allow.

So there's a new regret over Dar, this aspect of him that, with the black dog panting hotly on his chest, could get it together to ask how I was feeling.

And I don't know what to do.  I don't know anything.  And I loved him.  And it's as tempting as white cake.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Dear Mom:

Five years ago you were on the verge of falling into your last days.  What a horrible summer that became, more for us than for you, luckily.  The actual fall that accelerated your decline also dimmed your memory.  At lunch you couldn't remember breakfast.  I'm grateful for that.  By the end, maybe, when you approached your next painful sip of oxygen, you couldn't remember how much the breath you just took had hurt.

It's to my sort of Platonic ideal of you as Mom that I'm writing to, though. 
In that ideal, the pain in your last years and months must be an awareness but not an actuality.  You'd walked your own parents and your sister through the ends of their lives so you knew what was coming.  You were a good daughter and sister, and a good mother.

I know that if you were on earth in your Platonic ideal, you'd have worried a lot about me in the last five years.  I've had some tough times, one step back for every two step forward.  I'm about the same weight you saw me last, maybe a little smaller, and my antidepressant dosages keep going up.  But my debts have gone down.  Daisy has gotten louder and more critical of everything on the street, but she has the same old energy chasing a ball and she's a fantastic nurse when I'm sick or can't get out of bed.  You did good when you picked her out for me.

I still live in the Bat Cave but it has a lot less stuff in it -- in fact, it's a perfect day today to keep taking books out to leave on walls in the hopes that someone else wants to read Faulkner.  I certainly don't and I've given up on being the sort of smarty-pants who does.

I finished a novel yesterday that I would have passed on to you -- I Thought You Were Dead.  I didn't think the human relationships were all that great but the relationship between the protagonist and his old dog was amazing and I can't stop crying about it.  I'd have warned you before giving it to you but I know you would have liked it a lot.

Dad is fine.  He's the same old piss-and-vinegar codge who lives on his own planet.  He finally let me alphabetize his CDs this winter (and donate a LOT of them: you would have been shocked) and he spent about two months listening to Chopin from beginning to end.  It would have annoyed you.  He's kind of in love with someone -- well, you know her well and if in some ways you might have disliked his choice, I am glad because she goes back such a long way that it's like having a bit of you in our lives.  It's a long distance relationship now.  They'll never see each other again.  But it helped him get through whatever he didn't tell us about losing you.

I've written two more books since you died, the one you knew about and another one, which I'm glad you can't read.  It's rated R.  Dad asked for a bunch of copies to give away at the senior apartment complex where he's living and I'm blushing at the thought.  One is designated for Fr. Max, if you can believe it.

And now I'm waffling about getting going on a book about the rosary.  I know, I know: you were never much for the rosary and mostly thought Mary was a nice icon, an inroad on the patriarchy.  I'm finding it hard to round up the kind of Catholics who don't believe birth control is a sin but who say the rosary.  The semi-renegades.  I need to do more research.

Maybe on Craig's List.

Ha ha.  That was a joke, Mom.  Craig's List is

Oh, never mind.

But we have a new pope, Mom.  Rat-singer, the old Nazi, retired.  This one is a puzzle.  He's warm, simple, charismatic, anti-capitalist, forgiving.  He's also enlisting more exorcists and he hasn't put the Pietá up for sale.  But I have some new hope for the Church.

I have some new hope for me, too, Mom.  I fell into something.  It involves getting the word out about books and healthy living (excuse me while I go have a cigarette: yes, Mom.  I know, Mom.)  It pays well and I'm getting more work.  I think I'm succeeding because of my writing talent and because I'm pretty nice as an online presence.

Sorry.  "Online" means

Never mind.  It's good and has to do with computers.

Anyway, I have a little hope for myself for the first time in ages.  I like doing it.  I do it at home.  It's creative.  I can take it anywhere.  Independence isn't so far away.

I've been estranged from hope for so long that the relief of thinking about things I want and want to do without having to tell myself to shut up is like champagne.  I'm working like a dog but I like it and I have a real desire to do well in it.  I haven't felt that way about my occupations, except around my writing, since I was in university and graduate school.  It feels like falling up.

I've backed off sugar and wheat again, although I'm not doing meetings and stuff.  Yeah, I know.  I'll try.  But I have reasons for wanting to lose weight for the first time in years and it's not about looking better.  I want to travel, Mom.  I want to go to Fatima.  Can you imagine the gift shops?

I know.  I don't believe in it either.  But maybe I can be the miracle who goes rather than leaves.

OK, I'm all cried out now.  I need a cigarette for real this time.  I think about you every day, Mom.  Miss you.