Sunday, January 30, 2005

Zipping the doo-dad

Over the years my dad has had many golf buddies. Many of them became honorary members of our extended family. We grew up memorizing their slightly off-color jokes, bringing them cold Buds, and helping my mom make pastrami sandwiches and popcorn for the returning heroes. Sometimes we were acquainted with their families, and sometimes not.

Mom was especially fond of Dick and his wife Pat. Pat was a very gracious hostess, and Dick is a no pretense, genuinely kind and generous human, and a funny low level bull storyteller. I think that storyteller quality is prominent in the long line of Dad's golf buddies.

Dick showed up one of the first nights we were home and grieving. He sat there telling tales of neighborhood escapades over several decades while we ate roast pork tenderloin and sauerkraut. He told of a couple in one of his supper or bridge clubs where the husband was advancing into Alzheimers. After an evening together, the husband couldn't zip his parka, so Dick tried to help. The Alzheimers guy whopped him upside the head, thinking Dick was trying to grab his doo-dad. This story was one that help jump start us out of our numbness.

Another golf buddy and his wife showed up and told us the story of the traveling transgender pheasant. One of their kids that we grew up with turned into a respectable dentist (which is really amazing). When the son bought out a retiring dentist's practice he inherited a stuffed pheasant.

For over twenty years the dentist and his siblings have been mailing and shipping the pheasant across the country for special occasions. The pheasant has been dressed up as a Thanksgiving turkey and an award-winning band director in a custom uniform with epaulettes. It has gone through post 9/11 airline security in a bride's gown, then gone on a honeymoon with the bride's gown and veil in a pheasant-size hanging travel bag. I know it sounds crazy, but placing the image of the transgender pheasant in our mind, and making us laugh until root beer shot out our nostrils was one of the most healing gifts we received.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Visualizing a safe place

Through the stress and loss of the last few months I've had some trouble sleeping. I'm thankful for the various experiences of Twelve-stepping, journaling, counseling, painting, photographing, talking, and sharing that helped me build coping skills. Over fifteen years ago some self-help book or group suggested choosing a place where I felt very safe, creative, calm, and energized to use in centering exercises.

I hadn't thought about the Martin Park Nature Center in years. It's in Oklahoma City west of Edmond where we lived in the late Eighties. I shared the park with my family and with Cub Scouts, but I also spent time there alone when my small children went to Mother's Day Out. I drew and painted, hiked, and just sat quietly on cold stones watching fall leaves float by in the creek. I ate my sandwich and watched a heron catch lunch. My paintings show the anxiety I felt in those years, but I remember a calm awareness of one particular bend in the creek with softshell turtles on the red clay banks. When I went Googling I didn't find a photo of this particular place in the park. Perhaps it is my Brigadoon. When I needed the memory of a safe place this week the memory resurfaced thanks to the practice of a different time.

I hope you have a special safe place to visualize when the time arises.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


August 7, 1928 - January 14, 2005

My mother passed away January fourteenth at Mayo Clinic. At some point I hope to fill in more of the story in this blog. Perhaps it will be of use to someone else in a similar situation. Or perhaps it will just help me get through.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Peter, Paul, & Mommy

I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor, and I don't like it very much! I'm feeling overwhelmed and squeezed. And I'm definitely out of balance with the forces of cosmic digestion and elimination.

The kitchen sink is clogged. Both sides are full of creepy-looking formerly turkey soup. While digging around in the freezer this morning for a leftover to reheat at lunch, I encountered a large container of frozen soup that looked especially unappetizing. I upended the container in the sink above the disposal to melt, and asked my son to please run it down the disposal if he stopped by the condo later in the day.

I don't know exactly what he did or when, but now I have this special bonus mess! I see a plumber in my crystal ball, as the Liquid Plumber Foaming Snake isn't doing any good. Oh, gee! He's up to my knee! Oh, heck! He's up to my neck!

Mom's intestines have been a foaming snake for nearly five months. Sure hope a visit from my sister will be a boost for Mom and for Dad, too.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Waste management and celebrity status

I gotta tell you, it's tough being in the public eye all the time. For quite some time now my mom's every stool has been collected and analyzed because enquiring minds want to know. Now she's got dermatologists popping in to photograph her bare midriff like she's Madonna or Princess Di. Seems she's got a rash with a complementary color scheme. Not as good as a grilled cheese sandwich of the Virgin Mary, but still a lead story on a slow news day.

Celebrity media scrutiny has extended to the next generation. I've got people sorting through my trash looking for the Rummy's conscience and Diet Pepsi cans. Yes, indeed, the city's own commercial environmental waste diversion specialists are going to do an on-site evaluation (waste audit) of my trash/potential recyclables. This needs to be done several times since the container contents fluctuate from week to week. A dear demented friend sent one of my email diatribes about the state of recycling in multi-family dwellings off to a college friend who happened to be a city councilman who sent it on to the city manager who sent it to the special services coordinator who handed it off to the commercial diversion dude. And now I'm a member of the Green Team. I hope my wardrobe doesn't malfunction like a hospital gown.

My mom can be an honorary member of the Green Team. She has just completed a 72-hour waste collection study, and the docs at Mayo weren't looking for her autograph to sell on EBay.

I guess my fifteen minutes of fame came just after the birth of my first son in a teaching hospital. Six med students arrived in my delivery room to watch my OB/Gyn embroider my episiotomy. Smile. You're on candid camera.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Mobil Travel Guides

When I was about twelve my parents got a copy of the Mobil Travel Guide for our part of the country. I spent hours sitting in our treehouse pouring over the book planning vacations our family would never take. I wrote lots of 3x5 notecards about travel destinations and accomodations in Minnesota.

Now my parents are in Minnesota. My sister has some experience with Minnesota having taught there for 2-3 years in the Eighties. My main muse grew up in the Land of a Thousand Lakes, and knows the ins and outs of the shopping Dales.

With all this travel advice I still have to fall back on my own experience. I asked Dad today how his no-frills motel compared to the Blue Fox. That was the motel where our auto mechanic sent us in the summer of 1966. Dad said his motel is better, but mainly because it's just him, not a family of five in the same sort of space. I have a postcard from the Blue Fox Motel. "Located five miles north of downtown Colorado Springs on Highway 85-85, near the Air Force Academy. New, completely modern, catering to the family trade."

My memories of the Blue Fox are hazy, but my memories of our extended stay in Colorado Springs are clear. The mere scent of Tang transports me back to the mornings spent playing house among the boulder in the city's Palmer Park above a golf course. That flashback is reinforced by either the smell of waxy Dixie cups or dry Cheerios. I had a hint that our vacation had gone kaput, but I was having a fabulous time spending each morning in this pleasant park. One evening we went over and played. When it started to rain we sat in the car and had cheese and crackers. The rainbow was beautiful. It was a very restful spot.

This is my contemporaneous witness report of our visit to Pikes Peak in 1966:

If the North Pole hadn't been such a flop we wouldn't have gone up Pikes Peak and all our trobles [sic] would never have occured [sic]. After entering the highway we took a long drive up the mountain. When we got up it was so foggy we couldn't see anything. We entered a large building that smelled of donuts and hotdogs. I nearly was sick. We had a hotdog and some pop. I bought a postcard and Dad bought a little tree for Aunt Em. We each got a little button that said "I made it. Pikes Peak." [I still have mine.] Then we went outside to look at the Pikes Peak railroad tracks. Since there was nothing to look at we started down.

After awhile we heard this real awful noise. Dad was afraid it was the brakes. I held on so tight and I was afraid to look. As soon as we got to a station we stopped and a man checked and put in some transmittion [sic] fluid. When we finally got down we went to Cave of the Winds. It was beautiful and our guide was real funny. We had our dinner at the Flying W Ranch. My piano teacher recommended it. We had a wonderful time. First we looked around at a mine and the blacksmith shop. Supper was delicious. I had two helpings. Then the cowboys entertained us with cowboy songs. After that we went back to the trading post to get some little carved donkeys...Then we went back to our motel.

The one fun thing about wrecking the transmittion [sic] was we got to use a bright red rented car. One day we decided to go to Royal Gorge It wasn't to [sic] away. When we got there we looked around and decided to take the inclined R.R. It was fun. While we were at the bottom a train went by. When we went back up we drove across the bridge and had coney dogs and pop (or beer) at the restraunt[sic]

Therapies for control freaks

You've probably noticed that I handle problems, crises, and emotions by taking notes on the facts and then writing about facts as best I can understand them. Then I try to find humor somewhere in the situation. It's either a gift or a character flaw, but it's the defense I learned early and always revert to.

Whatever it is, it's the reason I have all these notes to reconstruct the story of my parents' ordeal, and put them in this blog. Therapists would and have reminded me it comes at a price, by limiting the emotional richness and texture of life.

It's scary in the odd moments when the emotions take over. That happened this morning when I learned that a dear friend's father passed away suddenly. In the time it took to read one sentence, I was awash in tears and sniveling all down my shirt. The spigot had been turned on all the tears and fears that have been building up for months.

I named this blog "AnchorWoman" because my parents consider me their anchor. Today reminded me that I am also the tv news anchorwoman who can relate the saddest news event without messing her make-up and then joke with the sports and weather guys.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

National Muse Appreciation Day

Hey, Girl! I love you. How are you doing? Are you remembering to print your name neatly on the upper right-hand corner of all your papers?

Much going on here. The whole Mayo thing is so bizarre as I teach my dad about VISA bills and coin-op washers. So is getting in touch with my mom's side of the family. Playing Mission Control with sibling weirdness is a new challenge. I know--I'm gathering material for my novel!

My high school friend is pushing me to write. I'm not sure just what. Maybe beginning readers with an art class take and wacko projects.

Continue to love and study the operas for this season. "Jenufa" is my favorite, although it is gut-wrenchingly sad.

I know you are lurking out there in cyberspace to occasionally check on my progress like some bizarre Macy's Santa Seismic Tinkerbell. In this role you are using a lot of styling gel and glitter blush. The benevolent attendance monitor resides in Olympus.

What's the news across the nation?

This is the first time in weeks that Dad has talked about getting the news. The consistent nights of sleep must be helping. While Mom was having a shower and shampoo this morning, he took a banana he'd saved from breakfast and went to the lounge to watch CNN. The St. Mary's patient/visitor library will be open this afternoon. He plans to go up there and read a newspaper. It is warmer, but snowing in Rochester, so he has shelved his plans to ride a city bus to Walmart, thank heavens! And thanks so much to my sister for shipping him some warm mock turtlenecks so he doesn't have to shop. He's mastered the laundry at the motel, but shopping seemed like more than he needed to tackle. I'm very thankful for the extremely knowledgeable and helpful woman at the motel desk, too, for making his life easier.

i was proud of him for his attitude about riding the bus. a can do thing. i sure like him. this has been tough following your mom... what an uphill road... what would she do without your dad? B.

That was the cold fear in my gut when Dad told me his bus plan. I know that he would probably be just fine, but I absolutely, positively need him to be fine. He is our man on site!

Friday, January 07, 2005

These are not my parents

I am reproducing this collage by a Texas woman with a blog called Scrapatorium. I hope she will give me permission, and if not I will ask forgiveness. The image seems so perfect for the way I remember my grandparents at their fiftieth anniversary celebration, and for the winged thoughts I'm sending my folks these days.

I am a rock

"You are my rock there in Texas," my dad says at the end of our phone call. "I am in Minnesota with a lump."

Monday, January 03, 2005

Filling in for Harrietta Reasoner

Hi, all! This is R. sitting in for your regular correspondent with today's "Fritzi Flash." I talked to mom about 10:30 this morning. Dad was out running errands. Specifically, he went to find some long sleeve undershirts, because it is COLD in Rochester (who knew?). Mom said that they had a slow weekend, with the holiday, but her doctors agreed that was not a bad thing, because they wanted to give her stomach a rest after all the tests last week. She will have more tests today and, just as importantly, some results from last week's tests. She said that it was a "slow and limp process," that she was still so weak that she was not walking as much as she should, and that she really was no stronger now than when she arrived. On the plus side, at the end of our call, a woman arrived to give her a shampoo, so fresh hair may give her a fresh outlook on things. A definitive diagnosis would be even better! Mom said that she expected to be at the Mayo Clinic at least another five to eight days, but it was hard to tell at this point. She mentioned that, when the time comes to go home, the tentative plan is for M. to fly into Minneapolis, then drive them back to Lincoln, then fly back to DC from Lincoln. I suggested that a more sensible plan, depending on timing, might be for me to drive up to get them. That concludes today's "Fritzi Flash." Nancy should be back in charge tomorrow!