Marking time… page 127

Day 222 – 10/23/2020

Dark rainy morning. Kim had stuff to do first thing, so I’m sitting in the quiet with my coffee, watching headlights bounce off shiny surfaces below me. No warm-up for a few days now, and Monday’s forecast says 31º and snow showers, with a low of 20º. Whoa, baby…

It was fun to get out yesterday in t-shirts and shorts and roam around in the 85º temps. We saw pretty leaves, ate lunch in the car with the windows down, watched an enormous muskrat nibble on greens next to a creek, drove around KC metro just because we could, found what we wanted, and happily crawled back into the cave four hours later. Not old, just tired…

Watched last night’s debate, so that’s done now. Counting down the interminable hours until we know and trying to keep my head busy. It’s chilly, wet, and windy, so this will be an indoor day, which means working twice as hard at holding steady. We have a freeze warning for tonight, so we might try to huddle the mums together and cover them. They’re so perfect we hate to give them up, especially when there are some warmer temps to follow.

Welp, Diary… I’m gonna be boring and tedious for eleven more days and then let’s both hope for a sea change all ’round. Then the next sea change will be when we know we can walk into any restaurant or other business in town, attend any event, gather with friends, without the restrictions imposed by a pandemic. That one will be a pretty big deal, too.

Wow, look at the time… 10am… this day is positively streaking by!

And you thought you’d be getting something new…

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The weeks… page 121

Day 218 – 10/16/2020

Here we are, Diary, closing out another week under wraps, and prospects for a change of venue aren’t looking good any time soon. The KC Metro area, 30 minutes away, is a Coronavirus Cauldron again, with their highest number of cases since the pandemic started, and our levels in Douglas County have been steadily keeping pace… 51 new cases, 97 new cases… zero new for a day… 45 new cases…two days ago it was 704. We’ve had almost 19,000 cases total in the county and more than 200 deaths. Dayum, I am never gettin’ out of this house!

But things are rough all over and I’m not whining. I lose friends when I talk about it, but John & colleagues have been at this for almost eight months nonstop at the hospital, along with all the other active medical personnel around the globe, and a portion of the population despises them for it, maybe because they’re a constant reminder that yes, Virginia, there is a pandemic. Nobody’s coming to make it all better, make it go away, disappear… like magic. It just rolls relentlessly on, taking victims as it pleases, leaving devastation in its wake. And the one thing that could have saved thousands of lives and endless grief – the simple mask – was politicized early on, assuring maximum damage from the enemy among us. It defies belief, the situation we find ourselves in, but it’s real, and thanks for just absorbing all this stuff, my muse…

Temps were in the 30s this morning, have now crested 40, and might soar to 60 and beyond before the day’s over. Too nipply for PickleBall this morning, so we’re both tapping away at our keyboards, listening to stuff, and sighing…

No idea what today will hold, but I saw the Dr. Teal’s Orange Epsom Salts next to the tub, so odds are good that “Calgon” will take me awaaaaayyy after while.

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Hello Friday already… page 116

Day 211 – 10/09/2020

Oh hey, Diary… you’re still here? You’re wondering about my day yesterday and how many tasks I checked off my list? Two-and-a-half, so get off my back, ‘k? The list is right here, meaning it isn’t over yet, jeez you are so annoying sometimes.

Today started out so mellow it’s hard to feel guilty about much of anything. Kim woke me up at 8:00 with the news that there was fresh coffee and a bagel waiting. Then he pedaled on down to PickleBall town and I’m still here, sitting in sunshine, sipping the good brew. Padding across the room just now for more coffee, the thought hit me full-blown – I like being me. It feels right. I couldn’t have truthfully said that until recent years, and I just haven’t recognized it that clearly until now – life is good, I’m happy, I feel like me and that’s a gift. Things happened very early in my life that pushed me into an adult world before I had any knowledge or skills for coping, and I spent decades catching up… trying to uncover the facts that other people seemed to understand instinctively about life.

It took the advent of Kim for me to latch onto who I am and not turn loose. When somebody smart, strong, and nurturing loves you as is, the doors and windows are flung open and life gets real. I’m glad I got to stick around for this part, I probably wouldn’t have totally believed anyone who told me it keeps getting better – I would have considered it a platitude.

But it does get better… life… in so many ways. The best gifts for me so far are time and quiet. My root anxiety keeps me living on the edge, so not feeling rushed… pushed… hurried… is the biggest luxury I can name beyond the gift of knowing I’m loved. And the sweet silence I get to immerse myself in here is the other half of the equation.

Progress Report: We sheltered on March 12th of this year and I’ve spent 99% of my time since then in basically these two big rooms. Kim’s been in and out a lot, wearing PPE from the beginning, but beyond barbershop haircuts, doctor visits, and time spent with Rita, I’ve mostly been right here. Kim brings food in, and we’ve eaten on a couple of outdoor patios, but not inside anywhere I can think of since March. And most places here still have limited indoor seating, if any. It’s all fine, no complaints here, my Diary friend – it is what it is. And maybe soon… we’ll know what it will be.

Photo Credits: Kim Smith

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One day or two at a time… page 110

Day 204 – 10/02/2020

It’s so beautiful outside I can barely stand it – the air smells fresh, the sky looks real, the leaves are leaving, as they are wont to do. I’ve sat here at my computer all morning drinking coffee… reading… writing… absorbing. The world we semi-count on for equilibrium shifts beneath us every day and we’re off on another magic-carpet ride, hoping to avoid free-fall. This morning it’s POTUS, FLOTUS, assorted leaders and staff testing positive for COVID. Just another day in paradise.

Rita sent a Play Date invite, so after Kim brings lunch home from Cielito I’ll get my lazy butt outta here and go keep her company while she works. It’s harrrrd to get moving sometimes – it requires a nudge and the right incentive.

Day 105 – 10/03/2020

I went there, did that, and it made my day, as I knew it would. I’m not much help, but at least she isn’t working in a big space all by herself for ALL the hours with only sweet Dementia-Dog for company. Maybe the fresh air was too rich, maybe the stairs kicked my butt… whatever, I came home at 4:00 and died in my recliner for a couple of hours. Honest labor is rough on a person.

We got news and pics of a brand-new great-great-niece while we were hanging out yesterday. Her mama is our great-niece… her Oma is our niece… and her great-grandma, GiGi, is our SIL, younger than both of us by a ways. Life comes at ya’ fast and it does go on. Sweet. 💕

And now it’s Saturday, sunny, in the 50s. Kim made a batch of banana mini-loaves before I woke up and now he’s over in NoLaw, presumably having found at least a foursome for PickleBall. I’ve had a cup & a half of coffee… read a few things… looked at some posts. Feels like the world’s still turning so let’s do this, weekend. How about you surprise us in good ways by Monday… ?

🧡💛💚🤎💚💛🧡

See how you are, life? We ask, we get sometimes, and you’ve already brought more sunshine. Breakfast somehow tasted better this morning than any previous Saturday in memory, and now Kim’s out soaking up the Ds, sharing his tunes with the immediate neighborhood. I still have coffee, and I saw football on TV when I walked through the big room. I can hear it at a low buzz… so soothing… so reminiscent of a life we still knew just last fall. The less I know of world news between now and Monday morning, the happier I’ll be.

And now a couple of young guys are on our corner shooting cool skateboard footage. Mellow-Man on the balcony captured this mid-air shot and my brain adds the sounds and fall aromas…

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 10/03/2020

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Not my circus, but what about all these monkeys?… page 104

Day 197 – 09/25/2020

Plans, they change. Hanging with Rita didn’t happen yesterday, but today worked out and even better. She scheduled pedi’s for this morning, and Kim met us for lunch in Cielito’s courtyard, which was all kinds o’ fun and therapeutic as always.

Some people read my mail, Rita reads my blog – same thing – so she knows how tied in knots I am. We don’t talk much about current events lately, what’s the point, but even if there wasn’t a gut-spilling blog for her to absorb, she’d know. When we couldn’t spend time together yesterday she texted me a shot of encouragement to disallow him-who-shall-not-be-named from taking up room in my head and stealing the joy out of my heart. And to remember that it’s my life and I can willfully choose to cut out the chatter. And that we already know how dire it is, so we have to live every day like it’s our final one – because it just could be. I think my work here is done: the last has become first, the baby sister has the words the big sister needs, and the world will obviously keep on turning.

She’s right. 💋

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The weekend… page 98

Day 190 – 09/18/2020

It’s a morning for thinking thoughts and writing some of them down, just to touch base with me at week’s end. Kim’s playing PickleBall in NoLaw, then has PT out at Ortho’s new facility, so I’m without adult supervision for the next four hours. Oops…

Sitting here soaking up the quiet makes me think of the young professional couple who are moving to our building after experiencing life in one down the street with its noisy all-hours party vibe. I doubt they’ll regret their decision, based solely on the peaceful easy feeling here and the way we let each other be. It would be a steep challenge to achieve this atmosphere in a place where everybody’s renting and most are short-term.

We still have The Skies of Doom from all the fires, a sickly yellow tinge that portends no good, but the sun’s shining through and I just noticed something that made me smile. For about three years a spider has had a summer home on the outside of the big window next to my desk, first in the left-hand corner, then at some point moving to the right. It looks like a fat-bodied garden spider and it’s there at dawn every morning, then hides for the day and comes back out around dusk to prepare its web for dinner guests. The window-washers bring their crane-lift once a year and scrub the glass on all five floors, and for three years running they’ve removed my 8-legged resident’s condo, only to have it reappear the next morning in the same spot every time. The windows got a bath yesterday and my arachnid friend was on the J.O.B. when the sun came up this morning. Google says garden spiders have a lifespan of about a year, so I’m dealing with successive generations here. Wow, the loyalty! It’s all about location, location, location, baby. 😂

Early fall temps have settled in for a while, with daytime 70s and 50s overnight. It was cool on the balcony yesterday with a breeze going, so I came in and put on the socks Kim brought me from 3rd Planet, and kept layering until I was comfy again. It’s the unvarnished me, looking like my Grandma Wagner, feeling utterly Zen, and keeping the fun in funk. For posterity…

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Reading the room… page 92

Day 183 – 09/11/2020

As I type today’s date, it all comes back… the planes, the chaos, the unimaginable death toll… the knowledge that we’re as vulnerable to sudden destruction as any nation in the world. And now we know we’re equally vulnerable to another unseen enemy, with the number of dead exceeding the 9/11 count by orders of magnitude. The aftermath of what happened to us on September 11, 2001 is ongoing, but the actual events of the day had an end. By contrast, the pandemic we’re living through carries no expiration date, no terminus, no promise of a return to life as we knew it… and it requires a psychic adjustment every morning.

There are days when “time flits, oh shit,” and others that spool out their minutes in laborious 60-second increments, everything in slow motion, a record played at the wrong speed. I daily replay my role as a barely-sentient lump while my thoughts slam around inside my skull like a trapped moth, and there are only so many ways to diffuse that kind of energy, crying being one, writing it down being another. My old go-to, reading, is there again, to a point. My powers of concentration still leave a lot to be desired, but I’ve picked a few winners lately that have improved my frame of mind.

Fausto Brizzi’s 100 DAYS OF HAPPINESS was stellar. I next tried to read Sinclair Lewis’s IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE, but it’s too close to the bone right now. I started THE LADIES AUXILIARY by Tova Mirvis, which is wonderful, put it on pause to read Michael Cohen’s DISLOYAL, a terrific choice if I’m going to read only ONE of the many accounts exploding onto the stage at the moment, and now I’m returning to THE LADIES… and I’m acknowledging the profound sense of gratitude that accompanies the return of an old friend… one of my very oldest. There’s really nothing to compare with the deep joy of opening the door to another world and falling for the characters I find there. The things we should never take for granted comprise a long list.

This morning’s dawn was wet and gray, much like yesterday’s, and PickleBall not being an option Kim’s out for a bundled-up walk. There are things I could do today… declutter my desk, reorganize the 3-basket cart next to it, sort the remaining odds & ends on the dresser… pay a bill, start a load of laundry, dump computer files… but here’s how it will likely go: I’ll sit right here for another hour writing, reading, and drinking coffee… eventually I’ll pick one thing from the list of possibilities, do it, briefly feel good about myself… and slide into The Zone again. That’s my best guess. Looking forward to the day when I shock myself with an energy burst but until then I’m glad for pages to turn…

Postscript: Kim brought me a blueberry-lemon Danish from Wheatfields’ and delivered it to my desk warm, so today’s showing definite potential. Carpe Diem, chicky.

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And life goes on… page 86

Day 169 – 08/28/2020

Temps have been in the 90s for days with a real-feel of 100+ but tomorrow should see a temporary end to all that and we’re here for it…

We spent a wonderful evening this week with Rita and mutual friends, socially-distanced at our fav Mexican restaurant in their big outdoor courtyard, and it was food for the soul. We’ve missed all of that. But hey, the college students are back in town and already nine Greek houses on The Hill are quarantined. I can’t stop looking at this graph… it took us about a month to get the hang of it, but we were stellar until the end of June when our Phase 3 reopening was in progress, and then the chart goes whack and by the first part of August, with the 20k student population moving in… not a happy picture, COVID-wise. The university is the lifeblood of Lawrence, so it’s discouraging to see the trend, and it means that time in the public domain will continue to be at a premium for the foreseeable.

In other news, there’s not much that’s fit to print, and the rest is mundane. We get up every morning and life happens while we do our best to be adult about it, with a fair success rate most days. As someone said recently, It Is What It Is.

It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything’s fine. 💋

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There Are Heroes

My baby sister is my hero. The one our grandpa called Dutch… the child who could fall out anywhere, get puppet-walked to bed and go right on sleeping without missing a beat… grew up to be one hell of a nurse and an even better human being. She doesn’t have an RN behind her name, it’s more of an IC (I Care), but she’s a caregiver beyond measure and you’d be grateful to see her there if you needed help.

She spent three months this summer as angel of mercy to her lifetime best friend (since they were five), taking her to all the doctors’ appointments intended to address her out-of-control back pain before it was finally discovered that she was suffering not from a bad disk, but a spine full of tumors. Fifteen days later Hospice started visiting twice a week while Rita hung in as caregiver as it quickly became a full-time job, pouring love into her friend’s life while she changed sheets and finessed every detail.

I was privileged to be there with Rita as Joy took her last breath. Such love… sixty-plus years of it… heartbreaking and humbling to witness. It’s a story that’s happening about every 80 seconds in America right now with a virus moving among us, life and death played out, often with no loved ones close by… and every individual story matters. We’re so blessed if someone’s there to hold our hand and say our name and smooth Carmex on our lips as we make our exit. And if it’s from the comfort of our own bedroom with our devoted dog on the bed with us, even sweeter.

I’m so proud of my sister and her friend – there was no word of complaint that either of them had been dealt a bad hand, no going back on promises made, no shirking of the job in front of them… Joy’s to die, Rita’s to be there. It’s possible that humans are the worst thing ever to happen to planet Earth, but there are shining stars out there who pull everything together and cause it all to make perfect sense for a while. You see that circle of love and you know it’s what we live for and that it’s all worth it. In a year when everything hurts and it feels like genuine brotherly love has fled the universe, a hellish experience showed once again that if we’re supremely lucky, love and caring show up where we need them – with skin on.

Being there. It’s what you do when you love somebody.

Quintessential Joy
Rita & Joy
Rita, Joy & Caroline – the Three Musketeers – from Five to Life
Joy Anna

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Week’s end … page 84

Day 155 – 08/14/2020

It’s 10:45 and the day already feels endless. I walked before it got hot, came in and iced my hip… and went into neutral. Sometimes I try to remember why it felt like there was more to do in The Before because it wasn’t all that much. But we had lunch out a few days a week… wandered in and out of stores without a second thought… went to KC for this and that… planned short or long trips and took them… saw friends once in a while or had them here… what we thought up to do wasn’t contingent on virus numbers or the necessary restrictions they’ve brought into everyone’s lives.

With the new phase we’re into in the election cycle, birtherism is the Soup of the Day again. And after seeing shots of neighborhood mailboxes – those familiar Dalek-like blue sentinels – being removed and hauled off on trucks in Portland and other cities, the sure knowledge that we’re across the line into authoritarianism can’t be put off any longer. I know, dear Diary, nobody likes it when I talk politics, but it’s just you and me, so I’m going to tell you a secret I discovered this morning – I’m okay with not seeing people anymore if they’re in favor of what’s happening to America, and there’s a certain freedom in that. As Kim always says, “I feel so much better now that I no longer care.”

Welp, when you’re blue, you’re blue, but sometimes you can get glad in the same pants you got sad in, so maybe it’s time for music…

Photo Credit: Kim Smith

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Okay, NOW it’s Friday… page 80

Day 148 – 08/07/2020

sun out

clouds in

breeze blows

light goes

day creeps

mind leaps

JSmith 08/07/2020

The following was stolen goods when I helped myself to it – part of a Buddhist workshop – and hopefully the Buddha would approve of theft-on-account… on account’a I liked it and needed it:

Inner Dialogue, Self-Counsel

Self-Counsel: Whomever you’re waiting for to save you, they’re not gonna show up.

Inner Self: But I just want to be loved, I just wanna share this experience with someone.

Self-Counsel: Love isn’t easy, there’s no fairy tale ending. Did you ever hear the one about the guy who got everything he wanted? He still wanted more. You could fit whole universes in that hole in your heart and that would still just be a drop in the bucket. Not because the bucket is infinite, but because the water evaporates.

IS: So what do I do?

SC: Whatever you do, you have to do it yourself. Those were basically the Buddha’s last words. You already have the love you’ve been looking for. Embrace your shadows, hold your demons, rock the helpless child to sleep.

It’s not enough to do it once and be done with it, you have to do it every day, every minute. You have to forgive the world the pain it’s brought you, and forgive yourself for not knowing how to handle it. With this as your main focus, everything else will fall into place. You have to trust the love that’s in you, and see that it shines alone, without needing support.

IS: But it’s so easy to forget.

SC: You have to build it into a pattern. Then you won’t need to remember, it’ll just be there, and you’ll just be here.

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

-John Lennon

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Realities… page 71

Day 134 – 07/24/2020

“Every time you argue with reality, you’re going to lose.” Proven fact… want stories? John, in off moments between hospital shifts, has been sending me short self-development videos done by a young Canadian woman who’s fun to listen to and easy to look at, and her delivery is quickly growing on me. One of yesterday’s was called “How to Accept What Causes You Pain” and I found it helpful – simple reality is powerful. Here’s the link if you’re interested. It’s about ten minutes long…

Still playing with my new headphones and tracking down music on Pandora. So far this morning I’ve listened to Sam Smith’s “Fire On Fire” three times, Elton & Leon’s “Never Too Old to Hold Somebody” twice, and I revisited Dire Straits “Money for Nothing” just for old times’ sake. Speaking of old… Joe Cocker’s cover of “I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends” is staying on my playlist. But “The Union” is the album that’s putting wind in my sails just as the doldrums have settled on us in earnest, and I’ve discovered that I can match tones again, with the music directly in my head… although I only sing along when Kim’s out.

Notes on the ties between Elton John and Leon Russell:

“At the time of their first meeting, on August 26, 1970 at the Troubadour nightclub in Los Angeles when Leon was in the audience during Elton’s United States debut, one of the two pianists had already written two hit songs, played on over a dozen Top 40 records, and was at the beginning of a six-year run where ten of his albums appeared on the Billboard Top 100 charts – including one live album and one greatest hits collection.

“And the other one was Elton John.

“Leon had a four-decade-wide dovetail relationship with Elton. In the 1970s, the pianist and singer from Oklahoma was a major influence on John’s early piano-playing style and song-writing. In 2010, Elton used his passion for his early mentor to record an album together [at a barebones low point in Leon’s life] and get his name back into the music lexicon, saying at the time, “If Leon can get the accolades he deserves and be financially O.K. for the rest of his life, I will have done something decent with my music,” and their collaboration eventually resulted in a Top Five album and Leon’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In Mr. Russell’s words, “Johnny found me by the side of the road and picked me up.”

In the documentary of The Union album, Leon does a run-through of “In the Hands of Angels” and Elton John breaks down in sobs against a door frame. “When he played that, we just lost it. No one has ever written me a song before. He said, ‘I want to thank you for saving my life,’ and I just burst into tears. It was the most magical of times because here was my idol accepting me. Actually, he could eat me for breakfast at playing piano.

The Union is a seminal work full of pain and promise and I can’t get enough of it in this new age of detached living.

The album came out in 2010 and Leon died six years later at age 74, releasing several more albums during that time. Thank you, Elton John, for those extra years you gifted to him and to us.

Leon Russell and Johnny …

I rode to the farm with Kim on Wednesday for pool maintenance and when we got back to town he drove me around to point out changes since the last time I stuck my nose out. We used to do that with my mother-in-law, he and I, and I sounded just like she used to… “Oh my, when did they redo THAT?” “THEY closed? Really?” “Wow, THAT’s totally different!” I love our space, the quiet, the insulation from chaos, but if we’re forced by misguided egocentric fellow citizens to remain in this state of limbo for another year to 18 months, it won’t always feel so Zen, especially when we look around at how other first-world countries have managed the pandemic – resentment is a totally human emotion and no respecter of persons. From the tone and nature of online comments, I know that people my age group and up are expendable, as are children, so home continues to be okay with me for now. Case numbers in Douglas County are over 500, with two deaths and a predominance of recoveries, so we know it’s being managed about as well as possible, but there’s just nothing I miss enough to mingle. And I could take myself for a drive any day of the week if Kim didn’t tote me along… I obviously haven’t been sufficiently motivated yet.

Past a certain age, people start to become invisible to the energetic viable world, but “Remember: when they look right through you, you’re still there.” – Guante

A tacked-on thought after an hour of internet reading: I wish people would leave Harry and Meghan alone. Love is hard. Life is hard. Relationships are hard work – let them breathe.

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Winnowing the Chaff

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