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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Hanging on… page 50

Day 78 – 05/29/2020

Hello Diary, I’m still here. The weather was gray and rainy for most of the week, making it more challenging to ward off the sadz – sunshine removes the sting a little.

The ongoing loss of so many fellow Americans weighs heavy in the atmosphere but we can’t talk about it as a nation, deal with its implications now and for the future, or otherwise exorcise our disallowed grief. The deep sadness is always there.

The transformation of America from breadbasket and caring hand to the world, to a hate-filled isolationism that’s ME FIRST from the top down, is discouraging and worrisome, thus adding to the sad stack.

The willful ignorance by a third of the nation, leading to violent confrontation between proponents of science and those of bullshit, is sad-making.

The hateful determination to preserve a “separate but equal” status quo, equal being entirely arbitrary, leading to murder sanctioned by law, is unbearably sad and anger-generating.

The fact that I’m out of sync with people I love while we make our way through this supremely lonely piece of history is the ultimate sadness underlying all the rest, and I’m as powerless to fix that as I am any of the above.

***************

But where there’s sad… there’s happy. After waking up past midnight yesterday morning in anaphylactic distress, I took a little ambulance ride, did an overnight in the ER and survived to fight another day. I remember very little from when the paramedics put me on the gurney and wheeled me out of my bedroom until just before I was dismissed to come home, but I share this as a cautionary tale…

My hands, when I woke up, were swollen tight and itched so savagely I wanted to rip them off my arms, and the only thing different in my day on Wednesday had been spending about twenty minutes with needle and thread, reinforcing the ear-loop attachments on a mask that wasn’t MADE IN THE USA. The other symptoms were frightening, and I woke Kim up when my tongue started to swell – I know my limits.

Be wise, kids. And always try for the happy.

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In here… page 45

Day 62 – 05/13/2020

A vacation within a vacation was a good idea – I accomplished more on Tuesday than in the preceding 60 days put together and there’s a short-list ready for the next time motivation strikes, but it’s been chilly and gray this week so that could be a while. Far easier to sit in front of the TV with the sound off and play my games.

We’re in this for the long haul, all of us, those who realize it and those who don’t. Life has changed in basic ways and there’s no going back any time soon, if ever, to what we had. There’s no place I’m yearning to go unless we could see our guys, so it’s knowing how different things will have to be, and for how long, that’s weighing heavy, along with grief over so many lives lost – a quarter of them, needlessly, in America. And we’re facing all of these things as polar-opposite forces straining in a tug of war that portends bloodshed in the streets by August.

We’re sort of a melting pot here, but realistically we’re more like stew, with the bits & pieces staying definitive and people kicking the onions to the edge because they don’t like them. That attitude and the history that instilled it goes back to the beginning when white men first put a foot on this territory and began to declare themselves free from rules except those they instituted. We’re looking forward to the “Barkskins” saga, which traces that history, although I can’t imagine that it will be as sweeping as the book since the disclaimer says “Limited Series.” There are a lot of things to know about ourselves as Americans that brought us to this place – all events have origins.

It’s Wednesday. We’re here, we’re weird, and we have one rule besides the first one, which is BE NICE.

RULE #2: WE’RE ALL JUST DOING THE BEST WE CAN

And there’s this…

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Still in here… page 44

Day 60 – 05/11/2020

Dear Diary… I didn’t forget you, I just took a 4-day weekend to contemplate the error of my ways and re-visit my anger issues, which may or may not have required generous amounts of alcohol and endless games in the virtual worlds I haunt.

A thorn-in-the-side I am… I’ve never learned to dissemble and pretend matters of life-and-death aren’t real, which irritates the stuffing out of people. Everything’s SURreal – in the middle of a plague that requires social-guideline cooperation from the global community, Americans are now SOLDIERS, fighting a WAR, and we must buck up and march into the maw – who do you think makes billionaires their money, for goodness sake?

No allowances are made for grieving – its heavy pall across the nation has never been addressed by the general running this war – and his loyal troops shame us if we try to put a human face on any of it. “Chin up, keep marching, there’s no crying in war, slacker!” chant the Right-to-Life people as they again force us to ask, WHOSE right?

It’s a challenge to corral the cognitive dissonance and mash it all together in a livable form.

But we won’t grieve if we don’t care, so… NEW RULE:

Standing by for peace in our time …

Photo credits: Kim Smith – 5/10/2020 from our balcony – rainbow cloud

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Staying in… page 38

Day 48 – 04/29/2020

Some mornings I feel almost lighthearted when I wake up, but today isn’t one of those. I finally broke down and had a long cry in the spa tub because it all stacks up after awhile… the sense of division most of all. The sides in our current civil war couldn’t be more clearly drawn, but I wanted to believe we still found common ground in the middle concerning life and death for the people we love. Guns in the streets, and large male types waving them in the faces of medical staff, yelling at them, breathing on them, threatening the general citizenry, and being praised for it because FREEDOM… it’s too heavy.

I’m a face-it-head-on person, but this I can’t deal with, so I turn into a little mouse during waking hours and lose myself in computer games with their fantasy worlds. If I could fill our spa tub with all my tears over a lifetime, they would overflow to the downstairs neighbors, and I’m just tired of crying. I’m tired of feeling… but if I could change that I wouldn’t be me anymore.

Got hit with an onslaught of ugliness first thing – my mistake for looking. Tomorrow will be better, right? I wish peace for you… don’t let your day look like this, ‘k? Never let the bastards get ya’ down.

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What the shelter? …page 34

Day 42 – 04/23/2020

Placido Domingo, from inside a chicken costume, “You know what is hard? Is hard to breathe.”

You know what is hard? Resolving the issues borne out of a disaster while it’s still coming at you.

Working on it. I’ve stopped mentioning certain people’s president on Facebook… that’ll hold ’til he makes the next life-or-death choice on our behalf. I’m avoiding online button-pushers… who needs the added angst? Social media is a trip, man – unsuspecting people step right up and tell you who they are, and some of the things they feel at liberty to say are lacerating.

The Zen has to be re-established every morning… and it’s worth doing.

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Shelter me… page 33

Day 41 – 04/22/2020

I’m starting to shelter from social media for great swatches of the day – in times of crisis and conflict it has a way of reaching out and grabbing me where I’m most vulnerable. Two distinct and disparate value systems are going headers against each other while everything else conspires to kill us, and the images are seared into my permanent record. This one has followed me around for a couple of days…

It isn’t photoshopped.

Eugenics, pure and simple, and we actually find ourselves at this point in history.

I’m the weak for all the reasons… Kim’s the weak because asthma and a heart attack/bypass… John’s the “weak” for potential lack of PPE while on shift. Most everyone I love falls into the category of THE WEAK for one reason or another – who decides who to treat… or not? Death panels, anyone?

A heavy attrition rate in nursing homes, prisons, poverty-stricken communities, minority populations, and among the aging would help the economy recover… that seems to be the mindset at this point. We have met the enemy and he is us. Gives the concept of shelter a whole new meaning – I’m picturing a cave in a remote location, the sooner the better. We old survivors are becoming prey.

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No shelter… page 31

Day 39 – 04/20/2020

Happy 420 Day, boys and girls… thought I’d start with the GOOD news.

No diary entry yesterday… feels like I’ve run out of words.

Here’s the thing… Moms are… moms. You really need to know only one thing about us – don’t fuck with our kids. Mine’s an RN in Atlanta, where they’re expecting the virus to peak sometime this week, and the venom being displayed toward the medical community has ended me.

I’m done. The cruelty of the MAGA movement has helped me to kill my darlings:

  • a naive belief that if people just hear the truth it will change them
  • Midwestern guilt that makes me leave the door open to people for too long
  • any remaining misconceptions about what Christians stand for
  • a deluded impression that when required to suck it up and deal, Americans knew how

As John (my kid) said to me this morning, “It’s hard to tell how or when a shift will occur in anyone that will turn them into the very creation they once abhorred” … but I’m watching it happen in real time.

“All logical arguments can be defeated by the simple refusal to reason logically.”–Physicist Steven Weinberg

This short column by John Pavlovitz says it perfectly. I hope you’ll read it…

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Shelter… page 31

Day 37 – 04/18/2020

Feels like I’m doing something right when my baby sister texts and says, “Are you okay? I keep waiting for today’s blog post.”

Accidentally took a Saturday off – our 6th in “captivity” – and checked out for a while. I’ve found a group of free games that are all basically Candy Crush with furniture, and their little worlds are so sweet they’re easy to get lost in.

Almost 5 o’clock… the news cycle over the past few days has been discouraging beyond imagining. The country’s being engulfed in a civil war – not just a figure of speech anymore – and in a battle over whether money or life matters more, nobody wins.

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Ready for this kind of peace again…

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Shelter… page 30

Day 36 – 04/17/2020

Don’t even know what to write. The day-to-day is exactly that, so…

Sadly, the global pandemic has become, in the “United” States, a civil war over the economy versus the value of human life, and the mood is turning ugly. People “defending the Constitution” are showing up en masse with weapons and Confederate flags, yelling and honking car horns outside hospitals, blocking ambulance entrances, and otherwise creating added mayhem for everyone who’s trying to help save lives. And people I don’t recognize anymore are cheering them on. Soul-killing.

World? What world? Think I’ll stay right here.


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So shelter me… page 29

Day 35 – 04/16/2020

I want to cut all my hair off – it’s pelt-ish unless it’s chopped up like bird feathers, and it’s weighing me down.

MOOD: Weighed down. I’ll have to choose an alternate one, however, because the source of my discouragement is not changing anytime soon, if ever. We’re two separate nations and never the twain shall meet – I do get that now.

The sun’s shining for a bit, we have a promise of rain today, there’s no shortage of things to eat or do… so I choose mellow for my functioning mood. It is what it is. It will be what it will be.

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Gimme Shelter… page 27

Day 33 – 04/14/2020

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross would be gratified – I’ve worked my way through the five stages of grief a few times in various combinations and on this random Tuesday in April I’m a sentient lump of acceptance, or resignation, or “wot the hell.” Where else is there to go?

The anger stage does hang in there under everything, though, so my instincts have steered me toward ultra-light entertainment. If you can’t find me on Facebook, Twitter, in a book, or writing, I’m playing Words With Friends, or hanging out in Gardenscapes or Fishdom. Tried Township but I can’t take the nonstop responsibility, jeez.

Looks like we get low 50s and some sunshine today, and I hear Kim’s key in the door so he’s back from his morning walk. I may or may not have heard talk of waffles…

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Gimme Shelter… page 26

Day 32 – 04/13/2020

Chilly morning after a frigid windy night – sounded more like the prairie than the forest.

DEEP THOUGHTS ON A COLD MONDAY: I started training for this years ago, this social distancing, and every day I settle further into what I know is true. Being a loose cannon in a big extended family makes you figure out who you are or get run over, and you learn that self-defense is a waste of energy. It is what it is. It will be what it will be. My goals haven’t changed… live well now, inside myself, and head for a happy old age.

We’ve heard of at least one Lawrence church congregation that met together yesterday. We’ve been at 39 virus cases here for a few days… we’ll see where we are in two weeks…

Churches aren’t being attacked or persecuted, they’re being asked to live out what they say they believe in – love. Care for other people. Solid stewardship in the world. So yeah… what made me stay so long at the fair?

This must be a Monday. I should eat something and go to work on the hours…

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SQ Diary… page 20

Self-Quarantine Day 25 – 04/06/2020

Watched a movie, slept, got up, drank coffee.

Ate stuff. Played computer games. Left the news on, avoiding city hospital segments.

Folded laundry, paid bills, looked out the windows. Gray skies again.

Balmy afternoon, sans sunshine.

The minutes ticked by, the sun went down, we gave it up again.

*****

… Day 26 – 04/07/2020

The fine line between tuning out and DROPPING out is blurring a little. Yesterday had a never-ending quality to it and I thought far too many thoughts. Not having the answers to the simplest questions is a form of torture…

Being labeled an essential worker doesn’t make you expendable. But maybe we have an endless supply of dedicated humans to feed into the maw, so essential protections for the essential members of society are not an essential part of the picture. There’s no place to hide from that knowledge.

Knowing that nothing under the sun will ever change the conversation in America weighs heavy. It would be a well of strength if we were all in this together… but we can’t hook it up where it counts in a crisis. We’re fighting the virus, the unknown, our fears, ourselves, and each other while Americans of all ages die in a battle they can’t win. If this strikes you as being political, well… point made.

So that was yesterday, my diary friend. This morning is beautiful so far… biscuits & gravy in a bit… and here’s a puppy…

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SQ Diary… page 19

Self-Quarantine Day 24 – 04/05/2020

Another day, another conversation with my diary…

Yesterday baby sis, who lives across town, had a story to tell me that was too long for text, so we made the weird decision to use our phones for TALKING to each other. The belly laughs and the sound of her voice were good juju. I needed exactly that.

Sister Señorita Margarita Rita has called me her second mommy a lot of times since 1995, but she’s also returned the favor more than once, and she helped me take something off my plate yesterday that I wasn’t dealing with in a good way. Perspective… wisdom… and somebody with skin on besides Kim, saying words to me, making me laugh, letting me feel the lub. There was peace when I put my head on the pillow last night.💗

It’s sobering to know how much we need each other as humans and how much we generally despise each other, globally-speaking, on a daily basis. Those things are under there all the time, but we aren’t aware of them moment by moment because life streaks on and we make sure there’s no time for introspection, examination of facts, or new doors leading to unsettling change. We’re all so VERY human.

Solitude is my jam, but with the great world hum dampened to a murmur, I’m lonely for voices… life… people. Watching East Lawrence come alive in shades of green, white, and pink is conducive to sweeter moods, but the absence of all the walkers with their dogs and babies, the missing shouts of kids skateboarding, riding bikes and chasing each other down the street, makes the air feel a little ponderous and not quite real.

Not complaining, just observing. We never know what we have ’til it’s gone, and that holds true for all of life. We figure out how much it meant when it isn’t ours anymore. Stupid human pet tricks.

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