inasmuch as it concerns Support Structures:
For friends and family, those we gush about on "Dedication and Acknowledgements" pages and gripe about on the phone to Mom, Great Gods and Goddesses we thank ye.
you're gonna carry that weight for a long time
- 59,193 wds. long
- 128.50 hrs. revised
As expected, I haven't been able to write much this week. Any time not spent sleeping or at derby practice, has been spent moving items from our old address to our new. There have been many carloads, and each carload required multiple trips up and down the stairs that I'm so pleased to leave behind. I can almost do those stairs blindfolded by now: Eight steps down, three paces to U-turn on the landing, another eight steps down and another landing worth three paces, one last bunch of eight and three paces forward to finally descend the three steps of the front stoop.
Most of those carloads have been packed solo, either because John did it while I was at derby, or I did it while John was working. A solo carload takes longer, and it takes a higher toll on the person making it happen. I was done today an hour before we had to leave for practice and scrimmage, but it was an hour spent half asleep because I simply had nothing left for anything more productive.
Today was mostly me, and my goal was to completely empty the office closet. Six clear-bin stackable plastic drawers plus a Rubbermaid bin and a couple bags full of crafting supplies, three stackable plastic file cabinets, two big boxes of miscellaneous removable data media (CDs, DVDs, 3.5" floppies), another box full of "all manner of useful cables" according to my Sharpie memo to myself, a great variety of stationery...
...and a surprisingly large amount of my own writing. Early NaNoWriMo novel drafts printed out for revision. Copies of my short stories with critiques scribbled between the lines and in the margins. Spiral notebooks with drafts, writing exercises, and notes toward rewrites. The three chapters of The Drowning Boy that went with me to Viable Paradise in 2006 and came back looking like they had bled from innumerable cuts. (Not that they all bled red. But oh, how they bled.)
There were in that great mass of paper several copies of other people's stories that they chose to share with me or to send by mail as part of a critique exchange. But for the most part, the author whose works were contained in that box was me.
It was almost too heavy for me to lift. But I managed. I got it down the stairs and into the car without breaking either it or me. I felt strangely reassured by both of these things. The weight of that box was a reminder of how prolific I really have been. And yet I am capable of lifting the weight of my own words. There's something symbolic in that.
Still, when I pulled up to our new front door, I was happy to accept John's offer to take one end of that box and help me lift the load. Just because I could do it alone didn't mean I'd always have to.
There's something symbolic about that, too.
scenes from an unofficial house warming
Things Become Irrelevant. The housewife contemplates the laundry machines. She has options now. She can run a small load on half the water. She can tumble her yoga pants and sports bra on an hour of the air dry setting. It won't be a waste of quarters. Quarters are no longer of pressing concern. Maybe there doesn't need to be a quarters jar anymore, just a single jar for all the household loose change. Later, the housewife will realize that she forgot a load of T-shirts in the dryer. There will be a moment of panic before she remembers she can leave those T-shirts there all night long, and no neighbors will care.
Meeting the Neighbors. The roller derby skater opens her front door, expecting nothing more than a brief wait for her ride to practice. Instead she encounters a pair of young deer. They stare up at her from the sidewalk, as though caught in the act of daring each other to ring the doorbell and run. Skater and deer simultaneously engage in a pretense of nonchalance. If it's a contest, the deer win. They amble away towards a not-very-distant lilac bush. The skater is too delighted to keep a straight face. She watches them snacking on the shrubbery until her teammate arrives to pick her up.
Care and Feeding of Your First Hot Water Boiler.
"Help! I can't get any hot water for the tub!"
"I need a hot bath, and the water's coming out lukewarm!"
"I... just can't. I don't know. I'm tired and I need to eat. Can I not deal with this?"
"Wait, it's OK--there's this dial thingie on the boiler thingie, and it was set to VACATION. When I turned it, it started a fire! Look, it's all blue and stuff!"
"Good. That's good. Good for you. We're good now, right?"
"Yeah, I set it somewhere between WARM and HOT."
Paradigm Shift. The author sits at her desk, writing with teal ink in a spiral notebook. It is her desk. On the desk is her computer, her printer, her electric kettle and her favorite cup of tea. The routine has been enacted countless times before. But all these things are in a room that is entirely new to the author. Thus she is writing at her desk in her office for the first time. She remembers a previous move, when the cats slinked and yowled in the empty rooms of a new apartment, how they only began to settle down when the humans unloaded the cats' familiar, beat-up, second-hand arm chair from the U-Haul trailer. How they gravitated to it immediately, how they curled up around each other on the stained and much-scratched cushion. The author understands them better now. The move wasn't real until the desk arrived. She can finally convince her habitual self that this isn't a hotel, they won't be packing up again and going home. They are home.
this piece of paper pleases and frightens me greatly
Today we closed on the sale of our home of fifteen years. Put that way, it sounds like a nostalgic, bittersweet occurrence. It's not. We are so, so ready to move. Although at this point it's less a matter of dissatisfaction with certain features of the property as it is just eagerness to finally see the end of a process begun in August of 2013.
A year and a half ago.
A year and a half ago, we said to each other, "You know, we could move out. That really is an option that is open to us. Let's go talk to someone about that." A year and a half ago, we wandered into Pedal To Properties and met a realtor who began demystifying the process for us. A year and a half ago, we began gleefully carting box after box of stuff--mostly books and media and also shelving--to a newly rented storage facility unit. We were going to de-clutter and tidy and clean and get the place ready to be listed.
And then the storm of September 2013 hit. Water soaked through the roof and ruined a bunch of our home's innards. It was clear we wouldn't be selling the place any time soon.
It wasn't until April 2014 that our roof was replaced. Then it wasn't until August 2014 that our unit's interior got repaired and renovated. And then, because we had not, admittedly, been using the intervening time wisely, it wasn't until mid-February 2015 that we finished our own personal hand-wrought home improvements (e.g. OMG THOSE CLOSET DOORS) and were ready to put the place on market.
And then on February 19 and 20 we hosted about a million walk-throughs, received a bunch of offers, and accepted one. Everything just followed schedule from there. Which is how we wound up, today, very briefly, for the amount of time it took us to drive from the title company's office to the bank, with custody of a check made out to us in an amount that gently exceeded that with which we'd actually bought this place 15 years ago.
That's a weird feeling. It's not so much Daffy Duck crowing "I'm rich! I'm rich!" and diving through piles of gold coins, right? Because for one thing, it's all going toward the closing costs and down payment of the purchase of our new home. It won't be ours for long. And for another thing, it's frankly terrifying. Like, I have a piece of paper worth MY FUTURE sitting in my bookbag, all fragile and easily lost or stolen. We got to the bank and we were all HERE PLEASE TAKE THIS OFF OUR HANDS AND PUT IT SOMEWHERE SAFE IT SCARES US.
And then we had lunch. And we crowed a bit.
Now there's just the aforementioned closing next week, and then the moving-in operations. Which, to be honest, don't look so daunting now that yesterday's great big to-do list is to-done. All the wheels are in motion and all we have to do is ride them out.
By Sunday the 12th, the process started in August 2013 will be over (give or take a few weeks of leisurely emptying out our storage unit). I'll finally be able to breathe.
And, y'know, maybe write a little.
this fictionette needs a check-up and also some quiet time
- 1,191 wds. long
Please welcome the latest Friday Fictionette to the family, "Please To Confirm Your Appointment With BRIGHT SMILES!," an excerpt of which you may read here. It was a lot of fun to write. I should warn you, though, it ends on a cliff-hanger. I have several ideas for what happens next, any of which could supply the material for a full-length short story. Deciding between them, now, that's the trick.
Conlorado weekend continues; the whole gang's in town now and they're over at a friend's house playing games. I'm at home because after trips to the airport and the liquor store I was kind of tired, and I'm also rather enjoying the empty house. For a little while, the whole gang was over here in our tiny living room/dining room area, and I was hiding in the bedroom with a book. I like to hear a house full of happy people, but I get overwhelmed by the bustle and crowd very easily. Most of the afternoon they were playing a game of Paperback, which looks like a lot of fun--it even has a writer theme to it!--but I couldn't see my way to squeezing into the group who were already sitting shoulder-to-shoulder around the table. So I just listened in and enjoyed things vicariously.
Yes, in fact, I proudly and cheerfully accept the label "introvert." I suggest printing it in bold-face capitals, possibly ones constructed from bright flashing neon tubes. But not where I can see them, because argh, blinking lights.
We had some delightful surprises at the liquor store. Hazel's is a great place for delightful surprises, because they have everything. They had Abita's Grapefruit Harvest IPA, which I didn't know ever made it out of Louisiana. It's one of the few IPAs I will willingly drink. They also had in their soft drink section four different handmade flavors from the Rocky Mountain Soda Company. We brought home the "Evergreen Elderberry" and the "Breckenridge Blackberry."
"We brought you local sodas!" John crowed to our friend who'd asked for interesting caffeine-free soft drinks. "It's the Boulder Way!"
And now I had better hurry up and do my PT before I go to bed--
About that. Alas, the therapist did not clear me to skate yesterday. I came in complaining of cripplingly tight calf-muscles and stabbing pains in the quads of the affected leg. ("I have this terrible pain in the diodes down my left side...") He determined these were normal reactions from the muscles surrounding an injured ligament as regular work is once more required from them and they're grumpy about it. So I have another week of strengthening things up, plus daily foam roller sessions on quads, calves, and IT bands to work the kinks out.
Thus, Foam Roller Hell, here I come!
you still get the day AFTER tomorrow
Despite appearances, I am not dead. Thursday I got home dead tired, Friday I may have wished I was dead, but I did not in fact die. Hello!
The thing about Friday was this: I woke up with two or three headaches going on, all at once. They tag-teamed me all day long, laughing derisively at every dose of ibuprofen. I spent the day trying to stay unconscious and reading whenever I couldn't. John helped me out with the loan of a heating pad and also with the most marvelous massage, both of which helped mightily to loosen up the muscles of my back, shoulder, and neck. But it wasn't until eleven o' clock at night that I woke up from another nap to discover myself pain-free. And at eleven o'clock at night, what do you do with your sudden sense of well-being?
Stay up until three aye em, what else?
I've never had much use for the advice to "live each day as though it were your last." If I knew I was on my last day, I wouldn't just "type a little faster"; I'd resign myself to leaving projects left unfinished, because who needs the stress of FINISH ALL THE THINGS on their last day on Earth? No, I'd spend the day saying goodbye to my loved ones, putting my affairs in order, and having as much fun as I could in what little time remained. (Robin McKinley got this one absolutely right in Sunshine.)
But you know what saying I could really get behind? "Work each day as though you were going to be too sick to work tomorrow." That's how I wish I'd worked Thursday.
Thankfully, Friday was a fifth Friday, so no Friday Fictionette release was planned. (Friday Fictionettes are not weekly occurrences. They happen every first-through-fourth Friday.) And I was feeling a lot better Saturday, so I had no trouble releasing January's Fictionette Freebie to the unsubscribed masses. You can download it by following that link and clicking on the Adobe PDF icon that you see just beneath the cover photo. (Patreon makes that slightly unintuitive). You can figure out from there whether you like that sort of thing enough to subscribe.
What else? I could whine about my knee some more and about how exhausting PT is and how I wish I could have skated in the first team practice of the season Sunday, but who really wants to hear that? I don't, and I've been listening to myself whine for three weeks now. So how about I quit while I'm ahead?
Less whining tomorrow. More writing. Until then--!
that nasty habit of unnecessary limping
- 4,820 wds. long
All right, it wasn't a full five hours today, but all the tasks got done. The next brick in the story-wall got mortared into place, exactly as I said it would. And I suppose I could stay up and put in some more time--but I am freakin' done with this up-til-four-aye-emm business. Especially considering I didn't sleep well between then and when I got up at ten thirty this morning. I'm exhausted, y'all. Time to shift my work days back to diurnal standard time.
I'm actually quite pleased. Getting to all my usual writing tasks, and my usual Wednesday tasks, and my unusual Wednesday-the-28th tasks (well, one task and one social outing), is kind of a feat. Go me.
Speaking of which: My first physical therapy appointment went well. For one thing, I have been commanded to stop limping, dammit. It's the two weeks of hobbling around and not using the knee's full range of motion that's got things all tight and grumpy around the patella. So I don't have to be quite so protective of the joint. I'm not to run, jump, or make lateral movements ("cuts"), but I've been encouraged, nay, urged to walk normally. And I've been reassured that it's perfectly safe to straighten out the leg, and have indeed been assigned to do so in the context of several exercises. The knee brace has been downgraded from "as much as possible" to "only for extra protection in uncontrolled environments"--crowds, walking on icy sidewalks, anywhere where I might unexpectedly slip or stumble.
I'm to apply compression so as to help the fluid work its way out of the joint. To that end, I'm wearing one of my 187 Killer Pads gaskets--the neoprene sleeves I wear under my knee pads when I skate--until I've got time to pick up an Ace bandage. It feels weirdly comforting to be wearing a piece of roller derby gear during my enforced off-skates recovery.
I've got loads of PT homework. Going off what I remember of each exercise's hold time, repetitions and sets, I estimate that I've been assigned somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour of exercise every day. I'll start on it tomorrow. Today was already full up. Plus the physical therapist worked my knee a good deal already. I'm exhausted. It's amazing how tired a body can get just lying down and being worked on; see also dental visits and MRI appointments.
Back to the writing for a moment. I've got further thoughts on Anti-BIC Week, flavors of writing advice, and possibilities for blending work with play, but, again, I'm exhausted. I'm doing all the item's on today's list (except, alas, for the one about five hours of writing), but at this point I'm taking as little time on each as possible.
So it's only a brief(ish) status report today. I'll make up for it tomorrow with a long-ass post full of philosophizing and woo. Whether that's a warning or a promise is up to you.
this fictionette is not safe for work. no, I mean dangerous
It's Friday, so I have done my duty. Again, it is ridiculously late in the day. It almost isn't Friday at all. But the Fictionette is up, and you can see its stats at left and its cover image at right. Excerpt is here, downloadable PDF available to Patrons pledging $1/month is over here. It's horror again, but more of a lighthearted piece of horror than last week's Fictionette. Of course horror can be lighthearted. Think Good Omens and that gut-churning scene with the telemarketers. Well, I was thinking about it. It probably shows.
Yesterday I expressed a hope that my energy level would continue at yesterday's highly productive rate; it did not. Not that I was entirely unproductive, mind you. John and I met the realtor at a nearby property viewing--not because we seriously thought we might jump on something now, but to give the realtor more of an idea of what we liked and what we didn't and what we'd settle for and what were dealbreakers. It was pleasantly close to our current neighborhood, it was huge, it came with a lower H.O.A. fee that neveretheless covered more features, and it had a wood fireplace. These are pluses. On the minus side, it was expensive (as you might imagine, given the size), it was oriented for east/west light rather than north/south, and it had a rather claustrophobic if well furnished kitchen.
Then we went to McGuckin for the polyurethane I need to put a sealant coat on the newly stained kitchen cabinets and panels. Then I went downtown to pick up the remainder of our MMLocal share. Then we came home and I put the final coat of paint on one of the office closet door bifolds.
So I guess it's OK that I fell over for a three-hour nap at that point.
I may have mentioned that I've purchased a destuckification product from The Fluent Self recently? Right. Well, the physical item has yet to come in the mail - it sounds like Havi had post office bureaucracy nightmares which I wouldn't wish on anyone - but I have received the ebook component. The ebook is her Book of Rally Keys (BORK) and I spent about an hour or two reading it last night when I should have gone to sleep already. It is getting into my brain in healthy ways.
One of the healthy ideas that BORK has put in my brain is the idea that naps aren't something to be ashamed of. They can be expressions of terrified avoidance, or they can be expressions of the need for replenishment; in either case, they're entirely natural and they indicate a need. I expect after yesterday and this afternoon my need was very great. So I'm practicing being gentle with myself and accepting my need to nap.
There was another BORK/Fluent Self idea I wanted to mention, but it escapes me at the moment. So I'll let it run free for now, trusting that it will come home again and let me turn it into a blog post sometime soon.
Meanwhile, I have just finished eating the entire jar of Pears With Rosemary, and, now that we're all going to bed and will therefore be unlikely to absentmindedly lean against various kitchen surfaces, I am going to paint polyurethane on various kitchen surfaces.
when cliched platitudes are startlingly spot on
- 5,653 wds. long
I'm happy to report that I met today's small goal. I made a copy of the scene-to-be-rearranged, and I moved paragraphs around like Lego. Or, actually, more like wooden blocks; the bits aren't "snapped" together like Lego are. They're like a stack of bricks with no mortar. But that's OK. That stack of bricks was what I wanted to accomplish today.
Tomorrow's small goal is as follows: Take that first brick in the stack and turn it into a plausible story opening.
Meanwhile, today saw an upswing in the rate of home improvement projects. I realized all at once this morning that there's no reason not to run the various projects on parallel tracks. While waiting for stain or polycrylic to dry, why not get to work painting the office closet doors or re-staining and finishing the weathered kitchen cabinets?
Why not, indeed. The usual "why not" is an extremely limited energy budget. If I can manage to do one coat of stain on a closet door in a day that contains writing, roller derby, and volunteer reading, not to mention household chores and trips to the grocery, I'm doing good.
Then it occurred to me: I can't skate roller derby for at least a month, and my first physical therapy appointment isn't for a week. My schedule is miraculously clear right now. And for all I complain about the stairs, I'm reasonably able-bodied for an injured athlete. I can move around unassisted. I can sit, stand, kneel, or sit on the floor. I can paint and stain and sand and whatever. And now I have the time to do it in.
It's not just a platitude. This injury really was the Universe's way of telling me to slow down. The silver lining, it has been spotted.
The other thing holding me back was a mental block. I kept looking at the kitchen and all I could see was a fractally complex job involving bits and detail and impossibility. But today I gave it a shot. I removed one of the under-sink cabinet doors, the one with the worst staining and the most deteriorated finish, and I washed it off, and I sanded it some, and--with several prayers to any Gods that might be listening--applied Minwax wood stain.
This was nerve-wracking. For one thing, I knew that I hadn't removed all of the surviving finishing coat from the wood. I couldn't do it. I couldn't bring myself to try. That level of comprehensive detail work would put the project way outside my ability, patience, and time frame. And if you don't get rid of all the previous paint and stain and finish, maybe the new stain doesn't sink in so good. Still, I reasoned that any place where finishing coat survived probably didn't need new stain anyway.
Secondly, matching stain colors is an iffy process. Even having brought one of the cabinet doors that was in like-new condition to the store with us, we weren't very confident that the tin of Minwax "Lt Pine" we'd chosen was going to be the right stain.
Turns out we'd chosen just the right stain. How do you know you've chosen the right stain? When you brush it on, you think, "Is there any color in this liquid, or did I get scammed into buying a tin of water?" Seriously, it just looked like I'd gotten the cabinet door wet.
In my excitement at how easy this turned out to be, I did the second under-sink cabinet door and the entire panel surrounding them. Pretty much the whole area bounded by the dishwasher, the sink, and the oven. It's the most important area, being fairly central, thus right where your eye first falls upon entering the kitchen.
The realtor came to visit today to help us get back on track for a mid-February listing. He looked at the cabinet work and pronounced it likely to "pop." That's realtor speak for "will give a potential buyer a great impression." He said that the refurbished and newly stained/finished living room closet doors also "pop." I'm pleased to hear it.
Between today's progress on the living room closet doors, the kitchen cabinets, and the office closet doors--not to mention today's work on the short story revision--I'm feeling pretty darn accomplished tonight. I just hope I can keep up this level of accomplishment for the next couple of weeks, is all.
the low cost of entry for staircase resentment
Took me long enough, but today I finally got back to the Living Room Closet Door project.
John, to give credit where credit is due, has already gotten back to work on his portion of the home improvement projects, which is to say, repainting whatever still needs repainting. He's more or less finished the bathroom as of last week and plans to do the bathroom door tomorrow. But I didn't manage to bestir myself upon those closet doors until today.
When we left for New Orleans, I was working on the third of the four bi-folds. I'd finished stripping the paint off both panels, but I'd only half-sanded the one. This was disappointing; I'd wanted to get it done and reinstalled before we left. This became unfeasible, so I consoled myself with the intention to jump right back into it the moment we returned to Boulder.
Which didn't happen. Pretty much every day up to January 10 was filled up with preparations for Epic Derby Weekend. And pretty much everything since has been filled up with the aftermath of the left knee sprain/strain. Again, it could so easily have been worse--I'm grateful there were no broken bones nor surgery involved (knock on wood, spit three times)--as injuries go, this is peanuts--but even so, things have been exhausting. Making appointments, going to appointments, acquiring this borrowed brace and deciding when to wear it, getting used to wearing it, staying aware of the injury so I don't reinjure it--no wonder I've been sleeping late and napping heavily.
As anyone who's sustained an injury (or is otherwise disabled) knows, you have to develop strategies just for moving around your world. My mobility was noticeably limited on the day after the injury. At brunch, getting from our table to the bathroom was sort of serious business. Getting down the stairs to the car so we could go to brunch was kind of awful. Just putting on my shoes was demoralizing. I was able to do it myself--just--but there was a brief spell of tears and despair on my way there.
It's been a lot better since, to the point that I'm wearing the brace primarily to remind myself that I'm injured and need to take care. Nevertheless, certain maneuvers, such as stepping over the bi-fold panel propped up on its buckets, or sitting down on the floor to smear wood putty into the panel's munched-up corner, requires conscious planning on a limb-by-joint level.
In any case, that panel is sanded to my satisfaction now, and the wood putty is drying. Tomorrow I'll stain it, and over the next couple of days I'll coat it with polycrylic. If I can also sand the other panel tomorrow and get my writing done, that would be fantastic. I like to do the sanding outside in order to minimize the need to vacuum inside. But that requires good weather outside, and there's a chance of snow on Wednesday.
I'm really tired of being in this prolonged limbo between having put most of our belongings in storage in order to stage the condo unit for listing, but not having finished the home improvement projects needed before we can list. I want to get these closet doors done, all the doors repainted, the kitchen repainted, and everything else that needs doing done so we can sell the place already.
And this third-floor business is for the birds. I totally saw this coming, y'all. I was telling people last summer that one of my personal reasons for wanting us to move was "I skate roller derby. I risk injury on a weekly basis. I need to live somewhere accessible." And now I am injured. Again, it could be worse. Thank goodness I'm not on crutches or in a wheelchair. So many people have it so much worse than I! But it doesn't take that much of an injury to come to resent deeply those 28 steps I have to climb or descend just to leave or come home.
the last pelican kaffeeklatsch
Today was sunny and breezy rather than overcast and rainy, so John and I took a walk down to the Bonnabel Boat Launch. It was an even more fantastic day for it than we'd realized--when we got past the kids' playground and down into the parking lot on our way over to the water, a pelican suddenly seemed to fly right at us. We ran the rest of the way and saw about eight of them just hanging out on the pier, a kaffeeklatsch of pelicans standing around with their beaks hanging down to their feet. Seagulls jostled around them like seagulls do, playing their eternal game of "I want your perch," but the pelicans just stood there, unflapping and unflappable.
We watched them for about ten minutes. Couldn't get enough of just looking at them. Brown pelicans are the goofiest-looking birds in the Gulf South when they're standing still. When they're flying, they're graceful and huge in a way that I never quite get used to. But when they perch, or when they spot a fish and take a dive, they look like clowns.
On our way back to the house, as we crossed the low, flat pedestrian bridge over Bonnabel Canal behind the pumping station, a pelican actually flew under the bridge, skimming the surface of the water for about twenty feet before pulling up and soaring away again. Two cormorants followed it, swimming a similar distance completely under the water before resurfacing in the pelican's wake.
"We should tell Mom about the pelicans," I said. "She'd be delighted."
John looked pained. "You know what she'll say, though, right?"
And I remembered.
Ten, fifteen years ago, Mom would tell me about the pelicans. She'd tell me how they were coming back to Lake Pontchartrain in huge numbers. She'd tell me how she'd count them as she crossed the Causeway Bridge on her way to see her mother and sister in Covington. Her mother was needing increasingly more care, such that first she needed to move into my aunt's house to have family close at hand, then to an assisted living home, then finally to a memory care center. Mom would drive over two, three times a week to spend time with her, take turns with her siblings taking her out for lunch or keeping her company or giving her day-to-day care. So Mom got a lot of opportunities to count pelicans on her way to and from the northshore. It was a good day if she got to see one diving for fish. The sudden cannonball splash made her laugh. She'd tell me that pelicans are proof positive that God has a sense of humor. She was the one who decided "kaffeeklatsch" was the appropriate collective noun.
But now her mother has passed away, and she herself is beginning to follow in her mental footsteps: losing her memory, as she always feared she would. With sufficient encouragement, she'll do crosswords in a book rated "fun" and "easy" to try to keep erosion at bay. She needs help remembering how common sayings go, what concur means, or how to spell kneel. And with the memory loss comes personality loss, the sharp wit and the sarcasm I remember gone (which, admittedly, is sometimes a relief; her sarcasm could have a nasty bite) from conversations now uniformly shallow, repetitive, delivered with a childlike smile. She still goes to work, she still drives, she still handles day-to-day obligations, but she doesn't discuss, converse, argue, or analyze.
When we came home on the train Saturday and I told her about all the pelicans we saw perched atop dock posts in Manchac, she just smiled absently and said, "Remember the rhyme Grandpapa used to say about the pelican?" Which she then repeated, because once it came to mind she must say it, inexorably, no use trying to stop her: the limerick I always misattributed to Ogden Nash but that Wikipedia tells me is by Dixon Lanier Merritt. Trigger, response. No conversational branches. Just push the button marked "pelican" and out comes the rhyme. Then comes the next part of the ritual. "And did I ever tell you the rhyme I made up about our basketball team? 'What a favored team are the Pelicans / We hope they'll score more than their opponents can...'" Yes, Mom. Yes, you have.
And the weird thing is, she's been like that a long time. At least as long as I've lived in Boulder and called home every week. Trigger, response. Push button, get familiar anecdote. Is that because the mental changes that have seemed so sudden have been growing on her for a longer time than I realized? Or is it because the mental changes have simply crystallized around habits she's always had, eroded away everything around them to leave them stark and bare?
I don't think I'll ever know the answer.
I've come to realize over the past couple years that we will probably never have a meaningful conversation again. The late night discussions we used to share at the kitchen table, when she'd just brought me home from the airport and neither of us wanted to go to bed yet, and we talked about religion and politics and philosophy and our worries and our fears and our hopes--those will never come again. The person I used to have them with is, for all intents and purposes, gone.
I just didn't realize until today that the person who counted pelicans and laughed at God's jokes is gone too.