Monday night after a couple of days of warming that provided a respite from the polar vortex that drove temperatures to below zero with highs topping out in the single digits. It was small comfort to know that a wide swath of the country was experiencing the same and worse. In such circumstances, the old saw that misery loves company rings hollow. Misery yes. Loving the company. Not so much.
As if to somehow emphasize the point, the cold air hitting the back of my neck after breezing through the window air conditioner reminds me that the cold has returned.
I hear Carol restless in her sleep as she usually is. Between me and her on the wood stove sit the flowers that the bad weather, whiteouts and icy roads, caused to be delivered a day late.
Not surprisingly, her birthday came and went with little notice. The weather was so bad that not only were the flowers not delivered but Hanna did not come out for her weekly visit.
However, Jane did stop by late in the afternoon when I was napping. I did not hear her if she rang the bell or called out. She messaged me later to say she had left a card and gift for both of us on the bench in the entry way. The gift turned out to be a package of mini brownies and the card featured a historical photo of the Peninsula’s volunteer fire department in 1945. Each member in the picture was identified and I recognized some of the old family names. Thoughtful gifts, both, and I regret I was not awake to receive them properly. Jane did say that the dog had done her best to welcom her.
I brought the flowers to Carol. She seemed not to react to them. I read Jane’s card, as I had the others that had arrived. I detected some level of recognition.
It is clear that all of my preparation for her birthday, like so many things, such as insisting I get a muffin for her on Sunday, are much more for me than for her.
That is not surprising.
The noisy little electric heater just kicked on. I have my ear buds on tuned to jazz from KNKX, Seattle. The buzz from the heater almost drowns out the music.
I got a bit of good news and not so good news. The good news came yesterday when I saw a notice that the new issue of Rosebud Magazine containing my Holocaust themed short story has just been published. I am in good company with this fine little literary mag based in Wisconsin as this issue includes a conversation between Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs I have no idea how that conversation has surfaced so many years after the death of both of these counter culture icons. I’ll have to find out when my contributor copies arrive. When they do I’ll order a few more copies to send out.
And I’ll announce this latest publication to the world. Whether the world will be duly impressed is another question.
But every publication reinforces my commitment to my writing career. In this instance, this publication encouraged me to send out two queries, one for each of my unpublished novels.
The not so good news came today in a telephone call from my dermatologist’s office to inform me that the growth removed from my scalp last Thursday was precancerous. My doctor is sure she got all of it, and will have me back to take a look in six months, so clearly there is no urgency.
Still I would have preferred to have heard that the growth was innocuous.
It wasn’t, and naturally enough raises my concern not only for myself but for Carol. In that regard I tell myself I’ve done all I can to prepare for the possibility of my predeceasing her. That is good, but not something I want to dwell on.
I think I’ll end on that note for tonight.
Saturday night, quite late.
Thursday I went to town to at long last deliver to Munson Hospital the final wishes document I finished preparing a while ago. I suspect I was delaying doing this task because on some deep level it required me to think about end of life matters. Of course, I know I should do that planning, as unpleasant as it is, and so I dutifully went through the forms, got the appropriate signatures for patient advocates, indicated what I want done with my dead body, and how I want to be comforted before breathing my last, all of which it is well to document now, but clearly pertains to a situation I have shoved into a closet in my mind to be taken out only when the urge to put the matter to rest motivates me to open the door to it.
I also have a couple of loose ends from setting up my trust that I need to intend to. Nothing that consequential, but again I find little motivation to take care of them. Which is not like me. Generally, I do not like things hanging over my head that I know must be attended to.
It is likely that my present unanticipated situation is providing me with a somewhat different frame of reference for these kinds of decisions. It will take some work to unravel that idea.
I can start that unraveling by setting out a an incident seemingly of much less significance than end of life planning. When I came home from my lunch yesterday, I intended to retrieve my mail before settling back into the house. I pulled into the driveway, hit the button to open the garage door, eased the car in, got out and walked back onto the driveway my eye across the road toward the mailbox.
Which wasn’t there.
A snow plow had knocked it off. The post stood naked. When I got to it, several feet away in the snow I saw the box still attached to the cross piece that had been bolted to the post .
End of life planning on one day, and a mailbox problem the next. I’ll take a look at each in turn.
If Carol were well, it is likely that I would not yet have filled out the papers I just delivered to Munson Hospital, let alone set up a trust. Perhaps at my age, my previous indifference to these matters was irresponsible. Carol and I did have wills, and I probably thought that was sufficient.
Maybe under those prevailing conditions wherein both of us were healthy a will would have been enough preparation. I remember that years ago we had investigated purchasing insurance that would pay for assisted living or nursing home care should either of us reach that stage. But the cost for such insurance, as I recall, was exorbitant at our then ages, so we dropped the idea, settling for each of us having a will. Other than that we assumed we would take care of each other.
I’m doing my best to hold up my end of that supposition.
It is, however, a more complicated story when I think about how I reacted to the mailbox being knocked off. Naturally, I was irritated. But more or less than I would have been before Carol fell ill?
It seems to me, I should be considerably less concerned about my mailbox on the day after I filed my last wishes, and walked into the house where I would take over Carol’s care from the relief aide. If I imagine one of those ancient scales, the kind with two shallow bowls suspended from a fixed arm that pivots to one side or the other depending upon which bowl has the greater weight, in such a scale the side containing my emotional attitude toward contemplating the end of my life would, I imagine, lean down much harder than the other side containing my irritation at having to repair a mailbox in the dead of winter when beneath the snow the ground was frozen solid making replacement impossible until the spring thaw.
While yet alive, I can avail myself of work-arounds to the mailbox issue if repair is not possible. Life would go on albeit, perhaps, with some inconvenience. However, I don’t recall any place on the forms I filed at Munson concerning the receipt of posthumous mail.
So why do the petty concerns bother me as much as they would if I weren’t acting as Carol’s caregiver, and in that context making sure she would be taken care of?
I think the answer is that part of me remains consistent with the man I was, and that man never reacted with equanimity to certain relatively minor assaults on his sense of how the world should be.
Such as there being in that world a mailbox remaining upright and available to receive mail.
That I still value that kind of mundane element in my environment, is as important to me as my admittedly much more important responsibilities. In fact, that retention of who I was enables me to be what I have to be now.
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