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BasilAssaultedbyBears
B is for Basil assaulted by Bears (an Edward Gorey alphabet)

Dear friends and readers,

I cannot speak of this as I would to Jim – it’s not allowed in public, it’s dangerous probably. So here is my more usual stance, to friends and friendly readers. If there are sheer voyeurs who come here or anyone who reads this blog hostilely or with sneers of contempt, shame on you; even if no one can out you, minimal decency should make you: go away. Rmember what happened to Gorey’s big black bug who jumped up and down and made personal remarks …

I saw a good lawyer, recommended to me by a friend whose sister was a successful lawyer in the Fairfax area for many years. From a practical standpoint the news is not good. Bad. John Carroll is a strong good man, intelligent, decent. He saw nothing wrong with my statement — I wrote a 3 page statement explaining precisely what happened that day and that my blanking out was the result of weeks of stress and deep grief from Jim’s death, a long day’s driving with no time to eat or sleep, having been pressured to bring a doll to a place I couldn’t find so very bad stress, after weeks of not sleeping enough. I said I never realized I could do such a thing and explained all the measures I was taking to prevent it ever happening again. I included a sheaf of medical reports which showed I have no medical condition (nothing indicating any epilepsy for example), three providers’ reports one of whom wrote it was “extremely unlikely” this would ever happen again. He and I talked for half an hour, and then he said he will try for me; he begins by writing a letter to a commissioner saying “what gives?”. I fulfilled all the conditions the DMV asked for twice, and yet a medical review board meets and votes to carry on the suspension. Why?

And why is the news bad? What he said was I ought to have “due process of law.” That means in the constitution you have the right to challenge a decision; it may be when you go to court, your challenge is denied, but you should have the right to make it. However, said he, “The DMV is not known for its adherence to constitutional rights.” If we don’t have due process, we are not in a good position to lift this suspension, and I am at their mercy. I fear I threw $17,000 out on a car. He was puzzled (as am I now) that the sale and the license and registration was allowed to go through. He said it should not have been were I suspended on that day (but didn’t know this). He will try to look into that. Will I ever get to use that car again? Will it rot sitting there? should I pay for a garage? how do I find a garage to put it in? I’ve no idea what to do when it comes to such things. It seems to me without Jim I am ever coming up against practical things in the world I have no idea how to deal with. When I said this, he said he thought they would lift it eventually. Maybe they are waiting to see if I am epileptic — but I won’t show it in such short time. It didn’t quite make sense. A friend on a list-serv said the date of May 17th was liking pulling a rabbit out of a hat, no rationale.

I told him I had phoned the DMV medical office a second time on Monday because astonishingly to me no letter had yet arrived. I had asked why to be told it was my business to request a letter (“we didn’t know you wanted that” was the dry hard sarcasm); she tried to imply I wanted May 17th, but I replied I got that date from the DMV; she tried to imply it was my responsibility to ask for a letter and medical forms but that cannot be true. She deliberately (I now realize) both times wanted to get me to hang up so she would not have to send any thing, so they would not have to give me any explanation. He then said it would not be useful to call her again. “Don’t phone them again.” (Nonetheless if a letter comes send it to him by scanning it into my computer. I told him I don’t know how to fax anything.)

The lawyer did say if an emergency comes up, and I have no one to turn to (which I will not) and I must use the car, well … go ahead it was implied. Yvette cannot drive. It’s a misdemeanor and yes you could be put in jail, probably for a night, but who knows (in the present atmosphere). The problem nowadays is computers enable cops to type in tag numbers and it will come up that my license is suspended as a flash. As a principle and for my safety I should not drive while we are trying to resolve this. A good friend told me to go out into my car every few days and just run the engine to keep it warm.

Uber cabs are super-expensive. They do show up and usually quickly. Foreign nationals for drivers, men in their thirties in these large black cars that are meant to resemble limousines (they are vans mostly). Very comfortable, the man super-polite. He holds the door open for you to get in and out. There’s bottled water; they make polite talk. Twice now the yellow cab or red top didn’t come, or it was over 30 minutes and none had, so I tapped that Uber app on my iphone and voila ten minutes later there it was. But it’s $60 a ride to and from AU and the same thing to and from this lawyer’s office to my house. I can’t afford that. On Tuesday when I return to AU for the third training session (I had to skip the second because it conflicted with this lawyer’s appointment — it was scheduled ahead because of the snow and I am not the only one of the teachers who will not be able to show up) I will take public transportation — bring a book to read for an hour and a half the way I used to in my twenties when I traveled to Brooklyn College (remote) from my apartment at the top of Manhattan (Washington Heights) about as far as you can get across NYC.

The one bright thing was I have not (not as yet) lost the job to teach Jane Austen. I was able to ask one of the chief organizers about the place I am supposed to teach at. A church on River Road in Bethesda Maryland! If I had a car it’s a drive but nothing onerous (45 minutes) and parking easy but without it I was anticipating a 2 hour Metro plus half hour walk. I wanted someone who was a friend to test drive the way with me; first find the church (what did it look like?) and then what was the walk from the Metro to the church. I feared getting lost in a half hour walk in a totally strange place. Well, he said “Forget it., it’s way too far to walk.” I had no one to take me this coming Sunday anyway. I was so worried I’d lose out in this teaching too, but yesterday morning he moved the course to the one place I can reach by cab, the same building we were in, right next to the AU campus. There’s a shuttle bus to the Metro and the Metro will take me to within 20 minutes of my home where I can walk or take a bus. I offered to make a top of 25 (instead of 15) and he did so. It is the middle of registration and I must hope all my class stays put — I suggested we put the top up to 25 in the hope more will come.

I can’t sleep again. The trazadone (mild prescriptive sedative, anti-anxiety) gives me 4 hours at most; the melantonin (non-prescription) 2 hours. To sleep 6 hours as I did last night I took a restoril. They are so strong I am shaking I slept. I know from long experience I must not take more than 1 a week. I have a bottle full that my good Dr Villafuerte gave me years ago now. My health is deteriorating again. I could not eat any snacks the last two days and am back to losing weight. This is bad for my mental health, to immobilize me so I can’t be with other people. My wonderful grief support person has now volunteered to come to Old Towne (which I can get to by bus) and we’ll meet weekly at Misha’s (Patrick Street coffeehouse.) She deplored this for the sake of my mental and social well-being.

I feel I am being treated as a potential criminal or in fact a criminal. To put someone in jail with no recourse on a charge that is not explained is taking us back to the ancien regime.

What did I do to deserve this kind of harsh punitive treatment? For 34 years I drove and never had an accident; twice I had a tickets for an illegal turn. That’s there in the record. Counts for nothing it seems. I feel like I am a character in Les Miserables and wish there was song for me too or I had a Jean Valjean to be with like Anna Hathaway:

les-miserables-hugh-jackman-anne-hathaway2

When I left the first training session at AU and it was freezing (18 degrees) so I decided to try the Uber cab for a second time. The woman at the AU running the training session had moved the second one up so I tried to see if I could by cab get home in time to go out to the lawyer, but I couldn’t securely enough to know I’d make the lawyer. To tell the truth I found the first session had little to tell me: I am a trained teacher; the use was (as ever) to meet people and get useful information people just don’t think to put on websites. Like how many classes are in OLLI: 91! or the average top: 25. I had said 15 and realize now that ideal number is not appropriate here. I did meet two people who said how glad they were to meet me at last and one woman who was the speaker so friendly: she reads my blogs and is a long time member of the Victoria list-serv. All this was what I wanted — making friends of people like myself. There will be lectures every Tuesday afternoon. The program sounds delightful: intelligent older people coming back to college (or going for the first time) and study group leaders (=teachers) who are trained in a discipline. One man was a journalist of many years — in Puerto Rico — he grew up in the west Bronx and came over because he recognized my accent immediately.

But when I got out onto the street, my heart began to hurt very bad. I had intense pain in my chest. I was thinking, what am I doing here without Jim? I would not be here were he alive. I began to cry. I sat down on the curb. The world around me was one I didn’t want to be in. Why am I here I asked myself. What am I doing here? Since that DMV phone call this past Thursday I have returned to these 2 hour intervals where I sit and think about death and wonder I am alive and why, and wish my heart would just stop the way poor Jim’s did. I sat with my arms around his chest and watched his chest go still and then the nurse said his heart had stopped. Of course great harrowing suffering had gone on for 3 days (under this super-heavy sedation they were giving him, with pillows everywhere, constant changing of sheets) so it’s not so easy for a heart to stop. I wish it were. He now doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t exist any more. I sit and keen sometimes. I lay on his side of the bed because were I to lay on mine it would be so obvious he’s not there. I wait sometimes ever so quietly to see if my heart will stop too but it doesn’t.

2014 is turning out as hard a year as 2013. I had wanted to go to this 18th century conference in Williamsburg; they are having a masquerade ball. But now I feel after all it would be inappropriate for me. It’s a relief not to have to manage any more than I do now. Which is very little. I just don’t know how to be in the world, how to manage it without him, I continually make mistakes of all sorts, and the world seems to me a place that not for widows like me. I am spending so much money, far too much these past two months. Scary to think about it. Elizanne says I need not have a wider perspective.

Desmond

I wish there were a grave I could visit. I’d walk there on fine days and sit and read near him again.

Sylvia

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GhastlyAByEdwardGorey
From an Edward Gorey alphabet

Dear Friends,

I am become a comical character, except to think about this 18th century parodic title brings home that such stories are not funny.

Someone mentioned to me that the threat of a jail sentence (and actually putting people in jail) to stop those whose licenses have been suspended from driving are centrally part of police state tactics. It’s a cross-over, said she, of what’s done to undocumented immigrants. I hadn’t thought of that. For the first time I begin to have a glimpse of what life must be like for undocumented immigrants. It’s not that bad with me: I need only be terrified of police if I’m driving a car. They have to be terrified all the time.

It’s a state (the US) which bullies and intimidates all with ludicrously fierce over-exaggerated disproportionate prison sentences so I guess if someone can go to jail for 40 years for possessing a small amount of marijuana then someone can go to jail for 12 months for driving on a suspended license.

This morning I realize that the “medical review board” which is said to have decided to continue this suspension despite all the papers from doctors must have some hired complicit doctor (or doctors) on it who do what the DMV wants. So I’m done in by doctors too again.

Of course it’s people who make this harder on top of what the state can do that hurts most of all. Lillian Hellman’s books are about that. I’m remembering Aaron Swartz.

What I cannot do is live without love.

Tellingly I’ve had no document. Only a brief phone call. The authorities here don’t do me the courtesy of explaining what they did since there’s no excuse for it. I do hope I make it to a lawyer tomorrow.

Sylvia

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Frosted_basil-Small
A basil plant during frost

Dear friends,

In Middlemarch, George Eliot writes of Rosamund Vincy that she is Lydgate’s basil plant because “basil was a plant which had flourished wonderfully on a murdered man’s brains.” Since the phone call (and as yet no clear document) telling me my license was suspended until May 17th now, I have not slept more than 2 hours a night. My health is again deteriorating. Yesterday I just could not eat my soup for lunch. I felt I would just barf it up. I am shaking today since last night I resorted to Restoril (a very strong sleeping pill): it did the trick for 6 hours. But one pays for taking such pills. I have not liked taking a melantonin or trazadone (said to be a mild sedative, but a prescription one) regularly (one should as a rule take no prescription daily except if really needed, proven effective for specific need, and with no bad side effects or contraindications) but if they stop working, what am I to do?

Widows. A species to kicked about, erased.

I also cancelled my registration to go the Williamsburg, ASECS (18th century society meeting) that Jim dreamed of going to with me; rescinded my reservation and will try to see if an exchange can be made on my train tickets. No one can regret this more than me. It means more than this single loss or incident. I read in Widows’ Handbook how so many widows end up reclusive — or seeming so.

I am feeling this new raw deal — not that the DMV was ever much different. A friend both came up with the same phrase for the behavior of the DMV to me: “unnecessary cruelty,” and I tried to see my case in the larger perspective of the enforcement of punitive measures we see everywhere in this mean & vindictive set of regions (each state area differing) – which are then used to exploit and make money. So Zero tolerance enables a judge to send 1000s of students away to two privatized jails in return for kickbacks. The new Jim Crow is horrendous prison sentences (like something out of Les Miserables or 18th century England) for possessing small bits of marijuana part of imprisoning, including torturing (decades of solitary confinement) huge numbers of black men. Talk about unnecessary cruelty. In the last 5 months I’ve come across several cases where white people just killed black people and got no prison sentence — this is after the Zimmerman case including the one recently in DC where a young black woman in DC was shot to death when she tried to escape having rammed her car into one of these cement things everywhere in DC (to protect those in a building it’s said against terrorists).

None more so than the US medical establishment (we are 35th in rank for helping people for real when ill), especially preying on people with cancer or other dangerous and/or fatal conditions. Making oodles of money off you, clipping you are every juncture (talk about nickel and dimed), then behaving on the edge of decency, with stony indifference as they collect their money.

There is a move to pass a law which includes a provision where your driver’s license must show if you are autistic. I know that would be bad. It would not help. No one asked Aspergers or Autistic people.

It seems to me all the publicity surrounding Autistic people had made things worse not better. At each juncture as people are more aware of autistic people, they decide against them. I’ve learned from reading the list-serv, reading ,seeing what has happened to Izzy (three encounters with police officers, all bad) that having a diagnosis instead of helping could cause prejudice. I sometimes think I’m at a disadvantage because I’ve never been diagnosed as having a disability and I know I do — one of the areas it comes out in is driving to strange places, being where it’s unfamiliar: I experience a lot of stress. But experience shows me I’d be worse off. Being an adjunct all the years I taught is directly connected to my Aspergers traits. I can think of countless incidents where the Admiral helped me crucially – coming with me in travel especially, but also writing email letters for me, practicing with me to drive somewhere. He driving or sitting next to me driving.

Medical establishment out to support itself and its funders.

Our military all over the world prosecuting wars, destruction, ending all social movements where they can. Read about the Koch Bros and other billionaire donors; their institions not hounded by the FBI; Americans for Prosperity as a name is straight out of Orwell. End all unemployments benefits, cut food stamps so more people can come near starving.

I couldn’t carry on with PBS reports last night. A case of police men just retiring denied their health care benefits: now they pay $700 a month when they worked all their lives on the supposition they would have free health care. It’s not a gift. The union did not ask for a higher wage; it was in lieu of a higher wage. No one mentions this on PBS — and now unions are destroyed mostly no one will.

New changes in laws now allow Afghanistan men to beat their wives, daughters, sisters with impunity. People on line get upset when they see a video showing someone just shooting cats. The video goes viral. Not the news about Afghan women, or statistics on domestic violence towards women in the US.

Basil plants, they are like basil plants.

Sylvia

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Yvette has been helping me use itunes this morning, downloading Vaughn William’s fantasia on Greensleeves, and trying to find where the play list of songs from my iphone is — on this Macbook Pro. We have been defeated in the sense that we cannot find the old non-purchased playlist the Admiral made nor the few new ones I purchased us so I will just listen on the iphone to those and the very recently purchased stuff (as of yesterday) have on this Macbook Pro.

We also decided it’s a good thing I have a box filled with CDs of favorite music from years back until quite recently (country western, musicals, favorite classical, individual artists) and I can play those too in the traditional way.

CatLibrarianJoke

I am now happily listening to the sound track of the 1995 Sense and Sensibility movie by Thompson and Lee, one of my favorites, on the iPhone.

Sylvia

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Dear friends and readers,

I’ve been told by others they hate Windows 8. For me it’s an experience of continually exacerbated nervous distress. I see this bright blue screen with hardly anything on it. I have yet to be able to shut it off. Twice the right hand menu at the corner has from one of its linked words produced an icon which looks like a light switch and says power. It may be that will shut the machine off. But I can’t get there easily and when I arrive I’m not sure.

Thus far I have discovered that after arduous teasing with a mouse, I can on either side of the screen at the corner make one of these menus appear. Sometimes though it appears suddenly without my being able to figure how or what I hit.

The menu of names is on a black background. The names are in light blue, are fragile, shake slightly upon first arriving, and then go away if you breathe too heavily. The one to the right has something called “search” and when I open that I see these many plain colored squares with names on them.

One says photos but when I open it up it fills the screen with a picture of a huge camera and I don’t know what to do next. It says the photos are hidden and I must go to settings. Settings is another of the fragile words which appear on the right hand side after considerable effort. I can’t get to settings without hitting control/delete alt and coming back to the original blue screen again — if I’m lucky. Control/alt/delete is hard to get going; it takes me to a window called task manager. Then I have to figure out which links is the one frustrating me, and then click “end task.” Then I’d have to tease that right-hand menu out and what then? hit settings, and start the frustrating experience all over again.

I once tried to download a photo re-sizer. When I hit download, I found myself confronting the picture which appears when I hit photo inside Windows 8. So then I’m stuck again. I had the same experience when I tried to download something else. I ended up in Windows looking at a screen with a big picture on it that I didn’t know what to do with.

Is this done to prevent me from downloading any program outside Windows 8?

I’m driven to high anxiety by squares which don’t tell me what is to happen next if I tap one of the squares, they again and again fill the screen with pictures I don’t understand and I have to revert to control/Alt/delete to get back to my original screen. Some of them say things like calendar, weather, Amazon. Would they take me to the Amazon site, or a calendar or the weather. Would I be able to escape the full screen or have to resort to control/alt/delete each time.

Sometimes mysteriously after a menu on one of the sides goes away, something else pops up. I just saw a menu on white which included something which promised I could change the screen, have pictures on it if I knew how to get to a promised place of pictures to choose from. But it does not show how to get there. On the right hand side corner every once in a while a square with glittering different colors appears. It calls itself “start.” What it starts I know not.

Caroline did downloaded firefox, chrome and gmail. So these icons are on the blue desktop and I can click on them and read my mail. She moved from my bookmarks brought over from my Macbook pro (like magic the two computers have the same information columns) to the top of firefox and chrome so I can get to facebook, twitter, Yahoo, my wordpress blogs. I also see the old explorer folder for files and in there is what’s left of my thousands of files. Remember many did not make it over from the old computer. I have a working trash basket; Yvette downloaded a simple VLC viewer which escaped the clutches of Windows 8; also openoffice.org which I can open and write on and save. Otherwise this machine is useless to me, scary because I can’t control or manipulate it.

My scanner is not properly attached to the machine though.

Windows 8 gives me claustrophobia and upsets me because I feel helpless to do almost anything with it that I can control and prevent from boomeranging. It’s nerve-wracking, distressing.

Sylvia

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‘If gratitude and esteem are good foundations of affection, Elizabeth’s change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor faulty — narrator, Austen, P&P

I do not attempt to deny that I think very highly of him — that I greatly esteem — that I like him’ — Emma Thompson as Elinor, S&S, screenplay

All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone — Pascal

IaninYvettesShoeAreablog
Ian among Yvette’s new shoe organizer — one of his morning places for 2 hour hiding out

Dear friends and readers,

Tonight driving over to our “Chinese take-out,” as we call it (I’ve no idea precisely what Asian people run the place) I saw Christmas lights outlining many houses, the first of the modern outside Christmas tree decorations that have spread, the balloon figures. Thanksgiving over the license to “do” your house up for Christmas has been put in place.

But for me, for us (I dare say, including Yvette in this) of the many times I’ve found holidays, especially Christmas, a hard ordeal to get through, none has been as stressful and trying as this one. I have been desperately unhappy. I hardly know why since the Admiral and I never made much of a fuss about Thanksgiving. Partly because he was English and there is no Thanksgiving in England (nor when he lived there, any Valentine’s Day, nor when growing up any New Year’s Day), or maybe because neither of us have any religious belief (and I’m with Godwin and Malcolm X on gratitude), there were years we didn’t have a turkey, especially once my father died and my mother stopped coming over. While Yvette was away in college and graduate school and Caroline had married, we almost succeeded in ignoring it.

Not quite. It’s hard to ignore what others are so insistent on acknowledging, and since getting on the Net, social life is continually in front of you if you are on-line a good deal — and he and I as well as our two daughters were and are. The last two years he was alive I did buy a turkey, he some nice vegetable from Farmer’s Market, we cooked our bird & veg, had champagne, three of us went for a walk in a self-conscious kind of way, so may be said to have observed Thanksgiving Day. Two years ago Yvette wrote a sincere blog telling what she was newly thankful for (a job!, our reunited family, the cats …)

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hayfield-moon-birdblog
Hayfield, Moon-bird — photo from England, this November, sent by a friend

They do — this triple whammy of late November with the days growing short, cold, dark, bleak as to foliage, the Saturnalia of Christmas and New Year’s — mark another year as passing. This has been the worst year of my life at the same time as at this time last year although I realized the Admiral was ailing, had been suddenly getting older for about a year before, things in him breaking down, I had no idea something mortal has wounded him. Last year at this time we were looking forward to many happy years of retirement together. Although unlike him I would not say we had a good chance of say 20 together (he’d cite a larger number), I did not think less than 1 was already the reality.

I’ve also been having some new realizations. Insights which I were I the self-improving sort truly (I am not that) I’d allude to as there’s an ill wind which does nobody any good. I’m seeing 3 (!) “head shrink” people. A psychiatrist who I find a waste of time: I can recall only one comment he has made which not been a platitude: it’s okay to lean on your daughter. Sometimes he does not realize he’s insulting me: do I want to hurt anyone else? He is ever pressuring me to take continuous drugs and I’m not going to do it. I re-tried zoloft (it’s cheap for Kaiser as an older drug) and have tried the lexipro I(ditto) and within 2-3 days they made me head-achy, woozy; I know they are dangerous (from the point of view of hemmorage). A social-worker psychologist who is a very nice woman, “cognitive therapist” which means she has learned to inculcate “positive thinking,” she listens attentively and offers upbeat advice. Sometimes she comes up with a good nugget I find useful to hold onto as I leave. It’s a paid friendship, $20 a throw.

Unexpectedly the grief support person has come through. I hardly remember who told me about “The Haven,” probably Kaiser people, also the Hospice, and yes the Jewish Social Service Agency woman who wanted to get rid of me because Kaiser will punish them if they allow patients to pay out of pocket for services Kaiser refuses to pay for. I’ve had an astonishing experience — one I was reeling from when I left Cheryl — that’s her name. “The Haven” looks like one. A little house where people who are mourning come to. The services there are for free, so I find it all the more ironic that she is the first person I’ve come across since I was 21 (& went to Jewish Social Services of NYC) who instinctively leads me into the kind of analysis of my past associated psycholanalysis, the talk therapy vindicated for real.

By talking freely of my childhood and how my parents lived as I saw it — now I’ll put it behaved towards me — she led me to see one real explanation of my fear of getting lost and why I panic so (get into deep distress) when I think I am lost. My anxiety over it all and my drive to return home when I’m anywhere else. It’s complicated and painful to explain but it makes sense. Why my mother made some very bad decisions for me early in life — for which I never forgave her. Well, in short she was getting rid of me, acts in which my father acquiesced, equally relieved. I was dumped at 18 months (to an aunt, my earliest memory is from this period, living in a Quonset Hut with my cousins); again at 3 years (to my Jewish grandparents & young aunt when my parents rented an apartment where no children were allowed), twice more (never mind details); and at 16 my mother facilitated the early marriage, got me to promise to lie about her participation, but then my father acquiesced. People have asked me, Why did they not do anything? I never thought about their surprise before. My father told me early on he wanted no more children; one nail in his coffin was enough; she said she took pills to get rid of me before birth. Didn’t work.

How does this help with grief? Well my reaction to Jim’s terminal illness and death is also a function of this. He became father, mother, sister, brother, all I had never had when young. He was utterly reliable; showed up on time; he never wanted me to go away; would never desert me. Would be there when I returned from wherever I had been.

I clearly love Jane Austen’s six major texts, and if I want to justify this to others, often talk of how I first read her at age 12-13 (P&P and S&S) and again at 15 (MP), so she is interwoven with my earliest traumas and if it’s true Doris Lessing might have done me more good, I didn’t know about her. I knew about Austen. And how I don’t read her for the romance at all, but the sentiments, thoughts of the text, narrator’s presence. A favorite line from P&P (and picked up as emphatic in the 1995 S&S) is that a basis for marriage is esteem and gratitude. Well I esteemed the Admiral and was intensely grateful to him. I also cling to her reasonableness, her steadiness, her sense of order and control. That way lies what peace there can be when alone. But not safety. Alas, not safety.

She suggested to me I write a letter to my mother, then one to my father. Apparently this is a technique grief support people practice. I don’t think I can – or can as yet – or maybe ever. I would do it truthfully or want to and it would be unbearably painful or I fear I’d end up berating myself. She was bringing me to see a pattern that if I could break it or understand it might help me understand my relationship with my daughters (as an unmothered mother) and maybe retrieve that some more. I could have had an appointment with her next week but I put it off to the next; now I’m sorry for this is the kind of thing one must work at without too much break. I know I cannot free myself but I could maybe draw out some thing to help myself or come to some resolution about my feelings towards lots of things.

I was all settled I thought for life as of summer 2012; I looked out to a calm quiet future (many HD opera seasons ahead); my future is still going to be quiet — indeed outwardly over this past week I didn’t do much, but I’ve known such ripping searing upheavals over the course of his illness — since he was diagnosed — as I never expected to have again.

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penguinfrontshotsmall
Fiber optic Christmas penguin I’ve named Colin: I won’t take him down from the attic this year

Holidays: what I like is quiet routine and low expectations. So now I shall admit to a problem in this my 2nd marriage. For many years was when I was a child I tried to be happy Christmas day; maybe when I was very young, say under 7, I was. But by 8 I knew my parents were very unhappily married and by 11 they stopped cooperating in the pretenses of Christmas. My father had let me know before that he wished I’d stop; my mother was Jewish and it was all a matter of indifference to her. Yet I kept up the effort.

Well, soon after marriage I discovered the Admiral strongly disliked Xmas. As a young child (2-4) he had lived in a condemned house: the UK local gov’t employees who harassed his family to leave produced the usual arguments: they must get out; no they have n where to help them to go to, and no money to facilitate this move; but they must get out. This came to a height one Xmas when there were no toys. There was no money for any. As a child he saw the hypocrisy of this: that everywhere it was asserted how wonderful this holiday was, presents galore, but no recognition of the actuality (that the poor got nothing). I know in that obituary I wrote for him I omitted how he hated his semi-public school for is analogous hypocrisies. How one Christmas in the freezing pouring rain and he and the other boys has to stand outside while a limousine passed by with some parliamentarians in it. He never forgot that.

For a number of years I contended with him to try to pretend for two daughters and way overbought for gifts. I spent ridiculously to see delighted faces the next morning. And yet I could not bear that the illusion really be believed in. Suffice to say in this public place when the girls entered adolescence and young teens I had to give it up; worse, with a sense of sneer and disruption I became distraught and suicidal.

So for two years he took me and Yvette out of the US to break this misery, to wipe away memories. We had a success in Paris — three weeks there. We went to theaters, we wandered about Paris, Versailles, took buses all sorts of places. I can half-speak certainly read French; if someone will speak slow I can understand. When we returned, we decided we’d make a new set of traditions and customs we’d hold to: Xmas day go to movie and have Chinese food. We called it an ironical Jewish observance — when I was young Jewish people did go out to movies and Chinese restaurants for Xmas Day. And Boxing Day we’d go to museum. No need to be happy, just pleasant, courteous, if possible seem cheerful. Caroline entered into the spirit of the endeavor. And we did keep this up more or less for about 12 years.

And we certainly had a successful way of getting through New Year’s. We’d buy tickets to a show at the Kennedy Center. Woolley Mammoth was there for a number of years and it was dead cheap, and we did spend too much for 3 years. But then we had the right to go into the great hall at 11 and dance the night away with a rock-and-roll or some modern band on one side and a small orchestra doing Strauss waltzes (alternatively) on the other. How I will get through that night and day this year I know not.

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GoogleMapblog
What we saw in on my computer google map — The PriusC one pictures a blue arrow and line telling you if you are on the road you ought to be to get where you’re going

I’ve said that my GPS system in my car no longer works right: there is no voice, no sound. A map and at the bottom a pictured silent direction. I went to the dealership and one guy claimed to have fixed it so the sound will come on. But there is no voice, and today Yvette and I spent over an hour and a half finding an ice-skating rink in DC where there was a worthwhile event to see: a competition among choreographers. She got her i-phone to produce directions; Caroline said mine had a voice GPS and herself produced it; but Yvette and I couldn’t manage to even bring up the GPS from google maps on our own, let alone make it speak. We returned to my house and I printed out a Google map from my computer at home. We managed to find it by leaving huge amounts of time, getting close and keeping our aim at DC. Without a voice to direct you at crucial points — like which pair of lanes on either side of a concrete divider where both are the same highway you should get into — you are soon far away from the exit the map tells you to get off at. When I saw Yvette would not try to go home, my aim became to avoid Maryland, and hers to follow the silent blue arrow on a blue line on our car google map silent at it was. At the bottom it also has the name of the next street to turn at and the name of the street you should be on with arrows to left and right (depending which turn you are to take). Finally we were in southeast DC. Then I stopped in gas stations and anywhere else there seemed to be reasonable people to ask local people where the Dupont Ice-Skating Rink is? And again a kindly black man took it upon himself to give me explicit pictured directions. I was to look for this store, for that sign, and so on. And so we got there.

So Izzy and I vowed to depend upon our will — we did get there, but only because she was determined. Lots of dangerous swerving and sitting on these islands of painted diagonals as the cars whizzed by us as we thought how to retrieve our position.

From the sublime to the ridiculous. How can I buy another GPS when the DVD I bought has caused me such trouble.

I did make the mistake of buying a multi-system multi-region DVD and it doesn’t work right — it plays European and British DVDS only (not multi-system) and to get one’s money back from Amazon is a trial. It works sort of. We (she and I) are again out of our depth. I did not get rid of my DVD player which plays American DVDs. So now I have both and I can unplug and replug each machine as needed. If my vlc viewer on my computer should become obsolete, I have an alternative — I own many British DVDs and without the Admiral if my vlc viewer becomes obsolete, I would simply lose all ability to play those. But our struggles with this machine became part of the endurance trials of existence without him.

I keep making these mistakes. My dishwasher has ceased to work right at all. It won’t even circulate the soap. When he was alive we tried to replace it but could not find anyone willing to install it for less than $1800. What to do?

Yvette called it a “rough week.” I have ever thought the public insistence on how happy all is a cruel enforcement of a mask. (See my blog on Philomena — an anti-thanksgiving movie?)

So that he’s not here has made even Thanksgiving important because we have such a struggle to get on without him and on top of that everywhere we look — on the Net is one — all these people are asserting how happy it is all, and you see these photos of groups of people smiling together. Had he been here and well, he’d have driven to the ice-skating rink and we’d have made our way back if we could — only I realize now he’d have probably had to pick us up. The way there by public transportation is two trains by metro and then a bus that runs once an hour.

ClarySleepingblogsmaller
Clary spends her days and nights near me: this is the library table in my work room

The cats miss the Admiral too. When she and I go for a week to be at an ice-skating event in Boston between January 5th and 13th, and they are left alone in the house with only visits from Caroline, Clary will have some sort of nervous collapse on and off.

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

Thao

We had been invited by a kind soul to join in their Thanksgiving: Carline’s mother-in-law whose husband is another of the millions of people victimized by the spread of cancer. We would become part of her family: Caroline, and Rob, and her daughter, and son-in-law and grandchildren. Her husband was having his chemotherapy two days before the Thursday and it was discovered his red blood cell count was frighteningly low. Chemotherapy kills red blood cells. He had to be hospitalized. I did have a beloved young friend Thao, and her partner come for dinner on Friday night (my birthday); Yvette and I decided we should not have so focused on that, though the good time was had.

Meanwhile we make these dream-travel plans. Fall 2014 Montreal for the JASNA. Next summer after this go to England and scatter his ashes. In 2016 Australia and New Zealand (a Trollopian trip). Is it realistic to think of NYC for her and Caroline for a US open? for me to go with a friend to country music weekends? more academic conferences? Hard to say. Will we have the money? There I go, not content to stay within my strength and ability. I must learn to do so and remember the old fideist maxim of Pascal.

Sylvia

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GlastonburyAbbeyblog
Jim inside the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey (summer 2004)

She tells her love while half asleep,
   In the dark hours,
     With half-words whispered low:
As Earth stirs in her winter sleep
   And puts out grass and flowers
     Despite the snow,
     Despite the falling snow
—Robert Graves (a favorite author for the Admiral, the poem quoted 2X in ASByatt’s Possession, one of my favorite neo-Victorian novels)

Dear friends and readers,

A dear friend told me that in some countries (or religions) people do something to remember someone who has died 40 days ago. It’s been 40 days since my beloved died.

You see above from a set of photos I’ve not used before: Jim looking up from the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey the summer we spent 3 weeks in England with Laura and Izzy. To commemorate someone you really need a group of people to do it with or some ritual. I don’t have that tomorrow. I’d love to go to Roosevelt Island where in the 1980s when the girls were young we’d go walking on weekends: there’s a footbridge one takes from Washington D.C. across to this island in the Potomac which is beautifully quiet (no cars) and I have good memories of those walks. Just now it may be a bit cold and rainy for such a walk and it’d be desolating alone.

So instead I’m remembering our trip to England in summer 2005, how we went to Stonehenge twice, to Avebury, & found a third set of stones called Stanbury Drew; our day in Bath (and walk in Prior Park); a day at Longleate (picnic), Somerset itself, Brighton Beach —

UnderUmbrellaBrightonblog
Under an umbrella — sunny England, summer 2005

and all the many Landmark Trust places Jim rented over the years which we’d spend anywhere from 3 to 7 days in, including a 15th century gatehouse with a Jacobean ceiling; a clock tower by the sea, a Duke’s hunting lodge (meant for hideaway — it has a bed in an alcove with a mirror above it); an Oxford flat; Elton House with its widestairs for 18th century invalids in wheelchairs and its Roman floor in the basement; John Betjeman’s flat on Cloth Fair near Smithfield in London.

Another friend sent me earlier this week (when I put “Let it Be” and “The Land of Might Have Been” on this blog) this poem by W.H. Auden:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Read aloud by Tom O”Bedlam

As I’ve said I am two people: one is continually on the move, doing things, going places, with people, reading, writing, watching movies, apparently cheerful except when she breaks down (like today when I became hopelessly lost after my GPS broke down and were it not for a kindly black man in his 30s or so who drove back to Alexandria from far away in McLean with me following him so as to get me near my home) or is driven wild with anxiety because a clerk in a bank couldn’t be bothered to mail in in time some forms she filled out, or is required to cope with some website beyond her ability to fathom. The other, the continuo basso is desperately unhappy; her prognosis 20 years. I’m nearly 67, surely I won’t live past 87.

A scene repeatedly comes back to mind: not the one when I was 19 and sat on a park bench with a friend and told her I was going somehow to spend the rest of my life reading and writing, which I usually think of as a turning point, when I repudiated just about all the values and goals I had been taught, especially the Tennysonian ones about striving, conquering, not yielding; I made that sharp turn from shoddy, the meretricious which cost so much and others seemed to want (and to me were just vexation of spirit) though how I’d do what I wanted, last I couldn’t guarantee. No, I keep recalling the one when I was nearly 23 and walking along a sidewalk in Manhattan, looked up at that godawful strip of a sky, around at the anonymous decrepit block, and made up my mind to return to England and marry Jim Moody — forthwith. I would not be alone; he could sleep the night through, was stable, would provide a measure of peace and I knew was wholly unlike the world I came from when it came to enjoying life through spending what money he had. I thought it’d be okay. I’d keep up my end; I knew what he wanted.

Thin scabs covered jagged wounds.

I’ve lost my bargain. I was not alert enough, sufficiently on the watch for the axe behind that door. I had never heard of esophageal cancer before April of this year, 6-7 short months ago. When he was in his forties and developed acid reflux disease so badly, I should have questioned him insistently. He never told me that I can remember that he had an herniated disk in his diaphragm and that was what caused this condition. The doctor gave him three different tough prescriptions until one began to relieve him, and then for a few years he’d have his liver and kidneys tested every 3 months because these endangered his organs. I do believe had I asked him what were these prescriptions for he would not have been able to tell me; he did not question the doctor. There was no internet then to look things up. No wikipedia. Instead I just accepted this as a new norm and when the doctor said he could take a weaker over-the-counter medication, was relieved and didn’t think to act when I saw how many tums he ate. Mind you, I’m told his smoking cigarettes for 20 years and then cigars for 3 more, his drinking could have caused this cancer. I don’t believe it. I believe it was the acid reflux within a toxic environment, and a family susceptibility to cancer.

No retrieval. No going back. He doesn’t exist any more.

He’ll come no more, / Never, never, never, never, never.

Lear wants to know why a dog, a horse, a rat have life and Cordelia no breath at all. I want to know why so many people seem to have cancer or got it and live on, for at least a while. Why are they alive and he not? He refused to fight. Would I have fought? I don’t know. I have certainly similarly refused to go a conventional route to keep my teeth. But then one does not die of a lack of teeth. I remember before he had that criminal operation he was suggesting he would do nothing at all; he said how horrible all cancer treatments were said to be. I said it was a question of his dying. He said, no it was when and how he’d die. So he knew. I wish I had instead of arguing no, we must do something, then proposed one last trip to England. His bargain became he would gain 5 more years by that operation and chemotherapy. He lost his bargain.

jimrobeblog
Fall 2013 — he was feeling a malaise, but we had no idea what was the cause — we did go to the doctor but the right questions were not asked; he was not yet having trouble swallowing

My character is what it ever was. And life returns to what it was — something of an ordeal I’m not good at. Yes I’ve accumulated with him, through him over the 44 years: I’ve got a widow’s pension, my very own social security, insurances, savings, a house, 2 cats, furniture, books and 2 daughters — and some life’s experience so I can teach if someone will give me a job — doubtful but if I am willing to do it for free …

My admiral did say before he died that I should not berate myself if I can’t do the things others expect me to and if I live here quietly, just do it. Don’t drive myself with what I can’t do. If I find myself mostly alone, live with it. It’s what I knew before I knew him. Explanations help: my Aspergers traits; his reclusiveness and isolating us; my job which made me invisible. But the pain of feeling excluded is not easier. Still, he repeated over and over I could survive without him. There would be enough money. He would have told me not to go to these psychologists — I go to 3, Kaiser provides a psychiatrist (2 visits thus far but I will not go again, it’s a waste of time and money — all this man wants to do is give me pills which make me woozy, give me headaches), a psychologist (clever nice woman, every week and a half) and now I’ve a grief support person (ditto, twice a month). In a way what they are is a way for me to keep at a distance what I’m facing; there’s the time getting there, being there, and coming back. The two women have given me helpful advice and I can talk for real about what I’m feeling. Carol Bechl said my problem very well: I’ve lost my best and central friend.

Forty nights have not quickly dreamed away the time, but the time has slipt away. I should be trying for what was good, remember what was good — what hurts is they will come no more.

JimandmeNIagaraFallsblog
Jim and me at Niagara Falls (Izzy took the photo), May 2008

I can do this: I finished reading for him the last book he was reading when he could read no longer, when his brain gave out and he couldn’t process the words and his eyes were too tired to read a a thorough book: he stopped about one-third into Carolyn Steedman’s great Labours Lost: Domestic Service and the Making of Modern England. It’s actually a typical book for him, the kind he liked to read. I’ll make a blog on Austen Reveries as it’s centered on research in the 18th century England.

I have found two more good books written by people who have lost a spouse to death from cancer: Terry Tempest Williams: Refuge: An unnatural history of family and place (the slant is how environmental toxins have killed her family members, especially about her mother); and Jean-Louis Fournier’s ironic Veuf. I’d like to get Julian Barnes’s Levels of Life, but it’s still expensive, only one-third is a memoir (it’s padded) and I haven’t gotten to the library. I did begin a biography of Jane Kenyon by John H. Timmerman.

Sylvia

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