eternally terminal

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
wheelchair ramp built by my son and my brother-in-law ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Whenever I make the hour drive north to sit with my father, I use the time to listen to my iPod play list, set on shuffle. It’s kind of like drawing cards, I listen for messages in the string of songs it “selects” for the day. Since I have 1,328 songs on my “car” play list, there is always something “new” to contemplate. Or, if Dave Matthews’ The Best of What’s Around comes on (I have fourteen versions of it, including studio demos and live performances), I might hit the repeat button again and again to energize myself with the sentiments expressed for dealing with an often discouraging situation.

Yesterday I started connecting some dots… Last week I wrote about changing perceptions and mentioned the tetralogy by Sigrid Undset, The Master of Hestviken, a story about the lives of Ingunn and Olav, set in medieval Norway. I mentioned all the waiting the characters had to do. This week I started and finished the second book, The Snake Pit, and started the third, In the Wilderness.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
woodland garden ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

I’ve noticed that most of the blogs I like to read have a theme or a focus, like art, history, nature, photography, places, poetry, quotes, writing, etc. And at times I feel left out because I can’t seem to find a theme for my blog. Others seem to have more time to pursue their interests, careers and dreams. But at this point in time my energy is focused on waiting!

Last month, when writing about the volcano in Iceland I observed that years ago people used to respect the power of Mother Nature and they did their best to live in harmony with it. It seems like today we are determined to carry on with our plans with no regard whatsoever for the weather, the seasons, the climate, or natural disasters.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
dianthus ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Well. Isn’t dying a part of nature? Doesn’t it sometimes take a very long time to die? Am I doing my best to live in harmony with this reality? In The Master of Hestviken, when a character became incapacitated or gravely ill, his or her family would take turns “watching with” the one who was bedridden. Sitting by the bedside of a dying loved one was an honor and not considered a waste of time. Surely other pursuits were neglected and other plans put aside, but that was the way it was done. Even if a person lingered near death for years, like Ingunn did at the end of her life.

So I think this will be my focus, what I think about and what I observe around me as I “watch with” my father. Emotionally refreshed, I arrived at the house my parents built themselves when I was a preschooler, and went inside.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
captain’s bell ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

After greeting everyone, I went to use the bathroom. I couldn’t help noticing next to the toilet what appeared to be a plunger made out of a silver-toned metal. Huh?? Could not comprehend what I was looking at… So I picked it up to move it out of the way and it started ringing very loudly! It was a huge bell!! It struck me so funny – what on earth was a bell doing next to the toilet? The more I laughed the more it clanged and I heard my sister asking, “What is she doing?” and then my brother-in-law teasingly inquired, “Do you need some help in there?” Haven’t laughed so hard in ages!

Turns out it is Dad’s new bell to ring when he’s alone and needs someone. The little bell he had previously just wasn’t loud enough to wake anyone up and it was getting to be too hard for him to pick up and grasp. Beverly found this “Captain’s Bell” somewhere and now he’s back in business.

Now that I had arrived my brother-in-law took off for parts unknown and the grocery store. As he is the primary care-giver, a trip to do errands and go food shopping is a real break for him that he enjoys. My sister had been up much of the night with Dad, so she went upstairs to take a nap. And I brought Dad’s bell back to him and began “watching with” him. We talked for a little, he’d ask about the book I was reading and I’d tell him a bit about it and then he’d fall asleep. Twenty minutes later he’d wake and ask another question and then he’d fall asleep again.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

After a while, the cat, Bernie, started yowling to go outside. Dad suggested I take him for a walk in the woods, so I did, knowing that monstrous bell would wake my sister if he needed anything. Bernie and I had a splendid walk! I had hoped to encounter Harriet, a wild turkey hen who has been hanging around lately. I think we heard her, but I couldn’t see her.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
spruced up space to store canned foods
5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Something else was new in the house. My parents had always used space between the studs in the wall of the stairway going down to the basement for storing canned goods. I did a double take as I walked past the opened basement door. My brother-in-law had dry walled and painted the stairway and added shelf paper under the cans! I thought of Kathy’s ‘playing with your food’ blog and snapped a picture of it.  πŸ™‚

In the evening we were all amused by the antics of two adorable baby red squirrels who couldn’t figure out how the adult red squirrels made the jump from the tree to the bird feeder. No good pictures – they’re fast little things!

The joke in our family is that Dad is eternally terminal. (Fear not, he finds this very amusing coming from a family with a delightfully dark sense of humor.) His “little” sister, who is 80, came to visit him from Maryland last week. She says he’s like a potted plant. Every time it seems to be almost dead it revives with a little watering and/or plant food. Maybe he’s a succulent. There’s no way of knowing when the end will come, but I feel a little more settled now about making the best of whatever time there is remaining, the best of what is now. “Watching with” Dad.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
potted succulents on stone wall built by my dad
5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

13 thoughts on “eternally terminal”

  1. Barbara,

    I think you have done wonderfully here! This is alot like Kathy’s blogs, You have taken us on a personal journey, with your thoughts, your action, your photos, your feelings.
    You have shared your spiritual practice with your music, and even the books your reading… You are sharing your wonder and confusion with death and dying.
    The Tibetan’s have this practice of the visiting and caring for the dying, setting with them, taking to them, honoring the process, for it seem to relieve our personal fear of dying as well as a way to honor the person life and respecting another aspect of our selves, the transition from this Life to the Next!

    I am Love, Jeff

    1. Thank you, Jeff, your encouragement and kind words mean a lot to me! “Honoring the process.” I like that Tibetan idea. Sometimes people are very uncomfortable when the subject of dying comes up. But it’s such a big part of my life right now, it’s a relief to talk about it openly. Thank you so much!

  2. Barbara, there is a line in John Fowles’ novel, The Magus, which goes something like this: “There comes a time in ones life when we must stop becoming and simply start being.” What strikes me about your post, particularly in reference to what your blog is about, is that your writing has already shifted from a state of becoming to a state of being. Having a singular theme is only one way of approach; your candid perspective on a variety of issues is the essence of your blog. I admire the shifting sands of your writing, from your father’s bell beside the toilet to wind farms whirling off the coast, from a memory of your mother to an apt quote that illuminates a conversation. Your writing certainly has a theme, and an important one at that, there simply isn’t a single word that encompasses its breadth. And that’s a very good thing….

    1. Thank you, Julian, now I’ve added The Magus to my wish list… I see it is set on a Greek island… I know my perceptions have been changing in recent years, and perhaps you’ve named if for me, from becoming to being. Thanks for the expression, shifting sands, the seashore teaches us that things are always flowing and different, and yet eternal at the same time. Shifting sands – it’s a metaphor than sings to me. Your kind observations have helped put the wind back in my sails!

  3. What a marvelous perspective. Some of the old ways are really much better for everyone concerned.

    I think your ?? pink and white flower might be daphnis?????

    Wow, them ipod thingys sound really useful!! I have a similar smartphone but am just starting to use the ipod-type function. You’re inspiring me!!!

    1. OM, I still have to look up those flowers, thanks for the lead… Technology has its magic! It’s nice to create one’s own play list and have music ready for any occasion! I’ve also got “meditation” and “winter solstice” play lists, among others… Once you get the hang of it you’ll find in indispensable! πŸ™‚

  4. Barbara, I experienced this blog with you; as my father passed on last month, I realize the preciousness of your experience being able to be with yours as much as possible.
    I have also enjoyed the comments on the blog, which enrich it, and will add that the simplicity of your sharing draws me in to depths that are are hinted at in the daily experience of living.

    Thank you.

    1. So sorry to hear about your father, Meenakshi. I went over to your blog last night and was touched by your beautiful story about him, too… I hope to catch up with you and everyone else’s blogs today – last night I was exhausted after a weekend of gardening and another long day at my dad’s… Thank you for adding to the encouragement all these amazing comments have given me!!

  5. I liked this blog a lot, too. (Loved the food label shot! You were playing with food, too…) The question of a theme comes up within blogging a lot. We are such complicated people. Do we want to limit ourselves to only one facet of ourselves?

    Let’s say we’re posting nature photos. Do we want to limit ourselves to only a nature blog? (I did that last year and found it limiting because it only expressed one side.)

    This year I am putting in everything but the kitchen sink in my blog–nope, put that in, too, I’m sure. It seems that this turns off some readers because they want a theme…but it turns on some readers because it’s a more fleshed-out picture of an individual life.

    I like your blog exactly as it is! πŸ™‚

    1. πŸ™‚ The synchronicity about the food labels struck me, too. Of all the imaginable home-improvement projects for my brother-in-law to decide to tackle at this point in time, happening at the same time as Kathy and her friends are photographing food labels…

      Thank you for liking my blog! When Jeff said my blog was like yours I took it as the best of compliments! And I think I see what you’re saying in that we all have evolving and complex layers of personality, experience and perception – so no more limits or searching for themes and focuses!!!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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