I wrote a brief letter to Kathy, an old friend of Bernie’s from Boston University days in the late forties, early fifties telling her that Bernie died. Then I went on a trip to New Jersey to see my daughter and her family. When I returned, I had mail from her husband, Bob. Bad development.
He wrote to say that Kathy was fine with “no apparent mental or physical decline until two months before she died of pancreatic cancer” on May 23rd.
What a bummer. I liked her so much. She had a great sense of humor and was always fun. Now Bob wante to talk to me. I’ll call him.
I left a message on his machine and he called thirty minutes later. We spent a half hour discussing the past and reviewing Kathy’s and Bernie’s old friends: Ted Moynahan, Kenny Donahue, Julian Moynahan, Jack Grant. Ted had been married to Kathy and they had three kids. Julian who had taught at Princeton, was Ted’s brother. Ted spent a large part of his life marching in parades, the kind of parade protesting things. Kenny Donahue had spent a lot of time in Ireland, part of it living in a cottage on the Guinness estate, thanks to one of the Guinness’s.
Jack was a friend of Bernie’s from Harvard. I’d given up finding his address until I ran across it today on my Rolodex while looking for someone else, I forget who. He was the best man at our wedding. And the only man I knew who was smarter than Bernie.
I must call him.
Bernie’s papers, so many files and file holders and boxes with papers in them that I have to get rid of. And so many need shredding. My daughter is right: I have to get a bigger shredder. Loads of papers, some of them mine.
But instead of shredding papers, I sit in my living room with the window open and feel the soft breeze come in. The birds–robins, young Cardinals and Catbirds–flit past. They get bird seed at my neighbor’s feeder and come eat the seed in my dogwood. Well, not mine exactly. It is just in front of my cottage. The twitsy birds jump around the branches of the tree. I believe they knocked off all the buds of the dogwood. There were no blossoms. I doubt if they ate the buds–no nourishment there.
Behind my house is a swamp. I can’t see it any more because the vines have taken over. Some grasses and wild roses support the vines. They have stopped growing upward and lean over. A day later I saw new fronds of the vine go out sideways, always reaching for something to climb. Jurassic Park. I don’t like it.
It’s due to all the rain we got in the Spring. Too many leaves on the trees. The charming country roads we have, shaded by the trees are now all but closed over with massive amounts of leaves on all the branches. When I notice them, I perceive them as somewhat threatening.
Rain is falling softly now. I won’t have to water my garden tomorrow! But more vines will grow and wave in tomorrow’s breezes.
I think I’ll take my papers to Staples and let them shred them.
Thinking of Bernie tonight. He died last week. It’s already last week and not tonight, or yesterday or Wednesday night. Soon it will be two weeks. Then on July 13, I go to Prince Edward Island, Canada. I’ll be thinking of him all the while I’m there. It’s his home, his place that he and his late brother inherited from their mother, Sara, who got it from her brother, Pius, who inherited it from their father, Angie Ban Mac Donald. Light-haired Angus.
Bernie missed going the last two years. Last year I decided to go with our son and daughter-in-law. I had to tell him I was going. He said, “When do I go?” It broke my heart. I had to tell him he couldn’t go: he was in a wheelchair, there was no way to get him into the house, etc, etc. It broke my heart and I felt it broke his. No wonder I didn’t enjoy myself. This year there is no one to tell. Is that better?
I talk about his death as though I had something to do with it, as though was in charge. All ego.
No, he died because he was ready for it. He’d stopped eating or drinking. Whether he chose to stop or not didn’t matter. It happened.
The night he died, he quietly bid his aide good night, gave him a slight wave of his hand, closed his eyes and was gone. Peaceful and simple. When I arrived thirty minutes later, he was there but had left us. Cold hands, face silent. Released into peace
I’ve got a new book, The Upside of Stress, by Kelly McGonigal. She conceives of stress as a source of energy that I can use to solve the problem that caused the stress. Instead of saying, “I’m too stressed to go online to get our airplane tickets”, I talk to myself. Do I want to go to Florida? Yes, I really do. And besides, my friend Mollie expects me to make the reservations for our trip.
So not only do I have a strong desire to get away from the bad weather in January, but my friend is expecting me to do it. So my values are involved. Not only does Florida have a high value for me in January, But so does my friendship. I can’t call her up and say, “I’m too scared to make these reservations.”
All of this, plus memories of past plane reservations I arranged for Bernie and me, got me to the computer and in a few moments I was was on familiar ground: the Southwest site for buying plane tickets. It was only a matter of minutes before I had to tickets. Fearlessly, I went ahead and rented a car. Whoopee! Now we were really going.
If people take time to write out their values, it alerts them the next time they are stressed. They remember their values and turn the stress into energy to solve their problem. Tend-and-befriend is another mindset that helps. If you put your worry aside to help others, your stress will disappear.
So the next time you feel stressed, and you will, turn it into pure energy and work out a way to solve your problem. Your body will thank you.
…I tried going to bed at 9. I couldn’t sleep. I tried meditation but it didn’t help. Then I suddenly realized I’d forgotten to take my pills, two of which help me to fall asleep and stay asleep.
I had been misled by two things. First, my eyes were bothering me. I have dry eyes and I need to put drops in them regularly, which I rarely do. So my dry, sleepy eyes convinced me I was tired and sleepy. Tired, yes, sleepy, no. After 45 minutes in bed, my eyes are no longer sleepy and neither was I.
Second, I’ve been falling asleep very quickly these past few nights. I assumed this was another such night. No, it wasn’t. That’s why I wrapped myself in my old, warm red bathrobe and sat in my chair in my cottage at Creamery Brook. I started watching, as I had before I went to bed, the headlights of a vehicle parked at the apartment building. They were slowly dimming as they have been on for over an hour.
Why would someone do that? If they have no headlights, they can’t drive home. I assume anybody with a vehicle wants to drive home or is asleep in their bed at Creamery Brook. But I sat and watched until I felt sleepy. Then I went to bed and to sleep.
Good luck to the owner of that truck.
P.S. The next morning…no truck or vehicle there. A mystery.
…helped me find my way home two weeks ago. I got lost on Route 91 from TE Greene Airport. I missed the turn onto Rt. 295 (I was driving too fast) which would have taken me to Rt. 6, to Connecticut. Instead, I found myself on the streets of Cranston. I now know that it wasn’t a sensible place to be. I ended up at a Mobil Station. I went inside, leaving Mollie alone in the car. She promptly locked the doors.
I started asking confused questions of a woman who said nothing but pointed to someone else, the one who turned out to be the smartest woman in Cranston. She understood my anxious questions. She said she could help and picked up her cell phone. She plotted out the directions and then took a 81/2 by 11 inch sheet of plain paper and printed the directions for me. My God! the only person in the U.S. who can print! Did you know that nobody can print anymore? Or write, either.
I took the directions gratefully and went out to the car. Molly unlocked the doors. I/we followed the directions and Bingo! I was on Rt. 295. I cautiously made my way to Rt 6 and happily bounced over the terrible road that Rt 6 is in in Rhode Island. Gad! What roads they have.
We made it home, to my house, I mean. Mollie put her bags in her car which we had left in my garage and gratefully took herself to her home.
I just wish I could thank that woman and her directions. It turned out we wanted Exit 2, not 12 as she had written on her direction s, but that wasn’t a problem. All I saw was Route 295, the gateway to the road home. Hallelujah.
P.S. I don’t want to focus on this woman too much. I can see her boss, after she’d told him how much she’d helped us. “Did she buy anything? Gas or something?” “Well, no. She…” “Well, hell, you coulda sold her some gas, or a pack of cigarettes. Is that too much to ask?” Surly boss leaves. Smartest woman wishes she’d never laid eyes on me.
I’ve been to Florida, I’m glad to say. As the trip came nearer, I thought–oh! is it worth all this preparation: remembering pills and swim suits and summer shorts (but hasn’t it been cold down there?), and a clock and some teabags, and so on.
Then there’s the plane trip. Trips: of course we changed planes in Baltimore, and then we had to pick up our rental car which I couldn’t figure out how to drive and so made Mollie, my traveling companion, drive to Ft. Myers Beach. Which took a full hour. How come?
At any rate we made it to our cottage. And then we needed dinner. Tequila Joe’s was down around the corner. Really awful. But we got enough food in us to fall into bed.
The next day was lovely but I wore my parka for our walk. I need to walk so I can stop using a cane. Every morning thereafter, I’d have my hot tea, write in my journal and then walk to the end of the street and back, about 25 minutes. Or less.
The weather was not always good, but we did fine. We seemed to be eating or talking about eating all the time. At four p.m. we’d join our landlord and his partner at happy hour under the breezeway. The outside bar had burned down due to overworked wiring. Our Tennessee friends, Tilly and Shirley, joined us too.
I never did swim in the pool or soak in the hot tub. But that’s okay. Florida didn’t look at all like Northeastern Connecticut and that was what mattered: a complete change of scene. Once I recovered from our drive home the day we came back–lost in Cranston, Rhode Island!–that is what I realized. Happy to be gone, happy to be home.