caregiving


I’ve been doing some clean-up work on my blog, trying to eliminate duplications and other messes that happened long ago when I transferred it from LJ to Dreamwidth. It’s never been a high-priority thing, but something I dip into when I’m in the mood to do something fairly mindless (and kidding myself it’s productive). (Or as a time waster instead of writing, but we won’t talk about that.)

I ran across an old post from June of 2011 which was just at the beginning of my caregiving for my mother when she was on peritoneal dialysis and still able to do most things for herself. That changed in September of that year when she had her stroke—but that’s not the point of this post. Apparently, in June I had just finished my last read through/clean up of my second completed novel, Blood Geek. I think maybe I had the idea of self-publishing. That idea was overtaken by my mother’s illness and never came about. It’s just as well, I suppose. It was a decent effort, but not my best work.

But that’s not the point of this post, either. In the above-referenced post I was talking about the strange parallel of writing a novel (almost twenty years prior at that point) about a woman whose early life had been constrained by caring for her sick mother. She was just about to break free and live life for herself. In 2011 I was rather amazed by the “haunting echo, now that I am helping to care for my own mother, that keeps bouncing through the chambers of my heart. It’s a little disturbing. I knew more than I thought I knew back then.” But in June of 2011 I had no idea, really, of what was to come, how consuming caregiving would be, how it would leave no room for anything but working and caring, how it squeezed out all time for anything like creativity.

But again, that’s not the point of this post. This is, this paragraph I came across:

And now I am in a different phase of my life. I have no vision for what comes next. I can’t see that far beyond the day-to-day. I do know that when I get back to writing something new again, I don’t want it to echo that day-to-day in the slightest. Which is not to say I might not use some of these characters again—in fact, I fully intend to. But they will be engaged in some other enterprise, something that blows the doors open to other worlds with no fences.

What blows the doors off my mind on this day, in 2020, is that I am writing new things again, and the new novel I’m writing does involve some of the same characters—in a whole new enterprise, a whole new process of growth and transformation. (And I am going through that transformation with them.) I haven’t really thought about these characters much in the last nine years, although one of them, Carmina, kept popping up now and then to insist she had a story I really needed to tell. I poked at her story over the years, but beyond the first two chapters, nothing gelled. I didn’t start last year thinking she will be the one. I started last year just trying to write something, anything. And then I wrote a completely different novel in a completely different universe. Also one I’d used before, but nothing to do with these characters.

Yet here I am. Happy and more than a little surprised that this fall Carmina’s story finally took off.

And that’s why I say that no story I have ever committed to paper or electrons (or, hell, even the ones that knock around in my head that I haven’t bothered to do that with) is every truly dead—until I am. Or until my brain blows out. Even my first completed novel, which if I have anything to say about it will never see the light of day, has produced nuggets that I have mined and used in later books. Like the clerk in the dead parrot sketch of Monty Python fame keeps insisting, these stories are not dead. Even if I’m not aware of them on a conscious level, they’re still in there. Resting.

Random quote of the day:

“The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.”

—Robert Fulghum, It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

I’ve been working with the Marseille tarot lately and I quite like it. I’ve been finding a lot of clarity with it. When I “interviewed” the deck it said that its strength was in helping me reconcile conflicts [Temperance] and that has proved to be the case. I used it to find clarity with what the Knight of Swords has been trying to tell me and that seems to have worked. I basically told the Knight if I hadn’t gotten the message correct, he should show up again and so far he hasn’t. Fingers crossed.

This Marseille deck came to me in a strange way. Many years ago Llewellyn publishing offered a subscription service called, “Enhancing Your Mind Body Spirit.” The basic deal was that for a low monthly fee they would send you how-to cards and spiritual chatchkes on a variety of New Age stuff. (This was back before New Age became a subject of much mockery.) What can I say? It sounded like a good idea at the time.

It wasn’t long before I realized it was a diletante’s dream: one month I’d get an essence oil and/or incense and/or a couple of rune stones (building towards a full set) and/or small crystals, et al., and some cards I could file in my special notebook on such subjects as Reiki, aroma therapy, astrology, or whatall. Some months I would get a few Llewellyn reproduction cards from the Marseille tarot.

Although I almost never used the how-to cards (they were superficial treatments at best and designed mostly, I think, to get you to buy Llewellyn books on subjects that caught your fancy), the subscription was relatively cheap and I liked the chatchkes. I also had a lot more disposable income back then, so I let the thing ride much longer than I would have otherwise. But I did reach a point where I thought it was ridiculous and was just about to cancel the membership when Llewellyn sent a notice that they weren’t making enough money on this scheme and would discontinue the service. They phrased it nicer than that, but that’s the essence. They also said members shouldn’t worry about the partial rune and tarot decks or the incomplete cards sets because they’d send out one final large chatchke shipment. When I got mine, it had a complete set of runes, a complete Marseille deck (leaving me with about one and a third sets each), a final set of how-to cards and crystals and oils and incense. I put everything away and didn’t think about it again.

Until I pulled this Marseille deck out of my tarot box recently. There was no accompanying interpretation booklet. I suspect there were cards for that but in the chaos following my mother’s stroke in 2012 and the caregiving that followed, I put them somewhere “safe.” I’ve never found them again, of course. So I downloaded this, the late Yoav Ben Dov’s “CBD Tarot de Marseille” interpretation guide.

I quite like using this guide. So maybe that’s I find this deck so soothing at the moment. That’s at least one good thing that came out of Llewellyn. I know many people are skeptical of them these days, but back in the olden, pre-internet days, they were one of the only places—besides musty old esoteric libraries or specialist/used bookstores—that you could find stuff on mysticism and the occult. The internet has brought a fundamental sea change in these studies, but I am still grateful for those life rafts Llewellyn set adrift. They let me know that I may have been seriously weird, but at least I wasn’t alone.

Yesterday I spent nearly four hours transcribing my mother’s memoir. It’s a huge job, the bulk of which I did years ago, but I’d printed it out at a certain point with lots of footnotes asking Mom questions about things. She dutifully went through everything, often answering questions, sometimes not. Those answers are what I’ve been transcribing.

I’ve felt a pressure to get this done lately so I can pass it on to interested parties in the family—or outside. I even dreamed about it the other night. After talking to a 90-year-old relative yesterday (still perky and independent, thank the gods) it hit home profoundly that Old Time, she’s a-flying. So, I took a break from my own writing to concentrate on this.

My mom had a remarkable life in her not-quite-94 years, ranging from cattle drives and log cabins to Rosie the Riveter to the digital age and voting for the first African American president. She has a lively stream of consciousness writing style. Her sense of humor and spunk come through clearly, her sense of adventure and fun and unself-conscious grit. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but sometimes it’s frustrating. She’ll toss out stuff like going to see big bands at the Aragon Ballroom during World War II and I’ll ask her to tell me more about it: what did the ballroom look like, what did the people wear, what did the bands play, what kind of crowd was there, etc. All the telling details that make a scene come alive. Sometimes she’ll go into more detail, sometimes I can tell she’s bugged by my questions and she’ll write things like, “It was a long time ago. I don’t remember.” Or worse, “It was just an ordinary ballroom.”

Because, of course, for her it was just an ordinary ballroom. It was hard for her to conceive of the fact that people don’t live like that anymore. Sometimes when I’d point that out to her, she’d perk up and go into nice, rich detail. But not always. My questions, I think, were sometimes a chore to her.

I keep repeating to myself as I transcribe, “She’s the writer, not me. It’s not the way I would have approached it, but this is her memoir, not mine.” And she wasn’t striving for a literary work, just a walk down memory lane to share with me and whoever else might want to read it. I’ve tried to leave things as she relayed them. On a couple of occasions when her memories overlapped mine and she’d resisted my requests for more detail, I’ve filled in the blanks trying to match her style, but I’ve kept that to a minimum. Her story, her words.

The vast majority of this was before her stroke, before the incredible time and energy suck of caregiving. Before the long, slow slide of my grief years, before I could face a project like this. Years.

After the stroke, my mom’s mind was still lively (thank the gods) and her memories intact, but her vision was seriously impaired. Her handwriting, always somewhat of a challenge, got more challenging as time went by. But still she persisted—and so do I.

I got almost all of the footnote answers transcribed. And near the end, when my own end was going numb and my stomach was growling and I thought it was time to stop for the day, I came across several more handwritten pages. More material, untranscribed. Some of it must have been written years past, long before the stroke. Others were clearly after, getting on towards the last years. I tried reading those, and it’s going to be touch and go, frankly. I didn’t despair at finding new work. I grieved that she was no longer around to clarify things, to ask for more details, to be bugged by my questions.

But that’s the ephemeral nature of existence. I’ll do my best with Mom’s legacy. I know in my heart she appreciates what I’ve already done.

But Old Time, she’s a-flying.

Green Men are found in many cultures. They are commonly a symbol of rebirth and regeneration, the spring greening that inevitably follows the dying of winter. I’m fascinated with them. I have two of them, one in the back yard garden near the peach tree:

IF

The lovely lady to the left of him is the Roman goddess Flora, and the lady on the right is simply named Ivy. The man himself is cast iron and ages gracefully, rusting in interesting patterns.

I also have a Green Man inside:

greenmancloseup-sm-1

He’s smaller, also made of metal, but I doubt he’s copper as the green of him suggests. I believe the “aging” on this one is artificial—but I still think he’s rather cool. I’d have more Green Men if I had the space and money (so it’s probably a good thing I don’t). I like the ones with serious and slightly sinister expressions, and I like them to be made of serious natural materials like metal, not these comical cast resin ones that you see here and there and everywhere (though I admit, Flora and Ivy are cast resin). Why am I so fascinated with these Green Man images?

I’m a city girl, born and raised. If I want to get in touch with Serious Nature, I have to drive quite a ways out of town, and when I was a kid we never left town, unless it was to drive to Pomona for the county fair or to Disneyland in Anaheim. There wasn’t enough money for anything else, nor any time and inclination with my parents working hard. It just wasn’t in the program. As a consequence, I was 18 before I ever went on a real vacation, and as for nature spots? Mom didn’t see much sense in going places where you had to sleep on the ground and cook over campfires. She’d had enough of that “nonsense” in her roughing-it country girl days and found no romance in the experience. Why would any sensible human being want to give up modern conveniences?

So I grew up having to take nature where I found it. Fortunately, back in the olden days of Los Angeles, there still existed patches of it here and there. An immense vacant lot existed on my block on Fourth Avenue in Venice, for one. (It is now a public storage facility.) For another, my father planted a magical garden every year, a place of communion and nourishment. (I’ll discuss that another time, in The Green Man, Part II.) Occasionally, I got to visit my older brother in the Santa Monica mountains, where my nieces and nephews (all mostly older than me) would lead me on fantastical trips over the hill and through the woods following streams…until we popped out of the rough onto the manicured lawns of the Bel Air Country Club golf course. Then we’d hightail it back into the woods. These things were extremely important to me, as were long walks on the beach, about five blocks west of where we lived.

I loved the beach best when it was cold and rainy, partly because the things that drifted up on shore—the glass, the driftwood, the truly odd and puzzling things, were more interesting and less picked over by other beach walkers. Mostly, though, it was because I could walk there on cold days without much interference from other people, thinking my thoughts, communing with the vast rolling heart of the sea, feeling the chill pierce me to the bones. That chill always felt purifying rather than cold. I could not return from those walks with any black spots in my spirit. The wind off the sea blew them all away and gave me bliss in return.

That garden and that vacant lot saved my sanity during childhood; those walks along the sea saved my adolescence. Nature, my small neighborhood version of it, never failed to renew me. That, I think, is part of why I am so fascinated with the symbolic representation of nature: I want to recapture, to remind myself, of that need for renewal, that need to physically get out and get in touch with something green and greater than the mere mortal.

In my twenties I went on long hikes in the Angeles Crest. It’s a great, sprawling wilderness within easy driving distance of Los Angeles. Some of it, like Dart Canyon, is at a low enough elevation that on smoggy L.A. days the bad air penetrates them. You have to hike higher up if you want to avoid the city pollution. But on lovely, clear days Dart Canyon is a enchanted place, with maple and sycamore trees, waterfalls, the ruins of cabins and of a lodge destroyed in a great destructive flood in the 1930s. Higher up, there’s pine forest, ski summits, abandoned mines, and scrambling over big boulders to cross streams.

Those hikes were literally peak experiences for me: cleansing, renewing, exhilarating.

My favorite parts of any vacation, whether in this country or another, have been those times when I get into the countryside, touch the green, listen to the birds, feel the wind sweep through my spirit and blow away the black clouds. Nature is my touchstone.

These days—and in the long years of caregiving—that touchstone is mostly limited to the back yard. There wasn’t much time for anything else when Mom was alive; these days I still seem to be decompressing from that experience, trying to recoup my energy and my creativity. I’m far enough away from the beach that I’d have to drive, find parking, and my legs…no.

But the funny thing is, it doesn’t really take Grand Nature for me to get that sense of renewal. The Green Man is alive, curling in every leaf and bud; his skin is easy beneath my palm in the smooth trunk of my peach tree; he dances in the swaying branches of the white willow that volunteered to grow in my yard. All I have to do is sit for a few minutes, enclosed by walls and trees and wildish overgrown patches, listening to the birds, smelling peach blossoms, feeling the earth and grass under my bare feet…and the magic still happens. I am there. He is there. I am lifted up, I am renewed. Maybe the Green Man is watching over me, I don’t know. All I know is that I am grateful.

http://folklorelei.livejournal.com/9128.html

 

mansion from the street crop photo mansion from street crop_zpsmb1fonxb.jpg
It doesn’t look creepy from the street, nestled in the hills near the Greek Theatre, with a view of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Ennis House from its backyard, but there is a place here in Los Angeles steeped in madness, murder, and obsession. In truth, there are many places like that in L.A., but this one is especially eerie not just for what happened there but for the long, weird aftermath of what happened: a perfect petri dish for urban legends, ghostly tales, and obsessive-compulsive behavior. It’s known as the Los Feliz Murder Mansion and it’s gotten more than its share of byplay on the internet. Hardly a blogger of uncanny stuff in Los Angeles has been able to resist its siren call. Oh, and the Ennis House? You may remember that from the original Vincent Price version of House on Haunted Hill. It was used for the exterior shots. The movie was released the very same year that the Los Feliz Murder Mansion became infamous.

I suspect most people’s obsession with the place began with this article from 2009 by Bob Pool, writing for the Los Angeles Times. That’s certainly when mine began.

la times pix sm photo latimes pix sm_zpsjiscza0s.jpg
In a nutshell: in the early hours of December 6, 1959, Dr. Harold Perelson, a heart surgeon, bludgeoned his wife to death in her sleep with a balpeen hammer, then tried to do the same to his eighteen-year-old daughter, Judye. His daughter fought him off, screaming, and woke up the two younger children in the house who came running to find out what was going on. Dr. Perelman told them they were having a nightmare and to go back to sleep. They went back to their rooms, but the interlude allowed Judye to escape down the long, winding driveway of the mansion to a neighbor. By the time the police arrived, Dr. Perelson had drunk either poison or acid (reports vary) and killed himself. The two younger children were safe in their rooms.

A horrible tragedy, but one that would probably have faded with time because, unfortunately, this is a scenario that has been encountered in the news many times. But here’s where the obsession kicks in. You see, the house was bought at a probate sale in 1960 by a couple named Emily and Julian Enriquez. It’s said (though I no longer remember where I read this) that the family moved in with their son, Rudy, for a very brief time, and moved back out again suddenly, leaving all the Perelson furniture and possessions behind—and, it’s said, some of their own. Since then, for more than fifty years, the mansion has sat abandoned. The Enriquez family used it over the years to store things, but to this day you can peak into its windows and see covered mid-century modern furniture, 1950s-era newspapers and magazines, Christmas presents, board games, an ancient TV, and other bric-a-brac of life back then.

interior shots photo interior shots_zpsvbda7d0i.jpg
In 1994, Rudy Enriquez inherited the mansion from his mother. He has continued their non-use of the place, steadfastly refusing all offers to buy it. The house itself is now so derelict it’s probably a tear-down, but the real estate it sits upon is some of the priciest and most desirable in Los Angeles. Estimates of its value range up to 2.9 million. But he continues to let it rot, unless forced by the city or the neighbors to do something about the upkeep of the property—at least on the outside. The inside remains a freakish time capsule of murder and abandonment.

Of course, stories abound of the place being haunted and having a weird feel. Even the Times article couldn’t resist a spooky bit at the end, telling the story of a neighbor whose curiosity got the better of her. She briefly pushed open the mansion’s backdoor to snoop, but heard the burglar alarm and beat a hasty retreat. Her hand started to throb and a ugly red vein traveled up her arm. A visit to the ER confirmed that her brief foray into Breaking and Entering had left her with the bite of a black widow spider. Two nights later, the burglar alarm on her own backdoor kept going off, but when she looked, no one was there. “It was like the ghost was following us,” she said.

Rudy Enriquez himself claims, “The only spooky thing there is me. Tell people to say their prayers every morning and evening and they’ll be OK.” Which, I have to say, does nothing to alleviate the spookiness.

Since the publication of the Times article, looky loos have driven the neighbors crazy trespassing on the property and breaking into the mansion. Those same neighbors originally encouraged the article because prostitutes and other unsavory types had started breaking in to crash. That doesn’t happen anymore since the owner put in an alarm system, but the unexpected consequences of the neighborhood stirring up the public’s curiosity and obsession is clearly a case of be careful what you wish for.

If you want to know the depth of obsession out there, visit the Find-a-Death thread on it. But I warn you, if you visit that site and read through the entire thread, be prepared to spend hours.

I also fell into the rabbit hole of obsession about this place right after I read the Times article. When I saw that Dr. Harold Perelson had a medical practice in Inglewood, near to my own home, something deep and strange clicked inside me.

My backbrain insisted this information had personal significance, that I needed to find out where the practice had been located. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that the doctor had once had an office in the old Inglewood medical building where my mother’s kidney specialist practiced. The building certainly seemed like it could date back to 1959. Who knew? Maybe his practice had been in the same office the nephrologists now occupied!

I became obsessed with finding out. I scoured the internet for online collections of street maps and phone books. There were many, but nothing online for Inglewood of that time period. I knew I would have to physically go to one of the libraries containing these holdings and look up the information, but my life was so frantic by then with being a full time caregiver and working full time that, well, time was the one thing I didn’t have. I couldn’t even take an afternoon off to go to a library.

I’d let it go for a while, but the obsession still gripped me. Every now and then, I’d revisit the online archives to see if the phone books, et al., had been uploaded, and I’d search out more articles and information on the case, finding the most obscure things to download to my mystery folder. I’d visit Find-a-Death, too, to see what they’d come up with.

Then I stopped being a caregiver through the inevitable way those things happen.

I didn’t immediately think of the Los Feliz Murder Mansion, but a month later while clearing out old files from my computer, I came across the folder where I kept my mystery stories. Los Feliz, being the most obsessional of them all, jumped out at me. Out of idle (okay, not so idle) curiosity I decided to head back to Google. My old “friends” at Find-a-Death (I’m not a member, although I have taken Scott Michaels’ tour) popped up so I visited the site. I went to the most recent page to work my way backward for the “newest” posts about this old mystery. People still post about it, the mansion is still abandoned, still owned by Rudy Enriquez, still a burden to its neighbors, still spooky as hell.

Several pages back from the last entry, a post from November 2014 gave the address of Dr. Perelson’s medical practice. The poster believed it was now a family dental clinic. I was thrilled and disappointed at the same time. It wasn’t the address for the building in which my mother’s doctors practiced. What the heck could my backbrain have been thinking? Clearly, not for the first time, I’d fallen prey to flights of morbid imagination.

But the address—3108 W. Imperial Highway—did have something of a personal connection, after all. You see, I’d driven along portions of Imperial Highway 3-4 (or more) times a week for the last five years. My mother’s dialysis clinic was on Imperial Highway. I didn’t think I was emotionally ready to make that drive again, so I looked up the address on Google street view. The building housing the family dental clinic was gone. That area has seen a vast revival, and a new mall exists where the office once stood. That’s why Google maps showed the address in the middle of an intersection. It doesn’t exist anymore.

But I knew that intersection, knew it well. I sat staring at it in shock a long, long time. Because, you see, I’d driven through it 3-4 (or more) times a week for the last five years. It was located approximately a half block from my mother’s dialysis center.

Click here to see pictures of that intersection.

Is my obsession gone? Once I’d made the personal connection it did fade. But old obsessions are hard to kill and I feel it grabbling for my attention even now. I think sometimes we prefer our mysteries unsolved so we can reside forever in the sweet tantalization of speculation. Certainly, I believe the scores of people doggedly pursuing this story will be disappointed once Rudy dies and the mansion invariably gets sold off and torn down.

But you never know. Maybe new mysteries will spring from its footprints. Ghosts are as hard to get rid of as obsessions and not always banished by the rational expediency of tear-down. For what are ghosts if not the stubborn obsessions of human souls unready and unbelieving in death, unable to give up their unfinished business, playing and replaying their moments of personal nightmare?

UPDATE, 3/31/16:

Rudy has passed away. The Murder Mansion is for sale: http://www.australianetworknews.com/want-to-stay-with-ghosts-murder-house-haunted-by-ghosts-for-sale-in-la/

IF

In the evenings, I pause in my chores to take the cat on a supervised trip into the back yard. She’s proven time and again she can’t be trusted not to jump over the wall and go walkabout—which, I suspect, is how she got lost from her previous owners. She does so love the back yard. She’s quite insistent on going out, fussing and whining until I relent.

I always relent, because my dirty little secret is that I go out there as much for myself as her. Min makes a great excuse. I love to feel the wind in my face, listen to the birds, watch the gloaming slowly overtake the leaves of trees and plants, golden and syrup-rich. I love the sense of presence out there. It’s serene, one of the few things in my life right now that fills me up rather than takes away.

So as I sat in my serene place last night, I thought—mostly in a peaceful way—about letting go of so many layers of things. Letting go of fears, letting go of needless guilt and worry, of giving it up to the inexorable ebb and flow of the universe. Not give up on life, you understand. Still in there, still fighting the good fight, just reconciling myself to the fact that the universe will always have its way in the end, no matter what I or anyone else does. What I needed, what I need, is to give up the illusion of control, to make peace with that.

We’re none of us helpless flotsam in the grand old river of the universe. I truly believe things travel along with us, keeping us in the free-flowing stream as long as possible, as much as possible. Little markers of hope and fellow-feeling, sometimes larger things that buffer and stand guard. At times, the smallest things can bring the largest upwelling of hope, allowing us to float free. I don’t know what these things are, where they come from, wouldn’t care to define them in narrow human terms, but they are there as long as we allow them to be. We can’t be protected forever. Nothing can be. Sometimes we’re going to smash into rocks, sometimes we’re going to dip below the surface. Sometimes, when the time has come, we’re going to drown. It’s the nature of the journey. It’s easy to be philosophical about all this when I’m in my serene place. Difficult when I’m having trouble treading water.

From the perspective of my usual chair last night I tried to think of some better way of treading water. I wondered if, along with the illusion of control, I also had an illusion of receiving help along the way. I looked at a patch of ground near the bird bath where a few days ago I’d moved a brick that had been overgrown with moss. I saw a little face, tilted to the side, peering back at me from the fringe of the moss, just before the precipice where the brick had nestled. One little arm was raised as if she swam hard against the pushing tide of moss. I was far enough away to wonder if she might be an optical illusion, a trompe l’oeil composed of bits of leaf matter, blossoms, and hope.

I got up and drew close. There was a face, and a tiny arm, a small ceramic figurine lodged into the ground. When I pulled her out I saw she was a little fairy maiden, sitting on a leaf, resting one hand on a thimble while the other, the one she’d been swimming with, rested under her chin. I could see from her back that she’d broken off some larger piece. She had quite an Alice in Wonderland quality to her face, but I don’t recall ever owning a piece of garden ceramic with such a whimsical girl. I’d swear she hadn’t been there when I moved the brick. My hand was right there two days ago, but I didn’t remember seeing her. Clearly, she’d nestled amongst the moss a while because she was partly embedded in the soil, leaving a hollow when I pulled her free. The moss had surrounded her as it had the brick. Perhaps I’d been too distracted at the time and hadn’t noticed her, or…

I looked up at the faces hanging on the garden wall. Flora and Ivy smiled serenely back at me. Green Man looked grumpy, as always, but I wouldn’t absolutely swear there wasn’t a twinkle in his eyes. Probably the gloaming. Magic always happen in the heavy, rich light of twilight.

This post was originally written in July of 2011 when I was struggling with being the sole caregiver for my 90-something mother. I am no longer a caregiver, but the idea that something will be there for us when we need it most remains a great comfort to me.

I had to run home to take care of something at lunch. On my way back to work driving through Venice, I saw a young woman walking down the street headed in the direction of the Boardwalk. She wore mid-calf fringed boots of brick red, long black gypsy hair, and a black micro-mini dress that seriously clung to her seriously nice curves. Over her arm she twirled a sparkly blue hula hoop.

Headed down to the beachfront to show off some moves, I thought. A lot of people head down to the Boardwalk to show off moves. It’s kind of the expected thing. And I thought, “Yeah, I could seriously get into watching her twirl that hoop around her small waist and curvy hips.”

I’m a content non-practicing heterosexual, but I would have really appreciated that show. So much youth and beauty and lovely curves—and youth and beauty and lovely curves should definitely work it while they have it. They ain’t nuthin’ wrong with that, sugar. It’ll be gone in a heartbeat. That life and exquisite energy needs to be celebrated in full while it is present.

I ain’t so young no more and the curves I have now are not like that. Never were, truth be told. I am not un-beautiful, but I don’t have the vigor right now to do much with it. Other truth be told, I don’t have a lot of energy at all these days. I still feel exhausted most of the time, even after getting a good night’s sleep or a full weekend of lounging. I’m in a post-stress phase, a grieving phase, and that eats at my vitality.

I would never cheapen PTSD by even implying I have anything remotely like it, but there is all kinds of post-ness on the stress spectrum. I spent the last five years, particularly the last two, dealing with a high degree of tension most days as my mother progressively failed. It takes a while to get over the ashen burn out of that kind of situation. Anti-parenting, a caregiver I know calls it, where you’re burning up all your time easing those you love towards death. Where there is no happy ending, as another caregiver I know says. The ease-up from that daily grind has a pretty powerful rebound. So I’m trying to let gravity slow me down and steady me out from the bungee jump I’ve just been forced to make.

I do hope to get some of my energy back with time, but it’s way too early to tell if I’ll ever return to where I was before I became a full-time caregiver. I suspect I might not, but it’s way too early to say, one way or another. I can say that if fate is kind, if I do get that energy back—even if I only get part way there—watch out, baby. I will work it, work it hard, work it for all it’s worth, in my non-youthful, unconventionally curvy way. You will definitely enjoy that show. It will make your wild gypsy hair blow right on back from your face.

 

donna glam

Donna Rae McDonough
April 7, 1921 – January 22, 2015

 


Donna grew up on a farm in a tiny place called Willow Creek, Utah, no longer found on any map because it’s now part of the Ute Indian Reservation. She became a cattle ranch cook at sixteen, even participating in a cattle drive one summer when the ranch owner was short on cowhands.

In 1942, Donna came to Los Angeles to work for Douglas Aircraft, employed as a riveter on C-54’s for the war effort. She was extremely proud of being “Rosie the Riveter,” as she should have been.

After her marriage, she worked for a time with her first husband, Lloyd Thompson, installing carpeting and linoleum. She retired from this activity when she was six months pregnant with her daughter, Pamela. For some years afterward she concentrated her considerable energy on raising her daughter, taking care of neighborhood children, homemaking, and being a horsewoman. She stabled her horses at a barn and equestrian center once located where the Marina Freeway now ends at Lincoln Boulevard.

Eventually, Donna went to work for General Telephone Company, retiring after twenty-five years at age sixty-two to spend more time with her second husband, Sgt. Major Thomas P. McDonough, USMC (ret.). For a time, she was the Governor’s Wife of the Santa Monica Moose Lodge.

She remained active at bowling, crafts, painting, gardening, dancing, Do-It-Yourself building projects, cooking, and reading. Until a stroke damaged her eyesight in 2011, she read almost a book a day, mostly romances and thrillers. She always maintained, “I don’t care what kind of book it is, you can always learn something from it.”

When Donna’s kidneys failed in 2010, she met the challenge of dialysis with courage and a generally positive attitude. She did her own peritoneal dialysis at first until her damaged eyesight made that impossible. She kept her courage and good humor, blessed with a sharp and active mind until the end of her remarkable life at age 93.

donna later
 

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