Salute for Sophie

Sophie’s backyard friends held the gathering I could not.

He wouldn’t have dared, if she was still with us. That was her spot.

She’d sit there in the evening, Mistress of All She Surveyed.

I think he misses her. He loved to bait and taunt her, and she loved to ignore him more often as she got older. He’s actually probably the child or grandchild of a previous rodent provocateur. But it’s game over, now.

The house, and the yard, have been very quiet since Sophie went. The scritching in the wall next to my desk, which drove me nuts for weeks, has stopped, with no corresponding smell that would indicate demise. Just a cessation of sound, signaling that whatever had been making it has finally chosen to vacate the premises.

The neighbor’s-from-two-streets-over cat, a wide ranging tabby, had taken up residence under our deck. This cat has been coming around for a few years, and looks exactly like a cat that showed up at my Mom’s house all the way on the other side of town shortly after Mom died, acting like she owned the place. Like we were supposed to open up and let her the hell into HER house. It could be the same cat, for all I know. The neighbors said she really gets around – had to chip her because she kept turning up so far afield.

I’ve found her on our roof from time to time, or up on the deck railing (also Sophie’s spot – where she’d come to the kitchen window to ask to be let back into the house.)

But a few days ago, that tabby came out from under the deck (better her than the former resident, a huge skunk, or the raccoons before that) and she hasn’t been back.

I  honestly think these creatures know that Sophie is gone, and are mourning her in their way.

As I was regarding that chipmunk, sitting where Sophie sat last Saturday evening, her last, as it turned out, I decided to take a picture rather than shoo him off the deck. He looked forlorn.

Just then, the hummingbird that my daughter had reported sighting several times appeared, closer to the house than the chipmunk, and lowered itself elegantly into the cupped petals of the tulips I had planted for Mike, so he’d have flowers to look at during his ceaseless rounds of dishwashing, before the kitchen was redone.

And here was that hummingbird, a symbol of Mike to me, sinking gently into those tulips, and of course zipping out and out of sight, when I tried to creep silently (not so silently, I guess) out of the house to get a closer look.

The chipmunk took off as soon as my footsteps sounded on the deck’s planks.

Somehow I found comfort in these creatures this morning.

It was as if they were paying their respects.

My daughter continues her daily, sighing expression, “I miss Dad,” now recited as, “I miss Dad and I miss Sophie.”

But a few days after we said goodbye to Sophie, she also said, for the first time in the nearly three years since Mike died,  “I went to the gathering for Dorothy Elaine (her grandmother.) I liked the gathering for Dorothy Elaine. When is a gathering for Dad?”

I dissolved. How was I going to explain to her that it was much too late for that? That, because of decisions Mike had made and because of how he had chosen to circumscribe his life, it was already too late for that a decade before we even knew he was sick?

There were four people at Mike’s burial – me, our daughter, our pastor and the hospice chaplain, who had quickly become Mike’s friend in the last week or two of his life, through a shared love of poetry, discovered in the first few minutes of their first conversation.

“Remember that beautiful day, sweetheart? The day we put the stone box with Daddy’s ashes into the ground at his gravesite? We read the poems, and you and I both chose beautiful flowers to leave for Dad? That was his gathering, sweetheart – there won’t be another one.”

And there won’t be one for Sophie, because I said no when the vet asked if we wanted the ashes. Didn’t think about processing time for her, to ask, and me, to decide. So too late for that, now, as well.

But I will tell her about the chipmunk, and the neighbor’s cat and the hummingbird, who seem to have organized a “gathering” of their own – one that seemed to me to be an acknowledgement of Sophie’s absence and a kind of farewell.

Didn’t sleep much last night, so we slept away today’s gloomy, grey, rainy, quiet, almost peaceful, morning.

So long, Soph.

With this final farewell to my feline friend, I remain, your struggling but starting to surface again,

Ridiculouswoman

Just Get Past This…Then That…Then That

Climb the hill. And see the next one, and the next one…

The first year was filled with ritualized “first withouts” – birthdays, excursions, holidays –  around the calendar to the first anniversary of his death. Attending sporting events and concerts I thought he would have enjoyed, as if the experience could invoke his presence;  finishing work on the house and yard I had hoped he’d live to see. A much-too-soon attempt at finding someone new in the absurdity of online dating, before his stone was even laid.

Displacement activity. Avoidance. Failure to yield to the grief and let it have its head.

The second year was filled with blogging, writing the book and redecorating, as if a coat of paint and some rearranged furniture could fairy-godmother us into a life beyond mourning. Kidding myself that our daughter was finding comfort in activity, new skills, greater independence.

And then Father’s Day – Fatherless Day – the awkwardness of people who asked us what we’d be doing in observance, resisting the temptation to tell them we’d be visiting his grave, and watch the shock and embarassment –  those came anyway when Angelic Daughter answered the only way she knew how – “Dad’s in heaven.”

That day, all the busy-ness of the previous year and a half hit the wall, and demanded a do-over.

We quit, came home, and sat with it. Our “days without Dad,” our house without “his” chair, “his” room, his cooking, his man-presence.

Weeks of dark winter nights filled with tears, then silence. Then restlessness.  I felt my broken-open heart closing again. Retreating into routine, bleakness instead of gratitude, loneliness instead of love. Not much laughter.

This was not the plan – not the “don’t waste another minute” life I thought I learned, from losing Mike, to live.

I want to fix it, but what I have ended up with, right now at least, feels like a never-ending procession of milestones to be got past.

“I can take care of that, once I get past this…”

Just get through it – the holidays again, the wisdom teeth, the job search, the doctor’s appointments.

What then? Just another hill to climb? Another hurdle, another hoop?

I’ve told my daughter the necessary – that we are always going to miss Dad, that every day for the rest of our lives with be a day without Dad – but never without his love – and that we must find a way to carry grief with us without letting it weigh us down.

Do as I say, not as I do.

Because it does weigh me down.

Every time I do a half-assed job of cleaning the Bulgarian-built  kitchen, still lovely, but not longer new.

Every time I try to make a meal that he used to make for her, and do an adequate job, but never an identical job.

Every time I have to make a decision by myself without him here to bounce it off of, even if I know he would have said it didn’t matter either way.

It takes me way too long to finish a book these days.

I’m watching too much television, in my “boudoir” for one.

Not getting enough sleep.

I keep thinking, if I get that job, things will normalize. It will be more like it used to be.

We’ll hire a wonderful new person to stay with her, to get her out more, expand her range and just help her have more fun. Something I’ve never been very good at.

But Mike was an expert at it. A really fun Dad.

So of course it won’t “normalize” things. It will never be like it used to be. Because it won’t be Mike taking care of her, taking her places, listening to music with her, goofing around.

And now, Memorial Day is coming.

Just get past it.

Then medical screenings – routine, but requiring anesthesia.

I’ll update the emergency information – part of the deal, now – and send it out to the brothers, and this time, the sisters-in-law. If by some mischance it’s not me, she’ll need another woman to understand her needs.

Just get past it. I’ll be so relieved, when I wake up.

But then, Father’s Day again.

Then the Fourth of July.

Occasions for visits to his grave. A picnic on the Fourth.

Just get past it.

No trip to Maine this year – can’t afford it. Maybe that will give us a break, from the next one and the next one, this endless pummeling by rituals and reminders of grief, gotten through, only to see the next one coming.

The writer’s conference was good, encouraging – and then I get home and feel like I’m losing my nerve, like I want to curl up in a little fetal ball and hide.

I regard counseling as a form of self-indulgence.

Maybe I should just get past that.

Spinning my emotional wheels, I remain,

Your sad, skeptical, stuck,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Sophie’s Empty Sunny Spot

Sophie the Christmas Miracle Cat ran out of miracles on Mother’s Day morning, and we had to say goodbye.

There’s a special kind of loneliness in letting go of a pet you shared with a spouse who has died.

Sophie’s warm fur was a lingering, physical manifestation of specific memories of Mike – how she’d sit on his left leg, crossed ankle to knee over the other, so his left knee was elevated a bit; he’d stroke her as she settled herself there in the triangular cradle his legs made, to stare over that knee and watch the hockey game with him, intensely following the movement of the puck, as if it were a mouse she wanted to devour.

There was the time he called to me to come see how, as he lay on his bed reading, she had demanded his attention by arranging herself with her butt at his chin and her tail extended straight up his face.

Months after he was diagnosed, we remembered how, months before, she’d daintily walk up from her end of the couch to his, to lay lengthwise on his torso, facing him, gazing at him with concern. It was as if she knew before we did – as if she could sense the disease that lay beneath: as if she was trying to warn us, or commiserate, or tell him that she cared, or ask him if there was anything she could do. As if she was preparing to miss him.

Saturday afternoon, I bought 36 cans of cat food (coupon) and a new green jug of cat litter. Sunday morning I carried them back to the car, sobbing and streaming snot, trying to think of where I could donate them.

The cat bed – her too-small, clam-shaped tiny Hollywood bowl of a cat bed, coated with her fur, went straight to the garbage. I couldn’t look at it for another moment.

When night came, I was overcome with a loneliness so intense it nearly made me sick. Sophie was our substitute third “person” in this house, and now, it was genuinely, really only the two of us, here with far too much hollow space around us, especially in the darkness of the night.

I asked the vet to take Sophie, and not to bring us the ashes.

If Mike had been here to make that decision with me, would it have been the same?

Since Sunday morning, every time daughter sighs and says, “I miss Dad,” (which she has been saying daily for nearly three years, and probably will say daily for decades to come), she adds, “and I miss Sophie.”

I do too, sweetheart. I do too.

Maybe it wasn’t fair to tell her we’d get a sign from Sophie, to tell us she had found her sunny spot in heaven, with Dad. More abstraction for an autistic person to try to process.

Late Sunday night, in the midst of that nearly-sick-making smackdown of loneliness, I had a sudden impulse to start watching a cable comedy that I’m a few seasons behind on.

Halfway or so into the pilot episode, the Mom gets a phone call. It is brief and when it’s done, the daughter asks who it was.

“Sophie’s Dad.”

In the scene, the Mom didn’t want to talk to Sophie’s Dad, who seemed like an awfully nice guy in the few seconds he had on screen. If we think of Mike as Sophie’s Dad, I damn sure would want to talk to him. But maybe our Sophie was just doing the best she could, to find some available, if slightly awkward, way to send a signal through.

Monday evening, sitting on the twin chaises on the deck, enjoying the late afternoon sun and the green of the lawn and the birds swooshing around the yard, I noticed a grey bird landing on one of the neighbor’s fence posts, right across from us, looking at us.

It made a loud, meow-y kind of sound.

Is that a cat bird?

“Sophie? If that’s you, come to the bird bath!”

The bird flew closer, but was headed off by the male cardinal, protecting his turf.

I Googled for a YouTube video or recording of the call of a cat bird. Cornell’s library of bird sounds.

Yep, that was it, exactly.

I googled the territory of the grey cat bird. Cornell again.

Yep, could be here, this time of year.

Oh, Soph. Thanks for calling. Thanks for telling us, as daughter says, that “you have arrived at your destination.”

Now climb up on Dad’s lap and watch some hockey. We’ll be thinking of you both.

Sending love and gratitude to pets past Lucky, Buddy, Barbita, Rocky, Phantom and now Sophie too, I remain,

Your sobby, snot-smeared, Sophie-missing but certain she’s found her forever sunny spot,

Ridiculouswoman

By “Traffic” I Meant Cars, Not Clicks

I thought blogging was about writing – silly me.

Yesterday, I used the word “traffic” as a tag in a blog post.

Big mistake.

(The post existed only to send readers over to the Snark Tank, where I had added content. Snarky content. I’m not proud. But that’s why the Snark Tank is over there on a separate page).

What I didn’t realize was what a loaded “tag” the word “traffic” was.

I meant road traffic – you know, cars on concrete or asphalt?

Not blog traffic.

It took me an hour or two to figure out why my home page was getting such a spike in views – near record number of views, and several “likes,” which was odd, because the stats indicated that less than half the people who viewed the blog post actually clicked through to the Snark Tank, which was the whole purpose of the (one-line) post.

One guy somehow managed to “like” the post three times.

Several of the new “likers” and a few new followers have blogs that appear to be about – well,  how to get more traffic on your blog. I always try to check out new “likers” and “followers” to see what might have drawn them here, and to see if their “like” or “follow” might lead me to a blog I’d love to read.

In this case, for the most part, no such luck.

Look,  I was very late to the blogging party and, as it turns out, quite naive about the blogging enterprise when I created this blog in October of 2017.

I though blogs were for writing. And reading. And reading other people’s writing.

It hadn’t occurred to me that there was a universe of blogs that existed seemingly only to promote their existence (“Here’s a blog! Like my blog!”) without really offering much else, except additional promotion of  an underlying business enterprise.

In this instance, the “likers” and new followers seemed to be marketers marketing their ability to market things, including blogs. SEO and all that.

Look, I understand the need to “monetize:” I’ve got a store, I’ve got a “donate” button, but they’re mostly just to try to make a little scratch so I don’t have to interrupt the flow of the blog with ads. So far, zippo on that front anyway.

But my goal with this blog is not to simply pile up a big number of “followers” who don’t actually read or interact with anything I write.

My goal was to contribute something, some small thing, that entertains, or might brighten a day, share an emotion, validate an experience or just help me as a writer (and a person) and you as a reader (and a person) to not feel so alone. “Learning from loss to live with love and laughter,” right? And gratitude.

So I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I’m going to let go of followers who appear to have chosen to follow my blog only to draw my attention to some thing, or some service, they want to sell me. Hey, grab me with with your writing, and I might buy your book – but I’m not going to buy your ten or twelve or whatever secrets to SEO success, OK?

I’m positive the folks I let go of won’t notice that they aren’t seeing Ridiculouswoman in their feed. Because I’m positive they just clicked “like” or “follow” because of the tag “traffic” and didn’t actually read a word of the post itself.

Not even that one-line post.

They might come back. OK.

If they actually are following and read all the way to here (yeah, and over in the Snark Tank, I’m sayin’ “fat chance”) I think owe it to them to repeat that I don’t trade likes for likes or follows for follows. I’m looking for community here – and I’m so grateful that I’ve found it, even if it is smaller than what these marketing experts define as successful for a blog.

So good luck to all, and I wish all you marketers who market your ability to market things much success. I just define success differently. As in the rare comment that let’s me know you actually read my writing and it touched you, impressed you, amused you or inspired you. Sumpin’ like that.

Thanks for your attention. We now return to our regularly (ok, irregularly) scheduled blogging, already in progress.

Off to weed the garden, I remain,

Your naive, hoping-to-find-your-great-writing-on-your-amazing-blog,

Ridiculouswoman

How Not To Assemble A Chair

If you can cover it up with black electrical tape, it’s not a mistake. Right?

Feeling virtuous after dropping a Subaru-full of styrofoam packing and cardboard at recycling center, regard parts list. All present and accounted for.

Hmm, two different lengths of bolts. Odd. Shrug and rely on vast experience assembling cheap furniture ordered online.

Allen wrenches. Smile, contemplating adding six more, all the same size, to collection, as thoughtful manufacturer includes one for every chair, even when chairs come boxed in sets of two.

Hmm, diagrammatic instructions. Yeah, yeah, bolt, spring washer, flat washer. Got it.

Attach seat frame to chair back with bolts.

Seems tight. Shouldn’t be so hard to screw in, with handy Allen wrench.

Take firmer grip on seat frame.

Feel bolts coming through the other side.

Recall two sizes of bolts.

Commence swearing. Those bastards! They didn’t say which bolts go where!

Uh, no, wait.

They did.

Accept failure to sufficiently review diagrammatic instructions. Realize used bolt 4’s where bolt 3’s were supposed to go.

Remove too-long bolts.

Examine seat frame back, now exuding small, but potentially injurious, spiky shards of wood-that-was-forced-out-with-too-long-bolts. Whack with rubber handle of screwdriver.

Recall existence of wood glue, supplied.

Apply wood glue, replace spiky pieces of seat frame back damaged by too-long bolts.  Whack with screwdriver again.

Sigh.

That’ll have to do, for now.

Use shorter bolts to attach seat frame. Realize longer bolts go in corners of same.

Done.

Proceed with assembly.

Chair legs, on.

Now side stretchers.

Wait, wha?

Those bastards! Holes facing wrong direction! Can’t insert side stretcher!

Oh, wait.

In view of short-bolt-long-bolt mishap, consider possibility of erroneous chair leg installation.

Remove chair leg bolts.

Switch sides.

Observe side-stretcher holes now in correct orientation.

Well, it was sorta their fault! They put “R” for right and “L” for left – was it so wrong to assume that this meant right and left from the chair’s point of view?

Breathe.

Magnanimously accept this as a learning experience. Anticipate smooth assembly of five other chairs.

Proceed.

Dollop of glue, side stretcher inserted, requiring only mild force. Secure with screws.

Repeat dollop of glue on other side

Wait, wha?

Those bastards! They cut the side stretcher too long! No way can it be forced into that now-correctly-oriented hole!

Oh, wait.

Consider that tightening screws on other side before inserting both side stretchers restricted ability to force remaining side stretcher into holes.

Loosen screws.

Smile indulgently, appreciating ability to observe, analyze and solve side stretcher problem. Force in side stretcher.

Tighten, both sides.

On to the chair seat.

Hmm, no pre-drilled holes.

Whatever.

Smugly select correct wood screws, and marvel at softness of chair seat wood. Screws go in easily, even with small, mildly arthritic hands.

Voila! Chair!

Oh, wait.  Shouldn’t the seat be flush against the back?

Ah. Notice chair-back shaped notches.

Sigh.

Remove wood screws.

Re-orient seat to fit back into very obvious notches.

Acknowledge failure of attention to detail.

Smile proudly at zen-like attitude of calm self-acceptance.

Tighten wood screws, satisfied that no one will notice extra holes in underside of chair seat.

Now, voila. Chair.

Check glue on damaged part of back of seat frame.

Dry enough.

Eureka. Idea. Genius, actually.

Where’s that black electrical tape?

Not in the storage box marked, “tape?”

Sigh.

Shopping excursion.

Obtain black electrical tape at grocery store, along with lunch for Angelic Daughter, and a bunch of frozen dinners just because of coupon. Smile, knowing frozen dinners will come in handy sometime between Monday night and never. Smart shopping.

Eat leftovers while Angelic Daughter eats healthy salad selected from choices offered of 1) healthy salad from grocery store or 3) healthy salad and cup of soup from grocery store (because, electrical tape).

Lunch consumed, experience flash of inspiration – take before and after pictures of ingenious black electrical tape self-help remedy (a/k/a patchy fix for lack of attention to detail that caused damage to new chair) for blog post!

“Before” picture taken. Apply black electrical tape.

Realize can’t tear this kind of tape. Need scissors. But box cutter within reach. That’ll do.

Cut tape with “safety” box cutter, leaving lumpy ball of tape all stuck to itself.

Sigh.

Retrieve scissors from kitchen. Trim tape.

IMG_20190504_144038032.jpg

Admire results. No one will notice while also not noticing extra screw holes on bottom of  seat. Take “after picture.”

Test chair.  Sturdy. Reasonably comfortable. Looks great. Smile with satisfaction at prescient design sense deployed via cheap furniture purchased online.

Elapsed time of first chair assembly (before electrical tape lunch excursion): one hour, forty- five minutes.

Elapsed time of second chair assembly: ten minutes.

Indulge in a moment of smug self-satisfaction at ability to learn from mistakes.

And to disguise them with black electrical tape.

Flagrantly avoiding pending-interview-induced wardrobe-crisis (those bastards! Whaddya mean no in store pick-up available today? AUGH!), I remain

Your confident-four-more-chairs-can-now-be-assembled-in-less-than-an-hour-and-sale-rack-scavenging-skills-will-resolve-wardrobe-crisis-in-less-than-two-days,

Ridiculouswoman

False Start

So much for that Men Who Know How to Do Stuff thing…

I’m not a quitter. If anything, I have a bad habit of staying at jobs for way too long.

But arising at 4 a.m. in order to work for four hours to earn (almost) one tank of gas?

Um, no.

Plus, the Men Who Know How to Do Stuff were all the way on the other side of the place.

Feh.

I had promised myself I’d stay in my lane, and work hard to get the kind of job that I really need – one that pays the bills and provides insurance benefits.

I can’t do that if I’m staggering around sleep deprived and wracked with Mom worry.

So the answer to the question, “why did I do this to myself?” would appear to be, “damned if I know.”

Unless it was to get me used to occasionally getting up at 4 a.m., when things are quiet, because today I got my book pitch written, timed and practiced for my upcoming agent-fest writer’s event. So there’s that.

But job-wise, it’s back to the starting blocks. I actually remembered that thing called “networking” when I saw some jobs I could apply for at a place where a college classmate works.

And this morning, I had a phone interview for a much more “in my lane” job at another place.

I hope that means the universe is telling me I did the right thing, quitting the four in the morning job.

Which it seems it is, because the phone interview went well, and I will be called in for an in-person interview, probably next week.

WARDROBE CRISIS!!!

(We can’t let a good thing happen without a little anxiety attack, now can we?)

It’s been a while since I’ve had an interview for an actual office-y kind of job. I wore jeans to the last three job interviews I had, for the last three jobs I got, at places where I wore jeans.

I genuinely don’t know what women wear to job interviews for office-y kind’s of jobs anymore. I got rid of all my suits. I own two pairs of OK looking trousers, but sitting around worrying has added a few pounds, so they’ll be snug and any blouses I have to go with them will come with gaps at the buttons.

Let’s go shopping. Suggestions for appropriate office-y job attire are hereby solicited and welcome. Crisis averted?

Anyway, during the phone interview, the very pleasant interviewer used a phrase that Angelic Daughter also uses regularly, to coach herself through her days, and used in conversation with me, shortly after the call ended.

Don’t want to jinx it, but I’ll take that as a good sign.

Until then, I remain,

Your trying-to-be-realistic-but-also-hopeful-and-optimistic-while-trying-to-figure-out-what-to-wear-

Ridiculouswoman

(Featured image by Gabe Raggio from Pixabay)