The Big Six Oh – S**T! or, “Ah, F**K It”

Sixty came and smacked me upside the head (and the hips and the knees). How the hell did this happen? There must be some misunderstanding.

I’m not done redecorating! I still have the metal tile that looks like a chess board as a gesture to Mike’s memory to cover the nasty old linoleum on the counter of the built-in bookcase that is going to become the coolest sideboard ever when I’m done with it!

I have two bathrooms and a front hall of wallpaper to steam off, and I still have to paint or re-wallpaper whatever turns out to be under there!

My brown hair has so little gray that it couldn’t even get away with being described as “sugar and cinnamon” much less “salt and pepper!”

I’m working out with dumbbells five days a week, doing mat pilates one day a week and yard work whichever day is left that is sunny.  Saturday I was up at six, and until 9:30 weeded the entire vegetable garden, planted some more beans, pulled out the peas that were done,  and raked the creeping charlie and hacked the weeds out of  the overgrown chicken coop so I can now actually see the squash and pumpkins I planted there.  I sweat every day!

But (oh thanks a lot, sixty)  if I so much as eat dinner, I mean a small, healthy dinner, I gain weight. Intermittent fasting can’t be intermittent for me if I ever want to…want …

Want what?

Good question.

I want a job again, a good one.

I want a man again, a kind one.

And I want to stop thinking that changing my personality or my body is the only way to get those things.

I woke up on my sixtieth birthday feeling fantastic, as if a switch had flipped or a weight had been lifted off me. I felt unburdened. Free.

It was my “Ah, F**K it moment.

Through blogging I’ve come across several women of a certain age who described themselves as feeling invisible.

I say, BRING IT!

If I’m invisible, I can wear anything and go anywhere I want! F**k it!

(Just don’t expect me to be inaudible. Singing comes with the package).

I gotta get to be me!

I will not go gently into the cardigan sweater years (although I am increasingly sensitive to cold, I prefer a form-fitting, henley-neck sweatshirt I call my “sexy sweatshirt”).

I’m no little old lady in tennis shoes (I wear Keds Champions – still the most comfortable shoes I have ever or will ever own. I’m not getting paid to say that, seriously. But if you’re listening, Keds, I’ll happily be the not-grey, not-very wrinkly, plump lady with wings (inside sleeves) shakin’ it the way women my age are not supposed to, anymore, in your next ad – and get paid for it).

I will sing, dance, sweat, laugh, overdress in the evening and wear paint-spattered pants to the grocery store the next day. I will openly appreciate male pulchritude with a smile that doesn’t entirely acknowledge the impossibility of being appreciated in return – but hey, I’m invisible! So it doesn’t matter anyway (and more often these days, I oggle appreciate on the sly from behind sunglasses a/k/a/ crows-feet prevention device.)

“I wanna live, not merely survive.”

So there, sixty.

Off to eat my damn dinner, I remain,

Your singing, sweating, gardening, dumbbell-weilding, Keds wearing, man-oggling-because-I’m-invisible-and-ah-f**k it,

Ridiculouswoman

Barbells and Buttercups

I was walking through the grocery store parking lot, freshly showered, sore and exhausted after my latest round of redecorating.

I passed a white compact car that displayed several decals, stickers, magnets, whatever, all in pink.

There was “good things come to those who sweat.”

There was a decal of an arm, with a prominent bicep, holding a barbel. Several others referring to how wonderful a life spent in the gym can be, also in pink.

There was a sticker, again in pink, that said, “Boss Lady.”

And on the bumper, “Suck it up, Buttercup.”

I found the overall effect off-putting, with its superior tone, especially after having just spent two days muscling furniture around, climbing up and downs stairs and step stool, taping, wrangling a paint roller on a pole to paint a ceiling, and sweating my way through two or three coats of paint on the walls,  AFTER my morning barbell workout, conducted in the privacy of my basement.

But here she was, her car as her messenger, in my face with her apparent conviction that her physical activity is better than my physical activity.

Her car seemed to sneer at me, “My way of working out is better than yours! I bet you don’t work out anywhere near as much as me! I can lift heavier barbells than you!  You can’t possibly be as super-duper as me! Hang your head in shame, you wimp! Look at me! Boss lady! Fitness Nut Extraordinaire! Gym Owner! Trainer! Non-buttercup! Don’t you wish you were more like me?”

Well, no, if you’re going to be like that.

Bu let’s give you a sideways hand-clap, since you seem to need the attention so badly:

Suck it up, buttercup.

In the meantime I’ll be over here, busting my formidable ass to get my home and gardens into shape so I might actually be able to extend a warm welcome and some hospitality to the people who have been so kind and helpful to us since Mike died.

Keeping my barbells (mostly) to myself, having a little too much fun with the bitmojis and thinking this one probably should have been over in the Snark Tank,  I remain,

Your stout but unbowed, pretty fit for my age and getting a little fitter with every paint can I haul and 5 lb (I’ll be trading up to 8 lbs soon, take that, Boss Lady) barbell I curl,

Ridiculouswoman

How Not To Paint A Room: Front Room Ceiling

Wisdom of experience. Prepare carefully. Aren’t you smart.

Move furniture away from walls. Pack tchokes and photos from mantlepiece into big plastic box.

Roll up large rug. Favorite thing. First thing we bought together, when we first moved in and had some money. Must not drip on that.

Place Angelic Daughter’s sculptures on or next to couch, along with The Ancestress Chair.

Cover all with huge drop cloth. Smile. So smart to invest in that.

Remove Angelic Daughter’s paintings, and all other framed stuff, from walls. Place in next room.

Next, tape floor. Wisdom of experience. Floor protected with two inches of frog tape against base of wall.

Tape perimeter of windows, anticipating painting trim. Smile. Exceptional forethought. Pat yourself on the back. You’re getting really good at this.

Place six feet of three-foot wide plastic along floor below first section of ceiling to be painted.

Do the edges first, all around, three inch roller.

Excellent forethought once again. Do all the up-on-the-stepstool stuff first, while fresh.

Place can of ceiling paint left over from last time on plastic. Open.

Rust falls into paint. How did that new can rust so fast? Eh.  Stir it around, find it, pick it out.

Place ladder on top of plastic.

Hmm. Slips a little. Resolve to go slowly and be careful.

Soak three inch roller in ceiling paint until it drips. Ha! No two coats this time!

Discover that safely ascending stepstool whilst (HA! “whilst!”) carrying small paint tray and roller is a feat of derring-do. Remind self, “don’t fall,  don’t fall.”

You don’t fall. Yay you.

Raise paint-soaked roller to position at edge of ceiling. Roll, baby, roll.

Smile. This no-two-coats-paint-soaked-roller thing is working well! Remind self to use same method with long pole attachment for remainder of ceiling in this, the largest room in the house.

Section by section, move plastic around perimeter of room. Soak, roll.

Complete perimeter of ceiling.

Step back.

Notice that two inches of frog tape is not, apparently, enough width to protect floor from  drips when raising paint-soaked roller.

Eh. Came off easily last time. Continue.

Attach long pole extension to 6 inch roller. Drag plastic to center of room, next to drop cloth. Pour paint into large tray with liner.

Wide river of paint runs down can when replaced on plastic, creating small puddle.

Don’t step in that.

Immediately step in that whilst (!) wrangling roller on long pole into tray to soak in paint.

Notice this only when returning to plastic to re-soak roller after completing first section of ceiling interior.

Footprints, tracking across expensively sanded, refinished floors.

Sigh.

Eh, came off easily last time. Resolve to get this sucker done without regard to drips. Horse has left barn. Ship has sailed.

Because, no two damn coats, not this time.

Proceed.

Whilst (!) circumnavigating room with long pole topped by paint-soaked roller, around  treasures that must not be dripped on under huge drop cloth, kick hidden base of Angelic Daughter’s largest sculpture.

Cracked.

Rats.

Resolve to repair already once-repaired masterpiece, when paint job is over.

Notice that hoisting paint-soaked roller on long stick and applying force while rolling back and forth is great exercise! Sweating! This counts as workout!

Breathing hard! Yay you!

When paint from soaked roller drips onto lips rather than into open, breathing-hard mouth, resolve to react with gratitude. Didn’t go into mouth. Also grateful for reminder that you are not a mouth breather, dammit (except when singing.)

Close mouth. Don’t sing.

Complete interior of huge ceiling.

Step back (into another paint splatter). Regard ceiling.

Hmm.

One-coat job gives new meaning to the words, “missed a spot.”

Sigh.

Re-soak roller, now stiffening with semi-dried paint.

Re-apply to missed spots.

Paint goes on lavender, dries white.

Decide that missed spots are just not-dry-yet spots.

Lunchtime! Angelic Daughter has waited patiently all morning, in the next room, when the front room is the one she likes to sit in best.

Anticipating need for further touch ups, drive to grocery salad bar in paint clothes.

See shoppers recoil.

Don’t worry, Angelic Daughter serves up her own soup and salad.

Pay. Return home. Check that all paint has been removed from lips.

Eat lunch with Angelic Daughter, who deserves much more of your time.

Look up.

Ceiling dried, missed spots remedied.

Shower time.

Brings new meaning to, “cleans up easily with soap and water.”

Scrub, rub, lather, rinse, repeat.

Exhaustion.

Smile. Ceiling and workout, done. Two birds.

Observe floor of front room.

Footprints. Splatter. Streaks.

Sigh. Came off easily last time.

But last time was an eighth this size, and “cleans up easily with soap and water.” Not water. Wood floor cleaner.

Eh. Do walls tomorrow and worry about floor later. Don’t worry today about worries you can worry about tomorrow.

Until then, I remain,

Your sore-in-places-I-never-imagined-there-were-muscles-to-get-sore,

Ridiculouswoman

 

A Token of Your Disrespect

Oh, ok, NOW I remember – I should have asked, “are there any internal candidates for this position?”

Because if there are, my presence in this interview must be solely to provide the illusion of a “search,” when the outcome is a foregone conclusion. So check off that age/gender discrimination box, kids! You’re covered!

“Hey, we interviewed the old lady, but decided our (select all that apply) younger, maler, cheaper, insider-er candidate was a better, erm,….fit.”

Oh yeah? Well, nuts to you! I didn’t want to work at your boring old cube farm anyway, so there!

Here endeth the tantrum.

Back to the job boards, and “kondo-ing” the hell out of the house to find anything I can sell online that might squeeze out a buck or two.

Next on the list: call financial advisor. Confess you should have allowed her to re-balance portfolio before the most recent downturn. Nobody can time the market, right? But I should have seen this train coming.

Sigh.

Then, get back on that querying horse, now that I have a better idea of how to write a query letter and have figured out “comps” that might be applicable:

DETOUR IN CANCERLAND is like Jenny Lawson (Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, A Funny Book About Horrible Things) and Jen Lancaster (Bitter Is The New Black) if they were twenty years older, bereaved, and had been raised by Olive Kitteridge.”

Good old Olive. “No one’s cute who can’t stand up straight.” Sounds just like Mom.

I’m also going to get started on my next book, “The Widow Rules: In Which a Ridiculous Woman Desperately Fails to Meet Expectations.”

First line: “Well, the tits on a platter thing didn’t work out so well.”

Working on it.

In the meantime, I remain,

Your preparing-to-deliver-the-stuff-I-sold-online-in-a busy parking-lot-right-across-from- the-pizza-shop-where-we-are-regulars-which-is-owned-by-a-big-strong-neighbor-guy-and-staffed-by-several-other-guys-who-recognize-me-and-could-keep-an-eye-out,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

On Dying Heroically

Facing a terminal diagnosis is heroic, no matter how a person chooses to react.

But in the end, dying heroically is still dying.

Some people respond to a terminal diagnosis by doing something unbelievably difficult – accomplishing some spectacular feat of physical endurance or creating a final artistic magnum opus. I admire them. They will leave an extraordinary legacy of courage that inspires those who never knew them, and comforts those who did.

But I simultaneously want to acknowledge those who react to a terminal diagnosis quietly and privately, and face the inevitable for what it is – inevitable. Because even if some miraculous force of will or faith or lifestyle change pulls a person back from the brink to health and longer life, still, in the end, they have not cheated death – simply delayed it.

If you don’t believe that grief and humor can intersect, don’t click on the link below (and don’t let little kids watch it). But if you can tolerate a spot of dark humor, here’s a little ditty my eldest brother composed for the theater company he works with (the show this song preceded was called “Serial Killers” because the audience got to vote on which short play it wanted to see serialized, with the next episode performed the next week, and which would not return). This song was actually written for Halloween, but in it’s way it makes a point about the inevitable:

My late husband Mike wouldn’t read the books I got him about food as medicine or meditation as a way to combat cancer. He didn’t want the little Zen painting kit I got him, thinking it would provide calming distraction from chemo and pain. He didn’t decide to spend his last ounces of energy biking across the country (which he had wanted to do when we first met) or touring the world to see spectacular places he hadn’t had the chance to visit.

He decided to stay home, with us. He calmly and bemusedly tolerated my lapse into temporary insanity, my mad and desperate decision to remodel the kitchen and finish the basement and replace the windows and rebuild the fence and the deck while ridiculously falling in love with the man in charge of the whole project, as if improving our home would help him live longer in it and as if falling in love again would give me a some kind of do-over – make me younger and less inevitably widowed.

Mike used his last ounce of strength to hold our daughter’s hand and say to her, “Remember, Dad’s love never ends.”

This from a stay-at-home-Dad, two days before he died, facing the excruciating pain of having to leave behind the exceptional, non-neurotypical child he had raised from infancy to the threshold of adulthood.

That was heroic.

And we will, and we do, remember.

If you have lost a loved one who had chosen to face a terminal diagnosis privately, accepting the inevitable calmly and with quiet dignity, or who received that diagnosis beyond the time they would have had the physical or mental strength to choose any other way, I’m sure you understand, and I want to acknowledge, their courage.

Mike said something else to me that has helped me cope.

When I asked him if he wanted both of us to be with him when it happened, he said it didn’t matter.

He said, “everyone dies alone.”

He was right. Even if a person departs “surrounded by their loved ones,” the final trip is always a solo flight.

We had a deal – he promised to “call me when you get there” – based on past experiences of hearing from departed loved ones, in unusual but unmistakable ways, in the two or three days immediately following their passing. Messages in music, or in electronics behaving strangely, or in the appearance of symbolic animals, or through experiences of visitation.

He kept his promise. He called when he got there. He did his best to let me know he made it, that he “arrived to his destination,” and that he was free and at peace.

That was heroic, too.

When grief washes over me, or bursts unexpectedly inside my chest, I try to remember those little messages he has sent and continues to send, and maintain faith in eventual reunion, when my time comes.

Which it will (“but not yet, not yet…”), even if, between now and then, I manage to write a bestseller, survive another Polar Vortex or achieve EGOT (win an Emmy, a Grammy, a Tony and an Oscar).

Wishing you the comfort of happy memories in the face of loss, and confidence in eventual reunion, I remain,

Your trying-not-to-think-about-the-inevitable-too-much-and-enjoy-the-now,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by Yolanda Coervers from Pixabay

Salute for Sophie

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

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