A Door Unopened

A Door Unopened
Knock, knock...

Thursday, May 26, 2011


OK. My last blog entry for Mother's Day was admittedly on the heavy side. ::Sigh:: I'm still feeling a bit leaden from it.

Therefore, in order to completely counteract the residual gravitational pull of discussing my mom, my childhood, suicide, self-destructive behavior and other emotionally draining topics, I'm letting the pendulum swing in the opposite direction. With Spring teasing my id,  periodic sunshine revving my circadian rhythms and mid-life jamming the signals of my hormonal cycle, I have no choice but to give in to natural groove and go with it.

As a result, I've put together a Do List, more specifically, MY DO LIST.

I don't mean to insult your intelligence or knowledge of pop culture, but on the off chance that you're squinting your eyes, shaking your head, pursing your lips and wondering what the hell a Do List is, allow me to explain.

A Do List is a list of celebrities who you are, in agreement with your partner, allowed "to do" one time, should the opportunity ever arise. The pure beauty is that the event does not count as infidelity. In fact, your partner doesn't even have to know about it. It's like having ten, one use, anonymous E tickets for sex with the top ten celebrities of your choice. Are you with me? Good. Let's move on.


1) Do they have to be celebrities?
     Yes. If they were just that old unscratched itch or smoldering ember from years passed, there would be too much emotional tug. The opportune coupling might then become a threat to the partnership. We don't want that. Stop your whining right now and say it with me, "We don't want that." Good.

2) How many may I have on my list?
     That's between you and your sweetie but personally, I'd put the max at 10.

3) I only get to do them once?
    Yeah. That's the rule. This is meant to be pure carnal bliss while avoiding emotional attachments

4) What are the chances you'd actually ever be in a situation where you might be able to take advantage of your options?
     Gosh. I'd have to say skinnier than slim to none. I guess that's really the point. But it's good fun and excellent fantasy fodder, don't you think?

OK, here goes. In no particular order I give you:
  • Ken Watanabe: I adored him in "The Last Samurai". Muscle-ridden, reflective, philosophical, committed, pent-up, angry, loyal, imperfect. Oh, yeah. That could work.
Ken, just give me a chance and I can wipe that serious look off your face for a night.
  • Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a., The Rock: OK. Knock it off. I saw you rolling your eyes. No judging allowed. I like him. He's funny, self-deprecating, hunky, and I could just imagine the feeling of being wrapped up in those steely arms. Yes. That is me you see melting into abandon...
Lord, hear my prayer.
  • Ryan Kwanten: He cannot possibly be as stupid as his Jason character on True Blood. And besides that, he doesn't need to say a word. In fact, he can just lie there in bed and I'll do all the work for both of us. Happy to oblige.
Like I said, he can just lie there and I'll do all the work.

  • Ed Burns: I guess what I like about Ed is that he seems pretty smart, fairly cute if slightly goofy-looking, not overly concerned about his appearance, and is waving a brave, unapologetic good-bye to his hairline. I appreciate that in a guy. Do you suppose that means he'd try harder? I'm willing to find out.
    How about it, Ed. Are you like Avis?
  • Isaiah Mustafa--The ex-footballer, Old Spice dude: I know, I know. You're right. He's a sort of a cliched and obvious choice. He seems to have a good sense of humor underneath those biceps. And admit it--he's beautiful without being pretty. Good Christ,  look at the dude. What's not to love?
I love a man who can handle a horse and smells like a man, man.
  • Noah Wylie of ER and Donnie Darko fame (to name a few):  He's just got that sweet, brown-eyed, take-me-home-and-have-your-way-with-me, puppy dog look that makes me want to snuggle right up to him and spend the night satisfying our mutual beastly urges.
Hey, there puppy. May I scratch you here or there?  You can scratch me anywhere...

  • John Corbett: Remember him? He played the philosophical, ex-felon DJ on Northern Exposure and Carrie's boyfriend in Sex and the City. He seems like another guy who doesn't seem overly concerned about his looks. I can imagine having a beer with him, slipping between the sheets, enjoying a romp and a few laughs at the same time. No one gets hurt and we both go home happy.
Adorable. Who could say no when all you have to do is nod your head yes?

No doubt you've noticed I still have 3 spots open. True. I figure I've got lots of time to put things together so I'm not rushing myself. The truth is, there aren't LOADS of men out there I find overwhelmingly panty-dropping appealing. Is it possible middle-agedness is catching up with me? Or perhaps--just maybe--I'm saving those places for a woman or two or three or... Oh, pshaw. Who could blame me?

This is probably unnecessary, but I feel the need to explain a few blatant omissions:

  • Johnny Depp:  He was at one time in my line-up but he's gone overboard with that lame pirate look. Lately, he  appears to be outrageously  filthy and very likely germ-infested, neither quality falling into the category of sexy.
  • Brad Pitt, Rob Lowe, Jude Law, and the rest of their ilk: Their major issue is they're too pretty. The last thing I want to be thinking about is how much prettier my date is than I. Total buzz-kill.
  • George Clooney: I dunno. He just doesn't do it for me. I do think he'd be fun to hang out with. Maybe he could be the older brother I never had.
  • Ashton Kutcher: I should really like him--tall, dark, handsome, but... ::shoulder shrug::  he already has his cougar. He doesn't need me. All I can say is I'm just not that into him. But Demi, girl, you knock yourself out!
  • Tom Cruise: Just kidding! Really, I wasn't at all serious. Were you?

If you're wondering if I'm supposed to rank them, the answer is yes. I just can't bring myself to put one over the other. That being said, the older guys have an edge on the younger ones. No doubt about it. Generally speaking, the older they get, the smarter they get, and therefore, the better they get. At least that's the hope.

You're upset. You're not comfortable with this. You're saying I've objectified these men.

You're right. And your point is...?

Be real. On some base level I do this because, as human as I am, I'm still an animal. I'm indulging my animal side right now. Deal with it. Run with it. Snarl at it. Grab it by its scuff. Mount it. Hump it.

Ah. You feel better now, don't you?

Once you're done forgiving me for my base indiscretion, I invite you to give it some thought. I'd like to know who makes YOUR DO LIST. Please feel free to respond in the comment section below. Your humanistic/animalistic identity needn't be exposed. You are invited to be as anonymous as your sense of decency requires. But really... my animus is aching to know.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

In Advance of Mother's Day

I spent the Sunday before Mother’s Day working in my garden—my first big spurt of gardening since the fall. I spent half the day hacking back the neighbor’s overgrown ivy from our fence and aggressively pruning our own outsized, overly exuberant bushes. The rest of the day I devoted to carefully planting iris rhizomes—not too shallow, not too deep, but at just the right level. It occurred to me—not for the first time—the dichotomy of cultivating a garden. It necessitates having both nurturing and destructive capabilities. Oftentimes they are called into play on the same day.
When I’m in full-blown (or even shallow-breathing) gardening mode, I can’t help but think of my mom. And with Mother’s Day looming, thoughts of her are more haunting than ever. Weekend after weekend, in her infamous and inglorious gardening moo-moos, she enslaved herself, and with less regularity, her daughters, (thankfully we were spared the humiliation of wearing moo-moos) to yard work. In addition to a painstakingly maintained rose garden, Mom had the best bearded iris collection around.
Bearded iris at the old house.

In what might be deemed hereditary solidarity (and with prompting from my husband who seems to feel roses are floral essentials) I made my last residence a spring/fall iris spectacle and rose grove to behold. I’ve recently taken the bulbous iris outcroppings from the old garden to propagate in our new garden. We’re starting anew with the roses since I couldn’t justify digging up the old bushes. They seem to like life in their current location. If Mom were still around to see her legacy of gardening activities, I think she’d be delighted. And when I survey my work, I acknowledge it as an homage to her.
My "old" rose garden--not yet in full bloom.

She died a little over seven years ago from complications and consequences of being morbidly obese—the state in which she spent the greater part of her adult life. I wish I could report it was a “good” death—whatever that consists of—that she was fulfilled and satisfied with her 70 years on the planet. I’d like to tell you she went easily and calmly, that she was at peace while she took her leave. Nothing could be further from the truth. Dying isn’t often easy. When you’ve spent a lifetime abusing yourself with food, inactivity and other destructive behaviors, departing can be—and was for both of us—torturous.
The only positive thing I can say about her death is that she was ready. In fact, my mom had been ready to depart this world for as long as I can remember. This manifested in some—shall we euphemistically say—self-destructive habits. There were three crises which occurred around the time I was between the ages of three and four that highlighted her injurious propensities. I vaguely remember all of them but required prompting and rehash from my sister (a year and a half older) and my father for the details. The three emergencies happened over the time span of a year or two. No one seems sure about the exact timeline anymore.
One incident involved the doctor—Mommy’s beloved Dr. Foster, a psychiatrist who became her unwitting knight in shining armor—coming to the house. She was very sick. My father explained to my sister and me that she’d taken too many pills. I don’t know if he used the word “accidentally” or not but I instinctively understood that it wasn’t an accident. My father took her to the hospital where they pumped her stomach. Apparently, this was a relatively benign aspirin O.D.
In a repeat episode (and this involved a lot of fill-in from my dad) she again took too many pills. This time things were more serious.  Apparently she’d been stockpiling the sleeping pills (tuinal) my father cautiously doled out to her, to save up for the big event. He found her in bed barely breathing. A call was made to the aforementioned Dr. Foster. This time her hospital trip involved not only a stomach pumping but an overnight stay in the psych ward. She demanded to be let out the next day and was released AMA—against medical advice. Luckily, too many pills had turned out to be not quite enough to achieve her goal.
The third misadventure is what I call the “Where’s Mommy?” night. I recall this somewhat more vividly than the other two events, which makes me think it happened later on in the timeline. She left the house in only her nightgown sometime after dark. As my dad tells it, he called the intrepid and by now nearly sainted Dr. Foster and a close friend to help him scour the sleepy streets of Los Gatos in search of his errant wife. My sister and I, also in our nightgowns, were wakened out of beds, put into the backseat of our black and white, 1957 Chevy Bel Air and told to look for Mommy.
We didn’t find her until we got back home. Decades later I found out why when Mom recounted the story to me. With weirdly perverse pleasure, she described how she’d slipped out of the front door in nothing but her nightie and hidden in the bushes next to the house. While we were out trolling the roads, looking for Mommy, she went back inside. Twenty plus years later she laughed at how she’d pulled one over on my dad. She made no mention of her two young daughters being hauled out of bed when they should have been sleeping. She offered no apology for making us worry. But man, she had a good laugh at my dad on that one. Hilarious.
Obviously, she never was successful at a full-on sayonara; otherwise she wouldn’t have lived to see her 70th birthday. But you get the idea. These goings-on set a certain tone of anxiety. Growing up, I couldn’t help but feel very worried about my mom. Apprehension and daughterly devotion were my overriding sentiments about her.
In those initial decades, the pitch didn’t change much. There was the divorce from my father. There were numerous bouts of her drinking too much. There were hysterical crying jags. There was a completely wrong-on-so-many-levels, marriage to a man who should never have been allowed to visit our home, much less move in with us.  This person mentally and occasionally physically brutalized my sister and me. I don’t call him my stepfather and have not kept in contact. Luckily, she divorced him, too. However, that spiraled her into further depression, a recurrence of drinking and much time spent abed.
Mom’s bad financial decisions stacked on top of each other like a slow-motion, chain-reaction, freeway pile-up. There was a house foreclosure—the home we grew up in—at a time when foreclosures were not only rare, but shameful. Both my sister and I, by then in college, were afraid for her during this particular time, and rightfully so. We were acutely aware that her “way out” was a default for suicide. If she didn’t like how things were going she could always just take her ball and go home. I honestly, believe that’s how she saw it. Her daughters had learned by then we weren’t supposed to feel responsible. We were just supposed to sadly wave goodbye and not give voice to the fact that we wished she’d stuck around longer.
You’re thinking: That’s not how it works.
True. But you couldn’t get her to understand that.
Empathetic and excessively concerned for the first three and a half decades of my life, my feelings about Mom gradually shifted.  Being around her became more and more a horrid chore. I still worried about her but the intensity of the worry was supplanted by resentment and exasperation. By this time I had my own child who needed and depended on me.  The obvious questions I’d kept in the depths started bubbling up like a toxic potion. Why couldn’t she be trusted her to take care of herself? Why couldn’t she be good to herself? What was wrong with her? What I once saw in soft focus as her weak and wounded spirit fell into sharper, harsher definition. A person more beset with terminal self-loathing, I’d never met.
Not surprisingly, around the age of 50, Mom was diagnosed with diabetes. Her decline was dawdling, occurring in bits and pieces, encroaching in fits and starts. Escalating ailments related to obesity closed in on her. Her once desired goal—to be dead—was taking a drawn-out, tedious and agonizing route to fruition.  I removed myself even more from her during this time. I know that sounds bad. It was. Your mom needs you as she becomes more and more ill and you pull away?  I did.  My sister did too.
Mom asked me about it—confronted me, really—and I told her the truth. “I can’t stand watching what you’re doing to yourself. You’re hurting yourself. You’re killing yourself right in front of me and there’s nothing I can do about it. You won’t do what you need to do to get better. You just do things that make it worse. You can’t expect me to enjoy spending time around you.”  
It’s extremely hard to care for a person who doesn’t care for themself.
Instead of keeping her weight down, being physically active, monitoring her blood sugar and insulin, she helped the disease and her girth along by downing bakery goods like a greedy, deprived child. She refused to believe in the circulatory problems associated with diabetes. Her mother, also a diabetic, had never lost her vision, or a limb, or her kidneys, and therefore it wouldn’t happen to her. In a vague sense, Mom was right. She didn’t live long enough to go blind, or lose body parts. She lived just to the point where she decided to take her ball and go home.
A week after she turned 70, she had enough. With a final heart attack, and protracted hospital stay, her abilities to walk and live on her own were extinguished. Rehab attempts did not amuse or arouse her. Threats of moldering away in a nursing home did not inspire or motivate her. She was ready to go. She asked me in front of my son who was ten at the time, to put her in the car and drive her to Oregon where they allow assisted suicide. “Mom. It doesn’t work that way. You have to have been a resident already. You have to be diagnosed with a terminal disease. I can’t. I’m sorry.” “Please,” she begged, “You have to help me.”
She died not so many weeks later of septicemia which began from bed sores—a direct result of her immobility and her decreased circulation. The doctors advised us to let the infection progress. Mom had a DNR (do not resuscitate) order placed on her file and the doctor was taking it more seriously than we would have on our own. Shocked and resigned, my sister and I agreed.
It took days—maybe a week. Between regular pain relief shots, she suffered loudly and indignantly. Finally, I pleaded with Kaiser to put in an IV to allow a steady supply of drugs. They were concerned. Did I know this would hasten the process? Well, no, I didn’t. But if that were the case, I wondered, why didn’t we do this immediately? Wasn’t that the point—to help her on her way as comfortably as possible?
A call came from Kaiser early one morning—around 4:30. Mom had finally passed. When would I be coming to the hospital? What should be done with her body? At her request, she was taken into the care of the Neptune Society. A month or so later, I took her ashes home with me.
There was relief. There was sadness. There was regret. There was emptiness. As I write this I understand that there was also irony. She’d been so intent at various times on taking her own life and in the end it had to be done for her with medical intervention. Yes. There was that.
I don’t miss my mom the way I presume most people miss their deceased parents. What I miss is the person I think she wanted to be. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I miss the person I wanted her to be. I’m not so sure how similar those two people are to each other. Mom certainly had good intentions—having a marriage and a family—she just wasn’t always great on follow-through. And I have to wonder if I should be missing her at all or just be happy for her. She finally got what she wanted—that one-way ticket most of us dread. At the not-so-ripe age of 70, her heart’s desire was finally fulfilled with the help of her daughters’ consent and a team of healthcare professionals.
So when I’m tilling the soil, maniacally slashing back the overgrowth, tenderly planting seedlings, ripping up weeds, nurturing blooms, pruning off dead wood, or coaxing healthy, new growth, I’m thinking of Mom.  She was, in her way, a garden. The first part of my life I spent cherishing, loving, and fretting over her. In later years, I wrongly believed she should be able to take care of herself. At the end, her diabetes and weight evolved into a kind of rampant ivy, taking over her body and pulling her down. It was not a thing over which I had control. She was not a person over whom I had control.  Finally, the best thing that could be done was to agree to speed her on her way. The decision—both lethal and compassionate—was the most benevolent conclusion we could offer our mother after a lifetime spent trying to hurl herself over the garden gate.
I wish she were here to see my new garden go in, but I think she’s happier being on the other side of the gate.

The first iris in my new garden