Everything All At Once

In my peaceful yoga class, a phone rang. Twice. I was happy I’d remembered to turn mine off, until class was over and my friend showed me the two calls she’d gotten…from people trying to reach me. My father had been calling all over town looking for me, as he needed a ride to the doctor. Right that minute.

I managed to rush home to shower and get him to his appointment on time. He was in a bit of a panic, so I didn’t understand what he meant after I asked him why he hadn’t told me he had a doctor appointment. I’d seen him just the other day. We’d talked for hours! He said something like “they call me last minute.”

I didn’t get it, he’d said the other day he had a doctor’s appointment Friday and he’d arranged to have an open MRI. He’d been so relieved. But this was Thursday and he was going into a closed MRI machine (Dad is claustrophobic). He needed a ride because he’d be taking a larger dose of anti-anxiety medication than he was used to and wouldn’t be able to drive.

I didn’t want to ask him anything else because he was panicky. It’s hard to talk sensibly when you’re having an anxiety attack. I just said soothing things and acted like everything was normal. He kept saying I was going the wrong way, but I had my GPS on it said we were five minutes away. I knew exactly how my dad was feeling because I’ve been there many times. We share the claustrophobia gene.

We got to the doctor and three hours later he was done. How did it go? I asked him. “It was horrible! They put something over my face. I slept almost the entire time.” That didn’t make a lot of sense, but I didn’t press him. I could tell his meds had kicked in big time.

I was not clear on what he was getting an MRI for…I thought it was for his knee? So why would a neurologist be doing that MRI? Shouldn’t an ortho guy do that? And then the prescription we stopped to have filled. He’d shown me six new prescriptions (!) the other day. I asked the pharmacist what this new one was for and he said restless leg syndrome. I didn’t know my dad had that.

I am worried about my dad’s doctor visits, his prescription use, his health. I want to do more to help him, like sit in with him on doctor visits and ask questions, take notes. Check his medication and make sure he takes the right pills every day. But I fear his reaction. What if he thinks I’m invading his privacy? Or treating him as if he is incompetent? Still, I’m going to talk to him about all this tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I also need to mail in my absentee ballot plus sign up for Medicare and Social Security. I need to do laundry and shop for groceries. Friends are coming over on Tuesday and staying the night, so I’ll be making another frittata. I just made one when we had overnight friends a few days ago. Then next weekend we are going out of town for a night and in two weeks we’re meeting up with friends in Savannah, Georgia for a long weekend. I’m looking forward to all of it, okay maybe not signing up for Medicare.

Retirement is not what I imagined. In my mind, I thought it would be relaxed and easy. It is not. It is hectic. Maybe someday things will slow down, but not yet. I am so happy to have Al to help and to lean on. I don’t know how I ever did this without him. He golfs with my dad twice a week, something I for sure could not do.

Oh, and my prescription coverage changed today. I’ve only had the new one for retirees two months. But the government put me on the Medicare one. Because it’s my birthday this month. Which is why I have to immediately sign up for Medicare. Yesterday the drugstore wanted $130 to refill a prescription that used to be $3.

If all this sounds a little scattered and confused, it’s because that’s how I feel right now. Like I need a list. Or maybe three or four lists. But I am also happy to be in Florida, to see a lot more of my friends, and to have early dinners with my dad in the warm sunshine. It really is good to be alive.

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Lying Low in October

FrontCoverfinalMA14197642-0001Mercury retrograde almost all month. Hunters out stalking prey. Novel deadline looming. Papers and exams multiply, spilling from my book bag as if by evil magic. Homework! Mine AND theirs. Other stuff. One order of Quiet Reflection to go, please.

I have a plan for this month that involves nothing more than stillness and quiet as often as possible amid all the crazy. At one point, I almost went away to achieve it. Then I decided to find peace right where I’m at, in the middle of more stress than I can manage on my own. So I called in the troops.

Dinner? Maybe. It’s still harvest time here in Michigan and slicing fresh tomatoes is easy. Stirring up acorn squash soup soothes me. Roasting the last of the corn, slicing apples and eating them raw. No shortage of food in the fridge, but if dinner in the traditional sense doesn’t happen, I’m not stressing about it. I need to get over that forever and this month is the perfect time to begin. It’s not like I have children to feed anymore. More like an inner directive “Thou shall make dinner every night.” New memo to self: don’t sweat over stove duty.

Also booked a massage and a reflexology treatment. I’ll do that a couple of times this month. I crave the soothing touch of a person trained to ease every muscle in my body. Today, instead of hitting the yoga studio, I’m going to practice in the quiet of my own home. Morning meditation already met. Thoughtful reflection in diary instead of dashing off final chapters of novel. I’m seeing someone, a therapist. She’s given me a writing assignment to help sort out a personal mess.

If I can get things to slow down, find time to just be, I think what I will be is fine.

*Photo by Debra Bressman from a limited edition short story that eventually became Gypsy.


new.house3A recent day found me at the top of the staircase and before I could even get used to the heady air up there, I came crashing right back down. Metaphorically speaking. (Because I’ve written about this literally happening once before.) I got great news in the  morning email. I’d been assigned a new editor! I was asked about signing a series contract! I’d always planned this series, but writing everything down made it real.

And then a strange person came into my house and set me off. I knew he was coming, so technically, I had already been wound up. Am I mixing metaphors? Sorry. I’m still flustered. I don’t like strangers in my house. Especially male strangers. Especially big hairy strangers who can’t fix what’s broken. Especially if they insist on engaging in long conversations that keep them in my house way too long and seem very friendly. I like the curt, competent type of repair guy. Okay, I don’t like him, but he’s incrementally better than the too-friendly sort.

I’m not sure why this is so, maybe I have a stranger phobia, but anyway, by the time he left, I was stressed. I disinfected every square inch of the space he might have touched. (His fingerprints were smuged big and ugly all over everything. It was creepy, I tell you!) I washed all the towels in the powder room, even though from my office I had not heard a toilet flush.

So he was gone and still I found it impossible to leave my house even though I had to grocery shop. I had planned to grocery shop. I couldn’t make dinner. I always make dinner. I had planned to make dinner. But I was frozen. I realize that it’s a high-class problem, this being frozen business. In a war zone, that would get me killed.

I gave myself a stern talking to. “You are not some neurotic mess. You have handled far worse than this, which by the way was nothing, what is wrong with you?” Then I called my husband Al to bring pizza and watched television for three hours. I took a pill to ward off the migraine that had begun the minute my stress spiked. But other than that, I didn’t move until the pizza got home.

Since this person who had invaded my home was a repairman, I had to go over events with Al. He is really the one who should handle these things, but it’s hard for him to arrange with work. So I am his poor substitute. I had to listen to a few “why didn’t you” and “what the hell” sort of things. My nerves started to shred again, so I tried to explain how I felt inside. I love Al but he’s not good with panic and nerves and so forth.

I know it’s irrational to not file a complaint because I think the repairman might get angry, become homicidal and come after me. I understand this is unlikely to happen. I understand repairmen are nice people and very few if any are murderers. And yet. I forced a promise from Al that he would not call and complain. Then Al lost it. Well, as far as he can lose it. Al is the king of cool. He simply looked at me with complete disdain, which, of course, made me feel worse.

Al insists on complaining about shoddy work and here I was tying his hands. He was not a happy man. We decided to table the entire discussion. I shoved two slices of pizza down my throat, not even tasting them, and opened a bottle of wine. As I savored a glass, I thought about how days can go like that, from good to bad, from bad to worse. And those days are the ones when what is needed is a good mattress at the foot of the staircase.