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Wednesday, October 31, 2018
It creeps up on me. When I climb the ladder to store my booze above the corner cupboard. When I bend down to accomplish certain tasks and find my elbow pushed to my thigh, guarding my back. When I stumble just a little on the stairs. When I ascend and descend a staircase (generally not nude), so many times a day, I hear it whisper: not forever.
I don’t heal as quickly as I used to. I’m not really gaining weight, but everything is shifting—I am thicker in the middle. One of these days I will not be able to turn that birthday cartwheel. (Of course, it would be good if I turned cartwheels between birthdays.)
Old age. The end of days. Not forever. I must be brave.
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
I’m scared I won’t have enough Halloween candy—I buy about five pounds of the stuff—and I don’t think I’ve ever run out but nearly did one year, and I never know whether to limit trick-or-treaters to one piece, it kind of depends on when they show up, and I wonder if it’s scarier to have leftover candy that one likes or leftover candy that one doesn’t like, and I tend to get candy that I like despite the danger, e.g., tonight I had to sample an Almond Joy, a Reese’s PEANUT BUTTER CUP, and a Baby Ruth to be sure that they were OK, and if I do decide to leave town tomorrow instead of doing Halloween, all that candy could be my office contribution for the year.
Alison says that our accommodations on these Maryland trips are going the way of an illicit love affair. We started in February in a beautiful airbnb: a well-appointed converted-barn-writers-retreat with a full kitchen, surrounded by beautiful farmland. Now, in October, we’re in a mid- to low-level chain hotel with a minifridge and microwave, surrounded by strip malls. “Let’s get this fucking over with!” I joke, and we begin laughing so hard we’re crying. The rental car, too, provokes the follow-up “What’s that smell?”, something we hadn’t noticed in the dark airport rental lot when we just trying to get there already. The faintest whiff of skunk, but there.
vice to heart but why wouldn’t you leave originals with the lawyer(!?!), so now Alison and I think we need to drill the box because either (a) there are important things in there and everyone should know what they are or (b) there is nothing important in there and why are annual fees being paid if this is so, and if Mom dies and we don’t know where the original wills are, I’m not sure what happens then, is it possible we could just walk away from shit we don’t want anyway (not bloody likely), Judi says it likely means that everything would have to go through the courts, and now of course I’m envisioning a massive search in The House next time I’m in town, which will be horrific and may lead to nothing and I just don’t understand why my parents always have to make everything as difficult as it can possibly be.
thought it was there, but the safety boxes had been moved when a branch closed down and when at last I found the right branch I needed to have the key but no one knew where the key was and Mom said all that is in there is your dad’s expired passport, and there was going to be a substantial fee to drill the box, and then the lawyers were able to get us copies of the power of attorney parts we needed to see anyway, and we dropped it, but now we don’t know where the original wills are and Mom thinks they are somewhere in The House but she doesn’t know where and when I look online apparently there is lots of advice to NOT put wills in a safety deposit box because no one can open it if you die (well, a survivor whose name was on the box could I guess, with a key), and that complicates things because maybe for once they took ad-
Mom has found two accounts that were in Dad’s name only and the bank told her she needed to be named Dad’s representative and that there’ s form that needs to be obtained from the register of wills but Mom said the will wasn’t registered and they didn’t want it to be and so we went to the courthouse and the register of wills confirmed that the will was not registered but that Mom could not get to those accounts without this happening so they called the lawyer’s office to get the original will sent over and the lawyer’s office said that they only had copies with a note that said the client had taken the wills and was going to be put them in the safety deposit box and back when potential power of attorney stuff had come up in January Alison and I had wanted to get into their safety deposit box to see the will, as we
Mom let the registration on the car expire but then sent in the money but they sent it back because they got word that Dad died and apparently even though her name is on the title with his, in Maryland you still have to transfer the car title to the survivor only, but when I looked at the back of the title to try to fill it out it was complicated and you don’t want to write the wrong thing on the title and she doesn’t have a driver’s license anymore and even though she owns the car how does transfer of title of a car work for someone who doesn’t have a license to drive it? This will be addressed during the photo ID visit, which will be another day from hell.
Mom doesn’t have a photo ID because she let her driver’s license expire in 1998 and her passport expire in 2016 and we thought we could get her a state photo ID but they need a current license or passport or an original or certified copy of her birth certificate and we have none of those but then realized we could renew her passport if it had expired less than 5 years ago so we found [!] it and OMG it had only expired 2 years ago so we took her to get her photo taken and we filled out the paperwork and maybe in the next month or so she’ll get the passport she’ll never use to go anywhere but can use it to get the photo ID, which will serve as her second form.
To get to the college field station—an old cabin then—you needed a key to unlock the gate at the main road, then you drove in on a long single-lane dirt road, maybe a mile. Better take a car with some clearance. From the station, it was about a 5-minute walk down to the lake. You were in the middle of nowhere. It was dark at night, darker still in the woods. Owls and whip-poor-wills called. One night we heard strange sounds, strange enough to get spooked. Laughed nervously. Picked up the phone to call out. No dial tone. Dead. Stopped laughing. Then we heard chains dragging along one side of the house. We. freaked. out. (It was a well-played prank by Pierre.)
Monday, October 29, 2018
Years ago, I hosted a Christmas party at our house for friends and neighbors. At one point, in my peripheral vision, I saw something dart quickly under the dining room table—perhaps a small blond child. I thought it might be Nolan, who was small, but not THAT small. I looked under the table. Nothing. I found it odd, but forgot about it.
I can’t quite remember what Christine said not long after, but I realized I’d seen the darting child after Christine’s arrival to the party. It then seemed obvious that it was her ghost—the one she sees in her house all the time. It had apparently traveled with her to the party. And then it traveled back. I never saw it again.
Monday, October 22, 2018
Saturday night I made it to Harloween, amazingly, the annual Halloween party our friends have on their property/barn in part to celebrate their daughter Harlow’s birthday, and lately it’s fallen on the same night as a board of trustees dinner I have to attend, and it did this year, and the day was weird anyway because I have a cold and have to get on a plane Thursday, and I should have just spent the day resting but instead I got snow tires on one car and went to Nori’s dad’s funeral and then to the board dinner and I almost didn’t go to Harloween, it was late, I was exhausted, but I pulled on my big-girl Boo! Humbug! sweatshirt and said hello to my friends.
back to try and Mom didn’t want to go but then Alison (whom I at last found) and Mom talked but Mom wasn’t answering in satisfactory ways so they called 911 so the EMTs could figure out the blood sugar thing and it was low as Mom said (long story) and we are flying down on Thursday anyway but this stuff is just too hard from so far away and I’m back to why does my mother have to be like this and why does everything have to be as difficult as it can possibly be and it’s impossible to move forward because of so many things and I wish everything could just be closer to normal and that we had a family that felt like what I think a family is supposed to feel like
Jeanne called last night and she had just visited my mother who apparently half fell asleep during the visit but then said she hadn’t slept well the night before but Jeanne said she also sometimes zoned out in a way Jeanne had not seen before but I’m not sure what to do because she’s in independent living and not assisted living, and I don’t know how much might be stroke or diabetes or neither and I don’t know much about diabetes because she always hid it from us and I couldn’t reach Alison who knows about these things, and then Jeanne called a nurse from the church who said get mom to the emergency room, could be a stroke, need to be sure, then Jeanne went
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Apparently there’s been a trampoline in the attic of the barn next door for 14 years and Nolan, 16, wanted to get it out so he could learn some tricks on it, and Lynda, his mom, wasn’t into having a trampoline and thought he should talk with his dad about it, although his dad’s wife apparently wasn’t into it either, but then Nolan brought the trampoline out himself before mom and dad could talk, so it’s done, at her house, and there’s no net around it, and Lynda and I had that talk about the insurance guy who told me he looked for “pitbulls and trampolines,” but really, the horror part of this is my childhood, when I made the trampoline go down the farthest in gym class, and other kids would comment, so when I can, I like to try to get back on the horse, so to speak, and I might. I might. I mean, it’s right there.
It had been on my Netflix list forever, but on Kim’s perhaps inadvertent recommendation I at last watched The Cabin in the Woods this week, over two workouts on my elliptical, and it was great fun, especially the setup (first workout) with all the typical Whedonesque/Goddardesque banter, and it sports a great cast (Richard Jenkins! Amy Acker! Fran Kranz! Bradley Whitford!), and it was only starting to get gory at the halfway point when I stopped, only one horrific death, and workout #2 was supergory but with fun twists and a good ending and I enjoyed it and even watched some of it again on our big screen when, on my recommendation, Tim watched it last night.
For Susan and Helen: One night I woke suddenly, not hearing something, exactly, but sensing it, and I shook Tim awake and said there’s a bat in the bedroom, flying over our heads, and he said that’ s ridiculous, so he turned on the light, and there was a bat flying over our heads, and I love bats but I don’t like sharing an indoor dwelling with them so I freakishly ran to the hallway, closed all the doors to other rooms, opened the hallway window, turned off the lights, and when the bat flew into the hall we shut ourselves into our room and hoped the bat would find the open window and we didn’t open a door til the next morning and we never saw the bat again.
Friday, October 19, 2018
Col. Robert Venables, 1662: “First, I begin to set on my hook (placing the hair on the inside of its shank, with such coloured silk as I conceive most proper for the flie, beginning at the end of the hook, and when I come to that place which I conceive most proportionable for the wings, then I place such coloured feathers there, as I apprehend most resemble the wings of the flie, and set the points of the wings toward the head, or else I run the feathers (and those must be stripped from the quill or pen, with part of it still cleaving to the feathers) round the hook, and so make them fast, if I turn the feathers round the hook, then I clip away those that are upon the back of the hook, that so (if it be possible) the point of the hook may be forced by the feathers (left on the inside of the hook) to swim upwards; . . . ”
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
The first time I saw Rocky Horror Picture Show, maybe, was in a university town with Alison and Dana in 1978. One of them—I think the straitlaced-seeming Dana—snuck in a flask. I was scared of getting caught, but Alison, who had recently been kicked out of boarding school, was not. Of course I was just paranoid, all was well, and it was a great show.
The next time I saw Rocky Horror Picture Show was a few months later, in 1979, in Toronto. This was another world. The theatre was huge, the crowd down and dirty. Props were plentiful, and Leyla and I were asked to pass joints between rows. Stay sane inside insanity.
These days I watch within my own haunted house.
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
When I was very young, we had this babysitter named Jane. I liked Jane. She was cheerful and bubbly. She drove a pale pastel–yellowish VW Bug, and sometimes we’d get to ride in it. I am sure that’s the first one I ever set foot in. It would not be the last.
Thursday, October 11, 2018
On Tuesday, neighbor Nori’s birthday, I took her a birthday care package filled with sweets and savories and alcohol. Her father-in-law died twenty-four days ago in the Czech Republic; her father died six days ago here. She has two young children. It’s been rough. She needs sweets and savories and alcohol.
As I was putting the package together, though, I had a scary thought. I believed that I could guess exactly what she was doing the day I got married.
She would be having her birthday party, of course, on the Saturday two days after her birthday. She is turning thirty-nine, so it would have been her seventh birthday.
My wedding was thirty-two years ago today.
Not wanting to deliberately scare myself has also transferred to a reluctance to get on thrill rides—roller coaters, etc. Sometimes I do anyway, and sometimes it’s fun. Once, Craig and I took a 5-day trip to Disney World.
We went to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a sheer drop. I was nervous. I sat through the TZ introductory film, then I bailed before the ride. I had to be escorted out the back. Craig rode and was so shaken that I couldn’t get him to go on anything tamer, like Splash Mountain, which I rode by myself. They put me by myself in the first car. Just as it was our turn to drop down the falls, just as I got to the doors that were about to open, me in the front, they shut down the ride for like 10 minutes. I got to sit there knowing I’d be the first to see what would happen when the ride started up again.
As someone not out to deliberately scare herself, I was never really into haunted houses, and I’m sure my parents never offered to take me to one. I imagine I did go to a couple in my youth; I don’t remember vividly. Certainly I went on haunted-house–themed amusement park rides.
But since moving to Vermont, I’ve gone to quite a few, usually because I’ve had friends involved in their production. Both my ability to understand that this is all put on AND seeing my friends act in “scary” roles elevates it to humor and entertainment. Even in that old jailhouse.
Still, I hate deep darkness. I don’t want to be the first in the group, and I don’t want to be dead last.
Monday, October 8, 2018
I have this author who doesn’t have a computer and so our correspondence is not via e-mail but via the U.S. postal service, and he makes his own stationery by photocopying cartoons at the top of an 8.5 x 11-inch sheet, and he gets me politically/musically and sometimes sends articles, like that one about John Prine, and I find him utterly charming and appropriately curmudgeonly, and a few weeks ago I replied to his most recent letter and last week went to the office and there it was back, marked undeliverable, and the museum confirmed the address I used, and searching obituaries reveals nothing, and now all I have is a phone number and I’m scared to dial it.
While I wait for The Cabin in the Woods to arrive from Netflix (it’s been on my list for years, but Kim’s mention of it and this project have bumped it up to position 1), I’ve decided to watch Season 1 of that other Joss Whedon/Drew Goddard project, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, while I work out on my elliptical. I watch the series through every few years. I love it for its writing, humor, natural feminism. In Whedon’s worlds, the sexes are so equal that accepting this as normal is like breathing. Letting your brain live in this normalcy is quietly empowering. And when the day really does need to be saved, you know it’s gonna be a girl kicking the requisite ass.
Saturday, October 6, 2018
This stupid country. White people who believe in the American dream over reality. Fascists. The Supreme Court. Racists. Gun fanatics. Global warming. Hurricanes. Flooding. Earthquakes. Fire. Unemployment. No health insurance. Sexists. Religious extremists. Cancer. My closets. Death of loved ones. Suffering. Pain. Depression. Mass shootings. Mental illness. Anti-intellectuals. Science deniers. Widowhood. Driving in bad weather. So much more bad weather. Species decline. Entitled assholes with money and power. My neighborhood’s deterioration. Poverty upon retirement. How much time and energy I spend hating people. Mom’s death and the house the house the house.
Friday, October 5, 2018
I don’t seek out scary movies. I don’t want to be scared for scared’s sake. I’ve never seen Deliverance. After all, I love the outdoors and don’t want it associated with scary stuff.
I avoid horror, but when it’s combined with humor, I’m in. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. Shaun of the Dead. Night of the Living Deb. Get Out. I need that buffer to relieve the . . . tension. (Love that Rocky Horror Picture Show.)
I’ve become convinced that good horror is good social commentary. Good metaphor. Still, I approach cautiously.
I first saw The Silence of the Lambs maybe five years ago. Seriously. But I watched it while I was on my elliptical. It helps when I’m already running.
Thursday, October 4, 2018
After the play I turn my phone back on, and there is the message: John is dead. My breath catches. Tears. Dear John.
A few months ago, Andrew, in England, asked me for John’s most recent phone number, as John wasn’t a person to use computers or have an e-mail address, plus he’d recently moved to California. Eight time zones apart, Andrew and John talked, and I was happy to hear about it, and we assumed John was in good shape.
He was not. And he didn’t mention it. It’s just the sort of thing he wouldn’t mention.
It’s possible, the way time goes, that I hadn’t spoken with him in two years. Is that the scary part of this post?
He would have turned eighty-one today.
Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Yesterday I edited my museum files, throwing out a thousand pages of correspondence and other ephemera. It felt like the dead were piling up around me. Online I looked up authors who had promised me things, whom I hadn’t heard from in just long enough, thinking that they might be dead. Reader, they are.
I edit the historical musings of old men, many of whom I become extremely fond. One by one, they leave me. This meant, in some cases, I could toss their files. In others, it meant I could not. After all, some of them are a little famous. And some of them I loved.
Lately it’s been death death death. The parents of my generation are leaving. Who will it be today?
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
I step out of the car, and there it is, by my feet: a grate. Or I park, then walk to the passenger side to pull stuff off the seat, and there’s one there. Or I am walking between the car and some close destination, keys in hand or barely settled in my coat pocket, and I pass a grate or a storm drain in a curb.
I am terrified that I will drop my keys into an abyss.
I hold them tighter. I pat my pockets, confirming their presence. I move away quickly. I prepare myself mentally for the return trip.
Monday, October 1, 2018
Last night I read a poem that mentioned “the sensation you might feel as you passed through the moment at the exact center of your life” and I realized that no matter what, I have long passed that moment. And maybe that’s a scary thing, or not, depending on one’s outlook in this moment. Or this one.