Posts Tagged ‘Anchorage’

Oh Yeah

December 18, 2014

Tomorrow’s my birthday.

I sort of forgot.

“I don’t care about my birthday, or Christmas, or the holidays, or any of it, I just don’t have it in me,” I told my dear friend today on the phone from the playground before the rain started up again.

No those aren’t tears on my face, it’s just the rain.

Ok.

I lie.

There’s some tears in there too.

I cried a bit more than I expected I would today, it would catch me off guard and I wasn’t prepared for it.

I went back to work today after spending a lot of time yesterday nesting in my little home by the sea.

I cleaned, scoured, scrubbed, swept, did laundry, stripped my bedding, washed it all down, as though if I could possibly control my environment I would feel in control of something.

“If it feels like you’re falling down the hill, you’re in God’s will.”

Falling down that hill.

Not sure where it’s going to land either.

Things aren’t neat and tidy like they are in the movies, a quick resolution of the drama, a tight little bundle wrapped in brown paper and tied up with green jute string.

Nope.

My father’s situation is still stable, no change, according to the phone call I took this morning from the hospital.

I took a few phone calls from the hospital, which is probably why I was in tears more than once today.  Emotionally off my equilibrium.

Caught in the unawares by feelings that I thought had already come out.

I was that crazy lady in the terminal at the airport crying.

I was the passenger in the window seat forlornly staring at the cloud columns rising in the sky against the burnt umber of the sunset.

I was the woman lost at the terminal when I landed waiting for my ride to show up, he was in terminal three I was in terminal one.

I was that person.

I was that woman sobbing in her boyfriends arms.

Then kissing him and hugging him and wanting to crawl under his arm and into his coat.

Which I did do later that night and when he didn’t ask if I wanted him to spend the night, he has to be up ridiculously early for work, but just gathered his things to bring over to my house, I was grateful.

Wet and sad too.

The rain, it just doesn’t stop.

It’s like God is crying for me.

And sometimes I don’t know what I am crying for.

The sadness of it all, the wasted living, the relationship that was truncated so long ago and never fully re-established.

I miss my dad, but I miss him like an afterthought of what a father is supposed to be, like the taste of chocolate, a memory in my mouth.

The velveteen rabbit bank he gave me more solid in my mind than conversations about our lives, hopes, dreams, endeavors.

I know, however, I believe firm and true, that my father wanted the best for me.

So, with all due respect to the man still in the coma, I am going to get about living.

That’s really the only option I have–be true to my life and my recovery and my journey and live it the hell up.

Tomorrow I’ll be 42.

Hell, in two hours I will be 42.

In fact, in Australia, I already am 42.

I was a few hours ago as a friend from Sidney wished me a happy birthday from down under.

What will I do with 42?

In the year past I have done some traveling–Florida to see my mom and sister last January, Wisconsin to see my best friend and her skulk in July, Burning Man, to see that family that is extra special dusty and dreamy, in August, and Anchorage, Alaska, to see my father in a hospital johnny that did nothing to hide the ravages of the years.

I would actually like to go back to Alaska, under better circumstances, this year of my life, to see the long days and the light that lasts almost all night in the summer.

I did not see much of Anchorage, but I saw enough that I am intrigued.

Plus, I met one super fabulous woman and I suspect that there are a few others up that way who may be friends of friends that I could connect with.

I also want to go to Hawaii.

When?

I don’t actually know, but I feel like this passage of time and this experience with my father has brought about in me a hunger to know more of my family and more of my family history–which on my father’s side has a great deal to do with the Hawaiian islands.

“How old is grandma?” I asked my cousin as we sat in the airport terminal having lunch.

One of the gifts of the delayed flight time back (I am sure there are others, but this is the only clear one to me, the length of time it took me to get back was deliriously long–one missed connection by four minutes led to me having to wait an extra six and a half hours in the airport and then the weather was bad in San Francisco and my plane, once I was finally on it, was delayed again and we sat on the runway for two hours, then circled for an additional half hour in the air above SFO) was that I received a call from a cousin who I had not seen in over 30 years.

He called when my grandmother saw my post on facecrack about the flight delay, he was nearby at work and we had a little family reunion at the Phoenix airport over some bbq in the terminal.

“She was 13 when Pearl Harbor was bombed,” he said ticking off the numbers we figured out her age.

My grandmother was on the island when the bombing happened.

There’s a lot of history there to be explored.

That’s something I want to do for 42.

I also want to go to Atlanta, Georgia, there’s a really big convention there in July.

Not that I am psyched about going to Georgia in July, but hey, it only happens every five years and I have yet to go.

It’s time I do that as well.

Other goals?

Well, graduate school.

That’s still on the table.

“I’m a therapists wet dream,” I joked morbidly with one of the nurses on my father’s watch.

I had moments of dark humour sweep over me and sometimes it would sneak out.

But it doesn’t really surprise me that one of my desires is to do therapy as a vocation.

I’m a care taker, a home maker, a protector, a nanny, a confidante, a mentor, it makes sense to add therapist there.

“You’re a child psychologist making baby sitter wages, go back to school,” he suggested with blunt authority.

Yes sir.

That graduate school application isn’t going to do itself.

That’s one thing to aim for in this year of 42, another thing on my to do list.

Go back to school my dear.

I want to see the monarch migrations in Big Sur, go to Burning Man, but not work it, well, at least not the way that I have in the past 7 years, I want to hang glide, got to the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, I want to spend a holiday at my Uncle’s house in Nevada City, see my grandmother in San Diego, maybe see if I can get my mom to come to San Francisco.

Oh.

Yeah.

It’s also time for another tattoo.

Come January 13th or thereabouts, I will need a commemorative tattoo.

Design yet to be decided upon.

And I want to live, live, live, and experience life fully, dance, sing, hold my boyfriends hand, sleep in the crook of his arms, be of service to my friends and my community, laugh a lot, cry when I need to, ride my scooter, go to school, love as hard as I can.

Really.

That’s it.

I just want to live and love as hard as I can.

I think that’s a great goal for this next year of my life.

42.

I say I do.

Let’s get it on.

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Saying Hello

December 15, 2014

Just to say goodbye again.

Goodbye papa.

I love you.

I kissed his cheek.

It was surprisingly warm, and the warmth and the prickles of stubble startled tears from my eyes.

I left his room.

I had said my goodbyes.

I told him what I needed to say, I wrote him a card, I held his hand, I stroked his arm, his knees, and the tops of his feet.

If he wasn’t wearing a helmet to protect his head, I would have stroked his hair, so like mine, still so dark, the gray is in his beard.

That was new.

I have never seen my father with a beard.

It was not a full fledge beard, but it was far more hair on his face than I can ever recall having seen.

“Does anyone know what happened,” the night nurse asked.

“No,” I replied, but the nurse who I checked in with on Friday read the intake notes to me and it sounded like he was assaulted for his wallet.

There was no need to say the rest of the story, my father’s body tremors spoke the rest of the tale, the bruises and scrapes and scars, the toughened skin, the cracked toenails, the hair, too long—another thing I had not seen on my father, long hair—the swollen hands, the alcohol withdrawal was hard to watch and bear witness to, but bear I did.

“You did a fine thing, you showed up as a woman of valor and strength and whatever happens this is between you and your dad, and you deserve to go out and experience every rich and wonderful thing that life has to give you, you let yourself have those things.”

Thank you Honey.

I needed to hear those wise words.

And so many others.

My darling boyfriend.

My dearest best friend.

My mom.

My sister.

My grandmother.

The worlds all convened in one spot for me in one fulcrum of pain and sorrow and grief and joy and gratitude.

The gift of my father.

I thanked him for helping me find closure.

I don’t know if he will come out the other side of this, but I do know that I will.

Breathe and pray.

She said to me.

Breathe and pray.

And that’s really what I did.

I prayed and held his hand.

I also cried.

But have I had a really good sob?

Not yet.

I did for a moment break down when I left the ICU, said thank you to the kind nurses; I lost it for a moment there in the waiting room.

Barren but for I.

I crumpled.

My face fell.

The tears scalded my cheeks and I let loose a wail.

Then I breathed in and prayed out and asked for a little more strength.

There was no one to hold my hand through the walking out of that waiting room, but I was held nonetheless.

My eyes so blurred with tears that I could barely respond to the texts from my boyfriend, then, the elevator, the intake desk at the ER, the cab called, the wait while the crazy of a busy ER bloomed around me.

“Please, sit, really, the driver will come and call out your name,” the receptionist kindly spoke to me.

I thanked her, looked at the melee in the waiting room and withdrew to stand by the doors.

I am done with this place, this space, this ER, this ICU; I just want to go home.

Home.

San Francisco.

I met so many kind people while I was here, was helped immensely by the fellowship, welcomed and hugged, picked up and brought places, asked to read and share, drank many, many, many large cups of coffee, and cried in the safety of rooms that I knew would hold my tears and keep them safe.

I am so thankful, grateful, and in deep debt to these rooms and the amazing people I met, especially one lovely lady who really stepped up to help and be of service, may I have the graciousness within me to play that service forward.

I have thank you cards in my bag, which of course, I did not find a mailbox to mail them from, but they are there.

I bought them as well as a postcard and a refrigerator magnet at the Anchorage Museum.

I got out a little today in between the church basement and the hospital.

My new friend took me to a museum and we talked and laughed and shared our experiences and then went to a café and I had a big old green salad, oh San Francisco I do miss your lovely food, and it was so wonderful to connect with someone.

I met her just yesterday morning and she feels like an old friend.

Just one of the many gifts I am sure will come of this experience.

The gift of seeing my father and finding my way through to an adult experience to deal with the being there for my family and to also find a small space for myself to have my own experience and interaction.

My heart hurts.

I am tender.

I am wrung with tears.

“The Christmas lights are so pretty in the snow,” I texted my boyfriend.

The Christmas carols in the hallways of the hospital, the crying child, the mountains capped with white, the blue sky, the blaze of golden orange at 3:30 in the afternoon as the sun began its fast descent, the mix of cheer and pain and sorrow and joy.

The richness that is my life that I can hold more than one emotion at a time and allow space for all of them.

I am a vessel of love and I found that the depth and parameters of my heart are far bigger than I suspected.

That’s what happens.

God breaks open your heart to fill it further.

A split open heart has more room, more area, a cup, a chalice, and a field of blazing aurora borealis against the deep indigo sky, to hold love.

It’s a feeling I have not gotten used to, but it is not unfamiliar and in the feeling I know that the rendering of it will only make me love harder and more if I keep my heart field open.

That’s the best I have.

I let go.

I let God.

I surrendered.

I accept and am loved.

I was brave and will continue to honor my family, my friends, my love, myself, and most of all this wilderness that I have come through to another pivot point in my life, and that, that is the choice for me.

Life.

I choose to live.

Thank you, my father for my life.

I will live it well and full of love.

I promise.

 

 

 

In Blackwater Woods: Mary Oliver

Look, the trees

are turning

their own bodies

into pillars

 

of light,

are giving off the rich

fragrance of cinnamon

and fulfillment,

 

the long tapers

of cattails

are bursting and floating away over

the blue shoulders

 

of the ponds,

and every pond,

no matter what its

name is, is

 

nameless now.

Every year

everything

I have ever learned

 

in my lifetime

leads back to this: the fires

and the black river of loss

whose other side

 

is salvation,

whose meaning

none of us will ever know.

To live in this world

 

you must be able

to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

 

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it

go,

to let it go.

 

Sometimes People Die

December 14, 2014

I should rephrase that.

We all die.

Sometimes people die and then, well, they don’t.

I expected the worst when I got the phone call this week about my father, the surgery, the injury, the coma, the low quality of life he has had over the last few years (in and out of homeless shelters), rampant alcoholism.

Hell, the last few decades.

However, he’s tough.

Like me.

I get my toughness from him.

And my mouth and my hair and I hate to say it, my big old Hawaiian flat-footed feet, I mean, really, those are my feet.

And my nose.

And my hands.

And my hand in his.

It’s just a slightly smaller version.

Watching him struggle, watching the tubes tumbling out of every single limb on his body, was like watching a version of myself and what it could be like, well, if it weren’t like what it is, which is that–

I have recovered.

From a seemingly hopeless condition of mind and body.

My father has not.

Maybe.

Maybe he will.

Maybe he’s still digging that bottom of his.

Maybe he’ll die.

Maybe he won’t.

Well, he will, I will, you will, we all will, but maybe there might be some juice left, some special spark, some tremolo of love that sings out, come walk with me longer, look at the mountains, see the sunrise over the snow-covered trees and breathe the air–crisp, cold, bracing–let it fill your lungs and soul and heart.

Whenever it got to be too much I would walk the sky bridge between the ICU and the wing adjoining the Cancer Center.

It’s a skywalk with views of the mountains and it commands attention.

Nature.

God.

Great.

Out.

Doors.

What ever you want to call it; that which is a power greater than myself.

That tree, yes, that one, over there, its older than me, it was here before me and it will be here after me.

I am just a blink.

A particle of time and space and love.

But oh.

Such love.

How many times did I tell my father I loved him today?

A lot.

More than a few.

I told him, I told friends, I told my sister, and my mother, my grandmother, my uncle, my great-aunt in New York.

You know who I didn’t?

My boyfriend.

Not because I didn’t want to.

That’s another blog.

But out of fear.

And perhaps that lesson is the greatest one here.

Tell them all, tell them you love them, smother them with love, and tell yourself you love you.

“I have to go papa,” I said and squeezed his hand again.

It’s disconcerting, he’s so lively, so responsive, but it’s not cognitive response, it’s nerve response, it’s like watching a fish with electrodes moving it’s tail back and forth.  I don’t know how much is real, and I don’t want to give myself false hope or for that matter, anyone else.

He twitches and jerks and occasionally an eye opens and it rolls and I don’t see much there and I am afraid to not see it and afraid to see it all at the same time and then I think, he hears me, his head it turned, but then it turns back.

I squeeze his hand, my hand, that is my hand, there and stroke the pad of flesh with my thumb and rub it and touch it and warm the skin.

I lean in and find a place in between the maze of wires and find a spot I can kiss goodbye.

But not yet.

Not goodbye for good.

Just good-bye for a meal and a hot shower.

I stay as long as I can, then I go.

Twice today I went out, out into the world and then in and down into a church basement.

The great thing about where ever I go, there’s a church basement with a pot of coffee and some big styrofoam cups and some principles in red ink hanging from the wall and someone to offer me a suggestion.

“Pray and breathe,” she said to me.

Yes.

Pray and breathe.

It’s that simple.

And say I love you.

Again and again and again.

I love you for your brown eyes and your dark hair, and your big hands and strong legs, those legs, you gave me those, I recognize those knees and thighs–I use them every day on my bicycle or to walk or to kneel down and pray–for being so smart, “you got your intelligence from your dad” so my mom says (although I suspect I got my heart from my mom), and you gave me stories and you told me I was a writer.

“I always knew you’d grow up to be a writer,” my father said to me on the front porch of Patty’s house on Monroe Street in Madison.

We had just gotten a couple of cans of Barq’s (Famous Olde Tyme) root beer from the soda machine at the market–when it was still 35 cents a can and we’re drinking the cold pop on the steps smoking cigarettes and (watching Captain Kangaroo) watching the cars go by.

“You’re a story-teller, just like me,” he said and sipped on the pop and dragged off the cigarette.

The sun was warm, my feet were bare.

I was nineteen.

I was lost, pretty much a college drop out and my dad was basically couch surfing and dating the daughter (18 years old and therefore younger than me) of the woman who lived in the house whose porch we were sitting on (I ended up sleeping with her son, so I think we’re even on that score), living on food stamps and borrowed time.

But in that moment.

Exquisitely happy to be hanging with my pops on a porch, shooting the shit, telling stories, remembering when I was  little girl and he would ride me around on his motorcycle.

Not all my memories of my dad are so golden and shimmering and flecked with creamy root beer spiced carbonation.

I don’t know that I would cast the memories that I am creating here in this hospital as golden either.

But they are a gift.

It is a gift of immensity that I expect to be exploring with new and different eyes for some time to come.

And maybe my papa will come out of the coma while I am here.

And maybe he will not.

But I am here.

I showed up.

I grew up.

And in my heart, I’m still sitting on that porch listening to my father spin yarns and drink root beer in the dusk of a summer evening.

I love you Michael Martines.

I am your daughter.

You are my father.

And whatever happens.

Nothing will change that.

Love never dies.

Or grows older or fades.

It always stays.

So stay a little longer.

There are so many stories I haven’t told you yet.

 

 

 

The Kindness of Strangers

December 13, 2014

And those not so strange.

Perhaps I should just entitle this blog, “The Kindness.”

It has been a strange run of hours, surreal, be-spattered with rain and heavy tears.

Sorrow and grief and shock and then sleep and more tears and more rain.

My father is in the ICU at a hospital in Anchorage, Alaska.

A hospital I am on the way to.

I’m writing this blog from 10,000 plus feet on my connecting flight from Seattle to Anchorage. A flight, the kindness of strangers, that I should not be on.

“Stop, you don’t need to say more,” Rebecca at Alaska Airlines said to me, as I struggled to get out the words.

I had gotten off the plane from San Francisco and used the bathroom in the Seattle airport and figured I would find a snack or some dinner in the airport before connecting to my Anchorage flight.

However, the flight I was supposed to be on was showing a delayed boarding of more than two hours, add that to the two-hour layover and I was suddenly stranded in Seattle for four hours.

I’m only going to be in Alaska through Sunday night, I thought to myself and I walked in circles with my mom on the phone nattering about this and that and trying in her way to be supportive of me and my actions.

It’s not everyday a girl packs up her suitcase to see her father who she hasn’t seen in twelve years.

I finally saw a free agent at the airline and asked him for suggestions, he told me to head to gate 16, tell them that I needed to fly standby and see what they could do.

“My maiden name, Martines,” the woman at the airline counter said, followed by, “I just lost my father last month.”

We both teared up.

I had nothing in common with this woman, yet I had everything in common.

“I’ll get you on.” Rebecca said, “Go stand over there.”

And she did.

In effect saving me not only the two-hour delay on my flight, but gaining me an additional two hours to be in Alaska.

It’s not as dire as my blog sounds.

And it is.

I received a message from my uncle, as I was, irony? Heading into General Hospital, the locked down psych ward, with my boyfriend who does service there once a month.

I was going to assist and be sharing that evening.

As I reached for my phone as we headed into the doors, I heard a little ping.

Normal behavior?

Ignore it, turn off the phone, I have things to do, places to be, experience to share.

But as the doors locked behind us and we headed to the secured elevator, something prompted me to check the message.

“Emergency, call now.”

Followed by two numbers.

I called my uncle.

My father was in surgery, it didn’t look good.

Fact is.

My father hasn’t looked good in a while.

“Where’s my sister?” I asked him as he stood leaned against her apartment door building the winter of 2002, I had come back to surprise my friends and family in Madison from a recent move to San Francisco.

“I’m babysitting for her, she’s out,” my father said, sheepish in the light coming from behind him. My heels crunched in the snow, I felt the slip of ice under my feet, I had already lost my “snow legs” after just a few months in California, the ground wasn’t holding firm.

He smelt.

Beer.

Sweat.

Cigarettes.

Pot.

Fear.

And under the rank and file odor, he smelled like home, like my papa, like my dad, but I hadn’t called him either of those monikers in a long time.

He was Michael and he became that to me at an age when most kids are fostering a relationship with their fathers, not wondering where their dad was.

I have since grown up a lot.

However.

I have not sustained a relationship with my father.

He has been too active in his disease, that of alcoholism, and whatever else that has served to numb out the pain of existence.

I stopped engaging a long time ago.

I cut him out.

I cut him out with a machete.

I dropped a wall.

I said, I don’t ever want to see you again or speak to you unless you are sober.

He has not ever gotten sober.

But I did.

And in those moments of clarity when I look back I can see I was protecting myself, but maybe, just a little too fiercely.

Maybe just a little too hard.

“He thinks the world of you,” my sister said last night, sobbing when I told her the news that I was going.

Insert the kindness of those not so strange.

My employers.

They gifted me their frequent flyer miles.

I did not pay for this airplane ride.

I am still in shock at the largess of the gift.

“What! You have to take it,” she said to me over the phone as I sat numbed out (but warm—oh the loveliness of a car seat warmer) in the passenger seat of my boyfriend’s car.

“They want you to have it, they really do.” She continued.

And I realized, right then, right there, she was right.

And I wanted, no, I needed, to go.

I also decided, at that moment to grow up.

I called my grandmother, I got the name of the hospital, I called the hospital, I talked to the nursing staff, and I got the news.

The doctor was smiling, but the news wasn’t good.

He was alive.

But they don’t know, they wouldn’t know the extent of the brain damage for a few more days, he suffered blunt head trauma, they had removed a large clot and stopped several other bleeders, but “your dad’s a very sick man, he has a very sick brain,” the nurse said.

I think he may have been referring to more than just the trauma he had suffered.

I don’t know how the injury happened.

I have some suspicions.

Suffice to say, that’s not important now.

My dad came out of the surgery alive, with the brain swelling alleviated, they took off part of his skull to let the pressure go down, he was in a coma that from what I understand was medically induced to help with pain (but folks, I may be wrong about the details, the fog of grief makes distortions, it does).

He can track with his eyes; he can squeeze the doctor’s fingers.

I don’t know what to expect.

My heart aches.

I have hope.

One small sliver of hope.

He’ll recognize me and know I forgave him a long, long time ago.

That I love him.

Always have.

Always will.

And maybe

Just maybe.

He’ll squeeze my hand too.


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