Mancala: Many Hands, Many Voices

This message sent 61 days ago:
Yesterday, buried my dad Too wrecked to go out Maybe tomorrow

The game begins against our will

tinted glass stones slip with clicks into shallow bowls  61 days ago?

smoothed into a bamboo board  So, 62 days ago

click, click  I stood frozen over my father’s casket

 63 days ago, we calculated prayer cards, coffee cups, and parking spaces

and whistled, he would have beenmancala 2

12 bowls, six and six, running  90 today

the length of the board

troughs on either end

12 days before that, a 700 mile countdown

across 5 states   and now we look up

one fist suspended above the board

stones willing themselves a race to spend

to fall 5 eternal days dividing 6 hour shifts

figuring 3 people per shift can sleep 4 hours each

measuring 2.5 every 2 hours  handfuls of gems

and something else every 6  shimmer in the light

we heard  click clink click clink

11 children

and  click click

married 56 years

counted spoonfuls of Popsicle, shirts cut up the back, beads on a rosary,

stitches across a quilt

parsed 80 words in a poem, studied 90 images in a video montage

counted breaths and arpeggios of time

between breaths  A stone falls away

from the board and we glance guiltily down

at the piles of colors, glance up to catch a bird

we counted on God  Flitting

and on each other  Outside the open window

under a vanishing sun

61 days? 70 days? 90 years?

click click clink click

our game ends gently

who won?

yesterday

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Eileen

After this visit, I drove away along tree lined autumn parkways, past the French Meadow Bakery and the CC club, through downtown, toward home. I put each of my babies into colorful nighties, under yellow orange green sheets in lively rooms. I wondered, one day, will they blow a kiss to say goodbye? Will they cry out for me, 90 years from now?

suitcase

Getting There Takes Some Time

Eileen sleeps the sleep of a traveller

Fitful, pulling at her own translucent limbs

transparent skin gathered up and quilted together by scabs and small bruises

at 93, this is life

imagine

at 23, this life

applying final touches to pursed ruby painted lips

she blows a kiss to mother and then away, down the steps, a man there waiting,

or a gaggle of girls There is a war on

Friends admire her raucous laugh, tease her for dancing clumsily, share secrets

she will take to the grave

Now, frail and pointed, a body uncovered and empty, she carries only these

Eileen reaches out Cries out for Mama, for Mother

She accepts a stranger’s hand, calms, lets go a tear which travels

over her desert cheek in a sideways trajectory

gradually finding its way along the cracks and fissures left there by time

Through plastic blinds, the moon blooms into fullness, a moon just made for traveling

Tonight Eileen will be traveling

 

Quote

I’m Going to Miss These…

My friend Marybeth woke me up today when a loud buzz announced a new message coming in from Australia; subject line said: I’m going to miss these…
In the flash of time between reading that subject and opening the message, so many thoughts went through my mind about what “these” could be. Marybeth is on a year-long adventure with people she likes a lot. What’s there to miss? Uncomfortable beds? Beautiful people? A certain tree, plant or flower? Bugs? Fascinating accents? Unforgettable cuisine?

And then my phone died.

So, instead of plugging it in, I rolled over and thought about what I might miss someday. I have been on a life-long adventure which, God willing, should continue for the foreseeable future. But what about this place, this week, this day will I miss when I look back on it? The man beside me, snoring in a quiet, kind of soothing way? The coffee pot clicking on by itself? The paper dropping from some invisible hand onto my doorstep?

I miss the babies who became my children, yet I love those young adults as much as I ever have. I miss the gardens outside the incredible house we just sold to a stranger in exchange for a handful of cash. I miss the Christmas holidays I thought we’d celebrate there. Soon, I will miss that handful of cash. But what is there about now that I will miss? What am I forgetting to wrap my arms around and enjoy? What is already in my life that I will see in the rearview mirror and long for? What do I have that I will one day wish I held onto?

Last week, I stood outside my mom’s apartment building, a place we call Fawlty Towers (because my family relabels names of places). I stood with three people I care about. One lit up a cigar, two shared a single cigarette, and I carried a heart-attack in a bag (aka Chinese food and a dozen chocolate chip cookies). I will miss summer evenings in front of Fawlty Towers. I will miss our singular family culture. I will miss these three people, when some of us are gone. Perhaps they will one day miss me. I suppose so.

The whole carpe diem thing kind of got the better of me about then. So I rolled out of bed and stumbled through the kitchen, to the garage. As I hopped on my bike, the icy morning air woke me up for real, and I steered my trusty old ten speed toward Lake Harriet. Most people, even people I live with, don’t know I do this. They would tell me not to; it’s dark, it’s cold. But these morning rides are the best. I’m going to miss these.

 

Hospice Physical Care

Hospice Care involves physical, emotional and spiritual work. For some caregivers, providing physical care is a difficult project. Adult children who are successful in other areas of life find physical care to be especially challenging because it does require just a little bit of coordination and forethought, and it might take a few tries to really get it right. Also, it might require intimate contact with someone who lived life very modestly. I know, during my dad’s hospice, I had to leave the room when my sister shaved him every day. It wasn’t a big deal, it just wasn’t something I was used to. Oral care was okay for me, however, and my sister never got used to that. (Takes a village, right?) In hindsight, being able to provide physical care for our dad during his hospice deepened our relationships with this person who had always taken care of us. It was a way to thank him. It was also something we could DO, something we had some control over, in a scene where most everything seemed to resist being predictable and controlled.

Hygiene, Oral Care, Turning, draw sheets… what aspects of bedside care are the most important for hospice family caregivers to understand? How do you explain or teach it to them in the clearest, most effective way?

Pet Therapy Visit: 3/14/14

Animals can be such a comfort to patients… and caregivers! I remember when my friend drove up to St. Paul to be with her mother during her last days. She brought her dog and planned to board him locally. “Oh, no,” said her mom. “The dog stays with me.” And he did! He followed her from room to room, and when she was limited to her bed, he stayed right there with her. It was pretty cool.