DEBRIEFING BEFORE A DESCENT INTO HELL (?)
January 2, 1979
This woman was last heard of in the winter of 1978 as she disappeared into a) creative teaching and b) house planning/creating. She did surface to write to
and Norman Malcolm and Ruth Jean co. –
Tomorrow she has to return to Mordor and confront the “reality” of SOSC – registration, always terrible depressing/’alienating – sitting behind tables with all these other strange people, hoping for students, trying to guess what’s in the minds of the one’s who will be in my classes –
Note [one cannot both smoke and write in the same moment. Why do you hold yrself from writing? (You ask yrself the same question about latihan when you do it.)
yes, but you see, if I start writing I’ll do nothing by complain and justify myself and recite wrongs done me for pages and I know how I hate myself when I read myself doing that.
Well, maybe I’ll just have to complain enough to someone/no one.
So go ahead and complain.
For ten minutes each day imagine that you spend some time writing this next term and feel more connected to the creative selves who began these ventures who began these children. Writing/House
First, I complain of fatigue. I am so physically low – though not sick –
I feel very delicate. Very hypoglycemic. Weak. By noon a kind of internal trembling. I eat to still it. To much coffee and too much marijuana. The both have pulled energy out of my system for too long – there’s not much left to call on – a couple of hours’ worth, perhaps, and the rest of the day a battle with fatigue sometimes. But every now and then I notice that it’s small wonder that I’m exhausted what with trying to supervise building a house – [all of those words are only approximate] [the trouble with having to talk about a lot/having a lot of things one wants to talk about – is that you have to hurry for such approximate words that if the happening is at all unusual it is not very well pointed to.
I should call Ethyl – haven’t called her all vacation. Should find EB’s number and call her.
Absolutely have to take care of finish send this letter to Sinister Wisdom
. Absolutely have to plan the metaphysics course – tomorrow is Beezzy and the next day is opening day.
they have my mind captive, my time captive –
some say you’d have no trouble at all surviving without the job on much less money and that for sure you’d be more centered and have more time for creativity.
Yet $600 a month for nine months for teaching Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Don [my brother]says it looks pretty good to him – he’s been trying to make a living by his wits for as long as I’ve been out on my own – and never seems to manage it – a tale of bad luck resembling the beginning of Findhorn.
When I get really depressed is when Helen (who takes care of Grandma these days) suggests that I learn typing and stenography.
I think there was part of something like this in La Plume de Ma Tante, ie time/energy balancing re job at school: the rest of it said – “but they have my head in a cage enough of the time that I can’t make it back to who I need to be ever.” Well, hardly ever.
And that’s not enough.
My schizophrenic prowess is not that developed. [Schizophrenic is shorthand for dual personality here]
Part of me says – I don’t remembering suffering this much when I was married – I mean that fruitful period near the end when I was writing like mad – I was teaching then too. Put a lot into it all – enthusiasm bubbling through – writing/teaching/somehow I seemed to have less difficulty being connected with the hidden mouth and source than I do now.
I notice my fear today – well, it’s unmistakable – fear that I won’t be able to do it this time “She used to come to class so stoned she dropped things.” … Tangren! Stop that. What happens is that some [students] drop out and of those who remain some become friends of a sort. But there’s always such a distance – in thinking. I can enable them in some ways, teach them a few things, they return some affirmation // but they don’t feed me because right now that whole endeavor is not what I need // I need not to have to be able say anything that is necessarily within the range of SOSC students. Even last year I really did some wonderful things teaching – the ethics class was history/making teaching/ earlier there were some fine moments when you lectured from your own notes projecting a feeling saying by poetry some things not otherwise sayable –
In the spring, logic was a grind only – a surrealistic puzzle that must be mastered in time to teach it to the class – the whole exercise relatively meaningless – I try to inject some interesting jokes, some philosophical puzzles (as one example of circular reasoning I introduce the puzzle of induction, etc.), but the students are bored, I’m rattled, it’s spring.
I’m , ie. “I was” also trying to launch a house building – at first planning, drawing trying to go down into intense and centered space to create this house as well as I can – I know it’s important – later, emergencies about am I going to hire Carolee as forewoman or not – she wants too much money suddenly – then Dana to be apprentice contractor – her trying to do the drawings, me trying to concentrate on logic, – it’s crazy – nobody can build this house but me. I think at first I hoped to have it done part way through last summer, so I could write the last part of the summer.[I have exactly the same hope this year.]
Trying to assemble the basics – drawing plans, then blueprints plans for the fireplace – then to begin. To go down there one morning with Mom and knock apart my platform, this little place of peace where I had come to watch the clouds until I cried at the thunderous beauty of sky, where I had come to simply take off my clothes and lie in the short February sun, where I had communed with the bushes and tried to imagine a house here where I had cried bitterly when I thought I couldn’t live there because of David and Deena’s music
that place had been secret till now [now in December I still feel very unsure about sharing the land with D & D. They do like to turn up the stereo till I can hear it, and I do, and I really can’t stand it – yet I know they feel my presence as an invasion on their privacy freedom.
Oh, is there never any place for me? Where I can just be me?
(There’s no free lunch/Why should you expect that?/Courtesy of Mom and Dad)
Oh, the strings, the ties. Feeling suffocated by the family. Seeing them takes up so much of my precious time/Holidays/Grandma/ Things to do with building – where I owe both of them so much by now – don’t think I realized how much I’d need to depend on them.
In January I lost “La Plume de Ma Tante” –
In March I investigated septic tanks and negotiated water rights and settled on a thousand-foot-long sewer line which of course Dad & David had to build
Anyway after Mom & I tore down the astronomical observatory [temporary platform] Dad and David came up the driveway Dad had “built” with the cat two days before and David dug it level to the level it needed to be and the whole place was raped and transformed and wounded and a great rent of access open to the road and many beautiful bushes died (we transplanted many, first to go out along the roadway – but they eventually died too – almost all. The summer was very hot sometimes and there was no water for a very long time – finally it, water, was on for good just 2 or 3 days before I finally moved home again Dec 22.
Anyway, many lovely and unique and irreplaceable bushes lay at the end of the day ugly and ungainly with their roots exposed and their leaves stripped.
After they left I worked to free some branches that were covered with dirt, bent down and cracking under the strain. I tried to begin to heal – to turn violated manzanita into a stack of potential firewood – I cried – worried about Dana – climbed on the steps of the tractor to see the view from the floor-level. Looked at the hole and saw how big it was/ yet how small the future house looked –
Hard to remember nowadays when it seems so huge – when you can move around from room to room and yet be in a huge space – looking through the 2X4 walls at all the roof, all the windows
There are things I regret – that I did not plan the beams wider so the walls would fit up under them
that I didn’t do more of the physical work myself – It was just all I could do to stay even slightly centered and make decisions and run the errands too often. I needed to be there for every inch of the way – wish I’d known that now.
Wish I’d known how really differently (in subtle ways) I want to build this house. All summer and fall so on I’ve been dealing with men who “know how things are done” and just want to come in and do their job and leave. Not entirely but still too much from every man. Anyway, lately, working with Debra Scionti and Cleary Sage was nice – though all of us being pretty much amateurs was no to good always – but there wasn’t the struggle to be listened to. As much. There are facts, yet it’s hard to just write them down, so many qualifications leap to mind.
What a lot of work. It’s much easier to write things into existence. It didn’t happen exactly as I imagined it, and yet it mostly did – and here it is rising up out of the bushes seeming much too big now – so much space for one person – yet every inch of it is there for a reason – mine or the building inspector’s. Well, its real size will become more apparent when there are walls and when my furniture is moved in.
Anyway, Christmas catch-up-on-the-year letters are a drag – but maybe if I do discipline myself to / allow myself to write a reasonable amount I might be able to cover a lot of things I’d like to remember about building the house. Right now I’ve just been living back here at Beach St. for two weeks – after six weeks Nov 8 to Dec 22 spent camping out up at the house – firstt living at Mom & Dad’s –
When at the end stretch of the term the thumb suddenly came down from Deans Ettlich and Kreisman to suddenly double the numbers in the philosophy courses or lose my job. At the same time trying to continue shepherding work at the house on MWF, living in the sawdust and dirt trying to look like a college professor twice a week and doing the work of more than that.
The last day of class students said nice things – one earnest young man wrote in his journal that we (the class) learned from each other. Some said thank you for the class. Some were burned out. Like you. Often the students learned from each other – and I learned from them and to enable them but there isn’t a guru of mine in the lot except perhaps myself. It’s not bad really to be made to think about philosophy now and then – there could be worse things to have to think about. The students and I like Socrates better every time – often lectures are an exhausting free association down my notes – searching always for meaningful levels at which to talk about these things –
Not always possible – sometimes I retreat to lecturer-getting-them-ready-for-a-test, writing down the crucial points. Esp. When we come to Aristotle. But we have a better time with Plato than ever before. And the preSocratics – well, it’s fun to speculate what these fragments might have meant and to mourn for philosophy the vast majority of it lost into fragments at best – more to dust – or never into the mind for the poor, the women, never into voice.
In this history class and also in the introductory class from the short biographies at the beginning – I note how many philosophers have had to flee their native land to avoid persecution – find myself empathizing like mad when we read through the death of Socrates – though I am little off-key/frightened [one student read it as “unprepared”] – I have just said earlier to them talking about Socrates, reading from the Symposium as Alcibiades speaks of his and others’ fruitless endeavors to involve Socrates in a romance – but what dear old Socrates really loved was their immortal souls – I’ve mentioned, as a rather long aside – that no one should come away from a course so involved in the ancient Greeks without knowing – that in those days men loving each other – or women loving each other – well, they just didn’t see anything wrong with it.
I speak of Mary Renault –
The Last of the Wine
– how the young boy’s father merely hopes that his son will find a good man to become involved with, one who will teach him and be a good example.
Somehow this year that’s all I can manage to say – I dive back into the text of Alcibiades’ speech – shakily, a little – wondering, who heard, what did they understand?
Three years ago when I was just coming out myself I last taught this course. Perhaps with long hair and the cover of still being married and all it was easier to feel safe. I know it was not as hard for me to talk about these things as it is now.
Now I look back on things I said and did then and they scare me.
Anyway, I say what I know how to.
There’s a lot to say about Socrates –
I never got close to this [the following “XANTHIPPE”], but we did talk about what sort of person he was – no care for looks or custom, always teaching for the love of it, (continued below, after XANTHIPPE)
In fact there was a poem in the last PdmT that went like this but mostly better:
It has always been funny
in the history of philosophy
to think about Xanthippe
like a pesky fly
Of course there were the children to
feed, and all
and she did resent it that he should go off to talk philosophy
with the men
when once after lovemaking
he told her visions
of a cave
and of a fire within
and of seeing Goodness itself
holding all in being like the Sun.
holding opinions seen as subversive, perhaps a yogi, with some clear hold on the hearts and minds of some, unafraid of death, so much to give … I’m inventing I don’t know what I said until “and so they killed him.”
And we all understand that to go against the existing tonal [word from Carlos Casteneda] can be dangerous –
and I’m identifying/hoping I’m not Socrates[Now I wish I had been taping these lectures.]
Why do things tear out of me
like rough rocks, spill dryly from my
tongue like pebbles clattering –
large squarish blocks of granite
clump come lumping up through
my chest, tearing
distorting because I am uneasy writing this stuff – it only comes in clumsy clumps – low-energy barfle [nonsense].
Anyway, it’s not the worst of tasks to try to understand Heraclitus or say some interesting things about Parmenides
But what about “the box”
my many tongues, many lipped
And what of my own sensuality/body/sense of play/sense of humor/sensuality
sense of proportion/common sense and cents to for that matter. To say nothing of the scents I sometimes regret.
What about this erratic line of angry red pearls about my throat?
I just remembered/as a teenager some horror story we used to tell involving a woman who was strangled by invisible fingers. The fingers could not be seen, but the red marks on her throat from the strangling were clearly visible.
I have thought before of the connection with the throat – speaking being choked off/knowing being choked off.
I remember that I wrote also in the last journal – “I will not record pages and pages of pain.” Is that why I haven’t been writing? One way of looking at it.
Another – the schizophrenia leap is too big/exhausting/far to be able to make into an inspired state where writing worthy of being written down can happen. But look at it this way – like knitting it’s a way to keep your hands busy, knit one now, Pearl the next. Notice that you can’t both smoke and write in the same moment and sometimes you’d rather write than smoke.
We find our heroine in a state of constant sore throat and sometimes funny tastes in the mouth from too much smoking and often exhausted and everyone else, given this life, would probably choose to live less stoned more beta-ed out. After all maybe it’s asking a lot of yrself to practice life-artistry on a trip to Farmer’s Electric, but somehow I feel I just can’t do it any way but the way I am doing it.
I cannot bear to be any more alienated from my more healed selves than I have to be.
And moments out of the battle are very precious and so far I need m.j. To advise me as to who I am and what I think and feel, to get me to just sit and process and think over things. I need to do that much more than I get a chance to. But I do it much more than my Mother understands. I have a very hard time with judgements she makes like that – I mean, one part of me internalizes that, esp. Since every one who builds a house/is active has a hard time understanding one who must be passive/rest/process/smoke a good deal of the time, but a small part of my life nobody sees/understands.
My health really is not too great – no – health as absence of disease – pretty good, I hope – but health as energy – but then what do you expect after all? You
ought to be exhausted.
Eat some supper. And you do have to get ready for metaphysics yet tonight a little.
P.S. I meant to mention that I feel I pretty well have to make up my courses – from scratch. I just don’t believe in the traditional approaches.
Wonder what is happening with Norman Malcolm – in the beginning of the summer I sent him my thesis – and with it a rather inspired and poetic letter full of charm – he wrote back –charmed – in his gentlemanly way “It was extremely kind of you” “Sure it will be interesting and may help him think through some things.”
On rereading the thesis I noticed it doesn’t say one nice thing about Malcolm. It is a stone-from-the-stone, muscle-from-the-bone sort of approach – comes out sparring – (Malcolm seems a giant to her.) – but also levels heavy and serious criticism at most levels including the most important ones carries it off.
- Mentioned then that it would be a while before he got to it – but I worry that perhaps he sent it back to 200 Ashland Loop Road and it got returned to England and he’d gone back to America and I just never hear from him.
Or maybe he’s realized it’s something he can’t just read casually or once, maybe he’s pondering the philosophical meaning of “having a real doubt” – though when your thesis was so dismissed by Cook and Zweig and even Levi what makes you think Malcolm himself would let himself understand the depth of it.
As Bob Herbert and that guy from New York agree, it is powerful and “seamless” and “changed X’s entire philosophical life.” B.H. Maybe it will change Malcolm’s too. Don’t count on it, though. Will he show it to anyone?
Boy, whenever, he does reply won’t be too late – I mean, I wouldn’t have time to think about it all now if he did reply – tho I am curious.
But it would be nice if I could be in a stronger more centered state – one can gain strength or gather hurt sometimes from the same situation (“response from M”, here) depending on one’s “set”.
Over and over today I play Holly/Meg’s song:
Won’t you write a melody for me,
to rock me in your arms so far away
until the little rocking melody becomes a mantra in my head steadying me, quieting me.
And read my letter to Sinister Wisdom and change it and read “the box” again.
And listen to Pachelbell and ceremony of the carols and even though with my remaining energy I ought to be preparing for metaphysics[She is
- a) procrastinating
- b) involved in suicidal delay re metaphysics class
- c) trusting to her spectacular (but not unlimited) ability to better by intense concentration just before class, then winging it.]
(but that’s always so scary – sometimes it doesn’t work – )
yet extreme reluctance to enter SOSC-reality before the very last minute
plus a simple wish to have a little time to write think center do what I really want to do listen to “the box” again – almost obsessively, like a frightened lover/almost compulsively well anything you want to say could be misunderstood by theoretical biographer.
Note from housebuilder: Now, going by analogy with building yr house, who is most likely to produce the best biography?
You got it again!
Pearls of Wisdom
(1) let’s see, forgot that one completely before I could write it down.
(Oh, yeah) There is such a thing as having too many good ideas.
(2) Or too big ones.
They’re a job to bring about.
Each one requires intense concentration, centeredness; switching worlds.
QED. Truly, there could be such a thing as literary success too soon. There already is! … Agghh …
Fantasy: D. Kerr has tapes of Tea and Sympathy and other stuff, sends you copies to use to jog your memory for writing autobiog.
Note: If Quo Vadis^ is ever on TV again, tape it.
Note for future biographer:
What else could be happening to the poor lady? Well in February there’s a solar eclipse at the end visible Portland, the Dalles, eastern Oregon and sometimes before that a journey to San Fran for Deborah Kerr in person in a new play. A chanced which mustn’t be blown to get her address so I can send her some of my writing. I don’t know what to say to her. I want to hand her my letter to be sure she gets it. What will I say? My Mom wants her and dad and me to all go together like we did the time before
I don’t know what to say, I resent her pushing herself in like that when she and dad are such censors of feeling-states I want to be close to? I want Carol Dunning to go with me, don’t know where she is or how to contact her.
And after all they did take me to see Tea and Sympathy and Mom somehow supports some version of my unusual case of admiration for Deborah Kerr. And they did drive me along Corona del Mar till we found the place.
And it will be fun to write about it all someday and perhaps before too long but not before Feb 3 –
but, anyway maybe there’s no other real way to do it – don’t think I could do it alone, don’t know where I could stay, don’t like the idea of running around in the city alone at night.
Could write a letter?
Dear Deborah Kerr:
In my life
you are the most famous actress
there ever was.
Dear Deborah Kerr,
In 1954 or so you thanked me for being such a good friend.
I was never sure if you were insisting that I did not say I loved you or if you meant that really, that was what I was – a friend (but you did not put a return address) (nor do I blame you – who can leave herself open to heavens knows what)
But one of the troubles with having a friendship one of whom is famous like this is that
now I’ve thought and wondered and heard nothing for years of how you are or even whether you are.
Once there was a short piece about you, you still lived in Switzerland. Some people still remember you and sent you cards on your birthday, you said. Where did they mail them to, I wondered. I, without one, have smiled to myself on September 30 keeping it as a secret holiday for me. This year I said to Grandma, “Today is Deborah Kerr’s birthday.” Grandma is 96 and isn’t surprised by much I say. (Though I could surprise her yet, I’m sure.) Sometimes Grandma smiles and the way I describe to myself then the way in which this ancient pink and white lady is beautiful is, I say, “look! did you notice! Just then she smiled like Deborah Kerr!”
But anyway, I have written a little about that time of my life when I was involved in Deborah Kerr worship.
I hope to write more.
I hope to remember compassion for us both. And hopes that somehow someday I would find a way to contact you because you’d probably like to read it. You may be interested to hear who “Deborah Kerr” was in someone else’s movie. This is a free-no-strings-attached offer motivated by a desire to say “thank you” and some other things.
P.S. Do you remember the doll of you as Anna in the King and I? I’m the one who sent her to you.
Perfect Answer: Whether you write about that,
and you will,
Kindness, lady, I learned from you at your movies.
I enclose two pictures of my orange car with her lace trim and the crystals and bells; oh, Deborah, can you guess her name?
Well, even if I never get to tell you these things –
Well, If Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is right then at your review you will really see and know what all the consequences/mirrorings of your life have been then you will know all this anyway;xd and if time is not real then maybe even now you are enjoying the joke and understanding how what you taught me of compassion resonates down through my life as I nurture my students in my philosophy classes – and what you taught me of sexual compassion resonates through my lovings and now in my writing.
Idea– story of Raggedy Ann with pictures. Told in 1st person.
January 7, 1979 Sunday Morning
Wednesday I spent being afraid of my classes – enduring the bizarreness of registration – always a low point of the term –
Thursday met my classes – went out to see Vicki and Toni afterwards – 1st time –It was hard/I was wound, very off-center – then picked up Marcella and had pizza with her because I was too tired to cook and it was too late. We lay around on the bed talking till we got tired and went to sleep.
Up early Friday – Marcella off to school – thought I could accomplish a bunch of errands before my massage at 12:00 – but luckily and as usual sat and got stoned and realized I needed the time to process/think about my classes/everything else. At 12:0- Esther- sauna and massage – at 2:30 home again – a letter from Islene; Ethyl is dead. “Let us be glad” writes Islene “for her release. Her last years were not happy ones.”
I hadn’t called Ethyl in so long – the pressures have been so intense – reaching out to distant friends – or friends at all – is not something I’ve been able to do much.
Didn’t call her Thanksgiving/Thought sure I’d call her over vacation – put it off till Christmas. Put it off again. Called late in the vacation once – in the afternoon. No one answered.
“Oh, Ethyl, I’m sorry.”
Marcella came home from school –and gym class where they didn’t have to square dance – M. Says it’s silly to make the girls and boys dance together. She got to be a team captain and choose the game and did and got cheered for once in gym class.
We cried together about Ethyl. And remembered her together. And talked.
“You know, Mommy, this’ll probably sound funny to you, like what I said about Holly’s singing changed from something square to something with round corners –
but, you know, dying, well, it’s kinda like having poppy knees, you know? It bothers every body else a lot more than it bothers you.”
We went down to Banbury Cross to pick up the dolls houses we’d been displaying there in December. Brought them home, had supper, unpacked them a little in her room, my lights wouldn’t all work, crawled into bed, read about Bilbo and the trolls and the visit to Rivendell until Marcella fell asleep.
Got up early the next morning to shower and eat before Marcella wakes up – she always wants to go up to Jesse and Chet’s right away so as not to miss any more Saturday morning T.V.
Today, though, she’s feeling leisurely and we have a good talk as I sit and smoke while she gets dressed and brushes out her beautiful gold hair.
I plan to spend a few hours doing some necessary things – get laundry from Mom’s, see her, figure out house expenses. Clean up the last of my mess there – a few dead plants in pots and 2 survivors of the rape now hanging from the lamp chain in Pearl’s room to dry.
Take Dad’s pickup to get some 12’ boards they’re holding for me at Wildwood Lumber.
This process is begun. I’ve just noticed my middle-morning weakness and put in a piece of toast at Mon & Dad’s when the phone rings – I answer. It’s Helen* (*At this point Helen has been staying with Grandma since July or so. Grandma came home from the hospital the beginning of April or so. Butterfly took care of her – fixed her meals and befriended her in most of that interval.) It’s Grandma, she’s had a stroke – as it turns out. Helen was in the kitchen at one end, Grandma was standing at the other drinking some water from a glass. Helen heard the glass fall and rushed over there to find her face contorting on one side and her leg stiffening out. She laid her on the floor, then called us.
I butter my toast and eat it as Dad and I trot down the hill. Somehow I feel so much more removed/calm/withdrawn this time. Anyway, I ride with her to the hospital, see her into her room – “they” take over – this time I feel inclined to let them. She seems tired and there’s no ordeal they’ll be putting her through like the surgery last time that I have to be there for. We feel awkward, go home. At Grandma’s I take down her Christmas tree – I’d promised to do it this weekend. Talk with Helen – go up to M&D’s get the pickup. I go home for lunch – it’s 1:00 – and smoke a bit. Trying to force myself to go out to get the boards – I’ve been trying to get to this for so long, now I’ve finally got the chance.
But with enough marijuana I finally begin to realize what has happened and that the world has changed and that what I should do is go to the hospital to check on her. By nodding she tells me she needs the bedpan – it seems it took me forever to think of the obvious.
Jan 11 or so, Friday AM
Marcella is off to school. Need to go out to see Grandma soon – in between – a smoking session – to realize to my own utter surprise how I need to just sit and think and process – remember the metaphysics class yesterday afternoon – process, absorb, think about whatever I can about that. Grandma. Find Joan Baez’s song floating about in my head – “Inside the ward/naked and cruel/where life is stolen/from those who try/to stay alive/and not be broken… What hope have you/where are you now…”
I can barely stand to think about what she must be going through – half her body paralyzed, and also sometimes in pain, her face often in pain, unable to swallow, unable to talk or communicate. But sometimes still awake, still here to know it. She’s always hated lying awake at night – and now that’s all she’s got to do and now she’s in pain.
I feel so helpless. And very strongly the need to protect myself from the whole thing. I’ve gone every day to see her – when I’m there I just give her love / and know how much I do love her – but I come home and life has such an awful feeling – I have to keep aware of the fact that there are other things in the world than this long tortuous dying. Do most of us die this way? Isn’t there some secret to just leaving when you need to?
Not knowing where kindness or help even lies – Is it in trying to help her recover or not? – Should we not have taken her to the hospital? Without the I.V. She would be dead by now. Yes, says Mom, but dying of thirst is such a horrible way to go.
A couple of days ago she was coughing on drying phlegm and nearly choking on it. It frightens her. I turn her on her side – bumping her nose on the bars – she begins to cry. I can’t stay there all the time to turn her – you have to abandon her to her chances – and think – “but it would be short – and better than this prolonged torture that as she sleeps writes itself across her faced in endless variations of suffering and grief.”
I sit on her bed, touch the shoulder than can still feel, rock her ever so gently – watch her naked face, naked in its suffering.
I want to be there for her, be there with her as Islene said – “Try not to count your own needs too much, after all, she’s the one who’s dying.” But I have to be able to give to her what I have to give.
I have to escape – most of the time – be somewhere else, in another reality.
Last time I was so much more with her – slept in her room, spent my time there. But that was only a broken leg, possible death, intense suffering – but there was hope in both directions. This is such a nightmare.
It is real But there are other realities. There’s no use of two of us suffering, though. Unless I can do her some good. And even then…
What a horror. Why does it have to be so hard for her?
Mom is having a very hard time – it’s all bringing back Pearl’s death.
Sometimes I do feel you get old because life does such awful things to you.
Important to sit and smoke and remember other times in my life / selves we have been in this life.
Jan 15, Monday
Woke up early today – 5:00 or so – went back to bed and dozed or just thought – my mind sifting through all the things that need doing. At seven I got up, showered, breakfasted, called Mom to say when I’d go out to see Grandma – went up to talk to her about the Deborah Kerr trip and to do some wash – out of socks. Mom decides not to go to San Fran. At 10:00 I go out to see Grandma – Helen is there. When the nurse tried to force-feed her she evidently really spit it out – there was food on the walls. Gma is asleep – so I leave. Send for tickets for D. Kerr – walk to the school library for the San Fran phone book for the address. – realized I’m in the wrong clothes – ripped out shoe, dirty jeans, patched jacket – fortunately I don’t meet any of my “colleagues.” – Home to lunch, the last of my virtuous lentil soup –
Also made a few phone calls that have been hanging over my head… Ray Richards to get estimate on duct/fan trip…Then back out to see if Grandma is awake – she isn’t. Helen leaves, having waited for me to arrive; somehow that seems to imply I’ll stay – Well, I did want to look at that Ms.
Magazine on the table – “the difference between pornography and erotica” – “I lost a husband but gained a mother-in-law” – a novel is praised because it is
autobiography after a decade of nauseating nattering about “me” – lesbians are mentioned a few times – as is censorship and who gets censored, Playboy or
… Well, who does get censored? Me
Or is it “who doesn’t?”
One looks to
For some hope about the awareness of the general culture – I looked to
for too long for some reflection of myself.
Reading through various women’s definitions of what is erotic
Who makes the decisions at the level of how often is Gma to be gotten up into the wheel chair or whether food is forced on her?
Who could give us some counselling on this?
I search through Helen Gurley Brown – also, though, Kate Millet, and at least another lesbian (or is she bisexual, it’s unclear) – a few good points are made … but …
Then a part of me remembers that
have said what I wanted there to be said on the subject – I don’t have to look for little hints or hope for someone to say a little bit of it. I have done it, and it is said, and that is a peace.
Though I don’t notice this much at the time … Whatever world
Has to say is better than Grandma lying there beside me suffering so much and so vulnerable and so far from my help. Or do I only say that so I don’t have to see how little kindness from me – giving her a sip of water from the end of a straw – a remembering to put a towel under her chin – or asking if she needs the bedpan … could make such a difference to her. … Tho today she is sleeping quietly, choking a little now and then – doesn’t nod that she needs water –
after a while Mike appears – he’s planning to stay a bit, so I leave – come home. Just walk in the door – the phone is ringing – It’s John – is Marcella here? – She stayed home from school; now there is no answer on the phone. (And the long golden beauty of my girl-child’s hair makes me afraid for her.) I’m not really worried yet, I say I’ll go over right away. She is there, beautiful, in her old-fashioned bathrobe. I’m relieved. I notice an old cork board I’ve left in the study – my picture from my ski pass is still there, a 3 X 5 card, names of authors, in Dianne’s handwriting, a city map, a picture from Foster Parents with an inscription which reads “If we cannot make this a world in which children do not suffer, at least we can lessen the amount of suffering – and if you and I will not do this, who will?” – a picture of Marcella age seven, grasping the swinging bars in the park. I should not have left this here so long – how could I? It’s indecent to leave something so personally mine here in his house for two years. I take it home
forgetting my purse.
And only then do I sit down and smoke and have some coffee
and feel I ought to be doing some other things
but knowing I am too far from myself.
I never made it home, though, as just when I’m beginning to feel a little altered and to remember that rather than needing to be saved by some theoretical sympathetic friend I can just as easily and a lot more surely be saved by myself by just toughing it out through the lonely part until (and if) I find my way home to some kind of center from which I can at least think about things and if not rejoice about them then at least feel/think whatever I need to about whatever it is.
Just when this might have begun, John came by bringing my purse. I invite him in, we sit and talk a while. I float a scheme to charter a plane to fly into totality and see the eclipse – that way we’ll make sure (maybe) of being where the eclipse is. And it would be easier to be with the family – maybe. Anyway, we talk for a while about classes – his, mostly. I talk for a bit about Grandma – he is one of the family. We have things to say to each other – I mean – why is this so impossible to characterize – I just mean he can hear me better than someone who doesn’t know my family.
We can talk about classes and problems with students and come out appreciating good classes and admitting that to be in a position to pass on some wisdom, or just to get people started thinking is a nice kind of job. When he leaves, I go to hug him, “we kiss” – it’s all so natural to feel good about each other and glad if we can cheer each other up and so natural to put our arms around each other and kiss – so natural and so very strange.
He leaves smiling to me / I feel my own smile. I walk in to the mirror knowing/wondering what he sees, I look for the smile I smile to him, it fades into the looking as I look. I think “You are funny looking. Your hair is short now. Age and strain have pulled your face since then. Your throat looks horrible, great purple welts on white skin…
And still he loves you. And partly for your age; just as for you, the increasing wrinkles around his eyes only make him an older friend.
This sounds as if I feel this way – mostly, though, I am very guarded of him and of my old feelings for him … So often as I talk to him I realize I’m saying things that presuppose values/ consciousness that are not his/ours together. Thinking you’re talking to a friend and then realizing what strangers you have become.
I guard my feelings toward him.
I will not feel nostalgic –
I have changed too much for me to ever let that reality we shared dominate. And yet, what a little step away it is to that world we shared, do share, could share yet.
Sometimes I wonder at my own lack of feeling. … Years and years of my life are nearly blank to me – I can’t remember making love. Oh, we did and I do. I could tell you various things about it. But I could not evoke it. I cannot imagine myself being that open and intimate and vulnerable to him.
We, after John left I went up to Mom and Dad’s to get my laundry so I’d have some clean socks tomorrow (college professor) and my sheets for tonight – and to further the eclipse flight endeavor.
Mom and I meet in our cars in the road in front of Grandma’s house. She’s on the way to the hospital. I can talk to Dad, she says, about the eclipse plans.
Dad averts his face, the room is dark – he looks so much older than I’ve ever seen him before – a strand of his grey hair standing out stiffly at an angle – his eyes are a little swollen – has he been crying? Is he ashamed, is that why he hides his face? I look at the new woodstove, try to talk about eclipse plans obeying the rule enforced for too long that we don’t talk about feelings – hoping only to seem not to notice until he can recover himself – Finally he lets himself look at me – the suffering shows – and talks about eclipse plans – and I don’t know how much I imagined.
I go in to fold some laundry. He follows me … “How are things at the hospital?” Another long and searching discussion. Mom comes home. Feeding time is underway. Grandma won’t take a bite. She pushes away and makes an awful face when food is put to her mouth. Mom says to the nurse that she doesn’t think she should be forced to eat. The nurse looks vacant – as if she didn’t know what Mom meant. (Translate: She does not believe that she is allowed to understand what Mom means.) It seems clear to us that Gma is clearly doing what is sensible and right – she will not allow them to keep her alive and in this state of misery. She doesn’t want to be bothered with “recovery” and she will not eat.
Sometimes she seems quite clearly “there.” She says “Hi” – or grunts it. She smiles and grins once in a while. – With half her face paralyzed it’s a lopsided grin – and beautiful – to know that your being there can make her smile – and to see – her smile fading – this last glimpse of Grandma’s smile, half a smile now, and toothless, but unmistakably Grandma’s smile – and so horrible you can hardly stand it to think that she’s still there in there, still a little herself
being put through what she’s being put through. The nurse came out in tears last night Grandma was crying so with pain and fatigue when they sat her up in the wheelchair.
And we don’t know – why it’s being done – to keep her from getting sore? A small pain now to avoid worse later? But this is torture.
And Grandma can’t talk but she has found a new language – she sobs in fear, in despair, in weariness
and the doctor – While I was there a couple of days ago the nurse said “Here’s your heart medicine” and slipped her a little green liquid – I talked it over with Mom yesterday – Dad inquired this morning to the doctor. The doctor says this measure is “hardly unusual.”
Dad says “If I had a dog that I loved and he was going through all this, I wouldn’t hesitate in knowing what would be the right thing to do. I wouldn’t do this to my dog, and I sure do hate to do it to my mother.” The doctor look sympathetic but doesn’t say a word. Later he says “She could go any time. But you can’t tell, she could decide to stick around for a couple more years.” (He’s told us earlier he expects no real recovery from this stroke to anything like being able to feed herself.)
The message is clear – If you push the issue he will protect her from you – whose wishes are you really considering, hers, or your own? Is the implied question. But actually the best of cases could be made for her / Just because our own needs also correspond ….
Last year this time when she fell and broke her hip and fully expected to die and so did we expect that (that’s how Grandpa went) I saw that in spite of our horror and her torture and our lack of hope and all of our readiness for her to go she had another year in which she got to know Butterfly and went for a walk every day and enjoyed them and looked forward to them and gave me her opal ring for my birthday and sat by my fire the day of Christmas eve and listened to the complete Messiah for the first time and shared Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life with me
and showed me quilts she’d started years ago when she could still see to sew, and I offered to take on finishing them someday. I learned that my hope in that dark time of her fall was less than the hope there really was … But still when it became clear she was recovering she complained that she wished she had just died then – “I was just fine up until that happened. That would have been the perfect time to go. Now I wonder what it’ll be next time, what’ll finally take me off.
I did say, then, perhaps, “Well, you know, one can always take things into one’s own hands.” “No,” she said “I don’t believe in that.” Yet she made it clear to all of us and her doctor that she hoped very much to avoid a long drawn out dying and that she did not want to be kept alive. So now that she can’t talk we can’t ask her, she can’t tell us, whether she counts having food shoveled in to her as being kept alive. She can’t tell us except with every disdainful face she makes, the turning away, the clenched lips in the cavern of her mouth –
Sometimes, if you ask her, would she like some ice cream/pudding/water, even, she’ll nod faintly. But then when you go to give it to her, she won’t (can’t? Sometimes that might be a possible interpretation – but the disdain is a clear as a baby’s.) open her mouth. That makes it so hard to know –what does she mean? When I mentioned this to a nurse she said it was aphasia “they say the opposite of what they mean” – I’d never thought aphasia was that – just a dissociation of words from meanings, I’d thought.
She hardly ever says “no” – shake her head. Perhaps she can’t. Sometimes she nods – and doesn’t always follow up – about eating, anyway. What are her cries? What do her nods mean? Does she just nod to be agreeable?
Usually if you don’t hit something she wants to say to you – she just non-responds. Sometimes she just won’t respond.
Grandma, Is there something you want me to do for you?
(Thus I first figured out to call for the bedpan when I first came in.)
Does it hurt somewhere. Nod or no response.
Are you thirsty?
Do you realize you’re catheterized? You don’t need to go to the bathroom. (Unless, of course, food makes bowel movements.)
Last night I told her I’d been working all day at the land, digging ditches, trying to divert the water from running down to the buried walls of my house / trying to save the land from all running down into the street. I told her how it had been raining in torrents the last few days, and she made some interested response.
How much is she still there?
What is she thinking, feeling?
As I folded my clothes from Mom’s dryer I imagined that the airplane we were riding in flying above the clouds so that we could watch the solar eclipse collided with another of the many who will surely be doing the same thing as we were all killed as the sun became dark and the stars and planets were revealed behind the sky and I thought “Well, it’s funny. I’m glad that I published “The Box” – I did get to be an author, after all; and even if there wasn’t more, still, I am glad I did that much. I have already done part of what I wanted to do (being a writer); I’m glad “The Box” is safe.” Then I drove home thinking about my marijuana habit in exceedingly dark terms,
came home, made oyster stew, and in an attempt to distract myself from smoking, took up the pen, remembering that even if it’s drivel sometimes I’d rather write than smoke. – Though when it loses momentum I fill the pipe again. But at least I’m not chain smoking – chain smoking sinsemilla is just not good for the body.
My energy lasted so much longer today, being the unusual day when I did not begin smoking right after breakfast. My morning worries had motivated me to get some things done that were weighing on me – and I persuaded myself for once that I would function better without the hour or so for smoking and then coffee and smoking and then the day-long fight with hypoglycemia.
Anyway, I have spent the evening writing instead of constantly smoking and feeling that I ought to go to the hospital and wondering if it’s a call from Grandma or the universe or only an internalization of my father’s need for one of us to be with her and wanting to take the pressure off him.
And my metaphysics class wants a real lecture on the book tomorrow and having read up on Augustine last Wednesday won’t get me through tomorrow without review.
And I have to save my energy to be able to home into teaching – philosophy-reality tomorrow and sort of stay there until Thurs evening when of course Marcella will be there and then the cycle will turn again and I will have not nearly enough solitude even with it starting Sat AM when M goes home too soon on this “short weekend” –
Writing down this long day – I realize how much I can accomplish when I’m not stoned – or not stoned as much – or later. [Or were all days as full?] And then I think “Yes. Just look how thick and fast it comes. No wonder you get stoned. You need to be simply unable to do as much so there is more time to process.” I wonder if I could just give myself time to process without getting stoned. I can’t imagine having time to process and not using it to get stoned, though. How could I do any useful processing. How could I ever find the way through all the pain and pleasure and negative “tapes” – how could I give the positive ones any power and life without marijuana? Where would my courage be? My sense of humor?
I’ve mentioned to Mom & Dad tonight – I feel we should all of us draw up as explicitly as we can our own wishes in the event of various eventualities. Perhaps it will still be against the law – but this is a grey area – anyway – if everyone started doing this decisions would be easier. The doctor feels – one can see it – that he only has our word to go on and that we are hardly disinterested. One needs to be very clear – for love of oneself and for those who love you.
It’s so hard to say. One feels one would rather die than lose one’s sight or even one’s legs – yet blind and legless people testify that life can be born and enjoyed. For me, having to watch TV all the time is as good as being dead /yet most people choose that as a way of relaxing.
I’d like to get into doing this – but I do have to teach tomorrow and it’s already 10:00 –
got to read through metaphysics.
Today I said aloud “I would like a lover. Someone to understand me, help me, make me feel better, speak me courage.” / Trying to think just what it was I did want in that someone I always feel myself waiting for. *
But that was before I started writing. Now it’s 10:00 and I’ve smoked so little I’m wide awake – and not that many hours
Goodnight, Jeannie. Thanks for writing.
*Including thinking, but nobody knows me. I haven’t got what it would take to get to know a new person. How can I ask for a lover, then? Till 5:30 AM.
The 20th: Saturday Morning [January 1979]
EButterfly sleeps in the bedroom; I’ve just had breakfast. A few days ago I said it out loud to the universe standing at the sink, thought it enough to project it into a wish: I wish for a lover.
Tuesday after classes I felt I should go out to the hospital – found myself going. Trusting to timing.
But Grandma was asleep. Seems dying – hasn’t eaten, won’t eat, sleeps, does not want to be called back to this reality.
I closed the door and stood by her bed and held onto the bedrail as if it were the altar rail and let the grief/and beyond/under that/just the profound moved-ness I felt wash through me.
It had an end/ and even during my eye had noticed a beautiful new bouquet wondering from which relative it came – I opened the card: It read
the time we
I wanted to call her that night – we’d just reestablished phone contact (I’d lost her new number in all my moving) the week before. But I went out for dinner with Mom and Dad after intense sessions with Helen and the doctor re: Grandma/force feeding/any bothering her – and back out to the hospital. Suddenly I was very tired. Came home, slept 12 hours.
Dream: I am in bed with Butterfly. One of us rolls on top of the other – our Venus mounds contact, the energy welds them, flows, circles, intense. Mom is there. I’m explaining “Look. This is what we do. And I don’t have to justify it to you. If you don’t like it you can go someplace else. “ Not angrily, but clearly clear in myself that I don’t have to justify it to her.
Wednesday night called EB – talked a long time. Told her the dream. Hatched the plan of her coming down this weekend and her she is.
Haven’t seen her in six months. Haven’t spent a beautiful long day and time together since Eugene.
Grandma’s dying – for that is what she’s doing no matter how long it takes – brings the family closer.
My father actually tries to talk to me about his feelings.
Meanwhile back at Tues eve: I am terribly tired after supper. We leave Dad and his car at the hospital, I take Mom home, see her into the darkened house. I have been talking up courage and giving them lots at supper time.
As I go to leave Mom hugs me, looks at me, her eyes such a beautiful mixture of misery and love, “I’m sure glad I’ve got you” she says.
Walking the steps to the car across the gravel under the stars I feel the ambivalence this raises.
And the distance I keep from them and why.
“You think I’m so wonderful when someone’s dying” I want to shout “How about giving me a little credit then for knowing what I’m doing in my life! How can you think that I became a total idiot when it comes to loving women/being a lesbian. Or about the job. Or building a house. Or all those other things.
If you can’t see that same intelligence and wisdom manifesting itself in the rest of my life then consider the possibility that you just don’t understand and leave it at that. But know that you don’t understand me and don’t think you can presume to know for me how I ought to order my life.
I feel the bitterness like a white lump in my chest.
I think a new thought: perhaps there is a way through this bitterness. I must not cherish it. All too soon it will be them on the bed. I do not know how to make it go away, I only ask the stars that perhaps it might be shown to me.
I go home, wait for Myrtle (a student of mine who is a nurse – after class we’d had a talk re Gma) to call me
Can’t remember Wednesday _
Did go to school – called a fellow/faculty/nurse/teacher – got advice re Gma. Bring her home.
Hospital – certainly around supper. Gma is up. “Eating.” Says Helen. She’s in a wheelchair in the hall. When I offer her food she turns it down – Helen agrees it’s a “no.”
Gdm says “Hi” understandably. She smiles a couple of times/ once I ask if she needs to go to the bathroom. She nods. Wanting a little more confirmation, I guess, I ask “Now?” She appears to consider for a moment, then her face breaks out into a laugh at my stupid question.
Helen’s tone of voice as she talks to Gma says “Here you are back with us again. And they would just have given up hope and let you die.
I came home from Gma’s supper/evening, call EB, tell her I’ll call from the office in half an hour/toke up
I remember the dream, our mounds connecting
walk to school and call Butterfly. I tell her the dream, we talk a long time, I am touched by her flowers, we hatch the plan, a road actually goes from there to here. She’s coming down after work Friday, the day after next.
Read for classes next day. The late Middle Ages. Free will. Up at 5:30. At 10:00 I am lecturing about Augustine. Try to characterize what might be right about his saying it is wrong (sin) to turn from God to the things of this world, even though this is a good world He made. The things of the world the soul turns to are not bad, but it is the turning of the will from God’s will that is sin. I try to characterize this in terms of non-attachment. How if it is your mistress to whom your soul/love is given, well, you’re sure to lose her/ but if it’s God’s will that you love most nothing can happen amiss.
Anyway, my voice gets a little misty when I speak of loving your mistress and losing her to time and more so then I wonder why Augustine overlooked the possibility of loving God through your mistress, seeing God in her.
And Lois who is sitting front row center has a soft little smile and I wonder if she knows.
I keep hoping of course that some equivalent of Dianne-as-a-student will turn up in one of my classes – or at least a dyke.
And I don’t see many/any? But I do have some women students – mostly older or my age – who do enjoy my act. Mostly nurses, right now. There’s something about nurses these days. And Lois, who is not a nurse but whose husband is slowly dying of cancer at home while she raises their two boys and equips herself to earn a living and carry on. She wrote in her ethics journal how she liked my expressive face and hands. [Wow – it is nice to be appreciated – Note re: job]
Anyway, then after racing down through history to John Scotus But not to Abelard as I had hoped –
to the office to talk with Shirley – another nurse-student – about Gma. Same advice – bring her home. Lunch. Energy sag
Home for coffee – marijuana – cramming for metaphysics lecture mind/body dualism interractionism – Having three hours between classes is so much better – I can eat and my energy can return. When I get to class and take off my coat, I am afraid for just a second that I might have left my bathrobe on – but I don’t let myself look down to see.
The lecture never gets beyond the first page – are “mental objects” private? How is telepathy to be conceived?
How is the self to be conceived?
Images of our incarnation. A long free form discussion, the energy carries itself.
I like it/ some students find it too far afield – I promise more lecture next time. And a guided meditation.
After class I rather expect Pat to be there with pictures of Coney (my old high school teacher, whom Pat also knew but she does not show up. I wonder if I should call her.
Marcella is there Thurs eve. I make salmon cakes and potatoes. After supper I am terribly tired. We go to sleep. No alarm – no school tomorrow.
Sleep 12 hours.
I wake up remembering a dream – fragment:
I am with a group of young lesbians – women like Debra and Cleary Sage who make a home in the women’s culture.
Another woman joins the group – a woman somewhat older than I am, dressed more straight than the rest of us, like one of my older nurse-students. She seems happy to be with us. Soon someone asks her in a casual sort of way whether she is a dyke/lesbian.
She hesitates, not knowing how to find a voice. I understand what she is going through. I say “I know how hard it is to meet this as a casual question. When I was teaching then I had a student who I think/I know/ I’m sure was a dyke who’d probably had to hide it all her life and she knew that I was a lesbian from something I’d written in her journal, if she wanted to know … And here I am – I wrote “the Box” and all/ and yet you just couldn’t believe how hard it was for us, for either of us to say the word “lesbian.”
Awoke to Friday morning with Marcella.
Even after 12 hours sleep I can barely stay awake – toking up after breakfast makes me so tired. I sleep again – then sauna, massage, Uncle Henry (talk with) Marcella (supper with) and reading 3 chapters of the Hobbit.
Ovaltine. M. Up to Mom and Dad’s for the night –
EB arrives at 11:30. Coffee/smoke talk/
She has gained such strength through her trial. Note: EB just lost custody of her three children – because she is a lesbian. She’s not even allowed to see the kids around her lesbian friends. She’s appealing the case.
She feels/knows her own strength in a new way. She talked about fears of becoming known because of the trial. About the household she lives in now: lesbian women and some children – the support she gets shows. She, though, foots most bills. I speak of my parents, of our closeness, now, and my anger and talk my way through to knowing that the way through the bitterness may be for me to take power and not put up with those injustices
to open the conversation
But here and now she is having a hard time actually arriving here. I ought to understand.
About two we crawl into bed and begin to make love and I am remembering that I may
touch the white skin of her chin and neck so clear and soft and smooth
so unlike mine
and remember again how she is beautiful
and run my fingers through the whole heavy length of her hair
and tongue her nipple
and touch her, even there, where she asks me to now
but it is fatigue that separates the dance from the dance
and Butterfly is falling asleep, unable to stay in her body
carefully, kindly explaining that it’s just she does want to be fully with me when we make love
that she’s stopping now
and I understand
and yet I’m lying there in such pain and loss
such puzzlement at this recurring nightmare
opening up to these feelings only to meet frustration again.
But I can cry. She doesn’t need to do anything about it, but I don’t have to not feel what I’m feeling, either.
I get up, have toast and ovaltine – it fees good to have EB sleeping in my house again. I make a nest in the living room and masturbate. *
*Note: synonym needed.
It is languid – hard to concentrate sometimes. But when accomplished brings, as usual, deep and peaceful sleep.
Let them eat the sweet nectar
of the flowers that grow forever
‘Neath the trees of the forest
Amidst the mushrooms
Let them fly, let their wings
be unbound forever
Round the trees of the forest
Amidst the mushrooms
Let them live free
Able to be
Inside the forest
Of nectar and she.
Jan 20? Sunday evening
Well, I feel too tired to write inspiredly
but just for the record
I spent a very healing weekend with EB –
I wrote as she slept in the bedroom – midmorning she got up, we had coffee together – I took a shower – walked out warm and naked into the living room –
we decided to go back to bed rather than do anything else …
I’m having a rather hard time remembering it now –
I do remember at one point my mouth took over and progressed from her neck to her nipple to her stomach to her cunny. There was a first moment when I thought “Oh, dear, this smells like the toilet at the ranch.” I just decided to ignore it and never noticed it again.
I am lying across her stomach, my head between her legs, under the covers, her hand is in me. I am amking love to her clitoris with my tongue and sucking and nursing her there and her hand in me is moving,
loosening noises, assorted sighs and sobs –and soon it is not just my mouth and tongue but my whole face that moves in her. I clear my mouth and nose to gasp for air, to gasp for release, then plunge back into her. Swimming in the sweetest of smells, the one that lingers between the fingers, afternoon fragrance of rememberance
After a while the attention shifts to her hand in me and I am stretched taut across her soft stomach my arms circling her legs,
but as long as she can move in me the need does not recede. I am never full enough of this touching. Her hand becomes tired and she stops.
Really, this might sound frustrating – but it isn’t. It is wonderful, releasing for us both. It’s absurd to think that after a year of solid celibacy, a few minutes of this touching could ever be enough.
We are much released and very happy – we get hungry, have lunch – tomato bisque soup and english muffins – then coffee; but we both feel tired still, so we crawl into bed again – to rest –
I am very tired but I cannot sleep. I lie there happily and watch the jet streams sail sideways across the blue square of the skylight, watch the bare black branches of the tree, watch Butterfly sleeping, think, am happy – still in a state of tumescence I place something into my cunny because it needs something there –
My pelvis moves gently, waves the whole afternoon while Butterfly sleeps and I am happy.
We get up and drive out to the hospital to see Grandma – get there around six. Alice is asleep, pretty unreachable. We leave – go to see my new house.
B last saw it when it was just a block foundation and a wall. Now there is a house here. It’s about like she thought it would be.
We are tired – home to supper. I cook onions, carrots, mushrooms, spinach. But, alas, the potatoes aren’t done. We eat them anyway.
Coffee into the living room. Marijuana and a slide show – Butterfly in two years ago
Butterfly in Chinese robes
and in total exposure.
Marcella in Ozma dress.
We go to bed. Tired. But wanting to make love anyway.
We begin to hold and stroke each other there; but after a bit she pulls away from my hand to lie across me
and with one hand and then the other
to stroke and touch and pulse
and bear down and fill and stretch
until there begin again those calls of need. They call and call and still she does not stop but finds new ways to pulse and move
And the calls are cries someone is making,
cries shouted half into a pillow
cries of need and excitement and not of anything
except that they were happening
and still she does not stop
does not stop and her pulsing is pushing
down from my vagina and up from my clitoris to some circling center
and the pleasure is a need
and the need is a pleasure and the pleasure
is a pleasure and the need is a cry
and still she does not stop does not stop
until the fleshly flashing ebbs and
suddenly I am circling her arm with mine whispering “Oh, gently”
And she rests.
I ask if she would like me to make love to her – but the potatoes aren’t digesting so well – and I see she’s given me something. “I just decided I’d do it until you asked me to stop.” Well, I did need it/ I’m humble enough to accept a gift.
“Maybe in the morning,” we say and set the alarm for 6:00. So we do – wake up happy, at 8:00 [We do quite a bit of talking, too. Just can’t write it all down.]
Coffee, breakfast, smoke, out to see Gma – she’s a little awake. (Tonite she nodded that she remembered that B had been there.) but after smiling hello seems tired.
Home, to bus station; wait, find E was given the wrong schedule. Bus left Meford at 10:30. We begin to drive to Grants Pass, realize we won’t make it but think while we drive in the beautiful fog – clearing – I decide to drive her to the first northbound rest stop – the other side of G.P.. Nice to have this little extra ride with B.
There is no one there at the rest stop – it’s cold – I hate to leave her there but she thinks it’s a good idea. She did get a ride – within 15 minutes.
Deborah Carr is having increasing problems – limps home on less than all cylinders.
To Don’s to deliver Xmas Astronomy calendar, smoke, talk a bit with him – he talks about his life – his blue eyes are clear, direct, sparkling today.
To try to think what next.* (*Note from your wife, the author. Maybe that was the wrong question.)
But before I get much of a start on thinking Mom called. Ruth and Henry are both gone now, it’s up to the family again – will I see Gma this evening?
Ruth and Henry (MY aunt and uncle) have both spent time there at the hospital – both say her “eating” amounts to food being popped in when her mouth drops open. Both agree she should not be forced to eat.
I had been confused hearing the reports from the nurses on how she was “eating” so well – this made more sense.
Helen (Helen is the woman we hired as Grandma’s nurse/companion after Butterfly) seems determined to feed her.
Perhaps Helen can’t nurse her through dying. After I talk with Mom I start considering/for the first time? considering taking it on myself. Sometimes now I really think I love her enough that I not only could do it, but want to. Sometimes I wonder if I could keep my health/sanity. I wonder how long it would be. I could give her two weeks – but not the next indefinite period of my life.
Call Shirley (another caretaker) – she’ll come over
Latihan about it.
Shirley arrives – student nurse – RN– my age – this is practicum, for her – she is helpful, direct – It helps us all to talk to her. We talk here, first, then Mom and Dad’s – she says “nurse” may not be my role.
Shirley drops me off back here – we talk a while in her car. We are glad to have met each other.
Muffin’s and garlic/lemon/honey tea and grape juice –
Feeding time. A nice young nurse sits opposite Grandma in her wheelchair. She is not pushing food into her mouth but staring lovingly at her tired old face. I take over. Offer Gma some food– she won’t have any – only a sip of water. She seems alert – responds with expressions to what I say. I begin to talk to her about what we‘ve learned from Shirley, the nurse. I tell her the family supports her in not eating if that’s what she wants to do.
But fluids are important – she has a urinary tract infection. The nurse says that would not be a nice way to go. We understand that she doesn’t want an i.v. – we don’t know what to do.
We are working on bringing her home – whatever.
Gma is clearly hearing me her facial responses are very evident –
a lot of sadness, loneliness, grief
Whenever I mention Helen she makes a face. She smiles, too, even laughs once or twice. I tell her she has the option to work toward recovery, learn how to talk again. Her face says – why? What for?
I stay with her after she is in bed, hold her hand until she’s been asleep a while. I think she is glad to have me there… she drifts into sleep from a smile.
So – to sum up:
You can ask for things
you can put requests to the universe
and you may well get what you asked for
but most likely it will come
from a direction you never expected.
Question: If there is a life review then why are you trying to write autobiography?
Well, what do you find so precious (another word needed) about Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder?
Could write a review of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books for someone – Maybe New Women’s Times or Womanspirit)
Certainly internal autobiography of others awakens an interest in you a lot because it enables you to focus on your own autobiography and thus inspires you to a sort of more life-review kind of stance in relationship to your own life maybe.
Or maybe you just love it to know someone else the way Laura or Jo let you know them.
Or maybe I’m just taking notes on who I am being so I can remember the next day. Read through this journal this AM it seems flat. The day is fine – clear and cold
I’m going to walk up to my land to do some digging. Forcing myself to put some energy out into the physical world. “Moving – when once begun – feels good” she remembers “oddly enough.”
Amidst religious thoughts in the sun on the deck –
eating carrot stick and remembering the mysteries of that profound transformation in which carrot atoms became the taste of carrot and a carrot is transformed into me and the energy for my life.
And how science is also a possible language in which to utter religious truth
vide Vision Questing Along I-5
and how every language both reveals and hides and at the same instant
no sooner conceive of her as a gentle mother than her Kali aspect emerges
It does reveal to call her a woman /and it conceals.
That’s what’s so interesting about religious language.
Vide: “Obviously if there werent things you couldn’t understand you wouldn’t have the fun of trying and finally doing it, too.
Amidst such thoughts and carrots in a picnic lunch here on the deck I remembered:
Call or write Ray Wibey [sp?] re: a fireproof vault – meltproof – what would it take? Think about: Would it be convenient enough to be used?
Consider that when philosophy of religion is discussed I never hear anyone mention Gertrude Stein.
Images: Walking up the hill to get Mom and Dad’s car – I see the pickup at Grandma’s – David may be there – I could give him his calendar – step in the door –
and there stands Dad with a rag in one hand and wall-cleaner in the other – and beyond him up on a ladder stands David with another cloth, working on the high part. It was so funny, I just burst out laughing.
Dad told me earlier of Helen’s insane demands for the house to be fixed up before Grandma gets home – new curtains– oil on all the wood, etc. etc. Etc. Dad said, “I just told her that we were all very busy and were behind on things in all our own lives and we just none of us had time to do things like that and they’re not going to get done.”
At noon I heard that she’d commandeered David / at one I went by and there they both were. I told Grandma about it and her face really laughed / she could certainly imagine it.
But, oh, to abandon this perfectly helpless old lady to Helen’s bullying is not at all funny. Helen is angry at the nurses for not making her eat – that’s their job, she says.
Mom told me yesterday of an old man Pat Kent told her about who decided to stop eating – went down to a skeleton in six weeks, then couldn’t do it, started eating. He’s now in a nursing home.
Jan 29, 1979 Monday
The day before yesterday I told Grandma that she might try contacting me in her dreams if she wanted to / that I’d be listening for her.
This morning I remember a dream – I am sitting with her head pillowed in my lap. She wakes up, smiles and begins to talk to me, just as if there had never been any problem about talking. She says two or three sentences but I don’t remember what they were – something, perhaps, about being asleep – I only remember how beautiful she was, and how wonderful it was that she could talk again.
Spent the weekend mostly with Marcella – does it seem strange that I don’t write very much about her? a) The time I spend on her I spend with her b) Relationships are so complicated to write about c) I don’t feel the proper distancing for writing.
I rest and enjoy time with her – She tells me not to worry. We touch a lot – hugs and kisses and massages, and cuddling up at night.
She still can curl up inside me.
This was followed by a period of very low energy and depression. Had a tension headache once – it was so bad I was too exhausted to teach my history class. The next time, when I did try to lecture on the excitement of the beginnings of science, I found myself unable to concentrate, twice my sentences wound down midway as I realized I didn’t know how to end them. Twice I confessed to the class how inarticulate I felt today. After the class, Lois gave me a hug, reminded me that everyone has bad days… (And Bryan asked for some poetic lecture notes I’d read from to copy to do in calligraphy).
I did a great deal of sleeping. Mom was sure there was something wrong with me.
I did contact Carol Castlelou (Dunning) – “I’m looking for someone to share on an adventure” I told her. It will work out. Two weeks before the weekend she was here. I was so depressed. We me at the sauna – she was late – I was hurt – trying not to show it. She talks of John Gr. (Mario’s father) being in a job that drains him of who he is. I start to cry. She rubs oil on my cold feet: I cannot touch her. We come home to tea and amaretto liqueur (Carol’s gift) but I can’t get centered. It was extreme depression. But it did occur to me I might be resting up for something.