Frustrated….or the other F word.

Shayne was committed, which basically means Shayne is unfit to make medical decisions and the hospital makes decisions about his medical care for up to 90 days. I don’t disagree with the decision. I would like Shayne transported to a closer hospital, but insurance won’t transport unless the hospital he goes to offers a different program or feature. Transport costs 5-10 thousand dollars. So he is staying in Denver.

Yesterday his doctor told me that he is doing better and she is releasing him. I was confused. A week ago, he didn’t recognize me. Three days ago, he thought the hospital staff was trying to frame him for murder. Last night, he told me that Dr. Ross (his doctor) is operating under a false name. She isn’t really a doctor, she just stole that name from the a television trivia game and he can’t really take her seriously. He is looking better, but he is still having delusions and I know he is still struggling with hallucinations. It took him eleven minutes to play a hand of rummy. He is good at masking his symptoms, but he doesn’t fool me.

So I asked the doctor if he was going to be released with an injection. She explained to me that it takes a transition time to go from oral medication to a shot and he would need about two weeks for that to happen. I asked why he couldn’t stay in the hospital through the transition. She said that if he was doing better then ethically he shouldn’t be kept in the hospital even with a short term commitment. Isn’t the commitment supposed to be in his best interest? One minute forcing him to stay in the hospital is ethical for him, the next it’s not? At this point I wanted to growl in frustration. But animal noises aren’t very mature or very helpful.

So I took a silent deep breath and spelled Pittsburgh in my head three times and then said, “If you release him without an injection, he will stop taking his meds again. So in two days, two weeks, two months, two years, he will end up in this same place again.” She said, “You are probably right.” Too bad shaking is frowned upon, because that is what I felt like doing to her. Instead I said, “You have an opportunity to change his life. Keep him here, transition him to the injection. You could be the doctor that saves him, instead of the doctor that sends him back to the streets.” She just said, “I don’t think we will be able to hold him.” But at least she had tears in her eyes.

So I read somewhere that the definition of insanity is when you do the same thing over and over and expect different results. I keep taking Shayne to the hospital during psychosis, expecting help. Doctors keep half stabilizing him and releasing him to the wind.

We have been lucky. Shayne is not inherently violent. When psychosis hits he is more of a danger to himself, not others. He has no criminal record and has shown no propensity toward weapons. I am realistic enough to know though, that when he is paranoid and devoid of reasoning that anything can happen. One day our luck might run out. I might not be able to get him the help he needs on time. Something bad could happen. I am the only person, Shayne truly trusts. I worry every day what would happen if I could no longer fight for him. I wish I could make the doctors listen to me. I am tired of this system of slapping cheap band-aids on gaping wounds.

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Medicine

Shayne can talk again.  Kind of.  He looks like he has been in a war.  His wrists are bruised and scraped from the restraints.  He has a giant yellowing bruise on his arm from the Haldol shots–he was given more than one–and his eyes are haunted.  Plus he’s lost weight again.  He was already whip thin.   I don’t think he remembers the dirty, dangerous conditions I found him.  I had him moved with one phone call to the patient advocate.  No one really even argued with me.  They knew.  He was moved to a ward that was clean and had privacy and snacks and things for patients to do.  The nursing staff is attentive and busy and makes sure everyone is comfortable and cared for.  It doesn’t fix that other place.  In some part of my brain, I care about this, but really I only have energy to spend on my son.

When Shayne first got sick, I thought that if he had the right medicine, he’d be okay.  I didn’t really understand what was so hard about keeping to a schedule and taking a drug in the morning or at night.  It was completely frustrating for me to always have to monitor the pills and still find the pills on the couch, or in the laundry, or stuffed in a glove.  After I was finished with radiation, my doctor wanted me to take a drug that helps to prevent cancer from coming back.  I didn’t want to take the drug because it gave me mood swings.  I work with kids; mood swings and glitter, can you imagine?  But it was my choice–take the drug and lower my chance of cancer reoccurrence, or live with the risk.  It made me understand Shayne’s perspective a little better.  Sometimes I think, what if we move to San Luis, or anyplace in the middle of nowhere, Shayne could just walk around with the cows all day and just let the voices go.  It would be dangerous for him.  He would be afraid the government was watching him: the soul snatchers would still be after his soul; he’d probably think the cows were really velociraptors.  The advantage would be no one would stare at him, or pity him.  Because the thing is, he can’t help it.  His brain doesn’t know how to turn off.  It’s firing stimulants at him all the time.  The medicine dulls the voices to a whisper, but doesn’t completely extinguish them.  If he misses a dose or doesn’t take it on time, the voices gallop around his brain.

Things went really bad, really fast this time.  It seemed like he was doing great one minute, then the next he was strapped to a gurney.  Now he is committed to a hospital far away without any real idea of when or if he will be okay again.  He might be able to take his medicine in an injection, once a month.  He said he is afraid to have a month worth of drugs put into his body.  I understand that, but I don’t want to ever see him wrestled to the ground by strangers again.  I don’t want to be afraid that he is going to run into traffic, or get out of the car on the highway, or disappear and be found dead or in jail.  Because this is where we are.

Mama Bear

399719_3576161167451_1476342705_nShayne had a psychotic break again.  I could feel it building and tried to get in front of it, but as usual it was difficult to get immediate services. The way the system works is that treatment happens when patients are a danger to themselves or others, and preventive measures are not a thing.  Shayne didn’t help the situation because he wasn’t being consistent with his meds. He was well enough that he decided that he wasn’t really schizophrenic after all.  And he is a runner, both the kind that can move down a trail at a good clip for hours and the kind that makes a break for situations that are uncomfortable.  So when he perceives a threat, he runs away.

The key is to getting the help before the fight or flight kicks in.  I got him to the hospital at the beginning stages, so he was ready to run, but he also still trusted me.  It was like leading a wary, gun shy thousand pound horse with just a halter and a lead, if a horse like that spooks and bolts,  there probably isn’t going to be a damn thing you can do and you might just get injured in the process.  When Shayne got to the hospital room in the ER, I was asked to put my stuff in a locker and I stepped away from Shayne’s side.  I put down the reins.  He was quiet for one minute then started screaming that he was in an oven and bolted.  Big, burly security guards poured from all sides and engulfed my son.  He screamed that they were killing him and he pleaded with God to save him.  It took seven men to hold my 135 pound son in that hallway.  They got him down on the ground and held his cheek against the linoleum.  I leaned against the doorway watching, no tears, no emotions.  Numbness is where I go.  It’s my survival strategy.

This is the part of the story where I skip what happens next–no one needs to have those images in their heads and I don’t need to relive them in writing.  When I was able to be by my son’s side again, he was strapped to a bed and sweaty and trembling and he didn’t recognize me.  I touched his forehead and he closed his eyes, and said, “Are you my mom?  Am I Shayne?”  I sat close to him until I thought he was into his drug induced coma, but when I moved from the bed, his eyes sprang open.  So I sat down with him again and stayed next to him for hours.  He didn’t sleep, but he calmed down and the restraints were removed.  Three years ago, I would have stayed all night, not let him out of my sight.  But I know now, that I have to get sleep if I can, I have to trust that medical people can do their jobs and keep him safe.  I went home after midnight.  I should have known that I was keeping Shayne on that bed, because after I left he tried to run again and again, and I returned a few hours later, he was strapped to the bed again.  The facility in Pueblo decided Shayne was too acute for their services, so he was transported to Denver.  If I had known where he was headed, I would have fought like hell to keep him in Pueblo, but instead I held his hand like he was six and walked him down to the transport car outside. He pinkie swore that he wouldn’t run away.  We’re big on pinkie swears.  I thought he’d be okay.

The mental health ward at Denver Health was a scene from fifty years ago.  It was dirty; the tables were sticky.  There was a green substance smeared on the glass in front of the nurses station.  The furniture was hard and molded out of plastic and smeared in paint and dried food.  There was one tiny plastic drawer thing of broken crayons and ripped coloring pages from a kid’s coloring book.  There was no exercise equipment or anything to do but watch a giant screen TV.  There were several staff members, but they were all kind of congregated together, except for one nurse who was obviously attached to a man. She followed a foot behind him all around the word.  She was a tiny slip of a girl, and he was well muscled and powerful, it was easy to see who had the control in that situation.  There was no privacy and no area where I could visit with Shayne without other patients invading our space.  One woman followed us around from table to table to couch, asking an endless amount of questions and drooling on us.  No one redirected her or made her stop touching Shayne.  I have been in psych words before, and this is not how they have to be.  Shayne was still groggy from all the drugs he had been given to bring him out of psychosis, but there is no way he is going to heal in that environment.  I am so tired of incompetency in mental health care.  It brings mama bear out of hibernation.

 

4th of July

fourth of julyDad was a soldier a quarter of his life.  He didn’t talk about his experiences in Korea or Vietnam much, or at all, but he flew a flag and replaced it every Independence Day.  Mom wasn’t born in the country, but I heard her say a million times that “America is the best country in the world.”  There was always  a celebration on the 4th of July at their house–tons of food, and family and friends and neighbors.  I woke up today, not really sure I could face another day of missing them like I have been.  So I went on a bike ride.  It was hot as hell and the hills seemed higher than usual.  At one point, I actually stopped and lay down on the side of the road because I felt dizzy and like I was going to pass out.  I was irritated that I still am not as strong as I think I should be.  I made myself get back on my bike and get to the top of the hill, even though if someone would have offered me a ride, I would have taken it.  It’s not just my physical strength that’s zapped, it’s my emotional strength too.  I don’t know how to build it back up. 

When I got home, Shayne took one look at me and got me a cold drink of water and a popsicle from the freezer.  Despite everything he has been through, he still is gentle and kind and will do anything I ask.  He said, “This must be a hard day for you.”  And because it’s Shayne, I shrugged and said, “It could be worse, right?”  My phone was sitting on the coffee table and it looked like I had ten or twelve messages.  I opened up Facebook, and the eulogy I had written three years ago was posted on my feed.  I almost ignored it, but then I actually read it, because that day was a blur for me and I didn’t really remember what I had written.    I remember writing it the night before the funeral in one of the kids’ spiral notebooks. I remember standing in front of the church and looking up once and taking in the crazy amount of people who had come to honor my parents.  And then I remember finding strength deep down inside of me to read my words, without tears.

One of the stories my mother loved to tell was the story of how she met my father. She was working in a rental store in Cambridge, England. My dad was a soldier and had come to the store to rent a television. Mom said he kept coming back to complain about he TV, and to ask her on a date. She said she didn’t like his shoes, but she finally said yes because he was so, so nice. On their first date they went for a ride on a double decker bus. I have spent most of my adult life studying how my parents went from a single bus ride to a lifetime of love. In some ways they were so different. Dad came from the mountains; Mom from the sea. Dad traveled the world; Mom was terrified of airplanes. Dad was quiet, reserved, and introspective. Mom loved to talk, she hugged strangers, and you always, always knew what she was thinking. What they both had in common was faith. Faith was their secret ingredient, the glue that held them together. Faith in God, but also faith in goodness, faith in kindness, faith in each other. Their lives were full of believing the best in everyone and treating everyone with kindness and love. Many, many people have come to me to share small acts of kindness my parents touched their lives with–everything from leaving cold soda for the trash men to offering shelter to those down on their luck. Their generosity knew no bounds and they gave to me, my brothers, and everyone they met. Their last act was an example of their love and kindness. They came to my house with tamales and tortillas for my son, crackers and cream cheese for my daughter and forty dollars for me. I said, “Dad, I don’t need your money” and he said, “you’ve got to feed those kids.” I know I hugged them. I know I said I love you. And I know we waved good-bye before they set off “up the hill” to Cripple Creek. They were happy, healthy, and in love. And that is how I will always remember them.  Their death was sudden and shocking and horrifying. It has stunned our family and our community. Yet my parents are together and I have faith that their love will never stop touching us.

I would like to say that reading the words gave me strength, but when I read them this morning, tears sprang to my eyes.  It was so short.  It made me remember how numb I was and scared.  But I’m not sure I’d do it any differently.  My parents were a love story.  They wouldn’t have wanted me to suffer like this; but I feel like I am stuck in my pain.  I am not sure how to break free and find my way to strength again.  Too bad there isn’t a machine like the vacuum at the car wash that could just suck all the bad stuff away.  So I spent the 4th painting the porch and watching the dogs swim in the river and eating some raspberries off the vine.  I’m spending the evening with James, because the only way I know how to get through is to keep on breathing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movies and ducks and stuff

IMG_1468Three years ago, after my parents died and Shayne was lost, I found myself in a movie theater all by myself.  I just needed a break.  A few hours of escape.  The movie was Ricki and the Flash with Meryl Streep.  The movie was no Oscar winner, but I was transported by the music and laughter and Streep’s ability to make everything so real and true.  I walked out of the dark theater and felt like I had new energy to face the craziness in my life.  After that, going to the movies became kind of like a tonic for me, and whenever I just needed a break, I’d find solace in the big screen of the theater. This past week has been a tough one.  I haven’t written about the anniversary of my parent’s death, or the death of a relative who meant the world to me, because I am trying very hard to not write about sad shit all the time.  There are so many echoes of hard times for me right now, that keeping it together has become my full time job.  So I guess it’s not too surprising that I ended up at the movies this week.

I went to see Book Club, which was the perfect kind of film for me–funny, light hearted, a feel-good kind of experience.  And it was sort of interesting seeing Jane Fonda looking amazing on screen.  She could be the poster child for plastic surgery and the artistry of Hollywood make-up and cameras.  And the movie was well-written enough to make fun of that very thing.  But the movie wasn’t really about a book club, it was more about four strong women who were looking for love in their already pretty amazing lives–not because they needed men, because they wanted them.

The movie made me think about a conversation I recently had with a friend that touched on the whole idea of “needing a man.”  It made me reflect on what I grew up thinking “romantic” love was.  On the surface, my mother and father had a pretty stereotypically gender role relationship.  Dad went to work everyday and at home he did the outside stuff–gardened, chopped wood, fixed stuff.  Mom cooked and cleaned and drove us to swimming lessons and gymnastics practice.  I had a pink room filled with dolls.  My brother had a blue room full of Lego and toy guns.  When I was little, I was the kid who was always caring for my younger cousins, or neighbors, always lugging a toddler around on my hip.  I thought I’d grow up and marry a fireman or a cowboy and have a big, old, white house with dogs and horses and a bunch of kids.  And for a long time, I didn’t have much more ambition than that.

Even if my mom thought she was teaching me how girls were supposed to act, she also provided me with lots of contradictions.  She was opinionated and outspoken.  She could stand up for herself and call people on their bullshit.  She lived in a world where girls didn’t go to school past eighth grade, but she was the best speller and read books, and wrote in her journal every night and she took pride in the fact that I could read a book in a day, and sent me to a private school filled with strong women going places, even though we could have used the money for other things.  She had strong friendships with other women and I saw her take a puff of my aunt’s cigarette, or have a glass of beer on hot summer day with her bestie and I heard their bawdy jokes and laughter.  I took in all the stories about my mother coming to America and my dad leaving for Viet Nam and how she learned to drive and cook Mexican food and worked and wrote to my dad everyday.  I learned from those stories that mom was plenty independent and sassy, even if that’s not what she presented at my dad’s side in church on Sunday.  And my dad never once told my mom what to do. He was not above scrubbing pots and pans or running the vacuum cleaner and he could cook just as well as my mother.  He grew roses for her because he loved her.  She ironed his shirts because she loved him.  They didn’t need each other; they wanted each other.  I learned that a woman could be all things, and love in all its forms, could only make life better.

I heard on the radio one time that women of happily married couples sometimes struggle in their own love connections because they have such high standards.  That always resonated with me.  A guy I dated one time told me that I measured men by my father and no one was ever going to come close to that, because dad was about as perfect as men came.  And maybe he was right, because I did tend to be attracted to men who were like my dad.  My big problem was that I also expected men to not hurt me like my dad.  And I got to this place where it was hard for me to trust.  Sometimes I’d joke with my parents that it was their fault that I was still single, they were too good of an example.  Mom shocked me one time when Shayne was like five or six and she said, “We think you should have another baby.  We’d like a girl.”  I remember almost choking on my toast, and finally getting out, “What are you talking about?  Are you crazy?”  Mom said that she liked that I was single and I shared Shayne with them.  I just shook my head.  I didn’t explore that idea with her, although I did kind of wonder how she thought I’d go about having another baby, you know, being single and all.

I wasn’t looking to fall in love when James drifted into my life.  I had found art again in my life and had a solid group of girlfriends and my family was happy and healthy and I didn’t need a man really for anything.  Kinda like the women in the movie–Book Club.  However, there James was in his long sleeved T-shirt and ball cap looking all boyish and summery.  He had dogs and a garden and could build things and cook.  He was smart and funny and when he pulled me close to him in front of the fireplace one winter night, I suddenly got what being in love really was.  My parents loved James. They were impressed that he gardened and cooked and could make jam.  They were happy he could fix things and had a job and was nice to the kids and good to me.  They never asked me dumb questions like “when are you getting married,” or “do you think it’s going anywhere?”  They were completely accepting of our relationship in whatever form it took.  All they ever wanted was for me to be happy.

Mom and Dad always made love look so easy, but they had fifty-four years of practice.  My relationship with James isn’t Hollywood-conventional and it isn’t always perfect.  I get scared sometimes of being so in love and I make mistakes and hold him at arms length.  But the truth is, James has been there for me in ways I never expected.  I might not NEED him in my life, but I WANT him in my life.  And I guess I realized as I chased the devil duckling around hoping I could save it from getting lost and perishing that I sometimes I am afraid that I’m going to lose James or someone else in my life.  I will get another phone call that rips my life apart.  Or another tumor will pop up somewhere unexpected and I won’t get off quite as easy.  I can see how fear can paralyze a person into not loving or living.  I’m doing my best to not let that happen, even if it takes everything I have, every damn day.

As much as  I like to escape into a movie, life isn’t camera angles and scripts.  It’s more messy and hard and honest and brutal.  There are no retakes, or airbrushes, or editing tricks.  I’m still unsure of how this story I’m living will end, but I am grateful for my leading man and all my supporting friends and family.

 

Damn Duck

0601182103James went on a raft trip on the Green River.  He didn’t really know if he should go because of his garden and pets, but I knew he wanted to go.  He works so hard all year round and doesn’t play much and he’s been a rock for me.   So I said I could take care of everything for him.  I can irrigate the garden, water the plants in pots, walk and care for the dogs, throw some scratch at the chickens, check for eggs, harvest the berries.  I could totally do all that.  And I could care for the tiny wild duckling that somehow ended up in the driveway a few weeks ago.  How hard could that be?

We don’t really know how the duckling ended up in the driveway, but I am now convinced it’s a changeling.  James has gone to great length to care for the duckling until it’s old enough to survive on its own.  The duckling has an outdoor pen with water, fresh straw, and shade.  He has an indoor tub with water and a place to roost for the night and he has a holding tank to swim in.  The duckling recognizes James and hops into his hand.  When I come, he runs pell mell around his pen like a maniac trying to find an escape route.  Once he actually escaped, because I caught my arm on the jagged edge of the chicken wire causing me to say words that I don’t use on social media and the duck raced over my foot into the underbrush, with Tesla, the border collie in hot pursuit.  Lucky for the duck that the underbrush completely helped the getaway.  Tesla and I raced around the underbrush to see if the duck would emerge on the other side.  He did, but so did Rolie, James’s other dog who is a soft, cuddly-no nonsense- small animal slayer.  The duckling had buried his head in tall grass, sensing the end was near; Rolie was getting ready to clamp his teeth in tail feathers, but I grabbed the duckling from the jaws of death and marched him up to his swimming pond.  Both of our hearts were beating fast.  I don’t know if ducks sweat or have hot flashes, but there was no doubt about me.  After we arrived at the pond, we both took a few minutes to collect ourselves.  I sat next to the pond taking cleansing breaths and the duck glided around, but stayed out of my reach.

The holding tank is plastic and James has sunk it into the earth and he has goldfish in it.  It is also right next to a steep hill covered in Virginia creeper.  To keep the duck from hopping out, there is a pallet and some scrap wood, which also creates a nice shady arbor for the duck.  And there is a piece of board in the water that serves as a island for preening when Sir Duck grows tired of swimming.  When James swims the duckling, the duck will hop on the board, and James just scoops him up ending the swimming session.  With me, no way.  The duckling stays in the water out of my reach and never comes on the island.  He swims around watching me out of the corner of his eye.  There is no trust.  No love.  And no way is he going to voluntarily come to me.  So after more than an hour of this stand-off, I decided I was just going to have to catch him.  So I took the pallet off and leaned over the water, making wild grabs.  Ducks are fast and they can dive.  So he was racing all over and diving and I nearly fell in the stupid holding tank like six times, lunging at the water.  I was so glad that no one was watching.  I’d like to report that I was eventually victorious, although soaked and furious.

On my next attempt to swim the duckling, I remembered the treacherous sharp wire and avoided impaling myself, so there was no escaping out of the pen.  The swim session was chill.  The duck floated around mostly under the pallet out of my reach, but I was willing for him to have a nice long swim.  I wanted to show him that I was sorry for calling him a little bastard.  And it went very well, until he decided to just randomly pop out of the pond and scramble down the Virginia Creeper Hill.  There was no way I could follow, so I raced down the stone steps in my stupid flip flops to get to him.  James has a million projects going on and all kinds of stuff stored behind his house, so I was picking through solar panels and wire and wood as fast as I could to get to the duckling.  There was no sign of him.  I stood real still to see if I could hear his peeping.  I thought I saw movement at the top of the hill just underneath the holding tank, so I scrabbled my way back up the hill over the Virginia Creeper.  Nope it wasn’t the duck.  I decided maybe the dogs could help me.  On second thought, maybe Tesla could help me.  I didn’t want Rolie finding the duck first, but both dogs came tearing out of the house when I opened the door.  My first thought was to go around the side of the house, but I realized there was too much junk for me to be able to fit.  While I was calculating my next move, I spied the duck in front of the house behind some wooden ladders.  I had to climb over potted plants and rocks, so the duckling saw me coming; he knew I was on to him, so he start running away from me and slipped through the fence into the tree farm next door.  And that’s when I realized that there might be a reason duck rhymes with fuck.

There’s a scene in one of the Jurassic Park movies when the velociraptors are moving through the forest.  This was sort of like that except it was a baby duck.  I ran to the gate and let Tesla through, but shut Rolie out.  He ran up and down the fence line, keeping his eyes on the duck.  Tesla raced into the tree yard with me close behind.  The duck disappeared.  I started to think, “OMG, is this duck smart?”  But then I spied him, right before he fell into an empty tree bucket.  I was reassured that he is really a dumbass as he kept bobbing up and down, trying to escape; Tesla stood over him until I got there and grabbed him up.  I put him in his pen, my heart once again pounding, maybe accompanied by a tiny bit of chest pain.

I had a winescicle afterwards to cope with the stress and the heat this duck has brought on.  I hope James is enjoying his float.  I hope that he loves me enough that my inadequacies with ducks is not a deal breaker.  I have six more days.   I survived CANCER; this creature will not break me.  I hope.

Anniversaries

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Yesterday would have been my parents’ 57th wedding anniversary and it was also the date of the annual Taylor family reunion.  I have only been to one reunion since my parents died, and when I walked into the backyard of my aunt’s house and saw my dad’s two brothers sitting side by side, all I saw was my father’s face and all the tears that I stuff away every day bubbled to the surface.  So my big plan was to take my bag of paint and go work on a mural on the steps of a church downtown.  I wasn’t going to the reunion and I wasn’t going to mention anything about my parents to anyone.

This summer has been hot as hell, and I was prepared for a day of painting in the sun. I stopped at Walmart for some metallic green paint, then I headed for the church. I had  sunscreen, my painting clothes, a gallon of water,  brushes, and a plan.  I’d only been at the church long enough to brush the metallic paint along the edge of the river I had painted the evening before,  when the wind kicked up and raindrops started lightly sprinkling my head.  There’s some irony.  I’ve literally wished for rain, every moment, since May and the one day when rain is a little problematic, here it comes.  So I sat in the doorway of the church, wondering if I should seal the painting I’d done, but I figured that the rain probably would pass.  I calculated that if I painted all day, I could probably finish by dark.  Sure enough, the sprinkles passed, and I left the shelter of the doorway to get my backpack of paint from the truck bed.  Yeah, so I left the backpack on the porch.  At home.  Frustrated, I packed up my supplies and went back for the paint.

When I got there, Shayne was watering the flowers in the backyard and Darian was actually tidying up her room.  I was just about to leave with my paint when I noticed Mom and Dad’s wedding picture.  I walk by it everyday without even looking at it, but I stopped for a second and really took it in.  Mom didn’t have a big old wedding dress on, but she did have heels and white gloves.   She believed in marriage, but she never did understand that whole giant expensive wedding thing.  She always said, “Weddings should be small and simple.  Save the money for the honeymoon.”  And Dad is so young in that picture and he looks happy, like he is taking home the best party prize.  That’s how he always looked at my mother.  I kinda smiled and asked the kids if they wanted to take a quick trip to Springs to the family reunion.  Shayne had to work and I had to paint, but I figured we could dine and dash and I could see my family for a minute.

The first people I saw were my uncles, just like I knew I would, but this time it wasn’t painful.  It was just my uncles in their ball caps and their jeans like I’ve seen them wearing my whole life.  Both of them lit up when they saw me and I got hugs and kisses.  Their hands are big and strong, just like my dad’s were.  I said hi to everyone else and ate some great food and reminisced with my cousins about our amazing childhood and our fun times in the mountains as kids.  I mostly sat with my cousins Bea and Berta.  Bea and her husband, Faustin just celebrated their 44th wedding anniversary.  I was their flower girl.  I also stayed with them when I first moved to Alamosa and they came up to Springs during my cancer surgery.  Berta has always been more like my big sister than my cousin and it’s been a long time since I just sat with her and laughed.  These two women know things about me that no one else in the world does, and sitting with them was like taking a deep breath and remembering who I really am.

I got back to the church and my painting job with plenty of daylight, but really not enough time to finish what I needed to finish.  I texted James and asked if he would bring me a headlamp.  The church is off of Main Street on a quiet street, but there is a bar around the corner.  At night you can hear the music and the loud voices of people entering and exiting the bar.  There was also a young guy walking around shouting things at the top of his voice.  He’d been around in the morning and all evening while I painted.  At one time, he might have frightened me, but I know what it’s like to be around someone with voices in his head.  I know enough to be cautious, but I wasn’t afraid of him, mostly I felt sorry for him and hoped that he had somewhere to sleep.  Shayne was like that not long ago, and I’m grateful everyday that he is off the streets and the voices are at bay.   James sat on the steps and stayed with me until I was ready to go.  That’s love.  Presence. Patience.  Protection.  It made me think of my father.  Dad called James, “Jaime.”  He always nicknamed, or Spanish- named, the important people in his life.  James is the only man in my life that my father ever nicknamed.  It was his seal of approval.

Learning to celebrate and appreciate what I have, instead of what I’ve lost, is an ongoing battle.  Living in the moment instead of in my head is an on-going lesson.  But the more I practice, the more I realize that I haven’t forgotten how to laugh and love.  Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.  Thank you for giving me the family that I have and being shining examples of devotion and strength.